IN CHINA AGAIN

June 26, 2019 – 2:54 am

HOW TO DONATE

Our costs will always be there. So readers who can donate towards the cost of the site, please open a Skrill account. Readers who wish to contribute to BigO will now have to use Skrill (click here). We are no longer able to use PayPal to receive donations. Register an account at Skrill. To make a payment, use this e-mail address as recipient’s e-mail address in Skrill: mail2[at]bigomagazine.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

+ + + + +

JUST TO LET YOU KNOW
To reduce spamming, the BigO website is going through Cloudflare. What it does is scan your browser to ensure the visitor is not a spam. Do not be alarmed as this usually takes only a few seconds. Email us if you still have difficulty accessing the BigO site; or playing or downloading the tracks. If you know a better way of reducing spam, do let us know.

+ + + + +


You are never lost in China. There’s always someone telling you what to do next. Historically, China has always been a father-knows-best economy, political system, whatever. One thing China has never done is to lead the world. By Kenneth Surin.

After being in Austria for a week - enjoying there the delicious fall-out from the collapse of its rightwing coalition government, when the leader of the coalition’s junior partner was caught in a video-recorded sting in Ibiza offering bribes to a fake Russian billionaire provided she bought the country’s leading newspaper and turned it into a mouthpiece for his party - I’m now in China.

No such sting could take place in China, simply because all Chinese media are owned by the government, and no private individual can buy any one of its segments.

It goes almost without saying that China is fascinating and complex. For one thing, its sheer linguistic diversity is mind-boggling.

China is home to hundreds of languages, the most common of which are Chinese (principally Mandarin). But in addition to these Chinese languages, there are numerous others, such as the Turkic and Iranian languages spoken in the northwest, Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan languages in the southwest, and the numerous languages of South-east Asia in the south. Three of these minority languages - Mongolian, Uighur, and Tibetan - are official regional languages.

This linguistic diversity has as its correlate an accompanying ethnic diversity.

No discussion of China can begin without acknowledging its unique political system, and the relation of that system to capitalism.

It is a commonplace in the western media that China’s spectacular economic rise began when it “abandoned” communism in order to espouse capitalism (the Thomas Friedmanite mantra).

This line of argument is stupid and simplistic.

China’s policy throughout the “reform” era has been to deal with the capitalist west in ways that benefit China. If this order in the west is neoliberal, China will engage in trade with the west in its neoliberal context.

But what China won’t do is “internalize” this neoliberalism.

As a result China’s form of capitalism is perhaps best described as a “bureaucratic capitalism”. There are no markets as such in China, apart from run of the mill street stalls and restaurants.

China’s policy throughout the “reform” era has been to deal with the capitalist west in ways that benefit China. If this order in the west is neoliberal, China will engage in trade with the west in its neoliberal context. But what China won’t do is “internalize” this neoliberalism.

There are private banks, but these are heavily regulated, which is not to deny the existence of a shadow banking system where all kinds of shady stuff can go on.

All land is state owned, even the land on which you build a house (you get a 99-year lease to do this).

China doesn’t have to create markets because its primary form of commercial enterprise is being contractor to western corporations seeking to outsource production, whether by having their own factories in China, or getting a Chinese factory to undertake their production.

According to the US Customs shipping data base, the following US corporations produce 100 per cent of their products, or parts of their products, or ingredients for their products, in China:

AT&T
Abercrombie & Fitch
Abbott Laboratories
Acer Electronics
Ademco Security
Adidas
ADI Security
AGI - American Gem Institute
Agrilink Foods, Inc (ProFac)
Allergan Laboratories
American Eagle Outfitters
American Standard
American Tourister
Ames Tools
Amphenol Corporation
Amway Corporation
Analog Devices, Inc
Apple Computer
Armani
Armour Meats
Ashland Chemical
Ashley Furniture
Associated Grocers
Audi Motors
Audio Vox
AutoZone, Inc
Avon
Banana Republic
Bausch & Lomb, Inc
Baxter International
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Belkin Electronics
Best Buy
Best Foods
Big 5 Sporting Goods
Black & Decker
Body Shop
Borden Foods
Briggs & Stratton
Calrad Electric
Campbell’s Soup
Canon Electronics
Carole Cable
Casio Instrument
Caterpillar, Inc
CBC America
CCTV Outlet
Checker Auto
Citicorp
Cisco Systems
Chiquita Brands International
Claire’s Boutique
Cobra Electronics
Coby Electronics
Coca Cola Foods
Colgate-Palmolive
Colorado Spectrum
ConAgra Foods
Cooper Tire
Corning, Inc
Coleman Sporting Goods
Compaq
Crabtree & Evelyn
Cracker Barrel Stores
Craftsman Tools (see Sears)
Cummins, Inc
Dannon Foods
Dell Computer
Del Monte Foods
DeWalt Tools
DHL
Dial Corporation
Diebold, Inc
Dillard’s, Inc
Dodge-Phelps
Dole Foods
Dollar Tree Stores, Inc
Dow-Corning
Eastman Kodak
EchoStar
Eclipse CCTV
Edge Electronics Group
Electric Vehicles USA, Inc
Eli Lilly Company
Emerson Electric
Enfamil
Estee Lauder
Eveready
Family Dollar Stores
FedEx
Fisher Scientific
Ford Motors
Fossil
Frito Lay
Furniture Brands International
GAP Stores
Gateway Computer
GE, General Electric
General Foods International
General Mills
General Motors
Genetec
Gerber Foods
Gillette Company
Goodrich Company
Goodyear Tire
Google
Gucci
Guess?
Haagen-Dazs
Harley Davidson
Hasbro Company
Heinz Foods
Hershey Foods
Hitachi
Hoffman-LaRoche
Holt’s Automotive Products
Hormel Foods
Home Depot
Honda Motor
Hoover Vacuum
HP Computer
Honda
Honeywell
Hubbell Inc
Huggies
Hunts-Wesson Foods
ICON Office Solutions
IBM
Ikea
Intel Corporation
JC Penny’s
JM Smucker Company
John Deere
Johnson Control
Johnson & Johnson
Johnstone Supply
JVC Electronics
KB Home
Keebler Foods
Kenwood Audio
KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kimberly Clark
Knorr Foods
K-Mart
Kohler
Kohl’s Corporation
Kraft Foods
Kragen Auto
Land’s End
Lee Kum Kee Foods
Lexmark
LG Electronics
Lipton Foods
LL Bean, Inc
Logitech
Libby’s Foods
Linen & Things
Lipo Chemicals, Inc
Lowe’s Hardware
Lucent Technologies
Lufkin
Mars Candy
Martha Stewart Products
Mattel
McCormick Foods
McDonald’s
McKesson Corporation
Magellan GPS
Memorex
Merck & Company
Michael’s Stores
Mitsubishi Electronics
Mitsubishi Motors
Mobile Oil
Molex
Motorola
Motts Applesauce
Multifoods Corporation
Nabisco Foods
National Semiconductor
Nescafe
Nestles Foods
Nextar
Nike
Nikon
Nivea Cosmetics
Nokia Electronics
Northrop Grumman Corporation
NuSkin International
Nutrilite (see Amway)
Nvidia Corporation (G-Force)
Office Depot
Olin Corporation
Old Navy
Olympus Electronics
Orion-Knight Electronics
Pacific Sun wear, Inc
Pampers
Panasonic
Pan Pacific Electronics
Panvise
Papa Johns
Payless Shoesource
Pelco
Pentax Optics
Pep Boy’s
PepsiCo International
PetSmart
Petco
Pfizer, Inc
Philips Electronics
Phillip Morris Companies
Pier 1 Imports
Pierre Cardin
Pillsbury Company
Pioneer Electronics
Pitney Bowes, Inc
Pizza Hut
Plantronics
Play School Toys
Polaris Industries
Polaroid
Polo (see Ralph Lauren)
Post Cereals
Price-Pfister
Pringles
Praxair
Proctor & Gamble
PSS World Medical
Pyle Audio
Qualcomm
Quest One
Radio Shack
Ralph Lauren
RCA
Reebok International
Reynolds Aluminum
Revlon
Rohm & Hass Company
Samsonite
Samsung
Sanyo
Shell Oil
Schwinn Bike
Sears-Craftsman
Seven-Eleven (7-11)
Sharp Electronics
Sherwin-Williams
Shure Electronics
Sony
Speco Technologies/Pro Video
Shopko Stores
Skechers Footwear
Smart Home
Smucker’s (see JM Smucker’s)
Solar Power, Inc
Spencer Gifts
Stanley Tools
Staples
Starbucks Corporation
Steelcase, Inc
STP Oil
Sunkist Growers
Sun Maid Raisins
Sunglass Hut
Sunkist
Subway Sandwiches
Switchcraft Electronics
SYSCO Foods
Sylvania Electric
3-M
Tai Pan Trading Company
Tamron Optics
Target
TDK
Tektronix, Inc
Texas Instruments
Timex
Timken Bearing
TNT
Tommy Hilfiger
Toro
Toshiba
Tower Automotive
Toyota
Toys R Us, Inc
Trader Joe’s
Tripp-lite
True Value Hardware
Tupper Ware
Tyson Foods
Uniden Electronics
UPS
Valspar Corporation
Victoria’s Secret
Vizio Electronics
Volkswagen
VTech
Walgreen Company
Walt Disney Company
Walmart
WD-40 Corporation
Weller Electric Company
Western Digital
Westinghouse Electric
Weyerhaeuser Company
Whirlpool Corporation
Wilson Sporting Goods
Wrigley
WW Grainger, Inc
Wyeth Laboratories
X-10
Xelite
Xerox
Yahoo
Yamaha
Yoplait Foods
Yum Brands
Zale Corporation

