What Helps – or Hurts – Development?

There is a good book that I would recommend to anyone who believes China or the Western world is better than the rest of the world: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. The author explains why China and the Mediterranean developped faster and better than Africa, America and Oceania, (and then why China stopped evolving at some point of their history). It’s all just a matter of geography and biology. We’re all humans and we would be in the same situation than the people we criticize if we were citizen of their country.

This is how Alex, a Canadian blogger in China, roughly sees the reasons accelerations and slowdowns in regional development. He recommends Jared Diamond‘s Guns, Germs and Steel as a more comprehensive explanation.

It’s an unusually scientific discussion on MyLaowai‘s otherwise refreshingly unscientific blog – and it still can’t replace reading Diamond’s and other authors’ works, of course.

But for a start, a – curt and critical – appraisal of one of Diamond’s lectures, of February 2003.

I suggest that for the sake of consistency, everyone interested should discuss the issue there, rather than here. Everything in the thread before Alex’ comment is as entertaining as usual, but probably beside the development issue.

2 Comments to “What Helps – or Hurts – Development?”

  1. Hey, thanks for the link! 🙂

    I just got tired of supremacists, Chinese or otherwise, who believe their country is the best and constantly brag about it.

    Diamond’s book is more about prehistory. Using biology and geography as arguments, he tries to explain why certain peoples got a head start to enter “History”. But then, I will agree with you that politics shape most of history, decisions that are made at a high level, and accepted by the people are what make a society “better” or more modern than other societies.

    But another point that I would like to make is that if you and me were Chinese, would we really be different or would we rather follow the mass? The CCP is very strong and those who oppose it get imprisonned or beaten late at night.

    Also, most Chinese are struggling to make a better living, so they can hopefully avoid selling cheap bags or fake cigarettes on the street. So a country with millions of people trying to “get rich or die trying” makes this society a living hell.

    One of the comments I really liked from 0112337 is when he said “Kindness is a luxury of the rich, a result of excess resources and social stability”. In the West, most of us don’t need to act like dicks to have a good life. We can be kind, and society will reward us in some way… but in China, if you’re kind, you’re weak… if you’re weak, you are eliminated. Thus the living hell.


  2. The spam filter used to be more reliable – at least two spams have come through since yesterday, and then it caught your comment.

    thanks for the link
    yw 😉

    Kindness is a luxury of the rich, a result of excess resources and social stability

    I travelled a bit beyond China – not extensively, but just enough to meet rich and poor people, and some sort of “middle class”, whatever exactly the definition of that may be. That, and Chinese people from different class backgrounds, make me believe that kindness is no luxury at all. In fact, it can work in very different places and circumstances.

    I believe it is too easy a license to be an asshole, to suggest that it is the fault of the government, the elite, or foreign aggressors. In that discipline, China in general is standing out in my view.
    Certainly – with no role models in your personal life to the contrary, kindness is an unlikely attribute. But if it was my country or my life, I’m hopeful that I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. If that rule really applied, this would be a much more ugly world than what it is.

    I’m not suggesting that everyone should be a Gao Zhisheng, for example, or that a cigarette vendor should give half of his poor income to the monks. But we should all go as far as our courage, judgment, and situations allow, no matter where we live. That’s neither merely “Chinese”, nor merely “Western”, “African”, or “Asian”. This is what has made sure so far that the world is still a fairly decent place, or one that is still trying hard to become one.


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