I sometimes get asked if learning foreign languages is worth it, especially if you don't make money from them, or actually have a need for them. It's a though question. Learning Chinese was hard. I don't live there now, I did for a while, but most likely will never do again. Chinese upper-middle class people are leaving the country in droves, especially people with children. It certainly isn't a very comfortable place to live with a family.
Was it a waste then? I personally don't think so. There's always books and movies to make it worthwhile. And China in particular is a very interesting place, which is very worth knowing about. First of all it was the first modern state in many ways. Centralized government, meritocratic bureaucracy, universal education, state-run economy. All of that was invented in China, they run it for thousands of years, and it's not that different from what modern liberal democracies have become. I strongly think that understanding the political dynamics of ancient China is very useful to understand how Western states work today, even more so than understanding the history of the West itself. Our bureaucracies in many ways have more in common with the mandarinate in the Song Dynasty that they have to a 17th century European kingdom.
And this convergence is actually increasing. Look at this:
As Western states give up with the pretence of democracy, representative government and free speech; as radical ideology dominates all the media and academic world, what is the West going to resemble? China, of course. Before everybody started talking about censoring "hate speech" in the Internet, the Chinese were running the Great Firewall. Before SJWs started "doxxing" people on Twitter and Tumblr, the Chinese internet was doing "human searches" and getting people shamed in public. Before Twitter became the most important place for political speech in the Internet, Weibo had 500 million users, and all sorts of political agitation was going on there.
As you'll imagine the Communist Party wasn't very happy with party members being shown on Weibo every other day naked with their mistresses, or drinking too much, or with solid gold watches. They also weren't happy with extreme Maoists saying we need a new Cultural Revolution, or which Cathedral-spies talking about human rights and about how backward China is in comparison to Great America. So what the government did was a huge crackdown on political speech on the Internet. Massive censorship, banned accounts, and finally a real-name registration system. To get on Weibo or any big forum (imagine Reddit), you need to use your real name and ID number.
Given that Twitter and Facebook will soon start to censor everything white males say as racist and evil, you may be worried about what to do. Well what did the Chinese do? Leave Weibo in droves. And where did they go? To WeChat.
WeChat is a chat app, not that different from WhatsApp or many others. You may have heard of it; it's available out of China too, they're promoting all around the world, and it's translated to any language. How can a chat service supplant Weibo? Well, first of all WeChat has a "moments" tab where you can post stuff like you would on Facebook. You can also run open-accounts, where people follow celebrities who post regularly.
The point is that Chinese now keep to themselves. There is no public speech. If you wanna shit on the government, you can. Everybody does it, all the time. Hell, they won't shut up about it. But not in public. You do it with your friends, or people you can trust. WeChat gets censored too, if you start planning about how much you love the Dalai Lama, your "moment" will get deleted and police will knock to your door. But as long as you're discrete and shit on Oobama instead of Obama, or on Seerian refugees instead of Syrians, you are safe.
So now you know: learn from the Chinese, and leave the public sphere. The government is going to kick you out anyway. All you can do is retreat to the private sphere and do what you have to do, share what you have to share. It's OK, in many ways it's actually better. A good video will get shared anyway. Interesting news will get passed down too. All you need is put more skin in the game.