Patterico's Pontifications

12/6/2022

Grieving for China

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:36 am



[guest post by JVW]

As usual, I am the laggard here who is failing to carry his (ample) weight where blogging is concerned. That said, I did read a piece at the end of last week which I found very moving and wanted to share with you. If you have suffered through my musings in the past, you may know that I am a fan of geopolitical essays written by people who have at least some familiarity with the country upon which they opine, which I find far more elucidating than the usual pompous pronouncements from fatuous media or academic types. So I very much appreciated this first-person account of Cindy Yu at The Spectator where she serves as the host of their China podcast. This piece may be behind a paywall so I’ll quote liberally from it, but as I have mentioned earlier I have really come to enjoy reading The Spectator and think that the subscription has been well worth the price, given their outstanding coverage of world events. Here is what Ms. Yu, who was raised in Nanjing, has to say about her homeland:

I’ve always loved the Chinese national anthem. I used to think I was the loudest Communist Youth League pioneer as my class belted it out, dressed in our little red neckerchiefs, during our school’s weekly flag-raising ceremony. “The March of the Volunteers” was composed in the 1930s during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria; it starts with “Stand up, those who refuse to be slaves” and only gets more rousing. I could see, even at a young age in the early 2000s, that China wouldn’t be facing those days again — it was getting wealthier and more powerful. Standing in a Nanjing schoolyard, I was proud of China’s return to greatness.

During those years of reform, it felt like people could achieve anything they wanted. A middling English teacher became the head of a multi-billion dollar e-commerce company called Alibaba; an engineer who almost starved in childhood founded the world’s largest telecoms manufacturer, Huawei.[. . .]

There seemed to be an unspoken social contract: the Chinese Communist Party would ensure that people’s lives became materially better; in return, they would have sole and unchallengeable power. Literacy went up, as did lifespans. People started having money to buy what they wanted, rather than simply what they needed. Not everyone agreed with this arrangement, but it was easy for the majority to overlook the costs: the crackdowns on ethnic and religious minorities, the imprisoning of democracy activists, the poor left behind by urbanization. China seemed to be on track to become the world’s largest economy without the division and turbulence of other wealthy nations.

Now I see that it was never a fair contract. The Chinese people have no recourse when the CCP reneges on its side of the bargain. [. . .]

She goes on to cover the recent protests which appear to have shaken the Chinese leadership (i.e., Xi Jinping), and traces the arc from Tiananmen Square to Hong Kong to the draconian COVID lockdowns imposed upon the Chinese people. She recognizes — indeed, acknowledges — that her own family like so many other citizens of China accepted all of this in return for the ability to move into the middle and upper classes, and now realizes that it was a deal with the devil all along:

The hand of the state now reaches into every part of people’s lives — the Communist Party dictates where they can go and who they can see. Add to that the Covid shocks to the Chinese economy, record youth unemployment and a teetering property market, and you don’t have to be a pro-democracy activist to see that, for too many people, the CCP is not meeting its side of the deal.

And what would a youth-led protest be without a bit of clever trolling?

In response to accusations that foreign forces were stirring up discontent, one Beijing student shot back: “Do you mean Marx and Engels?” Another protester led a trio of alpacas through Shanghai; the animal has become a protest meme thanks to its supposed resemblance to the mythical grass mud horse, the name for which in Chinese sounds a little like a sexual act involving one’s mother.

The Chinese word for “alpaca” is written in English as “yáng tuó” and is pronounced like this. Keep that handy if you get busted by the Chinese police operating in our country. Ms. Yu concludes:

As I was scrolling through social media at the weekend, one video threw me. It showed a gathering of students on a Nanjing campus singing the national anthem: “Stand up, stand up, stand up!” I wept. When I was a child, the national anthem made me proud. Now it makes me grieve.

Do read it all if you can, and realize with an unpleasant feeling that there are plenty of people in this country who look towards China as a successful case study in organizing society and would love to bring plenty of unappealing aspects of it here.

– JVW

24 Responses to “Grieving for China”

  1. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration seems to believe that speaking softly and carrying no stick is the way to approach China these days, though in his usual way the President muddles the issue with undisciplined blatherings which are quickly walked back.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  2. We may grieve for the Chinese people, but there is very little the US (or the West in general) can (or will) do. There will not be killer sanctions or military threats tied to the unrest.

