Some thoughts on how some misguided libertarians have been lured into supporting the enemy of everything they claim to cherish. Reposted from Strike the Root
Say it is a dictatorship, but we want to be associated with it. Say it is worthwhile being associated with the devil, as Churchill said, in order to defeat another evil which is Hitler. There might be some good argument made for that. But why pretend that Russia was not what it was?
~ Ayn Rand, testimony to HUAC, 1947
America has been lulled into the proud and pleasant delusion that Ronald Regan defeated communism a generation ago and that with the fall of the Soviet Union, our nation faces no external threat more serious than cave dwelling extremists with a homemade WMD. The age of nation-state geopolitics and the fear of strategic nuclear warfare seem buried, as the entire world embraces “free trade.” Yet, somehow, while we were celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, we missed those tanks emblazoned with red stars rolling over democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square.
Communism remains alive and well in China, though the dubious looks I often get from those I warn about it make me feel like Harry Potter yelling, “Valdemort is back!” I know my admonitions sound shrilly discordant against the chorus of media pundits praising the efficiency of Chinese “state capitalism” and the politicians who daily prophesize Beijing’s “peaceful rise.”
However, if you harbor any doubts about the nature of Beijing’s dictatorship, your must read “5 Myths about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”, an excellent article in Foreign Policy by Richard McGregor. The former Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times begins:
If Vladimir Lenin were reincarnated in 21st-century Beijing and managed to avert his eyes from the city’s glittering skyscrapers and conspicuous consumption, he would instantly recognize in the ruling Chinese Communist Party a replica of the system he designed nearly a century ago for the victors of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Or just take Premier Wen Jaibao’s word for it when he says, “We must make best use of the socialist system’s advantages, which enable us to make decisions efficiently, organize effectively, and concentrate resources to accomplish large undertakings.” For Wen, market forces are just another weapon in the Communist Party’s arsenal of economic policies, a powerful tool when conducive to Party goals and one to be repressed when deemed inconvenient or dangerous.
Most Western writers, corporate executives, and politicians (including the ubiquitous Mr. Kissinger) experience China through carefully managed meetings in fine offices, restaurants, and nightclubs in modern Shanghai and Beijing. From those venues, it’s pretty hard to imagine that the Hammer and Sickle still rules with an iron fist. As a Chinese dissident friend of mine explained, “There are two views of China: the one where the CCP has tortured you with an electric baton because you support freedom and the other one.”
You can find the real China if you look. Visiting a Chengdu College last year, I was greeted by the Communist Party Secretary who runs a parallel administration dedicated to ensuring the political correctness of faculty and the students. Traveling in Yunnan with a charity, I dined at a fine restaurant while Party members who run healthcare explained, between many rounds of drinks, that China has no money to help kids who need heart surgery. That’s progressive thinking from a socialist dictatorship that has accumulated trillions in foreign reserves while growing their military and security apparatus faster than GDP.
Big Chinese companies also have political minders – picture Tim Curry’s role in “The Hunt for Red October” – while loyal Party members run the “joint partnerships” that multinationals like GM must use to access Chinese markets. No surprise that Cadillac sponsors a film called “Birth of a Party” (how ironically fitting) praising the Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary.
With China’s leaders fully committed to Marx and Mao, we have to wonder what’s with that “vibrant market economy.” It is a lot less of a market than most Americans think. When Hu Jintao says that the Chinese Communist Party “loves capitalism,” file it with: “China’s currency is fairly priced” and “Tibetans love China.”
Despite the horde of small Chinese firms feeding, remora-like, off slain Western economies, real financial power remains in the hands of huge State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). The top 20 firms in China are SOEs, as are all the big banks, the major energy and resource firms, the telecommunications firms, the big aircraft, auto, and ship builders, and even China’s largest retailer.
Further, though the stock of many of these firms is publicly traded– and probably in your 401(k) – the Central Organizing Committee of the Communist Party appoints the CEOs and runs the show. This control extends to many seemingly private firms since everyone who is anyone in China is either a member of the Party or beholden to it. As Richard McGregor explains in The Party, “The idea that the boards really run companies is basically as credible as the constitutional guarantee of free speech and religious freedom in China. It does not happen in reality.” Worse, the state sector is growing in what’s called “Guo Jin, Min Tui” (“The State Advances and the People Retreat”).
Sadly many of America’s strongest defenders of freedom have come to worship a logical Möbius Strip that twists the support of economic liberty into a rationale for funding totalitarians. Libertarian media and think tanks aggressively defend the “right” of multinationals to nourish China’s dictatorship via “free trade” no matter how much contempt Beijing shows for human rights, how much damage their mercantilism does to our economy, and how obviously they prepare to attack Asian democracies and gear up for eventual conflict with America.
While profiting off the back of labor coerced by others has been a successful business tactic since “free trade” England ran its mills on the cotton of American slavery, conducting business with criminals is no ethical “right.” Funneling commerce and capital to an avowed enemy of our most cherished principles is more like being an accessory to crime.
Ironically, the mercantilist trade of 19th Century America subsequently crushed both England’s mills and its economy. Now as “free trade” America meets a similar fate, the freedom-loving Cato Institute celebrates the communist victory by proclaiming “the world should rejoice in China’s becoming the world’s largest exporter.”
As Lenin was said to have remarked, “The capitalist will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
Greg Autry is co-author of Death by China and serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance