Published: June 7th 2012June 1st 2012
It's been said that China is behind the United States in a number of ways.
Politically, the People's Republic is not much of a modern representative government without the vote. The great Chinese Firewall controls network neutrality so that it remains far from neutral. Informational assymetry may as well be a mantra in the China.
Compared to the US Occupy Movement that scrutinized the top 1%, China's inequality is more drastic. The ratio of the income of the richest 10% to the poorest 10%* in the United states is 15.9 while in China the number is 21.6.
The UN labels 200 million Chinese as relatively poor; among those, 20 million are living in absolute poverty. Compared to 16% of GDP in the US spent on health care (and 8.4% in the UK), China's health care spending is on 2.4% of it's GDP. It's the paradox to witness such a left-winged nation skimping on healthcare, social welcare, education, and pensions.
There is much evidence that China is behind the US in the global race for progress.
But let's for a minute imagine that there isn't a race...
that this idea of progress was all made up in our heads - that our notions of a 'socially progressive' movement is dependent on an ethos of a unique place and time. Then perhaps our paradigm of living as humans changes. Perhaps bigger isn't always better. Faster isn't always stronger. What if a vote was not a blessing of empowerment, but a masochistic curse?
Life and its prescribed purpose, defined by varying world cultures, is constantly wavering in a gray between the pursuit of personal legacy and the maintenance of communal harmony. In some ways, the western man longs to be remembered whereas the eastern man releases himself from the pains of memory. Yet, rapid globalization has skewed the lines of both men, twisting them in obscure geometric shapes in hope that both gain a cross-bred perspective. The individualist, once the sole forerunner of capitalism, now meets his collectivist counterpart. The advent of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding have brought new shades of green into the art of wealth creation.
But whereas progress and the attainment of wealth are merely creative ideas, a human life is tangible and very much real. When I feel upset, my body tells me so with each breath; my eyes fill with salty tears, a geyser concealed with layers of pride. When I am nervous, the imaginary butterflies start dart with full speed until twinkles blind my sight. As blood rushes up to feed by hungered brain, my head feels like it's floating. These reactions, feelings - they are real.
Being progressive provides trivial bragging rights. Being human provides a real experience.
Still now, between the extreme advocates of eastern and western schools of thought, exist the race for progress. But what's lost is the argument for culture change (or rather the lack of) and whether or not we're really that different from one another. With genetically modified tomatoes for the mass consumer, pills for the manic-depressed, and cars for the lazy, have we really
changed as a species? Have our bodies become more vast, minds feel more numb, legs taper thinner?
I don't think so. As much as we beg to be different, we're tied down by a human experience. It would take much more "progress" to eliminate my instinctive hunger to survive, to love, to win.
London's Time Zone is at absolute zero because it used to be the center of the world, at least in a financial sense. The sinophied name of China, 中国, translates to "Middle Kingdom", likewise claiming the same championship ring. Between east and west, right-winged and left-winged, feminist and masculine, it's nearly impossible to find a common ground.
But there is hope for unity. This is because the recipe used to cook such disparate ideologies requires the same main ingredient: the human experience of winning the race
Whether the race actually exists or if it's a figment of our imagination, I don't know.
* Data show the ratio of the average income or expenditure share of the richest group to that of the poorest. Human Development Report 2009
Fenby, Johnathon. 2012. Tiger Heads Snake Tails: China Today, How it got there and where it is heading.