There has been so much change in China over the past 40 years of “reform and opening“. Over the past 20 or so years that I’ve been coming here. Over the past 10 years. Over the past 5.

Of course, the whole world has changed, including the United States, where I am from. But the sheer scale and pace of change in China has been mind-boggling. Nearly everyone’s life is drastically different than it was a generation ago, and for most people, their quality of life is substantially better. I don’t think this is true in the US.

I’m amazed at how quickly humans are able to adjust to new situations. We fear change and have uncertainty about the future, but once something becomes the new normal, it’s, well, normal. This is most apparent to me at the societal level rather than the individual level.

There’s the adage that we overestimate what can be accomplished in a year and underestimate what can be accomplished in ten years. I think the same is probably true for how we anticipate change–there is less change than we expect over a one-year period, and more than we expect over a ten-year period, although the change might be in different vectors than we expect.

The pace of change in China seems to have slowed, in part due to the fact that economic growth has naturally slowed as China has “caught up”. I suspect, though, that future changes will continue to be mind-boggling, particularly when viewed through a 5-10 year lens. But by then we’ll be used to it.

A question to think about: how will things be drastically different in 10 years?

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