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Truth About China

July 8, 2007

Filed under: future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:07

This was the title of an article authored by Guy Sorman and published in the April 20, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Sorman lived in China in 2005 and part of 2006. He spent time not only in the cities where striking expansion is underway, but also in the countryside and small villages where few Westerners go. He spoke with countless Communist Party officials, dissidents, and ordinary people. His conclusion: the 21st century will not belong to the Chinese.

Sorman stated that an estimated 200 million in China are increasingly enjoying a middle-class standard of living. The remaining one billion, though, are among the most underprivileged and oppressed in the world. The Party is no longer totalitarian, but it remains cruel and unfair.

Sorman goes on to discuss China’s many problems, including hundreds of thousands dying from AIDS. Meanwhile, an explosion of revolts is occurring in the vast countryside. The government estimates 60,000 of them per year, but some experts believe that it’s closer to 150,000 and rising. Moving to a city is a possible way out for some Chinese, but finding a permanent job can be difficult. The government requires many types of permits and the only way to obtain them is to bribe the bureaucrats.

Other problems: China’s one-child policy subjects women to shocking brutality. Unemployment may be closer to 20% than the officially recognized 3.5%.

China’s challenges are much deeper and wider than what many of us are led to believe, according to Sorman. Notable economic growth is underway in China, but it may pale in comparison to the overwhelming difficulties faced by this developing country.


  1. That was an interesting article by Mr. Sorman but it also shows you that bias runs deep in the mainstream media. I am right now in China, my wife is Chinese and I have a vastly different view than the completely negative view of Mr. Sorman. I have also traveled major cities, small villages and talked to numerous dignataries as well as the middle class and the farmers.

    The 21st century may not “belong” to the Chinese but the major upgrade of China can not be dismissed after all who really knows how much the USA is borrowing from China every month?

    Let’s talk about oppression. If you want to compare a humble farmers existance to an mobidly overweight, sugar indulging, non walking person from New York, you may consider the farmers as poor, but in general I find them to be happy with a smile in their eyes, warm and welcoming. I can not say that for the average New Yorker I met on the street. Can you?

    And sure in the USA we can stand on the corner with a sign that says… “OUR PRESIDENT IS BAD” but personally I have never wanted to, not because I think our president is good but that is a differnt story.

    Mr. Sorman mentions that the Chinese government requires many types of permits. What about permits required in the good ol USA. I wanted to install a small sign outside our business once. I lived in a small city. The amount of permits needed was insane and in the end guess what? My request was denied. It may have been that my competition was the first cousin of the mayor for there was certainly no other reason.

    China’s one child policy subjects women to shocking brutality??? This statement is by for the most unfounded one in his “story”. My wife was a participant in China’s one child policy. A tiny IUD type device was intalled painlessly 20 years ago for a cost of about $0.10 She has had no complications, even the modern USA womens doctor has never seen one… oh, by the way it works flawlessly. Compare that to the thousands of dollars for the USA version that must be re-installed every so often and you will begin to see one example how in truth big business is steering the USA.

    This may not be evident to an American who has never traveled abroad (and not in a guided tour for that is just an extension of Florida). The truth is that if you take all the problems in the USA and multiply them by four (the population difference) then make a line by line comparison, I think you will find China is doing no better and no worse the the USA.

    By the way I love the USA! But let’s be fair. I saw many stories about some Chinese toothpaste that I never previously heard of or seen in any store. Then following that “expose” was a brief mention of the thousands of pounds of beef for sale in that was contaminated.

    Lastly what could we do in the USA if we could just find that measly 8 BILLION dollars we lost in Iraq? Some people want someone to blame. I think many long prison sentences are in order… 8 BILLION DOLLARS LOST?

    Comment by natrigon — July 9, 2007 @ 20:06

  2. Reading Guy Sorman’s article in the WSJ might give readers relief knowing that China is having significant domestic issues. A better accountability was provided by a husband-and-wife team, Wu Chuntao and Chen Guidi, who traveled to 50 villages in Wu’s impoverished home province of Anhui. While the government originally published their book, it has subsequently been banned. A shorter version, “Will the Boat Sink the Water? The Life of China’s Peasants” (ISBN-10: 1586483587) is certainly worth reading to gain a perspective of the peasants.

    With many unpleasant situations in Wu’s book, I found several notable points: a) The Chinese government does allow rules to be eased when it is to the nation’s benefit; b) the dissenting peasants are often following the rules laid out by the central government, and resisting the additional burdens placed on them by regional or lower government authorities; c) the Chinese peasants are often innovative on finding solutions to their issues; and d) there are significant differences between the city and peasant populace. The key element is that peasant people are hardworking, innovative, and try to do what is right.

    How does this impact America and the world? Ted Fishman’s book, “China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World” (ISBN-10: 0743257359) provides insight that will bring economic reality into focus. He provides facts and anecdotal stories that highlight the significance of China as a dominant world player.

    This is no longer a nation of bicycles and rickshaws. It is expected that over the next decade, more than 300 million young peasants will move to the cities and take jobs to support their families, and fill the labor demand to build products for the world. The families often send their best offspring knowing the difficulty they will have adapting to the city life. Will China own the 21st century? Who can make such a prediction, but China must be considered as well as India in the global competitive marketplace. Columbus had it wrong the world is flat.

    Comment by ULarryO — August 5, 2007 @ 16:09

  3. Ross Terrill of Harvard University wrote an interesting article on the subject titled “Dealing With China in the Coming Years.” The 2,800-word piece is available here.

    Comment by Terry Wohlers — September 7, 2007 @ 09:39