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  Dispatch: Astounded in China

Chinas development is stunning and its power is growing quickly; is America about to become a lapdog for the Asian dragon?
By Stewart Nusbaumer

Beijing, China -- What a change! When I lived in Beijing a decade ago the apartment buildings were grimy and perpetually damp. The streets were clogged with legions of bicycles, hardly a motor vehicle and they were often jeeps. The clothes were dark and baggy, dirty, proletariat poor was still the fashion.

The dilapidated building where I lived has been replaced by a gleaming tower of glass and steel, the Cosmopolite, a stunning complex complete with Pattaya Spa and Ivy Bilingual Pre-School and pricy restaurants. Motor vehicles now clog the streets of my old neighborhood with LA gridlock all over Beijing, while danger lurks at every corner for a bicyclist. Shoppers swarm the hives of businesses on the once-deserted lane that I walked my young daughter to and from school. Stores on the pedestrian mall downtown showcase expensive, chic cloths, as expensive and chic as in New York and Paris.

"Oh, traffic is horrible," a Beijing resident complains, yet her brown eyes sparkle with pride.

"The pollution is awful," a young Chinese man says. Then with a smile, "I guess that is the price of progress."

"Things are good now," an old Chinese friend confides straightforwardly, "and getting better and better."

Europe and America required a century to develop their national economies and lift the majority of their citizens out of grinding poverty. Japan needed something like half that time. The Four Tigers of Asia -- Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea -- required only a few decades to roar form a squalor equal to many African countries to the affluence of some European countries. But China is doing this seemingly overnight. It is storming from mass poverty to stunning wealth at an unimaginable speed.

With each developing country exploiting the knowledge and technology of the most modern countries, the time frame from undeveloped to industrialized to post-industrial society is becoming shorter and shorter. China is the latest and fastest of the newly developed rich and it leaves me nearly dizzy.

In my luggage is the book, Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century. Standing in the middle of this miraculous Chinese transformation, I ask myself if the author, who is a Brit, is on drugs or is just insane. Clearly China will run the 21st Century.

I walk the three blocks from my hotel to the heart of the city, to the heart of all China, Tiananmen Square. The last time I was here, nearly twelve years ago, I endured a lashing from a Chinese friend that left me stunned. She criticized me for not understanding that China was rising and America was falling, that the future belonged to China, not to America. I didn't know who the future belonged to, but with dogmatic certainty she insisted it was China.

I did have a few questions for her. If China was "getting better and better" -- a favorite phrase then and it appears now -- why did her fiance move to America? If China was rising so fast and so high why did he require Americans' financial assistance to attend the University of Texas? Why was she now moving to Texas -- flying the following week -- and accepting an American scholarship to attend a Texan college? Why were both of them looking forward to getting good paying American jobs and remaining in America?

She cut me off, fuming, "Americans are not very bright."

Standing on Tiananmen Square twelve years later, with thousands of finely dressed Chinese dripping in (what looks like) expensive jewelry, strutting in a new found self-confidence, with heavy vehicular traffic swirling around the Square's borders, with stunning skyscrapers in the near distance, it occurs to me that she may have been correct about me not being very bright.

But I did not fly half way around the globe -- across 12 time zones from New York over Canada and the North Pole, over Siberia and Mongolia and into Beijing, a non-stop 13 hour flight on a sardine-packed Boeing 777 furiously incubating three-quarters of the planets known killer diseases -- I did not endure all this just to find out that I'm not very bright. I have plenty of people in New York who tell me that. No, I came to China to find out how bright the Chinese are, and what this means for Americans.

Is it true that China is on the fast track to superpower status and the Asian giant will soon be dictating to America? Who are these people? Can we trust them? Are they compassionate? What is their society like? Do they get wrecked on booze like us? Do they actually eat Chinese food? Do they also drive like maniacs? Are they sex fiends or neutered Yuppies? I will remain in China until I get these answers. Or until I am starving amongst a heartless country after being run over by an intoxicated moron who misunderstood my proposal to his utterly gorgeous wife.

Stewart's second dispatch from China, Bombed in Beijing, will appear tomorrow.

Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. You can email him at

Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005


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  Live from China

By Stewart Nusbaumer


Astounded in China
China’s development is stunning and its power is growing quickly; will America become a lapdog for the Asian dragon?

Bombed in Beijing
Yes China’s development is stunning, but not as stunning as the Goddess of Tiananmen Square.

Enigma or Bomb?
It's a weird world with weird Americans making it hard to tell what is really real.

Tongue-Tied & Stomach Pumped
While their language tells us about Chinese society, their cuisine tells us about a very dirty political secret.

Drinking & Driving
Driving in China teaches you to appreciate airplanes; drinking the booze will probably turn you into a tea drinker.

Sexpots Galore
When sex merges with politics, the Big Dog authorities never win.




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