China’s Grand Experiments
Image Credit: White House

China’s Grand Experiments


“China represents something akin to a laboratory,” philosopher Daniel Little wrote more than twenty years ago. And for understanding human organization and behavior, present-day China remains as intriguing and instructive as ever. Indeed, the country now feels like a steamy laboratory undertaking grand experiments that are profoundly shaping the country – and the world.

Of course, experimenting is nothing new in China. Ever since the country was forced open by the West some 170 years ago, it has tried all kinds of foreign and native ideas. Contrary to the official label, the “century of humiliation” was really a century of experimentation. The wholesale import of modern sciences and technology aside, politically and socioeconomically there were the failed effort to imitate the Japanese Meiji Restoration in 1898, and the frustrating experience of building an American-style republic in the 1910s to 1920s. Vladimir Lenin, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and Benito Mussolini were all used as models by various Chinese leaders, until the invading Japanese disrupted everything in 1937.

Backed by Moscow, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) experimented with a communist-led peasant rebellion to establish the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The spectacularly incompetent but unrestrictedly ambitious and despotic Mao Zedong ran China to the ground in his terrible experiment of the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in the death of tens of millions in just three years. Then, in order to preserve his personal power and place in history, Mao launched the even more “innovative” political experiment of the Cultural Revolution, which hurt Chinese culture beyond description.

The pragmatic Deng Xiaoping opened new rounds of experimentation, focusing on imitating East Asian neighbors to get rich via trial and error. Imported institutions, technology, and ideas flooded the country, despite vigilant political filtration. Unlike other rising powers in the past, the “Chinese Lab” has a limited ideological master plan or blueprint beyond the highly experimental hubris of rejuvenating Chinese civilization. It’s also clear on peeling through the thick propaganda that only one thing now remains off-limit to experimentation – the CCP’s monopoly of political power.

So what exactly is going on in China’s grand experiment? A few profound potential changes are underway.

First there’s the grand experiment of getting rich through imitation rather than innovation, and the effort to develop a dynamic capitalism under state monopoly. Then politically, China has become an empire without hereditary emperors. Internally, Beijing relies on nationalism to govern, yet suppresses the identities and demands of the numerous nationalities. Externally, China professes to rise peacefully, but toys with running a different shop for a new world order. Each of these experiments could lead to huge shifts of power across the globe, yet none of them is certain to succeed.

February 5, 2012 at 11:38


everyone noticing? —-Hollywood has BALKED and BURIED
the —20th
———–and NOW 60th Anniversary of the awesomely relevant

———————-KOREAN WAR———————-.

Even Korea era draftee, who got out of going, ‘REAL American’
Clint Eastwood.


December 18, 2011 at 01:04

I have done a little bit of research.
In 2008, there were 3.1 millions Chinese living in the US. This is the bureau of census link

How can there be “some 25% to 30% or more of the scientists and engineers [in the US] are actually ethnic Chinese” (Liang1a)? Because Liang1a is moking too much opium, of course

December 17, 2011 at 03:45

This is deeply racist and scary and I am afraid absolutely representative of what a large number of influential Chinese people believe.

December 17, 2011 at 02:36

This strikes me as wishful thinking. Take the J-20 for example there is no way it is in even the same league as the F-22. For one thing it lacks stealth capability from some directions. Your example of jet engines and their control systems is perfect. The technology involved there is called FADEC and despite immense efforts on the part of the Chinese and more than a little intellectual property theft the Chinese are yet to develop a fully functional system. The J-20 uses Russian engines.

You say that since so many scientists in America are of Chinese descent that American technology is in large part Chinese. But you misunderstand America, the entire point of the nation is people can come from whatever country and become Americans.

There is a reason no Chinese citizen has won a Nobel prize. A system that is good at copying doesn’t necessarily have the ability to innovate. No one doubts that the Chinese people have the ability to innovate but it is up for question whether or not the Chinese government can create a system that will foster innovation.

December 16, 2011 at 20:14

Nice to know that today Singapore is ALREADY a “region” of China!

You advocate for China to leave WTO. The reason you gave is that backwardness is the reliance on cheap labour (correct). And relying to cheap labour à fortiori increases foreign trade (correct).
But you fail to accept that there are countries (like Singapore and Taiwan) that have a much higher trade-to-GDP ratio than China, without relying on cheap labour and obviously not backward.

