Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beast of the Month - August 2008

Robalini's Note: Still a little behind, but catching up...

Beast of the Month - August 2008
Hu Jintao, Chinese President

"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

"One World, One Dream"
Slogan of the 2008 Summer Olympics

On August 8, the Summer Olympics will be held in Beijing. It will begin at 8PM, which will make it the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the century. (In case you didn't know, eight is considered the luckiest number in China, and the Chinese people are particularly superstitious about it.) When it is, it will be viewed in the korporate media as the final coronation of China as one of the few world superpowers. Like it actually needs one.

It's hard to believe it's been nine years since someone from China has won BOTM, and eleven since Jiang Zemin took home the trophy. Why that's particularly hard to believe is because in the past nine years, China has not gotten weaker, but rather frighteningly stronger.

Want the proof? Just walk down the aisle of your local Best Buy, Target or (of course) WalMart. Try to avoid buying products which aren't made in the People's Republic. Good luck. Freelance writer Sara Bongiorni did that a full year in 2005 with her family. Needless to say, it often turned shopping for even everyday products into an epic journey. Her four-year-old son, despondent over the cool toys and gadgets he was unable to obtain, had this to say about the end of the boycott: "When we can buy China things again, let's never stop." Ms. Bongiorni summed up her dilemma thusly:

"The funny thing about China's ascent is that we, as a nation, could shut the whole thing down in a week. Jump-start a 'Just Say No to Chinese Products Week,' and the empire will collapse amid the chaos of overloaded cargo ships in Long Beach harbor. I doubt we could pull it off. Americans may be famously patriotic, but look closely, and you'll see who makes the flag magnets on their car bumpers. These days China delivers every major holiday, Fourth of July included."

Of course, if China was merely destroying Team USA's manufacturing sector while poisoning kids with lead-filled toys, it would be bad enough. Currently, China is the number two holder of US Treasury securities, ahead of the UK and only trailing Japan. It is number two with a bullet. What this means is that increasingly China will have a major say in the decisions of our political establishment. It's hard to ignore that in the late 80s and early 90s, for all the hysteria that was directed at the evil Japanese empire, they were nowhere near the economic threat to America that China is now, and a fellow democracy to boot as compared to a communist dictatorship. So where are the panic-stricken pop novels like Michael Crichton's Rising Sun over China?

Okay, maybe that's a little over-the-top: China, after all, is no longer a communist dictatorship, it's a capitalist dictatorship. China has a $7 trillion a year GDP when measured in purchasing power parity, second only to the USA. Since 1978, when free market reforms were implemented, it has grown at an annual rate of over 8 percent. This growth has been aided over the last decade by the reacquisition of both Hong Kong in 1997 and Macau and 1999. Hong Kong long has been the world's shining example of free market economics (Milton Friedman gushed about it in his 1980 book Free to Choose) while Macau has surpassed Las Vegas as the world's largest gambling center, and now only Dubai exceeds it as an example of 21st century capitalism on steroids. Meanwhile, China's biggest oil producer PetroChina became the first trillion dollar company in value last November, and Shanghai has become the world's largest cargo port. With all this money flowing to China, talks of reunification with Taiwan can no longer be dismissed as merely a dream.

But China is definitely still an ugly dictatorship. The crackdown on Tiananmen Square may have happened nineteen years ago, but an environment toxic to freedom still is alive and well. When Hu Jintao (The Konformist Beast of the Month) was selected to take over China's presidency in 2002 from Jiang Zemin, there was widespread hope that he would become the nation's Gorbachev, that political freedom would be unleashed by what was suspected to be a closet liberal. This was aided by his close relationship with Premier Wen Jiabao, who is about as close to a populist figure that can be found in the Chinese establishment. Nearly six years later, this has been proven to be a bogus fantasy, a fantasy exposed most blatantly by the continuing suppression of the people of Tibet. Indeed, the recent crackdown on Tibetan followers of the exiled Dalai Lama has become so intense, there has been a heavy push for nations to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies as protest. Other noted examples of China's continued repression are the persecution of the Falun Gong religious movement, the backing of a ruthless military junta in Burma and its ties to the bloodshed in Darfur via continued support of Sudan.

