Update on China: Views You Might Not See in Mainstream Media
December 5, 2011 by Vicki Flier Hudson 2 Comments
Today’s blog provides insight from expert speakers about China’s economic, political, and educational status. Read on for points of view you might not see in the mainstream media.
Earlier this week I attended an excellent briefing on China organized by the China Research Center (www.chinacenter.net) and the Georgia China Alliance (www.georgiachina.com). I went to the event with enthusiasm, because I am always seeking information directly from country nationals or people intimately connected with an area.
As I’ve said in previous blogs, I wonder how much of the world could be set right if we just talked to people, asked questions and listened.
Here are the critical points I took away from the briefing:
China’s Political Society
Dr. Yawei Liu, director of the Carter Center’s China program, painted a dark but insightful picture of China’s current state. He said that while China has a lot of money, military might, and economic power, the country lacks three things that need to be addressed. From Dr. Liu’s perspective…
- China has no friends: You need allies in this world but China is being challenged even in places where they have significant investments like parts of Africa and Burma.
- China has no civil society: Top leadership in China views civil involvement with fear and mistrust, which often translates to the citizenry. Many wealthy people are leaving the country, and no consensus exists on what China should be, or how to sustain its growth.
- China has no political certainty: No one can be sure what will happen even one year from now. No unifying ideology exists to guide the country into the future.
Although Dr. Liu’s picture cast a shadow over China’s situation, he pointed out that open political rivalry at the top levels has triggered a debate on what model works best for China, the current system or a more open one. That debate in itself is positive.
China’s Education System
The next speaker was Dr. Mark Becker, President of Georgia State University. He focused on education in China, which operates on what he called a “Soviet model.”
Dr. Becker described great changes taking place in the Chinese education system, including universities that have everything U.S. schools have, all the technology and modern equipment. The challenge in China has been around how to innovate with those tools, how to exercise creativity and excel in design.
One explanation for this apparent lack comes down to language. The Chinese language is based on roughly 13, 000 characters, so school children must spend a great deal of time in early education just learning those. They don’t have time for creative activities.
One trend happening today shows wealthy families building universities that emphasize innovation and design. English proficiency among students is increasing rapidly as well. We should be paying attention to China’s youth for a glimpse into how they might shift the tides of business.
China’s Social Media
Dr. Hongmei Li then spoke about internet trends and social media in China. The country has over 500 million Internet users and the divide between urban and rural usage is shrinking. 300 million Chinese participate in micro-blogging (like traditional blogging only focused on small elements of content, short sentences, or individual images). In 2010 that number was only 60 million.
Many white-collar workers see social media as the way to promote civil society, but a lot of money is spent on Internet police. Heavy censorship still exists. The government has a wish that the Internet would be used more as developmental business tool, helping Chinese to develop their management skills and creativity. But the power of the Web has not been totally contained in China. Do an Internet search on Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei for a strong example.
What is next for China?
Global Atlanta reporter Trevor Williams told relevant stories about China’s inequities, stating that the government will need to address them if the country wants to remain a powerful player on the world stage. Much of China’s wealth is still concentrated in the eastern coastal areas, and President Hu Jintao must find a way to deal with one billion people, many of whom are very poor and getting a louder voice.
If you live in Georgia, I highly recommend attending the events hosted by the Georgia China Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting business exchanges between China and the State of Georgia.
Opportunities in China are boundless, but only if we pay attention to the realities.