The list does not include products associated with the Trump brand, such as Ivanka’s shoes and accessories, and her father’s menswear and banners for the 2020 election campaign.

The Chinese people I’ve spoken with on this and previous visits, aware of the scale of US’s involvement in China-based production, find Trump’s trade war with China preposterous.

China depends on the US for agricultural staples - corn, soy, and pork products - hence it was easy for the Chinese government to slap retaliatory tariffs on these staples.

US farmers, a key Trump constituency, howled in anguish, and Trump caved-in by bailing them out with a massive compensatory subsidy.

Just as he caved-in over the imposition of tariffs on Mexico. The price of avocados, among other products, would skyrocket if Mexico retaliated, and golf-resort-frequenting Trump supporters with a taste for avocado on toast would not be pleased.

It is easy for some to forget that the Trump fan club encompasses not just the snarling Joe and Jane Bubba we see at Trump rallies (who presumably have no yearning for avocado on toast), but also the likes of the porcine William Barr and Pompeo Magnificus.

The Chinese I encountered were bemused not only by Trump’s trade wars, but also the way his family are able to go on just about any presidential ride at taxpayer expense. All I could say in reply is that bourgeois democracy allows well-positioned people to get up to some pretty naff things.

I was in China when the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest took place. The Great Firewall had extra height added to it for the occasion, but nearly all the Chinese students I met have found a way to deal with their Great Firewall, namely, by acquiring VPNs.

I was told a wide variety of these are available for purchase, because the VPN companies have to play cat-and-mouse with the authorities, as each tries to outwit the other with the next technological advance.

Many less foolish people want China to fail. At stake here are two competing versions of capitalism, one horrendously and cruelly flawed, the other flawed but nonetheless improving the lives of most of its people.

The losers here are the resentful internet users, who have to change VPNs every few months to stay ahead in the game. There is something undemocratic about this (and I’m not talking about the Great Firewall itself), but the fact that only those with the money can obtain VPNs.

China’s desire to prevent the wholesale internalization of the neoliberal order, with its accompanying tight leash on the populace, does have a rationale (at least in the eyes of the authorities).

The dramatic collapse of Russia when the Soviet Union fell, stemming from Russia’s overnight espousal of a full-blown capitalism caused widespread poverty, decreased life expectancy, and the looting of the economy by those in the nomenklatura who already had their hands near the levers of economic power. As we know, with no-one or nothing to restrain them, they became fabulously wealthy oligarchs overnight.

