Veteran journalist Dan Rather, former anchor of CBS Evening News, says, in an interview with Dan Washburn of AsiaSociety (and the founding editor of Shanghaiist):
Yes. I’d like to think that I or anybody else who reported even sporadically from Asia could see the potential of China and the potential of India. But, if you had told me, as late as the 1980s, that China’s economic growth would be what it has become, I would’ve said, “I don’t think you know Asia very well, or perhaps you’re smoking something very expensive.”
How did China surprise everybody? Well, I can’t speak for everybody but I know with myself and other reporters, who covered, and other people who thought they knew the area very well, we underestimated the people. A common mistake. The belief ran so strong, listen, this iron-grip Communist Party apparatus allied with a military. And yes, there’ll be a day maybe when that begins to break, but it’s going to be way down the road because the grip is so strong. How could the feelings of the people below possibly crack through in our lifetime? Part of it is lack of knowledge of the ancient and modern history of China, not understanding the culture, not understanding the society, not understanding the people. Seeing the country as a monolith, if you will, rather than 1.3 or 4 billion individual people. We, and I include myself in this, keep making the same mistake over and over and over again. Not understanding the history, culture, say nothing of the language, and underestimating the power of the people.