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China’s House, in the Middle of the Street

And speaking of Chinese infrastructure projects, surf on over to The Atlantic and take a gander at this this gem of a photo (h/t Francis Fukuyama):

Homeowners Luo Baogen and his wife refused to allow the government to demolish their home in Wenling, Zhejiang province, China, claiming the relocation compensation offered would not be enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. So, adjacent neighboring homes were dismantled, and, bizarrely, the road was built around the intact home, leaving it as an island in a river of new asphalt.

We’re not entirely sure what the photo tells us about development and the rule of law in China, but it’s definitely worth more than a thousand words. Check it out. The homeowners eventually agreed to take an improved offer of compensation, and the house in the middle of the street was taken down. See the demolition here.

It’s worth remembering that literally billions of human dramas and disputes are behind great historical phenomena to which we give labels like “the rise of China.” From top to bottom the billion plus citizens of China are coping with changes and surprises in their lives at a rate they’ve never seen before. Even as the government struggles to impose some kind of order and stability on the process, the sheer force of social and economic change is transforming society in ways no technocrat can fully understand or predict. We can look at all this as an episode in economic or geopolitical history, but we can never forget that the core of what is happening in China is that hundreds of millions of people are liberating themselves from poverty and isolation, and are working their way into a richer, more varied and interesting life than they’ve ever seen. It’s hard work, and it will be hard for China to keep its balance as it changes and grows, but we are privileged to be living at a time of a great blossoming of human potential.

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