Ashgabat, 18 July 2013 (nCa) — On one end is President Xi Jinping with his superstar wife and on the other end is a teenager, Ding Jihao. Between them, China is inevitable.
We will miss the point if we start debating whether 7.5% growth rate in GDP is too much or too little for China, whether the Chinese economy will overheat of freeze. We will be off the mark if we get mesmerized by the fact that within the next four years China would be the Number 1 economy in the world. We will be wandering into a blind alley if our focus is on the increasing defence budget of China.
China is where it is today because of the people of China.
If the Chinese society continues to churn out the kind of people who propelled it to the top, the country can stay the course.
The tail end of the generation Y and the main bulk of generation Z (people under 25) are the ones who would shoulder the burden of maintaining the momentum.
Are they ready?
A little bit of the answer comes from Ding Jihao, who was just 15 when he visited Egypt a few months ago along with a group of tourists including his parents. The group visited many historical sites including the temple at Luxor that is 3500 years old. The boy scrawled on the temple wall ‘Ding Jihao was here.’
A few weeks later, another group of Chinese tourists visited the Luxor temple and noticed the graffiti on the wall. They photographed it and on return it to China they took to the social media to trace out Ding Jihao.
In a few days, with the active support of the net community, they found that Ding Jihao was from Nanjing in east China’s Jinangsu Province.
The parents of Ding Jihao joined the thread and issued unconditional apology to the people of Egypt and China: to the people of Egypt because their son had defaced a great treasure of Egypt and to the people of China because the act of a boy had caused shame to the entire Chinese nation.
The boy also apologized and asked for a chance to correct his mistake.
Why does this incident suggest that China will maintain its position at the top for the foreseeable future?
Here is why.
- Ding Jihao is from the generation Z, also called the entitled generation.
- Had he been from some other country, there were chances that his parents would have risen in defence of their son and sued those who traced him out on the grounds of privacy and harassment.
- Supporting and opposing groups would have started Internet debate on the rights of the boy instead of the importance of Luxor temple.
- With the concept of personal freedom as it is today, no one would have connected the defacing of Luxor temple with the shame of a whole nation. At best, it would have been dismissed as a thoughtless act by one individual.
- Lawyers would have proposed suits to compensate the boy for the mental stress and psychological damage caused by exposure and embarrassment.
The unconditional apology by the boy and his parents, the promise to correct the damage, is what sets the Chinese apart from many other people. It shows the national cohesion and the sense of collective responsibility that are so essential for driving a nation to the top and keeping it there.
The sense of collective responsibility is the sum total of the sense of responsibility of each individual in a nation. If every individual has a profound sense of responsibility, it automatically adds up to a towering sense of collective responsibility.
And, it goes without reminding that discipline, commitment to duty and fairness are just some of the elements of the sense of responsibility.
If the sense of responsibility is there, it manifests itself in every situation. Let’s look at two examples that contrast each other.
Lee was just 19 when he came to Kyrgyzstan on a 3-year contract for a Chinese company. He met a local girl who was working at the same site. They fell in love. Both understood that at best it can be a temporary liaison because he must leave on completion of the contract. However, with the recklessness of the youth, their union resulted in the birth of a daughter.
No matter how he tried, Lee could not find a way to stay more in Kyrgyzstan. He went back but he sends about $ 90 every month for the expenses of his daughter. They keep in touch by an Internet service similar to Skype. He is working on several options to return to Kyrgyzstan.
On the other hand, S was a senior western diplomat when he got stationed in Central Asia. A particularly attractive female in his staff caught his eye and he promised undying love for her and rented an apartment for her. A girl was born. From his sweet words, the female was under the impression that at some stage they will get married and she will accompany him wherever he goes.
The intrepid S, on completion of his tenure, returned to his home country and made sure that the embassy of his country will never issue a visa to the mother of his child.
The individual sense of responsibility is not restricted to the situations of love. It is either there or not there, and it acts as one’s internal compass.
Two contrasting examples can elucidate this point.
A Chinese businessman was driving between two cities in a Central Asian country. His speed was about 85 km, just below the highway speed limit on that area. A stray sheep ran across the road and got hit by his SUV. No one was in sight. He could have just driven on, leaving the dead sheep on the roadside. Instead, he put the sheep in the trunk and drove to the nearest village, searching for the owner. When he found the owner, he apologized for the accident and offered to compensate for the loss. This being Central Asia, the owner accepted the apology but no compensation. They had a meal together and departed as friends.
The other example is that of an executive of a big oil company. This one was also driving an SUV, bigger than that of the Chinese businessman. He visited an open air market in one of the Central Asian countries where he wanted to buy some souvenirs. As we know, many of the vendors in such open air markets display their wares on pieces of mat on the ground. In cutting a corner rather tight, he drove over some bolts of silk and velvet an old woman was selling.
Instead of sympathizing with the woman and offering any kind of compensation, the important executive became angry. The policeman who was nearby, asked the man to pay something to the woman but he started shouting and said that he will call his embassy. A small crowd gathered. The man remained adamant and kept threatening to turn it into a kind of diplomatic incident. Finally, someone in the crowd suggested that let him go, he is a Mehman (Guest), and the people there collected some money among themselves to make up for the loss of the woman.
A casual, macro look at the history shows that every nation on the rise shows the kinds of traits that we see in the Chinese today and every nation on its way down demonstrates the sort of behaviour shown here in the contrasting examples.
China is here and now.