Some refer to the 2008 Games as the "Genocide Olympics" thanks to these crimes against humanity, and has led to further calls for a boycott, most notably from actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, actor and Tibetan activist Richard Gere, director Steven Spielberg and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. The most in-your-face example of China's continued autocratic style is the nation's crackdown on the Internet, which is already a major hurdle for journalist attempting to cover the Olympic Games. This is despite being lied to repeatedly by China that Internet censorship would be lifted on journalists during the games. (Hard to believe a dictatorship would use deception to land an esteemed multi-billion dollar reward.) According to an International Olympic Committee commissioner: "Had the I.O.C., and those vested with the decision to award the host city contract, known seven years ago that there would be severe restrictions on people being able to enter China simply to watch the Olympics, or that live broadcasting from Tiananmen Square would essentially be banned, or that reporters would be corralled at the whim of local security, then I seriously doubt whether Beijing would have been awarded the Olympics.” The climate of persecution that pervades the Summer Games has been so vast, criticisms of Beijing's toxic smog due to intense air pollution have been almost an afterthought. It appears that for all the talk of open markets leading to freedom, it's going to take longer to achieve Chinese democracy than it has taken Axl Rose to finish his GNR album of the same name.

Over the last eight years, two camps of the GOP have been divided over whether to continue treating China as a trading partner or turning them into an adversary for a Cold War sequel. (These two camps can be referred to as the "Shopping Mall Fascists" and the "War & Oil Fascists" for those keeping score at home.) This division is illustrated in the pro-China positions of both Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Christian televangelist Pat Robertson, both having normally anti-Communist views apparently trumped by their desire to profit in the untapped Chinese market. (Robertson's mammon is particularly telling, as he actually has defended China's forced abortion policy to control population, a step beyond the mere "pro-choice" position of American abortion activists he regularly bashes.) The general results of this debate has led the Bush Team to continue the plunge into transferring dollars into China's coffers while getting any dig into them whenever they can, no matter how petty. One noted example: the April Fools 2001 crash between a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet that led to the death of PLA pilot Wang Wei. Immediately, the Bush Administration insisted the incident happened in international airspace (a dubious claim) and demanded the release of the entire crew. (It's hard to imagine that if a Chinese spy plane near US borders caused the death of an American navy pilot, Team USA would immediately release the crew and their plane without investigation.) Ten days later, when the Bush Administration gave a belated and unconvincing apology after an increasingly shrill hysteria swept through the press, China released the crew, but by then the diplomatic damage had been unnecessarily done. Cut to 2006, when a visit by Jintao to the US was littered with snubs that showed a calculated pattern. Among the greatest hits: referring to China as “the Republic of China" (the actual title for Taiwan) during the official White House greeting. Perhaps even worse was granting a Falun Gong anti-China activist press credentials to a joint Bush-Jintao press conference. The press conference was interrupted for three minutes by an angry denunciation of Jintao and China by the activist, something which would've been halted immediately if it was an attack on Bush's failed War in Iraq. Normally, the granting of a press pass is so controlled, only right-wing closet gay prostitutes who sleep at the White House overnight can evade the tight scrutiny, which indicates the Falun Gong supporter's activities were sanctioned by the Bush Administration all along.

Of course, not all battles between China and the US are so minor. Both countries have used bogus excuses to use military weaponry in space, moves that indicate a "Star Wars" may eventually explode between the two nations for control of the Earth's skies. And as PetroChina's rise clearly shows, there is a huge battle already being covertly waged between the two countries over the vast Caspian Sea oil reserves. This covert war may go deeper than most suspect: while 9/11 conspiracy theories mainly focus on the US military, Israel, Saudi Arabia or the UK as the alternative culprit, Gordon Thomas makes the case in the book Seeds of Fire that the terrorist attack was actually a Chinese operation to punish the US and strengthen ties between China and Islamic nations. In particular, the book details the close financial relationship between China and the Taliban before 9/11. (Coincidentally, the Taliban was run from power almost immediately after China was voted into the WTO in November 2001.) That being the case, perhaps the tensions between the US and China will become increasingly overt as China continues to gain power without firing a single weapon.

In any case, we salute Hu Jintao as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Hu!!!


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