Wednesday, January 12, 2005

# Posted 5:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DO THE MATH: I just came across this bizarre letter to NYT from November 13, 1983:
To the Editor:

I have just returned from a visit to the People's Republic of China and write this not to suggest to future tourists what to take with them but what to leave at home - gifts for the children of China.

As our bus rounded a curve outside Guilin and stopped for picture-taking, I was shocked to see a group of children gathered there, ready for a handout. This was my second trip to China and I had never witnessed this before.

Please, American visitors, don't make a generation of beggars out of the children of China. (I still remember clearly the little beggars in the Philippines who made it uncomfortable for tourists to leave the confines of the bus.)

China knows it will have problems with spoiled kids in their one-child families. Let American visitors restrain themselves from sharing largesse and not contribute to the problem.

I have no idea what this woman's politics are, but she seems to be missing some basic truths here. First, charity does not turn children into beggars. Hunger and poverty do. In China, the cause of that hunger and poverty was communism.

Second, just how many American tourists bearing gifts would it take to create "a generation of beggars" in a nation with, c. 1983, 800 million inhabitants?
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