    One should give credit to Biden’s unprecedented sanctions on semiconductor chips and related manufacturing equipment, though they are not related to the protests. These sanctions will cause real economic and technological pain on China, and impact any other country using US manufactured chips and equipment.

    The new restrictions attempt to put an end to this trade-off by both damaging Chinese capabilities and delaying the country’s ability to indigenize the supply chain. The rules implement an extensive ban on the sale of advanced chips to any entities in China, and they apply this outside of China by using new versions of [the Foreign Direct Product Rule (FDPR), which requires companies that use controlled U.S. technology in their production processes to comply with U.S. export restrictions] previously reserved for Huawei. (To be precise, the ban is a licensing requirement with a “presumption of denial” for those licenses.) They also impose a ban on the sale of American-made SME for making advanced chips, though without the extraterritorial aspect of the FDPR. These two moves expand the scope of previous restrictions on the first two layers of the supply chain: chips and the tools needed to make them.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  3. I had a conversation years ago with the then-director of Microsoft Research, a man who had spent considerable time in China in the latter part of the 20th century. He was very impressed with the Chinese government and how they were leading their country into the future. When I asked about Tienanmen Square, he bushed that off as insignificant compared to what they’d achieved with their economy.

    This is pretty much on par with the social contract that Ms Yu describes. Fine while it lasted, but now?

    Here in the US we had such a “deal” with the robber barons capitalists of the Gilded Age. The advances in America from the end of the Civil War until 1928 were breathtaking — especially for the rather small middle class — but once the market crashed and the Depression set in, attitudes changed, and the New Deal regime set about expanding the middle class through various means. Not all were well thought-out or successful.

    But we had a resilient system, where the entire government could be chucked and a new one put in place through peaceful means. In China they have no such mechanism. Instead of resilient, they are brittle.

    And a Depression there is coming.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  4. Slightly OT, not intended to distract- but given China’s intentions to make the 21st century, their century– a reminder, just 50 years after The Big Dick’s first trip to China:

    50 years ago tonight- half-past-midnight, 12/7/72, Eastern time:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfDDwEE7uPU

    Back in the day, when America was truly great– and U.S. decline accelerated w/Delaware’s election of an empty suit named Joe Biden to the U.S. Senate just a month earlier.

    Recall this awesome sight vividly; in later years, was fortunate enough to have met the late Gene Cernan several times and do a radio program with him. Apollo 17, the last of the manned Apollo moon landings, lifted off at 12:33 a.m., EST, on December 7, 1972 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Intended for a 12/6 launch but delayed slightly due to a computer glitch, the first and only night launch of a 36 story tall Saturn V was a spectacularly brilliant sight seen hundreds of miles around. And the subsequent television imagery from their lunar landing site, Taurus–Littrow, was crisp and clear for the technology of the era. Of the three crew, Cernan and Evan have left us- only astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt, who is 87 now, remains to share the experience firsthand. Take a few minutes and watch the way it was… as Chinese astronauts circle the world in a Chinese space station, a Chinese rover probes the far side of the moon… and Chinese space planners eye landing sites for future crews on Luna.

    …Xi Jinping smiled.

    “Bring back Walter Cronkite.” – Elon Musk

    DCSCA (96de27)

  5. I don’t see any contract between the Xi regime and the Uighers, and they’re getting little or no support from the Muslim world about the cultural genocide they’re facing.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  6. Do read it all if you can, and realize with an unpleasant feeling that there are plenty of people in this country who look towards China as a successful case study in organizing society and would love to bring plenty of unappealing aspects of it here.

    I remember Thomas Friedman shilling for China in the late 90s and thinking he was either insane or completely on the take. Of course, like his colleague David Frum, Friedman is just a mouthpiece and was simply parroting what most of the DC establishment thought about China at the time. The adoration of the Boomer neoliberal classes in particular goes back to their college days when the Cultural Revolution was in full swing, and they believed that China was the wave of the future, particularly with its contempt for tradition, gained wisdom, and anything “old,” and thus, on the “wrong side of history.” On the other side of the ledger, Nixon and Kissinger stupidly thought that China could be exploited as a quasi-ally against the Soviets since Mao had an uneven relationship with them over the decades.

