Maoism, Taoism, Eating and Chess

Just wrapped up our final day in Beijing. Here are three things that should have been obvious to me before arriving, but somehow, weren’t.

  1. When eavesdropping on two people speaking a tonal language, it’s really hard to tell when they’re angry/sad/happy.
  2. The classic bits of the Great Wall that you see on postcards are not particularly, er, classic. In fact, they’re built by Mao in the 1950s, and further fixed up in the 1980s. Oh, and it’s an urban myth that you can see the Great Wall from space… but that doesn’t stop them putting it in huge letters in the museum.
  3. Having visited Russia a few years ago, it’s striking how much more service-oriented the Chinese are. This has to explain at least part of their stellar economic growth (a friend said that living in Beijing, you get to see a decade of change every year). It also made me wonder how much of capitalism is cultural.
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6 Responses to Maoism, Taoism, Eating and Chess

  1. derrida derider says:

    Yeah, when I was there I noticed the Chinese seemed not to care much about the difference between an historic building/monument and a not-terribly-accurate replica of said structure.

    Maybe it’s all tied up with their, er, relaxed attitude to intellectual property. Alternatively, maybe its because Western looters, civil wars and the Cultural Revolution destroyed so much of the originals.

  2. Where’s the bit on chess. I read this post on the strength of its promise to talk about chess and I want my money back.

  3. Patrick says:

    That you had to go there to get the service orientation part is quite amazing.

  4. Peter says:

    Well, Max Weber developed a whole theory about the protestant origins of capitalism in Europe.

    And, it is noticeable that the most entrepreneurial segments of many societies have been marginalized minorities: Jews in medieval Europe, nonconformists in England, Huguenot Protestants in France and then England, Indians in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, Chinese in SE Asia, Cantonese in China itself. Sometimes, their entrepreneural activities arose because of limited access to higher education and to professional occupations that these minorities enjoyed — ie, they had no choice but to be entrepreneurs.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    Nicolas, the title is a (somewhat politically incorrect) Monty Python reference.

  6. Pingback: Andrew Leigh » Blog Archive » Reefer Writing

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