Category Archive 'China'
30 Jul 2019

Li ZiQi

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Li Ziqi, young Chinese girl, has become a huge celebrity through her videos which demonstrate beautifully the preparation of traditional Chinese foods.

R.A. tells her story.

Li Ziqi said in an interview, “I am shooting about my imaginary life in the future.” In an elegant traditional Hanfu, she appears in a place like Utopia, surrounded by a landscape with an old-fashioned attractiveness, all natural ingredients, simple and practical cooking utensils, traditional yet retro cooking steps that fascinate her audience deeply. It helps to relax a lot of people who are living a busy urban life. Her videos with an ancient style are very eye-catching, just like being washed by a chilly wind. The word “traditional” describes her videos the best.

All by her own effort, Li Ziqi has explored a whole new area of short videos – making delicious meals in an ancient style. Watching her videos may make you feel like traveling in a time machine, as if a versatile beautiful lady from ancient China has come to the modern Internet world. Her videos have also made her audience dream of “Taoyuan Meng” (the dream of Utopia) as well.

RTWT

HT: Vanderleun.

29 Jul 2019

Chinese Emperor’s Terracotta Army Based on Hellenistic Art

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The Independent reports on a surprising breakthrough in our understanding of Qin Dynasty China.

Ancient Greeks artists could have travelled to China 1,500 years before Marco Polo’s historic trip to the east and helped design the famous Terracotta Army, according to new research.

The startling claim is based on two key pieces of evidence: European DNA discovered at sites in China’s Xinjiang province from the time of the First Emperor in the Third Century BC and the sudden appearance of life-sized statues.

Before this time, depictions of humans in China are thought to have been figurines of up to about 20cm.

But 8,000 extraordinarily life-like terracotta figures were found buried close to the massive tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who unified the country in 221BC.

The theory – outlined in a documentary, The Greatest Tomb on Earth: Secrets of Ancient China, to be shown on BBC Two on Sunday – is that Shi Huang and Chinese artists may have been influenced by the arrival of Greek statues in central Asia in the century following Alexander the Great, who led an army into India.

But the researchers also speculated that Greek artists could have been present when the soldiers of the Terracotta Army were made.

One of the team, Professor Lukas Nickel, chair of Asian art history at Vienna University, said: “I imagine that a Greek sculptor may have been at the site to train the locals.”

Other evidence of connections to Greece came from a number of exquisite bronze figurines of birds excavated from the tomb site. These were made with a lost wax technique known in Ancient Greece and Egypt.

There was a breakthrough in sculpture particularly in ancient Athens at about the time when the city became a democracy in the 5th century BC.

Previously, human figures have been stiff and stylised representations, but the figures carved on the Parthenon temple were so life-like it appeared the artists had turned stone into flesh.

Their work has rarely been bettered – the techniques used were largely forgotten until they were revived in the Renaissance when artists carved statues in the Ancient Greek style, most notably Michelangelo’s David.

Dr Li Xiuzhen, senior archaeologist at the tomb’s museum, agreed that it appeared Ancient Greece had influenced events in China more than 7,000km.

“We now have evidence that close contact existed between the First Emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road,” the expert said.

“This is far earlier than we formerly thought.

RTWT

18 Jul 2019

Mobile Payments Rendering Cash Obsolete in China

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What could possibly be better for state surveillance and control? (Logic Magazine)

This summer I spent a month in Beijing. I’d last lived in China in 2016, and I was relieved to find my favorite noodle shops in their usual niches. But this time round, navigating the city felt inexplicably different. The cabs I tried to hail passed me by. On the subway, other riders jostled past me, swiping their phones at the turnstiles as I fumbled with my ticket. When I tried to sneak into the cafeteria in Renmin University for a cheap lunch, clutching my grubby backpack, I made it past the guards only to be stopped at the cash register—apart from student cards, the only form of payment accepted was Alipay.

It gradually dawned on me that that was why Beijing felt like a different city from the one I knew: in the two years since I’d left, the whole city had switched over to mobile payments on China-specific platforms to which I, a foreigner, had no access. These days in Beijing, the green and blue logos of mobile payment providers WeChat Pay and Alipay appear everywhere, from breakfast stalls to five-star hotels.

Just about every foreigner who’s visited China in the last ten years comments on the dizzying speed at which physical infrastructure is built. When I first moved to Shanghai in 2012, I worked in the city’s financial district, home to a skyscraper nicknamed the “bottle opener”: according to Wikipedia, it’s the world’s tallest building with a hole in it. But these days, China’s part in the race to build the world’s tallest building appears to be waning. China’s much-vaunted speed in infrastructure building has more recently been directed at the digital rather than the physical world.

