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Made You Think

May 30, 2023

“The Chinese people had invented the compass, paper, the printing press, gunpowder, the seismograph, the crossbow, and the umbrella; they had sailed to Africa in the fifteenth century; they had constructed the Great Wall; over the past decade they had built their economy at a rate never before seen in the developing world. They could return a rental car with exactly three-eighths of a tank of gas, but filling it was apparently beyond the realm of cultural possibility.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we're covering Country Driving, a captivating memoir by Peter Hessler that explores the transformation of China through the lens of its rapidly changing roadways and the people who navigate them. 

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • The modernization of Chinese infrastructure
  • Negotiation culture in China
  • Exceptionalism and believing your culture is superior
  • The most popular automobiles in America
  • How conditions for laborers have gotten so bad

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow NatNeil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(0:00) There are some books that can arguably be just a blog post, but we feel this is not the case for Country Driving.

(3:35) Country Driving gives insight to what 'Made in China’ means, as we often don't consider the human labor side of the items we own.

(6:59) While there are large amounts of ambition and hustle in Chinese culture, is it sustainable and truly for the good of the individual, or is it simply for their own survival? 

(9:16) “In China, much of life involves skirting regulations, and one of the basic truths is that forgiveness comes easier than permission.”

The central government in China and how enforcement happens moreso on the group level. We also discuss whether people throughout the world are innately the same and how our culture plays a role in how we act under certain circumstances. 

(15:33) Negotation culture in China and the patience it takes to draw decisions out until the last possible second. Nearly everything is a negotiation in China, whereas in America, there isn't a whole lot of negotiation.

(20:56) Invasion of the Mongols headed by Genghis Khan. As different groups arrived to China, they eventually got absorbed into the current culture.

(24:26) One of China’s strengths is the ability to absorb outside cultures. As new figures came into power, they adopted the previous regimes. We also talk about what exceptionalism means in America.

(28:00) During China's modernization projects, many workers would be working for just a few instant noodle packets per day. As states become more technologically adept, they continue to mistreat people and extract money from them while also being able to discard the evidence.

(33:41) Is it right or wrong to invade a country that’s aggressively using slave labor to harness its natural resources? Though it’s nation building, it also is an invasion on human rights.

(39:31) The driving laws and norms in China are different than in the US- From their communication through honking to the lanes they use for turning.

(43:11) Why cities in China have their hands tied when it comes to financing. 

(48:13) That concludes this episode, thanks for listening! If this episode intrigued you, make sure to pick up a copy of Country Driving and stay tuned for our next episode.

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS, @adilmajid, @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!