Posts Tagged ‘china’

Patterns of Force

December 18, 2012

Patterns of Force is the name of the infamous Star Trek episode in which the crew of the Enterprise encounter a planet ruled by Nazis. The story is that that the Enterprise has been assigned to search for the missing historian John Gill. He was last known to be studying the culture of the planet Ekos. They discover that Ekos has a more advanced technology than expected and is ruled by a Nazi party with exactly the same insignia and ideology as the Nazis who ruled Germany. Further investigation by Kirk and Spock reveal that John Gill is the Fuhrer. They learn that Gill has become a figurehead and real power rests with his deputy Melakon who is planning a genocidal war against the neighboring planet Zeon. They managed to confront Gill, who has been drugged and McCoy is able to revived him enough to answer questions. When Kirk demands to know why Gill introduced Nazism to the Ekotians, Gill replies that their culture was primitive and divided. By organizing them according to National Socialist principles, without the ethnic hatred, he hoped to unify the planet and help them to advance. He picked the Nazis because they were the most efficient state in Earth’s history.

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Spock agrees saying, “That tiny country, divided, beaten, bankrupt, rose in a few years to stand only one step from global domination.”

Gill and Spock were wrong, however, and Spock was being, dare I say it, illogical. In fact, Nazi Germany was not a particularly efficient state. The government was shot through with corruption at the highest levels. The Nazis purged the German civil service shortly after they took power, making party loyalty and racial purity more important than experience and qualifications. This had predictable results. The Nazis were also supporters of the concept of a centrally planned economy, remember Nazi is short for National Socialist. This also had predictable results. During World War II, Germany did not turn to a full war economy until 1943 and the free-market, capitalist wartime Unites States was more regimented and more efficient and productive. Hitler’s rule was an administrative nightmare since he didn’t leave clearly defined areas of jurisdiction, or lines of authority among his top lieutenants, thinking that as long as they were fighting each other, they weren’t conspiring to overthrow him.

Along with the corruption and general inefficiency of Nazi rule, there were policies that were simply irrational. Consider the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a crime against humanity, but it was also illogical. The men and materials used to round up millions of Jews and other undesirables, ship them to concentration camps, and exterminate them could have been better used fighting the war. The victims could have been used for slave labor and killed after Germany won the war. The enormous diversion of resources, while the Nazi regime was fighting for its life was irrational to the point of insanity. The Holocaust is the worst example of misplaced priorities, but hardly the only one. In the last two years of the war, Goebbels wanted to make the greatest movie of all time, Kolberg. The production of this film, the most expensive in German history, was actually given a higher priority than supplying the Wehrmacht with needed supplies and ammunition. Thousands of German soldiers were pulled from the front to work as extras. Hardy the most efficient state in Earth’s history.

There seems to be a persistent delusion that authoritarian states with centrally planned economies are some how more efficient than free countries. Mussolini made the trains run on time. (He didn’t.) The Communists in the Soviet Union were the future and their planners would create unparalleled economic growth that would bury the West. (It didn’t work out like that.) And on and on. It doesn’t even have to be a brutal dictatorship to excite this sort of ill founded admiration. Germany and Japan have a much closer relationship between private industry and government than is the norm in the United States. At various times both these nations were held up as examples they we should follow. The close cooperation was held to result in a better more efficient economy, better suited for long range planning than the often adversarial relationship found in the US with private competing companies that were more apt to plan only as far as the next quarter. The fact that such close relationships opened the door to crony capitalism and tended to give established companies an enormous advantage over upstarts seemed to be ignored.

The latest target of this kind of idiocy is not democratic at all but semi-Communist China. Somehow the idea has developed that a country ruled by a government that can rule by decree without the give and take of any democratic process is better run than a free nation. Thomas Friedman has become notorious for his admiration of China’s system.

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

More recently we have had a statement by Jeffrey Immelt on how China is better run.

Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric and Chairman of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness was interviewed by Charlie Rose on Bloomberg Television Monday evening.  When asked about China, Immelt praised the Chinese and their centrally planned economy:

CHARLIE ROSE: China is changing. It may be being stabilized as we speak. What does that mean for China and what does it mean for the United States? Should it change expectations?

JEFF IMMELT: It is good for China. To a certain extent, Charlie, 11 percent is unsustainable. You end up getting too much stimulus or a misallocation of resources. They are much better off working on a more consumer-based economy, less dependent on exports. The one thing that actually works, state run communism a bit– may not be your cup of tea, but their government works.

