Har har har Too Many Hamburgers? By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN Published: September 21, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/opinion/22friedman.html?src=me&ref=general To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this yearÃ¢â¬â¢s World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. ChinaÃ¢â¬â¢s CCTV aired a skit showing four children Ã¢â¬â one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian Ã¢â¬â getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, Ã¢â¬ÅAnthony,Ã¢â¬Â boasts that he will win Ã¢â¬Åbecause I always win,Ã¢â¬Â and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. Ã¢â¬ÅNow is our chance to overtake him for the first time!Ã¢â¬Â shouts the Chinese child. Ã¢â¬ÅWhatÃ¢â¬â¢s wrong with Anthony?Ã¢â¬Â asks another. Ã¢â¬ÅHe is overweight and flabby,Ã¢â¬Â says another child. Ã¢â¬ÅHe ate too many hamburgers.Ã¢â¬Â For the U.S. visitor, the comparisons start from the moment one departs BeijingÃ¢â¬â¢s South Station, a giant space-age building, and boards the bullet train to Tianjin. It takes just 25 minutes to make the 75-mile trip. In Tianjin, one arrives at another ultramodern train station Ã¢â¬â where, unlike New York CityÃ¢â¬â¢s Pennsylvania Station, all the escalators actually work. Ã¢â¬ÅHow can you compete with a country that is run like a company?Ã¢â¬Â an Indian entrepreneur at the forum asked me of China. Ã¢â¬ÅWe are not ready to act on our strength,Ã¢â¬Â said my Indian friend, Ã¢â¬Åso weÃ¢â¬â¢re waiting for them [the Chinese] to fail on their weakness.Ã¢â¬Â Will they? The Chinese system is autocratic, rife with corruption and at odds with a knowledge economy, which requires liberty. Yet China also has regular rotations of power at the top and a strong record of promoting on merit, so the average senior official is quite competent. Listening to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China tick off growth statistics in his speech here had the feel of a soulless corporate earnings report. Yet he has detailed plans for his peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s betterment, from universities to high-speed rail, and heÃ¢â¬â¢s delivering on them.