My buddy, Frank-the-Tank (WSF, blog) commented about China on the post about trade between the US and China and I replied to him, but it needs to be explained more fully.
WSF said that the Chinese have different languages, and that’s true, there are eight and they are not intelligible between the eight, but most people in Mainland China speak Mandarin. In Hong Kong and on Taiwan, Cantonese is often spoken. I refer you to Mike_C’s comment for more (here).
The written language is the same.
When visiting the Forbidden City, there is Chinese script and there is Manchu script. It’s interesting to note the differences. The Forbidden City is a work of political art. The famous Hall of Clocks and Watches somewhat underscores the whole. Washington DC is also a work of political art, also expressed in architecture.
Sometimes my friend dear friend Mike W. (who divides his time between Australia and Thailand) reads this blog. Mike spent his life as an intelligence officer (not US) and learned about China in much the same way as I did, except that he’s forgotten more than I know. We know many of the same people.
My point is that I had good teachers. I didn’t learn about China all on my own. The most interesting thing about things Chinese are their comprehensibility. The Chinese are predictable. And most “secrets” in China aren’t very secret because the Chinese gossip. Politburo whores (male and female) often blab about what their masters tell them privately, and it ends up on the streets of Shanghai. The inscrutability of Chinese is a myth, even though it is true that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet (Kipling).
Chinese are often disturbed when a round-eye gets what’s going on because they lie and obfuscate as a matter of practice and culture. It is important to remember that they lie and obfuscate in COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE ways.
Westerners, I was told by a PLA General once that “we” are difficult to understand. Los Angeles, Dallas and New York are the “Mysterious East”. The Han people (Mandarin China) pride themselves on being the same. Westerners, and particularly Americans, pride themselves on being INDIVIDUALS. So the Americans appear one way and then often act another as the Japanese found out in 1941-2 when they expected an easy victory. (DrJIM’s blog – Every Blade of Grass, alludes to that)
America was distracted by endless Middle Eastern wars (and the Subcontinent War in Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the Chinese exploited that distraction. America isn’t distracted anymore and Communist China is profoundly disturbed.
I discussed a divorce between China and the rest of the world. That is happening and China is frantic to stop it. Their whole national focus is threatened by it, and they will bribe and cajole to keep it from happening, but I think that it’s coming. I’m not suggesting a military quarantine. I just think that the coming trade reality with China will not be conducted on terms that are favorable to China. At best the terms will be neutral to China. I think that the Belt Road Initiative is dead and all of the national face and treasure that was invested is gone.
The US is printing money like there is no tomorrow. Why not print another 2 trillion, bring all US businesses back from China, set up in the US and get full employment domestically on terms favorable to all concerned. What’s another $2 trillion when it will be made up in local taxes in four or five or six years? Remember, it’s not just the tax that business pays directly, but payroll tax, employees pay income tax, etc.
Where will that leave China? – Increasing insignificance in the larger picture, exclusion from decisions, maybe loss of a seat on the G-20. Loss of national face? Profound. Xuanji**? Massively disrupted. International leprosy.
**If there is one word in Chinese that you should understand, it’s Xuanji. It means “relationships” and has nothing to do with the Western concept of friendship. It involves exchanges of favors.