While Greece consisted of tiny city states killing each other for supremacy, China was already made up of regional kingdoms killing each other for supremacy. Alexander of Macedonia (if he can be regarded as Greek) unified Greece before Qinshihuang unified China. Alexander’s empire fell apart upon his death. Same happened to the Qin empire, except the first emperor of China left a legacy system of government that lasted for the next two thousand years.
When Rome became the mega center of the West, it could not hold a candle to the then contemporary Xian, the first city to reach a million in population and the major center of learning hosting scholars from all parts of Asia. To this day, Confucius’ thinking and rules of honorable conduct still influence the civil societies in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Chinese diaspora. Give or take, that adds up to more than 1.5 billion people.
True, the Greeks introduced the concept of democracy to the world, but it took thousands of years later for the US Supreme Court to perfect the practice with the injection of money. In the meantime, China has been making practical innovations that were hundreds if not a thousand years ahead of the West. Joseph Needham devoted the latter part of his life documenting Chinese inventions, a work that has continued after his death and at last count filled 27 books.
Enough about history, what about today? Ever since Deng Xiaoping opened China’s windows to let in western flies, China conscientiously strived to learn from the West, especially from the U.S. Indeed, for three decades, China continuously tweaked their policies and regulations as they learned from western institutions.
The Wall Street induced financial fiasco of 2008 shattered China’s confidence in America as the big brother. Beijing began a plan to isolate, to the extent possible, China’s economy from being swamped by the American tsunami. Their heavy infrastructure investments since 2008 has given China first rate network of high speed railroads and super highways.
China is now going around the world to apply the skills and experience they gained from their domestic projects. The Chinese are talking about a second trans-America canal through Nicaragua, a trans-Amazon high speed rail from Peru to Brazil, and most fantastic of all, a high speed rail from China through Siberia, under the Bering Sea, down Alaska and Canada to the U.S.! Whether these grandiose projects will be realized remains to be seen.
Closer to reality are China’s initiatives in the launching of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS development bank and the Silk Road initiative over land and sea. Some 57 countries have signed up to be founders of AIIB. Even more are lining up to be included in the road or string of ports investments. The deployment of every jack hammer and pile driver represents the new reality for China.