RTWT

11 Feb 2019

Shang Owl

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10 Jan 2019

Will China Surpass the US as the Leading Economic (and Military) Power?

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Noah Smith, at Bloomberg, thinks China will inevitably come to rule the economic roost, simply as the result of its four-times-larger population.

J.R. Dunn does not agree, arguing that China is fatally handicapped by its collectivism and authoritarianism.

Population imbalance – China’s “single-child policy” is a world-class example of unintended consequences. Initiated by the Communist Party in September 1980 to control population, the policy forbade more than one child outside exceptional circumstances. It immediately ran up against cultural preconditions – in China, as in most of Asia, male children are prized for both economic and religious reasons. Females marry out of the family, which means they are not available to care for elderly parents. It is also up to the male child to maintain religious observances regarding ancestors to assure a worthy and stable afterlife. (This is still taken quite seriously even with China’s policy of national atheism.) The result was a wholesale massacre of females by both abortion and infanticide measuring in the millions. Today China has a surplus of males, officially acknowledged as being around 4% but probably much higher. This means that millions of Chinese men will never marry and, in many cases, will never have a girlfriend. This will inevitably lead to frustration, anger, and acting out. The Chinese version of Fight Club will be no joking matter.

Another effect is legions of older people with not enough of a younger population to support them, a social security problem that dwarfs any such in the West.

The Chinese solution is likely to be simplicity itself: shoot the punks and let the geezers starve. Either way, it means social upheaval.

Social Credit – The most recent Chinese communist brainstorm involves the “Social Credit” (shehui xinyong) system, which has no connection whatsoever to the utopian early 20th-century economic proposal of that name. Under the Chinese system, citizens are issued 1,000 “credits” and then monitored cybernetically, electronically, and socially. Any “anti-social” or anti-party activity results in credits being taken away. It’s impossible to add points. After points drop to a certain level (It’s unclear exactly what this actually is. It’s also unclear how many points each offense costs, along with other details.), penalties kick in. These range from being banned from airline travel and expelled from high-ranking schools to cutting down internet access and taking your dog away.

The China lobby excuses the policy by comparing it to Western customer loyalty programs and asserting that it’s not in place around the whole country yet. In truth, it’s a typical aspect of Chinese communism, which loosens the reins for a period before tightening them again. Mao instituted the “Thousand Flowers” campaign in the ’50s that encouraged criticism of the party, following up a few years later with the Great Cultural Revolution, in which those critics were shot or sent to the Gobi.

Like it or not, progress of any sort – social, scientific, artistic – is propelled by the mavericks. Beethoven, Tesla, Einstein, Patton, Kubrick, Trump…all individualists – cantankerous, arrogant, belligerent – who pushed against social inertia, no matter what the consequences. Their story, from Socrates on, is the story of the West. With the “Social Credit” program, China is returning to its immemorial preference for stasis, which has led to disaster time and again. The end result will be a society that is stratified, ossified, and petrified. There is evidence that this is occurring right now.

To these failings we can add an entrenched system of intellectual theft on a worldwide scale that curtails any tradition of serious research and scholarship. Pollution on an order as yet unwitnessed elsewhere, ravaging public health to a degree unknown but doubtlessly horrendous. Central Asian provinces constantly on the verge of revolt. Open hostility from virtually all of China’s neighbors, including such touch-me-not states as Japan, India, and Vietnam.

Some failings are more subtle. A popular restaurant near Peking consists of dining areas surrounding a large pit containing a number of lions, who are fed live goats, sheep, and other livestock for the viewing pleasure of diners. This is a level of decadence that leaves the West in the dust (itself a concept that boggles the mind) and suggests serious social and psychological issues that have yet to be acknowledged, much less grappled with.

And these problems, we’re told, are going to be overcome by a national leader who poses as Mao while having the gravitas and charisma of a junior accountant – not to forget his national party stocked from bottom to top with virtual clones of himself.

RTWT

29 Dec 2018

How and Why Imperial China Made Eunuchs

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Inkstone News:

The presence of eunuchs in the Forbidden City, the ancient home to many Chinese emperors, was a long-standing tradition.

These emasculated men served as palace menials, spies and harem watchdogs. An army of eunuchs was attached to the court, primarily to safeguard the imperial ladies’ chastity.

Confucian values deemed it vital for the emperor, seen as heaven’s representative on Earth, to produce a direct male heir to maintain harmony between heaven and Earth.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance during a period with a high infant mortality rate, the world’s largest harem was placed at the emperor’s disposal to ensure enough heirs would survive into adulthood.

