Howard W. French: A Columnist’s Parting Thoughts on China

From the International Herald Tribune:

China has had the great fortune of good timing, too, with its reforms coming at the start of a great wave of globalization. And there have been countless other factors behind its success that space won’t allow exploring here, but any number of plodding states around the world would do well to learn from its example, from lagging regional giants like Nigeria and Pakistan to borderline failed states like Haiti and Myanmar.

A more interesting question may be, How appropriate is China’s model for China itself? Rather than highlighting the country’s many successes, the run-up to the Beijing Olympics has ironically spotlighted this country’s more retrograde qualities, from environmental devastation and vast class disparities, to a repressive instinct that seems to lurk everywhere here.

This is supposed to be a grand, global celebration, but the people who run the country are so uptight they’ve frightened their own people, and risk turning off many of their overseas guests – that is, the guests who will make it here despite restrictive visa policies and an atmosphere that leaves no room for spontaneity.

Events of recent months have revealed this to be a deeply reactionary government, a state with manifold reasons for self-confidence, and yet one that seems spooked by its ow shadow.

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