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The New Rules: The Two Chinas' Long Road to Common Ground

Monday, Oct. 25, 2010

The Nobel Committee's decision to award jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo the 2010 Peace Prize came just days before China's Communist Party elite anointed political princeling Xi Jinping as President Hu Jintao's clear successor, highlighting the two Chinas that now seem to be passing one another like ships in the night. One China is propelled from below by a coastal workforce that is increasingly self-confident in its skills and accomplishments and growing income. The other, larger China is managed from above by political leaders who increasingly worry over the nation's social stability as they grow more self-defensive in their ruling style.

Both Chinas exhibit rising nationalism, which is natural enough, given how much the nation has opened itself up to the outside world in recent years. It's hard to be a chauvinist until you actually meet some foreigners. And yet even today, outside of China's major, super-connected coastal megalopolises lies a vast interior where foreigners remain uncommon enough to draw stares from most people. As that interior belt undergoes a similar transition in coming years, China will continue to both Westernize and become decidedly more Chinese -- exacerbating tensions both internally and abroad. ...

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