Although we often hear about how China is in hot economic competition with the U. S., we don’t hear as frequently how eerily similar their education system is to ours. “The Chinese government has always been concerned about being outmaneuvered” by its opponents and as a result, their history books are “not even 5% correct” and “children grow up with a certain view of the world and of China,” author Timothy Beardson said at the Cato Institute on February 6, 2014.
Consequently, everything we, and they, have heard about the Asian colossus is, well, not that accurate. Indeed, Beardson, a permanent resident of China, forecasts the possible demise of China because:
- Economy of scale, or the sheer size of the Chinese economy, is a bad comparison because the size of a country’s economy does not necessarily mean it is better. As he said, “To contextualize it is very important, but very rarely done.”
- “We simply don’t know [China’s] GDP” because “the government doesn’t know either.”
- In writing his book on the People’s Republic, Beardson realized his own preconceptions of China were mistaken and suggested the general public’s view is also mistaken.
- It is too “conventional to talk about the re-emergence of China” even when “China never has been the center of world affairs.” In his words, “China’s global cultural legacy is less than that of Denmark.”
The Chinese demographic trend is another worrisome problem for the Chinese government and country as a whole. Beardson found:
- “The workforce in China is starting to decline in size” and the “annual rate of births since 1970; they’ve fallen by 40%.”
- Wages rising to double-digits force China to “move from low-cost manufacturing” to innovations, but she has had “very little success at all in generating indigenous [or domestic, home-grown] innovation.”
- “In 2010, 110 million Chinese [were] over the age of 65. By 2030, that will be 300 million.”
- Young couples now have to take care of four parents and possibly eight grandparents, straining the age-old custom of caring for the elderly and making it “very difficult” to do so.
One myth of the China alarmists is that China has a lot of money to throw around. However, Beardson said that China is “a society that has severe budgetary restraints” and “until recently, its budget was smaller than France.”
He also said that Chinese university graduate unemployment is the “highest…in the world” at 40-45% because “the quality is not very good.” A recent study of businesses found that up to 86% of Chinese university graduates were not suited to work at international firms.
Some other interesting observations, per Beardson:
- The city of Shanghai, which could reflect China as a whole, has a mantra of “educated, urban, middle-class people, that’s their franchise, it’s not the workers; it’s not really for the rural residents” because they don’t particularly want 10 million rural residents in Shanghai to flood their hospitals and schools.”
- China “has 20 neighbors…and has disputes with 15 of them” due to China’s hold on water sources such as the Tibetan Plateau to alleviate an almost twenty-year drought in Beijing.
- China once thought of “blasting” a nuclear bomb in the Himalayas to get more water to flow to China.