Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Who can stop the rise and rise of China? The communists, of course
Posted on 06/11/2005 2:58:59 PM PDT by Pokey78
Seventy years ago, in the days of Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan, when the inscrutable Oriental had a powerful grip on Occidental culture, Erle Stanley Gardner wrote en passant in the course of a short story: "The Chinese of wealth always builds his house with a cunning simulation of external poverty. In the Orient one may look in vain for mansions, unless one has the entrée to private homes. The street entrances always give the impression of congestion and poverty, and the lines of architecture are carefully carried out so that no glimpse of the mansion itself is visible over the forbidding false front of what appears to be a squalid hovel."
Well, the mansion's pretty much out in the open now. Confucius say: If you got it, flaunt it, baby. China is the preferred vacation destination for middle-class Britons; western businessmen return cooing with admiration over the quality of the WiFi in the lobby Starbucks of their Guangzhou hotels; glittering skylines ascend ever higher from the coastal cities as fleets of BMWs cruise the upscale boutiques in the streets below.
The assumption that this will be the "Asian century" is so universal that Jacques Chirac (borrowing from Harold Macmillan vis-à-vis JFK) now promotes himself as Greece to Beijing's Rome, and the marginally less deranged of The Guardian's many Euro-fantasists excuse the EU's sclerosis on the grounds that no one could possibly compete with the unstoppable rise of a Chinese behemoth that by mid-century will have squashed America like the cockroach she is.
Even in the US, the cry is heard: Go east, young man! "If I were a young journalist today, figuring out where I should go to make my career, I would go to China," said Philip Bennett, the Washington Post's managing editor, in a fawning interview with the People's Daily in Beijing a few weeks back. "I think China is the best place in the world to be an American journalist right now."
Really? Tell it to Zhao Yan of the New York Times' Beijing bureau, who was arrested last September and has been held without trial ever since.
What we're seeing is an inversion of what Erle Stanley Gardner observed: a cunning simulation of external wealth and power that is, in fact, a forbidding false front for a state that remains a squalid hovel. Zhao of the Times is not alone in his fate: China jails more journalists than any other country in the world. Ching Cheong, a correspondent for the Straits Times of Singapore, disappeared in April while seeking copies of unpublished interviews with Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party general secretary, who fell from favour after declining to support the Tiananmen Square massacre. And, if that's how the regime treats representatives of leading global publications, you can imagine what "the best place in the world" to be a journalist is like for the local boys.
China is (to borrow the formulation they used when they swallowed Hong Kong) "One Country, Two Systems". On the one hand, there's the China the world gushes over - the economic powerhouse that makes just about everything in your house. On the other, there's the largely unreconstructed official China - a regime that, while no longer as zealously ideological as it once was, nevertheless clings to the old techniques beloved of paranoid totalitarianism: lie and bluster in public, arrest and torture in private. China is the Security Council member most actively promoting inaction on Darfur, where (in the most significant long-range military deployment in five centuries), it has 4,000 troops protecting its oil interests. Kim Jong-Il of North Korea is an international threat only because Beijing licenses him as a provocateur with which to torment Washington and Tokyo, in the way that a mob boss will send round a mentally unstable heavy. This is not the behaviour of a psychologically healthy state.
How long can these two systems co-exist in one country and what will happen when they collide? If the People's Republic is now the workshop of the world, the Communist Party is the bull in its own China shop. It's unclear, for example, whether they have the discipline to be able to resist moving against Taiwan in the next couple of years. Unlike the demoralised late-period Soviet nomenklatura, Beijing's leadership does not accept that the cause is lost: unlike most outside analysts, they do not assume that the world's first economically viable form of Communism is merely an interim phase en route to a free - or even free-ish - society.
Mao, though he gets a better press than Hitler and Stalin, was the biggest mass murderer of all time, with a body count ten times' higher than the Nazis (as Jung Chang's new biography reminds us). The standard line of Sinologists is that, while still perfunct-orily genuflecting to his embalmed corpse in Tiananmen Square, his successors have moved on - just as, in Austin Powers, while Dr Evil is in suspended animation, his Number Two diversifies the consortium's core business away from evildoing and reorients it toward a portfolio of investments including a chain of premium coffee stores. But Maoists with stock options are still Maoists - especially when they owe their robust portfolios to a privileged position within the state apparatus.
The internal contradictions of Commie-capitalism will, in the end, scupper the present arrangements in Beijing. China manufactures the products for some of the biggest brands in the world, but it's also the biggest thief of copyrights and patents of those same brands. It makes almost all Disney's official merchandising, yet it's also the country that defrauds Disney and pirates its movies. The new China's contempt for the concept of intellectual property arises from the old China's contempt for the concept of all private property: because most big Chinese businesses are (in one form or another) government-controlled, they've failed to understand the link between property rights and economic development.
