All Roads Lead to China just came out with a post on a few interviews of Shanghai’s underclass, It’s All About Hope and Opportunity in China, and I urge everyone to read it [link no longer exists].
The All Roads post brought back some fond memories for me of one of my longest and best China friendships. Excuse me for a rare burst of maudlin here, but it all goes back to a case I was handling with a Qingdao lawyer with whom I ended up spending the better part of three days together waiting for a ship to come to Qingdao’s port and then hunting it down once we heard it had arrived. We had a lot of time to talk and one of the things I will never forget about our conversation was how we both saw our countries so similarly.
We talked about how what we most liked about our own country was how it was still possible for people from poverty to rise up and achieve just about anything. And of how this belief is so essential to the fabric of both our countries. And this now very wealthy, exceedingly well educated Chinese lawyer knew this from the heart as he is one of 13 children from a tiny village whose father had a 4th grade education.
We then talked about what most concerned us about our respective countries and the biggest concern for both of us was how this was changing. We both talked of how the wealthy are starting to live in gated communities and send their kids to private schools and we both wondered about the long term impact this might have on our countries’ futures.
All Roads’ talks about the hopes of China’s financially downtrodden to do better by their next generation. CLB’s Steve Dickinson is always telling me of conversations he has with waiters and waitresses and others in China’s less respected jobs. And what he says reinforces what All Roads is saying: these people generally believe their hard work will pay off in a better future, if not for them, than for their children.
When I was in college, I took a course on revolutions and the two things I best remember from that course were that revolutions typically spring from the urban middle class (this is obviously less true of China than of most countries) and they typically spring from those who believe the elites have blocked the paths upward.
Rich, put me down as someone else who would love to see more of your street interviews.
Just a few random thoughts….
What do you think?