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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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spencer

Thanks for this interesting article.

Angry African

My problem is with the Olympics and China. The Olympic Committee should be consistent with how they implement and execute their decisions on who gets the Olympics. If China is okay – should Zimbabwe get it next? It will be consistent with what they call “the Olympic” values. Or maybe we should have a closer look at their values – if we can find it. More on this in my blog at

Mita

Do we really know how we Americans think? So how can we know how China thinks? Our thinking has become so discursive, confused, scattered, superficial and polarized that may be it is time to sit quiet and not talk so much. Just a thought!

Louis Cheung

Thanks very much for the interesting article. I live in Hong Kong, and probably an "outsider" of China in a certain sense. It is hard to know what the policy makers in China think. But then, I don't really know what the policy makers in Hong Kong think about too.

Octavian

What you'll really have to look for, in my opinion, is how the Olympics go in 2008. China has been waiting for this moment to show their "modernity" to the world. Its success or failure will provide clues to the future of the mainland and CCCP rule.

David Heigham

Mark Leonard's reporting of Communist Chima's intellectual life sounds awfully like the most productive periods in the intellectual life of Imperial China. In which case we can expect much of the currently important argument to be in disguised, allusive form. Even if we learn to read Chinese fluently, we will need to also pick up a good deal of cultural background to understand what is going on.

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China's award to host the Olympic games was a political test set by the west to see if China would become more democratic and if China did not the countries leaders would be humiliated in front of the whole world ending their rapid growth.
There is no way China can carry on the course it is heading unless they (the people) are allowed proper freedom and the west knows that China's wealth depends upon it's foreign trade which will be hit massively if by the summer they are not democratic and visibly so.
This is why I think handing China the Olympics is a good idea as they either change for the better or be utterly exposed and ruined.

Professor Bill Rao (Sydney)

I am new to these pages but found that New Economist is an excellent forum. I didn’t read any books by Mark, but will do so soon. He seems to be a promising essay writer.

There is a big difference between the thinking foundations (?) of the mainstream European thinkers and in the rest of the world. This difference is not white and black. There are many gray categories depending on how close some are to the aforesaid “Mainstream European Thinking Foundations (MSETF)”. There is nothing European about this concept—it is universal. By that I mean the non-Europeans can think excellently provided they digest the essence of MSETF.

What is this MSETF? It is simply their (European) theory of knowledge (epistemology) based on reasoning and thinking about the abstracts to make societies and individuals to progress by solving their problems (which are often abstract) rationally without invoking the supernatural. The great philosopher Popper often said that all life is solving problems.

It is this type of theory of knowledge that doesn’t exist in the Orient, including Japan, and also in many parts of the rest of the world. That is, there is no theory of knowledge in these societies comparable to MSETF. While the European philosophers have addressed and thinking about “the relationship between man and the state” since two thousand years, many in the Orient still think about “the relationship between man and GOD” .even now. I am reminded of the frequent trips by several university professors, scientists and politicians etc (in India) to a popular GURU (see GURU BUSTERS of Channel 4 (?) documentary) to seek salvation and solutions to their problems. Also in India (and the Orient) there are many who believe in astrology (and luck) to solve their problems.

This doesn’t mean there are no thinking people (and philosophers) in these countries. We come across many Indian, Japanese and Chinese etc doctors, engineers, scientists and car mechanics who are top class. They can solve problems which are physically tangible. But I have doubts on their ability to grapple with the abstract and speculative issues/problems.

Again, it doesn’t mean that they cannot learn MSETF quickly. They can. However, they are (by and large) not aware of what is there (useful) to learn from the Western and the mainstream European way of thinking to solve problems. I am reminded of a great Indian philosopher (he was at Oxford) who became a great defense advocate of the Indian philosophy instead of exploring what we can learn (that is useful) from the European philosophers, especially from their theory of knowledge. I said once (in one of my essays) that we (Indians) only learnt (from the West) how to eat Idlieies, Dosa and Samosas with a fork and spoon instead of their way of thinking and problem solving. Once again I am aware of an Indian writer who used to wear a tie and a tweed jacket in Calcutta and roam the streets in the midday humid weather!