In fact, you are against foreign trade, not because it is synonymous to backwardness, but because it restricts China freedom to wage war. A grand war to reclaim all the territories lost several centuries ago.

December 16, 2011 at 20:03

The main difference I see between China’s experiment and American’s and Canada’s in nation building experiments is that, in the latter cases there is a constant ideal. China is constant in its change of objective and in re-writing its experiments log. Just read the versions of China’s constitution preambles.

December 16, 2011 at 07:47

>>”In the US some 25% to 30% or more of the scientists and engineers are actually ethnic Chinese” (Liang1a)

This is not very scientific. 25% to 30% is a big uncertainty already. And why the “or more”?

From the 2010 census, there were 7.6 millions STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workers in the US. If we take the lower estimate, 1/4th of them being chinese gives 1.9 millions. Seems huge to me (?)

December 15, 2011 at 21:31

Quote froam the article:
In recent years, Beijing has launched expansive programs of “indigenous innovation” that in fact look, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, like a “blueprint for technology theft on a scale the world has never seen before.”

This experiment has rapidly brought to China the latest technology, booming manufacturing capabilities, and rising living standards. Imitation rather than invention has been a key ingredient in China’s not-so-secret formula of economic boom. Some Chinese futurologists have even proudly mapped out a bright future for China through replacing the long-dead Communist Revolution with a new “Counterfeiter Revolution” to capture the world’s top power position. To quote the biting satire by a popular Chinese blogger, China has already risen to be a “great power of counterfeiters.”

Liang’s comment:
This author is obviously another one of those sons of compradors who feel they must demonize China to gain favor with their new masters. This article is obviously nothing more than another “entertainment” to stroke the ego of the Americans who feel soothed by the evilness of the Chinese and their “imminent doom.” There are many problems in China mainly due to too many eunuch compradors, an example of which is this author.

As to China’s attempt to create indigenous technologies, it is absolutely the right way to go. As I’ve always said, China cannot advance without its own high technologies. Productivity can only increase with the use of more efficient tools and machines and only higher technologies can provide more efficient tools and machines. Therefore, China can only develop predicated on technological advancements.

As to the denigration of this author that China’s technological advancement is nothing more than “blueprint for technology theft”, it is obviously false and nothing more than specious tendentiousness. For one thing, many technologies cannot be reverse engineered. Many technological products can only be created whole. An example is a computer processor which cannot be copied but must be created whole with unique designs of thousands of components that must fit and work as a whole. Therefore, it is not possible for China to duplicate a computer processor by changing one single item such as the clock and have the whole thing work perfectly. If the clock speed is changed then all the other components must also be changed to conform to the different clock speed. This is only possible by creating an entirely new processor.

Another example is a jet engine. A jet engine is made of thousands of individual components that must be fitted together perfectly. You cannot just take a jet engine and make it longer or shorter without changing all the other parts of the engine. Also the materials of the engine must be made of special alloys and fabricated in precise unique ways. And there are also computer software programs that help to control the engine. You cannot just instal the software of one jet engine to control another jet engine with a different set of operational characteristics. Therefore, a jet engine must be created whole and unique and cannot be duplicated with a few minor changes.

Another example is the creation of J-20 which has been disparaged by the West as nothing more than a reverse engineered copy of American stealth fighter. But this is nothing but sour grape since all objective experts have judged it to be just as good as America’s F-22 and superior to it in many performance characteristics such as electronics and internal design as well as range and speed. And the J-20 is powered by China’s own jet engines.

I can give many examples of China’s true technological independence. I will just say one more thing about China’s potential for technological superirority. In the US some 25% to 30% or more of the scientists and engineers are actually ethnic Chinese. This means that the so-called American technologies are actually ethnic-Chinese technologies. And whatever ethnich Chinese can achieve in America surely the same ethnic Chinese can achieve in China itself. Of course, the Chinese government must still create an empowering system to unleash the creativity of these scientists and engineers. As the author says China is now experimenting to find a system to allow China to develop all the cutting edge technologies of the world. Such progress may not be as fast as possible due to the albatross of the old feudal mentality. But signs abound that it is changing.

