Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Problem With China is China (The Problem With Russia is Russia)

When your country has a totalitarian government, you can't blame others for failing to engage.
(This image is banned in China)

A recent article online opines that Chinese "entrepreneurs" are being unfairly excluded from the lucrative US market because of racial prejudice and various laws or regulations enacted or proposed to punish Chinese companies. From the perspective of the Chinese, it is all America's fault for not letting them have a free hand to sell hardware and software here that spies upon Americans and takes away American jobs. Oh, and yea, when withheld in a diplomatic spat, can really screw up our supply chain.

But a quote from the article really tells the real story:

Of the seven entrepreneurs, three agreed to be identified by their English first names only while the others requested complete anonymity, all citing concerns about repercussions within China. They also asked that their businesses not be described in detail.
Funny thing, that.  American "entrepreneurs" might want to conceal trade secrets, but few, if any, fear repercussions from the government for merely talking to the press.  (Note:  This is not an invitation for whataboutism!).  Maybe this is the problem.

The Chinese "economic miracle" happened not by chance, and certainly not because the Chinese Communist Party lead it.  Nixon opened up relations with China in 1972 as a strategic move.  The Chinese saw that Communism had failed them - and failed every nation before them (and after) who tried it.  So, slowly, they let go the reins of totalitarianism and watched the "economic miracle" unfold.  But it was a "miracle" fueled by foreign capital and foreign companies - along with a lopsided trade imbalance with the West.  We reveled in cheap Chinese products and over time, closed more and more factories in the USA and exported production overseas, mostly to China.

And it is not just bargain-basement cheap junk they are making.  Some of the most expensive products with obscene mark-ups and profit margins, are made in China.  Yes, I'm talking about Apple, who uses basically slave labor in its plants in China to make cell phones for pennies and then sells them in America for dollars.  Oddly enough, "politically correct" American users see no cognitive dissonance in texting on their Apple phones about the exploitation of labor by Capitalists.  After all, Apple is a "green" company that treats its employees (in America) well, right?  Just export the slavery overseas where no one can see it.   Fuck Apple.  But I digress.  And no, no whataboutism, thank you.

So China has exploded, economically, fueled by exports to its number-one trading partner, the United States.  We created modern China, in effect.  But now we are in a bit of a pickle.  The Chinese Communist Party started to see its grip on the country slip.  No, not Tienanmen Square - those protests were, oddly enough, being made by recent college grads who were upset that economic reforms meant no guaranteed jobs under Communism anymore, for college graduates.

No, what scared the CCP to death were the newly-minted Chinese Billionaires, who were accumulating more power through capitalism than the party had through brutal military dictatorship.   And in recent years, these Billionaires are being brought to heel, one by one.   Many wealthy Chinese have tried to establish citizenship or at least own property overseas, which has distorted real estate markets in places like Vancouver and Toronto.   Many others have sent their wives to America when 9 months pregnant, so that their offspring could obtain US Citizenship and hopefully one day, bring their parents over from the old country.

In response to this diaspora of wealth, the CCP has established illegal "Police Stations" in many Western countries, including the USA and Canada, with the goal of intimidating Chinese Ex-Pats into toeing the party line or even returning to China "voluntarily."

America's love affair with China has cooled, directly in proportion to these clamp-downs by the CCP.  It is clear now that China is no longer a "friendly" trading partner, but a potential enemy in wartime.  China is reaching worldwide to influence politics in foreign countries, offering "loans" to struggling nations to build infrastructure (provided by Chinese companies, of course) with the end result being these third-world countries often end up hopelessly in debt.  Hey, that's our game!  No fair butting in!

But it was business that is the real deal - dollars and cents.  We may pay lip service to human rights violations in Hong Kong, or the plight of the Uyghur Muslims (what ever happened to them and when did we stop caring?) but the real deal is business, plain and simple.

In this era of "just in time" supply chains, we can no longer count on China as a reliable trading partner.  China may withhold products out of spite, or lock down an entire city due to CoVid and thus close factories.  You send over your best employees to straighten things out, and the Chinese are likely to imprison them as "spies" as part of their hostage diplomacy.  The CCP wants to drag China back to 3rd world nation status.  What's next?  A new Mao and the Gang of Four?   Cultural Revolution, anyone?  Or is that what is going on right now?   I think yes.

So companies are building plants in the USA to make semiconductors, not because it is cheaper or better (it will be neither) but when you shut down an entire car factory making expensive and profitable pickup trucks and SUVs because some Chinese supplier can't ship you one simple little chip, well, you can't do business with China anymore.   It doesn't help any that the chips in question all phone back to the mother ship in China with your data.

The Chinese method (or I should say, Chinese Government method) of fear, intimidation, and paranoia, is the problem.  You can't blame companies in America for refusing to deal with an unreliable supply chain.   They have a business to run.  Politics comes second.

Maybe if China just rewound things a decade or so - tamped down the government paranoia and let the market and its people a free hand, business might return to normal.  But sadly, the present government in China seems more interested in stirring the pot like some cheap North Korean dictator making empty threats.   They are shooting themselves in the foot and then telling themselves it feels good.

The problem with China is China - or more precisely, its government.  The problem with Russia is the same deal - the Russian government, which is basically one man.   That is the problem with totalitarianism and dictatorships.  When one person can control a country, that country will be enthralled to that dictator's wild fantasies.  These fantasies eventually clash with reality, and the fallout can be dramatic.

