FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American and China

With the government now having spent over $800 billion in less than a year shoring up tottering financial companies that had become little more than casinos (and rigged ones at that), America is looking increasingly like China, a country where the state has been gradually getting out of the business of directly owning companies.

At this point, with the US government owning 80 percent of the world’s largest insurance company, AIG, and essentially owning mortgage firms Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as well as bankrupt Lehman Brothers, and with the nation’s two largest automakers in line asking for $25 billion in government loans, one would be hard-pressed to spot the difference between the two systems.

The essential point of commonality is that big enterprises—especially banking enterprises—are being allowed to operate as fail-proof yet operationally opaque adjuncts of the state. Their business decisions—whom to lend to, what risks to take, etc.—are made with the goal of enriching the key managers and shareholders, and probably also key government officials and bureaucrats—with no thought to the impact on the larger economy or the larger population of the respective countries.

I saw this system in operation in China once when, as a reporter for Business Week magazine based in Hong Kong, I visited the neo-capitalist boomtown of Shenzhen, just across the LoWu creek from Hong Kong. There I met a friend who introduced me to a former Nanjing Law School classmate who was now a top officer in the Armed Police, an 800,000-man paramilitary unit used for putting down strikes, demonstrations and “unrest” that essentially runs Shenzhen like a mob family. The guy took us to a downtown skyscraper that housed a private real estate company that, it turned out, was owned by the Armed Police (all the company vehicles in the parking lot had the characters “Wu Jing,” or “Armed Police” on their plates). In the lobby was a model of a huge housing development planned and under construction, that would become a bedroom community for Hong Kong office workers who would commute to Hong Kong from Shenzhen.  At the time, Chinese Finance Czar Zhu Rongji had ordered a clampdown on lending to tamp down a Chinese economy that was in danger of overheating. I asked this soldier-entrepreneur how his company was planning on borrowing the money it needed for this mega project, and he just laughed, saying, “We can borrow all the money we need.”  Later, my friend, wise in the ways of the Chinese system, whispered, “When he goes into the bank to ask for a loan, he’ll of course wear his army uniform, and what banker would turn him down?”

How different is this, in the end, from the system that is evolving here, where GM or Ford executives walk into the Federal Reserve, or the Treasury Department, and demand $25 billion in loan guarantees, saying, “Give us the money or we go under.” In China, an executive implicitly puts a gun to the head of his government banker. In the US the executive expressly puts an economic gun to the government banker’s head.

So much for the free market, which now only applies to small businesses. In America, as in China, individuals are left to sink or swim, and private property is only private as long as the government, or some well-connected developer, doesn’t want it.  In China, if the state decides it wants some land for a mega commercial development, it just ejects the current residents, offers them a token sum for resettlement, and moves in with the bulldozers. In the US, the government does the same thing. Just ask the residents of New London, ousted from their riverfront property on orders of the US Supreme Court to make way for the “higher use” of a luxury hotel and commercial development. As for that so-called “American Dream,” the family home, as foreclosures rise to Depression Era levels, the government stands idly by, but leaps to the aid of giant corporations that, having made wildly risky gambles and lost, are about to go under. (In a particularly ugly slap at the battered homeowner, the McCain campaign in economically depressed Michigan has been gathering lists of foreclosed properties to run against voter lists, intending to challenge on Election Day the right to vote of anyone who offers an address that is in foreclosure.  Lose your home, in other words, and the McCain will also try to make sure you lose your right to vote, too.)

The convergence of Chinese and US political-economic systems is going on in other ways too. Both governments are using massive computer systems (made in America) to monitor the Internet, with China making use of equipment and techniques developed for them by US companies like Google, Yahoo and Cisco Systems, and with the National Security Agency then drawing on those techniques for use back here in America.

As we saw at the two national party conventions last month, the US is also learning and applying the crowd-control techniques of the Chinese government to the US where the default tactic wherever public protest is planned is now to have police adopt a paramilitary approach that features aggressive use of tear gas, concussion bombs, assault rifles, house raids and preventive detention.

Another point of convergence is the concentration of power in a secretive executive body. China, of course, has a national congress. It meets once a year and passes carefully vetted resolutions. In recent years, its members have occasionally raised a controversial issue, like concerns about the environmental and human consequences of the Three Gorges Dam, or about the role of shoddy construction in the deaths of so many school children in the last earthquake. But it has no power and plays no role in controlling the decisions of the true leaders of the country.

Likewise in the US, there is a Congress, but over the last eight years, it has ceded virtually all oversight power to the executive branch, which treats any effort by its members to investigate or to constrain its action with utter contempt.

Both countries promote widespread, worshipful display of the national flag, and ritual oath-taking, as well as unquestioning patriotism and worship of militarism.

In media too there is convergence. China has since 1949 had a state-run media model, where all media organizations—newspapers, radio and TV stations—are owned by the state, and function as propaganda arms.  In the US, while nearly all media organizations are privately owned, by controlling the licensing of all electronic media, and thus having the final say on any and all acquisition strategies, the government has over the last 20 years or so, degraded the media to the status of compliant servant. It is getting difficult to discern the difference between the two models. In fact, Chinese citizens may actually be better informed, having lived for decades under a propaganda model, since they know that they are being lied to by their newsmedia, whereas few Americans realize the extent to which their own media are controlled and acting as government mouthpieces.

Fascism has perhaps been best defined as a system in which the government and corporations merge, and in which militarism becomes a dominant value. I have long argued that this is an apt description of modern China. It is increasingly also an apt description of modern America.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

 

 


Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail