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Why China will Inherit the Earth

(For whatever that's worth).

Suppose you take your kids to a performance of Tchaikovsky's *Swan Lake* by cutting edge European or American performers, in the hopes of interesting them in "culture."

If you're lucky, you might encounter something like this:

...where the dancing is at least reasonably competent, and the "transgressive" element is limited to the cygnets being all male.

But if you take them to a performance of *Swan Lake* by the best Chinese performers...well (starting at the same place)...behold:

Well, sure, you say: the frogs are cute. But, I say: don't stop watching there. 'Cause if you do, you'll miss absolutely staggering things.

* * * * *

So have you seen it all the way through, now? And do you now see why China will inherit the Earth?

It's because the Chinese now have more respect - and more *creative* respect - for the great achievements of Western culture than do the cultural powers-that-be in the West itself. They are appropriating the best we have achieved, and enriching it with their own genius - while we can barely bring ourselves to celebrate the same achievements without agonizing, in the next breath, over this or that insensitivity to this or that aggrieved group.

The Chinese are not much given to agonizing over their insensitivity to aggrieved groups. And they are not ashamed of their past - even when they ought to be. But they know accomplishment when they see it. And that is why they (and not the meek) will inherit the Earth.

* * * * *

I fully expect to live to see the day when one is more likely to witness a great performance of *Tristan und Isolde* in Shanghai than in Bayreuth.

Comments (22)

"The Chinese are not much given to agonizing over their insensitivity to aggrieved groups.And they are not ashamed of their past - even when they ought to be. But they know accomplishment when they see it. And that is why they (and not the meek) will inherit the Earth."

Perhaps, our collective self-hate is so advanced that we are merely running out the clock, but this post also highlights some of China's defects. How do you explain the contradiction of appreciating the artistic achievements of other civilizations, while simultaneously trampling the other cultures and religions within her borders? And, isn't a healthy sense of guilt necessary for a society to make important self-corrections and undertake vital reforms? I'm not ready to declare China the winner yet.

the chinese are getting old before they are getting rich. people should remember that.

(this doesn't discount the importance of the Rise of China; just remember that she is greying very fast and her labor force population is going to peak within the next 10 years)

How do you explain the contradiction of appreciating the artistic achievements of other civilizations, while simultaneously trampling the other cultures and religions within her borders?

There's no contradiction--in their mind, some cultures are superior to others.

"There's no contradiction--in their mind, some cultures are superior to others."

Appropriation of works from other cultures is based on a deep-rooted respect. Furthermore, such a practice is likely to awaken a possibly subversive appreciation for those other cultures.

Far fetched. I suppose Europe will inherit a good portion as well--where else can you hear great German music sung with such respect? And when Cecilia Bertoli inherits her portion, she will abandon Chicago like a shack in a cucumber patch.

(But, what on earth does great performance have to do with Nietzsche?)

Cecilia Bartoli.

Razib makes an important point, as is his wont. There are all kinds of things that could derail the rise of China, and the greying of the population is probably first on the list. Another (related) problem will be the proliferation of unmarriageable young men in coming years.

Kevin - I don't think there's any obvious contradiction between appreciating the artistic achievements of *Western* civilization "while simultaneously trampling" the *Tibetans* (e.g.).

KW - ummm...

; )

Today, the great performers and directors of European classical music are European and predominantly play in Europe. They pay respect, and their respect is higher than ever before. I don't reckon they'll inherit the earth for all that.

Okay, I watched it all the way through. Why do I make a strong prediction that the whole thing wouldn't have been nearly as incredible with the group in the first clip?

Just amazing.

Whether they will inherit the earth is a different question. But they have a willingness to be the best at something worth doing. Which too many have lost, alas.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then appropriation could prove dangerous for the Chinese government. Admiration for the cultural achievements of the once Christian West will be hard to confine to the realm of artistic expression. It will lead some to explore the well-spring for such grandeur and the numbers of the growing Christian minority will continue to swell, as they have, despite strenuous government oppression. Seems like a contradiction to me, and one that I am happy exists.

