Quinlan vs the World

Why I’m not learning Mandarin: Part 1, an Introduction

As a student of international studies, there’s one piece of career advice I always get:

“You should learn Mandarin; China is where the future is.”

Like migratory birds flying north in spring, and the tides following the moon, advice to go to China is as persistent as it is seemingly natural.

To many career-anxious college students, this is actually a pretty frequent idea. And yet, I’ve enrolled in Portuguese and hope to study abroad in Brazil in the coming school year.

Why not try and learn Chinese, or make any plans to prepare for our future Chinese overlords a potential career in Asia? After all, the Chinese economy is expected to overtake that of the U.S. in size by the end of the decade, and China’s growing economic clout is reshaping the order of international organizations and trade.

The answer is simple, although explaining it is complex, and will probably take up several coming blog posts. In short, I don’t trust the long, or even short-term stability of China.

So if you sort of get the notion that China is really important to the future of America, or simply want to be able to contribute to dinner table conjectures about international politics, this short series will hopefully cover the issues and cases against China, specifically on four major fronts: Demographics, Political Accountability, International Relative Power, and Sustainability.

Before I begin, a quick examination into modern Chinese history is useful to orient my perspective.

China, a country dating back thousands of years, has historically been one the most important nations in the world in terms of trade, size, ideology and innovation. Thus, catalyzed by Western European powers dominating the ancient Qing dynasty throughout the nineteenth century, the collapse of Imperial China and civil wars in the early twentieth century caused massive disruption and suffering. The Communist regime that consolidated power by knocking the repressive dictator western allied Chiang Kai-Shek to Taiwan was born in a country that hadn’t had a stable leader in over a century.

As such, one of the main features of the current government has always been, and continues to be, remarkable paranoia. Paranoia replaced the emphasis on actual communism when the Great Leap Forward plan to collectivize farms and force mass industrialization caused the deaths of 30 million people.

Paranoia of losing control of the country, first to the Chinese people themselves, then to other factions of the communist party, and finally to foreign powers, has directed most of the government’s policies since the 1960s. The Cultural Revolution purged millions who were considered a threat to ‘Communism’. In the 1980s, Chairman Deng Xiaoping consolidated control of the country by mandating a one-child policy per family, and opening up the cities to foreign investment and capitalism, keeping party members happy through corruption and growth, laying the seeds of the impressive, but ultimately hollow system China has exhibited for the past three decades.

It’s a very brief introduction to China, and it is one that I will extend upon in coming posts.

 

What I’m reading:

International Affairs-

Reflecting a more balanced hemisphere (and the threat of Chinese involvement), Secretary of State John Kerry has declared an end to the Monroe Doctrine–AFP

Domestic Politics-

Americans aren’t just polarized ideologically; the growing divide is consolidating along geographic lines–David Sirota and Said Jilani in The Atlantic

Public Policy and Economics-

There is a huge discussion about the failure of the current minimum wage and the effects it has on the long-term structure of the economy, and economists should consider new theories about ways to make work pay–Reihan Salam in Reuters

South Florida-

While rail transportation in Florida officially sucks, that will soon change for the long-term, setting the stage for a possible “golden age” of rail–Eric Jaffe in The Atlantic Cities

On Campus-

University faculty and staff have teamed up through leaders of the Butler Center and Toppel Career Center to create a comfortable network for those that identify as LGBTQ–Ashley McBride in The Miami Hurricane

November 21, 2013

Reporters

Patrick Quinlan


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