In Sweden and in the US politicians are rarely engineers whereas Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, who is likely to take over after Mr Hu in 2012, both are. Engineers make things and calculate things but are not generally known to be social agents. Xi Jinping is not as young either as the current leaders seem to be in the US, Britain and Sweden. One would rather think that lawyers and political scientists, if anything, would make political careers now and then.
Mr Xi ended up on the country side during the Culture Revolution and had to do physical work. With this experience he is probably a person that is all set for at least part of the Western paradigm of developing technology and science. As a Communist Party member since 1979 he is probably steeped in one-party lore, however. There is nothing as refreshing as healthy opposition.
I'm trying to get a feeling for if China will have as a goal the next 15 years or so to catch up with the US economically or if they rather want to develop their country and get rid of all the poverty. After all, it is quite a feat to have gotten rid of so much poverty already as they have. Europe would have to have developed Africa for mobilizing an equal number of people. It would be nice if they incorporated themselves into the world economy by floating their currency as today's column in The Financial Times points out. They are not that poor any longer.
I think this is the problem with China right now. It is difficult to see what they are up to internationally. Will they try to export state capitalism or will they move towards democracy. I can't help thinking about what is required of a Western democratic state. General virtues like courage, law-abidingness, and loyalty. Social virtues like independence, open-mindedness. Economic virtues like work ethic, capacity to delay self-gratification and adaptability to economic and technological change. Political virtues like the capacity to discern and respect the rights of other's, willingness to demand only what can be paid for, ability to evaluate the performance of those in office and a willingness to engage in public discourse.
What they seem to lack most is the ability to question authority which is important for monitoring elected officials and perhaps to elect them in the first place. They might be low on the social virtues as well. The question then is how important this difference is? Will the difference just mean that the Chinese will not reach so high salaries, something that will make state capitalism competitive relative the West?
The Western society evolves thanks to individualism that all the time reaches into the unknown and casts old ways to the side. China has imported a lot of know how over the last decades but will they stagnate relative the West due to lack of individualism? Or has individualism had its day in the history of man and that nowadays "armies" move on each problem like building a computer inexpensively. I don't think so. Focus on the individual with due respect for his or hers collective will still win the day in search for the unknown. While I'm at it, I would also vouch for freedom of thought.