HAPPY NEW YEAR readers of the Decode Blog!
It’s been four weeks already since some of us Decoders have joined a convoy to travel to Beijing, China. One of our main purposes is of course to know what is happening to China and why/how the Asian Century is unfolding.
For those who are not well acquainted with the term “Asian Century,” it has been coined by the meeting of Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping, leaders of China and India in the 70s, predicting that in the 21st century, the world will be dominated not by the West (U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe) but by China and India, two Asian countries with the largest populations on earth.
Of course, we Filipinos predictably have no idea of this phenomenon that is NOW sweeping the globe. Droves of Filipinos young and old are still dreaming of going out of the country to go to America to achieve that so-called “American Dream.” But here’s the thing: global power has now shifted from the West to the East, says Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, of the National University of Singapore. And true enough when we went to Beijing, we were shocked at what we saw.
2008 is really a turning point of Asia because of two pivotal events: (1) the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Opening which shook the world as China ushered in the most expensive of all the openings of Olympics in the entire Olympic history. It was awe-inspiring as each segment of the presentation showed the world that China is a civilization that the West has to face in this century. (2) It’s of course the current global economic crisis that began in Wall Street and is now rocking the boat for all countries who heavily depended on the West.
When three of us Decoders went to Beijing, what we saw was utterly shocking. We didn’t find a Communist country, much less a people deprived of basic human rights. We did not find people wanting to leave China. What we found were streets bustling with fashionable people buying Louis Vuitton and Versace, young people in bicycles smiling and carrying books, streets so wide and so long that you couldn’t even see the end of it, buildings so tall with large LCD screens on their outer facades, in short the pervasive feeling in the air was tremendous optimism for the future.
We were fortunate to have a knowledgeable and passionate tour guide with us, Ms. Lily, who toured us all over Beijing. The first three days (beginning December 8) were about China. We visited the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Ming Dynasty Tombs, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall. The second three days, we visited the humongous Dragon Airport—the largest airport terminal in the world, the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the Water Cube (National Aquatics Center), the Egg (National Opera House), and the sophisticated and large Capital Museum.
We thought China would be so affected by the economic crisis. We asked the tour guide if this was so. “No,” she said. “A small fraction of our businesses have closed down, but the main ones are still booming.” Then she went on to say, “Did you know, there are 6,000 new cars in our streets every day.” Wow.
I won’t tell you about their structures because I sure know that you guys must have read those facts somewhere. But here’s what I discovered, China is China because they did not forget who they were. One part of Tian’enmen Square was the Legation Quarter, where the tour guide said the “No Dogs and Chinese allowed” sign used to be displayed there for all the world to see. I saw how they did not forget their past, and how their optimism and pride are not founded on sheer pride alone, but on their 5000 years of history and that Asian-ness—their love for their country and their culture, that time and time again they have proven to the world that we Asians are not barbarians and primitives, we had a civilization and we can rebuild one. (Think of Zheng He predating Columbus!)
Now I discovered why they can build structures like the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube. It’s like a small effort compared to the structures of their past like the Great Wall—built on mountains covered by clouds.
While we were on the bus that Thursday, one of the people in the group we were with asked, “Do you think China will be the next superpower?”
How the tour guide replied to that question shocked us.
“No, no, no. We are not a superpower. We don’t want to be one. We want China to be strong, yes, but we don’t want to have the ultimate global power. You saw the sites we’ve visited? We always have walls in our history and culture. Walls on the Forbidden City. Walls on our cities. The Great Wall. We want China to be strong, but not as the West wants itself to be strong—like colonizing other nations. We have this philosophy—the water from the well never bothers the water from the river.”
Wow. That’s Confucius right there! That is why the West can never understand the East. The West thinks that China is here to take power from them. While the West is typically individualistic in that sense, they can never understand how we Easterners value ‘community’.
They say that real traveling is not using your legs to see new places, but looking for the secrets of a certain place with the eyes of one’s heart. I can only imagine what Marco Polo had glimpsed when he saw China in all its grandeur.
What China has taught us is a lesson that we Filipinos should never ever forget—Love of Country. And I can say this confidently, the Chinese loved their country even when 20 years ago it was the basketcase of the world. And now that China is on the rise, we Decoders are confident that as we love the Philippines—by pursuing excellence in our endeavors, we shall see it rise one day, beginning with us.
And no doubt, China will lead this century, despite the West’s denial that its time is over, because “big” is never “big” in a Chinese’s eyes unless he does it himself.
2008 is indeed a pivotal moment. We were privileged to see China as it is now.
The Asian Century is indeed here!
PS: Watch “China Rising” segments on Discovery Channel, and while you’re at it, try visiting the Asian Century Museum at 3rd Floor of Crossroad 77 Convention Center, at Mo. Ignacia, Quezon City which reopens on January 4th, 2009.
Just a quick note.
I recently had a conversation with geeks and shall i say that geeks are really funny. Picture your self editing a word document with three others all at the same time in separate computers. Thanks to Google Docs you can actually do that. If an entire line gets deleted, it’s just too funny to trace who did it. I had the most hilarious time. Forget the paper trail and the “track changes” function of Word and edit while you laugh! There is this theory by one decoder that 10,000 BC was written using google docs with several people simultaneously editing!
Geeks also like talking about why they disagree! isn’t that funny? Conversation is always interesting. If i were a geek, i’d come up with a hotline and this would be my tagline. “If your day is dull, just dial G-E-E-K and you’ll laugh your blues away.”
