The fastest super computer has now been built in China the headline read; China now boasts the second largest economy. China one of the leaders in education while US dropped to 12th in number of college graduates; China poised to lead the way in green energy, all things floating in the news. Projections indicate China will surpass the US not only in economic growth but potentially in technology, education and infrastructure With China’s current economic growth and its increasing buyouts of American market share, our increased imports of a plethora of goods from that country, Americans, general public, politicians, business men and woman alike seem to think we are in a race; the prize, who will be global leader in multiple areas. Wishing to know more about this long elusive, mysterious country as well as what it is fast becoming, ABC World News embarked on a 3 day mission to explore China now and how it has made such great strides in a relatively short time, how its national engine gets things done so well.

What they found seemed to indicate the projections were on target booming factories, whole towns in fact dedicated to the manufacture of one product, socks; China makes one third of the world’s supply. Another town umbrellas, the biggest buyer well known American warehouse store Costco, yet another small town devoted solely to zipper creation for jeans, jackets, a host of products bound for America from toys to Santa figurines anticipating the fast approaching holiday season. Other marvels China possesses include the longest stretch of the fastest high-speed rail cutting an hour and a half long tip in the US down to 18 minutes. Shanghai’s skyline resembles New York rather than a country thousands of miles away all done in roughly the last 2 decades. Things get done much quicker in China as well; roads the equivalent of major US highways or lager built in weeks, finished by the time you could obtain the permits here, 15 story buildings built in days utilizing prefabricated parts that fit together.

Turning their eye toward the future they are leading in green energy making use of wind turbines, entire towns powered by the sun, solar panels manufactured there for use in the US. National campaigns have been launched to teach China’s estimated 1.3 billion inhabitants English from television shows to China’s Got Talent a competition in which entries had to be sung or otherwise presented in English. Language schools are popping up all over China beginning to teach children as young as 2 to speak this now truly universal language; most are fluent in it by age 10 and soon all businessmen under 40 will be required to speak English. Rigorous education has always been a part of the Chinese way. Today school serves as a sort of national daycare beginning at age 3 children attend 8 AM to 4 PM; on average children there have 41 more school days than those in the US and spend 30% more time in school, as many take extra classes on weekends. Matriculation depends on high stakes exams to go on to high school and college, hints their stellar reputation regarding the quality of education, excellent test scores contrasting the US’ lagging performance.

However as with any country, it’s not all good; China still remains the world’s number 1 polluter, a quarter of the water is undrinkable, millions live in poverty. Despite their strides into green energy, China still has a dangerously hazardous air quality rated nearly twice what is healthy on a commonly used scale. Almost belying China’s economic boom many still can’t get jobs, even with college educations. Human rights issues and questions of freedom in an increasingly westernized nation still linger. Up to an estimated 80% of relevant information found on the Internet in the US is censored in China. The current Nobel Peace Prize winner is a Chinese dissident who sits in jail; his wife is also under arrest. Their 1 child policy has long drawn criticism for what happens to unwanted children, often ending up in orphanages, and what happens to girls in a culture preferentially biased toward boys. Abortion rates are high and infant girls are sometimes left at birth with an open umbilical cord to bleed to death; then the family can try again for a boy

Looking at the pervious paragraph it calls into question the notion that China will be the world’s next superpower; likewise, it begs the question do other countries need to copy what China is doing in order to “keep up” in the 21st century of globalization? Analysts comparing and contrasting the two nations quickly pointed to things the US should and needed to do if their intent is to keep up with the leaps and bounds made by others, but again should that be the goal? For instance does the US need, or have as much need, for high-speed rail, never mind the fastest; energy efficient escalators are great for China, but how much benefit would there be to the US? Elevators not escalators are the more popular means of navigating multi-floor and high-rise buildings. China, considering its geography, with large portions of land mass consumed by mountains, high elevations unsuitable for growing anything and nearly uninhabitable by peoples other than indigenous tribes, has much more densely populated livable areas, combined with 4 times the number of people than America, can make far better use of any public transit system, since the used land mass is significantly smaller than the total. America on the other hand is far more spread out, containing far more usable, livable land making a nation wide, cross country transit system impractical; similarly taking into account the population gap, finding enough people to use high speed rail, even in popular commuter areas, in order to offset the cost of creation while keeping prices affordable, becomes an issue.

