The Chinese Are Coming
The New Yorker has a great article about Chinese tourists traveling to Europe on package tours. It expanded on the modern romantic ideal of travel, such as what it can give you and what it can’t. It also showed why the Chinese will eventually crush the West.
Li made a great show of acting out a Mediterranean life style: “Wake up slowly, brush teeth, make a cup of espresso, take in the aroma.” The crowd laughed. “With a pace like that, how can their economies keep growing? It’s impossible.” He added, “In this world, only when you have diligent, hardworking people will the nation’s economy grow.”
Can you imagine a Western girl speaking such an immutable truth of economic success? To European credit, not all countries are equally lazy (in my experience, Spain and Croatia were the laziest in terms of “taking in the aroma”). I guess some peoples simply value leisure above hard work.
Mark Twain, whose 1867 trip to Europe and the eastern Mediterranean produced “The Innocents Abroad,” described American tourists “who talked very loudly and coarsely, and laughed boisterously when all others were so quiet and well behaved.” But, through it all, the journeys changed the travellers in powerful ways. As Samuel Rogers, the English poet, put it, travel sowed in them “doubt of our own exclusive merits.”
I dined recently with an American in a busy Ukrainian restaurant, and we were the loudest ones there. A lot of people think Americans are loud because they want others to hear about our exciting lives, but even when the crowd can’t understand English, the loudness remains. It’s cultural upbringing, and can’t be helped.
“Analysts overseas can never understand why the Chinese economy has grown so fast,” he said. “Yes, it’s a one-party state, but the administrators are selected from among the élites, and élites picked from 1.3 billion people might as well be called super-élites.”
Wait, so we’re not all born equal? Is the Chinese man quoted above implying that Malcolm Gladwell’s tabula rasa won’t transform Jenny in HR into a capitalist superhero after 10,000 hours of paper pushing?
Li’s portrait of the West contained at least one feature of unalloyed admiration. He mentioned a Western friend who had quit his job to go backpacking and find his calling in life. “Would our parents accept that? Of course not! They’d point a finger and say, ‘You’re a waste!’ ” he said. But, in Europe, “young people are allowed to pursue what they want to pursue.”
It’s because all their survival needs are met, and even after that year of fucking around, they won’t be lacking food or shelter. They don’t need to work, but soon enough they will—if not them then at least their children.
People say that China has a bubble and will collapse, but after the collapse, which would affect the West just as bad, who is more poised to come back? Those with the factories or those with hollowed-out office buildings? The East will surpass us while we busy ourselves trying to be musicians, foodies, and Vine celebrities. I don’t wish bad on the West, but I can’t think of a people that deserves more to fall.
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