I’m a nerd, and I like numbers so I’ll get that off my chest before we start this theme. It’s only relevant because I find it strange how little seems to be understood in the West about China’s economy – of course there’s a fair amount of the usual developing nation fudging going on with the figures but China’s pretty upfront about the overall state of play with its economy at a macro-level (that’s the big picture) if not so much at a micro-level (individual institutions and companies).
It also seems to be an area which causes much confusion amongst the expatriate community here, and I wonder if it’s because they took the media reporting from back home at face value and screamed; “I’m going to be rich! So I’m heading to China!” before throwing all their worldly possessions in a suitcase and arriving in a country where they have no marketable skills, no real money to invest and are convinced that a career as an illegal alien (e.g. they have no residency visa or right to work in China) teaching English will suddenly spring board them into Bill Gates territory.
Of course that’s a hideous sweeping generalisation and many fine people teach English here too but it does seem to apply to much of the folk I see passing through Shenzhen, and much more so to those Westerners working in the interior of China.
I’d like to place some of the blame for this at the door of the New York Times, which ran an overly enthusiastic piece from a guy teaching at Tianjin University, exhorting the opportunities in China – despite his own Ivy league education sending him overseas to earn less than $3,000 a month at a premier educational institute here. But I can’t blame them because that was only two months ago and most of the delusional group arrived way before the article was published, though I’m sure that many others will turn up soon based on this exciting salary opportunity. They’re going to be disappointed in the main, China pays well qualified professional teachers a living wage – those without degrees or even an ESL qualification tend to find that they’re not going to make as much as they would in McD’s back home – though I’ll admit the money goes a bit further here.
But enough about English teachers – this is about the economy, though as we’ll probably see at some point in the series they have an impact on the economy here too.
What I’m going to start with tomorrow is a look at the big number, “China is the world’s second biggest economy and will soon overtake the United States as the biggest on earth!” (normally other writers feel a need to use more exclamation marks than that – you should stop reading anything these people write as it’s a crime against the eye and not in the remotest bit useful for emphasis).
And why that doesn’t mean that China hasn’t suddenly become a land of milk and honey for unskilled Westerners (or even in many cases for highly skilled Westerners), and why it shouldn’t scare people as much as it seems to do, and why for the average Chinese person this still isn’t much to celebrate but it is better than nothing.
There will definitely be some numbers tomorrow (including the big number) but I promise to keep them to a minimum, partly because it’s hard to type complex calculations in WordPress but mainly because I know they send most people to sleep. So until then dear readers, I bid you good night.
P.S. Shards of China is still going to be here everyday, apologies if I gave the impression otherwise in yesterday’s post.