Sunday, 9 February 2020

Note This Reader's Comment from 'Wenren' in FT:

In the late '90s, with the economic growth and return of former colonies, there was an optimistic feeling that the China and the Chinese had risen from the real humiliation suffered at the beginning of the century.  

You could feel this energy, enthusiasm, and optimism from all levels of society in China.  After decades of Maoist deprivation, they could have material comforts if not luxuries.  An exultant taxi driver said to me, "We used to be called the sick man of Asia (東亞病夫) but no longer!  We have risen!"  

I was shocked to hear this sick man term as it was used as an insult, referring to China's chaos and weakness at the end of the Qing Dynasty.

But as China grew wealthier, people reverted to old ways of habit and culture, as if to say, "we were right all along!"  and given face instead of shame.  This has led to reinstatement of some of the worst feudal Confucian practices, a sort of ignorant justification, along many dimensions.

People might learn to change their dysfunctional ways under duress but never when they're prospering.

So now we have the sick man of Asia again, not just figuratively, but quite literally and figuratively.  東亞病夫 has come back.

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