But hang on -- Investors Business Daily says that China has not surpassed the United States. "Real U.S. GDP this year will be about $16.27 trillion, adjusted for inflation, according to data from the U.S. government, World Bank and IMF. China? It will be less than half that, about $8.06 trillion." Apparently this China's-economy-is-larger is based on the relative purchasing power in each country or something. And of course if you looked at GDP per person, the average American produces or has nine times the wealth of the average Chinese person.
Will China overtake the US? Maybe, maybe not. Charles Krauthammer says that China "will grow old before it grows rich," the obvious consequences of the One Child policy.
Comes word that the former head of the internal security force, Zhou Yongkang, has been arrested for corruption. That must have been a risky move because undoubtedly the head of the security forces, like our own J. Edgar Hoover, would have a file on everybody and anybody in China.
The pundits say that corruption is so widespread in China it's impossible to rise to the top without being corrupt in some way. So anti-corruption drives can be used to selectively target political opponents or rivals. "With various forms of corruption so deeply embedded in the way the government does business, almost anyone can become a potential target." writes Carrie Gracie at BBC China.
Not that I have enough knowledge of the government in China to ascribe only cynical motives to President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive. Even in a non-democratic country, public discontent is a problem and the public is very angry and cynical about corrupt officials.
None of my Chinese acquaintances have mentioned the pro-democracy Hong Kong protests to me. They have been ongoing for several months but may come to a crisis point if the government moves to clear out the protest sites. One thing people comment openly and jokingly about is the poor quality of Chinese television shows and movies. They prefer Western movies. President Xi Jinping would like to oversee a cultural renaissance for China, part of the his often-cited "Chinese Dream."
China's cultural heritage took a devastating walloping during the Cultural Revolution, with operas, plays and books banned, artists silenced, tortured and imprisoned, and countless priceless works of art and architecture destroyed. This wall of door lintels is near People's Park in Zibo. Perhaps they are from houses razed to make way for high-rises in the boom times, or maybe they are from the era when Red Guards roamed the streets like Taliban zealots, destroying anything from the pre-Communist days.
It's been reported that the Chinese bureau in charge of the arts (and censorship of the arts) is sending dissident artists to the countryside to learn from the peasants in a move reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution purges.
The original announcement is here but I am not convinced that the program is a forced re-education and banishment for dissident artists. The translation, "to form a correct view of art" is what is setting off alarm bells in Western media. But this "hinterland" program appears to me to resemble FDR's "A New Deal for the Arts," more than the Cultural Revolution, and the new initiative probably has the same motives and ends as FDR's program.
I'm not saying that artists aren't repressed in today's China, I'm just questioning the interpretation placed on this latest announcement. The Hollywood Reporter article I link to has the headline "China to send filmmakers to the countryside for 'ideological training'" but the article doesn't explain where the quoted phrase "ideological training' comes from or who said it. Artists will be "chosen" to participate in this program -- the question is, is this a perk that some artists will compete to apply for, or is it something that film directors and others working in media have the freedom to turn down?
Here are some Chinese beauties in a series of ancient paintings, brought to life.