    Ultimately, both sides sold out the US to China for the most short-sighted, greedy reasons, and continue to do so because sociopathic liches like Klaus Schwab and his thralls in western governments have a fetish for Chinese-style socio-economic controls.

    To the extent these same people have fallen out of love with China, it’s only because they’re realizing that Chinese ethnonationalism isn’t subject to the same campus/corporate progressive guilt-tripping pressures that work so well on emasculated westerners and their leaders. They’re whining about Qatar for the same limited reasons, not understanding at all about the country’s place in the extremely delicate and volatile geo-political/sectarian environment of the current Middle East, and how it views its own self-interests. If China was raising the rainbow flag over its embassies and spouting the latest WEF/UNICEF white paper fantasias, I guarantee this kind of hand-wringing wouldn’t be taking place.

    Factory Working Orphan (bce27d)

  7. One should give credit to Biden’s unprecedented sanctions on semiconductor chips and related manufacturing equipment…

    One? Every inflation-riddled American grocery shopper should give him 20 minutes ‘behind the gymnasium’ with Corn Pop and a bag of Chinese fentanyl laced suppositories.

    DCSCA (96de27)

  8. @6. It’s that ol’ free market neoconing sucker bait; the ‘they’ll see the light” crap and change their ways when every Chinese buys a GE dishwasher two Buicks and three color TeeVees. 😉

    DCSCA (96de27)

  9. Mao gave the Chinese a great deal more than a promise of material comforts. When was the last time, before the Communists, that foreigners were not grinding China’s face into the mud?

    (Include or exclude the Mongols and Manchus as you wish.)

    nk (b9d6a2)

  10. China is complicated. It’s fine to say that bringing them into the WTO was wrong, but the harder question is what we should have done with them….and what should be done from here on out. We weren’t exactly on an island by pushing for them to be integrated into the world economy. What would our democratic allies have done if we had pushed for isolating the Chinese? Part of China’s success has been because of their embrace of capitalist principles and reforms. Yes, there is still mass poverty and tough living conditions, but there is also a whole bunch of technological innovation. They’re pushing to be world leaders in AI for instance. They are producing a whole bunch of engineers and scientists….again with the help of our universities….but should we have closed the doors to them? Could we have? They are not the kleptocracy that is Russia.

    It’s easy to say Neocon and scoff, but not all of the change in our economy is due to China (automation for one). And not all of the change is bad (we have decades now of affordable consumer products). We do need to take seriously our dependency on authoritarian-based supply chains. We do need to keep pressing China to follow WTO rules and open their markets fairly. I’m not sure if isolating ourselves solves anything.

    AJ_Liberty (5f05c3)

  11. The only thing cozying up to China did was give them the knife to shank us with. Even Biden administration officials like Austin are admitting in the open now that they are our most significant adversary. We shared military tech with them (whatever they didn’t manage to steal), our defense communications infrastructure is vulnerable to potential backdoors, they have anti-satellite missiles that could render our ICBM warning networks completely blind, and their cyberwarfare capabilities increase every year. That doesn’t make up for a few years of $10 t-shirts at Walmart and $200 HD teevees, no matter what anyone claims. It’s classic indulgence in short-term comforts at the expense of long-term security. Moreover, their Belt-and-Road initiative has made inroads to third-world nations that will provide them with both diplomatic and economic advantages that are reminiscent of how the British built their empire, only with a LOT more people.

    US officials and corporations sucked up to China due to wishful thinking about Chinese malleability and plain old avarice, offshoring dozens of American businesses and consumer manufacturing there, and plumping up coffers in other areas like Hollywood box office receipts. Those tunnel-visioned actions are coming home to roost now.

    Factory Working Orphan (bce27d)

  12. One should give credit to Biden’s unprecedented sanctions on semiconductor chips and related manufacturing equipment, though they are not related to the protests. These sanctions will cause real economic and technological pain on China, and impact any other country using US manufactured chips and equipment.

