A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
By some estimates, China will likely surpass the United States to become the leading economic superpower by 2016. The world’s most populous country now boasts a rapidly expanding military and growing influence in global affairs. But these accomplishments have come after a long period of dynastic decline, foreign occupation and civil war. China experts Orville Schell and John Delury say China’s pursuit of national greatness after generations of humiliation has come to define the Chinese character. They say this determined quest for wealth and power remains the key to understanding many of China’s actions today. A conversation about the history of Chinese nationalism and how it paved the way for the world’s most populist country to become the global economic powerhouse it is today.
- John Delury assistant professor, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University
- Orville Schell director, Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society
Read An Excerpt
Reprinted from “Wealth And Power: China’s Long March To The Twenty-First Century” by Orville Schell with permission from Random House. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Relations between the U.S. and China have been strained in recent years. China scholars Orville Schell and John Delury say in order to improve our relationship with the emerging superpower, we need to better understand its recent past.
MS. DIANE REHMIn a new book, they explore the history of Chinese nationalism and how it paved the way for China to become a global power and emerging rival. The book is titled "Wealth And Power: China's Long March To The Twenty-First Century."
MS. DIANE REHMOrville Schell and John Delury join me in the studio. You are, as always, welcome to be part of the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you and welcome.
MR. ORVILLE SCHELLGood morning.
MR. JOHN DELURYGood morning.
REHMGood to have you both here. This cover is quite lively. The jacket of the book is bright red but there are two extraordinarily beautiful Chinese symbols I presume meaning wealth and power. Am I correct John?
DELURYAh, yeah and we chose one of China's great calligraphers, you know, to sort of model those characters. We struggled a bit on the title, but in the end, it was sort of inevitable because it's this concept which the characters tell you, you know, derive from the Chinese tradition itself.
DELURYYou know, this isn't our term wealth and power. This is a very old Chinese term that goes back 2500 years, but then also we think really defines its modern course through history, you know, and was traced throughout the texts that we looked at to write this book. So it was the inevitable title and we're very happy too with what Random House did to design it.
REHMI should say. Orville Schell, it's been quite a while since you and I have seen each other. You have seen China change greatly in the past few decades.
SCHELLYeah, and I think it's precisely the fact that I've sort of watched this amazing transformation that really left me wondering, you know, as someone who has studied history and the history of China my whole life, you know, how did it add up?
SCHELLHow do you have a country that had a century of such abysmal failure and then such tectonic, savage and brutal revolution that seemed to sort of end in a total train wreck? How did it suddenly get reborn out of the ashes of all of this kind of bad news and collapse?
SCHELLAnd so, John and I thought, well, you know, it isn't enough just to look at Deng Xiaoping and say, oh, well, China springs forth like Athena out of the head of Zeus, you know, into this period of economic dynamism because I think in our view history always adds up. But it was not at all clear to us how it added up in this case.
SCHELLSo we went back and started combing through all of these very iconic figures and the book that we finally came up with really is a series of sort of essays, portraits about these people. And what it was what's current, sort of flowing through them to the present that finally allows a culmination so that China becomes, you know, a rival of the Americans...
SCHELL...the E2 (sp?) . Who could have spoken of the E2, ah, G2 (sp?) at any time before? So here we are and that quest is really the one we went on and I think, you know, we actually now have some thoughts about how all of this happened and how history added up to.
REHMAnd what I'd like to start with is what one sees in China today? We heard a piece on Morning Edition today talking about the number of cars, the show of wealth, the Maseratis on the streets. What is it like today? John.
DELURYYeah, well, we enjoyed that piece as well because in the book, I think it's toward the end that we open with a scene, you know, of Beijing today and walking through the parking lot, you know, the basement parking lot to Pangu Plaza, which is one of these incredible developments that you see if you go along one of the ring roads around Beijing.
DELURYIt's quite near the Olympic Park, you know, with these architectural monuments and you see, just Porsches, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, one after the other and I mean, as we were saying before, to understand how China got, you know, Orville can talk about his first visit the year. I was born in 1975.
DELURYI mean, you know, I came into the picture later, about 20 years ago, but even with that perspective, for me, this Pangu Plaza...
REHMThat's 20 years.
DELURY...it doesn't make sense as well.