China’s technological advancement is uneven. In military technologies or dual use technologies, China is advancing rapidly. But in purely civilian technologies the advancement is much slower. For example, China has developed the most advanced technologies in aerospace technologies but Chinese car makers cannot produce even a single car to compete with foreign car companies. Even as China’s passenger jets which benefit from China’s dual use technologies are being sold internationally, China’s domestic car market is being dominated to some 80% by foreign car companies. This is obviously due to the opening up policy of the CCP Dengist eunuchs’ selling out of the Chinese economy. Therefore, China can progress much faster by first cleaning out the Dengist comprador traitors from the Chinese government and withdraw China from the WTO which is nothing but a dog collar around China’s national neck that allow foreign enemies to control China and turn it into an economic colony. The author is obviously just another one of these traitorous sons of compradors who demonize China to entertain his new American masters. In the end such lies don’t help increase the safety of the Americans. It points them in the wrong direction to increase their danger. As they look in the wrong direction, China will metamorphose rapidly into a new sole ultra-superpower. But then a sole ultra-superpower China will bring peace and prosperity to the world. Even to America.

shen liang
December 14, 2011 at 11:56

@John Chan

“By ignoring China’s law and effort to protect IP rights, but emphasis on some rogue merchants to smear China as a whole, if you can not be called wicked slandering, what else can you be called?”

Oh, come on! I’m beginning to think you’ve never lived in China, that you haven’t seen first-hand how pervasive shanzhai culture is. People have even started to embrace this identification of shanzhai culture and China. What efforts is China carrying out?! The government does a few things for show, like raiding a pirated DVD distribution place, has a TV news special on it, and then turns around and lets the vacuum be filled by more piraters. The government only cares about its own self-interest (and face, which really isn’t that different). During the Olympics, when the fuwa merchandise started to be counterfeited, the government cracked down on a few markets selling the fakes. But they only targeted the fuwa merchandise. The entire market was filled with fakes (the Hongqiao type), the government was informed, but they took the fuwa merchandise and simply ignored the rest.

“For example Geely Automobile paid 1.8 billion for Volvo, are you going to say China steals Volvo’s IP and counterfeiting too?”

Well, that depends. Geely does have a history of brazen copying:

So if someone did say Geely stole Volvo’s IP, we’d have to determine whether Geely bought the rights to that technology. A fair assessment can be done simply by referencing the contracts signed by both companies. Even in major deals, sometimes companies don’t purchase every asset of another company, though they do know what they are getting. Remember the IBM-Lenovo deal? Are you seriously trying to argue Lenovo couldn’t practice IP theft against IBM simply because Lenovo bought up its PC division?

You act as though a guy who walks into a store and buys a pack of gum can’t possibly be shoplifting candy in his jacket.

When it comes to rampant counterfeiting, China is far from the norm.

December 14, 2011 at 11:08

“hmm, so Canadians are stealing Disney IPs :)” Ironically, I live just a few minutes from Canada’s Wonderland, so let me educate you a bit: here is a link you can go and get educated instead of uttering stupid words.’s_Wonderland Canada and other western nations are lawful societies. We respect other’s belonging, unlike china.
“Actually I think Chinese park’s name is more like Meng Huan Shi Jie. Wonderland is just a translation from that author.
but of course, I agree with you. ” Who cares what those chinese words mean. Even if it means “Wonderland”, it’s a pirated name anyway. Since when did china open up for a theme park?
“when you think about it, all the IPs that are accused of being stolen by China, China can easily pay all of them with a few billions.” Not only you’re dishonest, your attitude is absurd! Stealing is wrong. Stealing then having the nerve to say “If china can easily pay all of them with a few billions” only indicates that how low you can be. For your infomation, Germany alone, lost 55 billions to chinese IP theft.
You guys are beyond disgust.

John Chan
December 14, 2011 at 05:42

I have only mentioned 7 times about the lady with 30000 pairs shoes? How many times China has been smeared unfairly about the IP issue? Even though China has been working hard to eradicate the problem, don’t you agree that I need to mention the shoe lady more often in order to catch up the number of times people slander China on the IP problems?