Christianity poses an internal threat in the East, much as nihilism does here. Don't yield to the Sino collosus just yet.

Lydia - to tell you the truth, I just *really* wanted to post that video clip. And it fit into one of my favorite narratives (culturally confident East vs. culturally decadent West) - so I did.

I mean, when Odette goes on point, first on one shoulder, then on the other, and finally on the top of the poor guy's head...


Kevin - the growth of Christianity in China, and in Korea, is a remarkable phenomenon, about which I know much less than I should.

Steve - this article may be of interest;
200 million Chinese may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history.


Asians Put Foot In Racial Spoils Trough



As a Catholic, I think you are an idiot. We aren't called universal for the halibut... Do you honestly believe this ethnocentric babble that the West is the Best? Btw, your savior was a Jew... (gasp!)

Reminds me of the fable of the little old lady who found a frozen snake on the path and took it home, and warmed it by the fire, and it came to life and bit her. Why did you bite me she asked, after I saved you, and the snake replied, 'you knew I was a snake when you took me in'.

See things for what they are, not what they do.

The performent was not played by Chinese. Please look carefully on their faces, they are western guys, not Chineses.

Sorry, Steve, for the weird and stupid comments you are suddenly getting.

It occurred to me that you might be interested in this: My resident chess expert tells me that the Chinese are "coming on in force" in the chess world. While they are not heavily represented in the top 100 players in the world, that they are represented there _at all_ is an interesting development, as they came to the game, in a sense, late. Go used to take much of the corresponding talent in the Chinese world. And the Russians apparently neglected to put up their best players in a recent match with the Chinese and lost, which is pretty striking. Time was the U.S.S.R. could take on the world. It isn't the U.S.S.R. anymore, or course, which is part of the explanation, but the Chinese are also just getting very strong. The phenomenon is esp. noticeable in America at the scholastic (children's) level. Needless to say, there has been no similar movement of Westerners in Go!

He didn't think right, Luke. But it's a topic worth thinking about.

The Soviets knew their ballet and they knew their defectors. The Chinese, too. Li Cunxin--for whom George Bush Sr. intervened (www.licunxin.com).

Cunxin says,

After I had gone through this very disciplined, very detailed training for seven years at the Beijing Dance Academy, [it] gave me such technical security, the foundation to go on. But what I needed then was to allow myself to be free . . .

So once I discovered that freedom in my mind…after the defection I felt not just in my dancing, in my mind I was truly a free person. Only at that moment, [did] I truly start making that breakthrough and then I started really working in a quite different way – not just the technical side approach, but actually the artistic side, the music side of the approach."

In a fine film one may also observe Isaac Stern when he visited China in "From Mao to Mozart."

Eventually our conversation might turn to de Tocqueville who wrote of the arts in democratic societies:

It would be a waste of my readers' time and of my own to explain how the general moderate standard of wealth, the absence of superfluity, and the universal desire for comfort, with the constant efforts made by all to procure it, encourage a taste for the useful more than the love of beauty. Naturally, therefore, democratic peoples with all these characteristics cultivate those arts which help to make life comfortable rather than those which adorn it. They habitually put use before beauty, and they want beauty itself to be useful.

Substitute religion for art in the passage quoted above, and you have a good idea why American Christianity is rife with; ugly and banal liturgies, fuzzy,sentimental homilies and heretically utilitarian doctrines and a uninspired, compromised form of "witness".

"China's ancient capital, Nanjing, is about to become the bible printing centre of the world with the opening of a press capable of producing one million copies of the Bible per month"


And here's why China will not inherit the Earth: they are not meek, and Christ was not a liar.

Excellent article !! I hope to be teaching in Shanghai and Chinese is becoming my great love and mystery.

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