Much has happened in the past two months – hurricane
after hurricane, a devastating earthquake, avian flu on Europe's doorstep, Libby
under fire, Saddam in a cage, China in space again…
Important people from all walks of life tend to discuss China, even if only
from a "Yo, they got cars now right?" perspective. Topics of discussion
tend to be cheap Made in China products everywhere; the never-ending stream
of determined, hardworking, pragmatic Chinese taking over university classrooms
and city blocks; satellites and armies; Taiwan and Japan; and most recently,
avian flu. In Germany, the latter was big news, having
already traveled across Asia – fortunately, unlike the Huns and Turks of
old, settling for now in Hungary and Turkey.
In keeping with the China craze, Der Spiegel ran a front-page story
on the new revisionist book on Mao by the acclaimed Chinese author of Wild
Swans, Jung Chang. The story resonated with Germans everywhere, living
under the shadow of Hitler even now. Der Spiegel discussed
Chang's new book about Mao in length, casually enjoying laying heaps of psychopathic,
murderous baggage at somebody else's door for a change.
The Germans are grumpy and depressed as usual, moping about like Eeyore
from Winnie the Pooh. They're grumpy about political deadlock and national
indecision, and depressed that factories, the unemployed, immigrants, and students
have to resort to 1
to 5 Euro/hour jobs to finance their endeavors. The Baby Boomers find themselves
released at age 45 with a one-year grace period with pay to figure out what
they're going to do, while the old folks continue to sip wine and eat rump steak
on fat pensions.
For students and middle-aged businessmen alike, China beckons, but indecision
and fear keep the small and medium enterprises locked in their traditional markets
while the big boys downsize and transplant operations to Shenzhen, leaving unemployment
and frustration in their wake.
And Germany still is second only to the U.S. in patents
per year, reinforcing a well-deserved reputation for quality and innovation.
But it's not quality and innovation that the German youth seek, but opportunity.
Contrast German gloom with Shanghai's reckless abandon: a city where 25-year-old
Chinese girls work for Citibank training the national workforce, and 20-something
Americans brief Boeing execs on the China market and fill orders for 25 miles
of plastic fittings. Deejays, chefs, and dancers from all over the planet are
moving to Shanghai to find their fortune. And when they're all done working,
they take to the streets and revel in each other: multinational orgies under
the skyscrapers of possibly the most dynamic city in the world.
Of course, taxi drivers struggle to keep their children in school, when once
a whole family could survive on 100RMB a month, and now 3,000RMB a month guarantees
naught. And in the final analysis, this is what still separates Germany from
Nevertheless, contrast German gloom with Chinese opportunism: buying up blocks
in the Bay and L.A., river front property in Koln, mines in Chile – not just
the big boys like we do it in the West, but every man, woman, and child who
can manage to get themselves a visa. Some sweat in the kitchen then put down
on their own idea. Some roll through with shoe samples and a price list. Some
get kicked out of trade fairs for acting the fool and copying a German producer
right in front of his face, but the Chinese will not stop. The enthusiasm with
which a Chinese tea party tosses around wild ideas is unparalleled anywhere
in the world.
What makes the Chinese different and threatening? Is it their drive and energy,
their greed and nationalism, their passive-aggressive behavior toward enemies,
or perhaps just their willingness to deal with and even defend regimes the West
has slated for a dose of regime change?
What is it about Germans that makes them so dismal even with the technological
prowess that Germans are still famous for? Why do Chinese fight for another
child in a sea of humanity while Germans choose childlessness amidst warnings
America is split, Germany is limp, and China soaks up the best of both in Shanghai
and sprays the best of China throughout the planet. Love of life vs. worldweariness…
I wonder what Romans thought as the Visigoths came barreling over the Alps?
Did they crack jokes about bird flu and write articles about the mania of their