The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Rules Based International Order is the Minority

I’ve said this for a while, but now we have empirical proof that most of the world likes Russia and China more than the US (h/t Johnstone):

“Among the 1.2bn people who inhabit the world’s liberal democracies, three-quarters (75%) now hold a negative view of China, and 87% a negative view of Russia,” the report reads. “However, for the 6.3bn people who live in the rest of the world, the picture is reversed. In these societies, 70% feel positively towards China, and 66% positively towards Russia.”

However, across a vast span of countries stretching from continental Eurasia to the north and west of Africa, we find the opposite – societies that have moved closer to China and Russia over the course of the last decade. As a result, China and Russia are now narrowly ahead of the United States in their popularity among developing countries.

While the war in Ukraine has accentuated this divide, it has been a decade in the making. As a result, the world is torn between two opposing clusters: a maritime alliance of democracies, led by the United States; and a Eurasian bloc of illiberal or autocratic states, centred upon Russia and China.

Now, what they’re saying without quite saying it is that the Ukraine war correlated with even better public opinion towards Russia and China.

I find the next chunk predictable:

However, what matters may not be so much the presence of democratic institutions, but
rather, whether they are valued and appreciated by citizens. If so, attitudes towardscountries such as Russia or the United States might take into account their potential to assist – or damage – the health of their democracy. For a closer look at Figure 20 reveals anumber of electoral democracies, such as Indonesia, India or Nigeria, in which the public remains sympathetic to Russian or Chinese influence, in spite of a difference in political regime. Thus it is not simply whether democratic institutions exist that countsbut rather, the degree to which they are seen as functional and legitimate.

This seems reasonable, at first glance. Here’s the chart:

Eyeball those nations above and below the 50% mark.

What does the grouping below 50% all have in common? What does the grouping above 50% have in common?

Whether or not they could be considered part of the Westerns sphere. Those above the line are generally not those who have done well under US hegemony and who are not Western allies.

So, yeah, this looks to me to be a case of “correlation is not causation”. I would gently suggest that what creates the legitimacy of “democratic institutions” is whether they have delivered for people and that those countries under 50% tend to be those who have been inside the Western (US/EU/close allies bubble.)

So, yes, it is actually about the new cold war.

Now remember, China now does most of the world’s development. It isn’t even close. They build the new ports, airports, hospitals, roads, bridges and even cities. Further, they do it cheaper than the West does it.

So, if you’re a developing nation who isn’t inside the “blessed bubble”, even as bad as that bubble has become under neoliberalism, China looks good and America looks… well, not so good, especially since the US has been the primary driver of trade and finance rules which have been very bad for the third world.

This has been going on for a long time, but since the collapse the USSR there hasn’t been another option. China offers one, and Russia is thumbing its nose at a global order that has gone out of its way to screw over the countries which are above that 50% line.

So, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly about “democratic legitimacy” — that legitimacy is a dependent variable and it is associated with America, NATO and to a lesser extent the EU. When a global regime doesn’t deliver it is discredited, and in fact even in countries under the 50% mark, most have been losing trust in “democratic legitimacy” as well. Americans and British will know well of what I speak.

The end result is that most of the world now slightly favors China and Russia and the important part is that trend is likely to continue. There will be a cold war, and most of the world wants to remain neutral or slightly favors China/Russia. On election Lula in Brazil said they would keep trading with both sides and not be drawn into the cold war, but Brazil is one of the founding members of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) the most important economic bloc that doesn’t include the US. Brazil will remain “neutral” but 31% of Brazil’s exports now go to China and 11% to the US. If the US is stupid enough to push, and military might isn’t determinative, Brazil would be foolish not to go with China.

Power follows industrial capacity and popularity follows treatment. With a few notable exceptions, if you’re a third world country, China treats you better than the US has in ages. As for Russia, well, they may screw with nearby countries, but otherwise they don’t get involved much (remember Syria invited them in, and is a long time ally.) Indians, in particular, remember that Russia was a friend for generations when the US and Europe were not. As for Africa, China has been developing good relations thru trade and development for decades now.

In this cold war, the West is going to be the one isolated, as the above (older) map from the Economist suggests. Yes, they are “neutral” for now, but if forced to choose, don’t assume they’ll choose the current order.

The “rules based international order” is rather small and how it has been run has damaged democratic legitimacy far more than “China” or “Russia”.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 30, 2022


None of This Had to Be: The Two Paths


  1. bruce wilder

    “Neoliberal ideology” is all about never having to take responsibility for the consequences of what you, as countries and multinational institutions, actually do. It is a form of political narcissism that absolves the neoliberal actor of not only guilt, but even memory.

    Russia itself is a prime example of a victim of neoliberal globalization on terms that have disabled its economic ambitions and capabilities. The jokes about being a gas station with nukes hide the way the “Collective West” has repeatedly frustrated Russian economic ambitions, by using sanctions for example to handicap the terms of trade and tried to keep Russia vulnerable to international financial crisis.

    Much of the popular enthusiasm for supporting Ukraine in this “unprovoked” [!!!] Russian invasion is based on simply knowing nothing of the history of the conflict.

    I have noticed recently an uptick in charging Russia with an unwillingness to negotiate among mainstream Western pundits. This requires willful blindness both to the series of recent events and to the fundamental nature of “the rules-based order”. Negotiation to determine the rules simply does not exist in a rules-based order imposed by a hegemon and multinational institutions. You play the game by the rules, period. You do not question the rules or whether some “more equal” actors are at all constrained by the rules.

    NATO as “a purely defensive alliance” is hard to reconcile with Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya. But, if your political narcissism enables you to “forget” inconvenient truth, the judgments of those standing at a distance may seem inexplicable.

    Dissatisfaction with democracy can only work its way into this analysis by way of the selective forgetting attendant on neoliberal narcissism — the kind of b.s. that follows hand-wringing over “norms” and how to preserve “our democracy” in U.S. politics. In the U.S. we have been set up for functional democracy disappearing entirely, replaced by rule by spies. Disinformation is distributed everywhere and the aim is clearly to end any possibility of democracy breaking out. What democracy could any American be satisfied with?

  2. Astrid

    I’ve really been enjoying the Empire and Deep State discussions led by Aaron Goode. It’s really eye opening for laying out what’s been visible all along to anyone posting attention but has been obfscated by the liberal good thinkers of American academia.

    Once this is realized and internalized, the other pieces are easily falling into place for me.

