Saturday, October 19, 2019

Is China our Enemy?

A country that is at war with itself will naturally seek to unite itself. No country can last very long if it is, to quote the Bible and Abraham Lincoln, divided against itself.

How can it produce unity out of division? One way, tried and true, is to find a common enemy. For a moment the United States saw Islam, even radical Islam, as an enemy. After all, Islam has rejected Western values and Western customs, even Western norms. It has launched terrorist attacks throughout the world, or at least, in any part of the world where Muslims congregate in large numbers.

And yet, we no longer consider Islam an enemy. We are more likely to be at war against Islamophobia… in many American precincts and certainly in Western Europe.

In Asia, like it or not, and mostly we are persuaded not to like it, nations have declared war against Islam. They have responded to terrorist attacks and terrorists threats, as well as to cultural customs that reject the local ethos, by running, in China, reeducation camps…. If we believe the reports coming out of these camps they are unmitigated horrors. In truth we ought to remain skeptical of these reports. And we note that leading Muslim political leaders around the world do not care what the Chinese are doing to their Uighur citizens.

And yes, I know that the ruling interpretation is that they are selling out their values in favor of business. But, what if they see Islamic terrorism as a threat to their reputations?

I will noe again, at the risk of being repetitious, that Chinese camps are designed to integrate Uighur Muslims into the Chinese nation. In America we have education camps called universities that are designed to teach students to hate America and to reject American capitalism.

Be that as it may, American intellectuals, especially those who are right-thinking, have taken up arms against China. Evidently they are trying to help unite America by naming a common enemy. And that enemy is fascistic communist China. For my part I am impressed by those who call China both fascistic and communistic at the same time. It might not make any sense, but, hey, who cares about making sense when you need to go to war against China.

They look at Hong Kong and see a yearning for freedom. They looked at Tiananmen Square three decades ago and saw a yearning for freedom. And they were horrified to see that the Communist leadership did not see a yearning for freedom. Deng Xiaoping and his cronies saw, as noted before, a yearning for a return to the Cultural Revolution, when the Red Guards took power and destroyed the nation.

Take it from a different angle. Most of our teeth-gnashing literati are sorely offended that China has not adopted the ways of Western democracy. For that reason the fascistic communistic authoritarian Chinese regime must count as an implacable enemy. They are hurting our feelings... and we cannot have that.

One notes that the Trump administration is treating China like a competitor. Donald Trump is not blaming China for taking advantage of American good will. He is taking our own leaders to task for allowing China to get away with intellectual property theft. Trump wants to have fair trade agreements. He has not said that he wants China to become a liberal democracy. As opposed to many of our leading intellectuals he is not offended that China has not been holding elections and electing people like AOC and Ilhan Omar.

Fair enough, China has not adopted any of the trappings of liberal democracy. And yet, if we want the world to follow our shining example, we would do better to try to make liberal democracy work here. It beats going to war against nations that look at us and decide that they do not want to descend into internecine political warfare… where large segments of our population seem consumed with a will to destroy, both their opposition and the nation itself.

But that is not the only piece of intellectual incoherence issuing from the overheated brains of our intellectual elites. Over the past four decades China has produced an extraordinary record of economic growth, of wealth and of prosperity. And yet, while we are spitting fire at China for being a fascist communist dictatorship, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves whether we want to attribute such economic growth to fascist communist policies?

If we do we are saying, not explicitly, because that would require a higher level of intellectual sophistication, that fascist communism works as a way to run an economy. And that it produces more wealth in a shorter period of time than anyone anywhere has ever done.

In some ways China is a work in progress. It is a late comer to free enterprise and to the Industrial Revolution. Recall that the Western world, under the aegis of its Anglo-Saxon contingent industrialized in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also implemented free enterprise policies. It should be a given that we are more prosperous than China, a nation that started privatizing agriculture in the late 1970s. Then again, we are today less prosperous than Singapore, which Chinese leaders have taken as their role model. 

Savvy China observer Joel Kotkin describes the progress China has made. For the sake of his argument he strangely gives the credit to socialism. Do you ever wonder why young people are so taken with socialism? Reason 1 is that socialism relieves them of having to compete in the world economy. But reason 2 is that serious thinkers believe that the Chinese economic revival was produced by socialism.

Anyway, Kotkin writes:

As someone who has been to China many times over the last 40 years, I acknowledge that the achievements of the reformed socialist regime are nothing short of astounding. Beijing’s streets, once crowded with horse-drawn carts, rickety bicycles, and people dressed in ragged Mao jackets, now accommodate Audis, shopping malls, and slickly attired hipsters. Urban Chinese are no longer so impressed by New York or even Tokyo; their country is home to five of the tallest buildings in the world.

And yet, he continues, China is not perfectly egalitarian, yet:

Yet this remarkable growth has come at the expense of China’s supposedly egalitarian ethos. Since 1978 the country’s GINI ratings—a system that measures inequality—have gone from highly egalitarian to more unequal than Mexico, Brazil, and Kenya, as well as the United States and virtually all of Europe. In avowedly socialist China, roughly 1300 individuals constitute roughly 20 percent of the country’s wealth, and top one percent roughly one-third.