In North Korea it was the world's largest hotel - never finished, of course.  In China, it is the "ghost cities" that were never populated, but built to meet the party's demand for growth above all else.  Entire apartment blocks built, never occupied, and then torn down.  That's the basis of a rational economy, right?  In Russia, it is this wacky idea that they can take back all the satellite countries they had during the Soviet era.  All that has been accomplished is a lot of people killed, cities destroyed, and the Russian military exposed for the paper tiger it was.  When your "unstoppable" hypersonic missiles are all shot down, it doesn't make Russia look all that scary.

What puzzles me is why some on the far-right are so enthralled with Russia and Putin.  There seems to be this admiration of dictators - perhaps the motivation behind January 6th.  Trump himself expressed admiration for dictators, perhaps because he himself wanted to be one.  But as history has shown, dictatorship is the worst form of government as dictators and kings are rarely - if ever - the wise and thoughtful rulers that are described in children's bedtime story books.

No, usually they are unhinged from reality - as are the people who profess admiration for them.

There have been a plethora of people who have been found out to be literal agents of Russia.  It doesn't take much, I guess, to get someone to "flip" on their own country.  Just give them a few dollars or pay off their student loan debts and its "All Hail Putin!"

The latest example of this is this lady, who claimed she was molested by Joe Biden before he became President.  I mean, come on, if Uncle Joe wanted a side-piece he could do much better than that.  I mean, come on - there would be a line around the block of attractive women wanting a piece of Joe Amtrack, right?   Why would he stoop to banging a whale?

Well, surprise, surprise, she is now in Russia, claiming "asylum" from the Biden death squads.  Apparently, according to Fox News, Joe Biden is the poorest Billionaire on the planet.  He has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from China and the Ukraine (odd bed partners!) but somehow has managed to spend none of it - not even on a new crib for himself.  This is, of course, because Fox News is a 100% bullshit channel that spouts only lies, even in the post-Carlson era.

This other lady (who does look "trans" but looks can be deceiving!) was also "outed" as a Russian agent who infiltrated the NRA (Gee, I wonder why?).   She's now back in Russia, too.  Hey Russia, can you at least send us some attractive chicks?  We don't want your rejects, thank you!

Russia, of course, is facing worldwide condemnation for invading Ukraine.  Nations in the former Eastern Bloc are concerned that if Ukraine falls, they may be next.  And many on the far-right in this country seem to think that would be a good thing - that we should just walk away and let Putin take over, and not concern ourselves with "foreign entanglements."   I wonder how much Russia is paying them?  And no, this is not another invitation to whataboutism with fake bullshit about Hunter Biden's Laptop and supposed millions in bribes that are conjectured.   Sorry, but you can't fight Russia propaganda with more Russian propaganda.

Russia, of course, uses the martyr complex that North Korea uses - they are "victims" of the Evil West, who for some reason doesn't want to use Putin's gas-station and thus fuel the fires of his invasion plans.  We've been down this road before - appeasing Hitler by letting him take the Sudetenland, then Austria, then Czechoslovakia, until we finally drew the line at Poland.  Well, when I saw "we" I mean Western Europe.  Once again, America had to be drawn into the fight, kicking and screaming, although we were the "Arsenal of Democracy" prior to that.

Russia and the US are fighting another proxy war, and the US will win, even if Ukraine loses.   Russia is already weaker, as a military power, and worst of all, it has been exposed as weak and ineffective.  When your best forces are a hired army, something isn't right.  And when your "state-of-the-art" weapons systems are blown up and shot down by a rag-tag army using borrowed weapons, well, that doesn't say much about your projection of power.

Some like to claim that Russia or China is poised to take over, militarily.  China now has two aircraft carriers - one being a rebuilt hulk they bought secondhand from Russia.  We have 11 nuclear-powered carriers and have the largest military in the world - larger than the next eight, combined.   Indeed, DoD is the world's largest employer - take that, Walmart!  So loaning a few weapons to Ukraine is hardly putting a dent in our defense budget, but trying to take over Ukraine is destroying Russia's economy.

Even if Russia "wins" they lose - that is how these proxy wars work.   You would think we would learn after Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  You'd think Russia would have learned after Afghanistan - a war that arguably brought down the Soviet Union.  And yes, we armed the "other side" during that war - to our later regret.

If you want a vibrant, strong, and free economy, you  have to allow your citizens some amount of freedom to work and produce and keep at least some of the proceeds of their labor.  China and Russia have failed their own peoples by suppressing their basic freedoms.   The same thing could happen here, if we let it.  Censoring school books and telling people and corporations what they can and cannot say, do, or think, is bound to backfire.  Already, the younger generation sees no point in playing our economic game, if they cannot advance, over time.

Sadly, there are some on the right who look at Russia not with revulsion, but admiration.  "If only we had a strong-man dictator who would take over!   That would be great!"  But look how things are working out for Russia, or how they went for Nazi Germany.    Sounds like a great idea, until your economy is shattered, your country is in ruins, and all your friends are either dead or in jail - or maybe you are, too.

I won't weep much for Chinese "entrepreneurs" I'm afraid.  They don't need to establish a beach-head in another country to do business with the US, they need to change the government in their own country to something that represents the people, not the leaders of the party.