Chairman Mao, May I Introduce Tom Morris?

While American real estate developers hunker down and try to figure out when if ever their forlorn  industry will revive, the Chinese real estate market is booming, fueled in part by high-end golf communities that celebrate a luxurious life style.  China’s transformation from a predominately rural society with a command economy dominated by state-run heavy industries that produced no consumer goods to a manufacturing economy located in rapidly-growing cities that dominates world commerce is the most astounding and accelerated social transformation the world has ever seen. 

China is now the biggest car market in the world, overtaking the US much more quickly than anyone looking at the market ten years predicted.  China’s cities are huge and growing.  China’s stimulus program invests heavily in infrastructure and public works.  The airports in China are modern and efficient, the planes are newer than in any American carrier’s fleet, and the flight attendants, given that there are no statutes in China protecting against age or sex-discrimination, are mostly pretty young women.

As the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman frequently points out, China is also taking the lead in green energy technology, driving down the price of wind turbines and solar panels, although with abundant coal China’s current energy needs are largely met by fossil-fuel plants and hydropower, which has its own environmental and social costs.   The Chinese government and Chinese companies promote green technologies, but only one percent or so of China’s power is solar.  Still, if they’re talking about doing it, odds are they will accomplish it.  In the meanwhile, the Chinese economy is starting to consume as well as produce, and nowhere more dramatically than in the golf course communities springing up all over China.

 “Golf is noble recreation and men’s sport for 500 years” reads the English version of a website promoting a golf course community in Sichuan Province.  The language here may be eccentric, but the passion for golf and the good life it expresses is earnest and, in an odd way, moving.  There’s no cynicism here, and while the tone may reflect the hyperbolic sparkle of ad copy, the sensibility behind it somehow conveys sincerity rather than cupidity.   The person writing this copy—or translating in good faith an English version of the Chinese shill—writes about golf with the reverence of an 19th century St. Andrean:

“If football embodies the original wild and doughty individuality of men, golf expresses their politeness, taste, and temperament combining modesty with arbitrariness.

“A white ball through five centuries follows the gentlemen’s demeanor including self-discipline, self-esteem, courtliness and good temper from of old. This noble sport becomes a leisurely recreation mode favored by man talents at all times. Although it is not popular among all people, it is always prevailing.”

In America, alas, golf is not always prevailing.

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