China’s hinterlands

by The Editor

Economically and geographically, China exhibits a lot more than it can account for. By all estimates, China features the world’s second largest GDP, which still lags distant eight trillion dollars behind the United States’s fifteen trillion. In eighteen years, the United Nations says India is set to overtake the country in terms of population. As a finding a unified language becomes progressively difficult in India, the Chinese are finding themselves stuck with an archaic and difficult language. The Economist Group’s Intelligent Life magazine asked three students at the Chinese equivalent of Harvard to write, “sneeze,” only to learn that even much of the educated Chinese population now resorts to romanization of their texts. Human-rights problems endure in the republic as North Koreans refugees are sent back to face execution in their homeland, poets are sentenced to seven years in prison for encouraging ‘subversion’ of the government— the same reason that Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is imprisoned and being prevented from collecting his prize.

The largest catch, however, is how little control the government possesses over much of the geographical landscape. Without the autonomous provinces of Xinjiang, Xizang (Tibet), Guangxi, Nei Mongol, and Ningxia, China becomes a far less geographically intimidating landmass amongst its former communist allies. The blue portions of the country in the map below are self-autonomous regions of the country. While the overlords from Beijing try to engage in the governance of these regions, they are met with resistance and disobedience.

As the status quo prevails, most administrative regions continue to embrace it. Only Tibet continues to beg for independence, and its people going to extreme lengths to do so. Yet, even at the political extremes, the times are changing. The Fourteenth and current Dalai Lama says that he may be the last. In the same fashion, China’s dominance is taking a heavy toll on its neighbors. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned from Britain as a thriving economy, and two years later the Portuguese turned over Macao. Support for Chinese dependency remains spirited in Taipei, with two-thirds of the population opting to maintain the status quo.

Even as the country’s aggregate economic power makes an impressive statement, the Chinese GDP per capita pales in comparison to other nations. According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States had a GDP per capita of forty-eight thousand dollars in 2011. China’s average was forty thousand less. Even in Hong Kong, where the per capita GDP is one thousands dollars senior that of the United States, denizens resort to living in ten by ten cages. The problem has been persisting since the climax of the British rule in Hong Kong, but since late, it has progressively become more widespread. On the mainland, economic hardships have lead to the largest migration in history. Farmers previously subsisting through personal sacrifices to earn good wages on the coastline one thousand kilometers away from home are now being urged to migrate back to the countryside. The result, the Economist writes, is a “fast-narrowing wage gap between the coast and the interior.” Undaunted by inhumane working conditions, the struggle for survival perseveres.

Is China able to maintain its global presence with such conditions? One day, reality will check in to the politburo and embassies of the People’s Republic of China, and the country will have to account for what it doesn’t have.