  3. Ché Pasa

    I have to laugh. 😀 “Rules Based International Order.” 😀 There is no such thing. At least there is nothing that applies to the hegemon, and ultimately nothing that applies to anyone else, either. Power does what it wishes; the weak suffer what they must. We know this, as do the victims of Power.

    The United States and its vassals are engaged in multifront warfare abroad — against China, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Yemen by proxy, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and on and on — and the government is deeply antithetical to the needs and wishes of the general population. The case can be made that it’s always been that way, Certainly the origin of the nation is grounded in exclusion, exclusivity, and a “democracy” mostly limited to the rich, white and male.

    The “rules” such as they are are little more than back of the envelope notes that can and will change depending on circumstance and the will of the high and mighty. We know this or we should by now,

    We’re seeing a contraction of liberty at home, a deterioration of living standards and lifespan (for the lesser people), and a lack of concern by the Overclass toward consequences. Abroad, we’re seeing a level of Neocon belligerence that hasn’t been as openly acted on since the Cheney/Bush regime. That doesn’t mean the interim regimes have been less belligerent; it means they weren’t as open and coherent about it.

    It’s clear that we can do little or nothing about it from our keyboards and armchairs, and it’s also clear (to me at least) that the rightists and reactionaries (with or without their chosen saviour) are actively engaged in a revolutionary project to take over and remake the government of the United States and many other countries, the upshot of which none of us can foresee.

    The questions in the end are which Power will prevail, for how long, and what will happen to the dissenters.

    Some of us will no doubt see the beginnings of the answers.

  4. Carborundum

    A very large fraction of these impressive sounding headline numbers for Russia is due to attitudinal shifts in India, China, and Indonesia. Conversely, global sentiment towards the US is actually more positive than a decade ago – the major shift being that Chinese attitudes have become markedly more negative (I would note that when one looks at country-level attitude shifts rather than total population shifts, the situation is significantly less rosy – particularly when looking at attitude shifts in high income democracies). The one that’s really interesting to me is China, where overall population sentiment looks to be up slightly, with the underlying composition by countries sorting dramatically.

    I would note in passing that the correlation between views on Russia / China and social liberalism is much stronger than the correlation with dissatisfaction with democratic function. Offensive IO campaigns have their limits…

  5. marku52

    David (Also posting as Aurelian) notes that:
    “When China comes to visit, we get an airport. When the US comes to visit we get a sermon”

    He also points out that as the “liberal” west complains about some African nation’s laws against homosexuality, the African diplomat responds “But you put that in our constitution when we were your colony!”
    That’s a fair point…..

  6. Trinity

    Michael Hudson points out how similar the present is to the rise of the papacy, it’s an interesting read about what Germany is going through.

    “President Biden has characterized this split as being between democracies and autocracies. The terminology is typical Orwellian double-speak. By “democracies” he means the U.S. and allied Western financial oligarchies. Their aim is to shift economic planning out of the hands of elected governments to Wall Street and other financial centers under U.S. control. U.S. diplomats use the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to demand privatization of the world’s infrastructure and dependency on U.S. technology, oil and food exports.

    By “autocracy,” Biden means countries resisting this financialization and privatization takeover. In practice, U.S. rhetoric means promoting its own economic growth and living standards, keeping finance and banking as public utilities. What basically is at issue is whether economies will be planned by banking centers to create financial wealth – by privatizing basic infrastructure, public utilities and social services such as health care into monopolies – or by raising living standards and prosperity by keeping banking and money creation, public health, education, transportation and communications in public hands.”

    No surprises here.

    And then this, which also makes sense.

    “Another byproduct of America’s New Cold War has been to end any international plan to stem global warming. A keystone of U.S. economic diplomacy is for its oil companies and those of its NATO allies to control the world’s oil and gas supply – that is, to reduce dependence on carbon-based fuels. That is what the NATO war in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine was about. It is not as abstract as “Democracies vs. Autocracies.” It is about the U.S. ability to harm other countries by disrupting their access to energy and other basic needs.” Hence the pipeline explosion to render Germany dependent, you guessed it, on US LNG.

    So literally, look for high ground.

    Those who control the fossil fuel are the rulers. For now, anyway.

    Sometimes I try to take the attitude that this is an interesting time to be alive. Sometimes it even works, for awhile anyway.

  7. Willy

    Would I prefer my nation to be more like Denmark, Norway or even Japan, or to be more like Peru, Algeria or even Mali?

    I notice that those nations more satisfied with “the functioning of democracy” are the more successful of the democratic socialist ones. They also have less positive views of Russia and China, which are authoritarian nations.

    I’d gently remind the reader that while China’s economic strategies have been vastly superior to that of the west of late, and that a benevolent and intelligent authoritarian regime can get a lot more done than one proxy-ruled-by-corrupt-culture plutocrats in a “democratic republic”, that this has historically changed with the whims, competencies and sanity of the authoritarian ruler de jour.

  8. UphillBend


    Would I prefer my nation to be more like Denmark, Norway or even Japan, or to be more like Peru, Algeria or even Mali?

    >> Yeah, I guess I’d rather live in countries with the legacy wealth of centuries of capitalist plundering of weaker tribes and the earth. Or at least piggybacking on the back of the big bastards while laughing all the way to the bank

    I notice that those nations more satisfied with “the functioning of democracy” are the more successful of the democratic socialist ones. They also have less positive views of Russia and China, which are authoritarian nations.

    >> Coming from an Asian nation recently accepted into the Western club, with a higher democratic index ranking than the US, I call bs on the “less positive views” as coming from some higher moral discernment.

    >> Right-wing Japanese don’t sneer at Koreans because their one party state is more democratic than the latter’s much more rambunctious one. Ukrainians don’t look down on Russians because of their better democracy. The kind of Persian who monger about themselves being Aryans don’t look down on Arabs because of differences in political systems. It’s basically racism based on who gets to play the “better people”, which more often than not means aligning with white people and wealth. And if you’re already white, why not align with the better white people in the West than with the Russian savages?

    >> Yeah, Koreans are going through a major period of Sinophobia right now. The headlines are sensational, but the comments are a tidal wave of bigotry. You can call it an expression of “less positive views” of authoritarian regimes. I’ll call it racism.

    >> Japanese look down on Koreans and Chinese. Koreans look down on Chinese. West tilting Chinese such as Singaporeans, Taiwanese, and Hong Kongers look down on mainlanders. Within the mainland, West-friendly cosmopolitans in Shanghai look down on the Beijing bumpkins.

