The Macro Psychology of China

Last night I had the opportunity to have a long rambling conversation with two of the second year planners. As usual, the topics meandered but one of them mentioned that the rate at which third world countries become first world countries has been halved for each new comer. The new kid on the block is China and he mentioned that the country’s new found wealth will affect its own culture and society (and perhaps the world) in unpredictable ways because of the intensity of its growth. 

It was a very cool observation, but as soon as I agreed, red flags went up in my head. Sorry man.

I don’t think the future of China, accounting for it’s influx of wealth, is as mysterious as we think it is. The big thing being that we know what China has done with incredible wealth in the past (the good old dynasty days) and we also know what the US has done with its incredible growth as well. Using their histories we can analyze their current states and make a very reasonable guess at what’s going to happen in the future.  

An old colleague introduced me to the Object Relations theory which can help me explain this better. Basically what it says is:  

Object relations theory is a modern adaptation of psychoanalytic theory that places less emphasis on the drives of aggression and sexuality as motivational forces and more emphasis on human relationships as the primary motivational force in life. Object relations theorists believe that we are relationship seeking rather than pleasure seeking as Freud suggested. The importance of relationships in the theory translates to relationships as the main focus of psychotherapy, especially the relationship with the therapist.

Additionally, if we think of China as a person with its own personality, consider this: 

This blueprint of a self-structure is formed early in life out of our relationships with the objects (significant others, and parts of significant others) around us. Once formed, the blueprint can be modified, but our basic tendency is to seek out others (friends, spouses) who will reaffirm these early self-object relationships. (bold added my me) It is as if in early childhood we create a script for a drama and then spent the rest of our lives seeking out others to play the parts. This does not mean the script cannot be changed. However, the more traumatic our early self-object relations, the more rigid and resistant to change we become.

Whether China’s history was traumatic or not is debatable because of the way the government handles those sensitive subjects. But in a way, we’re seeing that when they are denying some of those “more traumatic …early self-object relations” they are setting themselves up to be more fluid and open to change. But by denying it, they are in a sense acknowledging it as well. And the last lines from the paragraph chunk above would say that we can still make a pretty good guess at it.

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