What Can Malaysia Learn From China?

China has about 10% GDP growth per year in the last 30 years, while the West can only manage to achieve about 3% per year in the last few decades. Yet they say that China is ruled by dictators and not democratic.

What is so democratic with Najib as Prime Minister?

I have been to China about half a dozen times in the past few years and every time I am there – on holiday as I have no business dealings or interests there – I marvel at the old and the new.

A few months ago, my wife and I were in Beijing where I visited what is among the top, if not the top, five tourist attractions in the world – the Great Wall. As I wandered around the barricades, many going back a few thousand years, the engineer and amateur architect in me was highly impressed.

The Great Wall of China is about 21,000 kilometers long. It was a huge defensive line against enemies’ intrusion in the past.

It is a collective achievement fulfilled by over 20 dynasties, section by section. The earliest section was built in the Warring States Period ( 476BC-221BC) marking the beginning of the 2,000 years’ construction work, while the latest construction occurred in the Ming Dynasty (1,368-1,644) .

I was also wondering how they could move such big rocks without mechanical cranes during their time. I guess the ancient Egyptians, Incas and Chinese must have some technologies in common, despite being separated by thousands of miles.

And talking about distance, we traveled the super high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai and arrived in about 3.15 hours after a distance of about 1,100 km. Now many countries including the U.K. and Malaysia want the Chinese high speed train.

A few years ago, I travelled by bus from Chengdu to Chongqing. I was wondering why the high way is completely straight, unlike our North South Highway which twists and turns like a snake. Moreover, that Chinese highway is toll free.

The Chinese know that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. Although the initial cost is higher, it will save users’ time, energy and wear and tear of motor vehicles forever. This is so obvious but it seems like our Malaysia highway policy makers never seem to learn it.

And talking about toll, I am very sure that we have paid enough toll over the years to cover the construction cost plus profit for the North-South Highway.

When will the Authorities stop toll collection?

Anyone wants to bet that the Pan-Borneo highway will go in the shortest line possible or will twist and turn like a typical Malaysian snake?

One Lesson to Learn from the Chinese

I could write a book on what Malaysia can learn from China. In fact many books have already been written on what the West, including the United States, can learn from China.

China has had about 10% GDP growth per year in the last 30 years, while the West have only managed to achieve about 3% per year in the last few decades.

If there is one lesson that we can learn from China – only one – this is my recommendation.

China has a system of annual university entrance examinations, taken by about 10 million students each year. This set of examinations is very difficult and covers many subjects. It reportedly runs for up to three days. The tests require broad understanding, deep knowledge and high intelligence, if one is to do well.

Any student whose results are near the top of the list, is in the top 2% or 3% of a pool of 1.5 billion people. Getting a high mark qualifies a student to enter one of the top universities, which will virtually guarantee a great job on graduation, a high salary and a good life.

The present system of civil servant recruitment is based on imperial examination which was designed many centuries ago to select the best administrative officials for the state’s bureaucracy.

It was an eminently fair system in that the exam itself had no qualifications. Almost anyone, even from the least educated family in the poorest town, could sit the exam and, if that person did well enough, he or she could join the civil service and potentially rise to the top.

Few people are aware that the influence of the Chinese examination system has spread to neighboring Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Korea and Japan – yes Japan!

The Chinese examination system was also introduced to the Western world in reports by European missionaries and diplomats, and encouraged the English East India Company to use a similar method to select employees.

Following the initial success in that company, the British government adopted a similar testing system for screening civil servants in 1855. Other European nations, such as France and Germany, followed suit. Modeled after these previous adaptations, even the U.S established its own testing program for certain government jobs after 1883.

It is clear that the reason why the Chinese civilization and nation have been able to be so lasting and continuous is the practice of this truly meritocratic system.

By comparison our system of civil service appointment is not only not meritocratic; it is anti-meritocratic. In fact meritocracy seems to be a dirty word for UMNO, PAS, Perkasa and the other Malay supremacist types.

It is clearly a system based on “know-who” and determined by UMNO’s hidden hands rather than “know-how”.

And if this continues we can be sure that our Malaysian nation will end up in the dustbin of history.

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