Chen WeihuaOveroptimism cause for concernBy Chen Weihua (China Daily)Updated: 2010-07-06 06:55Large Medium SmallAmericans have always been known for their optimism and can-do attitude. But, as the country marked its Independence Day on Sunday, the mood is much less sunny than what the scorching weather would suggest.
In fact, it is somewhat gloomy. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which goes into Day 78 on Tuesday, still appears on TV as the top news. Equally agonizing is the high unemployment rate that is not expected to decline in the coming months.The war in Afghanistan has increasingly been deemed as another un-winnable quagmire. Some states are on the verge of bankruptcy, forcing the government to cut jobs and slash public spending. And then, there is the mounting federal deficit, in excess of $1 trillion, and party politics that is getting more divisive.
Obamas campaign slogan “Yes, We Can” seems headed into oblivion now. More often than not, the “can-do” attitude is now being used to describe the Chinese.
At the recent New York Forum, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch and others mentioned China many times for its growing importance.
Of course, there is no shortage of books, news reports and columns about the rise of China and its growing clout all over the world, in contrast to fewer books and headlines that predict Chinas collapse.
Various surveys over the years have also shown that Chinese are among the most optimistic about their economy, the countrys future and personal prospects.
There is no doubt that confidence is important in building a bright future, especially in times of global economic recession. Many in China, however, have clearly got too excited by the book titles and headlines that talk about when China will lead the world, the fall of the West and the rise of the nation, China overtaking Germany as the largest merchandise exporter and surpassing the US as the largest economy in 10 years.
That kind of optimism, or blind optimism, is deeply worrisome. It is true that China will become more important on the world stage in every aspect. But the road ahead is far more treacherous than many would like to believe.
Ju an si wei, the Chinese idiom meaning “in prosperity think of adversity”, should be the right attitude. What is more, the headlines about Chinese prosperity are often misleading.
Chinas prosperity, after 30 years of double-digit economic growth, has been a blessing for its 1.3 billion citizens, but significant problems coming from great progress is posing a grave threat to the nations future.
Many problems are so severe that there is simply no room for too much optimism at the moment and in the years to come. These include the recent labor strikes and the widening income gap, the worsening environmental pollution that is causing severe health concerns, the pressure from a population that is going to touch 1.4 billion by 2015, a moral confusion that is eroding our society, corruption and a political system that has not yet been reformed as much as desired.
Even those polls of high Chinese optimism might focus too much on the big cities and less on the countryside, where most people are left behind in the economic boom. Most farmers, still not covered by any social security net, have fewer reasons for optimism than most urban folk.
And China is certainly not taking over the world or going to rule the world in the foreseeable future. It has plenty of domestic concerns to rectify and a lot of catching-up to do in the next decades before it can even become a middle-income country.
As a journalist, I believe Chinese news medias increased attention to positive news and Chinas rise has contributed much to the blind optimism, while the US medias obsession with negative news has caused much pessimism.
While the US relative standing in the world will decline due to the rise of China, India, Brazil and other developing countries, it is likely to continue to be a superpower for many years and decades to come. The US is still unchallenged in many aspects, from technology, higher education to culture dynamics and military might.
A sense of crisis is urgently needed amid the ongoing excessive optimism among Chinese in order to tackle the urgent and thorny social, economic, environmental, moral and political issues.
E-mail: chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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