“So much bad news these days!”
The speaker was bemoaning the fact that the news worldwide was dreadful. That fact that this is news, I pointed out, is actually encouraging. Remember that the former Soviet Union did not publish bad news. All was glorious in that best of all possible nations, and the fact that every five-year-plan had to adapt to shrill reality, that thousands of people died each year from police actions and torture, was hidden. Outside well-informed circles, no one knew.
As well, news these days comes from so many sources, so many places, it does seem overwhelming. A century ago, news of a rebellion in China would make it to the US in weeks, if at all. Fifty years ago, in a matter of days – again, if at all. Now, with satellite news and social media, accounts of any public event can make it around the world in minutes. BlackBerries travel with urban rioters who use them to update their plans. Twitter carries 140-character write-bites from one continent to another in seconds. We know much more about even obscure places, and know it more quickly, than any other humans, at any other time.
Technology only gets faster.
It lets us find out what’s going on in places that would really rather we didn’t, thanks. Take China, for example. The drawing above (by Edel Rodrigues for a New York Times article) is, I think, fantastic: a voracious Chinese dragon bearing a disarming smiley-face mask smiley-face. Literally disarming, people: China would greatly appreciate our downing all weapons and letting it roll over us as its population becomes more and more male every year. What do nations with too many men historically do? Why, they go to war. After having made the lives of women a burden and a misery. My book-in-progress (Too Much Yang: How Asian Gendercide and Bachelor Nations Threaten the West) deals with the future of China – and India — and how their overabundance of young men will impact us over the next thirty years.
For now, China’s great powerhouse has a light that grows a little dim. If we are impacted by China, it’s also true that China is doing less well these days because of the West’s rotten economies. Our economic woes are catching the dragon by the tail, despite its vaunted savings accounts (the Chinese save much more money per capita than Westerners) and self-advertised self-sufficiency. Foreign investment in China (in factories, building, start-ups, but not counting stocks) fell a whopping 10% in November.
First-world nations not doing too well, true. But that – like any regime that helps us let go of excess weight – could work to our benefit. The same article cited above concludes, “Given the weakness in demand for Chinese exports overseas, the [Chinese] leaders reiterated their intention to boost domestic demand to build an economy less dependent on foreign trade and investment.” So they’re about to concentrate more on selling to themselves, and investing in themselves. There’s everything right in that – except for those pesky 34 million excess, unattached young men who will be around in 2035, some of whom haven’t even been born yet, who will present a challenge no one has ever seen.
How to free up money for investment when that money is needed for security, to protect citizens from growing gangs and huge underworld “families”? How will China produce reliably-made merchandise when female workers – whom many factory heads prefer to employ, since they have less absenteeism and a better work ethic than men – start to disappear, kidnapped and or kept out of the public eye in family harems for safety? What will China do when police and army battle it out against huge gangs, an ever-increasing phenomenon that will take place all over the country, including industrial areas?
Those are questions which apparently are not being asked. Yet.
(Slightly off-topic: for those who read my recent post on the Norwegian butter crisis, here’s a great article on the global economics of it and why it can be a little risky for a nation to strike it rich. You listening, China?)