Comment on this article |
Email this article |
Behind the love/hate relationship of China and the U.S.
by James Cooke
Email: jc26cooke (nospam) yahoo.com
16 Oct 2006
A zealous distrust of China is something most American’s learn at an early age. The lessons include stunning visuals of atrocities, complete with attacks on helpless Tibetan monks and nuns, fearless democracy-seeking students staring down advancing tanks, and innumerable horrors of life within the totalitarian ‘communist’ society (yes they are still calling themselves that, and yes our government still clings to the word— as an abusive epithet— in a McCarthy-like attempt to browbeat). China cannot be defended if one is on the side of democracy, equality, and freedom, but neither can many of the US’ allies, past and present, who’ve had similar records (the US itself is looking more and more like China every day). Because China is outside the domain of US dominance, it is viewed as a competitor, and a threat; therefore, Chinese human-rights violations are a god-send for the White House PR staff, who look for any reason to conjure fear and create misgivings towards a country who, for purely economic reasons, is the prime candidate to face the US in World War III.
The greatest human-rights violations in China are always the ones least-mentioned in the American media, namely, the unspeakable conditions of the average Chinese worker. Indeed, the basis of China’s ‘iron rule’ revolves around the need to tame its unruly workforce. The term ‘wage-slavery’ is not an exaggeration in China (nor in the rest of 2nd and 3rd world countries). Much of the country makes 2 dollars a day or less, works an insane amount of hours in squalid conditions (the highest rate of industrial accidents and deaths in the world) and has no benefits or safety-net. Such a country requires aggressive police-state measures to keep a tight lid on immense social unrest. China, however, has made a recent announcement: labor unions will be allowed, sweat-shops will be shutdown, conditions will approve. The international business community has met this proclamation with anxiety, anger, and threats. Explaining this odd reaction is no easy task.
China’s emergence onto the global market in the late 80’s couldn’t have come at a better time for international big-business. Capitalism had been in a long state of decay, with corporations everywhere finding themselves in ever-deepening growth-ruts. Suddenly, the country with the largest population in the world opened its doors to business; included were guarantees of a subservient workforce without the threat of organization and strikes— the fake Christens of corporate America likened it to the second coming. International investment poured into China, creating the quickest and most intense economic expansion ever concentrated in one country.
The social results were easily predictable. All the horror stories of early capitalism were child’s play compared to the Chinese monstrosity — Dickens would be flabbergasted. The utter misery that is experienced by the vast majority of the population is counterbalanced by all the giddy American investors who build factories without the worry of safety and environmental regulations. Outsourcing became the rule; no longer were American corporations extorted by their native workers, who demanded high wages, benefits, and pensions, all of which had grown into an intolerable hindrance as the world economy continued to shrink and international competition intensified.
There is no secret to China’s success; it is based on the grossest of human exploitation. No new production techniques were introduced, nothing technological was added. This fact exemplifies the true state of the world economy, which has reduced itself to the dehumanizing tactics of its ancestry, having no other route to keep up with the profit-motive: as it stands now, much of the world is nearing the point of zero growth.
Because of the direness of the economic situation, China’s success is idolized and pandered to by the business oligarchy everywhere. The most recent example of this prostration occurred when China’s President arrived in the US. An impressive selection of corporate powerhouses gathered at Gates’ castle to pour praise upon the Chinese President, urging him to ‘keep up the good work’.
Another long-time China-backer is the American Chamber of Commerce, the same folks who bought us CAFTA and the Bankruptcy bill. This business organization, with such clients as Microsoft, Nike, and General Electric, expresses the interests of a very powerful section of the ruling class. China has benefited these corporations immensely, both by building and buying their products. However, the relationship is tentative. The Chinese government had been talking of changing its attitude towards labor for some time now, a debate closely followed by American investors. According to the New York Times (10/13), the Chamber of Commerce’s usually loyal attitude evolved into pressure and coercion: ‘stay on course’ was the mantra.