    >> You think there is some line in the above where the freedom vs authoritarian thing goes into effect? It’s all racism, and white worship, created when the cultural ecology of East Asia was torn asunder by the intrusion of the West, with the Japanese adopting supremacist attitudes and fault lines deepened by ideological and wealth differences. Not to mention American manipulation of opinions.

    >> I absolutely call correct on the polls that show widespread Sinophobia in Asia but absolutely call bull on their being measures of Chinese malfeasance as the sole variable. Any reading of the filth and bigotry on display in the comments sections on news websites will make anyone with minimal moral hygiene want to distance himself from the current Sinophobia.

    >> Thankfully, Koreans have always been known as the most direct people in Asia, so we don’t hide behind mealy mouthed expressions of “less positive views”. At least that’s one cold comfort when I read Korean news over the Himalayas of smugness that rise from Western news pages.

    >> Yeah, I’m sure the US however would love to capitalize on such filth – I’m sorry “less positive views” – just as they did after the “liberation” of Korea and appreciated the “less positive views” of leftist reformers and their peasant cohorts by the landlords and the middle class Protestant refugees from northern Korea. Arming and supporting right-wing death squads in anti-leftist pogroms that left 100s of thousands dead. The largest such after the Indonesian events in the 1960s in the post-war period. You don’t hear of them because the victims are forerunners of people you should have “less positive views” about.

    >> Such is the refinement of democratic American policies and the fine sentiments of “less positive views” of people who do not align with its policies. So now let’s remilitarize Japan, heighten tensions in the Korean peninsula, and abrogate mutual understandings about Taiwan for another run of confronting the less than positively viewed commies.

    I’d gently remind the reader that while China’s economic strategies have been vastly superior to that of the west of late, and that a benevolent and intelligent authoritarian regime can get a lot more done than one proxy-ruled-by-corrupt-culture plutocrats in a “democratic republic”, that this has historically changed with the whims, competencies and sanity of the authoritarian ruler de jour.

    >> Yes, and when we are at the precipice of global collapse economically and ecologically, when the idea of reviews over a longer historical arc may soon become irrelevant, it’s the democratic West that has begun waging a proxy war against Russia and a cold war against China – which happens to be the development driver for the majority of the unwashed portions of mankind. You know, gently reminding you, those people viewed less favorably.

    >> You’ll view all of this as noble – or at least, nobler – democracy vs authoritarianism and I’ll view it as the manipulations and cultural effects of American hegemony, racism being not the least of it. Probably it’ll be a chicken or egg argument. What I do know with every fiber of my moral being is my repulsion against the smugness of the “less positive views” against the heathens who just happen to challenge the non-stop plunder of the West since 1492.

    PS I was thinking of addressing Carborundum, but his argument seems to me diffuse. But my sentiments above apply to his comments as well.

  9. Willy

    UphillBend, While I’m aware that S. Korea lies smack dab in the middle of that chart, implying something between nihilism and confusion, do you have a clearer direction in which you think humanity should go?

  10. don

    The Descent Lyrics
    The descent beckons
    as the ascent beckoned
    Memory is a kind
    of accomplishment
    a sort of renewal
    an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
    inhabited by hordes
    heretofore unrealized
    of new kinds—
    since their movements
    are toward new objectives
    (even though formerly they were abandoned)
    No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since
    the world it opens is always a place
    unsuspected. A
    world lost
    a world unsuspected
    beckons to new places
    and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory
    of whiteness

    With evening, love wakens
    though its shadows
    which are alive by reason
    of the sun shining—
    grow sleepy now and drop away
    from desire

    Love without shadows stirs now
    beginning to awaken
    as night

    The descent
    made up of despairs
    and without accomplishment
    realizes a new awakening:
    which is a reversal
    of despair
    For what we cannot accomplish, what
    is denied to love
    what we have lost in the anticipation—
    a descent follows
    endless and indestructible

    -william carlos williams

  11. UphillBend

    @Willy, Carborundum

    I’m embarrassed that my comment got through. I know that our host is concerned about not letting this site become a mud fight, and I think I crossed more than a few lines in thought, tone, and language that I regret doing so. I can only guess that the host saw a few morsels worth airing over the rather dark dross over the rest.

    Perhaps a report about the Asian part of “The West”, which value is somewhat lessened by the fact that my pov is not common.

    Which leads to the fact that I had some angry arguments recently by the very fact my views conflict w/ the communities I find myself parts of. Which probably led to the state of mind that in turn led to the anger on display above.

    My apologies to Willy for the repeated taunting sarcasm. It strikes me as no better than the ugly belligerence of one commenter to another that I saw here awhile ago. And just as smug as the things that I was ranting against. And unfairly presumptuous of the intentions behind your words. And apologies to our host for muddying the waters.

  12. Astrid


    Perhaps I’m the angry commenter that you are thinking of. You’re comment does not seem angry to me. I really appreciate your view as I don’t know Koreans well and the ones I interact with tend to be completely aligned with American prejudices.

    Your critique of Willy’s comment is far more generous than I think he deserves. That’s why I come across as angry. I wasted plenty of time trying to have good faith discussions with him on Chinese treatment of Uighurs and a number of other topics, he’s not interested in hearing out evidence that goes against his prejudices. The few times when I got him to support his arguments, asked he would threw a general wikipedia link at me. He’s also posted plenty of transparently false anti-China information such as a video of a purported Han official forcing a Uighur family to serve him. When I took time to provide evidence that he asked for, he said he was too busy to read and respond (yet he always has time to make long posts here).

    I’ve learned to brush off and disengage from such people offline, but the temptation to engage online is strong. Perhaps it’s because I have so few opportunities to voice my true opinions in my offline life.

  13. UphillBend

    I submitted my apology before I saw your reply, and it still holds in its contrition for the abrasiveness and darker moods in my original comments. But I will take brief issue with your reply, both with its logic and insinuations, with a prior major admission of negligence on my part.

    The negligence part. I do admit I went off pasture by not having my nose to the near central position of Korea in the chart and what that measured I did a sleight of hand by switching between Korean attitudes toward China and Russia, and attitudes just towards China. Another mix-up I committed was between satisfaction with the functioning of democracy, in which Korea is lackluster, and the democracy index, in which it ranks high.

