What’s really funny is that if I copy-pasted many of the things that a proud Chinese patriot Kai-fu Lee says about China and published them as my own, there would be horrified whelping to the skies about how racist I am. Not on this blog because there aren’t any malignant wokesters here but anywhere else.

China is supposed to be a totalitarian society yet we are the one getting our speech policed.

A Normal Question

I had a friend over today.

“What would you like, coffee or tea?” I asked.

“Whatever you prefer,” she said. “I don’t want to trouble you.”

“It’s no trouble! No trouble at all!” I yelled. “I’m so happy to be able to ask this question! I feel normal again!”

Wounded Patriotic Self-esteem

One thing that makes Kai-fu Lee’s book harder to read than one would wish is the quantity of wounded patriotic self-esteem. I grew up in the Russian-speaking world and I’m exhausted by this stuff. OK, OK, you feel that everybody respects Americans more than you and it hurts you. But can you stop pouting for two seconds and tell your story already?

Also, the clumsy attempts to defend the totalitarian regime are annoying. But it’s still a very interesting and good book.

A Good Crisis

#BREAKING California State University campuses to remain closed through fall semester, affecting 23 universities

I have very little doubt this is what awaits Illinois, too, devastating our public schools.

Remember how I told you about the talk given on my campus by a high-level bureaucrat in the Illinois Board of Higher Education? He said that the goal was to turn almost all public colleges in Illinois to online diploma mills. He was very direct and open about it. This was in 2012.

Nobody paid attention to it back then.

Fast forward a few years, though, and it’s exactly what was done.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” isn’t a slogan among Democrats for nothing.

Kai-fu Lee’s AI Superpowers, Chapter 3

In this chapter, Kai-fu Lee explains how the love for centralization and deference to authority impact China’s digital revolution.

The government in China knew that it would take the tradition-loving Chinese people decades to become interested in tech. So it made techie startups attractive both psychologically and financially by investing in them. Psychologically, people felt better about working for a startup if it was, at least in part, a government job. Financially, the government ate the losses of such investments and when there was a win, passed in most of the profit to private owners.

Here Lee once again demonstrates that he understands China but not the US. He says that this kind of government involvement is something that Americans can’t imagine. But he’s wrong. According to his own classification, the US invests in an almost identical way into what gives it its best strength, education. Lee started the book by pointing out that the Chinese are great at executing while Americans are great at doing the R&D. So he should be able to make the leap and see the parallel between Americans loving goods mass-produced in China and the Chinese loving the US education. (And obviously each side bitches incessantly about the other’s product while still consuming it obsessively).

Another interesting point about centralization is that Lee believes that the biggest advantage of the Chinese digital platforms is that they offer “a one-stop shop” like the US giants Facebook and Twitter don’t. The Chinese version of Facebook, he says, not only lets you chat to friends but pay for goods, set up medical appointments, get medical test results, etc. Lee clearly thinks it’s a great thing – and I’m sure it is for the owners of the platform – but I wouldn’t want to connect my bank account and my medical records to my FB account. I don’t believe there’s a great hunger for centralization in the US. People seem quite comfortable with their different apps for different things.

Throughout this book, Lee’s very interesting and valuable argument is undermined by his contempt for and lack of understanding of the US. Not surprisingly, he constantly berates the US for its contempt for and lack of understanding of China.