Uh oh, China's premier is a Stoic!

Favorite quotations, etc.
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Robert Muir
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Post by Robert Muir » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:04 pm

From the Q&A in this week's issue of Time magazine, p.55
"Is there a book you've read in the past few months that has impressed you?
The books that are always on my shelves are books about history, because I believe history is like a mirror, and I like to read both Chinese history and history of foreign countries. There are two books that I often travel with. One is The Theory of Moral Sentiments, by Adam Smith. The other is Meditations [of Marcus Aurelius]. There are too many memoirs selling nowadays. I don't like reading those books."
We're in trouble!

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Post by Socrates » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:37 am

Perhaps he can ERE.

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Post by Sven » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:48 pm

Or at least he should read the ERE book! :-) Even better: make it standard lecture at the Chinese schools.. I think Jacob wouldn't mind that! :-)

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Post by Maus » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:15 pm

Makes sense that one autocrat would admire the work of another. Marcus Aurelius was reputedly an excellent administrator of his empire. And he had no problem dealing with those pesky Christians. Wen Jiabao was probably just looking for some advice on how to deal with dissenters.

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Post by NYC ERE » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:22 pm

The Chinese are very good savers. Of course, it's easy to save 40% of your income when it's mandated by the government. What's that, ERE within 12 years? Perhaps China can be the first experiment in, "If everybody went ERE, what would happen?" Surely, it would dampen their environmental impact, and as an added benefit (to us, Taiwan, Japan, &c.) it may limit their military ambitions.
Unless of course one is conscripted upon ERE; it's hard to predict the whims of dictators.

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Post by jacob » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:40 pm

@Sven - Definitely not :) Fun fact: "What color is your parachute" (also originally self-published) is one of the most sold books in China.

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Post by Simon » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:59 am

They are good savers, but that is partly because the almost complete absence of unemployment benefit or government funded retirement pension. [at least that is the case in Taiwan and I am assuming China is similar]

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Post by Sven » Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:44 pm

@ Jacob: Well.. i really hope you will get there too! :-) I think it would be easier for ERE to 'become mainstream' over there, than it would become so in the Western part of the world. A lot of the things that would appear to us (spoiled kids of the West ;-)) as 'extreme', wouldn't be so over there. It is a western thing to think it is really needed to have different meals every day. It is a western thing to think the only good exercise you get with an overpaid and unused gym subscription. Even so is it quite typical for us to feel the need to have a mansion for a one person family. :-s So maybe the Chinese/Asian people can teach us something about ERE as well! :-)
An attempt to react more on the topic:

I see that the prime minister of China has given some bad impression to some people. First of all, as a European/world citizen i am quite happy that 'Mein Kampf' by Adolf Hitler didn't make it to his favorite book list. That might have some really nasty consequences on the rest of the world..

Please keep in mind that the same person has been/is drawing the economic policy of China. The last time i checked that economy (being a sum of the economic activities of its citizens and foreigners) is beating the other great economies of this world with ease (without the use of armies) and i didn't/don't get the impression that this will change any time soon. Not a bad result for an 'autocrat'.. Sure there are things that could be done in a better way.. but please: Let (s)he who is without sin cast the first stone! :-)
I think it is quite a normal reaction of people which (grand)parents were living in poor conditions that are unimaginable to us to save a lot for a rainy day as long as this is possible. In the industry sector I am working (ICT consultancy), i get to meet quite a lot of people coming from India. They are living together in an apartment that a 'western' person wouldn't even take for him/herself and saving as much as they can to be able to send home that saved money. This while sometimes coming from a village where all people were collecting their money to send at least one guy/girl of the local school to an university.

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Post by eztree » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:11 am

Actually, my experience with people in China is that they are even more materialistic and brand conscious than anywhere in the West. They are obsessed with wealth and the symbols of wealth, because they are newly (or aspiring) wealthy, and there doesn't seem to be any other point to life. Wealthy Western societies have been wealthy and comfortable long enough for a movement like ERE to develop, but the concept would be considered ridiculous in contemporary China.
However, for an Asian society that looks closer to ERE, try Japan (see link below) for a society in transition from consumer obsession to the idea that consumption is stupid. Of course, the traditional measures of prosperity (GDP) show catastrophe. However, it does seem like they're doing something wrong if they end up working MORE hours, while they consume LESS.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/world ... ef=general

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Post by George the original one » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:13 pm

Agree with eztree... not to mention that a great deal of China's economic power has come at tremendous environmental & human costs. Some of the eco-disasters in China make the Gulf oil spill seem like small potatoes.

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Post by B » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:26 pm

What eztree said is why people are investing in luxury car companies these days. China's growing population of new elites are eager to flaunt their wealth.

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Post by Simon » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:58 am

What is forgotten about the China "miracle" is the command economies cannot allocate resources efficiently over the long term. [Soviet Union, East Germany] We are idolizing them too much.
Oh...and did I mention, anyone speaking out against the govt too much is locked up. Money isn't everything.
For a detailed slideshow of possible forthcoming problems in China and Japan go here: http://www.gurufocus.com/news.php?id=109732

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Post by Benjamin » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:11 am

I keep forgetting about these forums and sent Jacob an email saying essentially the same thing that you did as far as Japan seeming like a decent example of ERE on a large scale. The problem, though, is that they are being 'forced' into ERE. They don't see it as a light at the end of the tunnel [as it should be], but rather a never-ending pit of darkness that they are condemned to sink into.
Or maybe I'm placing too much stock in the NYT reporters who researched that article when they talk about the generally negative mood of the current young generation.

Robert Muir
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Post by Robert Muir » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:45 pm

@Simon "What is forgotten about the China "miracle" is the command economies cannot allocate resources efficiently"
They're inefficient AND the population won't put up with it forever. I think China is due for a revolt sooner rather than later. Maybe the guy standing in front of the line of tanks at Tiananmen Square will be standing on top of one like Yeltsin next time. There have already been quite a few strikes. While they've only been permitted against foreign companies, it's only a matter of time that the dissension spreads.

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Post by jeremymday » Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:51 am

The main problem with China is that the central government actually has a hard time controlling the local governments and what they do...
Same thing that happens in China... the rich get richer, the poor will get poorer...
Yet the middle class is growing rapidly and yes they will switch over to a consumer economy here soon enough. Just be patient folks.
http://jeremymday.com/2010/10/20/china- ... ittenberg/

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Post by eztree » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:08 am

@Benjamin -- For all the gloomy talk about Japan, whenever I visited, it seemed like a really pleasant place to live. I think being forced into ERE is the problem. As with non-ERE lifestyles, being forced into a particular lifestyle is going to make some people very unhappy, but lets other people live in a manner better suited for them.
@Robert -- I wouldn't hold my breath for a revolt in China. Some gradual change sure, but the government has too many resources and is too paranoid for an actual revolt to get off the ground. Also, I imagine most people either remember or have close relatives with stories from the Cultural Revolution, so pretty much everyone is willing to take whatever indignities exist now compared to full-on revolutionary turmoil.
in any case, my philosophy about China is that it's a good place to make money for now, terrible place for me to ERE. And with all this talk about Third World America, by the time I ERE back in the US, it may be a nice, affordable third world retirement country like Thailand or Costa Rica.

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