    I’m pretty sure Korea came somewhere in the middle of the vertical axis due to its mixed feelings for Russia. The feelings were actually overall positive and opinions probably took a hit recently with the events in Ukraine and the one-sided regurgitating of US propaganda about those events in Korean media. But every opinion survey shows Koreans, especially younger ones, have very negative views of China. (That the vertical measurement still looks to be about 40% probably means that Koreans feelings towards Russia alone are still not too much on the negative side.) That my comments are deriding first world, and in the process bringing up Korean, dismissiveness of non-Western nations makes my negligence somewhat understandable, as the cases between Russia and China are dramatically different and the focus needed to be on China. But I should’ve addressed it.

    Note this focus on China helps your original argument since a prosperous and functioning democracy would be at UK and Japan levels of popular animosity towards one of the leading nations of the non-Western world.

    As for the satisfaction vs index mix-up, it is an important formal distinction in as much as the quoted article emphasizes it.

    “However, what matters may not be so much the presence of democratic institutions, but
    rather, whether they are valued and appreciated by citizens.”

    But our host uses it as jumping pad for, what seems to me, a more fundamental distinction.

    “Whether or not they could be considered part of the Westerns sphere.”

    And there is no doubt that South Korea is firmly part of the West. True, Korea now exports to China more than double what it does to the US. But the peculiarity of its security situation with the massive US military presence, its hostile position against North Korea, the complete enmeshment of its financial, legal, academic, and other institutional arrangements in the US order, it’s lively democracy which finds Chinese governance abhorrent, and the long history of looking up to the US as its senior partner makes it as firm a member of the West as Germany, France, or Japan is.

    By the way, Korea is not alone in being a Western nation that trades more with China than the US. Heck, there are US companies whose markets were mainly domestic that are now selling more to China, or expected to.

    As for dissatisfaction with democracy, returning to the very specific statement of the metric on the horizontal axis, my insider’s view of that dissatisfaction actually brings it closer to the US. First, note that the US and some other Western countries are even more dissatisfied than Korea on that axis. In Korea this is best attributed towards the extreme divisiveness of the politics there; it is the second most politically conflicted nation – after the US – among advanced economies.

    However, the chart’s ranking of Korea’s dissatisfaction with democracy does not mean that there is a crisis of legitimacy with it. The two ideas are brought close together in the original paper but they would be very distinct in Korea’s case. Indeed, outsiders often observe that Koreans seem to worship their fractious but hard-won democracy in a way other democracies do not. This reminds you of, not just the West in this case, but the US itself.

    So there is a kind of dialectic between what the original paper says, how Ian – at least to this reader’s view – expands upon the view, and also some underlying nuances outside the paper that I can’t blame you for not knowing. But, in the broad main, my using Korea as an example – familiar to me – as a case of Western arrogance and bigotry is not unwarranted.

    Again, note that this even further enhances your argument. Here we have a country that is now one of the great industrial powers – by manufacturing exports some statistics place it fifth after China, the US, Germany, and Japan – with a fanatical adherence to democracy, that is also showing overwhelming negativity against China.

    And based on such a take my original comments hold, aside from the question of their correctness, as a legitimate response to your comment, sans the unpleasant parts which I should have avoided against you. Really my negligence of the finer points in the article actually privileged your original position per a fervently Western place like Korea . You could’ve taken it to the bank and maybe shut me up with the fact that the majority of my countrymen would consider me odd.

    But then comes your second argument. First of all, I’ll need a clarification. What do you mean by “something between nihilism and confusion”? Maybe I’m dumb, but what does that mean in light of the x and y axes, how does it help your position or critique mine, and who is it even pointed towards? Korea, much of which currently shares your dismissive attitude towards China, or towards me?

    Or is it an insult? In the process of replying to you, I lamented the prejudices of my people, as a case of Westerners, against China and you are making a blanket swear against Korea as a prick against the skin of the dignity of my ethnicity? If you are doing so, excuse me for getting personal here, is this a reflection of the caliber of your person, your logical skills, or both?

    And as for “a clearer direction in which you think humanity should go”, I don’t owe you an answer for that question. To the degree these discussions about particulars assume something better than what we critique, it’s obvious by way of implication that I want – less bigotry, less smugness, and the like. Small wishes coming from no brilliant insight, but important beginnings nevertheless. Was this not obvious to you, or did you want to make a dig – moored to no obvious details of debate – like that above possibly? Is it fair to try to win an argument by taunting one nobody in particular like me for universal visions of solutions to humanity’s problems, when this nobody was talking about specific problems of which the small beginnings of a solution would be the application of, to borrow a phrase from the ancient sages, “not this, not that”?

  14. UphillBend


    You actually were a subject in the comment above, but as the recipient of belligerence by someone not visible here these days. I very much admire your persistence and command of the facts in making your case. And you don’t strike one as angry as much as caring for a cause that means much to you. And getting exasperated that people’s understandings are more often rock than reason, with a great deal of disingenuity thrown in. It’s like that with the best of us, probably more so with some of the people you bravely took on. But I am sure you do good for others. Probably people like you slowly opened up my prejudices on a variety of topics.

    I look forward to reading your comments whether related to China or not and learning from them.

    As for me seeming to be angry or not, I know I have a temper. And I can read between my typed up lines and see where I would’ve been flaring up if I were offline. And I’ve been recently flaring up offline a number of times. But one is already too many. I’ve now ventured out to quite unexpectedly getting into arguments with right-wingers that I only know casually. I’m going to have to try harder to not get into these situations.

    Kind of mysterious to me how I got into this issue. China barely flickered in my issues to be concerned about some years back. And it’s a big country that does make someone like me from a smaller country right next to it somewhat nervous – despite the good relations Korea had with it in the past. Perhaps I just can’t stand the prejudices.

    Somewhat saddened that your Korean acquaintances are as you described. I’m not surprised but still sad to actually hear that it is so.

    Korea is in many ways a decent country with many sterling and endearing qualities. Getting somewhat psychoanalytic over nations, I think all the Asian nations, and the Global South as well, had to deal with a crisis of confidence and dignity at the unstoppable rise of the West the past few centuries. Not to mention its civilizational excellence and dominance in virtually all fields of human endeavor. I think recognizing that dominance – both material and spiritual – somehow gets manifested by quite naturally putting the West on a pedestal and othering non-Westerners, even those similar to oneself. It’s sad really.

    China, under constant recent hostility, has been forced to rebuild a confident identity. It wasn’t always like this. Witness President Jiang Zemin comically berate fellow Chinese with the stick of the Grand West, mixing it up with English phrases even. Koreans do this kind of thing too, if not so blatantly these days.

