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Afghanistan

1) The Americans and the Europeans have learned little from the historical lessons of Afghanistan. Setting up a puppet ruler was tried before, when we replaced Amir Dost Mohammad with Shah Shuja. The price then was the lives of 16,000 British soldiers and their families.

2) This time we chose a man from the minority population in the northern provinces, who has distributed privileges among his own people. We say that things are fine because girls now get to go to school. In the West, that is a strong argument to win support.

3) Afghanistan is a rocky crossroads; it is not a country you can hold. In this Godforsaken land political alliances between tribes shift as quickly as the wind.

4) None of the great powers (Russia, US/Europe, China) are currently willing to sacrifice what it would take to win the "Great Game" and gain control of Central Asia. Spontaneous, half-hearted actions like those of the Allied forces will not scare the Taliban.

5) The only military task left for the Allied forces in Afghanistan is to defend itself. When our troops look out over the desert from their safe havens (fortified military camps) they do not even know what they are looking at; and they are not willing to risk their lives to find out.

6) Taliban strategy is superior to our own: in winter they give themselves in, and apply for jobs in the police which give them money, weapons, and training. In summer they go over to the Taliban again. How can you expect our military leaders to maintain morale?

7) The USA has persuaded its allies in Afghanistan to pick up the bill for its own military adventures. They have filled the Afghan administration with Afghan refugees to the US who are not even respected in their home country.

8) So far we have spread money around, strengthened the Taliban, increased the production and sale of drugs, and fostered contempt for the West for our support of a corrupt leadership. If NATO left now, Karzai would be lucky to last a week before ending up hanged from a lamppost, like his Communist predecessor. This war is already lost. At best it offers our troops a training ground for future military interventions.

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan

1) This region, not Afghanistan, is the geopolitical centre of Central Asia. The Mongols knew it, Stalin knew it, and the USA knows it. But it has no real economic significance.

2) Threatened by Turkey, Stalin wanted to divide up the Turkic people in Central Asia. So he created a number of multi-ethnic states with access to the fertile Fergana Valley, where there were previously no borders.

3) After the American-inspired "Tulip Revolution" of 2005, the US attempt to create one permanent dominating military base in the region (Ganci Air Base, a strategic military installation at Bishkek's Manas Airport) has failed. Instead Russia and the USA both now have bases in Kyrgyzstan. US ambitions have been checked by the joint interests of the SCO (Shanghai Co-operation Organization). In the meantime, the ousted Kyrgyz president is trying to foment civil war in the south.

China

1) The Chinese see themselves primarily as a civilization, not as a nation. China is the only of the world's ancient civilizations to have retained its power. Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus River area (Pakistan) are all a social and economic mess today.

2) China is slowly moving back towards centre stage. Its decision in the sixteenth century to scrap its fleet and retreat into its shell was the beginning of its decline. Its decision in the late 1970s to open up its economy was the beginning of its resurrection. It has already become the factory of the world, more so than Japan was started to be at the end of the nineteenth century. Now it also wants to become a centre for science.

3) In Europe royalty built themselves castles, in China they built entire cities. What is Versailles compared to the imperial cities of Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Peking? What is Balmoral compared to the Summer Palace?

4) In the West we weep for the meritocracy we lost in the 1970s and 1980s, the society that never materialized. Ever since Plato we have supposed that the enlightened emperor is an impossibility, because it has never worked in Europe. China has had a system of meritocracy for more than two thousand years, all based on strict national exams. Look at the gardens in Suzhou: they were built by the best bureaucrats, by poets, not by businessmen or military leaders. They formed the most cultivated class of leaders that have ever ruled. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not a direct inheritor of this system, but far more meritocratic than most Western governments. They have not only reestablished the position of Confucius, as an alternative to Western values, but are also encouraging high-performing students to join the party.