Education is a current US sticking point among the public, educators and politicians all, but recently there has been a backlash against the competitiveness to get our kids into the right preschool from birth or even before, the push to have perfect grades in all subjects, the cutthroat race to get into colleges. There has also begun to be a backlash against too much learning too early; most parents think “My Baby Can Read,” a popular infomercial touting a series of videos and flashcards designed to teach babies barely old enough to sit up all the way up to preschoolers how to read, is ridiculous. Shoving languages, math and so forth at toddlers has fallen out of fashion as more parents realize that kids should be kids coinciding with studies not just out of America but other nations saying bombarding kids with structured learning too soon can interfere with natural learning processes. So the idea of 2 year olds, just beginning to learn language period, learning 2 at once is jaw dropping, not necessarily in a good way; neither was the scene of a group of Chinese 3rd graders practicing ancient acupressure techniques at their desks, presumably to aid in focus and combat stress.

China too has education problems having mastered top quality test scores, rote memorization they are trying to infuse their system with creativity and originality. The analyst scrutinizing both models freely admitted the US needed to get far more stringent saying the phenomenon in America is Bobby and Susie can’t read but Bobby just created 3 new i- phone aps; going on to confess he would rather have our problem than theirs. Though it can easily be noted it’s most likely not a case of Bobby and Susie can’t read only that we force them to read large quantities of material they neither want to nor have any interest in causing them to hate reading and avoid it whenever possible. Many young people going to college or even older persons discover a love of reading when it’s no longer a dreaded requirement. At the same time forcing kids just learning reading to read aloud in front of a class can cause struggling readers to have anxiety, lower confidence and thus inhibit initial ability. Seeking to combat this, programs like Reading with Rover are present in schools and libraries across the nation letting children read with a dog rather than a person, because the dog does not laugh, snicker, get impatient, judge or have expectations as the child stumbles, sounds out words, or works to grasp the meaning of a story, resulting in improved reading ability and higher test scores.

True cases of older kids and adults who cannot read can usually be traced to the age of the person someone going to school in the 1940’s 50’s or 60’s who needed glasses and didn’t know it prior to mandatory eye exams before starting school. Other cases can be traced to learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADD and ADHD to name a few. Little to nothing is said about those children and young people who fail these highly competitive exams, what their future holds, unlike the US where GED programs, alternative schools and non-mainstream educational opportunities at least exist. Such exams also take up all of young people’s time; while that may seem great, from an American perspective, for keeping them out of trouble, they lament our being able to enjoy hobbies, the freedom to explore leisure activity causing one to wonder what they study in college if they haven’t had the chance to explore whether they like music or art, photography, videography? Related questions arise as to the point of so much education when the most highly demanded jobs are factory workers operating various machines, when college graduates often find themselves in outskirt makeshift villages in one room shanties, no bathroom cooking outside, pushing and shoving with thousands of others to board busses into the city to look for work. Known as the “ant tribe” because they live similar to the ants in nature, this is how the highly educated find themselves living. Nothing is mentioned about helping those with learning disabilities, developmental or physical disabilities; in fact, on par with many other countries, the tendency is to shun or institutionalize such persons, pointing to another case of why the way China does thing may not be the way for everyone to do things.

