You are asking some questions that I am also thinking about a great deal right now. I heard that with all of the financial turmoil and uncertainty going on in the world, one exception to the almost universal melt down is China, where there are still many problems, but it does look as if their entire economy will not be undermined by the mortgage and credit crises. I am starting to wonder if this will lead to a rise in China's status very quickly. This is going to mean many very profound changes. For example, do you think Taiwan would join China if it became a super power?
Your observations about the OSPOP shoes are astute: by styling them like shoes worn in Mao's army, they communicate an ironical statement that people in China would not find amusing or chic, probably. But they go over big in the West, because we probably sub-conciously look down on the Chinese as being undeveloped....Now, things may change considerably, and I wonder if Chinese cultural conditions might change, too. Throughout history, China was the most advanced and central country (Middle Kingdom) except for the last 500 years. Maybe one of the implications of our current situation is that China will regain its prior position in the world.
Whether or not this would lead to changes in Chinese self-image, is not clear. I must say that, in my travels in China, I have not observed a strong feeling of connection with the past among people I spoke to. For example, I went to the site of the Three Gorges Dam and spoke to lots of people about the project. All of the Chinese people thought it was great, and were not unhappy about losing their cities as the dam waters were rising, and having to move elsewhere. On the other hand, most of the Westerners I met thought it was a really bad thing, because they said it would destroy some very old artifacts like temples, etc. So, I'm not that sure that, even if China does become really rich and developed, people will ever really care that much about old stuff. What do you think?