But the Chinese faced a double-concern, and the interests were conflicting. On the one hand, they ran the risk of losing foreign investment; on the other hand, they faced insurrection. The totalitarian society that produces such prosperity for foreign investors is being rejected by the Chinese population. Last year, the Chinese Public Security Bureau admitted that 87,000 ‘public order disturbances’ (protests) took place. This number is certainly an understatement. Mob violence in the country has risen 13 percent in one year— the ‘Communist’ Party is feeling the hot-breathe of rebellion on its neck.
In response the government has had to use hasher methods to combat the resistance, increasing repressive measures while resorting to more frequent violence. Many internet sites have been banned and search engines censored; the BBC claims that there are 50,000 government workers involved in monitoring internet content alone. Along with information suppression inevitably comes brute force. Government violence is on the rise, with the most recent culmination ending in the death of 20 Chinese protestors in Dongzhou. These are the tactics that the American blue-chippers were hoping to keep in place.
China has chosen a different route. Due to the increased number, violence, and organization of the protests, the government realized a change of course was necessary, if only to save their own skin. The proposed law is a miniscule gesture, focusing on punishing foreign companies who commit the gravest travesties, while giving the government-run worker’s union a scrap of real power. Nothing in the measure will radically alter the life of Chinese citizens, though it will enable them a little leeway in expressing their grievances; some social pressure will be released.
Such a harsh reaction from American big-business to such a relatively harmless act is very telling. The corporations are even more desperate than they lead us to believe; the slightest drop in profit for them is now unbearable. But they are not the only members of the American corporate-elite who have insatiable appetites.
While big-business was courting the Chinese President during his visit, bigger-business, with Bush as their representative, was preparing the cold shoulder. President Hu was denied a ‘state reception’ at the White House, and in fact was purposely insulted: he was announced as President of the ‘Republic of China’ (Taiwan’s official name) while a well-known Falon Gong protestor was allowed to attend the event and heckle him uninterruptedly for minutes, forcing Hu to stop his speech. Both incidents were accidents only to the naïve.
Bush’s backers demand a purely oppositional stance to China; these are the war manufacturers, parasitic war-profiteers, corporations involved in raw-material extraction (OIL), shipping and chemical industries, and the giant financial institutions who float the loans. This breed of corporate-monster sees China as a threat instead of an ally. To supplement its industrial growth, China’s hunger for raw-materials has grown exponentially, coming into contact with the above interests, all of who benefit from the regional dominance the strength of the US affords them. Now, US corporations involved in raw-materials have to bid against China to exploit the resources of third-world countries, and because China is desperate, it’s willing to pay big. This makes China enemy number one rather than the magician who conjured up the Asian economic miracle.
The dual interests of America’s financial elite reflect the contradictory character of the global capitalist system— a lifeless, bloated body being supported by the shaky-legs of two dueling yet dependent economies. The two countries are indeed joined at the hip, but they are Siamese-twins fighting for the affection of a very demanding parent.
China needs the investment from U.S. corporations, as well as the working-class consumer to buy their products; U.S. corporations need China for cheap labor and markets; the U.S. government itself is heavily-funded by Chinese government loans, which use the dollar as an investment and currency stabilizer. Maintaining a balance to this arrangement will prove impossible, indeed, it is already crumbling.
Due to China’s new reforms, labor costs will soon rise (if only slightly), directly affecting the profit-rates of U.S. corporations; the U.S.’ pathetic balance-of-payment deficit will inevitably lower the price of the dollar, scaring away the Chinese— and other nations— that hold dollars for investment’s sake; the U.S. consumer is debt-ridden and will soon be unable to purchase all the products China is churning out, resulting in China’s first recession— and it will be a big one.
Although U.S. corporations are hesitant to abandon China for fear of setting off an avalanche, they are controlled by the motor-force of profit, something that has a logic all of its own, often demanding that irrational actions be taken.
A more rational— and practical— arrangement would have society produce for the actual needs of people, rather than be motivated by the demand of profit that brings us both wage-slavery and war. Such a system, called socialism, only requires that people demand it be implemented; overcoming the objections of a tiny-section of billionaires would be no problem for the vast majority of humanity who would immediately benefit.
This work is in the public domain