Keeping pace with progress
Editorial  ·  2023-12-19  ·   Source: NO.51 DECEMBER 21, 2023

Many objects, occupations and habits are disappearing from Chinese society. For instance, ration coupons, issued by the government when food and other goods were scarce, have long become a thing of the past. Their disappearance is part of the tremendous transformation China has undergone since it adopted the landmark reform and opening-up policy 45 years ago and they are now only collector's items. The coal furnaces that were once used for heating buildings during winter have now been replaced by gas or electric heating. Even the use of cash is becoming less common as mobile payment technologies have become widely applied.

Needless to say, gas and electricity are more environmentally friendly and convenient than coal, and mobile payment is more efficient and user-friendly. In a sense, the new replacing the old is a testament to China's progress over the recent decades. China's economic miracle is evidenced not just by statistical data but by people's changing lifestyles.

We should feel fortunate to live in a time of rapid change. We are the generation that has experienced the steepest ascent: From oil lamps to artificial intelligence, we have witnessed within just a few decades more than our ancestors saw in thousands of years.

We have also witnessed many things pass through the stages of being invented, becoming fashionable, becoming outdated and finally becoming obsolete. Our way of reading, for example, is evolving from paper books to e-books. But now that smartphones are integrating e-reader functionality, once popular e-book readers such as Kindle are withdrawing from our lives just as cameras did. Even TV sets are now rarely used for watching television programs, instead becoming displays for online content.

Not being left behind by social change and technological progress has now become imperative for many members of society. Agricultural mechanization, and now digitalization, have improved farming efficiency, reducing the need for labor on farms and turning farmers into urban workers. And, of course, the advent of driverless cars will mean fewer professional drivers will be needed on the road.

However, there are some disappearing jobs that we need to protect, such as traditional craftspeople, artists and performers. These professions pass on culture, and efforts must be made to ensure their work is carried forward as our society develops. 

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