By: Daniel Otero
Nanjing, China – Once I heard a Chinese businessman say, “China, the new American dream!” as he joyfully lifted his cup to a ‘Gambei’ (a toast). With this sentence I wanted to scoff off with sarcasm and laughter. Was I being prejudice to the facts of our ever changing world? Possibly, and I didn’t mean too. I had to learn while living in China to think differently and honestly view objectively ‘…two sides of the coin’ (Eisenhower). The good and bad all rolled into one. And with a chuckle I later thought back, there was a hint of truth to the businessman’s words. In my stupid ignorance I had to think about it in history and economics.
Here was my comparison, an interpretation of what has happened and what is happening to these two amazing nations. In a past and ever present colossal manifestation of historical events!
The United States
America’s development began after the 1880s. By the early 20th Century we were attracting everybody from all over the world. Millions of immigrants came through Ellis Island, New York. Hey, it’s my hometown, what can I say!
The attraction came in the beginning from Europe, calling the U.S. the ‘nouveau rich’ country. President Teddy Roosevelt to glorify the fact decided during his presidency to send a white-fleet of ships around the world to strut naval powers (1907 – 1909). Technically it became another superpower in the world competition for domination. After World War II (1945) it considered itself ‘leader of the free world’.
The U.S. made mistakes to get to this point and we are the land [after all] of 1,000 different ethnicities and a wonderful-messy example of what prosperity and democracy should look like. The land of opportunities… For every new immigrant group that came paid the price in prejudice and intolerance, and it was all to have a better life!
However, those that had it the worse were the Native Americans. Taking their lands in expansion towards the west, the ‘Manifest Destiny’ was created. In the process to conquer, we killed off almost all the Native American tribes (20 million perished and today the Native American population is barely down to two or three million) and nearly wiped out the bison (from 500 million to less than 3,000 at the beginning of the 20th Century). We brought slaves from Africa to do our dirty work and literally enslaved Chinese in the 19th Century to build our railroads.
Internally we grew and what destroyed America externally was always our foreign policy. In our arrogance we looked down on the rest of the world with that certain hubris and sometimes sadly, we still do!
After our mess ups in Korea and Vietnam, what became a beacon of hope were the 1960s and Civil Rights for all to enjoy. It was the liberation of women, the ‘pill’ (for birth control), sexual discovery and later ‘Roe vs. Wade’. And I can honestly say and without a doubt, it has made our country open and better place for all. The society has become fairer and a polyglot one.
Americans are the people of ‘eternal optimism’, a giving society, hard working, opinionated, friendly and innovative. A nation deeply hurt after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and who caused it? Our foreign policy and mistreatment of the Middle East; and for these reasons [contemporarily] we do have a richer quality of life. This same policy that oppresses populations around the word, gives us the freedoms to do whatever we want!
Many say that U.S. is a nation in decline and maybe, but it’s still productive and creative to never stay behind too long. What Americans should presently understand is to stop our isolationism. Something we learnt all too well from our British cousins and begin a global cooperation in trade of ideas. This equals with more tolerance. Treat the world fairly, not like an Empire and as Thomas Friedman once said in his book ‘The World is Flat’, “Free trade equals peace!” (Friedman, 2005)
The United States offers presently one of the greatest health care systems in the world, education [that should include more languages like in Europe], equal opportunity and a chance for social advancement ‘up the ladder of opportunities’. Our ranking is 12th in most desirable countries to live in the world.
Now, what’s destroying America today? These are the issues destroying us: our indifference to the world, lacking in geographical knowledge, social laziness, thinking our ‘Empire will never end’, obesity, drug addiction and ever presently, gun violence; the last one, kills 20 thousand-plus people every year in major cities.
We have been in 69 wars in our 238 year history. In other words, on average we go to war with a foreign country every 3.4 years! This is scary!
Objectively speaking, if not for drugs, guns in the major cities and our citizens getting fat; our society is nearly ‘perfect’. Only 13 percent of the population lives in poverty versus 87% that live in an economic average of over $47,600 USD a year.
Jumping to the “New Kids of the Block”, the People’s Republic of China; land of great potential, ‘The new Chinese dream’, with 5,000 years of history, deeply rooted in traditions and overly hubris sense of historical worth (thinking they have invented everything).
The expression and expansion of the Ming Empire gave the world from printed paper, toilet rolls, age of exploration/discovery, gunpowder and Martial Arts.
Before, philosophy came with the greats like Confucius, Mencius and Sun Tzu.
Then, what made China backward? In the Emperors own arrogance, they closed off the country for 600 years and this mistakenly led to the ‘Century of Humiliation’ (1849 – 1949), in which empires like Russia, the U.K., Germany, the U.S. and Japan (20 million Chinese killed during WWII) carved-up eastern China for themselves in land and natural resources.
After, China’s pain didn’t get any easier, were the economy didn’t grow for a period of 27 years. Famines and hardships killed a population of 50 to 80 million, numbers are not certain. And for those reading this, these people have suffered!
