China

Meanwhile, more China I’m afraid, the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman writes from Hong Kong on China’s great potential/ capability on green technology, offering some decent points on why and how China will dominate this industry and how it’s doing better than the U.S. in some areas. In general they’re fine, but it seems that Friedman, and a few other writers, don’t seem to understand or acknowledge certain aspects of China when they make their assertions. One is that China is an authoritarian state where the communist party is in charge of virtually everything. Unlike the U.S. or Canada or good old Taiwan that have their pesky democracy and its separation of powers and professional bureaucracy and referendums and elections, when China’s government wants something, it can do so through just like that. So when people like Friedman praise the speed of China’s technological progress and construction and contrast it to the U.S., maybe they should realize that they might as well advocate for a shift in democracy to authoritarianism or one-party dictatorship.

Another point of objection is this example in which Friedman quotes a Times bureau chief:

“…China last week tested the fastest bullet train in the world — 217 miles per hour — from Wuhan to Guangzhou. As Bradsher noted, China “has nearly finished the construction of a high-speed rail route from Beijing to Shanghai at a cost of $23.5 billion. Trains will cover the 700-mile route in just five hours, compared with 12 hours today. By comparison, Amtrak trains require at least 18 hours to travel a similar distance from New York to Chicago.””

Maybe part of this could be that many Americans don’t take the train to go long distances, but would rather fly? I’m not saying that building or boosting train networks are bad, but surely America’s greater prosperity and its people’s more profligate lifestyles mean that a direct comparison cannot always be made between the two countries.

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