From a regular commenter here on MO:
I’ve been working with Chinese (mainland and Taiwanese) for close to 20 years now. I currently have a team of engineers in both mainland China and in Taiwan under my chain of command. I’ve spent months one-on-one with many of them as they have come here to the US for training, and I talk with them almost every day.
One thing I can say is that while they have a gazillion folks with engineering degrees, they have very few decent engineers. Good technicians, for sure. But give them a new problem, and nothing ever happens. I think this is more cultural than genetic, because there are quite a few decent engineers in Taiwan, who come form the same gene pool. They just have 40 more years of experience with capitalism under their belts, and they understand the importance of making a decision.
But the biggest problem with China, IMO, is the massive amounts of corruption. I mean, they make something like the Chicago political machine look like amateurs, and the US defense complex look like a bastion of honesty and logic. It’s horrible, and it permeates every aspect of life. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is easier to take out a Chinese aircraft carrier by dropping a duffle bag of 20 dollar bills on it instead of a 500 lb bomb.
Working with the younger Chinese (25-30 year olds) is pleasant. Some of them certainly “get it”. And once they open up, the first thing they complain about is the corruption, and the second is censorship. Third is pollution.
They will spend hours on the internet here, just reading stuff they can’t get access to over there. And as a general rule, they don’t trust their own military or even their police. Again, too much corruption. And they all know what really happened in Tiananmen square.
And while I am training them to take over my job (no, it’s not really that bad), I also derive great pleasure in exposing them to all sorts of political concepts and reading material. Everything from the Federalist Papers, to Bill Ayers, to Glenn Beck. They eat it all up. And I send them back home with a couple dozen copies of the US Constitution and a $5 bill to get them through customs. Yeah, it took me a couple years to learn that trick….
So all in all, I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about what the Chinese military might do to us. Too many of their citizens have already taken a bite from the capitalist apple, and they like the taste.