At-Home-Ness in China and the Miracle of the End

Home, the way I talk about it and want you to make yourself more at home in, is the ecological relations in a life and the connections we tend to overlook because they are so obvious, especially in the actual physical place you are in.

In this world of global trade and global migration, though, everything ends up connected, no place and certainly no life is unaffected by other’s.
Oftentimes, it’s all connected to China (just like my personal life has become).

And China is in a strange position yet again.

From poverty it has gone to economic power, from closedness to openness and on to the current climate that feels like a strong mixture of both, from a miracle to, supposedly, the end of the miracle, and to the beginning of a new and difficult normal.

The Financial Times Features piece on “The end of the Chinese miracle” is a good look into what’s been happening, in China and for individuals, and in the big picture and with influence on the whole world:

There is one caveat: I think they seriously under-used Gerhard Flatz (who I had a chance to meet at the ISPO) and KTC, who are doing just the necessary work to change China’s position in the global economy – and the page title itself is rather better than the headline one quickly gets to see, as it does not proclaim the end of the Chinese miracle, which has been proclaimed pretty much every year since at least 2008, but rather the end of the *migrant* miracle.

The Other

The problem, and the place where “at-home-ness” comes in, is that our view of an other, and especially one as different as China, is skewed from the beginning.

The “miracle” certainly has been a story of success in many a way, whether you want to interpret it as the success of the Chinese Communist Party or the success of the people out of whose way the CCP stepped.

Having started from such a low point as it did, all in the context of a pent-up entrepreneurial drive, however, it has been less miraculous.

It has, and that image is not unpopular, been like the growth spurt of a teenager finally in puberty, and it was rather similar to the economic miracles of Germany and Japan post-WWII (which started from similar low points), as well.

Similarly, now, the end of the miracle may be less of an end than a maturation. Changes will be necessary with it, growth will not be as high as it had been, the difficulties are particularly acute in China – but it will not be the end it is often portrayed as.

China has problems for sure, and international companies counting on nothing but the easy availability of cheap labor and a population profiting from higher incomes and a drive to consume will be in as much of a bind as people expecting that easy times would continue.

That, though, has – except for a small cohort among China’s millennials – never been quite the expectation, and even in the midst of much current moaning about difficulties, most people still seem to find work and get by, if not do even better.

The country is big enough that everything can happen at once, maybe even the miracle of an end: A time of change that, difficult though it may be, leads on to the next phase in China’s development – and perhaps the world’s.

The Fact

Everything cannot all go on based on consumption and growth, same as it had been going on, after all.

The main thing we should remember, especially for our own lives, is that change still continues to be the only constant.

Things will never go on just as they had before.

We keep forgetting this basic fact of life, trying to ignore it – or ignoring it without even trying to – because we become too comfortable with a recent situation rather than at home in the change.

It will happen, though.

Whether we want it or not, whether we get ready for it or refuse to acknowledge it, whether we let it steamroll us or find the niches and leverage points from which we can get through or even influence it: happen it will.

Time to accept and adapt. Which, incidentally, seems a pretty Chinese way of doing things.


  1. JR Zhang

    I got here because of the Thunderbolt jeans which I just ordered, and surprised by one of your last names (“Zhang”). Though I have the same surname as a Chinese, now I can only get updated on China through blogs like yours.

    Among all your blogs, this one showed me the most how long you have stayed in China, and how deep you have explored it. It is full of some central Chinese philosophy: Now is just a snapshot of a very long, continuing history. Things will get by anyway. Everything is both good and bad. Things are too complicated to make definitions/conclusions, so just feel your own feelings, etc. I am sure you think very differently before and after China.

    My experience is that non-Chinese think just so differently from Chinese, so much that the two partners always have a clear gap between them. Generally Chinese understand westerners more than the other way around due to stronger motivation to know the world outside and easier access to information. Yes, China does have the Great Firewall, but many Chinese know English, and there are so many ways to get information outside. While the westerners usually think they have better information freedom, the fact is the Western media giants are just so much more powerful and people outside China mostly don’t Chinese. For the few who do know Chinese, I don’t think they are interested or proficient in reading Chinese news. I often feel so helpless to make people here to understand that you may not have better media access than Chinese inside that wall.

    You mentioned the most about “home-ness”. Feeling more home in Austria or China? Home or ties is another central idea of Chinese culture. Half-earth away from China for so many years, I really miss this home-ness. The ties here are just not as highly-regarded. I wish you form strong ties in China.

    1. Gerald

      Glad to hear my blog’s still accessible – especially with all the Youtube videos on it which do get blocked. Yeah, it’s quite a challenge to ‘think China’. I often find points where I think we aren’t that different (at least Central Europeans/Austrians and Chinese)… but then there are other things where it’s like “What is this, Bizarro-land?!” (and that, both ways round ;) ).

      And my Chinese still sucks…

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