“The mountains are high and the Emeperor is far away. “

Published on Author reed

chinawallargeChina is vast and to govern it all under a single unified set of policies is difficult given the diversity of geography, traditions, and lifestyles. There is a false vision of a unified, and uniform, china that stretches from the coast to the Himalayas, but in  reality there is a brad spectrum of lifestyles within China. Policies that have been adapted to the cities aren’t necessarily relevant or optimal in Northern rural China.  For example, City folk don’t hitchhike and so have not developed a common form of communication around that behavior; in the countryside, it is one of the common ways to travel so there are recognized signals that have developed to indicate the desire to hitchhike.

Another myth that people believe about the country is that there is a single, uninterrupted wall spanning from end to end in one magnificent, consistent, construction. Instead, the Great Wall is actually a series of hundreds of walls from different periods of time, build thousands of years apart with different materials and techniques.

This is not to say that there aren’t common themes associated with being Chinese, but that there is significant diversity beneath the surface that the average foreigner or tourist would be able to observe. Sometimes these differences are taken for granted by the Chinese bureaucracy itself, leading to inefficient policies handed down to rural governments that don’t account for the state of local agricultural and land resources. In one example, you have a policy of digging thousands of holes to plant trees that never actually get put into the ground. The people are paid for their labor, but there is no progress made and the policy doesn’t improve the quality of life of the local residents.

It is these oversights, based on the difficulty of governing such a massive area of land and so many people, over hundreds and thousand s of years that led the Chinese to use the common phrase “the mountains are high and the Emperor is far away.”

One Response to “The mountains are high and the Emeperor is far away. “

  1. And these issues aren’t relevant elsewhere? The US with 13,000 more-or-less independent school districts? Brussels vs individual countries in the EU? One component of economics is analytics, which stresses commonality, frameworks that apply to many cases. So if China is special (and all countries are!), well, you can try to indicate how so (e.g. are there dimensions where the emperor is close at hand in China but far away in the US, such as compulsory education), or at least raise the question of whether China is qualitatively different.