The World: Life in the Middle Kingdom

The common people of China are a strong, hardy race, patient, industrious and much given to traffic and all the arts of gain, cheerful and loquacious under the severest labor.

—Lord Macartney, 1794

THAT shrewd comment by England's first envoy to Imperial China remains accurate to this day. China has long been compared, invidiously, to a colony of human ants. The fact is that the devotion to hard labor noted by Macartney is still the nation's most conspicuous characteristic. If the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung could ever be boiled down to two words,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!