That's a way of approaching life I can relate to. Fallows is a fascinated observer of China's immense energy and variety.
He's at his best at describing China's participation in economic globalization: people in this country maxed out their credit to consume imported goods while the Asian colossus built its manufacturing base, improved its workers' living standards, and fended off any impulse toward popular rule. He wants us to understand that for most Chinese, life is getting better, despite ruthlessly exploitative early stage capitalist development, miserably polluted air, and corrupt or arbitrary officialdom. Until our credit froze up, Chinese labored incessantly and we consumed their products cheaply, while the Chinese government used currency regulations to capture much of their national surplus -- and parked a great deal of that in U.S. government bonds. It was a neat system, now endangered by the global recession.
And the United States seemed oblivious to the system's underlying meaning before the current downturn. Fallows points to U.S. follies:
Maybe in the current rather dire economic context, this country can get on with correcting some of the inequalities we've built into our own society, rather than fixating on the log we see in China's eye.
Fallows wants us not to gloss over the hopefulness in China. It's not all bad -- the scale of the place is so large, that where something good is happening, it is very good indeed. A sample: he visited a cement plant where an engineer had figured out how to capture heat normally wasted in the process and convert it to electric power.
Chinese, not surprisingly, want a chance to live like people whose industrialization has already passed through its unchecked polluting phase -- and we can't stop them from trying, but we can join them in looking for technological solutions to enable the human species to survive trying to give far more of its members a better standard of living.
Postcards is an informative and easy read to ruminate on. James Fallows also writes a blog where, in addition to sharing stories of China, he opines on whatever interests him. Reading it is a great way to live in a somewhat wider world.