I finally got around to reading the March 2007 survey on China in
Economist. As with all its survey, this set of articles was
well-written and spanned a diversity of angles at the main topic; in
this case, topics such as diplomacy, North Korea, and the environment.
The survey concludes with an article contrasting China's stated
intention for "a peaceful rise" with the skepticism of other nations
over its military build-up and environmental mis-stewardship. And
yet, for all the talk about economics and politics, the Economist
diagnoses China with a distinctly spiritual perspective:
"As the Dalai Lama puts it: 'Mr Hu's constant emphasis on a
"harmonious society" suggests that something is missing.' China is
wracked by social inequality, environmental damage and government
corruption. Beijing's preparations for the Olympics are a
heart-rending metaphor for this. The games have provided a pretext for
an orgy of official corruption and cultural vandalism which in a few
brief years has all but destroyed a unique historical city. A few
scraps have been left for touristic consumption. Beijing's inhabitants
have been shunted into tower blocks on the city's edges. In their
place rise vast bombastic structures, architects' and politicians'
self-indulgences with no civic context.
A constant theme heard from thoughtful Chinese is that China's rise
lacks a moral underpinning, and that a moral vacuum lies at the heart
of Chinese life. The Dalai Lama puts the blame on the Communist
Party's 'radical atheism' and predicts that 'sooner or later, a
spiritual or moral culture will have to come to fill an internal
emptiness; externally, there will have to be rule of law, democracy,
freedom of the press.'"
In other words, pray for China's soul. As they go, economically and
politically and militarily and diplomatically and, as the Economist
points out, morally, so goes the rest of Asia and the rest of the