Initially, China’s progress lifted up all classes, raising as many as 850 million people out of extreme poverty in 40 years, one of the greatest economic accomplishments in history. Yet the boom has been less successful in creating a Western-style mass middle class which analyst Nan Chen estimates at roughly 12 percent of the population. “Rather than replicating the middle-class growth of post-World War II America,” she observes, “China appears to have skipped that stage altogether and headed straight for a model of extraordinary productivity but disproportionately distributed wealth.”

In the time of Mao Zedong tens of millions of Chinese starved to death. It was the culmination of insane socialist policies. China today has not produced as much equality as we have—though Americans have been whining about inequality for seemingly forever—but it has ended extreme poverty in their nation.

That they did it without anyone being allowed to vote does not, as of now, seem to be bothering anyone. Did you notice that the protests in Hong Kong have not provoked any protest movement on the mainland. The 1989 demonstrations did. This might mean that the authoritarian regime oppresses people mercilessly. Though apparently the same authoritarian regime almost lost complete control of the country in 1989. Or else it might mean that things are good enough in China to deter anyone from choosing to emulate America. After all, many Chinese see America as weak and decadent, an eventual loser in the clash of civilizations.

And yet, Kotkin continues, China still has an underclass. And he believes that the underclass will one day rise up and overthrow  their masters. For my part I find it strange to see Kotkin deploying Hegalian and Marxist theories of revolutionary overthrow of the ruling capitalists:

Overall, two-thirds of all Chinese are either migrant laborers, peasants, industrial workers, or agriculture laborers—all groups unlikely to make it into the Chinese middle class by Chinese standards.1 Many work in the migrant labor force, roughly 250 million strong. These workers trekked from small towns and rural areas in order to bus tables, work on construction sites, and otherwise undertake the tasks that more fortunate Chinese with urban hukou or resident permits generally do not choose to perform.

This migration has been driven by the poor conditions suffered by over 400 million rural residents. In America, rural households are on average 4 percent poorer than urban households in China. The much-vaunted Chinese middle class is almost entirely a phenomenon of those with urban hukou, while the 40 percent of the population in the countryside struggles.   

These migrants threaten to swell into a massive, and potentially politically disruptive, urban underclass. As notes Leeds University’s Li Sun has noted, Chinese migrants unable to claim residency in the city generally lack access to education, healthcare, and most forms of insurance. Although they perform many of the most dangerous tasks in society, notably manufacturing and construction, barely one in four has any form of insurance if they get injured. But they are largely excluded from other, less dangerous jobs.2

China, notes Li Sun, may be “the world’s factory,” but much of the work is performed by these largely unprotected migrants—a million work for Foxconn, the manufacture of iPhone, alone. China’s great wealth derives, she points out, from a “worker-made” economy of people who labor 60-hour weeks for barely US$63 a week pay, reprising the role played for millennia by peasants, who provided the wealth of the Middle Kingdom but benefited little from it.3

For all I know, Kotkin might be right. And yet, I repeat that China has only been at the free enterprise game for a few decades now. We have been at it for centuries. And someone might have noticed that when the Chinese leadership look at America and Western Europe they see a culture that is disintegrating before their eyes. Their strict authoritarianism might be a way to ward off the terrible influence of Western civilization. If we expect China to adopt American democratic customs we need to show something more functional than the current American political system. We might not recognize that many people, largely on the left, want to destroy the nation, but, trust me, foreigners have seen it. And they do not want it to wash up on their shores.


UbuMaccabee said...

The Chinese are about to witness America descend into a long and ugly Civil War, and that will finally disabuse them of thinking that liberal democracy leads to anything but chaos and internal instability. They see the billion-dollar train to nowhere in California and the rolling blackouts and public lawlessness and draw the correct conclusion: our system is idiotic, deeply flawed, and is on the decline. Trump is trying to re-kindle the flame, but virtually every institution is trying to smother it--or is cutting a side-deal with China to get rich quick (something that China is acutely aware of: the corruptibility of the western elites).

"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams

Anonymous said...

All Hail Ubu Roi!

Sam L. said...

Democrats have done this to us, with Republicans tsk, tsk, tsking all the while.
This is why Trump is getting our votes.

Anonymous said...

Voting is sort of useless... unless you enjoy jury duty.

David Foster said...

"For my part I am impressed by those who call China both fascistic and communistic at the same time. It might not make any sense, but, hey, who cares about making sense when you need to go to war against China."

Doesn't make any sense??? China should be called fascistic because that is a pretty good description of its economic and political system (although not as totally race-obsessed as Nazi Germany) and it's hard to avoid calling it communist because that's what it calls itself.

In my view, the "Communist" tag is just branding...the regime's attempt to claim continuity and moral authority.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

China is a mercantilist totalitarian society of almost 1.5 billion people.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that Florida is experiencing an attempt to alter the state just as much as China is attempting to change the culture of this country. We have the Church of Scientology buying up most of the city of Clearwater and the Mormons trying to buy much of the land around Frostproof to create a Saltlake in Florida. One shudders at the power these two groups can wield once they totally control these areas. One wonders whether we can withstand attacks like this from within and from without.
Then add what the so-called democrat part and leftists are trying to accomplish, and we have a problem that we need to start addressing.