    One thing that must be seriously discussed is Chinese penetration into our academic and industrial research systems. American universities have become addicted to Chinese students and scholars, the former of whom arrive with government-paid tuition checks and room-and-board stipends and the latter of whom open up prospects for Beijing-sponsored research projects. But we’ve seen the degree to which American universities have kowtowed to China. The most obvious is by agreeing to hold the ridiculous Confucius Institutes on their campuses even though, like with all things from the CCP, it comes with strings attached. The second is the degree to which Chinese scholars and researchers in both academia and industry have stolen intellectual property and perhaps even classified defense information and taken it back home to China. U.S. higher education is now enthralled with Chinese money, but it’s high time for Congress to put limits on who can collaborate with U.S. universities and impose strict monitoring requirements for those institutions who host them.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  13. When was the last time, before the Communists, that foreigners were not grinding China’s face into the mud?

    Oh come on, nk, I’ve seen lots of kung fu movies where the Chinese eventually handle foreigners adroitly, albeit after initially losing to them in the first 30 minutes of the movie.

    JVW (9b9b2d)

  14. Mao gave the Chinese a great deal more than a promise of material comforts. When was the last time, before the Communists, that foreigners were not grinding China’s face into the mud?

    (Include or exclude the Mongols and Manchus as you wish.)

    nk (b9d6a2) — 12/6/2022 @ 11:49 am

    Mao killed more Chinese than foreigners ever did.

    norcal (862cdb)

  15. @13. Flower Drum Song aside, it took a pair of American schemers in skimmers as Hollywood’s best ambassadors to the East and hit the Road To Hong Kong running…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fab4VcuzXnE

    “That’s quite a stab; from old flab…”

    DCSCA (6f5722)

  16. Mao killed more Chinese than foreigners ever did.

    The Japanese killed them at a faster clip in the 1930s. Mao had decades.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  17. Mao gave the Chinese a great deal more than a promise of material comforts.

    Mao did very little to give the Chinese material comforts, unless you want to give him credit for meeting with Nixon. His social contract came out of the barrel of a gun.

    For the most part, it wasn’t until the 1980s that China started meaningful trade with the outside world. And it was trade that allowed them to prosper.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  18. Mao killed more Chinese than foreigners ever did.

    Odd metric; lest you overlook how many United States citizens were slaughtered by Confederate insurrectionists– led by traitors with statues covered in pigeon poop, between 1861 – 1865.

    DCSCA (6f5722)

  19. Nationalism covereth a multitude of sins, whether it be Mao or Trump.

    norcal (862cdb)

  20. Nationalism covereth a multitude of sins, whether it be Mao or Bobby Lee.

    FIFY.

    DCSCA (6f5722)

  21. The Boxer Indemnity. The Opium Wars. The queue and shaved forehead (imposed on the Han by the Manchus). Hong Kong. Macao. The Shanghai Concessions.

    But it’s alright. Go on thinking that all people want from life is good sex, comfortable shoes, and warm bathrooms.

    nk (b9d6a2)

  22. nk (b9d6a2) — 12/6/2022 @ 4:48 pm

    Those were all outrages, to be sure, but not as bad as what Mao did.

    norcal (862cdb)

  23. Those were all outrages, to be sure, but not as bad as what Mao did.

    norcal (862cdb) — 12/6/2022 @ 6:15 pm

    Yeah, they weren’t even close. Mao killed more people during the Great Leap Forward alone through his utterly stupid utopianism than Japan did during their entire violent occupation of the country. One of the more obnoxious features of the American Left in the 30s-70s was their fascination with, and wishful thinking regarding the USSR and China. These people were thirsty for some grand socialist utopia to emerge that would be a model for the rest of the world, all the while western European nations were creating stable societies with more mixed models and a lot less authoritarianism, thanks to American military defenses and investment. When Weather Underground formed out of SDS, they modeled the group’s social dynamic on a combination of China’s Cultural Revolution practices, Leary’s promotion of drug addiction (even breaking the guy out of prison at one point), and Marcuse’s musings in “Eros and Civilization” and “One-Dimensional Man.”

    Factory Working Orphan (bce27d)

  24. The Chinese national anthem is one of those things that has a double meaning,

    They did a few things.

    One was to show blank pieces of paper.

    Another was to have a leader and a chorus.

    The leader said: “Xi Jinping!” Or “Communist Party!”

    You can’t say he’s not going to praise them.

    The chorus said: Step Down!

    You can’t attribute it to any individual people.

    Sammy Finkelman (6f561d)


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