The full spectrum of values seemed to be in play in China in reading the Sunday New York Times. The eye-popping story was the announcement that the government is planning to move 250 million people into cities. The bulldozers are coming to clear the road for progress.
For some time now, the Chinese government has been attempting to expand growth beyond the immense and fast-growing coastal cities. I actually sat in on a pitch with a client in which government officials painted a rosy picture of how a then-barren inland area they were hoping my client would build a new plant on, would eventually become a boom town.
Apparently the carrott approach of enticing development outside the coast isn’t working fast enough, so out comes the stick – the bulldozers — on 250 million rural residents. It seems the thinking is that if businesses do not want to build in front of the market, well, then they’ll go ahead and bring the market first.
The values in play here are a mix. Certainly the dominant perspective is one of modern values, of achievement and growth with scan attention to the social consequences. Marketplace rules prevail here. But there is also a hint of the old traditional values, where authority reigns supreme. It is perhaps a bit surprising that something like moving a quarter of a billion people can simply be ordered by the government. [Imagine trying to move, say a dozen people, here in the US]
Lest we conclude that the values in play stop here. The very same day a story that China’s cabinet has adopted 10 measures to improve air quality in major cities. How postmodern of them! The pressure within the existing megacities is showing a postmodern influence, while the move of rural Chinese to cities shows a traditional influence, but all in all, we see a clear modern influence – growth as the key driver of the Chinese future. As we watch China’s development, we’ll look for clues as to when the postmodern pull begins to overcome the traditional push, recognizing that modernization still has a long way to go. Andy Hines