In this video I talk about my conversations with top Taiwanese and Chinese entrepreneurs and my own tentative conclusions. I describe paradoxes presented by the Taiwan/China situation. One for example is that presently many more people migrate from Taiwan to China, that is from democratic to undemocratic, than the other way around. Another paradox is that after talking to many people in Taiwan and China I have come to the conclusion that China should be feared more for its desire to be like America rather than its alleged desire to antagonize America. Many in the West are concerned that China will become a military power that will eventually clash with the United States. I used to think that as well. But after my conversations with different business leaders in the region I have changed my mind. I believe that it is unlikely that China will seek military confrontation and instead what worries me is not only China does not hate America but the opposite is true. The Chinese love America and especially the American way of life and that is a threat to the planet. China likes America so much that it is copying the American model. Unfortunately it is not copying what is good about America, democracy, but it´s copying what is bad about America, its unsustainable developmental model. By copying America´s developmental model China is making the planet already shaking from America´s incredibly high pollution per person, even less sustainable. To me the greatest risk about China has little to do with business, little to do with politics, even less to do with geopolitics and a lot to do with the environment. As Al Gore frequently argues America´s disregard for the environment is already creating the world greatest threat to our survival. Now that China has chosen to develop along the American model the damage created by these two powers combine will greatly accelerate the problems that European and Japanese among others are trying to manage.

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nikolaj on April 7, 2007  · 

yes, one US is enough, and sometimes more than enough

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M on April 7, 2007  · 

Interesting talk and very true Martin. See also
China Systematically Developing New Technologies. “They appear to be giving themselves a breathing space, telling the world they are interested in cooperation and also giving themselves a major target, in much the same way as John F Kennedy did for the USA.”

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Wei on April 8, 2007  · 

I find no surprise in the million plus Taiwanese living in mainland China. If you do a little more research, you will realize that the Taiwanese who moved to China are not the restaurant waiters or janitors; they are businessmen and most of them quite prosperous. It is much easier for business people to deal with dictators and corrupt officials than democratic and participatory systems…no wonder why so many American businesses moved to Indonesia during the corrupt and authoritarian Suharto regime or to Pinochet’s Chile. The difference in a country’s GDP does not necessarily explain trends in international migration just for example, it cannot explain why a steady stream of poor Tibetans want to leave more prosperous Chinese side into poorer Nepal and India.

BTW, you are right…the world does not need another United States. But there are important differences between the US and China…and when I say US or China. China (its government) is the worst offender in thwarting non-governmental citizen action not just in their own country but also internationally. Chinese government has in recent years been a savior for many of the world’s worst despots – from Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to Sudan’s Al Bashir. Wouldnt quite count Nepal’s king in the
same category but China supported him too by supplying him arms and ammunitions during his short spell as the dictator. It has had the same effect as the CIA supporting corrupt regimes in Latin America and middle east and south east asia during the cold war. What is interesting is that the most vocal non-governmental critics of the US imperialism are also based in the US. I do not think China will ever produce humanitarian grassroots organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc etc. – not until it starts sharing the same values of tolerance and respect for differences in opinion in their society.

To add to what you say is the greatest threat of China’s rise, I fear it will export (and may even glorify) a kind of American style prosperity but without a value-system that respects the rights of all beings on this planet.

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Jordi on April 8, 2007  · 

I cannot agree more on the similarities that you see between China government policies and those by the USA. One that I would add to the list is the government efforts to control the media to avoid real crisis, because crisis only become real when people believe there is a crisis, and convincing people that prosperity and freedom is all they can expect is the best remedy for any type of crisis to trigger.

Regarding Taiwan migration to China, I agree with Wei, Taiwanese went and go to China for business and lately also for leisure, but leisure trips just happened in the recent years. Taiwanese in China go there to manage factories mostly owned or started by Taiwanese. One piece of information that shows that Taiwanese go there for business is that when a Taiwanese is sent to work to China his salary most of the time doubles and even with that great incentive Taiwanese companies find hard to move their skilled personnel to China. Thousands of Taiwanese have been offered by their companies to move to China with better conditions and that is something that is not happening for Cubans Americans to move to Cuba. Now a days only highly automated production lines or productions with sensitive intellectual property in its process or components are still manufactured in Taiwan due to labor cost difference with China. We have seen this happening since long ago in Japan where still the notebooks and cameras with new Japan developed technology from companies like Sony or Fujitsu are still manufactured in Japan, even labor cost is much expensive.