No it doesn’t. No, China is not overtaking us, any more than the Germans, Japanese, or Russians were. No, China is not being run by a reasonably enlightened group of people. According to Freedom House, China rates a 6.5 out of 7 with 7 being least free. The Chinese government continues to censor the media and Internet and while restrictions on personal  expression are looser than in the past, China is far from being a haven of free speech., The government is very corrupt. While China has enjoyed phenomenal economic growth in the last two decades, the benefits of that growth have not been well distributed. Something like 30% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. Property rights are non-existent in China where the government owns all of the land and decides how it is to be used. Health and safety regulations for Chinese industry are either non-existent or unenforced.

Despite the central planning, or really because of it, resources tend to be misallocated. The most notorious example of this are the mysterious ghost towns of China, cities built for no apparent reason out in the middle of nowhere. I am sure there are many more examples.

I don’t imagine that any of these facts will change the minds of the authoritarian admirers. The reason such people admire authoritarianism is less because of any facts or examples of superior efficiency but because they like to imagine themselves as the elites telling everyone else what to do. In the end it is not about efficiency. It is about power.

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The Decline and Fall of Asia

January 9, 2012

Walter Russel Mead has identified an important trend that will surely lead to the destruction of the formerly vibrant economies of East Asia.

But this latest news from New York Times makes it official: Asia’s decline has begun. Asia’s biggest companies are sending their brightest executives to American style MBA programs.

Fueled by an appetite for growth, corporations in China, India and other markets in Asia are sending an army of managers and executives to Western business schools to groom future leaders. U.S. and European business schools, meanwhile, are cashing in on the growing roster of clients from cash-rich companies and strengthening ties with the markets and people driving the world economy.

The rise of business schools in America led to greedy CEOs milking their companies for multimillion dollar benefit packages, to weird financial market transactions that took down some of the biggest names in American business, and to one destructive management fad after another that left dozens of American companies as hollowed out shells.  Business school grads also pioneered exotic new tax dodges that helped bulk up the federal deficit, to say nothing of the kind of corporate ruthlessness that hollowed out the US industrial base in record time.

They are doomed. To make sure though, Mead has one more suggestion.

The next step? We need to sell them on the need to build law schools.  Lots of them.

That would be going too far. I wouldn’t wish a plague of lawyers on our worst enemies.

Dividing China

January 5, 2012
English: Hu Jintao (born December 1942 ( 1942-...

He's caught on to the plan.

China’s President Hu Jintao is warning his people of the threat of division that Western counties pose to China, especially with our insidious cultural influence.

The West is using cultural means to divide China (PRCH), which needs to be alert to this threat, President Hu Jintao said in a Communist Party magazine.

“International forces are trying to Westernize and divide us by using ideology and culture,” Hu wrote in an article in Qiushi. “We need to realize this and be alert to this danger.”

Many countries, especially Western powers, are attempting to expand their influence through cultural hegemony, and China must deepen and promote its own values of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Hu wrote in the article, which was published on the government’s website on Jan 1. China needs to strengthen its cultural values as it faces possible challenges from the West, he said.

Dang. They are onto our plans.

I wonder what brought that on. Maybe the answer is a little further in the article.

Hu’s comments are part of a wider push by the party to reassert its influence over Chinese culture and society, including in television and the arts. China’s leaders are grappling with the best way to manage Twitter-like social-media sites such as Sina Corp (SINA).’s Weibo service that are hard for government censors to control.

The Communist Party’s Central Committee said it will supervise the world’s biggest online community more closely, promote “constructive” websites and punish the spread of “harmful information,” according to a communique from its Oct. 15-18 meeting released by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Members of the party’s Politburo visited web companies after a deadly train crash in July. Internet users criticized the government’s handling of the crash and spread commentary and photos of the accident at odds with the official line.

That explains some of it. It’s that western custom of freedom of speech and actually reporting the news that has him upset. The odd thing is that as China is starting to loosen up, however reluctantly, too many people in our government think that China might be a model to emulate.

Trading with China

December 23, 2011

Here at Townhall.com is a good column by Walter E. Williams on some of the myths about our trade with China. Unfortunately, this sort of foolishness is a bipartisan affair, which is never a good thing.

Republicans and Democrats, liberals as well as conservatives, have bought into anti-Chinese trade demagoguery. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that tariffs against China are a “key part of our ‘Make It in America’ agenda.” During his 2010 campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called his tea party-backed Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, “a foreign worker’s best friend.” In a recent news conference, President Barack Obama gave his support to the anti-China campaign, declaring that China “has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage,” adding that “we can and should take action against countries that are keeping their currencies undervalued … (and) that, above all, means China.”

