Since 1989, the Russian mortality rate has risen from below 11 per 1,000 to more than 15 per 1,000 - nearly double the American rate. For adult males, the mortality rate is three times higher. Average male life expectancy at birth is below 60, roughly the same as in Bangladesh. A 20-year-old Russian man has a less than 50/50 chance of reaching the age of 65. ... Exacerbating the demographic effects of increased mortality has been a steep decline in the fertility rate, from 2.19 births per woman in the mid-1980s to a nadir of 1.17 in 1999. Because of these trends, the United Nations projects that Russia's population will decline from 146 million in 2000 to 101 million in 2050. By that time the population of Egypt will be larger.This echoes what Kyle Hatcher told us in his ASPAC paper (panel 1) on Chinese migrants to the Russian Far East (RFE). Like so many nations with declining populations (and the RFE is declining faster, I suspect, than the rest of Russia), immigration could be a key component of economic and social revitalization. But Russia, like so many of the nations struggling with this issue, is unaccustomed to integrating immigrants. Mr. Hatcher's work involved surveying Russians about their attitudes towards Chinese immigrants, and what he found is not good news. Russian attitudes towards Chinese immigrants are terrible. They are viewed as untrustworthy, insular and territorially aggressive. They are considered a drain on the economy, taking jobs away from locals and putting very little back into local businesses. Russian immigration laws have been steadily tightening over the last few years, making casual labor migration across the border more difficult (and likely expanding illegal migration). This is fueled in large part, Hatcher found, by a vicious and shameless press, which plays up stories of Chinese crimes, overestimates the numbers of legal and illegal Chinese immigrants, and regularly cites anti-Chinese nationalistic scholars and politicians. In fact, Chinese work at jobs in the RFE that Russians won't do, even tough unemployment among ethnic Russians is very high. And Chinese buy most of their goods from Russian-owned businesses who make no effort to cater specifically to Chinese tastes. China has shown little interest in the RFE territory, and even if it had, the numbers of immigrants (at best guess) is well below the levels at which rational observers would consider it a threat of separtism, etc. Chinese immigration offers the RFE's primary extraction industries (logging, fishing, furs, mining) and decaying mercantile economy their best chance of revitalization, but Chinese are not welcome. For obvious economic reasons, many Chinese have gone to the RFE (the numbers are in the tens of thousands, at least), but legal and social restrictions make it impossible for the numbers to be large enough to make up Russia's demographic and economic and institutional weaknesses. The starkly different social and economic conditions on either side of the Russia-China border call the concept of this as a "region" into question; I've never entirely bought the argument that Russia was an "Asian Power" just because it had some Pacific Rim beachfront. Interestingly, Chinese labor in the RFE had a "heyday" in the early 20th century, but was pushed out by increasingly nationalistic positions, culminating in the almost total removal of Chinese from the RFE at the time of the Sino-Soviet split in the late '50s. Needless to say, Russia's post-Soviet collapse is of great concern to China (and, as Niall Ferguson points out in the essay cited above, the Chinese model of economic development without political liberalization is very intriguing, if unreachable, to many Russians) and the continuing decline and instability of the northern Pacific region has to be counted as a problem that will have to be addressed at some point in the future.
I just finished teaching 20th century China, and the three biggest issues in the last section of the course were clearly economic growth, political liberalization and the one-child policy. All three of these are ongoing processes -- some more potential than reality -- so all I could really say, in the end, was "stay tuned." It turns out that these processes may be more closely related than I thought, as pointed out in this review [registration required] of Vanessa L. Fong's Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One-Child Policy (Stanford University Press, 2004).
Fong argues, if the review is correct, that the one-child policy was not just an attempt at gross demographic relief but also a plan for economic development through cultural, even psychological, engineering. "Her central claim is that the policy was designed 'to create a generation of ambitious, well-educated children who would lead their country into the First World, [and it] succeeded, but at a price' (pp. 2-3)." Fong argues that the one-child policy has raised the status of female children within the family: families are more willing to invest effort in girls when they have no boys as an alternative. Fong also points out that parents are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for their childrens' education -- the brief discussion of university entrance exams in the review was, of course, reminiscent of Japan's "examination hell" of past decades -- and upbringing when they have only one in whom to invest all their hopes and ambitions.
This is "the cultural model of modernization" in action, we're told: channeling the aspirations of traditional families into education, which is seen as fundamentally modern, as a route economic success, which is seen as beneficial to society generally. It doesn't matter, apparently, that Japan's modernization was in the opposite direction: Japan's de facto one-child policy families are a result of industrial economic growth which drove cultural change and, consequently, raised the status of education which, in turn, lowered birth rates, etc. It might be less of a process and more of a cluster of co-dependent variables, if Fong is correct and if the founder of the one-child policy really had this in mind.
A few thoughts come to mind: it may well be true that one-child raises the status of girls within the family, for families that have only one girl. This is plausible, but has to be mitigated by the obvious (and accelerating) gender gap in births which indicates the strong survival of patriarchal and patrilineal patterns. There's also a significant question as to whether one-child policy is viable in a more mobile society -- and mobility is so often both an engine and effect of modernity -- where strict work-group monitoring is impossible. So it may turn out to be an episode rather than a pattern. And I'd like to hear from someone who is more familiar with the origins of China's demographic intervention as to whether Fong's impression of the policy as a component of a planned jump-start to modernization is indeed born out by the historical record.
Q: Is there any Chinese government? A: If a viceroy does not obey the central government, he will find himself high and dry. It is a government to that extent. The appointment of all high officials is in the hands of the central government. (Baumler Modern China and Opium: A Reader p. 60)This exchange takes place in the context of a discussion of Chinese opium suppression policies. China is not doing enough to reform its people to be considered a true state, but Richards does defend China by saying that there is at least a minimal amount of state structure. The second is from the American journalist Hallet Abend, who was discussing China’s threat to walk out of the League’s opium control system.
