China’s Notable Decade
The last decade (2010–2019) was a momentous one for China. Momentous moments can be big or small, positive or negative, successful or not, impactful in the near or far terms. How to reduce a huge list of examples down to only a handful?
The following are five takeaways from China’s past decade that I believe are particularly notable:
1. Reclaiming Sense of History
For almost all of the twentieth century, China’s long imperial history was seen as something to, at best ignore, and at worst destroy. That thinking is itself now a thing of the past. Veneration of past accomplishments and position in the world, promotion of native philosophical traditions, analysis of historical legacies, and repatriation and preservation of cultural artifacts, are all at the forefront of current Chinese discourse.
2. Landing a Rover on the Far Side of the Moon
In a first for humans, China soft landed a robot rover on the far side of the moon in early 2019. Starting in a crater near the moon’s south pole, the six-wheeled, Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit 2) Rover is exploring this barren side of our nearest neighbor that never faces the sun.
3. Expanding the Web of High-Speed Rail
High-speed rail now connects virtually all of China with trains traveling at speeds of between 150–200+ miles per hour and accounts for approximately two-thirds of all such rail tracks in commercial service in the world. The Chinese are working on maglev trains; autonomous, driver-monitored trains; and achieving ever faster speeds.
4. Creating a Virtually Cashless Society
Mobile wallets, QR codes, and digital payments are how China rolls. Credit cards, debit cards, and cash are so blasé in much of the country. If you want to eat, pay a toll, borrow money, even panhandle, your cellphone is the key to modern living in China.
5. Developing EV, Solar, Waste-to-Energy, and Other More Sustainable Environmental Practices
China is tackling its severe environmental contamination problem with expansive, more sustainable infrastructure research, development, and installation. Massive fleets of electric vehicles, solar and wind power generation, reduced coal use, innovative and smart technologies, and stricter regulation and enforcement are all playing a role in this concerted effort to clean up the country’s polluted air, water, and soils.