Court chronicles record Chinese kings keeping emasculated servants in the eighth century BC, but historians generally date the appearance of eunuchs in court to the reign of Han Huan Di (AD146-167).

The government role occupied by eunuchs meant that over time they were able to exert enough influence on emperors to gain control of state affairs and even cause the fall of some dynasties.

The power of the eunuchs endured partly due to the ambitions of the consort families and partly as a result of the secluded lifestyle which etiquette prescribed for the emperor.

The eunuch system came to an end when it was abolished on November 5, 1924, when the last emperor, Puyi was driven out of the Forbidden City, where he had been living since the 1912 revolution.

Coercion: About an eighth of those who became eunuchs were young children bowing to parental pressure. Families would receive a cash reward for donating their sons, but they also hoped their children would have a more comfortable and prosperous life in the palace.

Poverty: Some adults, with no economic means to lead an honest and acceptable way of life, preferred emasculation to a life of begging and stealing.

Free choice: Some men, who could only envision a life of futility and hardship, were envious of the seemingly easy lifestyle enjoyed by palace eunuchs.

Punishment: Emperor Guangwu of Han (who reigned between 25 and 57BC) commuted all death sentences to emasculation. Successive emperors followed this edict.

The How-It-Was-Done comes here.

28 Aug 2018

The Chinese Military is Studying Military History

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Lyle J. Goldstein, in the National Interest, reports that The Chinese military appears to be making a careful study of the military history of its likely main opponents: the US and Japan.

China’s military has not had much combat experience in recent decades, and this is recognized among Chinese military leaders as a potentially serious problem. The reasons for this scarcity of battlefield know—how are obvious and might even be praise-worthy. It has been nearly four decades since Beijing undertook a significant military campaign, so how would its armed forces have attained this knowledge? As I have argued many times before in this forum, nearly four decades without resorting to a major use of force represents very impressive restraint for any great power.
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“China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sought to remedy its lack of actual combat experience by the careful study of military history, including the bloody Pacific War as I have noted in other Dragon Eye columns. August is steamy in the South Pacific and so the Guadalcanal campaign that began in August 1942 was hell. It was through that campaign that the fate of the Pacific was decided. While the dazzling miracle of Midway gets infinitely more attention, the grinding attrition battle just a few months later of Guadalcanal, which could be termed the ‘Verdun’ of the Pacific War, ultimately proved to be the turning point. Losing 38 ships and perhaps over 700 aircraft proved devastating for Japan, although these losses were quite similar to those suffered on the American side. The difference, of course, was that America could replace these losses quite easily.

“Late last year (Dec 2017), the Chinese Navy’s official magazine Navy Today [当代海军] carried a reasonably detailed analysis of the crucial Guadalcanal campaign. The article concludes that Japan’s ‘command decisions and weapons development errors greatly increased the losses [指挥决策和装备研发上的失误更是大大加速了失败],’ together with fundamental problems in Japan’s strategic culture. The Chinese analysis of Japanese mistakes in the campaign is neatly divided between errors in strategic judgment, operational and tactical errors, as well as mistakes in developing appropriate weaponry.

“At the grand strategic level, this Chinese Navy analysis assesses that Japan’s mistakes in the Guadalcanal campaign were partly a failure to reckon with the true significance of the Midway battle a couple of months prior in June 1942. Tokyo seemingly maintained its offensive posture in the South Pacific without recognizing the fundamental fact of ‘the mobilization of America’s enormous industrial capacity [美国强大工业机器启动].’ The analysis asserts that much of the Japanese military was not even informed of the truly devastating results (for Japan) of Midway and that Tokyo’s decision-making was plagued by an incessant and pervasive cult of the offensive. It is noted that the South Pacific could have been invaluable to Japan’s effort to sever U.S. supply lines, but that a critical shortage of airborne intelligence inhibited effective decision-making. The great importance of the U.S. capture of Henderson Field early in the Guadalcanal campaign is noted, and this Chinese analysis concluded, meant that the Japanese pilots flying from distant Rabaul could not offer effective support to Japanese ground troops on the contested island, while Japanese carriers ‘would not dare to overreach by approaching Guadalcanal’ [未敢过分接近瓜岛]. Japanese strategic decisions are assessed to have been plagued by poor coordination between ground and naval forces in the completely ‘unclear situation [情况不明].’”