And it goes on down the line of China’s accomplishments putting them in a position to be the next global powerhouse; yes they can build large buildings in mere days; yet what is the quality of those buildings? Some of those prefabricated parts and other building materials made it into the US for use in homes, only for it to begin to emit toxic chemicals; when an earthquake hit China less than 5 years ago killing many children in their schools, questions were brought by families about the safety of buildings across the nation. Yes we import a large number of goods from China but again there is a negative; many of the toys contained unsafe levels of lead, scaring away the American consumer. The owner of the largest internet company in China praised their government machine that can build roads in weeks or months whereas the US spends 2 years talking about it, saying “too much democratic may not be good thing.” Continuing the discussion he mentions President Obama saying the US will get to certain benchmarks, achieve certain things but not how. The same government machine who after the aforementioned devastating earthquake told families to move on encouraged them to have another child, who in preparation for the Beijing Olympics relocated hundreds, if not thousands, with little or no compensation to make room for stadiums and other facilities. The same government machine that propagandizes its people instead of giving accurate history and truth beyond normal skewing emanating from different perspectives and national pride; the same government machine attempting to ban social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Social implications are soon to be on the horizon for China if trends continue to go the way they are projected; even now one family, indicative of so many others, leaves their young son with grandparents to work in factories in the city, only seeing him at Chinese new year; a young couple just married live 600 miles apart only seeing each other every 6 weeks, because the husband was offered a job and you don’t turn down opportunities. One businessman rarely makes it home for dinner with his family saying dinner is business too. In America we see what that kind of lifestyle can lead to, the ill effects on children, relationships, and certainly parents have commuted long hours to work, worked 18 hour days to give their families the best, but 6 weeks apart, we have learned long distance relationships are fraught with hardships and seldom work. We have learned this kind of lifestyle leads to drug use, alcoholism, mental health issues, suicidal tendencies; one would think, someone else would want to do it better or perhaps it is only America perceiving this as some sort of contest.

How China has managed to come so far so fast has also come under scrutiny; China has been accused of currency manipulation to keep their currency artificially low. They are very selective about what they import from any country especially the US; one of the speculated reasons China is such a leader in green energy is because of the amount of help companies receive from their government. One owner said no that’s not the case; the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. It is common knowledge that China is guilty of a significant amount of theft of intellectual property. Logistically, getting down to the details of how things get done, it is easier to build structures, infrastructure in record time with 1.3 billion people the majority of whom are at prime working age, as opposed to the US, where members of its most recent population surge are edging on retirement. Headline making events play a part in the how too; 9-11 didn’t happen to China. They haven’t spent close to the last decade fielding threats from abroad, fighting wars on 2 fronts both in the name of humanitarianism and to keep their borders safe. They are not a target; speaking of what China is to become, what it is now, it says something that no one is coming after them, no one envies their wealth, no one calls them the great satan.

There is a strong argument to be made that if anything China is becoming more like America not exactly surpassing it, simply becoming a lager player on the world stage joining the westernized nations that are global leaders plural. It seems as though China is undergoing a combination of the industrial revolution and the prosperity of the baby boomer generation eras in the US with a 21st century twist. Answering the speculation China is the next superpower; maybe, maybe not that remains to be seen; for those concerned America is losing the race as leader, they need not be. What the Chinese internet guy didn’t understand is apparently what watchful Americans need to be reminded; a president saying we will achieve something and leaving people, experts and others to fill in the creative gap of how is the engine of US leadership and ingenuity. Great achievements have been fueled by the people, by freedom not by government issued directives.

Being first in everything is not always a good thing; America was the first to develop nuclear weapons, the first to use the atom bomb, a legacy we’d like to forget. There are advantages to being second, third, even dead last, you get to crib off everyone else’s notes, get to learn from others mistakes. It has been said by those from other countries, particularly those speaking about education, that American’s are arrogant, think themselves number one in ability when they are truly towards the bottom. However much of what is perceived as arrogance is pride in their country, whether we are first or not, whether we are the best or not, they simply like their country; many young people in the current generation here don’t see it as a race for who’s fist among nations, don’t see the need for such competition. Perhaps they really understand globalization, that no matter where the advancements come from, the whole world benefits.