China Thinks Long-term, But Can It Relearn to Act Long-term?
China is the most unresolved nation of consequence in the world," Orville Schell began. It is defined by its massive contradictions. And by its massiveness - China's population is estimated to be 1.25 to 1.3 billion; the margin of error in the estimate is greater than the population of France. It has 160 cities with a population over one million (the US has 49). It has the world's largest standing army.
No society in the world has more millennia in its history, and for most of that history China looked back. Then in the 20th century the old dynastic cycles were replaced by one social cancellation after another until 1949, when Mao set the country toward the vast futuristic vision of Communism. That "mad experiment" ended with Deng Xiaoping's effective counter-revolution in the 1980s, which unleashed a new totalistic belief, this time in the market.
So what you have now is a society sick of grand visions, in search of another way to be, focused on the very near term.
These days you cannot think usefully about China and its potential futures without holding in your mind two utterly contradictory views of what is happening there. On the one hand, a robust and awesomely growing China; on the other hand a brittle China, parts of it truly hellish- The Long Now Foundation
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 14 books, nine of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. His most recent books are Virtual Tibet, The China Reader, and Mandate of Heaven. He is also a contributor to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and many others. He is a fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a senior fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize for Asian Reporting.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.Country, eastern Asia. Area: 3,696,100 sq mi (9,572,900 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 1,331,433,000. Capital: Beijing. It is the world's most populous country, the Han (ethnic Chinese) forming more than nine-tenths of the population. Languages: dialects of Han Chinese, Mandarin being the most important. Religions: traditional beliefs, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism (all legally sanctioned). Currency: renminbi (of which the unit is the yuan). China has several topographic regions. The southwestern area contains the Plateau of Tibet, which averages more than 13,000 ft (4,000 m) above sea level; its core area, averaging more than 16,000 ft (5,000 m) in elevation, is called the Roof of the World and provides the headwaters for many of Asia's major rivers. Higher yet are the border ranges, the Kunlun Mountains to the north and the Himalayas to the south. China's northwestern region stretches from Afghanistan to the Northeast (Manchurian) Plain. The Tien Shan (Celestial Mountains) separate China's two major interior basins, the Tarim Basin (containing the Takla Makan Desert) and the Junggar Basin. The Mongolian Plateau contains the southernmost part of the Gobi Desert. The lowlands of the eastern region include the Sichuan Basin, which runs along the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); the Yangtze divides the eastern region into northern and southern parts. The Tarim is the major river in the northwest. China's numerous other rivers include the Huang He (Yellow River), Xi, Sungari (Songhua), Zhu (Pearl), and Lancang, which becomes the Mekong in Southeast Asia. The country is a single-party people's republic with one legislative house. The head of state is the president, and the head of government is the premier.