“Who’s living in the third world country?”

I am about 40% through reading Godfree Roberts most interesting and revelatory book “Why China Leads the World”. There are a great many wonderful passages in what I have read, and which I would dearly love to quote, but I am holding myself in check because a) I don’t have permission to reveal extensive parts of what is written there, and b) if you really want to know more, you should assist his work by buying the book. I feel however, that I can use the particular quote below because it is a quoted quote, the words of someone else. That someone being – Zhang Weiwei – described as ‘a leading thinker from China’. The quote is from his book: ‘China Wave, The: Rise Of A Civilizational State’ – which I may also buy for my own personal use and edification.

“Shanghai’s life expectancy is already higher than New York’s, its level of education is the highest in the world, and its overall scientific and technological power suggests a healthy economic future. The average wealth, even the living standard, of many Shanghai residents is higher than the Swiss, while urban housing is better than Japan’s or Hong Kong’s”. Shanghai’s high-speed trains, subways, airports, harbors, commercial facilities, and public safety outperform New York’s and, says the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman (Thomas Friedman, “Biblical Seven Years”, The New York Times, August 27, 2008), “Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train to get to town in a blink. Then ask yourself: Who’s living in the third world country?”

Roberts, Godfree. Why China Leads the World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom (p. 119). Oriel Press. Kindle Edition.

There is little I could usefully add to that, being a virtual novice in all things China – my only physical contact being a 1 day tourist excursion into the country while on an overnight stopover in Hong Kong in 1988. But the comparison, I think anyone must agree, is stark. It is even more stark when it is realised that the Friedman quote, within a quote within a quote, was made some 13 years earlier and, since that time, New York’s infrastructure has continued to deteriorate while that of Shanghai has leaped ahead even further.

Of course, you must judge for yourself. But do so realistically. Not out of some misguided and inbred patriotic adherence to an unworthy ideal that has passed its Use By date.

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