Tag Archives: Mao

On Kissinger

Zhou EnLai: Perhaps it is the national character of the Americans to be taken in by those who seem kind and mild.

Kissinger: Yes.

Zhou: But the world is not so simple. . . .*



A brief review of On China by Dr. Henry Kissinger

Firstly, Dr. Kissinger delivers an intelligent and well-constructed review of recent Chinese history. This is an indispensable read for any China novice wishing to better understand modern China and the intent of recent US policy. Clearly the former Secretary of State understands the political and strategic issues better than anyone and he has coupled his extensive personal experiences with very solid research.

However, the author’s personal involvement in the evolution of the US-China relationship and to some extent his actual responsibility for the success of the modern Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has rendered this great statesman incapable of objectively evaluating the true nature of China’s ruling elite, seeing the devastation that China’s abusive trade strategy has wrought on American workers, considering the environmental disaster that China is inflicting on all of Asia, or being realistic about China’s regional and strategic military threats. It isn’t as though he doesn’t know the facts, and occasionally he cites them, he just can’t get any real world perspective on them because he simply hasn’t been in the real world for a very long time.

For Dr. Kissinger, history is an abstract game of strategy played across fancy diplomatic dinner tables, parlors filled with overstuffed chairs, and magnificent conference rooms. He has been to China dozens of times over a forty-year period, but I’d doubt he has ever really walked the streets of a Chinese city alone much less spoken anonymously to a normal Chinese citizen. He’s never felt the mud of rural China on his legs – unless perhaps he was helicoptered into somewhere for a photo op. From his ivory tower the prisoners in China’s labor camps, the women subjected to forced abortions, those beaten and tortured for their political or religious beliefs, or the unemployed workers standing outside America’s shuttered factories appear as mere pawns to be traded for the attainment of bigger strategic objectives in a captivating game of geopolitical intrigue.

Dr. Kissinger remains a tragic captive of meta-ethical relativism. He is simply unable to really see evil for what it is and would never dare to call it out in the way that braver men like Churchill or Reagan have. He can casually mention the millions who died during Mao’s Great Leap Forward or suffered in the insanity of his Cultural Revolution and yet still fawn on the Chairman as a congenial host. The chapter in which Kissinger glosses over the massacre at Tiananmen without counting the dead – or even acknowledging why doing so remains impossible  – was particularly disturbing. He enumerates the body count in countless wars and uprisings before June 4, but finds this event worthy of a chapter only because he is compelled to – very weakly – justify the pathetic US policy reaction.

In his epilogue, Dr. Kissinger builds a careful, amoral analysis of China’s rise as a mirror of Germany in the years before the First World War. That period of classic diplomacy is a great analogy for a strategy hound not wishing to be burdened by pesky ethical issues. He has carefully selected it to accommodate his natural tendency to moral equivalency. For example in this section he asserts that in the possibly emerging US-China cold war that “both sides would emphasis their ideological differences” as though they were equally valid or that consideration of their validity is too trivial to investigate. What the good doctor fails to confront is the fact that the current Chinese ideology is simply National Socialism with Chinese characteristics. This fundamental truth suggests the much more disturbing analogy of the years before the Second World War as the more apt analogy for this analysis, complete with the goose-stepping troops on review and a showboat political Olympic games.

Nonetheless, I highly recommend the book if for no other reason than it nicely summarizes the dominant policy paradigm that is currently leading the world toward the brink of disaster. As Sun Tzu wisely teaches, it is very important to understand your enemy and America’s most dangerous enemy is China and our domestic China apologists.

The essence of all this is nicely summed up by a insightful comment from Deng Xiaopeng which Kissinger offers to us without a hint of irony:

“Your spokesmen have constantly justified and apologized for Soviet actions. Sometimes they say there are no signs to prove that there is the meddling of the Soviet Union and Cuba in the case of Zaire or Angola. It is no use for you to say so. To be candid with you, whenever you are about to conclude an agreement with the Soviet Union it is the product of concession on the U.S. side to please the Soviet Side.”