RTWT

18 Aug 2018

Chinese Art Objects Returning, One Way or the Other

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GQ links a series of robberies of Chinese art from European museums with auction records for similar objects broken recently by Chinese billionaires bent on repatriating objects looted from China in the 19th Century, and wonders aloud if the burglaries were ordered by the Chinese Government or one of the billionaires?

The patterns of the heists were evident only later, but their audacity was clear from the start. The spree began in Stockholm in 2010, with cars burning in the streets on a foggy summer evening. The fires had been lit as a distraction, a ploy to lure the attention of the police. As the vehicles blazed, a band of thieves raced toward the Swedish royal residence and smashed their way into the Chinese Pavilion on the grounds of Drottningholm Palace. There they grabbed what they wanted from the permanent state collection of art and antiquities. Police told the press the thieves had fled by moped to a nearby lake, ditched their bikes into the water, and escaped by speedboat. The heist took less than six minutes.

A month later, in Bergen, Norway, intruders descended from a glass ceiling and plucked 56 objects from the China Collection at the KODE Museum. Next, robbers in England hit the Oriental Museum at Durham University, followed by a museum at Cambridge University. Then, in 2013, the KODE was visited once more; crooks snatched 22 additional relics that had been missed during the first break-in.

Had they known exactly what was happening, perhaps the security officials at the Château de Fontainebleau, the sprawling former royal estate just outside Paris, could have predicted that they might be next.

With more than 1,500 rooms, the palace is a maze of opulence. But when bandits arrived before dawn on March 1, 2015, their target was unmistakable: the palace’s grand Chinese Museum. Created by the last empress of France, the wife of Napoleon III, the gallery was stocked with works so rare that their value was considered incalculable.

In recent years, however, the provenance of those treasures had become an increasingly sensitive subject: The bulk of the museum’s collection had been pilfered from China by French soldiers in 1860 during the sack of Beijing’s Old Summer Palace.

In the low light before daybreak, the robbers raced to the southwest wing and shattered a window. They climbed inside, stepping over broken glass, and swiftly went to work dismantling the empress’s trove. Within seven minutes, they were gone, along with 22 of the museum’s most valuable items: porcelain vases; a mandala made of coral, gold, and turquoise; a Chimera in cloisonné enamel; and more. …

In each case, the robbers focused their efforts on art and antiquities from China, especially items that had been looted by foreign armies. Many of these objects are well documented and publicly known, making them very hard to sell and difficult to display. In most cases the pieces have not been recovered; they seem to simply vanish.

After that first robbery, in Stockholm, a police official told the press that “all experience says this is an ordered job.” As the heists mounted, so did the suspicion that they were being carried out on instructions from abroad. But if that was true, an obvious question loomed: Who was doing the ordering?

RTWT

13 May 2018

A Term You Will Find Useful

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白左 [Baizuo]

09 Apr 2018

Shades of Blue

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Christie’s ceramic expert Joan Ho offers a brief guide to the history of Blue-and-White porcelain in China.

Imported blue-and-white china called “Canton” was popular in the upper circles of American society during the colonial and Federal periods. Possession of a set of inherited Canton used to be an important caste marker in upper-crust American society.

In Virginia Horse Country, where I used to live, people would speak with admiration of certain old families, saying “they are the kind of people who put Canton in the dishwasher.”

The colour blue gained special significance in the history of Chinese ceramics during the Tang dynasty (618-907). The distinctive colour in blue-glazed pottery and porcelain comes from cobalt ores imported from Persia, which were a scarce ingredient at the time and used in only limited quantities.

In the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties in particular, different types of cobalt ore and methods of application determined the distinctive feature of the shades of blue that appeared on blue-and-white porcelain ware. …

The Song dynasty (960-1279) marked a high point in the production of monochrome wares, but artisans of this period regarded the use of cobalt blue as an impossibility. It was not until the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty that the manufacture of blue-and-white porcelain came to maturity, which resulted in richer and more complex subject matter. In part, this development had a religious component: the Mongols counted as their mythical ancestors the ‘hazy blue’ wolf and the ‘white’ fallow doe.

RTWT

14 Dec 2017

Will China Invade Taiwan?

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Ian Easton says China hasn’t got the ability to do it right now, but the long-term ambition is there.