Regarding China migration being restrictive by Taiwan “because of spying”, that is a pretty old story, now that is the reason no more. As you mention on the video, the MAIN reason is economical, a prove for this is that now here in Taiwan many men are getting married to Chinese wife and they can get their residential permits into Taiwan pretty easily at their local governments without checking to much if she is a spy or not.

The affirmation that Taiwan had the chance to be independent is only part of the true story. The Taiwanese at that time did not exactly vote on a “referendum” or anything similar whether they wanted to be independent or not… I don’t want to give just an opinion here so I prefer to let an independent source (hard to find…) explain what happened after 1950 when Chan Kai-shek took the Republic of China Presidency. Here our friends from Wikipedia will help:

And my last comment refers to Taiwanese democracy. Even both pro-KMT and pro-DPP parties are not happy with how the politics are evolving lately, it is a reality that democracy in Taiwan is getting mature, things that were unthinkable just 20 or even 10 years ago, now are happening, like freedom of speech. We in Spain also needed several years to see our Democracy get mature.

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Martin Varsavsky on April 8, 2007  · 


Let me clarify something. I think there are a lot of great things about the US, but China is copying what´s wrong with the US and that is a development model that does not scale up for humanity as a whole

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Francesco on April 8, 2007  · 

Martin, I totally agree. Everyone visiting China could immediately realize that China is today an iper-capitalistic country, with an awesome (and ecologically and socially scaring) freedom for business. No socialist features appear in this society model, as one should expect from a country that still declares itself communist.

However, it is in my opinion impossible to disconnect the building of a socially and ecologically-oriented society from the rise of civic and political liberties. I don’t see how the Chinese Communist party could start adopting social and ecological measures without a clear pressure from the Chinese public opinion. At the end, who can systematically argue on the building of a new dam or the respect of pollution rules in mainland China? Who can teach to 1,3 billion Chinese that they should start adopting differentiated collecting of rubbish or limit the use of their cars? Western countries are just starting doing after 200 hundreds of industrial revolution .Very few countries, US the least, have the moral authority to stand-up.

That’s why I don’t see China adopting, let’s say, a Swedish model, at least until the GDP per capita will grow to 10-15k US$. That’s a very long way to go.

Am I wrong? I hope so, because if not, the future of the current Earth ecosystem has very little chances to survive during the next 100 years.


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Boyd R. Jones on April 9, 2007  · 

As an American having spent the last 16 years in Taiwan and China, I feel China is much more capitalist than the US or Taiwan. Unions are powerless. Total freedom of business. No real regulations or regulations very easy to skirt.

Some other comments:

Taiwanese aren’t moving to China — just setting up business there. Their roots are back in Taiwan. Perhaps the Cubans in Miami will eventually invest in Cuba when and if things open up there>?

Taiwan’s social welfare isn’t that great as compared to Europe. Much, much less — but a great universal health care system (unlike the USA).

You are confusing Chiang Kai-shek — who came from the Mainland — with the local Taiwanese (the Basques?) who want independence. Chiang was a Pinochet from the Mainland lording over the Taiwanese.

Actually, lots of de facto civil liberties today in Mainland China. Far fewer CCTV cameras than the US or the UK. Lots of freedom of speech in private company, etc.

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Jonathan Chau on April 9, 2007  · 

I am just wondering that are u lving in the belchers when u are in Hong Kong. How far can the wifi signal reach?

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Fang on April 9, 2007  · 

“You are confusing Chiang Kai-shek — who came from the Mainland — with the local Taiwanese (the Basques?) who want independence. Chiang was a Pinochet from the Mainland lording over the Taiwanese.”

Well said, Boyd. This is an important distinction that not many foreigners do not understand about Taiwan – the distinction between Chiang Kai Shek’s army and their descendants versus the local Taiwanese.

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pepecristiano on April 10, 2007  · 

But a little detail seems to have been overlooked in your post, China is a dictatorship that rules fiercely over the people. The truly face of this regime showed up in Tiananmeng, dont let us be fooled into thinking China is getting better, as soon as they have enough technology and militar supplies to face the nowadays undoubtely leadership of USA, the chances to get involved in a war will be more likely.

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Federico el Sueco on April 12, 2007  · 

Why don’t you ask Al Gore why he did not work to make the US to sign Kyoto when he was Vice P?? His scare scenario today is just that.

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xiang on June 12, 2008  · 

Fear China stupid coward American haha

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