Posted by Editor: FDBobko on Oct 06, 2020
October 1,  2020
Philip Chapnick
China in the 21st Century -
What I Learned Living and Working in China
Article by Stacy Trevenon
Photos by Dianne Bobko
Joe Brennan introduced speaker Philip Chapnick, whom he regularly sees on his excursions out on the Coastside Trail. He is a retired (as of 2016) senior executive for global business media company Informa,  currently among the largest trade show and exhibition companies in the world. His last six years were spent as the company's most senior executive in China. He had been invited by Joe to speak to the club about China.
Philip initially knew little about the country but eventually "fell in love with all things China." The history of the country, he said, is rich, deep and old, with 3,500 years of culture, good food and large number of people. Since "China is a huge country -- and a huge topic," he said, he would structure his talk from three perspectives: history, scale and coherence. He humorously added that he would try to present it like a Reduced Shakespeare production.
A takeaway from those six years, he said, was in viewing the 19th century as the "British century," the 20th century as the "American" century and the  21st century as the "Chinese" century. As he put it, the Chinese are "reasserting hegemony over their natural sphere of influence the greater Asia Pacific realm," becoming an alternative development and ideological models. "They themselves believe this, as their increasingly forthright stance in world affairs seems to suggest." He gave his own story, not as an expert but as an "interested and engaged observer." 
HISTORY: He cited more than 4,000  years of continuous history. Chinese writing, the "oldest continuous writing still used today," began on tortoise shells around 1600 B.C.  Historically, he said, the Chinese think that around 1800 the earth was kicked off its axis and "is now wobbling back to true center." He said the Chinese are proud of their history, which includes civil service and their tradition of independent evaluation. 
He spoke of the "mandate of heaven," that the emperor ruled as the son of heaven, a view still in existence today.
And he spoke of dynasties that existed when Confucianism and Taoism were coming into being, and the Han dynasty that coexisted with ancient Rome.  During the Han dynasty, there was active trade with Rome, with silk a major export. 
The country experienced a cosmopolitan period around 600 A.D. Its capital was the world's biggest city. Women held positions of power, learning was at a height, and the Silk Road was developing. Chinese emperors were "diligent stewards of their country," he said.
But China also feared invasions from the north, such as the first which was from the Mongols. That led to the construction of some of its many walls. 
SCALE: Philip said that scale is hard to imagine: there are at least 15 urban populations all bigger than our largest city, perhaps  totaling 260 million, with Shanghai at 25-35 million depending on how you measure. By contrast, the U.S. has fewer than 10 cities with populations of a million or more; San Jose is the 10th largest with 945,000.
Looking at it from a professional perspective, from Philip's notes, Beijing has more billionaires than any city and China, more billionaires than any country.
Health is a factor in those numbers: according to his notes, by the end of the century there will likely be 200 to 300 million people with Type 2 diabetes, likely similar numbers with other diseases of industrialization and aging populations. Those other illnesses include also respiratory and heart conditions. The scale of the health care problem will motivate the Chinese to look for effective but far less expensive solutions than currently available and could move China to become a center of medical innovation. 
The aviation industry is huge, ranking at 3 trillion dollars; to accommodate the need for planes and services, he cited expectations to build  200 airports for commercial  jets over the next two decades.
He also mentioned China's beautiful natural scenery.
COHERENCE: He described the Chinese political philosophy as inverse to ours: the collective comes first, and devolves rights to the citizenry. There is an emphasis on conformity; and on partnership between business and government.
There are 55 ethnic minorities in China, each with its own autonomous region; the major one being the Han people (92 %).  "No one who looks like me carries a Chinese passport," he said.  The importance of family, and getting things done, he said, is deeply rooted.
The Chinese are for China, he said, in terms of worldview. Conformity and the good of the country is emphasized, as opposed to American emphasis on individual freedoms; dissent is discouraged.  State capitalism is totally coordinated with the government.
Through the Belt and Silk Road initiative, the Chinese attempted to build a commercial infrastructure that mimicked the ancient Silk Road, routing through the "Stans" and stretching into Eastern Europe. It was seen as their first foray into extended economic diplomacy.
He mentioned that "the anti-democratic changes in Hong Kong, the Muslim re-education camps in Xinjiang and the subjugation and delamination of Tibet are, in the Chinese view, permanent and irrevocable. Given the fact that the Chinese consider these to be markers of their national sovereignty, they will never back track or concede on these issues."
It is reported that in war games the U.S. is seen as a continual loser in battles with China on Asian turf.
"Confucianism is deeply ingrained in Chinese thinking, overlaid with Taoism and Marxism with Chinese characteristics."
Philip then invited questions.
In answer to John Evans' query about  languages in China, specifically Cantonese and Mandarin, Philip noted that there were many local subdialects. Dianne endorses what Philip said about scale, given her experience on trips to China.  She remembers being told about one city they were approaching that the population was 32 million and she and others with them had never even heard the name of the city before. Philip reiterated that China's history, like its culture, is deep and rich, and that they are big "foodies" and particularly that city was know for its food. Steve  Wilson asked about religious freedoms, and Philip mentioned major religions in the country including Judaism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Islam, but the main religion is Confucianism. He also said the Chinese people will be guided by what happens in their country.
Rotary President Mary then  shared how Philip will  receive a Rotary Certificate of Appreciation, along with a donation to Polio  Plus, which  is customary for speakers.
Club Meeting, October 1 , 2020

President Mary Rogren called the meeting to order.  
Pledge of Allegiance: Ginger Minoletti led the Pledge of Allegiance
Inspiration Thought: Dianne Bobko, filling in for EP, offered the inspirational message including several short sayings about finding peace in the midst of chaos: "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart...."; "The less you respond rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become."

President Mary Rogren started the meeting by happily mentioning articles in this week's Half Moon Bay Review which spotlighted EJ Dieterle playing his accordion at Ocean Colony, and an interview with our outgoing exchange student Micah Warner-Carey.  "EJ, you're a star!" she said. EJ said he had played there every day until the end of May, and then regularly on the last Friday of each month.

Happy/Crappy News smiley/crying


John Evans updated the club about exchange students who  have spent time in  Half Moon Bay, including Louise from France, Valentina from Italy and Caroline from Belgium. 


Rose spoke of community service, how the district had approved our district grant applications in support of Abundant Grace and Coastside Hope. A workday is planned for Saturday morning, Oct. 10, organized by Bill  Johnston, for fencing for the homeless center. We don't have Pumpkin Festival this year, she said, so instead we  will have hammer and nails.
The Abundant Grace sandwiches project continues; there are three dates left to fill  in October.
Rose noted that the City of Half Moon Bay had expressed the need for feeding families at this  time. That is a daunting project, which would  mean delivering food every Thursday afternoon for somewhere around 250 people. Rose will send an informative email around to club members. Additional needs as pointed out  through the district include vision screening and other health-related issues, all big undertakings especially for a club our  size, but she will send out information. 

Upcoming events include a club board meeting Oct. 5, the district blood drive Oct. 9, and the fencing project Oct. 10.


Marble Draw - No luck this week 

Next Week's Meeting