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If I had one guess why Republican party actors have been so reluctant to back Marco Rubio in spite of his being the least weak general election candidate and the only polished communicator in the “establishment lane,” my guess is that it’s because corporate elites are more than a little concerned that he’d start a war with China. And they’d right to, considering that an op-ed he wrote promises both an arms race with China (silly because we have way more arms, but nevertheless) and confrontation and aggression in the South China Sea in the name of “strength”, along with a policy of antagonizing and insulting Chinese officials. Politicians, of course, attempt to keep their promises, and while there are bigwig Republicans who are major China hawks and would appreciate this sort of saber rattling (Rubio backer Shelly Adelson and FOX News Chief Roger Ailes are known to have these attitudes), I suspect people in the business and finance worlds are very, very wary about the consequences of a rupture with China. Perhaps that’s why he can’t fundraise for shit (though it could also be that, you know, he hates fundraising, it just bores him).

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This is a bit of a pickle for the Orange One:

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said it was “pretty dangerous” for Congress to tell other countries how to run their monetary policy.

Beijing has said it “firmly opposed” the measure.

The bill would give the US government the power to add tariffs to goods imported from countries deemed to be undervaluing their currencies to boost exports.

The proposed law does not mention China by name, but many US politicians and analysts have said China subsidises its exports by holding down the value of the yuan, costing US jobs and exports.

I’m generally not impressed by anti-China sentiment. Still, you have to appreciate the irony of a Republican leader standing up for a foreign country’s right to abrogate free market principles that undeniably hurt us. I think he’s got the worst of this issue.


His response to Maureen Dowd’s accusations of “selling out” to the Chinese is surprisingly gracious. Considering how ridiculous Dowd’s allegations were (though no more or less ridiculous than her usual material, truth be told), I’m a little disappointed he didn’t reprise his old way of dealing with the press:

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Hey, it's not torture if the US does it!

Like I’ve said time and time before, our country’s quick descent into becoming a torture state had broad ramifications for our ability to later call out human rights abusers without being called hypocrites.

China seems to have figured this out:

The United States is beset by violence, racism and torture and has no authority to condemn other governments’ human rights problems, China said on Sunday, countering U.S. criticism of Beijing’s crackdown.

The row between Beijing and Washington over human rights has intensified since China’s ruling Communist Party extended its clampdown on dissidents and rights activists, a move which has sparked an outcry from Washington and other Western governments.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is the most prominent of the activists to be detained by police or held in secretive custody in the latest crackdown.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday she was “deeply concerned” about it, and cited “negative trends” including Ai’s detention. […]

“Stop the domineering behavior of exploiting human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” it said, according to excerpts published by the official Xinhua news agency.

“The United States ignores its own severe human rights problems, ardently promoting its so-called ‘human rights diplomacy’, treating human rights as a political tool to vilify other countries and to advance its own strategic interests,” said a passage from the Chinese report.

It’s a hard time for pots trying to call the kettle black.


Julio Friedmann, one of Fallows’s guest bloggers, has a very interesting post about the efforts of Chinese power companies to adopt green energy. Here’s an excerpt:

One of my favorite examples is the biggest power company in the world, Huaneng Power Corporation, and its Chief Engineer, Dr. Xu Shisen. It was his technology and plant that we visited with Dr. Liu in Shanghai. Huaneng will install 10,000 MW of wind in the next few years (which almost equals U.S. total wind power) and an equal amount of solar (more than the U.S. total).

At the same time, Dr. Xu has overseen the development of impressive new technology in its own right.

While this development is largely for use inside China, Huaneng is looking beyond its borders (like any large multi-national). The company has partnered with a U.S. company (EmberClear and its subsidiary, FutureEnergy) to bring new clean energy technology to India, Kosovo and Pennsylvania. They’re also in discussions with North America’s two largest power generators, Duke and AEP, around investment and deployment in U.S. plants with Chinese technology.

They’re not alone. ENN (a subsidiary of the XinAo Group), Shenhua, CNOOC and others are all developing clean tech themselves from scratch, both for domestic use and export. This covers solar thin-films, biofuels, coal-to-liquids, shale gas and smart grids, all with U.S. partners. Lishen battery company, one of the world’s largest, is embarking on a $7 billion development drive just for battery technology and demonstration.

The good news — this will ultimately lead to lower emissions faster worldwide, and cheaper power with it. The bad news — for some in the U.S. — is additional competition. While some U.S. companies will benefit, others will encounter aggressive, new competition with credible technology. Some will grow faster; others will lose market share.

It’s an interesting read.

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The Sino-American relationship seen through snarky Taiwanese eyes:

(via BJ)

Food for thought from Matt Yglesias:

What you see around the world is that policies of economic “neoliberalism”—fiscal discipline, controlled inflation, private ownership of businesses, openness to trade and investment—succeed in producing growth. In principle, this growth can make everyone better off. But what leaders like Lula, or the post-Pinochet leftwing governments of Chile, or Bill Clinton, or the Blair and Brown governments in the UK bring to the table is to actually deliver on that promise through tax and welfare policies that ensure growth is broadly shared. Then on the other side you have things like the center-right governments in Sweden and Denmark (and perhaps the Cameron/Clegg government in the UK) who are succeeding by persuading people that some budget cutting needn’t presage a wholesale gutting of the welfare state.

Either way it’s global movement toward a model in which the government intervenes in the economy primarily through tax-and-transfer functions rather than through planning. Nothing’s perfect in life, but this trend has served the world pretty well and I think both sides of the equation are very much necessary. This progressive liberal synthesis is taking over pretty much everywhere in the democratic world except the United States, where the GOP remains ideologically unreconciled to the welfare state and I keep coming across odd columns urging us to try to emulate the alleged successes of Chinese central planning.

For anyone needing a quick terminology primer, neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy.  It first took hold in Chile under Augusto Pinochet (from 1973) before spreading to the UK under Margaret Thatcher (from 1979) then came to the United States under Ronald Reagan (from 1981) and then fanned out to the rest of the world.  It’s certainly been great for economic growth and done the world a lot of good.

I don’t share Yglesias’ praise for welfare. I think things have gone well for the world in spite of such handouts–they are an economic drag.  I acknowledge plenty of personal and international welfare helps people in the short run.  But I think it necessarily causes a lot more long-term harm by reducing overall growth and creating awful incentives.  It’s those incentives which I blame for stagnant wages on the low end.  Replacing welfare with a negative income tax is my solution to the working poor’s plight.

I do share Yglesias’ disdain for China’s alleged success; their per capita GDP is lower than most nations and we musn’t forget the awful, awful failures of history’s greatest monster which are the reason they sunk so low.

Decades ago, China’s sudden openness to trade spurred a lot of international investment on account of its cheap labor.  This lead to mind-boggling economic growth.  But it’s not a success of central planning relative to the rest of the world! It is rather a recovery from the awful failures of Maoist central planning.  As Yglesias notes:

It seems to me that it’s very plausible to imagine that if China had spent the entirety of the post-war period governed by merely bad policies [instead of Mao’s overwhelmingly bad policies] they’d be as rich today as, say, the Belorussians are. And though Belarus is nobody’s idea of a great success story, its per capita GDP in PPP-adjusted terms is nearly double China’s

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