DELURYSo it is. It just slams you in the face if you go to the cities. And it's not only Beijing. I mean, you can go to somewhere like Quanzhou, you know, which is a really gorgeous city and it's the place I recommend, you know, the second city to go after you've been to Beijing. It's down in the south of China, incredibly rich history, beautiful architecture and...
SCHELLAnd John, I should say the place where the calligraphy on the front of our book was done.
DELURYYeah, that's right. That's right. And, you know, Quanzhou has been a model project for landscape architecture so Xi Hu, the west lake in Quanzhou is now, you know, compares with a beautiful European city. So there are also ways in which it's not only the horrible environmental problems created by this brutal concretization of the country.
DELURYI mean, there's also very elegant and graceful ways in which the wealth of China has created. It's transforming the country physically.
REHMLet's talk about these words, wealth and power and the importance of those words to the Chinese themselves.
SCHELLWell, I think, you know, when you sort of look back at Chinese history, I mean, you cannot help but be impressed by the fact that here was a country that, as far as it knew, was the be-all and end-all of civilization. And the scattering of countries around its periphery all had an inferior relationship to China.
SCHELLIt was called the tribute-bearing system. They would send emissaries to Beijing. They would sit in dormitories for months waiting for the emperor to allow them to come to genuflect before him and then they would present their presents and go home.
SCHELLChina had no notion of equal relations and we have that grinding of, you know, trying to establish equal relations still going on today. And when the British sent Lord Macartney at the end of the 18th century to try and establish equal relations, he was sent packing.
SCHELLYou know, the emperor said, sorry, we just don't do that. And there's no prospect at all of you having an ambassador sitting in Beijing because there is no country that could be represented on an equal basis with us. Well, anyway China hit this precipitous fall, this staggering kind of slide from the state of really preeminence in the world and wealth and power.
SCHELLSo wealth and power for them was sort of the code words that recur like light motifs throughout history since the Opium War, that kind of memory of China's moment of greatness and this eagerness to find a restoration of the same.
REHMYou know, I think of the paintings, the calligraphy, the delicacy of presentations from China of the 19th, 18th centuries how they stand out in museums and galleries and yet at the same time, this kind of worn-down poverty, this excruciating hunger that so many people were going through and to a certain extent even now I gather there are pockets where this continues.
REHMBut the idea of foreign conquest, the idea of outside invaders coming in to take control of that beauty and wealth that was China, is really also part of the story.
DELURYYeah, that's right. And you know, this links to another central theme which is the humiliation, you know...
DELURY...the humiliation that China has suffered. And I think one thing we try to do in the book that's a little bit different is, you know, we see the historical reality behind that complex. I mean, in just going through the documents and telling the history, you see how China really was bullied because it was weak and there are, you know, empirical reasons for their feelings.
DELURYIt's not just something that political powers come up with to justify one thing or another. It's grounded in their modern history. And at the same time, it's compounded by what Orville was talking about, the fact that, you know, as late as 1800, they were the center of the world.
DELURYYou know, the word China, many of us know, Zhongguo means central kingdom or middle kingdom and that too was grounded in reality so to go from that one reality to the other created this kind of humiliation complex and it deeply affects China's foreign relations, you know, because this is something that colored everything about China's modern experience of the rest of the world and particularly the West.
DELURYAnd so now a lot of it, of course, is transferred on to U.S./China relations.
REHMSo you talk about both humiliation and victimhood?
SCHELLYou know, Diane, it's interesting. There is an expression in Chinese, it's (speaks foreign language) which means to wound the feelings of the Chinese people. And it is a phrase that the foreign ministry has used repeatedly over the last few decades and, you know, I used to read this thing and think, oh, come on, guys, you know, get over it. But actually, this has deep historical roots.
REHMOrville Schell and John Delury, co-authors of a new book, it's titled "Wealth And Power: China's Long March To The Twenty-First Century."
REHMAnd if you just joined us, we're talking about a new book titled, "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century." A book that gives us all some historical perspective as to how China has risen to become the direct competitor and perhaps the successor eventually of the United States as a leading world power. The author Orville Schell and John Delury are with me.
REHMWe are going to open the phones soon. I can see many of you have questions for them and we'll try to get to them as quickly as possible. You talk about the reform movements and the revolutions as a way to combat the kind of stigma and shame that the Chinese people lived with for so long. How can that be?