5) No other country will achieve the transition from Communism to capitalism better than China. Unlike their old political counterpart, Russia, China has the advantage of a hard-working, disciplined population carrying as it were a capitalist gene. For the Chinese, the Russians are not a serious people.

6) The Chinese Communist experience cost the lives of about 100 million people, compared to about 60 million in Russia. Everything old was crushed, entire cities demolished, like Chengdu. There is hardly a stone left of the beauty that was then less than three generations ago. Aware of the great error, some efforts are now done to rebuild parts of it.

7) It takes two hours to form a company in Hong Kong. The Chinese economy is growing at a rate of one Spain a year. The fast growing cities grow by one Bilbao a year.

8) China is now the second-largest economic power in the world, behind only the USA. It is anticipated that by 2026 they will be the largest. (Two years ago the estimate was 2035.)

9) China is already the world leader in a number of industries. It is the world's largest producer of rice, wheat, iron, aluminium, coal, and zinc. It is the second-largest producer of electricity after the USA. It has the largest financial reserves of any country, and is the USA's largest creditor.

10) As the Chinese economy continuous to grow and new groups of workers demand more freedoms, the Chinese government will be confronted with a dilemma: just where should it set the limit to these freedoms to avoid losing power? It is already struggling. In 2009 in set up the Great Fire wall, banning a great number of social networking sites, employing thousands of bloggers to write positive things about the government (named "50 cents", as they get 50 cent for each positing).

11) The internet is causing the leadership of the State severe headaches. How can China become a world leader in e-communications with a strictly-censored World Wide Web? How will it become a leader in IT? If it does not join a more open international community of researchers, it will never be a scientific leader. After all, when it comes to high tech, China is still far behind the West. How the Chinese government tackles these questions is highly significant for the country's future competitive position.

12) The Chinese economic dilemmas - bottlenecks, resource allocation, lack of management skills, and differences of opinion about centralization and openness - are all being solved.

13) The real market in China for consumer goods like mobile telephones is not 1.3 billion, but at present probably more like 800 million (updated from 500 million only a few years ago).

14) For close to two decades China has run at two speeds: one in the interior, another at the coasts. Now the interior provinces have been allowed to catch up. This is where the big opportunities are. Sichuan will be another Germany or some say Chicago at the turn of the 20thcentury (but only the city of Chongqing is growing more than 6 times as fast as Chicago did at its peak, in terms of infrastructure and industrialization).

15) Little verbal communication is needed in negotiations in China. The end result is going to be to everyone's advantage. Consensus is often an illusion in the Western world. The Chinese say: "You ask your child where it wants to go on holiday, but you make the decision". In China "freedom" is translated with "zi you", which means "individual participation to the honesty of the group".

16) China, Singapore, and Malaysia do not agree with Western assumptions about human rights. Confucian ideas of human rights are based on what is good for the society, not for the individual. China does not accept the universality of Individual Human Rights, there are only Social Human Rights.

17) This is a country with a middle class of about 130 million people (9.4 per cent of the population), including 300,000 dollar millionaires (remember that in addition you get between three and five times more for your money here). In the near future this country promises to be not only the factory of the world, but the world's most important consumer market. Western companies have to have a presence here if only for the latter reason.

18) Pudong, a district across the river from the city of Shanghai, is the fastest-running economic engine in the world. About 1.5 million of the twenty-two million inhabitants of Shanghai live in Pudong, in four zones:

a) Lujiazui, home to the world's fifth-largest stock exchange (after NYSE, Tokyo, NASDAQ, and London)

b) Waigaoqiao, China's largest free trade zone

c) the Jinqiao export processing zone

d) the Zhangjiang high-tech park.

Twenty years ago there was nothing here but rice fields, swamps, and some storage buildings. Today it is a Chinese Manhattan, housing many of the tallest buildings in the world. The largest, at 492 metres, is the Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC) - just a few metres shorter than the second-tallest building in the world, in Taipei.

