Free Exchange seconds Fallows' article on China:

There are plenty of examples of American companies that are making creative use of the crisis. The New York Times had an excellent article on talent scouts on Sunday. But there are equally depressing examples of America bailing out old companies and allocating talent to make-work jobs in the public sector. America's comparative advantage has always lain in its superior ability to make creative use of disruption; if the Chinese are mastering that art, while the Americans are losing their taste for it, then the country really is in trouble.

What I learned from the piece are the limits of Tocquevillian analysis for China, as the recession creates what would normally be a perilous moment for a regime whose legitimacy rests on rising expectations. And yet China is not eighteenth century France:

I have often wondered why so many people in different roles and regions in China seem vivid. The answer has to be more than contrast with my own blandness. I think it is because being in China today is like being in Western Europe in the 1950s. No one’s family story is dull or uneventful. People doing routine jobs have been through great hardships and dramatic swings of fate. Last year I interviewed a party official in Shanxi province who was laying out his regional-development plans. Every 10 or 15 minutes, he would stop and say (through an interpreter), “Do you understand? If it had not been for Deng Xiaoping, I would be behind an ox in a field right now. I would not be sitting here wearing a necktie and talking to a foreigner.” Or, “Do you understand how different this is? My mother has bound feet!”

Some helpful perspective, no?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.