January 13, 2020

"In today’s world, authoritarian politics and predatory commerce cooperate to exploit 'cultural differences.'"

"Nowhere is this point clearer than in the symbiosis in recent decades between Western corporations and the Communist elite in China. The West offers capital and much-needed technology, while China’s rulers supply a vast, captive, hard-working, low-paid and unprotected labor force. Western politicians, as if trying to justify the unholy collusion, for years argued that rising living standards in China would produce a middle class who would demand freedom and democracy. It is clear by now that that has not happened. The Chinese elite, now far wealthier than before and as in control as ever, can laugh up its sleeve at the Westerners and their visions of inevitable democracy. Instead the West’s own hard-won democracy has become vulnerable. But does the West know it? ... Westerners may think of Xinjiang as a distant and mysterious place, but... Volkswagen, Siemens, Unilever and Nestlé have factories there.... What is it about this remote place... that makes it so attractive? Might a 'culturally different' nonwhite labor force play a role? People in no need of control because a harsh Communist government is already doing that work? In Xinjiang, as elsewhere in China, bosses from East and West have exchanged benefits, formed common interests and have even come to share some values. The chief executive of Volkswagen, which leads China in car sales, was recently asked for the company’s comment on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He answered that VW knew nothing of such things...."

From "Capitalism and ‘Culturecide'/The idea of ‘cultural differences’ has been used as a justification for some of humanity’s worst crimes," by the artist Ai Weiwei in the NYT.

30 comments:

Mark said...

The chief executive of Volkswagen, which leads China in car sales, was recently asked for the company’s comment on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He answered that VW knew nothing of such things...."

Not a good answer for a German to give.

Jupiter said...

"Not a good answer for a German to give."

Au contraire. It is the perfect answer for a German to give.

Narr said...

I vass only following profits.

Narr
There goes my Bug-love

Lucid-Ideas said...

The Communist party of China still has hard feelings about this.

There's more than a little bit of this history wrapped up in what's going on in XinJiang.

tcrosse said...

What was all that talk about the Workers seizing the Means of Production and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat? If Lenin were alive today he'd be spinning in his grave.

Michael K said...

Is the NYT starting to think about China?

Next they'll be writing about the Iran revolution.

n.n said...

Socialism (i.e. unfettered capitalism or monopolies and practices) and diversity (i.e. color judgments) breeds adversity. Market ("democratic") economic systems tempered by a suitable religious/moral philosophy mitigates their progress. #PrinciplesMatter #HateLovesAbortion

rhhardin said...

The low-paying job is better than their second choice. The pay is set by whatever they have to pay to beat the next-best choice.

Competition is what makes sure it's the right pay.

As for profits, they go to consumers. One company's advantage is eliminated by a competitor doing the same thing. All that happens is that the price falls.

n.n said...

The chief executive of Volkswagen, which leads China in car sales, was recently asked for the company’s comment on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He answered that VW knew nothing of such things...."

Go along to get along.

Lucid-Ideas said...

"Western politicians, as if trying to justify the unholy collusion, for years argued that rising living standards in China would produce a middle class who would demand freedom and democracy."

Couldn't disagree with Weiwei more strongly on this. I've been to mainland China almost 40 times and speak the language. They do want freedom and democracy (if HK recently is any indication) and the further you get from Beijing the more they want it. It is of course not overt most of the time, but Chinese families A) absolutely speak of this in the privacy of their homes and B) consider carefully and consistently how to leave China and/or evacuate their wealth and C) guarantee a freer future for their children.

It is freely acknowledged in China that 改革开放 in the 80s was a sort of implied contract with the regime. Economic conditions would liberalize but the party would be held responsible for the growth and the conditions would continue as long as loyalty was rigid. This contract has now been extended to international corporations and conglomerates, but I doubt this will last forever, especially now that the economic evidence is growing the vaunted 'Chinese consumer economy' has yet to - if it ever does - appear.

They do want freedom and democracy, they just have to be more careful and subtle about how they achieve that.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Chinese communism was never rooted out and killed. so the thin layer of freedom and democracy sits on top of something very rotten.

n.n said...

They do want freedom and democracy (if HK recently is any indication) and the further you get from Beijing the more they want it.

According to Governor "Blackface" Northam, there are diversitist (i.e. racist) motivations to mitigate the progress of high-density population centers.

Nonapod said...

For thousands of years the Chinese peasant has been lorded over by emperors, warlods, then Communist authoritarians. I hesitate to say that it's their natural state, but in the West it seems like people ceased individual freedom when the opportunity to aquire it became feasible. In the West as more free market style ecomonies evolved a middle class gradually emerged and more people wanted more control of their own lives. So it seemed natural that such a thing would be possible in China too.

