China Rises, and Checkmates

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about his meeting with Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old who recently became the youngest world chess champion:

Napoleon is famously said to have declared, “When China wakes, it will shake the world.” That is becoming true even in spheres that China historically has had little connection with, like chess, basketball, rare earth minerals, cyber warfare, space exploration and nuclear research.

This is a process that Miss Hou exemplifies. Only about 1 percent of Chinese play chess, and China has never been a chess power. But since 1991, China has produced four women’s world chess champions, and Ms. Hou is the one with by far the most promise.

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It will be many, many decades before China can challenge the United States as the overall “No. 1” in the world, for we have a huge lead and China still must show that it can transition to a more open and democratic society. But already in discrete areas — its automobile market, carbon emissions and now women’s chess — China is emerging as No. 1 here and there, and that process will continue.

January 8, 2011 11:33 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society