China is lauded for
attracting more foreign investment in the past 20 years than any
other country in history. Yet it is also demonized for the very
growth this investment has fueled, and its inevitable downside
as manifest in the PRC's large and growing trade imbalance with
the West, lack of labor and environmental protections, dramatic
inequality of wealth and widespread official corruption.
China is paradoxically viewed as
both a pioneer in world revolution and the progenitor of a traditional
worldview in harmony with nature. Its political, economic, and
social systems have been undergoing revolutionary change for several
centuries. And in the 21st century, China continues to transform
faster than ever. To document this process of evolution, we are
launching China Now.
China Now covers Greater China—the
People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan—the Tibetan diaspora,
Chinese Central Asia, Singapore, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula,
and the 55-million-member overseas Chinese community.
These countries and demographic groups
are linked by geography, history, language and cultural tradition.
For centuries China and its contiguous countries were the center
of civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and
sciences. From the rise of the Silk Road (206 BCE - 220 CE) through
the end of the 18th century, China rightfully claimed the title
of Middle Kingdom.
But in the 19th and early 20th centuries,
China was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats
and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under
Chairman Mao Tse-Tung established a dictatorship that, while securing
China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life
and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978,
Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping gradually introduced market-oriented
reforms and decentralized economic decision-making.
Now China has a tremendous opportunity
for progress in the 21st century. Its 1.3 billion-strong population
represents almost one-quarter of humanity. Its economy is the
most dynamic in the world, averaging double-digit annual growth
for almost two decades. This boom has raised the standard of living
for more people in a shorter period of time than any prior economic
expansion in history. China is ripe for a cultural reawakening,
and poised to reclaim its rightful place as an international leader
not just in business, but in the arts and sciences as well. Indeed,
many observers note striking similarities between the United States
at the turn of the 20th century and China at the dawn of the new
This hopeful portrait of the region
is unfamiliar to Westerners whose information about Greater China
comes exclusively from the mainstream American and European media.
Chinese living in the West do not recognize their country in the
predominantly negative reporting on the PRC in the fear-mongering,
corporate-controlled Western press. Similarly Westerners living
in China see official propaganda as a caricature of their societies.
And recent studies of Chinese and American perceptions suggest
sides' views of the other have become increasingly negative in
recent years. This polarization must be resisted in order to foster
a healthy world economy and environment for future generations.
The Dalai Lama is visiting the United
States in September, 2003. When he and his entourage travel to
Boston, scientists at MIT will utilize the most advanced Western
brain-imaging techniques to monitor the neural activity of these
Tibetan monks in meditation. The academics will demonstrate, through
Western scientific methods, what Eastern tradition has known for
millennia:that our mental state influences health and happiness.
This integration of Western technology
and Eastern wisdom—for the benefit of all humanity—perfectly illustrates
the ancient Chinese proverb: "Use tradition to promote progress."
This is a worthy mission for China