Who is living in the third World?

 A few days ago, I received via email an article by one of my favourite writers, Thomas L Friedman, who has written the book called ” The World is Flat”.

This article ,which was published in 2008 in New York Times , compares China and USA. Even though it has nothing to do with Malaysia, I thought we could learn alot from Friedman’s argument .

Since the article is copyrighted, i will only attempt to paraphrase certain paragraphs to share with readers of this blog.

“………..Seven years … Seven years … Oh, that’s right. China was awarded these Olympic Games on July 13, 2001 — just two months before 9/11.

As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.

The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.

Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?”

Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.”

“……………….But the first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America”

“…...it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls that they have to go to China to see the future. “





 Well, I too never want to tell my children or my friends’ children hat they have to go to CHina to see the future…

Malaysians should also stop digging at the national wealth, and instead, dig inside ourselves to move our country along the road to Vision 2030


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A true Malaysian
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 21:07:57

    Vision 2030? or 2020?

    Whatever, to me no vision is better. What for putting a ‘deadline’ to achieve a vision if the whole system is in the mess and corrupted? Put all system right, education, judiciary, political mindset, police, AG Chamber, civil service, the list goes on,…… only then we can be a respected country.

    No point to look nice with no substance. Stop digging national coffer, get rid of the root cause.


  2. clearwater
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:56:27

    Without drastic change in the political system, there can only be a bleak future for most of us Malaysians. The system is so corrupt and crony ridden that nation building takes only a back seat to self interest and hanging on to privilege and power. We moan and groan but the ballot box is where we can make our voice felt and heard. Vote for change in every by-election and the next GE. BN-Umno will not change for the better unless we force them to. For the past 7 years, Malaysia has also progressed little while some of our neighbors improved by leaps and bounds with the right socio-economic policies.


  3. petestop
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:37:45

    “Change we can belive in” – vote Pakatan.

    Vision we cannot believe in, Vision2020, Vision2030, Vision2040 so on and so forth… if you vote Barang Naik govt.


  4. petestop
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:48:51

    I think we are living in 3rd World


    We keep sending our kids to the slaughter, under the guise of National Service.


  5. petestop
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 21:00:47

    An example of 3rd World politics:


    And my email to one Dr Thor Teong Gee who is running this campaign against Wifi@Penang:

    Dear Dr Thor,

    Regarding your group objection against WiFi@Penang as stated in theStar

    Let me just comment as an engineer who have worked on WiFi devices.

    WiFi devices are under strict regulation by the FCC, any WiFi devices that we
    wish to sell into to the market have to pass the FCC requirements.
    One of the requirements have to do with the level of RF power that can be transmitted.
    Locally, we have SIRIM to do the same safety certification.

    I can safely say that it is lower that the existing RF power enamating from
    your handphone, or even your terrestrial TV for the matter, because it is
    only meant for a short distance, so much so that you need many Wireless AP
    just to cover multiple floors on a multi-storey building.

    So much so that there’s a whole bunch of people on the Internet trying to
    hack WiFi drivers to boost the power output to increase the range, but you
    will never get this from WiFi suppliers.

    Ever witness, how your handphone affects a loundspeaker or your CRT computer
    monitor when a call comes in ? That is one hell of a high RF power burst.
    Really, you should be more worried about all the cellphone towers sprouting
    throughout the city.

    FCC regulation also limits WiFi frequencies and power so that it won’t interfere
    with other equipments, as demonstrated by the deployment of WiFi throughout
    Penang Adventist Hospital.

    Therefore, I feel that you group’s fear is misguided, not to mention with a hint
    of politics thrown in, as given the prominence in a political party owned newspaper.

    Why I say it is obvious politicis got involved, bcoz you never see any protest
    gets highlighted when indiscriminate cellphone tower gets constructed
    (only the opposition keeps highlighting it), but when suddenly the DAP-led
    Penang govt want to approve WiFi@Penang, it gets highlighted in the
    MCA-owened theStar !!
    Obvious double-standard.

    If you really want to make a difference, you should lobby against all the black
    smoke emitting from the heavy vehicles on the roads. Who knows what kind
    of carcinogenic hydrocarbons and heavy metals that is spewed into the air
    we breath everyday.

    I don’t ever see heavy vehicle in other countries emitting such level of smoke.

