Chinese Numerology And World History
June 05, 2012, 12:01 AM
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The NYT reports:
The broad index of the Shanghai exchange fell 64.89 points on Monday, a figure that recalls the Tiananmen Square events on June 4, 1989. In another unusual development, the index opened on Monday at 2346.98 — a figure that, to some, looked like the date of the crackdown written backward, followed by the 23rd anniversary. 
In a country where numerology is taken very seriously, Chinese censors quickly began blocking searches for “stock market,” “Shanghai stock,” “Shanghai stock market,” “index” and other related terms. They also deleted large numbers of microblog postings about the numerical fluke. ...
Chinese culture puts a very strong, sometimes superstitious, emphasis on numbers and dates. The Beijing Olympics started at 8:08 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2008, a time and date chosen for the many eights, considered an auspicious number. 


In China in World History, the New Zealand historian S.A.M Adshead contrasted the world-historical implications during the last 2000 years of "the preference for theology and science in the West, for magic and technology in the East." Initially, magic and technology worked better than theology and science, propelling China ahead of Europe in the middle ages. Then, the latent powers of theology and science matured and Europe came to dominate.

Among the great questions of this millennium will be whether the Chinese come to accept theology and science as higher values than magic and technology. Or, after a good 600 year run, are theology (e.g., Christian egalitarian altruism) and science (e.g., the post-Copernican conception that we aren`t the still point of the turning world and thus that our views and our welfare shouldn`t be privileged) now undermining the West? And will the Chinese reject these fundamentals of the West, whether on pragmatic grounds or due to fundamental cultural aversion? Will we be able to talk the Chinese into, say, accepting a few hundred million African refugees to prove their modernity?

We talk a lot about the challenge to the West from Islam, but the Muslims are our cousins in Abrahamic theology: insistent, loud, aggressive in their assumption that if you become a believer you can`t also remain an infidel. But Islam appears inseparable from mediocre human capital, and thus the challenge from Islam ought to be more of an annoyance. The Chinese, in contrast, are polite and agreeable, not seeing any problem with being both believer and infidel. They are, to us, inscrutable, but thus require more scrutiny.