DELURYYeah, well, I mean, the strange thing about the shame complex is that at the same time it's true that reformers and revolutionaries are trying to eliminate it. But they are also trying to spread the feeling. I mean, they're trying to get Chinese people to understand just how humiliating their position is. And this is something you see starting in the 19th century but continuing into the 20th is it's this concept that we talk about in the book that actually like many things in China goes back 2,500 years.
DELURYAnd it's this notion that humiliation is the beginning of self-strengthening. And self-strengthening is another thing that they talked a lot about in the late 19th century. And we think well describes what Deng Xiaoping started in the late 20th century. But self-strengthening starts with humiliation. What that means is China needs to get over its arrogance. China needs to realize that the days of the Lord Macartney Mission in the 18th century are quickly slipping by or long passed.
DELURYIf it doesn't do that, it won't start adapting. It won't start picking up the new so-called techniques for wealth and power that first the West presented in the guise of British imperialism. But then, most destructively for China, Japan mastered and brought through occupation, right, into the 1930s and '40s to Chinese soil. So you had to feel the humiliation to understand your inferiority and start this process, a very bold change in order to restore greatness. That's sort of the modern formula.
REHMBut who are the key figures who somehow convey to the Chinese people that they must, as you say, understand that they had been there at the bottom after having been at the top? Who are they who can convey this in a way the Chinese people can understand, Orville?
SCHELLWell, some of them are commonly known, people like Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, others that we chronicle are less well-known like Liang Qichao, famous reformer at the turn of the last century. Chen Duxiu who's an activist, founder of the Communist Party. But, you know, what we see in each of these people is it's sort of like China trying on a new suit of clothes.
SCHELLSo, you know, they'll try on a little let's reform the imperial monarchy, okay? That doesn't work. Let's get rid of the monarchy, let's try republican government. That's Sun Yat-sen. Well, that ended in chaos. Warlords, feudalism. So then you get Chiang Kai-shek. He comes along and he says, well, he says, let's try a little kind of Confucian, Christian syncretism and a little Leninism thrown in to stiffen the back of the party.
SCHELLThat doesn't work. He gets -- run off to Taiwan. Mao Zedong comes along, you have violent class revolution. That doesn't seem to do the trick. So you Deng Xiaoping. So you have this sort of serial reincarnations of these people trying to find a formula that will kind of do the trick to transform China back into a country of consequence.
REHMBut how do they attempt to balance the pursuit of wealth and power with the acknowledgement of human rights?
DELURYYeah. Well, this is something that, of course, we -- I think you can say we struggle with in the book. It's something that's there in the Chinese discussion, not using the term human rights but really a basic question of values. You know, what are the values, deeper values or what is the, you know, I mean you can think of wealth and power in the end as means to some other end.
DELURYI mean, what are you -- what's your wealth for? How are you going to spend your wealth, you know? What's your power for? How do you want to exercise your power? But what we found with these figures, these iconic figures that Orville's talking about is they really are fixated on what we would consider means. So there's an instrumental nature to everything that they go through.
DELURYAnd that includes democratic kinds of reformers. I mean, when they talk about democracy -- and they've been talking about democracy and democratic reform for well over 100 years in China. But when they do, they talk about we need democracy because it will strengthen our country, right? And so, of course, that's a fundamentally different way from how democratic ideas reemerge, you know, in the 17th and 18th centuries in Western countries.
DELURYWhereas this notion of individual liberty and its sort of a ground-up or God-given or natural concept. So in China, it's coming from we could say almost a nationalistic, you know, the nation needs democracy. That's how some reformers argue. So all of it is driving really toward wealth and power. Now the one twist to that, and we put this twist in in the final character in our cast who's Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and currently a prisoner in China.
DELURYYou know, in a way, Liu Xiaobo, you could say -- a reader would say, why am I reading about Liu Xiaobo at the end of this? And the reason we included Liu Xiaobo is he sees the same thing we do. He talks about wealth and power and he sees it everywhere in modern history as well. But he's someone who, from within the Chinese tradition, raise that basic question toward what end? Is this really the society we want?
DELURYYou know, and yes we want prosperity. But if it's so unequal, is that good? You know? And a powerful China, what is it going to stand for? What is it going to contribute to the world? So he raises that question that you're raising about values and ultimately about human rights.
REHMSo is there, along the way, far more into the 20th century, an attempt to use United States form of democracy as some kind of role model or is it our democracy is going to be very different from their democracy?