19) This is a country which produces more than 40 per cent of all television sets (TLC is the world's largest producer of televisions), 50 per cent of all air conditioners, 51 per cent of all microwaves, 50 per cent of digital cameras, 37 per cent of all mobile telephones, 70 per cent of all containers, 60 per cent of toys, 70 per cent of sewing machines; and the list goes on. Soon they will be making good cars, and they may very well take the lead in electric cars. Both Volvo and the old 95 series SAAB production line have now been sold to China.

20) In only five years' time Geely hopes to be producing ten times as many Volvo cars as today. The owner of Geely is 47-year-old Li Shufu, the son of poor farmers.

21) Container traffic: 78 per cent of all container traffic is in East Asia, versus only 2.5 per cent in Europe and 9 per cent in North America. China alone accounts for two-thirds of all container volume in the world.

22) Kong Qiu, or Kong Fuzi, transliterated in Latin as Confucius, was not a religious philosopher, but a practical, social thinker. The Confucian vision of the world: collectivity, collective hierarchy (recognition takes time), the middle road/stability, loyalty, sincerity, and humanity.

23) Daoism is the second spiritual influence in China. Lao Zi introduced "The Dao", literally "way, road", the extreme harmony. All moving things, including the earth, belong to two groups: yin and yang. The combination of these forces gives life to movement. Day is nothing in itself; you need night to understand it.

24) A quick way to understand Daoism: "Everything that is not Confucianism or Buddhism is Daoism."

25) Chinese medicine is the practical application of yin and yang.

26) Personal attacks are very rare in China. You do not make personal references or attacks, other than in small, closed environments, such as universities.

27) How do we explain the difference in thinking between East and West? Consider the example of the stew. An Asian and a European are asked to see what is wrong with the stew. The European goes to the oven and lifts the lid of the pot. The Asian stands back and takes in the smell. These are two different approaches to solving the same problem. Either may lead to the right answer.

28) Two thirds of the economy of all Asia is run by Chinese, with overseas Chinese playing a key role. There are an estimated 50.2 million overseas Chinese. Two million of them live in the USA, and 400,000 in Europe (half of those in France). They are doing so well in Africa that Africans are recruiting them as managers for their own factories.

29) Chinese have emigrated throughout history, to practically all parts of the world, since the Mongol conquest in 1276. The Chinese diaspora is the biggest in the world and the most prosperous (Chaliand 1997: 142). ... The Chinese of San Francisco once emigrated from the same small fishing village outside Macao. They have even kept their local dialect.

30) Ninety-five per cent of all Chinese citizens are ethnically Han. They share the same language, the same values, the same behaviour-patterns. Their culture is Confucian. Non-Hans are barbarians. Europeans are "new barbarians".

31) Chinese are not more racists than Westerners; they allow and welcome intermarriage, for instance with Thais. Half the population of Bangkok (2.5 million people) are of Chinese origin. In Taiwan the proportion of Chinese is 99 per cent, in Hong Kong 95 per cent, and in Singapore 76 per cent. Thais accept the Chinese, Malays do not. So, in Malaysia the Chinese feel more Chinese.

32) The Tian An Men incident was a real threat to the Communist Party. Hundreds of thousands of students and supporters demanded democracy and a change of government. They occupied the square for weeks, threatening to destabilize the country. After official talks with the students, shown on national television, and after sending in a tank, which was attacked with Molotov cocktails, the government decided to use force.

33) What turned the Tian An Men incident into world news was a matter of chance: CNN cameras happened to be in the area, because of an expected visit by Gorbachev. The footage of the lone protester facing a column of tanks was edited to achieve the best effect. The reportage did not show how students used violence, how they barricaded the streets and organized themselves in quasi-military structures communicating via walkie-talkies. A spontaneous democratic movement in China at that time would probably have resulted in chaos, after which China might not have achieved its current degree of economic progress. ... Nothing would have pleased the Western powers better than to see the democratic revolution succeed, and then to flood China with its experts and dismantle its industries. That was what brought Russia to its knees after the Cold War, the "Western recipe".

