Dreams - and nightmares

2012-04-05Asia Times

BEIJING - A young, thin handler in a black suit practically hanging over his tiny frame ushered me in. It was a very exclusive and secretive Beijing compound, an ancient Chinese symbol of true power. He sat me in a large, bright room while a classical teacup was being filled with hot water poured on dried tealeaves.

A middle-aged man stepped in after a few seconds and started chit-chatting about international affairs. He took a lot of papers out of his bag, threw them on the tea table, and went fumbling through them as he was talking. Then there was a sudden call and he excused himself. The minder came back in, rushed to collect the papers, and gently tried to lead me out. Just a leaf was missing, and I could not resist my journalistic instincts - I snatched it.

China is very communist and Leninist: its reasoning is ossified and stale, the Communist Party is averse to new ideas, vested interests are blocking all kinds of new thoughts, and still the weight of the communist revolution hinders all types of political evolution. I was sure of this before I read this page, which looked like an internal document. Therefore, I believed it was all a prank, some kind of practical joke to startle me and see my reaction.

Yet it is puzzling, and I am not quite sure, so I wonder whether any reader can help: is it a joke? And if so, for what purpose? Here it is.

The signs are everywhere: there is a growing discussion about carbon taxes and imposing this or that form of restriction on foreign imports.

Globalization (made of free market and democracy), launched by the United States to shape the world in the US's image, has failed to impose a new world based on American standards. The world emerging 30 years later the beginning of globalization does not have the form of the US, but rather that of China. China is by far the greatest beneficiary of free trade because the free trade of goods, without the free trade of technology and labor, means that if your production costs are low and your technology keeps improving, you emerge the winner.

China excelled in both areas: while production costs went up, it has been increasing technology inputs, which offsets price increases. China did this better than everybody else, and certainly better than the US and most of Europe. (Germany and northern Europe acted as they did because they had a captive market in the European Union, where other countries were underperforming in these two areas compared to Berlin.)

On democracy, this is another example going against the West. We have increased political freedom in China and we are arguing more in the international arena, in a democratic fashion, about our principles. Greater freedom and democracy has not undermined our rule, it has buttressed it, our greater participation in the international democratic debate has enhanced our profile, not smashed it.

The Western world is giving up on the idea of running after China in the game it created and wants to change the rules of the game once again. There is growing doubt in the West about the positive value of capitalism, more support for state intervention, and even doubts about democracy as such. Just when we are liberalizing the economy and moving to democracy, the West is rejecting those principles that it forced down our throats. But the whole world does not share these ideas - quite the opposite, many resist it, and rightly so.

The reality is that the Western world standard has provided us with the best platform to expand our interests, whereas all attempts to use our political systems - the imperial Qing Dynasty, the republican era, and the Maoist times - to deal with the world have failed. Under all our systems we were beaten by foreigners, with foreign international system we beat the foreigners. Therefore, we should become a great paladin of the free market and democracy, and embrace them very strongly just as the West is rejecting them because it is realizing they are backfiring against it.

The free market and democracy are like a freeway already built, which the US and the EU now want to destroy because we are traveling on it. We can't afford to have doubts: we must embrace these ideas. If we doubt democracy and the free market, the US will cut the grass under our feet, slap a funny hat on our head, slam protectionist tariffs at our gates, and we could suffocate.

What do they want? To check our military? They are welcome to come and see. Our military is sufficient to defend ourselves, and that's all we need. What we don't need is to waste money on toys we will never use and that will serve only to line corrupt generals' pockets.

For the rest, we have to improve our technology, to have better plans for our future development and the development of the world, to be freer, to let free thought bloom, and to start a campaign to teach English to the whole population, so that Chinese people will be more influential in the world, can speak to more people and pass better and more effectively our mindset and will not be limited by their poor language abilities in communicating with and influencing other people. This could provide more substance and soft power than the Confucius Institutes, which have already been a great success.

If we become in due time a beacon of democracy and liberal economics and we have a successful economy, we will realize our "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.

What America should really do is improve its education system and reintroduce discipline into its schools, such as caning, et cetera. They should strengthen families with all kinds of economic incentives (tax breaks for families, tax increases on divorced parents), and this would also help families to save money: fewer houses for single people means more private saving.

The US should bring order to Mexico, its neighbor, before thinking of setting far away Afghanistan straight, and thus the turbulent part of Latin America. End the prohibition of drugs, and control their use and sale-thus draining resources from mafias and enforcing public order.

America should draw in the best youths from the world, China, India, etc, and set a plan to recover their intellectual primacy which is slipping because the internal discourse, in newspapers and journals, is obsessed with being political correct and mainstream. But new ideas are not mainstream by definition and may be politically incorrect. Interestingly while our debate is improving in scope and boldness (our internal debate is, as we know totally boundless) theirs is becoming stifle and idle.

However, Americans could well not do any of the above because it would drastically change what America has become, including its ethnic mix. They should have fixed Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis, and even in that they failed, how can they take on bigger challenges? It is unlikely although not impossible.

So we should just embrace those American values that America is forfeiting and that have so benefited us.

In America, there are complaints about being ruled by the United Nations. The Tea Party dreams of going back to some kind of golden political isolationism. This seems ironic and odd in the country that day in and day out interferes with and meddles in other countries' business. However, it is a strong indication for everybody. In the time of globalization, national independence is a rarified commodity.

Who is going to gain from it? The country whose economy and politics are best suited. If Beijing plays its cards well and skillfully, in the near future, that could be China, so again China has an objective interest in backing and learning from America's global interventionism, as it will soon become the platform for China's own intervention.

The learning can take place only by linking closely with the US and its worldview, so that China can easily get into its system of alliances and not simply be allied with Washington. Maybe America will in time learn from China, and we could have saved America, besides winning this game.

(Sorry, this is a hoax, almost.)  (2012-04-05 Asia Times)


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