Can we (Orientals) think? Yes, we can. But it needs a rational and logical framework. Not the literary style of romantic philosophical approach.

Western thinkers, who praise everything in the Orient, are also oblivious to this missing foundation. Academics in many Western universities think that the problem with the students from the Orient is that they cannot speak and write well in English.

I suspect that Mark might have also missed to notice the missing link MSETF.

BR

Hank Jestor

Professor,
I think Joseph Campbell's writing on the Occidental and Oriental belief systems drive the underlying differences. I feel the issue can be better categorized as problem solving approaches that underly philosophical beliefs. The western occidental approach is a change the world to fit to my way versus a more passive patient approach associated with the oriental beliefs.

Economics student: YU Tuotuo

Professor Bill Rao (Sydney) wrote:

"I am reminded of a great Indian philosopher (he was at Oxford) who became a great defense advocate of the Indian philosophy instead of exploring what we can learn (that is useful) from the European philosophers, especially from their theory of knowledge."

Did European scientists try to learn from Indian philosophy? If this is not true, I'd like to say that your conclusion is totally based on double standards and cultural arrogance. I suggest you to read "Race and History" by Claude Lévy-Strausse in order to understand and to appreciate each civilization in the context of their own history. The so-called modern society was invented just several centuries and ago and it's still too early to consider MSETF as the universal axiom. Moreover, as an agnostic, I think your exclusion of supernatural elements from your philosophy system a little too premature and arbitrary.

In my mind, the strength of orientals' thoughts lies on their differences from those of their western counterparts, not on the similarities. It's perhaps time for westerners to open up.

Arthur Eckart

YU, I tend to agree with professor Rao. Western Civilization learned more useful information from European philosophies, including the Greeks and Romans, than from Asian philosophies, including the Chinese and Indians. In economics, the most successful Asian economies adopted Western methods. However, for example, China still arrogantly believes it's exempt from universal laws, which Western civilizations revealed. Consequently, it seems, China is working for free:

To spur export growth, China received smaller gains of trade (which implies the U.S. received larger gains of trade), and to maintain exports (e.g. through a weaker dollar and diminishing U.S. marginal utility), China received increasingly smaller gains of trade.

China had to sell its goods more cheaply than its Third World competitors to spur output and employment growth, and gain global market share. Also, it had to invest its dollars in the U.S. to maintain output and employment. Consequently, China paid high prices for U.S. Treasury bonds, received low returns, which were negative returns after inflation, and had to exchange more dollars for fewer Yuans from those returns.

Most of the goods offshored to China by U.S. multinationals were heavy goods with declining prices, which required more energy (that were offset by wages) and more volume (to offset falling value). However, China didn't take into account its enormous social costs, which is why it had a profit boom and consumers were able to buy more.

Chinese social costs is a one time "expenditure," which can no longer be used to outcompete other Third World countries. China will need to use some of its gains of trade to pay or "clean" its social costs. So, it seems, China has been working for free, or slightly above or below true costs.

Gary

Great article. For readers' possible interest, here is a link to a newly-released research bulletin which examines China's economic outlook:

http://www.globalsecuritieswatch.org/PRC_Sovereign_Risk_Review.pdf

kraloyun

China had to sell its goods more cheaply than its Third World competitors to spur output and employment growth, and gain global market share. Also, it had to invest its dollars in the U.S. to maintain output and employment. Consequently, China paid high prices for U.S. Treasury bonds, received low returns, which were negative returns after inflation, and had to exchange more dollars for fewer Yuans from those returns.

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it doesn’t mean that they cannot learn MSETF quickly. They can. However, they are (by and large) not aware of what is there (useful) to learn from the Western and the mainstream European way of thinking to solve problems.

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One can't compare the two because the Chinese growth story started from the 70s whereas India's growth story started from the 90s. Which means China have amassed much more capital reserves than India has. Besides I hate to admit that their system of decision making, execution etc is far more efficient than India's. In India it is pain-stakingly tedious, slow and bureaucratic. Having said that I believe in time India will catch up and match in the mights of China's infrastructure, system etc.

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