Talking about taking out of context, the chart only showed about software piracy rate and you extrapolated into counterfeited goods, surly you have a lot of imagination, in the Chart there are many countries worse violators than China, why did you make it as though it is an China unique phenomenon? Besides the chart is put out by Washington DC, and you use it as given truth to slander China relentlessly, if it is not ill faith again China, what is it?

You are confused; counterfeiting is illegal, but imitation and similar products are not, they are legal and legitimate. China produces a lot of imitated and similar products, but they are not counterfeits. On top of that they you have no clue how the modern patent and IP works, the creators get rip off at most in the western nations by their own compatriots. You just follow the IP lobbyists’ propaganda to slander China relentlessly, because their propaganda fits your needs and is convenient for you to slander China.

December 14, 2011 at 04:40

nirvana wrote:

December 14, 2011 at 2:05 am

What a political program! Liang1a jumped casually from one assertion (foreign trade keeps a country backward and poor) to another one (institute a democratic government to stop the sell-out) and to his final objective (begin righteous defense of the motherland).

AHA! Foreign trading reduces the temptation to wage war, of course. There are two things Liang1a has not disclosed yet: (i) what “motherland” encompasses and (ii) where does he propose to begin the “righteous” re-conquest.

But why to “institute” a democratic government, comrade Liang1a? Didn’t Chairman Mao say “Political power grows out of the barrel of the gun”? Come on, show more of your determination in class struggle. You must know how your father generation dealt with the counter-revolutionary revisionists.

Liang’s response:
As usual I find the most obnoxious are also the most ignorant. I suppose the inevitable result of ignorance is obnoxiousness.

Do you see one country that relies on the export of cheap labor intensive products and is not backward? Show me an advanced country that relies on the exports of cheap labor intensive products. Obviously you cannot. So does that make you knowledgeable or ignorant?

A democratic country with a knowledgeable citizenry with a high sense of social responsibility will be much more patriotic than a dictatorship that kept its people ignorant and without any sense of participation in the governance of the nation. Such ignorant and disconnected people will surely be unpatriotic. Patriotic people will unite to stop the sell out of their nation while unpatriotic people won’t care what happens to their nation. Therefore, obviously China would be better protected by a patriotic people in a democratic government.

In the end nirvana is scared out of his wits that a democratic China with fervent patriotic citizens will implement a powerful military to defend the Chinese motherland unlike the current CCP government who dare not confront foreign aggressors.

As to what the Chinese motherland encompasses, it encompasses the largest extent of the sovereign territories during the Qing Dynasty. China will again be fully reconstituted soon. China can start in the S. China Sea, then the Zhang Nan (taking back what India has stolen), then E. China Sea (taking back what the Japanese had stolen), and then the rest such as Mongolia, etc.

Democracy is not a western monopoly. Chinese philosophers had more than 2,300 years ago propounded democracy wherein the people are to select their best people to be the leader. Mo Zi’s philosophy of allowing the people to choose the ruler based on merit is the essence of democracy. Even Mencius had taught that the people rank higher than the ruler on the social scale. He pointed out that the earliest emperors were chosen by the people through popular acclamation. Therefore, the essence of democracy that the people have the sovereign right of choosing their leaders has been well understood by the Chinese people. And throughout the Western history while the West by enslaved by the feudal lords who owned slaves and serfs, in China the people were free with rights that were protected by benevolent laws.

Today, Hong KOng, Taiwan and Singapore are all democratic country and regions of China with dynamic economies and clean and efficient governments. This shows that the Chinese people can handle democracy very well. This also compares to India a bankrupt and a cesspool of corruption that shows how democracy cannot work. So nirvana has no place to be so proprietary about democracy. China will ultimately show India how to run a democratic country efficiently.

December 14, 2011 at 04:34

Through out human history, nations that became underdeveloped relative to the leading nations resorted to imitation as a strategy for closing the development gap and catching up to the leaders from far behind. Because there is no way leading nations can stop others from imitating them, innovation has always been a necessary strategy for the leading nations if they wish to keep their lead.

There is absolutely nothing unique or experimental about that.

yang zi
December 14, 2011 at 03:54

these are very smart words. the blogger @nirvana only says confused words :)

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