It seems that people that know me associate my travel to China with my being the ‘China guy’. While I am flattered that some consider me knowledgeable (to a greater degree than they are) of what is going on in China I’ve never lived there and am really at the nascent stages of learning about Chinese people, culture and government. I’ve learned a great deal in a few years but there is so much yet to learn.
Although I have not been in China since this June I have been actively following developments there from a number of angles. Both from news, reports from friends and colleagues living there and visiting Chinese nationals here in the U.S. all offer insight and opinions on what is going on in China and what the future might be like. The best I can offer is the future direction of the Chinese government is very uncertain – maybe more so than at any time in the past twenty years.
While the U.S. candidates for President take turns ‘bashing’ China, the Chinese government on November 8 will announce the new nine member standing committee. It is nearly certain that Xi Jinping http://bit.ly/RXGSx1 will be named China’s next leader. Mr. Xi has spent a little time staying in the United States (in Iowa) back in 1985 to learn about crop and livestock practices. For the past twenty years both Chinese Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have focused on improving China’s economy and they’ve been quite successful in that aspect. Chinese people’s living standards have risen dramatically in a very short time. I often tell people that China is going through its own 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s in the span of ten years. It’s an amazing story but the story is far from being done – or told.
In China citizens communicate with one another via national social networks like Sina Weibo and Ren Ren. They’ve learned to comment on things with both sarcasm and coded in order to not bring too much attention to themselves such that the Chinese government would suspend their account. Just last week Bloomberg.com posted a story on Xi Jinping and his apparent offshore held assets. Immediately thereafter, Bloomberg.com was shut down in China.
Mr. Xi has a great opportunity to be a thought leader along the lines that Deng Xiaoping did economically in moving China into a new era of freer communication. Most experts will say this is highly unlikely given China’s recent history and I tend to agree. But as China’s future leaders come from being born in the post-Mao era, the newer generation will hopefully continue to show that they are interested in hearing more from and sharing more with the world outside of China.
I’m not being naïve just hopeful.