Is this a contradiction? The People's Republic of China is a Communist state. China is also a centre of cutting edge design.
Try this one, is it too a contradiction? China is infamous as a place for intellectual property piracy of international brands and copyright. China is also increasingly engaged in genuine intellectual property law reform at an international level.
There is evidence that China has become a metropole of cutting edge design. This was the key finding in the cover story of BusinessWeek, 21 November 2005: "China Design: How the mainland is becoming a global center for hot products".
Subsequently in its 2006 Design Awards, BusinessWeek observed "Design teams from Asia nabbed a quarter of this year's gold awards, up from 8% in 2005." The focus was on industrial design. China’s Lenovo Group computer maker took two golds. Also designed in China (for Korea's Samsung) was the Touch Messenger (pictured right), a mobile phone and Braille text messaging device for the world's 180 million blind or visually impaired people as estimated [PDF] by the World Health Organization in 1997.
It has been widely observed that the global shift of clothing manufacturing towards China is now leading to China setting fashion style. Victoria's Secret and others spin imagery pointing to other places, but more and more their threads and fashion design are both Made in China.
China vogue is a good thing for Western materialists. Clothing has become cheaper.
From empirical data for the period from 1996 to 2004 in the UK, in the 2006 book The Fashion Handbook (Routledge, London, 2006), Tony Hines observes in one chapter that "Effectively you would be able to purchase clothing and footwear that may have cost Pounds Sterling 1 in 1996 for 65 pence in 2004." He goes on to note that in 2003 China had a 23% market share of the global clothing export market.
What inspired this post was discovering the extraordinary design for the 56-storey condominium, Absolute Tower. It is being built in Mississauga (near Toronto), Canada. The building design rotates 360 degrees from bottom to top. The two accompanying graphics illustrate why it has been dubbed the "Marilyn Monroe building".
It is scheduled for completion in 2009. The lead designer is Yansong Ma (a Yale alumnus) of the Chinese architectural firm, MAD Design.
MAD Design are mentioned in The Next Cultural Revolution cover story of the current issue of FastCompany (a major US magazine).
"The inscrutable Asians" was a common phrase used in Australia up to say the late 1970s. It captured the fact that Australians found the Vietnamese, Chinese and others (in an undifferentiated mass of "Asian" people) hard to understand or explain, mysterious and enigmatic.
Today the world is more engaged. So we should be more informed in trying to answer the opening questions about contradictions in China. Are they then contradictions?
To get us close, a short answer could quote the title and lyrics of Ira Gershwin's song, It Ain't Necessarily So.
A longer answer could note that the Chinese are experts in contradiction.
In adopting Communism they took on board the study of the three step process, or dialectic, of German political philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
The study of contradiction is the bread and butter of this way of thinking. Karl Marx built his philosophy of history on that dialectic (his take is referred to as dialectical materialism) and it seems he used the phrase "thesis, antithesis and synthesis".
Hence, applying and extending Hegel's process of - thesis, antithesis, synthesis - we might say the Chinese have:
considered a thesis (ie an intellectual proposition), for example - "We don't have domestic intellectual property law as part of our legal system";
considered an antithesis (ie an oppositional idea to the thesis), for example - "The West has intellectual property laws, uses them to their advantage and treats us as outcasts"; and
then moved towards a synthesis (ie a solution to the conflict between the thesis and antithesis), for example - "We need to get on in a globalising world, we better adopt some of the norms of the West, including creating domestic intellectual property laws and an IP administration and signing treaties for international harmonisation of IP laws".