SCHELLI think there have been periods of infatuation with American democracy. And partially, as John suggests, it's because if China is trying to find a way to release energy to create a stronger country, they'd look often to democracy as a way to do that. You know, the people have a close connection to their leaders, they're free. They have an entrepreneurial instinct, wealth accumulate, et cetera.
SCHELLAnd so there is a tradition of people interested in democracy and some who would share the enlightenment tradition that all men have rights. They're natural, God-given and they aren't for governments to give you. But those people relatively less powerful voice in China. And I think when we look at China from the West, we often imagine that their history must have been heading in the same direction as everybody else.
SCHELLRemember Clinton telling China they had to get on the right side of history. Well, maybe Chinese history, at least in the 20th century and the early 21st century, was going in its own direction.
SCHELLIt wasn't going where Hagel thought it ought to go, you know, where all the (word?) of the French Revolution thought it was inevitably going. It was going towards this other thing, get this country unified, wealthy, powerful and respecting again.
REHMAnd how would you respond then to this kind of email from Jonathan who says: I am very surprised over huge disparities in China's current distribution of wealth. How is it that China, a Bastian of communism, has vast wealth and extreme poverty? It is shocking or perhaps I'm just very naïve, says Jonathan.
DELURYNo. And there's nothing naïve about his observation. And it's actually a debate, a very open debate, a fierce one, in China this issue of socioeconomic inequality. It's really one of the burning questions, you know. I mean, this is another one of those reversals. You know, through the Mao period, Mao died in 1976, China had a level of equality. Now the sort of everyone is equally poor.
DELURYBut when you get to the Deng era, which sort of officially starts in the late '70s, a remarkable thing is that up through the mid-1980s, China already started this extraordinary growth. You know, it's already trying to reach double-digit GDP growth. But there was virtually no increase in inequality. And, you know, a scholar like Huang Yesheng has written about this and it's about how China was growing but lifting people out of poverty in massive numbers, tens of millions in numbers.
DELURYIt was in that period that Deng Xiaoping, however, said, well, we are going to have to let some people get rich first. And Deng, I think, already knew what was coming in phase two of reform, which we saw start in the late '80s and really continues into today, which is no longer centered in the countryside, where they started the reforms but it all shifted to the cities. And when I say shifted to the cities, it means the people shifted to the cities.
DELURYHundreds and millions of people.
DELURYAnd we're reading about that in the New York Times series this week. Well, that's been going on for decades, that movement of the population. And that's what created this huge gulf of rich and poor. You know, I mean, the numbers of, if you're in the city, just by moving from your village to the nearest city, you're doubling or tripling your income. Now you could still be relatively poor in the city but you're infinitely richer than the people, the family members you left behind in the countryside.
DELURYBut, you know, for understanding China and what it had to do, many economists argue that sort of inequality has been unavoidable.
DELURYInevitable. I mean, if you want to lift people out of grinding poverty, how are you going to do it without generating that kind of chasm? So the challenge of course for China going forward is then how to start closing the gap. And Deng Xiaoping, again, he sort of saw that. And so later, he started to change his language and say, yes, I said let some get rich first. But I also said, common prosperity, you know?
DELURYAnd so, I've spoken with people in China now who go back and trying to site Deng, you know, as the biblical scripture to say, well, Deng taught us ultimately the goal is common prosperity. So they have within the recent reforms this idea that they need to get to a much better place that they're at now.
REHMYou know, I think the question that arises in my mind is as this society continues to evolve and continues to reinvent itself from the 18th century on, what does it lose in the process in terms of really understanding itself and its own basic culture. I mean, you can look at the much younger history of the United States and see some strains that began that remain. Is that true with China, Orville?
SCHELLWell, listen, we are a country with the privilege of enormous political and, to some large degree as well, intellectual continuity. China is a country that has amputated its identity one time after another in this process we've described. It's trying to find a new way to be in the world. And in that process they have actually finally managed to cut loose from their old Confucian culture. Then they cut loose from their old communist culture.
SCHELLSo the question now, which is really seizing society in China is, all right, who are we and what do we believe in? And what are the values we are going to have be the stars to stir by?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones. There are many callers waiting. First to Fresno, CA. Hi there, Mike, you're on the air.
MIKEHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
MIKELongtime listener, first-time caller.
MIKEI have a question. I am from China and I have a lot of friends and family members from China. And we actually can see a very bleak future of China largely due to the China's one child policy and China in the future is going to feel this huge population avalanche. And what it does is, you know, the economic power that we saw in China for the few decades, is largely due to this population dividends.
