The Corner

China Explained

A friend just directed my attention to this piece in last April’s Far Eastern Economic Review about the co-opting of academics by the ChiComs.

Some Western China scholars have relatives in China. Others own apartments there. Those China scholars whose mother tongue is not Chinese have studied the language for years and have built their careers on this large and nontransferable investment. We benefit from our connections in China to obtain information and insights, and we protect these connections.

It’s an old story (google Steven Mosher) but none the less true for that. Holz is pretty blunt about the state of affairs in China now:

Our use of language to conform to the image the Party wishes to project is pervasive. Would the description “a secret society characterized by an attitude of popular hostility to law and government” not properly describe the secrecy of the Party’s operations, its supremacy above the law and its total control of government? In Webster’s New World College Dictionary, this is the definition of “mafia.”

The Party’s grip on the nation’s wealth is total, and quite personal.

Article after article pores over the potential economic reasons for the increase in income inequality in China. We ignore the fact that of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13 million) or more, 2,932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions in the five industrial sectors—finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale engineering and securities—85% to 90% are held by children of high-level cadres.

(I’m not sure what the “Heilongjiang scandal” is that Holz refers to. The tendency of Chinese bank managers to run off with the contents of the bank vault does seem to be particularly pronounced up there in the Northeast, though. Something to do with this, perhaps.)

The ChiComs have got things pretty well set up over there. From time to time I get to help host delegations of visiting media types. They’re comfortable, and smug as all get out. They carry China with them — it’s very rare to meet one who gives a fig about any aspect of Western society or culture. China is all they need, and the West is on its way out anyway. So the Party has told them: so they believe. “This will be the Chinese century!”

Upper-middle-class life in China goes like this: You attach yourself somehow to some “enterprise,” run by a “Director” who, much more often than not, is also the Party Secretary for the thing. You kiss up and do as you’re told. Once in a while you betray a friend or colleague — you get points for that. You attend meetings you can pretty much doze through, just raising your hand when the boss raises his. If you become aware that the boss is helping himself to the enterprise’s funds, which he pretty invariably is, you keep very quiet about it. Once in a while you get a trip abroad, giving you the opportunity to see that the West is just as dysfunctional a mess, with just as little faith in itself, and just as obviously a goner, as the Party has been telling you all your life. You have the one approved child, and beggar yourself paying fees and bribes to get him into a good college. You get emphysema from the stupendous levels of air pollution in Chinese cities. You die.

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