A Chinese diplomat in Washington recently threatened that China would invade Taiwan if the U.S. Navy sent a ship to visit the democratic island, something that Congress has called upon the Pentagon to do in 2018. Is this just empty rhetoric? Or does it reflect Beijing’s actual intentions? It’s actually a bit of both. …

China’s rapid military buildup is focused on acquiring the capabilities needed to annex, or conquer, Taiwan. Chinese publications euphemistically call this “achieving national unification.” The war plan for fighting a Taiwan invasion campaign is tattooed onto the PLA’s corporate memory. It is something that has been indoctrinated and encoded into the minds of all top-level officers. For them, the interests of the regime, not the people of China, are paramount, and their “main strategic direction” (supreme objective) is to end Taiwan’s life as a de facto independent country.

The good news is that the Chinese military almost certainly could not prosecute a full-scale invasion of Taiwan today and succeed. Even if a few hawkish generals were prepared to roll the dice, the costs and risks entailed by the war would be enormous and potentially fatal for the regime. PLA strategists know they still have a long way to go before they will be able to achieve their objective. The bad news is that China’s leaders recognize the roadblocks in their path and will continue to invest heavily in strategic deception, intelligence collection, psychological warfare, joint training and advanced weapons. Barring countervailing efforts, their investments could result in a world-shaking conflict and an immense human tragedy.

RTWT

04 Dec 2017

A Chinese Look at the Western Elite

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Puzhong Yao.

Puzhong Yao was born in China, but has studied and worked at some of the most elite institutions in the West, and he still finds the mindset of the Western elite strange.

[L]ike the Evangelical Christians, my life was changed by a book. Specifically, Robert Rubin’s autobiography In an Uncertain World (Random House, 2003). Robert Rubin was Goldman Sachs’s senior partner and subsequently secretary of the Treasury. Only later did I learn that certain people in the United States revere him as something of a god.

I first bought the book because I was puzzled by the title, especially coming from a man who had achieved so much. I had always thought that things happen for reasons. My parents taught me that good people get rewarded while evil gets punished. My teachers at school taught me that if you work hard, you will succeed, and if you never try, you will surely fail. When I picked up the book, I was studying math at Cambridge University and, as I looked back at the standardized tests and intense study that had defined my life until then, I could see no uncertainty.

But since reading Rubin’s book, I have come to see the world differently. Robert Rubin never intended to become the senior partner of Goldman Sachs: a few years into his career, he even handed in his resignation. Just as in Rubin’s career, I find that maybe randomness is not merely the noise but the dominant factor. And those reasons we assign to historical events are often just ex post rationalizations. As rising generations are taught the rationalizations, they conclude that things always happen for a reason. Meanwhile, I keep wondering: is there someone, sitting in a comfortable chair somewhere, flipping a coin from time to time, deciding what happens in the world? …

I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them. …

It was the summer of 2000. I was 15, and I had just finished my high school entrance exam in China. I had made considerable improvements from where I started in first grade, when I had the second- worst grades in the class and had to sit at a desk perpendicular to the blackboard so that the teacher could keep a close eye on me. I had managed to become an average student in an average school. My parents by then had reached the conclusion that I was not going anywhere promising in China and were ready to send me abroad for high school. Contrary to all expectations, however, I got the best mark in my class and my school. The exam scores were so good that I ranked within the top ten among more than 100,000 students in the whole city. My teacher and I both assumed the score was wrong when we first heard it.

As a consequence, I got into the best class in the best school in my city, and thus began the most painful year of my life. My newfound confidence was quickly crushed when I saw how talented my new classmates were. In the first class, our math teacher announced that she would start from chapter four of the textbook, as she assumed, correctly, that most of us were familiar with the first three chapters and would find it boring to go through them again. Most of the class had been participating in various competitions in middle school and had become familiar with a large part of the high school syllabus already. Furthermore, they had also grown to know each other from those years of competitions together. And here I was, someone who didn’t know anything or anyone, surrounded by people who knew more to begin with, who were much smarter, and who worked just as hard as I did. What chance did I have?

During that year, I tried very hard to catch up: I gave up everything else and even moved somewhere close to the school to save time on the commute, but to no avail. Over time, going to school and competing while knowing I was sure to lose became torture. Yet I had to do it every day. At the end-of-year exam, I scored second from the bottom of the class—the same place where I began in first grade. But this time it was much harder to accept, after the glory I had enjoyed just one year earlier and the huge amount of effort I had put into studying this year. Finally, I threw in the towel, and asked my parents to send me abroad. Anywhere else on this earth would surely be better.

So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles. …

Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to achieve. We should simply acknowledge the result and move on. Maybe this is the key to a happy life.

On the other hand, it seems odd that this should be the principal lesson of a Western education. In Communist China, I was taught that hard work would bring success. In the land of the American dream, I learned that success comes through good luck, the right slogans, and monitoring your own—and others’—emotions.

RTWT

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