A long time work colleague of mine asked me what I thought about thedailybeast.com's / Newsweek's review of Kissinger's "On China". This is what I told him:
I am not a huge fan of Kissinger, nor am I a harsh & vocal critic of Hillary (as the dailybeast author Ferguson appears to be, who wrote that piece). It's has been 8 years since I was last in China, 12 years since I first went there, and while I spent a total of 6 months of my life in western rural and eastern urban China, I have been told that the country has changed dramatically in the time since I was last there. There are a few constants however:
1) China is a very very filthy country. If you've ever been to Mexico or Romania and seen dirty dusty roads, store fronts, gray palls of sunless & cloudless skies, and the very busy shoe shine people at western hotels trying to scrub off the ubiquitous dirt from business travelers' shoes, multiply that by at least 10X or perhaps a 100X and you've got China. Many homes use open wood or charcoal cooking fires. Everyone smokes. There's no precipitaters on the coal fired power plants. The gas is leaded. Etc. Any photo you see of Shanghai with a shiny purple dome on top of the sky-needle radio tower has been computer enhanced. There are no birds in the cities (eaten, or killed, or polluted, or all of the above?)
2) There's no fire arms allowed in China by the citizenry, so when someone wants to commit a murder, they do it with dynamite from a construction site, poisoning, stabbing, or strangulation. Dynamite makes newspapers, for it's a spectacular means of disposing of a cheating spouse, oppressive boss, or long time enemy - in at least 1/2 of my 13 trips there, I saw articles in the papers of so-and-so being arrested after blowing up so-and-so. The lack of fire arms makes it easier to control insurrection - and insurrection is fomenting, across the country side.
3) There's more English speakers in China than there are in the US. This helps the internet grow with the use and emphasis on English language (India is also semi-English fluent), but it also means that the Chinese totalitarian hegemony government is finding it increasingly difficult to censor media content that its citizens can access. When I used to stay at Chinese hotels, the only way I could get my work email, uncensored, was to CALL OUT on a long distance international line to a non-Chinese server on dial up, to up and down load company mails. Today, that's supposedly easier (and cheaper) but 8 years ago, there was no good way to do it.
4) many US companies, large and small, are finding it increasingly difficult to do business in China, with technology transfer agreements mandatory, quality abysmally low, communications problems, insurmountable cultural issues, and escalating travel costs... and companies are "farming in" or "un-out-sourcing" final assembly, component production, engineering, and other essential business processes. This is leading to Chinese under-employment and unemployment, which is then fomenting discontent (see # 2 above).
5) the US military is still by far, the most dominant militaristic force on the globe. The Chinese are very smart - not as dumb as many Westerns want to believe - and they know they cannot take on the US military head-to-head, but they (like Al Qaeda) can plan on strategic little strikes, here and there, to get what they want / emphasize what is important to their national interests, etc. Unlike Al Qaeda, China is a nation state, with real assets and financial ties to their largest competitor, so the analogy breaks down quickly, but China is keenly studying the US military for weaknesses and areas of opportunity. Instead of dumping 100s of billions into military spending, the Chinese are fighting to build infrastructure (and massively funding it 100X more than the US is) and build a middle class of citizens from the $2-dollars-a-day peasant population, to avoid the fomenting discontent that won't go away (see # 4 and 2 above).
Ironically, what will be most telling about China in the next 10 years, is to see what happens to Mexico, where it appears a failed state governed by (funded by, extorted by) murderously wealthy narco terrorists, is being propped up by US funding, US military, US drone strikes, US DEA intervention. There's 1000s of people being killed / bodies being discovered / mass graves being found / whole families being executed in Mexico, monthly, by the drug cartels and corrupt officials who have been bought off. The money involved is staggering. While Mexico USED TO BE a manufacturing base for many goods bound for America, that's decreasing rapidly. Shops are closing in Mexico, and moving to China, Vietnam, and other states not governed by the drug trade. IF Mexico implodes, on our southern border, then it will be more than interesting to see what China does as America grapples with the immediate neighboring threat. I highly doubt China will stand by, and not seize the opportunity to make larger strategic gains that they've long coveted (South China Sea ruler-ship, greater Taiwan influence, slapping Japan for the 30 years of rape & occupation last century, greater access to African and South American natural resources).
China is not our "friend" like the UK or Canada or Australia are our friends. China is an adversary, a rival, a force to be reckoned with.
1 year ago