Follow the Money…

Lenin is said to have remarked that “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.” The behavior of Western elites in recent years affirms the shrewdness of his prediction; we have been selling an awful lot of rope to China.  

***

It’s more complicated than that, you say: nobody in China wants to hang American businesspeople. Fair enough, they don’t. Provide the American business people with cheap labor and sell American consumers things, sure; not kill them.

Oh, one has to put up with a certain amount of IP theft to do business with the Chinese, to be sure, but the upside is there: cheap labor, great logistics and an enormous potential market. To the global elite, the hassles of doing business in China are clearly outweighed by the positives – and let’s not forget, there are hassles in the West too – higher labor costs, unions, pesky environmental laws and litigation risk under every rock. In the balance, China looks like a pretty good bet.

To most multinational corporations, doing business with China is just another business proposition.

***

Business people aren’t naturally inclined to think about circumstances that are extraneous to the profitability of their decisions. In the capitalist mindset, I can be trusted to look out for my own interests and you for yours; in doing business together we find ways to do things that are mutually beneficial. It’s a formula that drives innovation and wealth creation.

So if you’re an executive at Apple (or Amazon or Walmart or Nike) you probably don’t think much about whether the reasons that producing most of your products in China is so inexpensive include the use of slave labor or the production of pollutants that (will travel the world and) would never be allowed in the West, and you certainly don’t feel much angst over China’s crushing of Hong Kong’s former liberties or its territorial aggression in the South China Sea and along the border with India. These things are none of your business, you figure.

And if you’re at Microsoft, Google or a host of other tech companies you don’t sweat the fact that products you sell to the Chinese are being used in the creation and enforcement of a totalitarian surveillance state. Their “social credit” – i.e., behavioral control – system probably looks kinda nifty – and profitable – from your vantage point.

Our sports, entertainment and media companies routinely bow and scrape before the dragon, too, deeming it profitable so to do. The NBA will now allow all sorts of protest messages on its players’ jerseys – as long as they don’t offend Chinese sensitivities. Hollywood has given a de facto veto over story lines to the CCP in return for access to the Chinese market. All too often, our news media accept China’s spin – as with the origins, characteristics and extent of the spread of Covid-19 – without question.

And even many of our colleges and universities – chasing full-pay students and Chinese government donations – have allowed propagandists for the CCP cause on campus in the form of “Confucius Institutes” and, as we have seen through multiple recent arrests of professors who had (allegedly) been taking under-the table money from the Chinese, paid little to no attention to the ultimate loyalties of the scientists who had access to their most valuable research.

Our elites love doing business with the Chinese for the very simple reason that it’s quite profitable.

***

For all the fact that to many multinational companies national borders seem like anachronisms and countries are to be evaluated as places where business may be conducted solely based on their respective costs, risks and potential rewards, there are larger issues at stake in the latent conflicts between America and China than globally-oriented capitalists are inclined to consider. The Chinese government may not wish to hang American business people – quite the opposite, in fact – but there should be no doubt that it views the traditional American values that hold sacrosanct individual rights and democratic processes as threats to its own legitimacy.

China must crush Hong Kong, and stamp out both Uyghur culture and anything within their borders recognizable as Christianity, for fear that they will inspire in the Chinese people a hope for individual liberties and a belief in higher truths than those put forth by the CCP. For the same reason, to the extent that they cannot wall off knowledge of the freedoms enjoyed elsewhere, the CCP seeks to ultimately undermine them. They cannot allow their people to see the CCP-ruled China as being consistently bested in economic, social or military terms by the less populous but much freer West.

***

To an astonishing extent, America’s business elites – the big tech companies, the sports and entertainment world, the media and even the leaders of academia – see themselves as post-American. Their instinctive allegiance is to their shareholders or their institutions, not to our country or – crucially, in my view – to the values that distinguish our country from others.

They hate Donald J. Trump, not because he is a racist, as they falsely claim, but because he is an Americanist. He’s blowing the whistle on China’s spying, on their technology thefts and on our lopsided trading relationship. He’s even showing that America will protect the sea lanes in the South China Sea, at least while he’s president. By so doing, he’s upsetting business relationships that are very profitable to our elites.

So we should expect that the Chinese government, and our business elites, will stop at nothing to prevent Trump’s possible re-election. It would be much better for them to have senile, corrupt Joe Biden pretending to watch the store than to have to continue to face the disruptions that Trump is instituting. But for us, I think, quite the opposite.

M.H. Johnston                       

One comment to Follow the Money…

  • Anonymous  says:

    China has granted preliminary approval for 16 trademarks for fashion accessories and other items to White House adviser and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump, even though she announced earlier this year she’s shutting her business down.

    The approvals, which were applied for in March and May 2016, underscore the ongoing entanglement of President Donald Trump and his family with the Chinese government through the Trumps’ various business interests in the country, past and present.

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