Thanks for getting into this, Jim. One of the things I learned in years of both studying and teaching other cultures, Chinese civilization particularly, is that you can’t get people to understand it by starting with comparisons. People have to work their way into an understanding of the other civilization from their perspective.
I guarantee that it doesn’t make sense from a 21st century American perspective and why should it? People followed some four thousand years of a different way of seeing what was important and what wasn’t important.
Even with a little bit of that you can begin to see it with some objectivity as you did in your response. That was my goal. It looks different then.
This has been evolving at speed over the last twenty years. I remember being in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou on a state trade mission in 2001 meeting with national and local officials and business people in IT. The future was already obvious to then. The students, entrepreneurs, and young people were being given the tools and freedom to do what they knew was the most exciting thing to do and there was a plan for it. But no one knew how it would work or what they would be able to build. It was planned but open in a way that things cannot be open here.
After three weeks in China I came home and told my wife I’ve seen the future and it ain’t us. And it is different. The standard reactions are all wrong. People there are pissed at their government and the mistakes they make, and the minorities being oppressed there, too, but not the way we are. It’s working there.
It quit working here a long time ago.