CHINA – If you have eyes or ears, you’re no doubt familiar with the rumor: China is changing. The Western media teems with tales of the massive nation’s development – the qualities of a rising middle class; the plight of the poor rural folk left behind; the corruption that chews its way through the system; and the unfortunate pollution that comes with growth. The details of your education have perhaps varied, and to you the stories may reek of bias, but the one thing you know for sure is this: China’s rise is something to fear.
Here, finally, is some hard evidence. The streets of China’s city are filled not only with people and a growing number of cars but also heaps of old, unwanted appliances. Televisions, refrigerators, microwaves – things you may have doubted even to exist in the distant communist land. The problem is not environmental, however – the earth will surely devour these piles of glass, metal, and plastic and work them back into raw minerals; America and the rest of the Western world, on the other hand, will never recover.
The might of the West has come not only from ingenuity and consumer clout. Our constant upward exchange of technology has ensured that what we see is sharper and what we hear is crisper than the so-called developing world. We can live comfortably knowing that while we are watching high definition, eating ice cream from our energy-sucking freezers, the rest of the world is stuck in grainy low res, if they even have color. These discarded devices are more than garbage – they are symbols. An old TV means there’s a newer one somewhere, which in turn means that some upwardly-mobile Chinese family now sits in their living room before an image just as precise and colorful as their counterparts in the United States. The edge, it seems, may be lost. The most populated country in the world has reached an unprecedented stage of equality. It may be only a matter of time before their streets are littered with flat screens, and one can only guess what that would mean.