Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ah, Ancient Chinese Secret in Action

I've expressed my skepticism about China's so-called long-range planning skills based on their long cultural history:

Really, I keep hearing how the Chinese, because of their ancient civilization, are naturally good at long-range planning. Somehow foresight is in their genes. They don't live any longer than we do, but boy can they plan ahead!

When did the Chinese gain this superior planning ability? Surely not from the beginning since they were new then. So 1,500 years ago? A thousand years ago? Five hundred? Last week? When?

I ask because America, without that long-range planning ability as we are constantly told we don't have but which is needed for success, went from small groups of starving people clinging to the eastern shores of North America to a nuclear-armed dominant global power in 350 years.

Shouldn't China's long-range planning and foresight have kicked in by now to surpass that?

Heck, shouldn't Chinese-Americans have the gene and be planning the heck out of stuff here in America?

Also, why don't people speak of people in Greece, Egypt, Iran, India, Japan, or Korea as having long-range planning and foresight based on their ancient civilizations? Why just China?

Oh, sure, Jews have been around for so long as a culture that they can control the weather. But what else has a supposed long-range planning ability gotten them? Just weather control, periodic pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and a major effort at genocide?

I should add Ethiopians, too, now that I think about it. I'm sure there are others that could make the claim, as well.

My skepticism of China's renowned ability to think the long game is not new. I return to it occasionally. So I really enjoyed criticism of Chinese planning ability from China's Futures (Daniel C. Lynch, page 37):

The market mechanism does not function comprehensively to allocate resources, most notably for land, energy, and financial capital. ... Gao [Shangquan, Director of the China Society for Economic Reform] notes that local government officeholders will be in power for only a few years but will auction off land to be used over many decades. The incumbent government will want to see results from land auctions now, even if this means the land will be abused or polluted and therefore lose future value. The same is true for minerals, whose artificially low prices encourage overexploitation. At the same time, the shortsighted governments refuse to make investments in education, public health, or sustainable agriculture because the payoffs from such projects can come only many years into the future, by which time today's officeholders will have moved onto other jobs, in other locales.

This. is. awesome.

Chinese rulers unable to think about the long term and simply focused on the short run? Say it ain't so! The culture! The history! The vaguely worded fortune cookie pronouncements! Patience and perspective are in their effing genes, aren't they?

Apparently not.

The Chinese are people, like anyone else. What a radical idea.