Republican 2012 presidential candidates have jumped on the anti-China bandwagon. Mitt Romney wrote: “If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, I will work to fundamentally alter our economic relationship with China. … I will begin on Day One by designating China as the currency manipulator it is.” Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was even more challenging, saying, “I want to go to war with China.”

I don’t want to go to war with China, trade war or real war. I think former Sen. Rick Santorum needs to have his head examined.

Here is the meat of the column.

Hale and Hobijn find that the vast majority of goods and services sold in the United States are produced here. In 2010, total imports were about 16 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and of that, 2.5 percent came from China. A total of 88.5 percent of U.S. consumer spending is on items made in the United States, the bulk of which are domestically produced services — such as medical care, housing, transportation, etc. — which make up about two-thirds of spending. Chinese goods account for 2.7 percent of U.S. personal consumption expenditures, about one-quarter of the 11.5 percent foreign share. Chinese imported goods consist mainly of furniture and household equipment; other durables; and clothing and shoes. In the clothing and shoes category, 35.6 percent of U.S. consumer purchases in 2010 were items with the “Made in China” label.

Much of what China sells us has considerable “local content.” Hale and Hobijn give the example of sneakers that might sell for $70. They point out that most of that price goes for transportation in the U.S., rent for the store where they are sold, profits for shareholders of the U.S. retailer, and marketing costs, which include the salaries, wages and benefits paid to the U.S. workers and managers responsible for getting sneakers to consumers. On average, 55 cents of every dollar spent on goods made in China goes for marketing services produced in the U.S.

You should read it all. In a way, the US and China are leaning against each other holding up the economy of the whole world. It simply doesn’t make much sense for either to work against the interests of the other. I hope both American and Chinese politicians realize that. Being politicians, they probably don’t.

In Decline

November 15, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t believe it, and neither should we. In this column in National Review Online, Hanson explains why he doesn’t believe that the US is in a state of inevitable decline.

We are in a fresh round of declinism — understandably, after borrowing nearly $5 trillion in less than three years and having very little to show for it. Pundit strives with op-ed writer to find the latest angle on America’s descent: We are broke; we are poorly educated; we are uncompetitive; we have gone soft; our political institutions are broken; and on and on. The Obama administration does its part, with sloganeering like “reset,” “lead from behind,” “post-American world,” and America as exceptional only to the degree that all nations feel exceptional.

This is not new. In the late 1930s, the New Germany and its autobahns were supposed to show Depression-plagued America how national will could unite a people to do great things. After all, they had Triumph of the Will Nuremberg rallies; we still had Hoovervilles. They flew sleek Me-109s; we flew lumbering cloth-covered Brewster Buffaloes. We, the victors of a world war, were determined never to repeat it; they, the losers, were eager to try it again.

In the 1950s, Sputnik and the vast spread of Communism through the postcolonial world were supposed proof of the efficiency and social justice of Communism and the rot of capitalism — the inevitable denouement of the 20th century. Sputnik soared, even as our ex-Nazi scientists could not seem to make our rockets work. They had Uncle Ho and Che; we had Diem and the Shah. Their guys wore peasant garb and long hair; ours, sunglasses and gold braid.

By the 1970s and 1980s, Japan Inc. was the next new paradigm of the post-American world. Even American “experts” lectured us on the need to adopt Japanese-like partnerships between corporations and government. They made Accords and Camrys; we made Pintos and Gremlins. We played golf at Pebble Beach; they owned it.

As Japan faded, the next great hope followed in the 1990s when the EU captivated the American Left. The Europeans’ loud moral declarations, their pacifism, cradle-to-grave entitlements, trains à grande vitesse — all of that was what a backward America should strive for. They crafted the Kyoto Agreement; we drove gas-guzzling Tahoes and Yukons. Their strong Euros bought in New York what our weak dollars could not in Paris.

Where are all those supposedly post-American systems now? Fascism was crushed; Communism imploded; Japan is aging and shrinking; the European Union is cracking apart. But, of course, there is China, which, we are told, is the next new replacement for America — a country with enormous demographic problems, a reputation for crude diplomacy and an outlaw approach to international commercial agreements, censored media and a complete lack of transparency, vast inequality, environmental catastrophes, and no stable political system to transition a rural peasantry into a postindustrial affluent citizenry. No matter — our jet-setting elites still whine that they have shiny new airports; we have grungy LAX and JFK. They have sleek bullet trains; we, creaking Amtrak.

If we are in a state of decline, than most of the world is declining even faster. America does have its problems and they are serious but I don’t think any of them are unsolvable, nor would I willingly exchange our problems for those of Europe or China.