    **My point is somewhat weakened by the fact he seems to be speaking about Hong Kong matters with HK media people. He probably thought bringing up the West as somehow on his side would’ve helped his case to Hong Kongers.

    Anyway, lucky for China that it has the size, the wherewithal, and the deep spiritual resources of a culture with continuity to ancient times to assert its identity. The US’s recalcitrance to anything China is helping to build China a confident identity – just as it has similarly pushed China to build its own space station, GPS system, supercomputers, high speed rail, and probably, in the future, its semiconductor industry.

    The other countries in the Global South, and honorary white countries like South Korea and Japan, are not so fortunate (or so unfortunate to become the object of so much hate). We look on as Titans are terraforming global arrangements and our minds, or resist such.

    Hopefully, we will see a rebalancing, praying our host’s worst fears for the environment can somehow be ameliorated. I think everybody stands to gain by being able to see each other as equal human beings.

    At least you have your Chinese friends to talk to about these matters. You should count your blessings.

    I’m stuck in southern California with its conservative to mainstream liberal population – both Korean American and otherwise – and in a small business setting that is mostly conservative. China matters are not the only matters in which I find myself isolated. But I get by.

  15. Willy

    There are two Koreas, and one is not like the other. I believe that in one, political debate is punishable by serious jail time, not to mention, that if you try impersonating Dear Leader at a winter Olympics in front of the National Cheerleading Squad, you’ll be quickly hustled aside by a group of very serious looking men.

    Of course, in the other Korea, groups of very serious looking men hide in smoke filled rooms looking for ever more effective ways to persuade the citizenry that mass consumption is the only way towards true personal freedom.

    Personally, I don’t like either group of very serious looking men. I’d prefer the Dear Leader impersonator.

  16. UphillBend


    NK did not come up in my reply except for incidental mention. So why are you bringing it up?

    As for serious looking men promoting mass consumption that applies to both the US, SK, and most of the West as well, w/ the caveat that the first two are probably some of the worst offenders.

    Again, for the third time, I am admitting how Korea aligns with the US against your hated China. Instead of being happy at the fact or adding something to the discussion, your throwing slurs with no relevance to the argument. And this is after I gave you apologies for harsh language, followed by another reply that admitted to some negligence and made my case with some effort in light of that negligence.

    You really have no intention of being serious, do you?

  17. Jason

    I’m not going to speculate on the incident that happened at the recent Chinese People’s Congress in which Hu Jintao was seemingly removed from the proceedings against his will. It has been described by some as a major “power play” in Chinese “face” politics, and others in this same camp have gone as far as saying that Hu Jintao’s life may be in danger going forward.

    At the other end of the spectrum are those saying that Hu simply didn’t feel well and he was kindly being helped out by what some in the aforementioned camp have described as Xi’s “henchmen.”

    I watched the video posted below with the sound off so as not to allow Sagar’s annoying commentary to get in the way. It seems clear that the paperwork/report that other officials have in front of them was taken away from Hu, and that when he tried to get it back he was rebuffed.

    Again, I will not speculate, as I have absolutely no knowledge of the internal dynamics of China.

    Interestingly, the entire front row of the Congress, including Xi and Hu, are unmasked. There were a lot of older men there. Xi himself is almost 70.

    As most here know, China has taken a “zero-covid” approach with regard to their population, the reason being that they feel it’s the only way to “eradicate” this particular coronavirus. We have also been told they care much more about their people than “the west” or even most of the rest of the world does.

    The plain image of the entire front row without masks on would seem to belie that entire narrative.

    Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the ins and outs of Chinese history and politics may care to enlighten us.

    Here is the video:

  18. Astrid


    You have my sympathies. Being “different” is profoundly isolating. In my case, my “tribe” is not Chinese but DC-centric PMCers, people who now talk seriously and unironically about global “adversaries” and Putler. In the last 14 years, I have gone from feeling very in-step with my tribe to being utterly disgusted and paranoid about them. I’m grateful for our gracious host here for having a space for somewhat honest conversation. I certainly don’t agree with him or anyone else here on everything, but the ratio of valuable comments here is higher and deeper than most places online.

    I definitely don’t have anything against Koreans. I don’t know any particularly well and the circles where I might meet one tend to be full of oppressive US liberal “good thinking”. The Chinese diaspora that I meet (including those from SE Asia who no longer speak or read Chinese) are also very pro-US. As indeed are most of my Mainland Chinese friends (though they may have played it up for what they think are my benefit, they do tend to think that I understand less than I do). As you say, America has been greatly admired by all East Asians for the last 100 years, and will likely be admired until it breaks in an impossible to deny way.

    You give me too much credit on my knowledge about China. I have been lucky to have access to and I would like to think the confidence of some very special people there. But I haven’t lived in China for decades and my contacts with it have been sporadic. Of course, China is so vast and quickly changing that hardly anyone can keep up. Now that I can’t go for a visit, I rue all the missed opportunities to travel and visit there more frequently. Of course, I also wish I traveled more in Europe, spent more time on the American West, moved to New Zealand in my twenties…

    I do wish you very well and look forward to your future comments here. I hope your corner of SoCal provides some compensation to you. I attended college there and still miss aspects of it very much, particularly the beautiful plants, the clear sunny days and open vistas, and the superb ethnic food.

  19. UphillBend


    Though I haven’t been keeping up with the fine details, my understanding is that China’s policy goals are zero-Covid overall but the means come into effect depending on the situation.

    The constant testing is to gauge the situation before the intrusive means have to come into effect. When positives show up they will then move on to further steps.

    The Shanghai lockdowns became larger and harsher precisely because they initially took a laxer Western approach, which made the spread a lot worse than in previous cases of Covid detection in other cities.

    I think I remember our very own host himself urging to the thin air of twitterverse for lockdowns in Shanghai as in other Chinese cities. Eventually they did.

    But, otherwise, the Chinese have a rather carefree life as regards Covid, except for the constant testing. And difficulties moving in and out of the country.

    As long as the area is not in lockdown masks are voluntary and there are no vaccine mandates.

    As for the leaders not caring to follow protocols, the above should quell that argument. Although most of the people in the hall wore masks, as a good safety measure w/ the large number of people gathered indoors, probably they weighed that good against the visuals of the very important occasion and relaxed the wearing of masks for the senior members of the Politburo at the front aisle – provided they did not test positive.

