6/26/2005

The Great Kowtow

It's a safe bet to assume that any social structure which still valued the services of eunuchs into the 20th Century, like the Ottoman Empire and Imperial China, was a dead loss.

The similarities between Islam and China are quite noticeable. In their early years, both were powerhouses of progress and knowledge. However, they then expanded imperially; and as their imperial aspirations grew their cultures fell into decline, a thread which runs through the history of all non-Christian empires. Indeed, the Ottoman and Chinese empires both adopted such forward thinking group strategies as castration and concubinage.

Just as early Islamic culture made great strides in mathematics and astronomy, we know the Chinese invented paper and gunpowder - however, one is hard pressed to think of any major technological innovation which that culture has produced since the Middle Ages. In place of gunpowder it now produces SARS, believed to be a consequence of the Chinese taste for the flesh of the civet cat.

I remain sceptical of those 'race realists' who constantly remind us that Northeast Asians score highest in IQ tests, a fact which possibly says more about the IQ test than it does about Northeast Asians. Although those cultures may value learning, one is hard pressed to recall if there has ever been any Northeast Asian Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. Similarly, in the UK there seem to be no prominent Northeast Asian journalists, CEO's or public intellectuals. I can think of one prominent novelist, Kazuo Ishiguro, who was raised in the west from the age of five. Although the Northeast Asian cultures produce barrel-loads of outstanding child violinists and maths prodigies, at the moment they seem to produce no leaders. Even in those activities in which Northeast Asians excel, such as music and maths, they seem to follow rather than lead. I'm happy to be contradicted, but I can't think of any major Chinese composer of consequence making headway in the west.

One of the reasons why the Anglo-American democratic and capitalist systems have been so successful is that they acknowledge the importance of the individual. Leadership springs from individuality, a quality not apparently cherished in Northeast Asian cultures. The Japanese maxim that 'the nail that stands up must be hammered down' expresses this cultural defect perfectly.

However, due to the Imperial mindsets of several American presidents, and the trade-offs they make in receiving corporate donations which imply a favour for later return, this cultural defect and its bedfellow, nationalism, have now been indulged for many years on the part of the Peoples' Republic of China, for no other reason than that by an accident of history it has the world's largest labour-market. A good example of this pandering occurred in 2003.

That month, Rupert Murdoch went to Beijing and whored himself in front of a roomful of Communists. In what might have been an attempt to advance his commercial interests, he said

"The unleashing of the potential of the open market does not represent any loss of power ...As the party goes from running the country's media business to overseeing its growth, both China's leaders and her people will be greatly empowered by the rewards."

Hamish MacDonald, the author of the piece from which that quote came, called it 'the great kowtow' - a phrase which properly and succintly describes both US and UK policy towards China.

Now, one of Murdoch's titles is the London 'Sunday Times'. Every week, Irwin Stelzer, his ambassador to Earth, writes a column called 'American Account'. In today's column, Stelzer noted that China's economic model is vastly different from Japan's, in that everything China's financial sector does is a projection of Chinese power. Stelzer is a classic no-think economist, so for him the annual Chinese theft of $25 billion of American intellectual property is of less importance than the role China's labour-cost advantage plays in keeping the prioce of goods down on the shelves.

If one nation does this to another, how can it be said to be its friend? How can it be said to have a right to trade with another nation when it steals its property? Although the destruction of American manufacturing seems to be another of George W. Bush's missions accomplished, his reckless public spending, only made possible by Chinese dollar purchases, is feeding Chinese nationalism and hurting the economy he is supposed to guard.

The price of free trade has always been unemployment, but heck, the stockholders would he happy with the higher returns. The price of free trade is now also going to perpetually expensive petroleum - in a world in which trade is truly free, and free trade is your religion, how can you stop the Chinese consuming more and more of it? The price of free trade is having to be polite to thieves while they steal your property or, in the case of Taiwan, while they threaten to steal your country.

Such is the nature of the Great Kowtow. And it remains to be seen whether the Great Kowtow is what will make the American Empire, which has been burned twice as bright as all others, burn half as long.

I do not bow.

5 Comments:

Blogger Canadi-anna said...

You are incredibly well-informed, and a prolific writer.
Do you have a paying job? (I hope that's not rude; it's just I'm wondering where you find the time to read and write and with just obvious understanding of your subjects.)
BTW, here we do have a few prominent Asian-born community leaders. The particular person I'm thinking of (his name escapes me)was a local politician and on the Police Services Board.
Very smart fellow, and not a follower at all.

3:41 AM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Thanks you very much, that's not rude at all. I do have a paying job, on the fiery cutting edge of Scotland's dynamic new post-industrial economy.

Yep - I work in a call-centre.

Re time - I suppose I just have quite a retentive memory

6:25 AM  
Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Martin,
Tan Dun is a major Chinese composer making some headway in the West. That does not mean he's any good, of course, and I doubt it puts a dent in your thesis.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Canadi-anna said...

Have you ever thought about getting a paying gig for your writing?
I take it the Dispatch is non-paying, but you should think of submitting to print pubs.
You have a wide-scope, engaging writing style and well thought out opinions.
I like that I can drop by for free, but fine writing is hard to find and I think you should consider your prospects.
Cheers.

6:01 PM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Thanks for that.

That's very kind.

8:56 PM  

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