An Evening in Middle Class Life        October, 2009

There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner.   Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating.  But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability.  This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing.  This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday. 

This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future.  I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership.  There are about 90 million CCP members.  With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households.  These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses.  Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class.  CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about.  The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

The Ideology of Occupation   January, 2019

In the last couple of weeks, two student groups were battling at Peking university, one of China’s most prestigious institutions.  These were battles of words, not fists, but all the more intense for that.

Some might dismiss the conflict as a minor student skirmish over ideology. But the Chinese government reaction suggests that there is a lot more going on – that occupation by a ruling elite can have a light touch, except when it finds itself threatened.   Existential threats, even small ones, must be put down.

To be sure, the conflict at Peking was not a contest for student body president, or a fight over which gendered pronoun to use in addressing a classmate.  It was an ideological fight over who gets to interpret Marxism, and the fight illustrates the extent to which CCP, like every dynasty before it, can be understood as an occupying force.  SupChina has the story-  One Marxist student group is backed by the Party.  The other's WeChat account is blocked

Source:  Socialist Worker - A Time of turmoil shaped Karl Marx’s ideas

Single’s Day – Next Year in Xinjiang

 A pair of sharply discordant messages about today's China came across my desk today, and I was left scratching my head.  How are both these things part and parcel of China now?

One message came from a report from McKinsey that analyzed trends emerging from this year's "Single's Day" self-indulgent shopping mega-spree.

Source: https://investorsking.com/alibaba-singles-day-sales-hit-8-6-billion-first-hour/  and Visual China Group/Getty Images

 

The other message arose from an expanding cascade of reports about the growing repression of China's Uighurs, and the ugly moral and spiritual vacuum -- and the expanding nihilism -- that are pervasively described in these reports.

External view of a Xinjiang "transformation through education" camp during construction  Source: Bitter Winter

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 6 of 5

Public Morality  - not our finest hour

 

We come to public morality.

"...the spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the mind which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women."

 Learned Hand  “The Spirit of Liberty” speech at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944)

 

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 5 of 5

 

The Anarchic International Systemdestabilize the world

 Xi and Trump are destabilizing the world, and not only because of the tariff conflict.

As John Mearsheimer reminds us, there is no supra-arbiter of conflict between states.  Realism in international relations suggests that fundamental relations can only be based on domestic interests and an interpretation of what other states might do in their own interest.  Political disagreements with other states - nominally power equals as independent countries – are difficult to address without a hegemonic leading country. There can only be balancing of interests.  And there is no question that the world is looking at a rising China and declining US and wondering about great power conflicts and the Thucydides Trap and how hegemony will play out.

 

Cultural Economy

In the old days, before about 1890, there was no field of economics.  There was only political economy, rightly reflecting the link between institutions and laws and the incentives they created.  As Acemoglu and Robinson pointed out in Why Nations Fail, what we call economics arises from the interplay of culture and institutions, and to think that economics is the same for all is to think poorly.

I want to point out some of the ways in which economic thinking can differ across cultures, and explain some of what we see in development in China, and in foreign countries with Chinese companies. 

Economic issues are necessarily paramount for any national leader.  Right now, both Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump derive their legitimacy from promises to achieve national greatness again, and for both, this fervent hope has much citizen – that is, cultural - support.  For Trump, the political slogan is Make America Great Again; for Xi, Made in China 2025, or perhaps, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.  

Recent

  • News: IP theft - no more worries

    News: IP theft - no more worries

     

    Just a brief note -  the FBI has more than 1,100 China IP theft  cases pending against Chinese entities or individuals.  Not a typo - 1,100.

     For American companies not doing business in China - we should not say, no exposure to China - the FBI investigations may still be something of a bulwark against theft.  Although, one notes, most of the investigations and arrests are in arrears of the crime.

    And back nearly a year ago, Mr. Xi promulgated a new IP theft policy which threatened Chinese businesses that steal.  The policy was announced within hours of a Xi-Trump meeting last December, and comprised a coordinated efforts across 38 Chinese government agencies with 38 different punishments.  The insincerity of this announcement, coming immediately upon the leaders' meeting, was palpable.  If you want to believe, you may.  I wrote about this at the time in Everything new is old again

    But with a new Chinese government policy, IP theft in China is no more.

    Now comes the latest entry in China's bid to become the first panopticon state - the cybersecurity law that permits government access to all information, IP or otherwise, stored on any server available to any foreign business operating in China.  China Law Blog has details - China's New Cybersecurity System - There is NO Place to Hide.  From the blog post -

    This result then leads to the key issue. Confidential information housed on any server located in China is subject to being viewed and copied by China’s Ministry of Public Security and that information then becomes open to access by the entire PRC government system. But the PRC government is the shareholder of the State Owned Entities (SOEs) which are the key industries in China. The PRC government also essentially controls the key private companies in China such as Huawei and ZTE and more recently Alibaba and Tencent and many others. See China is sending government officials into companies like Alibaba and Geely and China to place government officials inside 100 private companies, including Alibaba. The PRC government also either owns or controls China’s entire arms industry.

    Simply put, the data the Ministry of Public Security obtains from foreign companies will be available to the key competitors of foreign businesses, to the Chinese government controlled and private R&D system, and to the Chinese arms industry and military.

    The takeaway on this is that the fear of IP theft in China is no more.  What used to be considered theft, done by stealth, is now a legal process.  As Steve Dickinson from China Law Blog says, welcome to the new normal.   And anyway, remember - information wants to be free.

     

     

     
  • Deer in the headlights

    Deer in the headlights

     

    Aggressive moves by the Xi Jinping government have sensitized the world to skullduggery, lying, theft, and threats to foreigners in their own country by Chinese organizations in business and government. Infiltration of politics and government in Australia and New Zealand has become a recurring story. 

    Unfortunately, such actions can bias some people against Chinese everywhere.  So - what to make of Gladys Liu?

    Read more ...  
  • China censorship by extortion in London

    Update at October 7, 2019 - The NBA self-censors for China

    The NBA is a business - we know that.  But the NBA has been the professional league in which players and coaches have had the most freedom to speak their minds about issues of rights and morality.  Now, apparently, that freedom of speech stops at the Chinese border.  The New York Times has the story - NBA executive's Hong Kong tweet starts firestorm in China.

    Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted an expression of support for protesters in Hong Kong.  This upset the Chinese Basketball Association, and some Chinese fans, who see Hong Kongers as only hooligans and destroyers of Chinese harmony.  Morey's tweet suggested that he "stands with Hong Kong."  He has now apologized to the NBA's largest international market.  The NBA has disavowed his comment, although it did suggest weakly that he had a right to say what he said.  Of course, the Chinese league commented with the old trope, that Morey had hurt the feelings of all Chinese people (who are basketball fans). 

    Read more ...  

Resources

Economics Blogs

Party News

Australian National University ANU and related

History, Language and Culture Basics

Contemporary Economics, Governance, and Law

Economics and Cultural History - Interpretation

Work on contemporary China, academics and journalists but in the popular media

Work on contemporary China, mostly in the popular media

Philosophy, Daoist and Confucian Studies

Political Reference Documents