Whatever Chinese delegate there has been at Geneva, whether he represented a government the authority of which did not extend beyond the walls of old Peking or whether he represented a government pretending to rule the whole country, China has seemed to regard the League as an organization to be used for bluff and intrigue. These delegates in succession have not only refused to give facts concerning the growing amount of opium cultivation and opium smoking in China, but by distortion of facts have sought to place upon Great Britain and Japan the blame for the great quantities of narcotics now consumed in China. The League has sought to keep China as a satisfied member because the Chinese delegate, after all, was the sole representative of an enormous and thickly populated part of Asia, but it has been farcical to pretend that under present conditions China could participate seriously on questions like opium, disarmament, labor legislation or child welfare. (New York Times Apr. 21, 1929.)For Abend a nation is capable of collecting facts (and not lying about them), but also participates in the improvement of its own people. Defining a state is now going away from state formations and towards having something like a public sphere and a citizenry. My question is where China sits today. In the early 20th century a nation was pretty clearly defined as a state with power. Today in the western press there is a lot of talk about how China is on the brink of chaos, how it is a place where the rules of the universe (a Rolex is a Rolex) don’t really apply, businessmen are greedy, etc. All this is despite the fact that China clearly does have a government an army and an economy. Where is the locus of place-ness now? Why are we (Americans rather than academics) so uncomfortable with China? -China does not fit. This works both culturally and politically. China does not bow before Hollywood, both because of pirated DVDs and because Michelle Yeoh could kick Steven Segal’s ass. China is also the only country in the world that still has a 19th-century power politics relationship with the U.S. China is powerful enough that they can tell the Americans to kiss off, and war is a real possibility in the way it is not with Japan and the E.U. China is an exception in almost every way. -China does not articulate very well where it is going. 1989 was supposed to be a sign that liberal democracy was coming to China, and while it may yet, China’s future path does not really fit any known model. Many people know what the relationship between an editorial in “Le Monde” and “France” is, but what is the Chinese equivalent? China seems to have lots of power and money, too much in fact, but not enough society and transparency. A lot of this is of course just laziness on the part of Western elites. China is thinkable, and if it is a bit of a special case it is big enough to be worth the mental effort needed to figure it out. It is also caused in part by poor work on the part of professional China interpreters. So, what exactly is it that makes a place a place, and which of these things does China have?
I would like to thank Konrad for his invitation to join up, and say that I look forward to being a part of this blog.
I suppose I should start off with a bit of biography. I sort of drifted into this field as an undergraduate. I started out my career (at Northern Illinois University) as a business major. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I did assume that after college I would get a job, and business seemed to be connected to jobs. After determining that I did not want to be a business major, I switched to History, mostly because I liked the stories (many of them not true, sadly) that Mr Yohe used to tell in High School history class. Really, I was trying to find something that would interest me enough that I would eventually graduate from college, even if I ended up starving afterwards. I spent a couple of very enjoyable years majoring in History that meet after noon. I realized that teaching was the only option if I wanted to eat as a historian, and I had no interest in education classes, so that meant grad school, not that I really knew what that meant. I knew I did not want to do U.S. history, and I knew I did not want to do China. I’m not sure if it was Pearl Buck or James Clavell who gave me this impression, but I had this hazy idea of China as a despotism that was inhabited by pathetic peasants. France was coolMexico was cool. China was not. I took one Chinese history class on the assumption that I should know something about the place. I’m still not entirely sure why I was so interested in that class. This was long enough ago that the lecturer actually read from yellowed notes he had written out in longhand. I’m not quite sure why I liked Chinese history so much. The fact that there was a lot of it helped. All the other places I studied were bits of something larger. China was a host in itself. Also, I thought learning Chinese would be a challenge.
I mention all this in part because it seems completely inadequate. Now I’m an academic and a China person, and it is hard to imagine being anything else, but when I look back the reasons I had at the time seem silly and almost random. Apparently there is a lot of path dependence in what we do. Most of the rest of my life has been shaped by the casual decisions (and stubbornness) of a kid who was uniformed not only about China but also about academia and most other things. My professors probably had some point to a lot of what they were doing, but I had no idea what it was. They tossed out lots of interesting things, and I picked some of them at random and held on to them.
I also mention it because studying China seems to call for a lot of explanation, at least around here. I’ve given versions of the above a zillion times. There are parts of the world and the U.S. where the coming Chinese century is obvious and dealing with it or profiting from it seem to be things that are well worth doing. The chief question in Western PA is why holes in the ground that used to contain coal no longer contain coal and what can be done about it. Explaining to people why they should care about China is part of what I do, and like most academics I am wound up enough in study in general and in China in particular that it is hard for me to get outside it and explain why anyone else should care.
This ties directly into why anyone should read this blog. Some blogs are worth reading because the people who post to them are interesting Clearly not a reason to read what I write. Some are funny.Some blogs are written by experts who will tell you things any informed citizen needs to know. I suppose my current tendency is to post on things that interest me and assume that occasionally they will intersect with a larger conversation, but mostly it will just be talking to a small group of people, and as often as not only to myself. This is sort of typical for China academics, I think, since we are always part of the narratives that society and academia want to tell. China is too big to be left out (unlike, say, Korea) and we can always get into a conversation if we want to. On the other hand we can also go off in our own weird little sinological world. I like both approaches, but I suppose that place I like best is somewhere between
I will try to post something about my current work soon, but this is enough of a trial to your patience for the moment. I will also try to figure out Word Press's formatting a little better