Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Questions Unasked? - Another point of view on China


– Another point of view on China

Curiosity may be occasionally unwise, but it is never stupid. I believe the judgment whether a question is stupid resides in the interpretation, not the content.

In all the books on China, what is the most common and universal theme? We don’t know what we don’t know, especially about the context. How do we frame our questions about China to get useful and meaningful answers? In any given situation, what are the most effective questions to ask? Misunderstandings typically result from mismatched contextual assumptions, i.e., different points of view.

To me, thinking about uncertainty in China, about the dramatic rate of change occurring within China and how that affects the rest of the world, is like looking at everything through a new kind of mental filter, where the mix and the shading of colors appears slightly different. In my mind, this raises all kinds of questions, at multiple levels of awareness. What is really going on? How do we perceive and interpret what we see? How much does our interpretation depend on our point of view, the context we bring, some of which may be unconscious? What are we not seeing clearly? Am I asking “useful questions”?

What questions are unasked?

As far as we know, humans are the only life forms on Earth that seek inspiration, or are aware of the need for some force or energy that motivates change. We want to believe in something. Everything else, animal or plant, seems to follow the fundamental law of Nature: either it is growing, i.e., changing, or it is dead. For humans, one question we keep asking is: How are we growing? As individuals, as a society? As subunits of society, such as companies, associations, industries?

Inspiration can come in many different forms, depending on points of view and circumstances: need for physical survival (in Nature), competition with Nature, competition with other humans (physical, emotional, intellectual), spiritual or religious, philosophy (organized thought-principles), music, dance, artistic impulses in general (recording and sharing one’s perceptions), random associations, even boredom. Humans are capable of simultaneously maintaining multiple points of view, sometimes even contradictory ones, because they are literally held in different parts of the brain – intellectual thoughts, emotions, instinctive reactions. People who cannot maintain a healthy balance in their lives may find these conflicts can create debilitating physical and emotional conditions.

For most of us, every challenge faced by the Chinese in China seems magnified, as if we are incapable of fully understanding the scope of the problem and the consequences, positive and negative. How unique is China’s situation? Are we seeing another cycle in history? How can we apply our existing knowledge to this next step in China’s evolution? How can we encourage the creativity and courage to move changes in directions that will be positive for China and for the world?

To imagine truly innovative approaches to challenges that have not been addressed before, we have to be open to a new kind of design process which may be more dialectical than deductive reasoning. What kind of a process might be based on dynamic pattern recognition, rather than a theoretical framework based on linear, logical sequences of thought?

Practical Wisdom

If Confucius and Einstein could have a conversation about the current and future conditions in China, what would they say?

Albert Einstein: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Confucius: Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.

If you could speak to them what would you ask?


kaiser said...

A most auspicious beginning to a blog I hope you'll maintain regularly and which I'll be sure to visit frequently! Looking forward to further posts. Welcome to the world of blogging: may you find it to be more blessing than curse (and I assure you, it assumes both forms).

James said...

Can China become "green?"

RezaV said...

Most insightful. We need more in depth questioning of all of our values, morals, and aspirations; China's challenges in this century are challenges we face globally. Long road ahead starting from the three Gorges.