Not Quite

Andrei Marks · October 31, 2007

Here is an excerpt from my Survey of China class’s textbook. We’re blazing through the economics chapter at this point.

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Although the agriculture of the New China has made great advancements in the past fifty-odd years, it is still in a backwards state compared to the rest of the world. Aside from the relatively poor natural conditions and frequent droughts and floods, other main problems include: having a low level of mechanization, lacking widespread scientific and technological methods, having yet to break away from the state of being “at the mercy of the elements”, having a reliance on physical labor, and having a low rate of production. For example, America’s national territory covers an area about the same size as China’s, however the natural conditions and the modernization of the agricultural industry are much better than China’s. Their agricultural population is only 3% of the total population, and yet they sustain a 97% non-agricultural population. On average, every year each agricultural workforce produces over 7,000 kg of grain, and the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of grain. The ratio of Japan’s farming population and city population is 1:10; the farming population’s 10% sustains the city populations 90%, and the yearly average of grain produced by the agricultural workforces is 2,850 kg. But as for China, in 2002 the ration of farming and city populations rose to 6.1:3.9, and the yearly average of grain produced by agricultural workforces is only 1000 kg. This indicates that the level of China’s agricultural development is still very low, and that there are heavy responsibilities to bear on a long road towards agricultural modernization.

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So, translation-wise, I’m not sure how to translate …劳动力生产的… because those numbers up there (7,000 kg, 2,850 kg, etc.) are correct, but there is no way these countries produce that little grain a year. That 劳动力 must not mean labor in general, but a certain type of unit of labor. I don’t know what that would be, because obviously farming is done way differently in say, America and China.

I wouldn’t say I trust this book entirely, we’ve also done chapters on history, politics, and minorities, and there is a ton of stuff that is just not mentioned, or if mentioned definitely puts the Party spin on it. Some information escapes unscathed, like the first chapter we had on geographical features of China, and probably the above paragraph, which I include just because it’s interesting. But otherwise everything else we’ve learned can’t be described in its entirety for political reasons. So I really have no idea what the entirety is.

I bet Chinese people normally get better information; they’re not stupid and know how to find the truth if they’re looking for it, China isn’t Eastasia. This book is just a brief 180 page introduction to everything about China and it’s geared towards foreign students. So the information in this book probably isn’t even what Chinese people actually know or have access to. It’s like the distilled essence of the Party line that they want to feed to foreigners. Sometimes I really can’t stand reading it. If I have time maybe I’ll pick up a college level modern history text and see what that says.

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