    Could that be the main cause of the low life expectancy in Malaysia ?
    As a doctor you probably already know that Malaysia have one of the highest
    cancer rate in the world.

    For your information, the city of Sunnyvale, California is the first to deploy
    WiFi throughout the city. Knowing California to be one of the most tight-assed
    US state on environmental pollutions and with even stronger environmental
    lobbying, I’m pretty sure they know what they are doing.

    Sure, it will be great if we can all have less Radio Frequency in our environment,
    but given the fact that there are MANY other RF enamating devices at stronger
    power level, and the fact that we can’t even clean up the air that we breath,
    I think your group’s objection to WiFi@Penang is wrongly prioritised.

    Note that I have no connection to state govt nor any WiFi equipment supplier,
    just a Penangites who feel that we need to move forward, instead of being
    bog down by politics (which have but bring us much sorrow the last 50 years).

    If you group can get the smoky heavy vehicle of the road, that will be the
    success of the century.

    Cheers and good luck.



  6. Dr Hsu
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 23:32:04

    We may have first world infrastructure, but our mentality is definitely third world. Your are right, petestop, we are living in the third world.


  7. A true Malaysian
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 00:17:30


    Thanks for sharing, you are just great.

    Let us strive to put Penang as the first free Wifi access state in Malaysia.

    Why worry about wifi? Wifi is so common even at our house.


  8. petestop
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:48:47

    During my many visits to China, I can honestly say that I can’t see any heavy vehicles spewing black smoke on the streets.

    How come ?

    Are we using lousy fuel, or our heavy vehicles underpowered (overloaded) ?

    Toured South Korea during my honeymoon quite a while ago, and I can honestly say that not a SINGLE heavy vehicle throghout the WHOLE country emits anything visible to my eyes.

    The thing is that we have come to be so accustomed to the black smoky lorries and busses, that it is accepted as a norm.

    We are way way behind South Korea, not to mention way way behind China.

    Vision 2020, 2030, 2040…..hah !!

    I can only blame it on the half century misrule
    by BN govt.


  9. yh
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 22:01:28


    BN has been digging all the time. Similar to plundering the country!


  10. concerned citizen
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 13:28:04

    There are two sides to any coin. And Friedman likes to project the rosy lives of a minority, altered due to globalziation. Esp, in such densely populated countries of India and China, the “development” can be terribly skewed!. Here’s Joseph Stiglitz’s take on globalization:

    Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel winner for economics and was Chief Economist at World Bank) said while on a trip to India, that 600 million people from India (out of the one billion!) have been left out of the “development” fold of globalization. So, obviously, all India is not going to migrate into middle class, if anything the inequality is far, far worse now, after the advent of globalization.

    Similarly newspaper reports have pointed out how Chinese workers are working in apalling conditions, to churn out the low cost products, with poor pay, cramped rooms, no accident or health insurance benefits, no job security, no overtime, long working hours – so who is actually benefiting from this sort of globalization? Corporates ofcourse, and the few privileged people of India and China who have been able to get educated in engineering and technology! Not the vast majority of population.

    There is this small, but interesting book, by Aronica and Ramdoo, “The World is Flat? A Critical Analysis of Thomas Friedman’s New York Times Bestseller,” which offers a counterperspective to Friedman’s theory on globalization.

    Interestingly enough, the book written about two years back, discusses in the following chapters,
    “Debt and Financialization of America”
    “America”s Former Middle Class”
    “A Paradigm Shift for America” with prescriptions for the future

    the debt ridden American society, deregulated financial institutions, mortgage crisis and other related issues, with clear pointers to the economic crisis gripping US today. For more information regarding the same, check this out: mkpress.com/FlatExcerpts.pdf

    This is a small book compared to the 600 page tome by Friedman, and aimed at the common man and students alike. As popular as the book may be, some reviewers assert that by what it leaves out, Friedman’s book is dangerous. The authors point to the fact that there isn’t a single table or data footnote in Friedman’s entire book.

    “Globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution,” says Aronica.

    You may want to see http://www.mkpress.com/flat
    and watch http://www.mkpress.com/flatoverview.html
    for an interesting counterperspective on Friedman’s
    “The World is Flat”.

    Also a really interesting 6 min wake-up call: Shift Happens! http://www.mkpress.com/ShiftExtreme.html

    There is also a companion book listed: Extreme Competition: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation


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