MIKEIt's suddenly a huge population and soon they stop spending time with the families, stop spending time in raising children and devote their energy in manufacturing and production, that's why we would see a huge, you know, increase in GDP, but this is not sustainable. It's like you're running marathon with 100-meter dash speed. You get ahead in the short term. In the long term, you're going to fall behind.
REHMWhat do you think of that, Orville?
SCHELLWell I think, you know, there are two things that are going on here. One is, you know, what's happening to families because of the one child policy. You do get this kind of monstrous children, you know, who are called little emperors because they have two parents and four grandparents all doting on them. There's another even, I think, more vexing problem for the leaders. And that is that even though China has too many people, it also -- it's going to have too many older people.
SCHELLAnd too few younger people to sustain them.
SCHELLUnlike America, it does not have a policy of immigration. So it can't replenish the lower reaches of its demography with younger people who come in to the workforce and thus sustain this in huge bulge of older people who are going to be retiring and need health care and things like that. So this is a daunting, daunting problem.
REHMBut surely they have begun to recognize that is that one child policy easing at all?
SCHELLWell, it certainly is for the rich who don't have to worry about suffering the penalties of transgressing the policy and having two or three children. And in the countryside where people have larger house because they can just build them, there tends to be some violations. The city is still reasonably tight because most city couples, they can't really -- they don't have the space for two children, three children.
SCHELLThey don't have the money. They don't have the child care. So it kind of more limits itself. But still, this is -- there'll be a rough moment of reckoning here.
REHMOrville Schell and John Delury, co-authors of the new book titled, "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century." Short break here. More of your calls, comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMIf you've just joined us Orville Schell and John Delury are here in the studio. Together they've written a book titled, "Wealth and Power," looking at China's history and its long march to the Twenty-First Century. Here's is our first email, "How influential in today's China are the ancient philosophers, Laozi and Zhuangzi, who are considered important in developing Taoism? If they are influential, in what manner?" John.
DELURYWell, it's a delight to get that question because, you know, people ask me how'd you start on China. And the beginning for me was -- I grew up in Fair Oaks, California and I was sitting under a tree in high school and somehow got a book of Zhuangzi, the sayings of Zhuangzi who's this ancient Daoist philosopher who's got to be one of the subtlest thinkers.
DELURYAnd funniest. I mean he's a satirist and the way he plays with language and thinks about language and confuses you and all these things. So Zhuangzi is really, in my mind, sort of, the height of the sophistication the Chinese mind. And Laozi in a different way and a less funny way, as well, but the question about, you know, in contemporary terms, it's interesting. It sort of goes back to that great metaphor you two were developing, you know, about amputation.
DELURYI mean, I was thinking that in some ways sometimes we see Chinese developing prosthetic limbs, you know, rediscovering lost parts of their tradition. And sometimes that can be a good process, you know, so with something like the Daoist tradition, which emphasizes things like conservation, you know, and things like living in harmony with nature, which is obviously something the Chinese need to think about as they acquire wealth and power. You know, I have friends in China who are rereading these texts and these are very difficult texts even for Chinese. It's like readying a Latin text, you know, for an English speaker.
DELURYAnd they're very serious about this and feel that this is connected. They know they've lost the living organic tradition to these things, but they're going back to the original text and finding meaning in voices like Zhuangzi and voices like Laozi. So it's not something that we write about in this book, but it is part of this whole question we're exploring of the self destruction of this tradition, but also the rediscovery because the rediscovery is also something that's happening that Orville and I both see in our trips and with our friends in China.
REHMAnd now moving to a caller in New York City good morning, Arlene, you're on the air.
ARLENEYes, good morning, Diane. I would like the author to please tell me and tell the audience how the empowerment of corporate America by outsourcing all nearly our jobs to China has factored into this wealth and power in China.
SCHELLWell, I mean, first the good news. It seems that some of those jobs are starting to come home again, but it is undeniable that over the last 20 years that China's extraordinary development has involved a model of making things usually with lower cost labor and then shipping them back to the developed world. And the U.S. has been on a bit of a bender buying those things and then borrowing money from China through treasury bills that the Chinese have invested in to keep their credit cards run through the roof at Wal-Mart.