    It’s my surmise of the scene, but it surely makes much more sense of the facts than the idea of the leaders of the country openly flouting norms they imposed on other people in the hall as some kind of power play. The Chinese have a very strong egalitarian streak and the “Commie henchmen owning their subordinates with open hypocrisy” idea really does not make sense.

    So they were not wearing masks for the same reason the majority of Chinese don’t wear them in more relaxed settings. They did not test positive.

    Also, you may remember some of the ideologically seedier parts of the Western media recently went overdrive on the idea of a coup against Xi, and are now silent on it. Xi did not show up in public for awhile – causing coup rumors – precisely because he was undergoing self-isolation protocols after his trip abroad.

    So even the top man himself takes Covid and prevention protocols seriously.

    This gets to a larger point. The Western media is constantly sniffing around for anything, no matter how absurd, to trip rivals and adversaries. It gets especially absurd with places like North Korea. I am not denying its authoritarianism and cult of personality, but I am referring to such absurd bits like there is no word for love in NK, that citizens have to cut their hair following the leader of the country, how political prisoners are executed by machine gun fire, pushing trains, etc.

    With China the stakes are greater but so is familiarity. So instead of absolute absurdities the media constantly brings up less so ones. Which get debunked or forgotten but the point is not their verifiability but the constant repeating of the lies until it becomes a meme that China is somehow a nation of Ming the Mercilesses.

    If you see something in China reporting that doesn’t mesh w/ your common understanding one way or another, it’s not a bad idea to try to interpret things by extending them a degree of charity and reviewing some of your assumptions about them, while also being prepared to review the premises of your own society. The Chinese in that situation might turn out ordinary like any American, or quite different but not in a sinister way. And benefit by expanding your idea of humanity. One of the things worthwhile in our brief time here living is to expand our understandings. Spinoza called it rising to the viewpoint from eternity and the Chinese sages also placed great importance on “the investigation of things and the extension of knowledge”; it is a good goal with a kosher stamp from the best people.

    Going back to specifics and in regards to the first example about Hu, I’ll say this. On youtube are videos of North Korea by people who have visited there. What shocks me is that other viewers can see the same thing – thousands of everyday pedestrians going about their lives – and remark how they are all putting on a show and that it’s all a Potemkin village. Likewise there is a barrage of comments and opinions on anything in China with the most negative takes. The media has basically given Western populations psychological filters to shade negatively even the empirical facts in front of our eyes if they pertain to places like China. (Literally in the case of BBC news photos of China – they have been shown to intentionally alter the colors to give things a drab and dark look.)

    If you resist this idea, ask yourself this. When was the last time you’ve read anything that paints the Chinese – either the government or the people – in a positive light?

    And there are many things to cover. For examples – its very generous affirmative action policies for its minorities, its minority language policies that are far more preservationist than either the US or Mexico has for their indigenous peoples, its approximately 50,000 mosques, its university halal cafeterias for Muslim students, etc.

    Yet Tucker Carlson gets to say China is the most racist nation on earth. And not even the liberals protest.

    I am not saying China is a paradise and as a Korean American I value the freedoms in the West that China is short on. But they have, with imperfections, figured out how to keep things going for over a billion people. And after an unimaginably difficult century and a half. China has been one of greatest of suffering nations with catastrophes striking constantly – some due to themselves, some due to others including the West. Some sympathy is deserved.

    And it’s not just in the big picture. Their anti-poverty programs meant sending out young communist party cadres to far flung parts of their vast nation, young people with shiny futures ahead of them, and some hundreds died doing their work. Ask yourself why you never hear these moving human interest stories. Well, PBS was actually about to air a documentary on the anti-poverty program. But it got pulled.

    And lastly, ask yourself this. How does it help the US to have such one-sided and negative, even incorrect, views of China. Isn’t more and correct info better if you want to compete with them?

    Trump’s trade war was premised on bringing China to its knees by using our mighty consumer leverage. Not once in the mainstream media did I hear that, unlike South Korea or Germany, China did not have half its GDP depend on trade. That it’s about 20% and that exports to the US only accounts for less than 10% of Chinese GDP. Do you appreciate being misled? Do you admire our leaders foolhardily going into a trade war with self-soothing narratives w/o regard for strategic actualities?

    For competition’s sake you should try to get more objective facts. For the fact that the Chinese are human, you should try to accord them some charity in your understanding of them. The all too easy and topical Gotcha! stories like those about about Hu being taken away or the maskless Politburo are the antithesis of such.

    Yikes! Horribly organized-as-you-go, near stream-of-consciousness rant but hope it helps.

  20. UphillBend


    I already knew from previous comments you were neither Chinese nor even Asian and also that you were PMC. I did not know you worked close to the corridors of power. I imagine it would be suffocating if you are not in-step with such a crowd. Professional class conformity of opinions seems to be a real thing as a marker of refinement and prestige.

    As someone quite removed from such rarefied layers, I can only appreciate that you’re in your own unique pathos. Perhaps biographies of persons of the mandarin class of other nations in their late stages can give you some perspective and consolation. There must have been other cultured women and men, of some rank in their societies, who watched in isolated horror as their societies lurched toward lows and then new lows, while their compatriots obliviously kept on reciting catechisms of the greatness of their world.

    I did not sense any negativity against Koreans. Actually agreeing with you that most Koreans, esp in the US, have a very America-centric view of the world.

    I’ve noticed that people start traveling more in their latter years, as they have more time from work and family duties. So don’t give up on your plans yet.

    Well, with not much to really contribute and a full time job as an import/wholesale merchant, I’ll leave some jottings down when I can. I’m grateful for the encouragement.

  21. Astrid


    I’m sorry I misled you into thinking that I knew people with actual power in China. I definitely do not, at least not by the time I knew them! I merely meant that I chanced upon some “right background” families including their elders, retirees that their kids and grandkids mostly dismissed as old Marxist biddies, but who have fascinating stories to tell. The older generation are pretty much all dead now and even their kids, who remember the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are quite elderly. The grandkids barely remember a time without TV and AC and full stores (there were comprehensive food rationing into the late 1980s). And the great grand kids never knew a world where they wanted for anything. Too much too fast!

    My DC friends are probably far closer to the center of power than my Chinese friends. I am fortunate that the life my husband and I built for ourselves do not depend on the power or influence of our friends, though perhaps we would be more conventionally successful if we had done so. So while we toe the line to stay socially acceptable to them, at least we don’t fear losing our livelihoods if our opinions openly stray from the party line.