All those I spoke with believe the Communist party’s grip on power will not be affected by a less rigid internet regimen. Younger people, the largest group of internet users, are not thirsting for another type of government, and are content in the main with the status quo.

Those who are dissatisfied with the government are either outright neoliberals who prize and want “market-freedom” above everything else, or else “ultra-leftists” with a yearning for the former days of “real communism” (in essence something like the commune system of the Mao era).

Some of the most interesting (private) discussions I’ve been a part of in my several visits here over the years deal with the question whether there could be a “mixed economy” model in which a commune system, understood as a cooperative set-up, could coexist with the prevailing “developmental-modernization” model.

There was no consensus in these discussions, because a variety of positions were taken, but they have always been serious, indeed often technical, and very thoughtful.

President Xi has nothing to fear about allowing these discussions to take place in a less constrained way. Indeed, it would not be a surprise if such discussions have already taken place within the ruling inner circle.

However, China has been conducting its remarkable economic experiment in a context in which many in the west want it to fail.

An egregious example: the former UK Defence Minister, a fireplace salesman turned politician named Gavin Williamson, soon given the derisive nickname Corporal Williamson by the media, suggested the British navy could defeat China’s navy in a Pacific war.

As the former US tennis star John McEnroe used to say when haranguing umpires over their decisions - “You cannot be serious!”

Corporal Williamson is a fool, despite the fact that he was one of the initial contenders vying to succeed Theresa May.

But many less foolish people want China to fail.

A 2017 “Which Countries Are Going in the Right Direction?” poll showed that 90 per cent of Chinese thought their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37 per cent in the UK, and 35 per cent in the US.

At stake here are two competing versions of capitalism, one horrendously and cruelly flawed, the other flawed but nonetheless improving the lives of most of its people.

So: the “cowboy capitalism” prevailing in the US and UK, or China’s “bureaucratic capitalism”?

The cowboy capitalist countries are experiencing falling living standards for most of their populations, increased homelessness, decreasing life expectancy, growing household debt, environmental destruction, crumbling infrastructure, proliferating food banks, half of all Americans are one salary payment away from bankruptcy, the reemergence of “Victorian” diseases (rickets, scurvy), the consequences wreaked by incompetent political elites (why on earth is Rick Perry US secretary of the environment, and Failing Grayling - whose incompetence has cost British taxpayers billions - still a cabinet minister?), and so on.

If I was one of the many homeless persons on London’s streets, using newspapers as blankets while sleeping at night, I think I know which I’d prefer.

Admittedly, China still has a long way to go. Workers’ rights can be improved, especially in the factories where outsourced western goods are produced. Food safety and security, while improving, is still a problem. Freer discussion of the regime’s policies can be allowed without threatening Communist Party rule.

A 2017 “Which Countries Are Going in the Right Direction?” poll showed that 90 per cent of Chinese thought their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37 per cent in the UK, and 35 per cent in the US.

The UK’s figure is likely to be even lower now on account of its Brexit fiasco, and US’s likewise as we approach the end of the 3rd year of Trump’s presidency.

Meanwhile it is clear that China, its problems notwithstanding, is trending in the opposite direction to the UK and US.

Note: Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

+ + + + +

  1. 2 Responses to “IN CHINA AGAIN”

  2. Great way to praise China and ignore the horrible working conditions many of its workers face.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/business/worldbusiness/05sweatshop.html (In Chinese Factories, Lost Fingers and Low Pay)
    http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1020708.shtml (Child labor in clothing sweatshops exposes weak law enforcement) https://sites.google.com/a/tapa.tp.edu.tw/modern-day-slavery/child-labor/child-labor-in-china (Child Labor in China-Modern Day Slavery), Yep, everyone bow to the great China and its amazing ability to abuse workers (including children under the age of 16) and take advantage of American countries. That surely is something to be proud of-not!

    By Rick on Jun 29, 2019

  3. China- the land of abused workers (including children under the age of 16)and communists wise enough to take advantage of the west. I’ll take the American way of life (and all its problems) over living in China any time.

    By Rick on Jun 29, 2019

Post a Comment