–       Greg Autry teaches Macroeconomics at the Merage School of Business, UC Irvine and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of the new book “Death by China” www.gregautry.us


* Kissinger, H. Years of Upheaval, 1982. pg. 698

What Could Have Been





Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.” – Harry Browne, Libertarian


Lately I can’t turn around with out being reminded by the business press or naïve academics of the so called “China Miracle” and listening to pundits tout the benefits of Beijing’s “State Capitalism” model of growth. The standard line seems to be: “a controlled economy might be a good thing if you put the right engineers in charge of it; see how fantastic it is that China has been growing at 10% or more for years?”

Well, there are a couple of problems with this line of “reasoning” and the first is the dangerously implied assumption that wealth creation is a function of government policy – just as recessions must always be cured with interventions  – rather than a result of people, resources, capital, and technology. More often than not, what governments do is throttle potential growth by misallocating these wheels of growth and China is no exception. In fact, they’ve been the poster child for holding back a nation from its rightful economic position and standard of living. “What!, how can that be. China is a miracle, everyone agrees, right?” you ask?

Let me illustrate my assertion with a little alternate history. Sherman, set the WABAC* machine for October 1, 1949, please. Imagine, if you will, that rather than Mao up on a podium before Tiananmen proclaiming the People’s Republic – history’s biggest misnomer – that Chiang Kai-shek had established a Kuomintang government in Beijing.

With nods due to General Chaing’s many imperfections, it would be reasonable to assume that China would have followed an economic path a lot closer to Taiwan than to that reckless roller coaster ride into hell that Mao designed. Taiwan began to recognize growth rates around 10% all in the 1950s – while mainlanders were melting down their pots for metal and chasing sparrows under Mao’s insane “Great Leap Forward” campaign. By the 1970s, when Deng get’s his great idea to allow a few “special economic zones” Taiwan is already a gobal manufacturing powerhouse. Not only Taiwan, either; Hong Kong and Signapore are exploding with growth as well. This is because Chinese people set free to do business, do it very well and they need no help from “brilliant” communist planners.  During the 1970s ALL of South Korea was a “special economic zone!” and Japan is obviously on overdrive as well.

These countries have lately been held back by limited natural resources, limited populations, and unreasonable defense spending (required to protect themselves from a belligerent China and its insane puppet princeling in North Korea.) Now, China must be considered with because it does have hundreds of millions of workers and claims over vast resources, and knows how to copy other’s success; but not because it has been brilliantly managed now or in the past.

The bottom line is that if China had not been blessed with the CCP it would have been on a trajectory to surpass the US in 1995 rather than 2016 or 2020! Crediting Deng, Jiang, and Hu with a Chinese “miracle” is like crediting the jockey on the last horse in at the Kentucky derby. “So what?”

The fact that China’s people and resources have been badly mismanaged is obvious to anyone who actually goes there and opens their eyes or lungs. Consider how the different systems have managed the economic externalities of growth. While their environmental records are far from perfect (nobody’s are) cities in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan never became the cancerous cesspools that China’s metropolises are. In fact, no place on Earth from Dickensian London to 1970’s Los Angeles has been as unhealthy to live in as Beijing or any just about any Chinese city is now.

As to human resources, there were issues with labor conditions in the early days of the Asian Tigers, but free people organizing to protect themselves quickly corrected that. Neither unionization nor real legislative corrective processes are allowed in the “People’s Republic”, so thousand of workers continue to be maimed and killed every year in medieval conditions. This is no Chinese “miracle” but rather a source of shame.

It is not any coincidence that the very best factories in China – like Hon Hai (Foxconn) in Shenzhen or the Honda plant in Foshan – are run by the Taiwanese or Japanese. Its sadly ironic that when workers there have issues they actually get improved conditions and pay increases, and then government blames the foreign management. When workers in Chinese state owned plants have issues they get the business end of an electric baton.

Japan, Korea, and Taiwan also became innovators in technology and management because they allowed the free flow of information and ideas while latecomer China has copied, stolen and cheated to get its 10% growth number every year, because its planners simply don’t understand or can’t trust that the fountainhead of innovation is freedom.

“State Capitalism” has been simply too little, too late despite the best efforts of the Boys from Beijing to take credit for everything the Chinese people do.

–       Greg Autry teaches Macroeconomics at the Merage School of Business, UC Irvine and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of the new book “Death by China” www.gregautry.us


*When in doubt, google it. 🙂