Chinese Agrarian Demographics & Us

Back in 1971, when I was in 7th grade, I had a choice of taking Spanish or French in school. I clearly recall being told that Spanish would be a more useful language to learn. Neither seemed like it would ever be useful, but we were told about the demographics. It was explained that the population of Spanish-speaking people in this country was expected to increase dramatically in the years ahead.

That was the first time I had ever heard the word, “demographics.” I learned that there are people who actually look ahead into the future by studying human population statistics and trends. So, long before I ever ate any kind of Mexican food, or even saw a real person from South America, people in the know knew what was going to happen.

I ended up taking Spanish for the next five years and have now forgotten most of what little I learned. But I’ve maintained an interest in demographics, and demographic trends. It is that interest, combined with my agrarian awareness, that leads me to be concerned about the current industrialization of China, which appears to be a significant multi-faceted tragedy in the making.

I’ve been thinking about this after reading yesterday’s installment of The Daily Reckoning. I confess to being a reader of this contrarian financial newsletter. I like editor Bill Bonner’s writing style. And I like it that much of what he has thus far prognosticated about the economy has been right on. The stock market and housing bubbles are a couple of examples of things he wrote and warned about many months before they became front page news.

Mr. Bonner’s recent missive is about the phenomenal economic growth of China—as chronicled in the current issue of National Geographic magazine—and it’s ramifications for the rest of the world. What I find particularly interesting is the Chinese demographic shift from rural-based agrarian culture to urban industrialism. Here is an excerpt from the newsletter:

“What caught our eye was a chart of China's oil use. Ten years ago, China imported 165 million barrels of oil per year. Today, the total is more than 1 billion. What does it do with all that energy? It grows…it develops…it chugs…it thumps…it soars.

Looking at the photos [in National Geographic], the place reminds me of a teenager—sassy, obnoxious, and outgrowing his pants. It is an adolescent nation, growing so fast it must eat all the time. In addition to the oil, China has opened 229 new coal-fired power plants since 1990.

Wonder why the price of oil hit a new high last week—above $126 a barrel? Well, China is a big part of the answer.

And rice is now selling for twice as much as it did last year. Could that too be blamed on China? Well, partly. When the Chinese lived on the land, they fed themselves with what they produced. But once in town, they become more customers for the globalized market…competing for their daily bread with people in Des Moines and Dubrovnik.

You've heard the expression about land—‘they're not making any more of it.’ Well, in China, they're actually losing it. Since 1949, says National Geographic, China has lost one-fifth of its farmland to dust-storms, desertification, pollution and urbanization. Each year, the country loses more ground—an area approximately as large as the state of Rhode Island.

Let's see, more and more people moving to the cities—hundreds of millions of them. Building factories...building houses...buying cars...washing machines...computers. More and more people competing for the world's resources...less and less farmland...

Oh, we'll do the math later.

Millions of Chinese people have left (and continue to leave) their centuries-old agrarian culture. As they move to the growing urban centers to get their piece of industrial prosperity, they are exchanging their rural self-reliance for complete dependency on the industrial machine, on the Industrial Providers.

The machine perpetuates itself only by consuming enormous amounts of natural resources and generating enormous amounts of waste. In other words, by desolating creation. Concepts like sustainability and stewardship of the earth are alien to these people. I can only assume the Chinese learned how to do this from our example in the industrialized western nations.

We have seen what Industrial greed and wealth and corrupted power have wrought here in America, a “democratic” nation, founded on Christian principles. Now we will see what happens when that unholy trinity works in the midst of a God-hating Communist nation.

Seeing this drama unfold in China reinforces my firm conviction that industrialized culture as we know it is a wicked thing. To employ an agrarian anology—it bears bad fruit.

All of which reaffirms my belief that a simplified, Christian-agrarian lifestyle, based on a Christian-agrarian worldview, is the only legitimate antithetical alternative to the industrial madness.

The bottom line here is that none of us can do anything about the situation in China. And I’m dubious about our ability to do anything significant about the corporate-government-military-industrial destruction taking place in this country (though I still have hope). But we can do something about how we choose to live our own lives.

Every single one of us can, if we care, if we are convicted of our complicity, take steps not to participate in the foolishness. We can take steps to be less dependent on the Industrial Providers. We can take steps to simplify our needs, our wants, our lives. We can take steps to separate ourselves and our families from the soul destroying influences of a popular culture that seeks to dominate our every thought and action. We can do this, deliberately, one step at a time. And in so doing, we will have actually done something substantial about the problem, where it matters the most.

That’s what I think.


Angela said...

Thats what I think too! Its such an encouragement to me and my family to read your blog and be reassured that there are others who think like this, and are taking steps to doing something about it. You have really helped us to see some important ways to bring our lives more in line with God's Word. May He bless you richly.

mark said...

I have to wonder if the Buddhist,Taoist and Confucion beliefs of the chinese, will be affected negatively, the way christianity was in the west. Will they lose the spiritual belief systems that have sustained them for centuries? Will the young be alienated from their parents, and pick up all the same bad social problems, young people in the west have. Will the loss of agrarian life, create the same set of problems for them? As it has for us? I think we are about to see an experiment in real time, of what the Industrial Age, and Modernity does to a society. Only this time we will be on the sidelines watching it happen somewhere else.

woodman said...


Well said.

Here is another facet of the growing industrialization of China.

Last autumn ('07) I took the aluminum cans that we had accumulated to a metal recycling facility in town. The price surprised me. They were paying 60 cents a pound. The most I had received in the past was 35 cents. I asked the man behind the plexiglass pay window what was driving the prices for salvage metal up. He said one word "China".

About a month ago I took a few more cans in. The price was 80 cents per pound!

In the last month or so another scrap metal buying firm has opened in town. Now we have two BIG firms buying scrap metal. As I have occassion to drive by either of thesse, I see lines of trucks from pick-ups to semis waiting in line to off load their cargos of old cars, farm machinery, fence materials, metal roofing, guttering, appliances, all forms of used metal.

Back during WWII (before my time) Americans collected and turned in scrap metals for the production of American war machines. In fact, hanging in the office behind the aforementioned man at the plexiglass window there hangs a vintage poster showing a Japanese plane going down in flames. The captions says somehing like "Your scrap brought it down. Keep on scrapping!"

The thought that keeps nibbling the back of my mind is that people today are scouring the countryside cleaning out fence rows, vacant lots, barns, what have you, to accumulate this scrap metal to sell at what must be record prices. There is even a bit of a crime problem with people stealing aluminum gutters and copper wiring off of vacant houses and new construction.

Much of this "salvaged" material is undoubtedly going to China where it will be re-manufactured by Chinese labor so that these same Americans can buy myriad Chinese products.

None of this contribute in anyway to the health or security of our country.

Just something to think about.


papabear said...

I have to wonder if the Buddhist,Taoist and Confucion beliefs of the chinese, will be affected negatively, the way christianity was in the west.

Traditional belief systems, for the most part, have no influence on urban dwellers, and the consequences of spoiling the only child that a Chinese couple is permitted to have are making them manifest gradually.

Jeff said...

I believe that the biggest problem we face today as a nation is the unconstitutional, evil, federal reserve fractional banking system. The bankers have stolen the wealth from the middle class of this nation. Unless we have a total collapse I can see in the future we not having cash, but we will be direct deposited to a plastic card we carry. I am ready to go back to the barter system which I am working on now.

Anonymous said...

One trend you should be aware of is that the growth of the Christian church in China will make it the largest Christian nation by 2025. Perhaps by then we will be the Communist nation.