Third Culture Kid Living in the “Third World”

Upon discovering the most recent Harry Potter premiere date, I spread the word far and wide to friends across Beijing. Many had already checked local listings and were gearing up for Potterfest 2010. One friend, however, assumed it would not be shown in China. Once I told him it indeed was and that I was planning to see it at the IMAX theater, he was incredulous: “Beijing has an IMAX?!” I informed him that of course they do, it’s China, to which he replied, “Exactly, it’s China!” I have repeatedly heard this type of reaction within a variety of contexts. Is this the general impression foreigners get of China?

Lately I’ve been wondering if China’s considered part of the 3rd world. The “three worlds” theory appeared during the Cold War. Westerners defined the 1st world as the US and its allies, the 2nd world as the USSR and its allies, and the 3rd world as neutral states. If we base China’s categorization solely on these definitions, then I guess China is a 2nd world nation. However, since the Cold War these terms have been redefined over and again. Now, 3rd world countries are “developing” nations. Although some believe China’s repression of civil rights and freedom of speech place it within this category (Nations Online Categorization, NYT Third World Countries), China’s ambiguous foreign policy and rapidly developing economy may completely separate it from the Three Worlds Theory. After all, how can a G-2 nation be categorized as a 3rd world country (NYT article)?

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