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Letters: Optimism in China, but at What Price?

November 26, 2009

The New York Times
November 23, 2009

To the Editor:

Re: "The Nation of Futurity" (column, Nov. 17) [ed.: see below]

While David Brooks rhapsodizes about the
productivity and optimism of contemporary China,
he does not mention some very ugly blemishes. For
the whole of their remarkably long history, the
people of China have proved themselves willing to
live under repressive regimes that have no patience for dissent.

The emperors, ideologues and technocrats who have
ruled China have been superficially very
different. The cowed obedience they demand of the
general population has been, and remains, sadly the same.

And while the economic transformation that has
taken place in the last generation is impressive,
it has come at a high cost. Much of the Chinese
landscape is now poisoned by levels of pollution
found in few other places in the world.

And China’s behavior toward other countries and
cultures can be described as brutally pragmatic
at best. Its systematic disemboweling of the
indigenous culture of Tibet, which included mass
murder and the destruction of thousands of unique
monasteries, is the most extreme and contemptible example of this.

So, yes, China makes a lot of things and has
become much wealthier. But in the grand scheme of
things, this doesn’t impress me as much as it does Mr. Brooks.

David Hayden
Wilton, Conn., Nov. 17, 2009

* * *

To the Editor:

David Brooks states that "the anxiety in America
is caused by the vague sense that they [the
Chinese] have what we’re supposed to have.” I disagree completely.

I think our national anxiety is based on our
experience that no matter how hard we work or how
well we adhere to the rules, the rich will always
get richer and the rest of us will struggle. Our
national policies provide no relief for the
middle class, encourage the shipping of
manufacturing jobs overseas and support the
profit-making requirements of our health care system and Wall Street.

The worst of it is that it doesn’t seem to matter
who holds the majority in Washington. Money talks and the rest of us walk.

It’s no surprise that the majority of Americans
aren’t so optimistic about the future. We’re too
broke, unemployed, uninsured and foreclosed on to maintain that sunny outlook.

Kinnan O’Connell
Larchmont, N.Y., Nov. 17, 2009
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