SCHELLSo -- I mean that's not been a very healthy thing for the U.S. It has been nice for China, but this model now is at an inflection point. China, I think, going forward cannot continue to expand, grow and prosper through exports alone. And so they really do need to develop their own internal market where they're selling to themselves. It'll be much more stable and it creates a larger market, more reliable market. So I think we may see, as I say, some change in this where there'll be less outsourcing and China's going to be selling more to itself than abroad.
DELURYI would just add, you know, there's this issue of investment, you know, because another incredible reversal right now is Chinese are starting to invest in the United States. And if our concern here is about creating jobs, and I share that concern with your caller, you know, how do we create jobs. Well, we may need to get more foreign investment in our country.
SCHELLEven if they want to buy ham.
REHMAs they know.
SCHELLA high national security question, I might add.
REHMYes, indeed. All right. And here's an email from Al. "Will overtaking the U.S. economically in say 2016 finally put an end to China's century of humiliation?"
SCHELLThat's a really interesting question. First of all, we don't know and it may be not so likely that China really overtakes the United States so soon, but I think we can already say that it has adequate accomplishment in which to take substantial amounts of new pride. However, the victim culture continues so I think one of the things we have to kind of be cognizant of is that this, sort of, psychology of having been preyed upon, of having been bullied and of having been unequal may take a few generations to adjust to the actual reality of the new power balance both economically and militarily and otherwise in the world.
SCHELLAnd so China still has that old fear. It's like people in America who grew up during the depression. You know, they never get enough money because they have that abiding, lingering sense of deficit. And I think that is the state of grace of China and it's going to be sometime before we see them evacuating victim culture entirely.
REHMBut now look at this from another perspective. Here's an email from Lloyd who says rather sarcastically, "Oh, poor China. They were put upon for being weak after being a strong bully for so long. It must be rough. Talk to Tibet."
DELURYWell, Orville, you're going to have to -- you've written on Tibet. So you're going to have take part of that, but, you know, we appreciate Lloyd's sarcasm. At the same time, you know, you have to look at the historical record. And the historical record of 200 years is that, you know, China -- I mean you just read through the text of the treaties that China's been signing and they call them the history of unequal treaties -- unfair treaties -- and that's really what they are, you know.
DELURYI mean, what the western powers did -- it's sort of an extended version of what happened to Germany after World War I where each time there was a victory by western powered Japan over China the treaty put upon then the Ching Dynasty financial burdens that just sunk them deeper and deeper so they could never really get themselves out of this cycle. And, you know, in some ways that did -- created the kind of complex that lead to the rise of fascism in Germany that, you know, that it's a very dangerous thing when the victor goes too far with their victory.
DELURYSo, yeah, there are periods in Chinese history where the Chinese did it to others prior to the 18th Century, but that doesn't, you know, that doesn't, sort of, excuse the fact or erase the fact that it's much of China's historical experience was it happening to them.
REHMAnd here's a follow up.
SCHELLDiane, maybe we should address Tibet.
REHMAll right. Go right ahead.
SCHELLBecause that is a topic that I think many people are concerned about. I think, you know, China's relations to Tibet are so fiercely defended by Beijing because they see it as a question of sovereignty. And anything that deals with territorial sovereignty and the reunification, even of the larger Ching Empire, which is what the communists did, is very sensitive. But I would also say that I think, you know, this is one of China's weak links and its relations with its minorities, particularly Tibetans and Muslims.
SCHELLIt hasn't worked out very well. It needs a new accommodation. Some people understand that. The question is how to do it and they're very wary about, sort of, throwing the status quo out of balance because they're very worried that they might have an uprising. So, I mean, this is not something that, I think, we -- we can look at China and say they have succeeded here, too, as they have in some other areas. I think they haven't. And there's more to be done here.
REHMAnd what about unification with Taiwan, what will it take to let go of the victimization card?
DELURYYeah, well, that's another -- it's sort of like, I mean, there's a great list we can compile, you know, surpassing the United States in total size of the economy. Should there be reunification? And it's interesting to think where do these things fall on the list of priorities. You know, when the previous caller talked about surpassing the U.S. economy I was thinking it might have -- it might turn out to have been more important when China surpassed the size of the Japanese economy, you know, because there's an intensity to the Sino-Japanese rival that that I would argue is more so than what exists in U.S./China rivalry.
