Orville Schell spoke at the most recent Long Now seminar. His subject was the future of China, and whether or not China could make the kinds of long-term investments in its future that its success as a nation now demands. Tim O'Reilly blogs Stewart Brand's notes capturing the gist of the talk:
These days you cannot think usefully about China and its potential futures without holding in your mind two utterly contradictory views...
- Peaceful borders in all directions
- Economic, non-threatening engagement with the entire world, including with societies the US refuses to deal with
- 200 million Chinese raised out of poverty
- Private savings rate of 40 percent (it's 1 percent in the US)
- 300 million people with cell phones, and the best cell phone service in the world
- A superb freeway system built almost overnight
- New building construction everywhere, and some of it is brilliant
- 150 million people online
- 350,000 engineering graduates a year
- One-third of the world's direct investment
- Huge trade surplus
- And an economic growth rate of 9 to 12 percent a year! For decades.
- Not much arable land, so a growing dependence on imported food
- Two-thirds of energy production is from dirty coal, by dirty methods, growing at the rate of 1-2 new coal-fired plants per week
- 30 percent of China has acid rain; 75 percent of lakes are polluted and rivers are polluted or pumped dry
- Of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 16 are in China; you don't see the sun any more
- Some industrial parts of China are barren, hellish wastes
- Driven by environmental horrors and by widespread corruption, there were 87,000 instances of social unrest last year, going up every year
- The population is aging rapidly, with no pension or welfare, and a broken healthcare system
- The stock markets are grossly manipulated
- Public and official amnesia about historical legacies such as Tiananmen Square in 1989
I have listened to the podcasts of Long Now Seminars in the past and they can be quite thought provoking.
The audio for Orville Schell's lecture is not yet available. I assume it will be soon. http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/
The LNF should really have a place marker on the page as on the Seminar page there is no listing of the event as well.