Hanson concludes by noting America’s almost unique ability to reinvent itself with every generation.

Why does the United States continue to reinvent itself, generation after generation, to adapt to a radically changing world? Our ancestral Constitution checks the abuse of power and guarantees the freedom of the individual — all in transparent fashion. And our habits and customs that have evolved over two centuries are grounded in the human desire to be judged by what we do rather than what we look like, or under what circumstances we were born — a fact that explains our vibrant and sometime crass popular culture. The essence of our culture is constant self-critique and reexamination — a messy self-audit that so often fools both ourselves and our critics into thinking that our loud paranoia about decline, rather than our far quieter effort to arrest it, is the real story of America

In short, the 21st century will remain American.

I hope he is right about that. I think that a world without America as the leading power is likely to be a very bad place.

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Chinese Korans

September 1, 2011

Although China has become one of the great exporting powerhouses and generally imports made in China are of decent quality, the Chinese have had occasional trouble with defective or tainted products. Nothing made in China could cause as much controversy as defective Korans, as this article from Jihad Watch relates.

Allan commands you to spray the unbelievers: Iran furious at cheap Chinese-made Qur’ans said to be riddled with typos

On second thought, maybe that’s where all this “misunderstanding” of Islam is coming from! Now, Islamic interest groups can blame bad Chinese reprints. “Iran says cheap “Made in China” Qurans full of typos,” by Patrick Winn for Global Post, August 31:

Iran’s Organization of the Holy Quran is scolding Iranian publishers who’ve outsourced production of the holy book to Chinese printers.

There is officially a cheap Chinese knockoff of everything.

Apparently, their copies of the Quran are riddled with typos, according to the Tehran Times.

“These tableaus are made quite cheaply in China but are sold for much more than they are really worth to make that much more profit,” said an official with the organization who monitors and evaluates Qurans available in Iran.

The official even urged importers to halt future Quran shipments from China, the Times reported….

They should look on the bright side. I doubt if the Chinese Korans tell people “Thou shalt commit adultery” like the Wicked Bible does.
Who is “Allan” anyway?

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

August 10, 2011

Walter Russel Mead is reading the handwriting on the wall. Our leadership all over the world, but especially in the four largest economies; America, Europe, Japan, and China, has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

The world’s leaders have been on trial these last few months. In Europe, a long running currency crisis has tested the commitment of Europeans to the social ideals they so often speak of, and to the community of nations they have worked to build since the 1940s.  TEKEL: weighed in the balance and found wanting.

In China they have been on trial as the accumulating evidence suggests that corruption, incompetence and malfeasance damaged the country’s vaunted high speed rail project and led to the deaths of dozens of passengers.  TEKEL.

In Japan they have been on trial since the tsunami last spring.  Would Japan’s bureaucracy tell the truth to the public?  After a lost generation of stagnation would Japan’s government come up with an effective plan to reconstruct the north and rebuild the country’s economy?  TEKEL.

And in the United States we have a stagnant economy, a mounting debt and no real idea of the way forward.  Would Washington come up with a constructive, future-oriented program to move the economy forward and start the adjustments necessary to prepare us to live within our means – and to grow our means so it wouldn’t be hard?  TEKEL again.

Europe, China, Japan, the United States: the leaders of the world’s four largest economies are nowhere near passing the tests that history has set them.  In all four places the instincts of the politicians are the same: to dissemble, to delay, to disguise and to deny.

But it is not just in financial matters and not just the leaders. It seems that there is a dearth of vision afflicting all of us these days. No one seems to be interested in doing great things, like going to the Moon. Instead our leaders squander our money and promise high speed rails. Mead puts it far better than I ever could.

The challenges the great powers face today run much deeper.  Behind Japan’s economic problems and the pathetic inadequacy of its political leadership is a much deeper question of identity and purpose.  What is Japan’s job in the world; what does Japan have to teach and to suffer and to do?  What is the special contribution that only Japan and the Japanese can make, and how does the country prepare itself for this?  Do thousands of years of Japanese culture and philosophy culminate in a cheap consumer culture and relentless demographic decline?

It is the same thing in Europe.  The financial problems, real and dangerous as they are, proceed from a vacuum in the hearts of the European peoples.  What is it to be a German, a French person, an Italian, a Greek, a Spaniard or a Swiss?  Is it a matter of blood, belief, or of culture?  What duties do the Europeans have to one another and to the world?  When Europeans talk about their decline in the world – and it is worth talking about, since for 100 years Europe has been steadily and sometimes catastrophically in decline – they too often look at questions of imperial power or relative wealth.  But what was extraordinary about Europe 100 and 200 years ago and is largely lost now was never imperial power or economic might.  It is the cultural energy and dynamism that once made Europe the greatest font of creativity and ideas since ancient times.  The art, the music, the philosophy and the science of Europe captured the world.  Now Europe designs very nice shoes, and its Michelin starred restaurants serve quite excellent meals.