    I don’t think my experience makes me particularly insightful commenter, as the China I knew disappeared years ago and I only knew a very particular subset of people. For years, while I knew the Western media wasn’t reporting anywhere near the full story of China, I could believe that where there was smoke, there was some kind of fire. It wasn’t until the last round of Hong Kong protests and Uighur genocide stories really opened my eyes to the extent that entire narratives were being fabricated top to bottom. Still, we all have to filter the world through our experiences, so I am trying to be faithful to the sources of my experience.

    We shall see about travel. I can’t be too regretful as I have certainly traveled more than most Americans prior to COVID, but of course there were so many more on the bucket list. I think I will be very reluctant to get back on a plane or stay in hotels until COVID goes away one way or another.

  22. Willy

    You really have no intention of being serious, do you?

    I asked you a direct question and you didn’t answer. Thus my unserious comment.

    Again, for the third time, I am admitting how Korea aligns with the US against your hated China. Instead of being happy at the fact or adding something to the discussion, your throwing slurs with no relevance to the argument. And this is after I gave you apologies for harsh language, followed by another reply that admitted to some negligence and made my case with some effort in light of that negligence.

    Who hates China? I’ve only ever hated “unchecked concentrations of power because of who it is that all power games reward”, regardless of where such concentrations happen. I’ve said so here in this place a great many times. It’s the quickest means to beneficial communal ends, but also the quickest means towards communal disaster. This means that I believe that assuming that one benevolent dictatorship will always remain a benevolent dictatorship, is pure folly. I’ve called this the Riddle of Power, which nobody here has ever been able to solve.

  23. UphillBend


    Sorry I was being unclear, but I should’ve typed “corridors of power in Washington DC”.

    Still, thank you for the fascinating info about how many steps removed you are from the people of, I guess, the Heroic Age of modern China. They were less educated and polished, shorter, and would’ve probably gone on about how their generation was of sterner stuff than the young people. They might have even been considered a bit embarrassing. But if China develops well and the bad memories of the Cultural Revolution and the like are far away in the rearview mirror, those people will probably come back to national consciousness as mythologized figures. People are selfish like that – easy to love old fogeys when you don’t hear them making loud chewing noises but rather give you a sense of great foundations.

    Sorry you were a few decades too late to be another Edgar Snow.

    I’ve dragged on the comments to this post for too long beyond etiquette. But one more thing. Yesterday I mentioned biographies of people in declining societies. Further along on those lines, I’ve thought of Tolstoy in his later years, Chekhov, and the late Romans. One also thinks of some Americans who are sounding the alarms. Well, our host too.

    But since one of the original topics was China, here is a gem of Chinese contemplative literature by an author who wrote in an disaffected era. You might already know of it, or it might not be to your tastes. But I hope there is no hurt in recommending it. (It’s assumptions are quite patriarchal, though.)

    Caigentan / Vegetable Roots Discourse, by Hong Zicheng
    **It takes about a minute to download.

    The author was a scholar who seems to have had some disappointments in public life and turned to a life of being a recluse. Putting brush to paper reflections that resonate with the weary and disillusioned, but still maintaining persistent aspirations for a life better lived, and open to intimations of transcendence.

    The Chinese, through their millennia of cycles of rise and fall, seem to be keenly aware of the necessity, at times, of retreating and waiting for better days to grow, build, and expand. Such retreat is one of the major themes of the great poet Tao Yuanming. In a more staid format, the Neo-Confucian primer Reflections on Things at Hand has an entire chapter called “On Serving or Not Serving in the Government, Advancing or Withdrawing, and Accepting or Declining Office”. So the Vegetable Roots Discourse builds on an ancient tradition. Hope it can be of some interest.

  24. Astrid


    Thank you for the recommendation! I went through a phase when I tried to read the Chinese classics, including Caigentan. It didn’t go very far because premodern Chinese is quite challenging to read – a lot of unfamilar characters and a very precise and succinct sentence structure. Of course, I should get the annotated texts and start reading again. I do need to seek out a good source as Project Gutenberg doesn’t have amazing quality control on annotations and translations.

    The theme of how gentlemen handle bad times certainly occupy a large portion of the Chinese literary canon, so there is a lot to mine there. And arguably much more applicable to our current predicament than what a couple early Christian church fathers or the stoics (oddballs in their day) have to say.

    (But less fun to read Jinyong’s wuxia adventure stories or Dream of the Red Mansion – it’s remarkable how much the Chinese learn their history strictly from wuxia novels and historical telenovelas. I did read quite a bit of essays from the early 1900s by Mingguo essayists because they write beautifully, something that can’t be said for most of the current Chinese writers online or offline. They admired the West so much and one could see the throughline from them to the still West admiring people in Jiangnan and Pearl River Delta regions.)

    I should say our DC friends are still not visible people in power. They would be the people preparing the budgets and policies and handing the briefings to their public bosses. I suspect that I would not be able to tolerate anyone who is sufficiently egotistical to become a public figure.
    Despite their PMC infection, they are by and large nice, well intentioned people. But they’re severely self disciplined in what they say and do and likely think, and in my opinion are enabling the empire’s great evils.

  25. UphillBend

    From what I’ve read about Classical Chinese, it is wonderfully succinct, as you say, but it actually require some guesswork. It doesn’t have the inflections and declensions of, say, Latin to give you exact tips on how one part of a sentence relates to another. Modern Chinese is as exact as any language but its older version is a bit vague it seems. Especially in the oldest texts. So Latin is a terse and exact language. Wenyanwen is even terser with the benefit or not of suggestive ambience. Especially with its semi-pictographic characters.

    The West has its own original sources concerning men of integrity defying power – the Old Testament prophets and Socrates drinking hemlock. Passing through Martin Luther to Sir Thomas More to Martin Luther King Jr., we now have with us people like Julian Assange and Daniel Hale. And both East and West have their spiritual descendants of righteous scholar-officials and prophets in the wilderness.

    Perhaps the sense for retreat is not as fully articulated because the cataclysms of major Western nations skipped around geographically and did not result in a collective memory of cycles. Overall, there was the Roman crash, the Medieval doldrums, and it’s been progress ever since.

    Also a retreat to the monastery is quite another, harsher, thing from a gentleman retiring to the mountains to enjoy nature, farm, read, play instruments, and receive friends with wine and conversation.

    But the sentiment is there. Shakespeare expressed it beautifully, if deliriously also, in this speech by King Lear to Cordelia.

    No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison;
    We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage.
    When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
    And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
    And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
    At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
    Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
    Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
    And take upon ’s the mystery of things
    As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,
    In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
    That ebb and flow by the moon.

