“My World View Expands

The older I get the more I realize how much there is that I don’t know. My education was, like most American children of the 1950’s, focused on the United States with occasional reference to Europe. We had to memorize world maps, but didn’t spend time learning about countries other than our own. My knowledge about China never got much deeper as I grew and continued to focus on Western history and Western literature.

My husband reads The Economist each week and suggested I look at their list of interesting books published in 2021. I was confronted with the opportunity to learn about many issues and places I was fairly ignorant about. I chose to read Invisible China largely because of its subtitle How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise. In my corner of the world China appears as a single thriving country threatening at any point to be the ascendant power in the world. I am stereotypically ignorant, I admit.

Written by a group of researchers who have studied rural China for decades, the book clearly describes serious problems there from poor education to poor health. They maintain that the vast, mainly rural, work force able to build infrastructure and man factories is unprepared for the work ahead as the structures are completed and factories move out of China to places such as Viet Nam. In addition the great disparity between men and women produces a challenge as large numbers of men become unemployed without purpose or family.

I knew so little about China that I didn’t realize that at birth a child is designated either rural or urban, a label that follows him throughout his life with serious implications for education. As urban kids are outpacing the world in science scores, rural kids are often suffering with health challenges, poorly educated teachers and low expectations. According to the book, 2/3 of the children in China are rural.

The book is fairly short, well documented and easy to read. If any of my readers are as clueless as I was about China I recommend it.

26 thoughts on ““My World View Expands

  1. How fascinating to learn about China. I read recently that China is about to have a steep drop in population, caused by its previous one child law and by preference of its people. I am a senior and like you I love to learn. I just read Taking Paris by Martin Dugard, about the Allied liberation of Paris.

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  2. Interesting, but with a population of hundreds of millions of people, even 1/3rd of the population being well educated would seem to be a potent force for continued world technological, economic and military might, despite the issues it faces. Time will tell.

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  3. I have been to Beijing, and the surrounding area. You don’t have to drive very far out of the populous capital, with its high rise blocks and smart hotels, before you find rural China almost on the doorstep of the city. The sheer size of the country and its etnic diversity is always going to make it difficult to manage. But so far, they have certainly done a good job of progressing in technology in those regions designated for that purpose.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I think the most recent in the series was 56Up. It’s been fascinating to watch these lives unfolding. Although many may have been impacted by the circumstances into which they were born (just as in America I’m sure) no one is formally assigned a label. The book you’ve read sounds fascinating.

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  4. The nature of knowing is that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Or as a guitar teacher once told me in one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard: “It takes you ten years to realise how crap you are.”

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  5. It sounds very interesting. In Canada, it may not be government mandated but I definitely think our lives tend to be defined by where we were raised – rural vs urban. Not that I think those in rural Canada are necessarily worse off overall – Just different opportunities, lifestyle and values. (My Canadian education in the 60’s and 70’s was mostly based on USA history, literature, and the like. Go figure.)

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    1. And here I figured you were learning Canadian literature. I didn’t encounter it until later in life though much of it is excellent. Especially watching the truck blockade I am aware of the deep differences across Canada.

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  6. Really interesting… makes me wonder about Russia and Brazil too… (though I don’t think Brazil is about to become a world power). And also interesting to read other people’s comments!

    I grew up in the South of England. Moving north I discovered the history of the Border Reivers – 400 years of discontent amongst families such as Nixons, Armstrongs, Bells and Grahams. With the union of the crowns in the 1600s many moved away – the Clan Armstrong Tower and visitor centre just over the border from here into Scotland has a Neil Armstrong exhibition. I had no idea about any of that history until I was in my late 40s!

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    1. I dont think he mentions Brazil, but he has many cogent comments about Mexico. I have just learned that my ancestral Scots were Border Scots. More to be learned for sure.

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  7. Hi Elizabeth, I know about the vast and fairly uneducated and poor rural population of China and I also knew that the men vastly outnumbered the women. I didn’t know your classification followed you for life, making changes to social standing very difficult.

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