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It's just nomenclature. Just like the fortunes of a man. Today may be poor but tomorrow can be better.
A third-world nation can do as good if not better than a first-world nation in certain regards just by not doing bad things like napalming a third-world nation, or inventing neutron missiles, for that matter uranium-depleted tank shells.
But yes there are regards in which a nation can be progressive while being pragmatic, whether first second or third and fourth world.
China has made an extraordinary start in both regards. Imagine another country of millions being poor and deprived lifted up to the last man woman and child from their lot and propelled into a middle-class in a modern setting with good infrastructure and the chance to make it in life on one's own steam. China did that for so many of her poor and deprived - with nothing except human skill and will and all within one generation.
Pray tell how many other nations can do that? For that matter, feed a billion year in year out without fanfare despite harsh climes and challenging arables. Or, rapidly achieving fiscal surpluses. Or, becoming a respected international player in many places.
True, domestic growth had come at a price of the environment. But that can be healed in due course using the same approach of technique and technology on the back of a pragmatic scientific development approach in nation-building that values stability to create a peaceful platform for personal and material progress.
Which brings me to mention one time long ago the US had praised to high heavens Japan's management prowess even to the extent of studying its theory Z in management only to later decry and outcaste its economic fall when the tokyo bubble burst and those islands went into a fudgy state.
So what matters whether one is labeled today a 'third world' or for that matter a 'first-world' nation? If Japan can still innovate and keep standards of cleanliness and tidiness, which other nation can't, given the right recipe? If a cat catches mice, who cares if it is grey?
But yes, there is something which i would like to see more from China. But that's because i know her peoples have it in them in untapped abundance. An explosion of creativity. Whether of products, ideas, business models, inventions, methods, materials - all can be galvanised and turned into new markets for the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, when does the next boat down the Irrawaddy river to Yangon leave?
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