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 srory 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.  

News Comments

  • Huawei - Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas

    Huawei - Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas

    You know the meme – when you work with bad guys, you should expect to be labeled a bad guy. I mean no disrespect to the thousands of Chinese companies doing business across the world that manage to be profitable without intimate Chinese government relations.  But in our globalized, internet era, it is impossible for a high tech company, particularly one as fundamentally important to internet networks, to not be tarnished with the specter of theft of intellectual property and CCP internet control and monitoring of Chinese businesspeople, students, even foreigners.

    Probably no one outside a small group of analysts has the actual evidence of real dirt on Huawei.  But that is the risk of being a national champion in China.  If the government is promoting you, then there must be a government interest in promoting you, beyond just “go team.”  This is simply Chinese practical reasoning.

    But it seems that lying down with dogs is more than just a saying here.  In his extraordinary Sinocism news blog, Bill Bishop continues the Huawei stories.  From the February 9 edition, with no repetition in the stories (all should be clickable) -

    Read more ...  
  • Shuang yin Win-Win

    Shuang yin  Win-Win    February, 2019

    Now that a crash-out Brexit seems all but assured, where will Britain turn for trade deals?  The kind of relationship that the British government wanted – like that of Canada or Norway with the EU – takes years to negotiate, under favorable circumstances.  There has been discussion for more than ten years that the special relationship between the US and Britain - forged from the mid-19th century and cemented between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in World War II – is no longer so compelling.  The EU without Britain is still a huge and attractive market for US trade in both directions.

    As of March 29, 2019 – in a bit more than a month - there will be hundreds of treaties and agreements to negotiate, suddenly, quickly, and in great detail.  Some agreements will probably get done – ability of British truck drivers to deliver goods through the Chunnel into EU turf, and ability of airplanes to take off from Heathrow bound for destinations in Europe using parts and crew that, without certification by the EU, would be not allowed.

    But where can Britain turn for trade deals, quickly, without years of complicated negotiations?  What large trading partner is willing to set aside the details of complex agreements when mercantile interests, not to mention future geopolitical support, are at stake?  What large trading partner can act quickly, based on personal leadership from a president or prime minister or general secretary?

    In October, 2015, a few months before the Brexit vote, Xi Jinping demonstrated his prescience –

    "The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China," Xi told Reuters ahead of his first visit to the country as president.

    "This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain's own long-term interest."

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking on CCTV, China's state broadcaster, said the visit would mark a "golden era" in the two countries' relationship.

     

    Read more ...  
  • Update on Peking U Ideological Battle

    Update on Peking U Ideological Battle    January, 2019

    In a recent post, The Ideology of Occupation, I described an ideological struggle being played out last month at Peking University, the combined Harvard-Yale of China.   Now, a followup on what has happened to the "Old Marxist" students who questioned the manner in which CCP has been providing leadership of the proletariat.  Spoiler - they are in jail.

    Read more ...  

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