The pursuit of having a bilateral, pearly set of teeth crept into my consciousness even before I knew my multiplication table. I had been a big fan of cute American girls beaming an expansive smile revealing a bracketed set of 20++ perfectly aligned teeth. I would’ve traded my Barbie dolls for braces laced with fluorescent pink elastics from end to end. Little did I know that it would be a very long wait before I could experience the sheer bliss of running my tongue over the sharp corners of cemented brackets.
So, I waited…
My panoramic jaw x-ray showed that the size of my jaws could not contain all the big chunks of second molars that were erupting into my mouth. I suppose the impacted molars were trapped somewhere inside my gums. I did not understand any of this. The next thing I knew was I was being swung down a dental chair and tada!–my initiation to the wonderful world of conscious sedation had begun.
I can still vividly recall the bitter-sweet aftermath of each of the 13 impacted teeth (of all sorts) that was extracted from my premature jaws—the tingly sensation on my gums that once held a healthy tooth, the blood blotted pillows, the oversized protrusion in my cheek that is a cotton ball cushion, and, best of all, an unbeatable diet of pure decadence: ice cream (of all sorts) that can be prolonged (with a bit of acting skills) for three days.
13 teeth less after… still, I waited…
I was appointed to go back to the clinic. After days of blissful anticipation, I readied myself and proceeded in my favorite floral dress. To my dismay, not a bracket was cemented on my teeth. I knew that the procedure usually takes two hours; mine was less than a fraction of a minute. My kind dentist simply handed me a tiny silver key and a plastic case of some sort. The content was a grave nightmare, a merciless modern-day torture item—an Expansion.
I cried every time my dad would pop the key in my expansion, expanding the mouthpiece a tenth of a millimeter each time. My suffering brought much hope to my kind dentist as she saw incremental improvement on my teeth that only a dentist could see. Soon, I got used to my slime green colored mouthpiece-companion. This lasted for almost a year, until it was accidentally thrown into a garbage chute.
I waited, still…
Five years later, my much-awaited desire was fulfilled. My teeth were lined with braces. Though a bit substandard, I thought they were dazzling.
Two years after, I severely dislocated my lower jaw. Good-bye braces, hello splint.
Again, I waited…
A special kind of braces was cemented on my teeth, not porcelain but state-of-the-art—better than those on the cute American girls.
Now that waiting is over and my braces are gone, looking back makes me think that maybe having a teeth phobia of some sort would have added sheer thrill to this article.
~FEARLESS IN PINK
Hello guys. i recently started reading the classics again. and it was a pleasant experience, revisiting the reasons why i adored the classics while growing up. reading iliad for example brought me back to the kind of poignant heroism of achilles. truth be told, i find it hard to watch Troy again. it’s one of those unrepeatables, all because of the PAIN that the viewer must face too in processing the choices that the heroes faced. hector was the ideal but was doomed to stand up for an ill-decision not of his own making. achilles craved for glory but could only gain it through a tragic death and in it, find his humanity. if you go further down the line of the great writings of the greeks, you’ll discover the tragedies and commentaries that answer what makes civilization? now jump a bit to another hemisphere and you find the russians tolstoy and dostoevsky who were decidedly un-western. read further and you discover what tolstoy has in common with augustine and rousseau! they all wrote confessions! augustine wrote his The Confessions while rousseau wrote his Confession and tolstoy wrote A Confession. as to the content… most insteresting is rousseau’s because he is TOTALLY RIDICULOUS. how’s that for an enlightenment thinker! enlightenment in his context is an absolute misnomer. now you will not be surprised why the french revolution was the way it was.
Pain relievers were not usually an option for me as I have always been scared of becoming addicted to them. I believe that the best meds in the world are laughter and sleep, which is why I do those two things a lot. But there comes a time when, at your wits end, you take on the Popeye the Sailor character, you mutter to yourself, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” and you resort to gulping down not a can of spinach but a 500 mg tablet of mefenamic acid. This is exactly what I did in response to the torment of inflamed gums, and may I just say that the result so astounded me, I just had to find out how exactly this powerful pill airbrushes away your pain, albeit temporarily. I decided to take a personal refresher course on sophomore high school Biology, minus the pressures of oral exams. Here are my study notes, do correct me if I have misunderstood some things:
Pain is a physiological effect of the synthesis of prostaglandins, which is produced when white blood cells flood towards a damaged tissue to try and minimize the destruction. In other words, pain is an indication that your body is trying to repair itself. Also involved in the production of prostaglandins is a substance in the body called cyclooxygenase or COX. Mefenamic acid works by blocking the action of cyclooxygenase, and, in effect, inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandins. Results? Voila, pain and even fever is relieved! At least for the next four to six hours. I have never been a the best in Bio but learning about the human body again, Hamlet’s words are ringing in my ears, “What a piece of work is a man…” Is that cool or what?
~ r0b!n go0dfell0w
After my long stay in Malaysia, a Malaysian friend of mine said “My girlfriend told me I’m fat already. It’s because I met this Filipino guy who I always bring to where the good food is.” Hospitality can really cost us new sets of clothes. I felt a bit guilty, so I tried to come up with fast solutions. If David Copperfield can make the statue of liberty disappear and David Blane can levitate on the air, there must be a way to make a fat person thin right?
Luckily I remembered the Ebbinghaus illusion. It is a type of optical illusion where the perceived size of an object is biased to grow or to shrink by the relative size of other objects surrounding it. The diagram below can better give you an idea of what I mean.
Just replace the circles with actual people and the magic is revealed. Using that logic, I told him, not to worry. I said “next time you see your girlfriend just be sure, you bring your fatter friends with you”. But the plan backfired as he ended up saying “maybe I’ll bring you next time”.