Today, Jonathan Watts of the Guardian filed his last article from Beijing entitled, “China: Witnessing the birth of a superpower.” While I will sorely miss his reporting, his lengthy 4,000 word post neatly encapsulates the decade long rule of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao who came to power just months before Jonathan’s arrival. It is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but I created this handy chronological cheat sheet to the pieces linked to in it (his article cleverly clumps them by topics).
- John Gittings: Goodbye to China
- Nervous Beijing orders TV blackout as Chinese astronauts reach for the stars
- After the flood
- A bloody revolt in a tiny village challenges the rulers of China
- China in denial over foot and mouth cull
- Avian flu casts shadow over beauty of China’s bird lake
- The railway across the roof of the world
- The new China: A hunger eating up the world
- Harbin’s poor left out in the cold as city runs dry
- Interview: Robin Li, founder of Baidu.com
- China overtakes UK with Japan and Germany in its sights (GDP)
- The megalopolis you’ve never heard of (Chongqing)
- Concrete paves peasants’ long road from poverty
- The thoughts of chairman Ma
- The savannah comes to Beijing as China hosts its new empire
- On the trail of the Yangtze’s lost dolphin
- Reports of China’s ‘satellite killer’ meet wall of silence
- Going under (Morecambe bay cockle pickers tragedy)
- Behind the Great Firewall
- Seven days not in Tibet
- Light fades for victims in town hit by apocalypse
- Faces in a billion
- Countdown to Beijing 2008
- Thirst of the cities drives giant drills to water China’s parched north
- Old suspicions magnified mistrust into ethnic riots in Urumqi
- China closes Yeeyan website that translated Guardian articles
- China’s ‘cancer villages’ reveal dark side of economic boom
- China overtakes US as world’s biggest energy consumer
- Australian Greens: ‘We don’t want to be just a coal mine for China’
- Chinese jet fighter ‘sighting’ raises fears over region’s military power balance
- China warns of ‘urgent problems’ facing Three Gorges dam
- China admits ‘secret’ aircraft carrier is nearly ready for launch
- China told to reduce food production or face ‘dire’ water levels
- China’s love affair with the car shuns green vehicles
- Gobi mega-mine puts Mongolia on the brink of the world’s greatest resource boom
- Air pollution could become China’s biggest health threat, expert warns
- Chen Guangcheng’s nephew charged with voluntary manslaughter
After reading his article, one gets the feeling that China’s political system is speeding toward a cliff, but nobody is really sure how far away that cliff is. This however implies that the car (or Party) is humming along without problems, and that the certain doom that lies ahead will either be a complete wreck or a near miss.
However looking at the last decade I think China’s system is a bit more like the car I had in high school. From a brief first impression, it looked pretty nice; if you drove it once or twice, you might notice a few small nicks and dings but would still find it pretty great; but once you spent a decent amount of time in it you started to wonder how the whole thing even held together. Every trip could be the last one the car took, or a new timing belt might keep things together for another 5,000 miles. It was really impossible to know.
For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating the question “Will Xi Jinping be the last ten year leader appointed in the current fashion?” I’ve been thinking the answer is yes, but that the change may be very small. After reading Watts’ article though, I was reminded that how China looks today with all its problems, challenges and achievements, isn’t so terribly different from how it has looked in the past decade, and that perhaps all the Party needs to stay in power is a new timing belt.
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Thank you for the handy chronological cheat sheet, Tom. Plenty of good reading there. I love Jonathan Watts’ writing, especially his book “When a Billion Chinese Jump”.