DELURYAnd as far as -- but then I would say both would be trumped by what mainlanders would say, you know, the return of Taiwan to the mainland because that is an unhealed wound. Now here Orville might agree in contrast to Tibet the Communist Party and the leadership in China has shown, I think, much more sophistication, you know. They've really figured out a way to stop threatening Taiwan, to use the power of -- to use the power of joint wealth creation, you know, and to use economic ties across the Taiwan Straits to bring the Taiwanese closer and closer into the mainland.
DELURYSo they are pursuing a long-term strategy that's, sort of, an economics first strategy. It is a peaceful strategy and I, sort of, believe that, that in the end they want a peaceful reunification. But should that day come that is a -- that is a historical milestone that, I think, we're sure of in a way that becoming the largest economy it's something, but I'm not sure that it scratches the itch in the way that Taiwan wants.
REHMAll right, to Dallas, Texas hi, there, Joe.
JOEHi, Mrs. Rehm, thank you for taking my call. I love your show.
REHMCertainly. Thank you.
JOEYou're welcome. My question was, and as far as the Chinese are concerned, I've traveled quite a bit and my wife is from Tanzania so I've lived in some parts of Africa and I've been to India, different places. Is it true that the Chinese are systematically taking over by bringing, when they build things, for example, as far as the economy's concerned for different, you know, railroad systems or stadiums or highways. Are they systematically taking over different parts of the world? And I'll take my answer off the air.
SCHELLWell, I think, you know, one can say that China having so many people and a relatively small landmass has tremendous resource anxiety. In other words, where is it going to get its oil...
SCHELL...Its iron, its minerals, its timber, its whatever. And so this has made them, you know, sort of, elaborate a new kind of -- it's not a colonialist policy in the old sense that we understand it, but it's a very expansive, sort of, commercial policy to go out around the world to Latin America, Africa and to, sort of, pin down a resource space that they can rely on. They don't want to have to rely on the world market to supply these things. They, sort of, distrust that. And they've done this quite effectively and they have a lot of money to invest, but many people are starting to accuse them of being a little bit overly self interested and that the countries that are being exploited are not getting enough out of it. This is a danger.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Richard in Manassas, Va. He says, "When I used to travel internationally for the government I would receive briefings about policies and personalities in the destination country. What I often found were places strongly influenced by corruption. Please discuss how endemic corruption influences Chinese life and its future," John.
DELURYWell, the trick about corruption is, I think, what we find in our study stretching back to the 19th Century is it's a constant rather than a variable. And so even now where China has endemic corruption and even when you see marginal increases in it, you know, you look back and in the 1980s -- you go back to the 1989 democracy movement. It was a democracy movement, but it was also anti corruption movement. You know, people were in the streets demanding a cleanup of the system.
DELURYAnd, of course, the movement was suppressed violently and what happened in the 1990s, more corruption, but also more growth, you know, so people have put up with it. So corruption is -- there's something about -- and I don't think I've solved this mystery. There's something about the way China works where a system can withstand very high levels of corruption and most Chinese people I talk to it's not that they don't know. They all know it exists, but right now everyone is busy making as much money as they can for themselves and their family and they know the top leaders are doing the same thing.
REHMHere's a Tweet from Lisa. She was in China two weeks ago and kept meeting Christians. Is religious freedom spreading?
SCHELLWell, I wouldn't say religious freedom as an official policy is spreading, but as a practice it is. And because there is this sort of absence of a value system that people can commonly subscribe to many people are seeking a, kind of, spiritual refuge in religion. And we see a tremendous, sort of, efflorescence of Christian, sort of, home churches that are not part of the official party sanctioned church structure.
SCHELLAnd, also, I should say, lots of people returning to Buddhism. And you walk around China all you have to do is look and see who has a Buddhist rosary on their wrist and you can very quickly take your own little poll. So these things are very much advancing and do suggest that there is a kind of a deep hunger for something more, that the meaning of life question has arisen.
REHMAnd how is the government reacting to that?
SCHELLSo far they've been quite tolerant as long as religions haven't sought to organize like Falun Gong, which they're violently opposed to. So as long as religions are, sort of, atomized and people just quietly go about their, sort of, individual practices there's not so much trouble.
REHMWell, and there is so much more we could talk about. I'm sorry, the hour has come to an end. The book we have been talking about is titled, "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century." Orville Schell, John Delury, co-authors, I thank you so much.
SCHELLIt's been a pleasure.
DELURYThank you, Diane.
REHMThank you. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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