We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Looking at China through a lens, clearly

Click here for a review by Moti Nissani of China Rising authored by Jeff Brown posted on The Greanville Post. (Note: the following commentary was revised at 3:30 PM Seattle time.)

I'm not so sure that one can look at "China through a lens, clearly" by reading Jeff Brown's book. Although unlike what I found as mostly extremely positive reports about China in his online articles (now found here), Nissani assures us that in this book Brown presents a reasonably balanced report on current Chinese society. But then Nissani ends up posing many more questions that I had hoped the book might answer.

I was initially very impressed with Brown's writings a few years ago which provided a much needed prospective on China from an American living and working in China (Nissani also lived in China for a brief period) to fill a large void missing in corporate media, and what little coverage they provided was mostly negative. Subsequently I noticed that his views expressed a decidedly and consistent pro-China bias. It was almost like he was trying to convince himself that he made the right choice by moving to China. In other words, there seemed to be no balance to his reporting on Chinese affairs. I suspect that this might be an over-reaction to years of anti-China propaganda that he was fed by US corporate media. For Americans who have little knowledge about Chinese society, this book might be a good entry point. 

For background material on contemporary China I recommend reading the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (vol. 3). Ever since 1978 when Deng Xiaoping took control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China has launched a broad policy in pursuit of economic development. To accomplish this they opened China to the outside world, particularly to Western capitalist countries, under a "one country, two systems" policy. This policy combines significant (but not exclusive) capitalist development of their economy which is under the control and direction of the CCP. This policy induced, or one might argue "seduced", Western corporations to transfer a lot of their operations to China by offering cheap labor and other inducements as a method to rapidly obtain the high technology of the West while improving China's economy, while for Western corporations the prospects of increased profits could not be ignored. Since then the CCP has pursued a peaceful strategy that attempts to use economic development as a method to deal with conflicts both internal to China and external in foreign relations. 

This general policy has succeeded beyond even the CCP's wildest dreams. However, the risk has always been that the capitalist pursuit of profit by any means would have a corrupting influence on China and the CCP. Although China is strongly supporting renewable energies and implementing changes to improve the environment, they appear to be promoting economic development as a major priority over sustainability. China's pursuit of nuclear power seems to be an illustration of this priority.

One major worrying effect of China's success as an economic powerhouse is that the US-led Empire's ruling class now see China as a threat to their domination of the world. This has resulted in the Empire's "pivot to Asia [China]" foreign policy which we currently see dangerously being played out in the conflicts about control over the South China Sea.