China hasn't invented or discovered anything of significance in half a millennium, but the careless assumption that intellectual property is something to be stolen rather than protected shows why. If you're a resource-poor nation (as China is), long-term prosperity comes from liberating the creative energies of your people - and Beijing still has no interest in that. If a blogger attempts to use the words "freedom" or "democracy" or "Taiwan independence" on Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal, he gets the message: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech." How pathetic is that? Not just for the Microsoft-spined Corporation, which should be ashamed of itself, but for the Chinese government, which pretends to be a world power but is terrified of words.
Does "Commie wimps" count as forbidden speech, too? And what is the likelihood of China advancing to a functioning modern stand-alone business culture if it's unable to discuss anything except within its feudal political straitjackets? Its speech code is a sign not of control but of weakness; its internet protective blocks are not the armour but the, er, chink.
India, by contrast, with much less ballyhoo, is advancing faster than China toward a fully-developed economy - one that creates its own ideas. Small example: there are low-fare airlines that sell £40 one-way cross-country air tickets from computer screens at Indian petrol stations. No one would develop such a system for China, where internal travel is still tightly controlled by the state. But, because they respect their own people as a market, Indian businesses are already proving nimbler at serving other markets. The return on investment capital is already much better in India than in China.
I said a while back that China was a better bet for the future than Russia or the European Union. Which is damning with faint praise: trapped in a demographic death spiral, Russia and Europe have no future at all. But that doesn't mean China will bestride the scene as a geopolitical colossus. When European analysts coo about a "Chinese century", all they mean is "Oh, God, please, anything other than a second American century". But wishing won't make it so.
China won't advance to the First World with its present borders intact. In a billion-strong state with an 80 per cent rural population cut off from the coastal boom and prevented from participating in it, "One country, two systems" will lead to two or three countries, three or four systems. The 21st century will be an Anglosphere century, with America, India and Australia leading the way. Anti-Americans betting on Beijing will find the China shop is in the end mostly a lot of bull.
***The Chinese of wealth always builds his house with a cunning simulation of external poverty. ***
My brother wanted to build an underground mansion. It would be accessable only though a secret elevator conceled in a rundown mobile home on the land above it.
Alas, he never built it.
Mid-century? When half the population is over 60, and the other half consists of 2/3 men and 1/3 women?
I don't know what you want to call it, but it's not going to be pretty.
Thanks, Pokey. This is another Steyn gem:
Damn Steyn owes me another keyboard.
Some scattered posts on china.
Steyn scores another bullseye hit of the fawning self-loathing liberal class. Falling for the "Potemkin Villages v. 2.0" of China, hook, line and sinker.
Follow the rose-colored glasses. And you will find liberals.
Anyways, I have read an analysis that, the Communist Party, which lines it's own and its families pockets, that would represent a wealthy ruling class of about 150-250 million people. As many as well-to-do as our own country.
That many wealthy can put on a good front to foreigners to conceal the state of affairs for the other 1 billion souls under their heels, and noses chained to grindstones.
Markk Steyn: I want to marry your brain.
NAMBLA workers paradise?
"One country, two systems" will lead to two or three countries, three or four systems. "
Its just a matter of time!!!!!!!!
I agree. Sooner or later, those 1 billion folks in the backwoods are gonna want a slice of the faux prosperity pie. There's already unrest in some of the Muslim provinces in western China, and Tibet is always a hotspot. Throw in the fact that communism is completely antithetical to basic human nature(why else would they so fear Falun Gong?), and I could see the regime folding like a house of cards within the next 20-30 years.
The Communist doctrine still depends on world domination to eliminate dissenters and opposition. They are only flirting with free enterprise to fund their soon-to-be-powerful military. Free enterprise doesn't exist without freedom and they are too stupid to realize that.
That was the whole idea behind Nixon's initiative with China. Yeah, that Nixon, the one being vilified to boost the reputation of journalists.
Steyn is one of our premier teachers in understanding reality.
It certainly "could". But not necessarily...and not without help. These kinds of regimes don't fold easily. The Soviets didn't. They didn't "just" collapse, or by the milk of human kindness springing from Gorbachev's breast, as the liberals want to believe.
They were pushed over the cliff by Ronald Reagan,
Reagan's administration empowered the internal opponents and dissenters by our strongest shows of support.
We had a confrontational strategy then. Which was magnanimous in victory:
Unfortunately, what we have now is one of denial and self-delusion about the nature of their regime. And with that self-delusion, we have empowered their regime, rewarding them immensely with an exponentially-increasing economic windfall...all for merely pretending to be one of the club.
"Free enterprise doesn't exist without freedom and they are too stupid to realize that. That was the whole idea behind Nixon's initiative with China. Yeah, that Nixon, the one being vilified to boost the reputation of journalists."
Nixon deserves vilification. We are boosting the fortunes of the Communist state we will eventually have to stand and fight if following Bush's inaugural goals to make people free around the world. No one here would have accepted that for Nicaragua or Cuba. People here loathe Armand Hammer. Nixonian detente would have been rightfully called appeasement if he'd have had a "-D" after his name on the ballot.
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