situated knowledge, strategic investments, and avian flu [again]

More evidence that China and the United States really are the same country; my husband wants to invest in the US, while my father wants to invest in China because [drum roll, please] both believe that the local economy may be alright for short-term investments, but long-term it would be best to have one’s money elsewhere. My Chinese husband sees stability in the US. My US American father sees potential in China’s emerging market; neither sees their country strong and vibrant and leading the international pack twenty years down the road. That said, when I noted that my husband wasn’t confident about keeping money in China, my father suggested that perhaps I should consider moving my money to India.

On the face of it, my father and my husband have different approaches to life. When playing cards, for example, my father tends to play the odds, while my husband tests his luck. When reading, my father enjoys detective novels, while my husband appreciates literary experimentation. When keeping fit, my father keeps a strict schedule, while my husband takes the occasional stroll after dinner. My father is a stock broker; my husband is a playwright. Here’s the thing, though. Both men are savvy, concerned and engaged citizens.  And this past week, both have looked out their respective windows (in small town North Carolina and boomtown Shenzhen) only to see chaos and insecurity.

In my parents’ hometown, I was warned about certain parts of town — in a suburb near Ft. Bragg, home to the Airborne and Special Operations Forces. So it seems, we’re not only flaying about with misguided visions of keeping peace through military means, but also in need of peace keeping at home.  Visiting friends in Georgia, I was informed that it was easy to order common rape drugs (GHB, rohypnol and ketamine) online, while teen alcohol abuse has become even more prevalent than it was when I could drive to the lake and party with high school friends. Indeed, I had a disturbing that was then moment just yesterday. I watched Julie Brown’s “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” video. In 1984, when the song came out, I found it a funny parody; thirty years later it seems  both macabre and cruel to profit from the violence in our schools. My mother succinctly summed up the situation with the comment, “I’m happy to be an old hen because today’s chicks have it tough.”

Meanwhile, back in China, avian flu has reappeared in the unsettling wake of pig and bird die-offs. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have made such a fanfare of calling for prompt and effective response that the opposite has happened: many are worried precisely because they don’t trust the government. Indeed, navigating Chinese news reports seems almost like navigating around icebergs. There is a sense that the Center only ever shows “10%”of the danger. Consequently, when high-ranking leaders express concern, savvy netizens see flashing warning lights: Xi Jinping has asked vice premier Liu Yanzhong (刘延东) to take charge of this latest public health campaign戴旭 has weibo-ed that too much coverage will cause panic and help the US propaganda machine, and; my husband has warned me — take precautions when returning to China and, if necessary, delay your trip until we have more reliable information.

And at that moment, I realized just how similar US American and Chinese citizens have become in our belief that the insecurity is escalating. Moreover, trepidation has become common sense. In the States, we’re hunkering down because partying leads to rape and schools have become kill zones. In China, we’re hunkering down because eating causes illness and political privilege excuses murder. Sigh du jour: how safe can Indian investments be if they’re also writing off inequality, violence, and eco-cide as the cost of doing business?