Maybe the cart was put before the horse though. Maybe increasing the affluence of the peasantry in China through trade and tolerance of intellectual theft has actually made the Chinese people less likely to want to challenge their Communist overlords.

wildswan said...

I'm reading a very interesting book called The Other Slavery about Indian slavery in the Spanish empire. This was very extensive, far more so than I had realized. It was also illegal after 1540. But first there were exceptions and somehow it turned out that all the cases of slavery that were investigated involved Indians who were under one exception or another. And then, when that wore thin, there were workarounds like debt slavery and a pass system which meant an Indian could be forced into work without pay if a Indian man, woman or child was found without a pass. One interesting thing is that when slavery was legally abolished in the US, many jurisdictions adopted the Spanish empire workarounds in its place. And it sounds as if, possibly, the Chinese are also using these same tactics. Slavery is camouflaged so that it hides in plain sight when we don't know all its vile techniques.

narciso said...


that's a possible intention,

https://www.breitbart.com/economy/2020/01/12/the-wall-street-journal-admits-u-s-economy-sailed-through-trade-war-with-barely-a-scratch/

n.n said...

The Other Slavery about Indian slavery in the Spanish empire

Indigenous American empires, nations, and tribes, too.

n.n said...

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aimed at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. [Lemkin]
- etymonline.com

Quite literally "cancel culture". #HateLovesAbortion

Carol said...

Indigenous American empires, nations, and tribes, too.

V.S. Naipaul had a funny story about an Indian immigrant to Afric who inherits a slave from his parents. He gives the guy his freedom but the ex slave follows him into interior Africa and demands to be supported as before.

Just pulled the situation out of thin air, I'm sure.

Wince said...

...the artist Ai Weiwei in the NYT.

"Well, I got a flash for you, joy-boy. Party time is over."

walter said...

A few months to catch up on it

Michael K said...

B) consider carefully and consistently how to leave China and/or evacuate their wealth and C) guarantee a freer future for their children.

Monterey Park, east of LA, is a suburb that was once largely blue collar Mexican American. Now it is Chinese with excellent Chinese restaurants. Filled with exiles. Banf in Canada is full of Hong Kong exiles.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Carol said...

V.S. Naipaul had a funny story about an Indian immigrant to Afric who inherits a slave from his parents. He gives the guy his freedom but the ex slave follows him into interior Africa and demands to be supported as before.

I wouldn't laugh too hard. With all the crying about needing safe spaces, segregated dorms and special programs to protect Blacks from White people; it wouldn't surprise me if the activist types don't end up demanding slavery be re-instituted for the very same reason.

Matt said...

Is the author suggesting it is bad to take advantage of the cultural differences in China to manufacture stuff? I thought all cultures were equal and criticizing one you are not part of is xenophobia and cultural imperalism and whatnot.

Matt said...

Monterey Park, east of LA, is a suburb that was once largely blue collar Mexican American. Now it is Chinese with excellent Chinese restaurants. Filled with exiles. Banf in Canada is full of Hong Kong exiles.
~~~~~~~~~
Was talking with a financial advisor friend the other night who has a bunch of real estate clients. Wealthy Chinese are apparently going crazy buying up houses and property in Northern VA.

I know it makes me a terrible person but it creeps me out.

Hagar said...

I read that Deng Xiaoping had a problem with that dropping socialism for capitalism necessarily would lead to unequal initial rapid economic development in the coastal districts accessible to the world and only slowly sometime in the future reaching back into the hinterlands. This was unavoidable he thought, but must be accepted in the nature of things. However, the government should do what it could by constructing railroads and highways and airports into the western regions and facilitating economic development there to even the new prosperity out as soon as possible.

traditionalguy said...

Anthony Hopkins and Kathy Bates are Oscar worthy actors. The rest of them and the movies they came in on are Hollywood hype. And the bums left out Midway.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Western politicians, as if trying to justify the unholy collusion, for years argued that rising living standards in China would produce a middle class who would demand freedom and democracy."
Not just politicians, but "classical liberals" (who called themselves Republicans, or at least conservatives before Nov. 9, 2016) and free-trader economists.The idea that you can reduce social relationships to economics is stupid. Math is not the key to managing society.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Y'know, having lived in Hawaii for thirty years, I find the idea of the "wise Chinese" to be as ridiculous as the notion that economic growth is the result or cause of individual freedom.
Those far-thinking Chinese allowed their empire to be taken over, and then destroyed, by the upstart European powers, then they had a civil war that lasted for half a century. Millions upon millions died, and the victors adopted the stupid SOCIALIST WAY TO ECONOMIC GROWTH, LOL!
The chief job of the current Chinese despots is stopping that from happening again. The Chinese space program? It's about where we were in 1975.

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Bob Loblaw said...

Literally 1/3 of Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty since Deng effectively discarded communism in the 1970s. It's hard for me to see that as anything other than an unmitigated good.