Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Things Are in China

Finally got to see The Nephew over Thanksgiving. He’s a graduate student in mechanical engineering at a major school. He tells that there no American kids in the program at his particular school. They’re all Asian of one sort or another, a good many of whom are Chinese.

The word among the Chinese students is that their middle class is prospering, although the bad news is that their Chinese Yuan is badly inflated against the U.S. dollar. The conversion rate is 15 cents to the Yuan. China is anxious about its engineering and science students coming to America and not coming back again. It seems they’ve got our jobs and we’ve got their students. The student conversion rate is almost exactly inverse to the currency rate: 15 Chinese graduate students (in engineering) for every American student.

If you think Americans are terrible about coming out to the polls, Chinese turnout is virtually non-existent. The Chinese students tell my nephew that they don’t even bother. There’s no point. He says they have trouble understanding America’s two-party system. They can’t tell the difference between the Democrats and Republicans (and it’s not a language problem, either. They speak perfect English. They’re taught English from the time they’re tiny tots). That’s okay, though. We can’t tell the difference, either.

Everyone thinks that all Chinese are alike, but they’re not. Just like in the U.S., you have Northerners and Southerners. Here the difference in accent. In China, it’s in appearance. There are all types of Chinese, and the Communist Chinese don’t like the northerners very much. In fact, they persecute and sometimes kill them, and northerners have to change their names to survive.

Marriages to southerners evidently appease some of this hostility. When I get back to work on Monday, I’m going to have to check with my China expert at work. But everyone in China keeps their heads down and basically do as they’re told. Working conditions there are harsh and fiercely competitive. If you’re thinking of backing your bags for that slow boat to China because you think that’s where are all the jobs are, just remember that that’s also where all the people are, too. Shanghai is a city of 50 million people. An interview subject from who work who visited China as part of college business trip said that every spot in every city in China was like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, every day. Happy New Year.

American engineering students are clearly worried about their jobs. Well they should be. When engineers must worry about their future, the economy is in distress, indeed. Engineers are the innovators responsible for the technological advances and innovations that spur an economy on to greatness. They’re the “gears” of the economy. If the gears of the economy grind to a halt, America’s greatness will be finished.

Sadly, not enough American students excel in mathematics and physics to build the next bridge to the future. My Nephew and his classmates study long hours. They eat, sleep, and dream mathematics and engineering. Their conversations are filled with talk of differential equation one versus differential equation two. Our society is too socially distracted to have the discipline to study that hard or for that long. They’re too busy playing with the gadgets the last generation of engineers invented to learn how to create the next generation.

Where is the next Gen. Washington, asks Glenn Beck. Where is the next John Roebling? Where is the next Steve Jobs? His or her name may be Chong Den Han or something like that. But because it’s China, you’ll never know their name. That may be why it’ll be a Chinese name rather than an American name. When people become the cogs in the very machines they've invented, that’s when technological progress will end.


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