China has pursued this technology leadership goal for 20 years. Back in the 1990s, it began importing technology from Germany, the Siemens Velaro model; from France, the Alstom New Pendolinos. And, guess what? The Zefiro 250 type, made right here in Canada by Bombardier. In 2008, investment in high-speed rail projects shot up to $88 billion with plans to open 42 new lines.
China is again faced with the pre-crisis problems that were all the rage. First, how does it, and the rest of the world, cope with the demands of the 40 million odd new entrants to its middle class every year? And what if these really become a Western-style consumer class? Third, how does China sustainably manage its growth?
There have clearly been security lapses which need explanation -- as much to Malaysians as to anybody else. And at the outset, the crisis management could have been better coordinated. However, there is no indication there is something that could have been done to alter the realities of this tragedy. So why has Chinese diplomacy targeted the Malaysian authorities so harshly?
China's National People's Congress meet in Beijing Wednesday, with the country's crippling smog, which now looms as a threat to the leadership, high on the agenda. China's air isn't polluted because the technologies to keep it clean are unavailable but because the country lacks a credible regulatory regime that makes polluters pay and rewards investors to innovate. Why does the government target BBQs and individuals instead of the major polluters? Because it knows how to deprive ordinary citizens of their property and their lives. It doesn't know how to regulate an incoherent economy bereft of market discipline.
A personal introduction in advance will make your visit all the more enjoyable. Both Japanese and Chinese cultures view it as a sign of respect to extend themselves on behalf of a mutual friend, and you may find that they go to significant personal inconvenience and expense to make you feel welcome.
China's aggressive push to "green" its economy and become the world leader in renewable energy is admired by many commentators in the West. Those admirers need to look again; after years of over-development in the face of decreasing demand, China's renewable energy market is on life support, barely kept alive by government subsidies.
Whether we like it or not, we live in the shadow of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. It must affect our perspective on any agreement of this nature. What we learned from Munich, though, was that deals do not finalize the results. What Hitler absolutely taught us was that what one says and even promises is not necessarily what one means.
Influenza can be a weapon of mass destruction. The latest candidate worth worrying about is H7N9. It jumped from birds to humans earlier this year. Of the 137 people known to have been infected, 45 died. There's no evidence that H7N9 spreads among humans. On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise any of the experts if H7N9 learns how to jump from person to person and mutates into a fast-moving mass murderer.
Anyone concerned with human rights would have to consider China's announced reforms good news (though I hope, for Justin Trudeau's sake, that they won't impede China's ability to go green fast and invest in solar). However, it's still wise to remember how far from a free country China remains. The government is still coercively dictating family size and reproductive choices -- and punishing those who don't comply. Reports of forced abortions and sterilization continue. And the government is amping up talk about the threats posed by social media, suggesting that further crackdowns and censorship of online speech could be in the works.
My views of China are too conflicted for me to name it as the country I most admire. However, I remain grateful that Justin Trudeau had the intellectual courage to encourage Canadians to learn from China. If we want healthy political discourse in our country, we must listen and learn when politicians answer questions with responses that are honest rather than poll tested. If our politicians are not willing to study and learn from China, Canada is not benefiting from the political leadership we need.