What saved this country from the verge of collapse? A great innovator and economist, his name was Deng Xiaoping. Here is where China began to expand and became after Japan an economic powerhouse.
Millions of Chinese began implementing the confusing system of communism and capitalism, and somehow it worked in an ‘organized confusion’! Making the country prosper to greatness in the development of exported products, which 90 percent of Americans use today.
Also came the one-child policy, instead of teaching sex education, the country became stupidly overpopulated with an overwhelming problem of selective female-fetal abortions between the 1980s and 1990s. The policy failed and today you have a country lacking in females, because of obtuse ignorance. Furthermore, it has traded sex education for the evils of pornography and prostitution, affecting the last two generations in these previous 35 years.
China, a place of good hearted, hardworking and communal people; but it’s a country that needs to understand, before you ‘point the finger’ and judge others, you must look at yourselves.
Suddenly history was written or rewritten after 1989 and people carefully forgot what happened.
China, a country that calls itself unified; however, I have come to the realization that foreigners are treated far better than locals. This is a country that needs to integrate more the Muslim community with less rejection and discrimination; if a land keeps its minorities poor and isolated, a country will create hatred and extremist violence against the innocent. Frustration does create these social circumstances and uncertainties. And for these reasons, it’s time to face these problems peacefully before they spiral out of control, which have started to happen. This is a great country that during historical-social upheaval sadly hurts itself!
Again, China has the potential for greatness and I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. Presently, China has one of the best networks and train systems in the world – at least from what I’ve seen and my point of view – learning that it’s not all about quantity, but quality!
An impressive show of expression and awe inspiring events like the Beijing Olympics (2008) and Shanghai Expo (2010), propelling the latter into becoming ‘The City of the Future’. Showing the world what it can do when putting brilliance and intelligent minds to work! Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Guangzhou can operate and compete against any city in the Western Hemisphere. It’s all about being open to change and learning to listen to what works and doesn’t around the world.
Currently, China has a ranking of 60 amongst the top 75 nations of the world in social improvement. And for those Chinese reading this and getting upset. And please, ‘don’t get your panties in a bunch!’ China has improved. When I first arrived in this country several years before, the ranking was in the 90s out of 200 countries in the world. Yes Chinese, you are improving. Keep up the good work, be proud and below are other things to make greater an already wonderful people…
Teaching people self-expression and social etiquette against rudeness (i.e. like not spitting and pushing in public) is part of the main goal. Teach people that we are all the same, not only giving blond-blue eyed Caucasians special treatment, but Africans are also grand and honorable people of the world. Teach manners and tell people to stop staring down at people whom are different. It makes Chinese socially awkward and ignorant.
Confronting an issue before it becomes worse and not living in denial to ‘save face’. Accepting advice and not falling into conformity. Avoid falling into prejudicial arrogance and don’t always looking back in history to recall the negative past. Stop it! If I can objectively criticize America and China, exposing the positives and negatives, you can do the same! Ideas help improve our society and world. You can all do better. I love this country, but there are times in which people get into these petty squabbles with other countries over land/territories. Truly frustrating! Before, face what is wrong internally; then deal with the outside circumstances. Chinese need to stop taking everything so personal and become more objective with outsiders and their own.
Contemporarily, the U.S. has 10 million Mainland Chinese and these immigrants have had Chinese-Americans. This proudly makes the people of Chinese ancestry the 4th largest population in America. The U.S. purchases over 90% in Chinese products, and it may not be as competitive or as fair, and less than six times the actual value than those American products and alas, business is business.
China has 600 thousand foreigners (Lim Yuan, 2010). And China has the second largest population of English speakers in the world. Presently the average Chinese is making $7,000 USD on a yearly basis, improving from $6,000 several years before (to get the actual number in RMB, multiply 6.2).
China and America have had a long-standing relationship of 160 years. Proving these facts in communities like Chinatown, established across New York and San Francisco. They are the largest in the world outside of the PRC (People’s Republic of China). Our countries are deeply interwoven. There are roots.
Right or wrong, America and China are responsible for building peace in our time. America as the first economy and in a year or a couple of years it will be China. U.S. is the main superpower and potentially it will be the PRC if it doesn’t fall into right-wing nationalist, self-destructive and xenophobic mentality.
China has several bragging rights: a long history, inventions, great food, lovely culture and beautiful women. Chinese can be shy, but steadfast in their views: passionate, romantic, helpful, extreme with ideas and wonderfully stubborn to prove a point, even when they are wrong. America is a country of many right and wrongful freedoms. We are hedonist, but still, we are the great innovators and wonderfully opinionated individuals of the world, sometimes bordering on being ‘a-holes’!
My choice, none, I love them both. But in my importance to remain objective and say what is right or wrong–for those that read these lines must keep an open mind. Opinions and ideas must be exchanged to grow into a better world, fairly; therefore, into a more tolerant society.
And in the end I had to change my views and accept what the businessman said in the beginning to be accurate and true!