[photopress:MBA_Joseph_Esherick.jpg,full,alignright]China is into its second decade of double-digit economic expansion. The standard of living for Chinese people is expected to increase ‘100 fold’ in a lifetime.
‘It’s unprecedented in world history.’
Stirring words from Joseph Esherick is an authority on modern Chinese history and author of several books. He has a doctorate degree in history, is a professor of history at the University of California at San Diego. He was the second speaker for the Performing Arts and Presidential Speaker Series. The theme of this year’s series is ‘Lessons from History.’
For two hours he talked of China’s modern history. Of Zou Rong, a young revolutionary who lived from 1885-1905. How in 1903, his pamphlet ‘The Revolutionary Army’ was as influential in China as Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ was to the American Revolution.
Josph Esherick’s wife is from Beijing, but when she goes back, she hardly recognizes the old city.
He said, ‘The old Beijing is gone.’ In its place is a new Beijing, bright and shiny with plenty of skyscrapers and freeways. Like most of China, it is undergoing massive change.
He said China is thriving because of a variety of factors. The Chinese culture, with its Confucian belief system that values elders and education, was one reason. China’s advanced political system was another reason.
The Chinese Communist revolution under Mao Zedong was another reason, although to credit a revolution where 20-30 million died is a problem.
He said, ‘Defending Mao is like defending Hitler. But I do believe historical integrity forces us to look at the revolution, its failures and successes.’
Chinese nationalism is another reason. From acquiring the atomic bomb, to playing host to the Olympics to sending satellites into space, Chinese nationalism is apparent.
Other things that were influential in China’s rise as a world power include its willingness to invest in infrastructure and most of all, the willingness of parents to sacrifice so their children will have a better life.
Esherick was asked about the status of higher education in China. He said it was in excellent condition, with university professors earning a middle class income.
Universities have substantial research and travel budgets.