Sunday, November 26, 2006

EastSouthWestNorth reporting on Friedman's China visit

EastSouthWestNorth blogs a partial translation of an article about Thomas Friedman's visit to China from the Chinese-language "Observe East Weekly Magazine". Apparently Friedman was received with mixed results. The author also comments on Friedman's ability to simplify very complex topics to the point of obscuring the real core of the issue.

Excerpts from the translation:
"While Friedman's trip to market his book has raised his name recognition in the Chinese-language world, he was criticized by many commentators. China Daily writer Raymond Zhou thought that the book was repetitious because a single idea was being repeated a dozen times over two or three pages, and that Friedman's understanding about China was inaccurate...

"Friedman is a focused person. While chatting with him in the car, all the themes were driven by him -- he is not a reporter filled with curiosity. He seemed only to want the answer to the question, or even the answer that fits his globalization theory version 3.0. I have no right to speak about India, but if the Chinese were to read carefully the section about China in "The World is Flat," they would think that Friedman's China is really completely unrelated to the China that we are familiar with."

About a year and a half ago I attended the Institute of Reverential Ecology's 2005 retreat, "Creating a Sustainable Future: Ecology, Ethics and Design", outside Santa Barbara, and heard Vandana Shiva comment on Friedman's book "The World is Flat". Shiva, a published author, environmental scientist, and community activist in India, explained how the world is not flat as Friedman claims. Instead, global consequences actually are round. While a playing field of competiveness on a global-scale is flattening, American Corporations hiring the booming business of call centers in Mumbai can actually negatively impact other areas of Indian society and economy. To this she pointed to Indian farmers moving from rural countryside to urban cities to claim new, "better" jobs; Shiva expressed that the lives of city dwellers arn't as holistic as farmers and that once moving away they give up their ability to self-sustain in a localized community.

While I have to admit I don't agree with what came across as a "rural is better" sentiment, I think she has hit the nail on the head when it comes to inspecting some of the overlooked wrinkles caught inside the argument for a flattening world. Globalization does have global -- and thus interconnected and systemic -- consequences that can come full circle.