Swans Commentary » swans.com July 17, 2006  



The China Syndrome


by Charles Marowitz





(Swans - July 17, 2006)   Why should we be agitated by the formidable rise of China? The Chinese have applied the very laws of capitalist expansion that made America the superpower it is today. Taking their cue from us, they have globalized themselves into one of the most successful economic empires in the world. Being a dictatorship where government has unfettered control, they found it easier to do so -- but the underlying principles behind their prominence are precisely those that for two centuries we applied to our own economic ambitions.

Now we chastise them for those very free trade practices that made corporate America the behemoth it became in the last two centuries. We view them as a threat because they outdo us in exports, successfully absorb and adapt our technology, pilfer our inventions, mass-produce them more cheaply and are creating a working and middle class that have clearly outstripped our own and will vastly outnumber us in the coming decade.

We acknowledge that it is a one-party dictatorship, which has no respect either for intellectual property or civil liberties and is dedicated to cornering the market in mid-Eastern oil, a fact that rankles us because it increases the price we are obliged to pay for it. And we get the jitters when we see them cozying up to rogue nations such as Iran which, in the coming years, may well turn out to be a far greater threat to the West than Iraq ever was. Recently, the New York Times reported that China intends to invest $30 billion during the next decade in leveling many of the unspoiled tropical forests of Indonesia in order to ravage them for raw materials -- just as we are threatening to invade the polar regions of Alaska to plunder for oil. In regard to environmental despoliation, the resemblances are so marked as to be almost identical.

We are deeply in debt to the Chinese -- not only because we regularly borrow from them to cover our own deficits but because they have shown us how to penetrate and manipulate nations in order to reap staggering economic gains -- just as we have done in Latin America and continue to do in the Middle East, cozying up to princes and caliphs whose politics we abhor but whose oil output we are dependent upon.

Both China and the USA have achieved their prowess through capitalist buccaneering and so it doesn't behoove us to sue to China to change their ways simply because they are now outpacing us industrially. They have beaten us at our own game and since capitalism is the only game we know, we come across as sore losers when we chide them for their unstoppable economic dominance.

In the 22nd century, we may all be eating chop suey and wonton soup instead of burgers and cokes, suppressing both civil rights and alternative religions because the spread of such catholicity threatens our control of the social order. Even now, some of our most successful companies (Yahoo, Google, Cisco Systems) blithely help to identify and arrest Chinese subversives who rock the boat in foreign waters. We may recoil at the abuses perpetrated by foreign governments, but it doesn't deter us from doing business with them. "All is fair in love and war" -- and apparently, in globalization as well. We continue to give lip service to freedoms which, were they denied to us as they are to the Chinese, would cause us to go clamoring to the ACLU to reaffirm our democratic heritage, but we have no problem averting our gaze or turning a deaf ear to those sons and daughters of Tiananmen Square who are tortured, imprisoned, and murdered while we hungrily pursue business with their unelected officials.

We are both fascinated and terrified by China because it reveals to us the Hyde-like countenance of our own smug, Jekyll-like features. It is the unacceptable face of globalization but if we took a poke at it, we would only give ourselves a black eye. It is perfectly conceivable that at some future time, when China has successfully matured into the superpower it is fast becoming, we may well declare war on her -- as we did ideologically against the USSR. By then, China will have more nuclear warheads than we do and a far greater military force and we will learn too late, that power not only corrupts, it also annihilates.


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Internal Resources

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About the Author

Charles Marowitz on Swans (with bio).



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Published July 17, 2006