Europe’s challenge isn’t to fix the euro or to reform its pensions.  And it is not to make clunkier shoes or less appetizing meals.  Its challenge is to become Europe once more: to be as adventurous, as profound, as creative and yes as dangerous as it once was.  The core European debate should not be over the constitutional provisions of the European Union or the financial arrangements behind the euro, important as those things are.  What matters in Europe is that the younger generation wakes from the materialist, conformist affluence – deep wells of listlessness, anomie and despair concealed under whatever ephemeral cultural fads and fashionable causes drift by.  They must begin to live, to take risks, to dare, to create and to build – and, among other things, that means they (like the other affluent peoples) must start having children again.

China too has bigger fish to fry than high-speed trains.  The convulsive transformation of the biggest society in the history of the world, the sudden rise of enormous wealth cheek by jowl with poverty made worse by the alienation and dangers of urban life: all taking place in a moral vacuum where neither tradition, reason nor culture softens the harshness of oppression and injustice.  This cannot endure; the people of China are struggling blindly for some better way.  Unless China becomes great it cannot live, but by great I do not mean building a blue water navy and winning the fearful awe of its neighbors.  I mean the interior greatness that comes from disciplined talent, ambition harnessed to service, creativity addressed to the task of healing, and strengthening a people still scarred by a century of war, revolution and soul-crushing oppression at the hand of foreigners and fellow countrymen alike.  China has within it the seeds of an excellence and greatness that the world has never seen.  It can become a garden in which all the beauties and aspirations of past millennia can be fulfilled – but that requires a deeper kind of leadership than one fixed on keeping the growth pot boiling lest popular revolt overthrow the regime.

I have written before of the challenges that face us in the United States and will not say more here except that stale quibbling over expense cutbacks that will not significantly reduce the deficits, and reforms that will change very little, is not what we need.  Americans have the opportunity and the duty and the urgent pressing need to move into the future, to do and be more than ever.  The thin rhetoric of a backward looking president, the obstreperous negativism of an opposition better at rejecting what it hates than building or even conceiving what it needs, the lotus-eating educational formation that cuts us off from our past, and the incessant noise of a superficial pop culture: none of this is worthy of America at its best and none of it will help us now.

I wonder, are our days numbered and will we be divided between the Medes and the Persians?

China Then and Now

June 13, 2011
The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck

In my copy of “The Good Earth“, Pearl Buck‘s Nobel Prize winning novel about China before the revolution of 1912, there is a reader’s supplement and study guide, which includes photographs taken in China taken about a hundred years ago. Judging from these pictures, life in China really hasn’t changed all that much. People think of China as the next, great superpower, and China is modern and prosperous in the coastal cities. In the interior, rural areas, however, there are still millions of people living in desperate poverty.

Is China Trying to Bankrupt America?

June 9, 2011

An interesting article from The Diplomat through Instapundit. I haven’t read it all yet, but somehow I don’t think we need China’s help to go bankrupt. Obama is managing that just fine on his own.

Apple’s Chinese Workers Treated ‘Inhumanely, Like Machines’

May 7, 2011

I’m glad I don’t own an iPhone. From the Guardian comes this story.

An investigation into the conditions of Chinese workers has revealed the shocking human cost of producing the must-have Apple iPhones and iPads that are now ubiquitous in the west.

The research, carried out by two NGOs, has revealed disturbing allegations of excessive working hours and draconian workplace rules at two major plants in southern China. It has also uncovered an “anti-suicide” pledge that workers at the two plants have been urged to sign, after a series of employee deaths last year.

The investigation gives a detailed picture of life for the 500,000 workers at the Shenzhen and Chengdu factories owned by Foxconn, which produces millions of Apple products each year. The report accuses Foxconn of treating workers “inhumanely, like machines”.

It’s not quite slave labor but apparently conditions are bad enough that the workers are tempted to kill themselves.

Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.

■ Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.

■ In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.

■ Crowded workers’ dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a “confession letter” after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: “It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again.”

■ In the wake of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories last summer, workers were asked to sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and pledging to “treasure their lives”.

Foxconn is based in Taiwan. I wonder what conditions are like in factories owned by Chinese companies, or the government.


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