Feature

China: Getting too big for our britches

China has grown amazingly rapidly over the past 30 years, and our sudden wealth has gone to our heads, said Ye Hailin in the Journal of Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies.

Ye HailinJournal of Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies

The Chinese have acquired a “narcissistic” view of themselves as a people, said social scientist Ye Hailin. China has grown amazingly rapidly over the past 30 years, and our sudden wealth has gone to our heads. “No longer modest,” many Chinese have begun “talking about Seoul and Tokyo with contempt.” We’re not content merely to boast; we also bristle with indignation when confronted with constructive criticism. When foreigners suggest that China should make more aggressive efforts to protect the environment, the Chinese get extremely defensive, countering that the West polluted the entire earth during its own industrialization.

But in truth, the critics make some good points. China has “paid a very high environmental and social cost” for economic growth. We can’t continue to plunder our natural resources and pollute our waters without consequence. Indulging in this “arrogant” belief that we are better than all other peoples and that there is no end to our meteoric rise is unwise—and unsafe. Remember, the Chinese people are just “one of the human races living on this earth.” If no other countries have been able to industrialize at a breakneck pace without trade-offs, “then neither can China.”

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