34) Unlike in Europe, in China soldiers have no status. Since there are no natural boundaries in Europe, social order was based on the sword. In China the answer to foreign aggression was to build walls: no soldiers, no churches. Europe needed the Church to balance its power (the knight kneels before the priest). In its place, China invented the bureaucrat and the writing-brush. The brush, not weaponry, is the symbol of the Chinese

35) The USA has completed its encirclement of China, with new military bases on its western borders of China, in Kyrgyzstan (Manas), Uzbekistan (Karschi-Chanabad), Tajikistan, and several in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At an earlier stage they had already built military bases on the eastern borders, in South Korea, on Okinawa, Guam, in Singapore, and on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The US also hold frequent military exercise close to Chinese mainland, on the border to DPRK. One can't help but wonder what would happen of the Chinese held similar maneuvers along the California coast.

36) There will be no military conflict between China and the USA over Taiwan; instead there will be a gradual absorption. This is already happening. Each time the leaders of the US and China meet, the US president will have to show a little more respect. For, each time the US Treasury wants to sell bonds to finance their deficit, they will be yielding influence. The Chinese are the only ones who can buy these Treasury bonds in the large quantities which the US needs to sell.

37) China is also the land of brainwashing: "you have to become sincere again". Criminals are sometimes sentenced to death, regardless of your wealth or social status. Today, individual executions (by lethal injection, to avoid photography) have replaced the firing squad. This reminds the public of their shared morality. If you kill someone, you are killed. The Chinese are experts at sacrificing their own people: ask any American who participated in the Korean War. You could kill a few hundred Chinese with your machine-gun, but they would eventually overrun you. This realization was devastating for American military morale.

38) There is no need for police on the street because everyone is a policeman. A criminal is sent away somewhere to be monitored by the masses. Every now and then they report to the central government. It is a self-organizing organization. It has worked this way for three thousand years.

39) Shanghai and Hong Kong were created by foreigners. These cities are not trusted and will never be allowed any power.

40) The Opium Wars: a study in the deviousness of Western imperialism. When the British came to South China, contacts with the West had existed for a long time (notably the Portuguese in Macao). The British wanted to sell the Chinese drugs (opium) which they could grow in India, because they really had nothing else the Chinese wanted. The mandarins, who had no tradition of using drugs themselves, at first banned the trade, but the British used firepower to impose it. The first Opium War ended in 1842 with the Nanking Treaty, which gave the British Hong Kong. After the second Opium War, in 1860, Kowloon was ceded to Britain. Western powers now had an official foothold in Mainland China. Fourteen towns were opened to Westerners for trade. These were the same coastal towns that were allowed to run ahead of the rest of China after the Cold War.

41) British and Allied forces burned down and plundered Peking with all its treasures, including the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. In Luoyang Westerners cut off the heads of Buddha figures to bring them home as souvenirs. They can still be seen in our museums today.

42) After the Second World War much of the Chinese gold stolen by the Japanese ended up in American banks. More was found on the Philippines; and the Japanese did not manage to get some of it out of the country, and had to leave it in Shanghai. The gold in Japan and America has yet to be reclaimed by the Chinese.

43) The Chinese civil war between 1931 and 1949 cost the lives of sixty million people, compared to twenty million who died in the Russian Revolution. Stalin used to say "A few dead is horrible, many dead is statistics".

44) When Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan, he brought with him all the wealth he could lay his hands on, so that many valuable artworks were moved to that island. This wealth helped Taiwan to finance its economic growth.

45) Make no mistake, Taiwan will be Chinese again. That is only a question of time. And then China will also take its place as a technological superpower, attracting many technologists to return home from places like Silicon Valley.

46) During its first decades of growth, China won market share through low prices. Now it will need to gain market share by producing high-value products, that is, products of higher quality. This was the way of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

 
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