    Who can blame them for the novels and telenovelas? Their national historical epic is the length of the Bible. Their histories, both official and personal works, can run to over 200 volumes. In this age of needing to keep up with tech and wanting to enjoy world culture, there is just too much material and too little time. It’s a professional historian’s dream and the amateur dilettante’s nightmare. The best thing is for them to have a good system of quality control for the popularizations and abridgments, and for reviews and recommendations.

    I’ve read Three Kingdoms and Water Margin. As for wuxia, I’ll just have to match it with Lord of the Rings.

    The phrase “severely self disciplined in what they say and do” reminds me of Zhou Enlai in his relationship with Mao Zedong. Such discipline came to good use in lessening Mao’s excesses. Who knows what seeds of bravery are in your friends and what they will be capable of in certain situations?

    OK, lots of invoicing to do now.

  26. Astrid

    Lol, thank you for taking time out to write! That was a pleasure to read.

    Yes, modern Chinese is very easy to read, once one memorized enough characters to be able to guess at the occasional unfamiliar character. The modern language is not gendered except for pronouns (where its simply he/she for people and it for everything else), doesn’t have complicated tenses, atypical usage and modifiers, and typically have straightforward sentence structures that is easy to follow. Some “net Chinese” can be tricky to follow, just as “net English” takes some getting used to, but overall modern Chinese is a very user friendly language.

    There were significant efforts to reform and modernize the language in the late 19th and 20th Century, so it doesn’t have the oddball grammar quirks and exceptions that one encounters in Romance languages. Even before that, the proliferation of baihua literature (vernacular literature that major Chinese novels are written in) made late Ming and Qing literature fairly accessible to modern readers, but much of the earlier and more literary canon is locked up in a more challenging language that requires significant annotation to access.

    Reading old Chinese reminds me of reading epic poetry, where there is constant invocation to certain norms and conventions to get the writer’s idea across. It’s not merely terse but it also requires writing in specific ways to get specific points across, and it’s impossible to appreciate anywhere near what is being conveyed unless one has a full classical education that teaches those conventions. For example, I know practically all the characters in the prologue of Caigentan, but I can only vaguely guess at what’s being said without the translation. Perhaps learning to read classical Chinese can be a retirement hobby and a way to keep my brain active.

    I certainly don’t blame the Chinese for not going through huge histories or even the condensed versions. The chronology for periods of unity are not too bad (Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing) but gets very confusing for periods of disunity. Furthermore, they’re always remembered as very very bad times for all. The pre-CPC Republican period was one of warlords and disunity and there’s an absolute horror of going back to that. Westerner inhabiting countries that are assembled and disassembled like Lego sets have no idea the feelings of people who found their national identity under a large governing unit.

  27. UphillBend


    Yes, people who have studied Mandarin note its accessible grammar. It has the most analytic grammar among major languages – more so than English. Interesting how it is geographically adjacent to the very different Korean and Japanese langauges. While those two are not as highly inflected as the Navajo or the various Inuit languages, they are probably two of the most such among major ones. Many non-native learners of Korean or Japanese at some point of study must ask themselves what they got themselves into when looking at the hundreds of possible verb transformations. Not to mention the grammaticalized honorifics and elusive topic markers that both languages have. The honorifics also signal a rather hierarchical view of social relations rather than the more egalitarian-minded Chinese languages.

    Koreans who work in China note that CEO-employee interactions have a quite distinct feel from Korean ones, where some company gatherings can feel like an imperial entourage. Similarly, Japanese executives will be sent to Japan-friendly Taiwan and experience being thrown off-balance by the more relaxed relations between higher-ups and lowers, but, conversely, go to Korea – usually at tension with Japan – and surprisingly feel at home because Koreans have a sense for graded social nuances similar to themselves.

    Well, the great Chinese novels – except for the two novels of manners – star plebeians and riffraff, the Han and Ming were founded by persons from the absolute bottom of society, China is the great land of the peasant rebellion, and the first large nation where aristocracy gave way to meritocracy. Kinda makes sense. One view of the Cultural Revolution might be that it was the kind of egalitarianism seen above that went very off track.

    Anyway, articles like the famous one linked to below, which argues for the incredible difficulty of learning Mandarin are quite bunk I think.

    Note his discussion of wenyanwen in section 6. He makes points quite similar to yours but with a lot of snark.

    My schema of difficulties between CJK languages:

    1) Grammar
    Korean = Japanese > Mandarin

    2) Writing systems
    Japanese > Mandarin > Korean
    **Japanese is basically the Twilight Zone with at least four different writing systems, arguably more, in one language. In addition to two sets of syllabaries for the same sounds but different occasions for use, it uses the same script of Chinese characters for two (or more) completely unrelated systems / readings. And then there are all the attendant rules for how to read as this or that depending on the circumstances, when to use something within a common understanding of correct usage, etc. My jaw just dropped lower and lower as I first read about it. Koreans have it easy with the native alphabet.

    Cantonese > Mandarin > Korean > Japanese
    **Mandarin has tones, Korean has final consonants, Japanese has neither, and Cantonese in all its glory has more tones than Mandarin and has final consonants like Korean. A firecracker language. (Not sure if “final consonants” is the correct linguistics term. And Mandarin and Japanese do have a few gentle final consonants like –n, -ng, -m.)

    Who knows of the future of nations, their possible great transformations, or the right prescriptions for their improvements? Korea and Japan are homogenous ethnostates that might see degrees of changes from various kinds of immigration going on now. The US is a melting pot. Turkey used to be the Ottoman salad bowl that went to pieces. China, India, and Iran are each distinctly structured salad bowls with various degrees and kinds of cohesion. European countries are their own characteristics, in part and in whole. And these are just concerns about ethnic mix, and not even touching on the other fault lines in a country. Our host has more prescient takes on these matters of the future than think tankers going on about the Clash of Civilizations, the End of History, and whatnot. But it’s still a vast canvas of unknowns in these times of change.

    Looking at Chinese history where national discohesions have led to Apocalyptic periods, one wishes China luck as well as the evolution of the forms of organizing society that allows for human prosperity and flourishing. And with the future of the planet in mind, I find promising that American environmental thinkers find audience in their halls of power to be consulted about ideas such as Ecological Civilization. A scenario I cannot imagine in the current US.

    This will have to be the last comment on this post as I feel I have overstayed my welcome in terms of (not) putting up comments relevant to the original post, and work beckons to me.

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