The Son of Heaven & Sons of Bitches

A fantastic article from Rick Perlstein, which I dedicate to Brad DeLong:

America’s image of China changes with whiplash speed. What never changes is the sort of people propounding the images: the Kristofs, the Clintons, the Sandy Bergers; before them, the Alsops, the Trumans, the Dulleses; and back behind them, men whose names are unfamiliar to us but whose sociological and psychological profiles are the same–mandarins of American power, unshakable in their confidence that the natural and transparent truth about China just happens to coincide with America’s interests at any given time and to the well-being of the about-to-be-uplifted Chinese masses.


What easy marks these American mandarins are. China knows it can count on them to swat down critics via a standard lexicon of abuse: They are “China bashers” possessed of a “cold war mentality.” The China watchers are also absurdly deferential: “If we reflexively treat the Chinese as a threat, we will answer our own question: They will become a threat,” says Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson. “If you treat China as an enemy,” says Harvard China hand Joseph Nye, “it will become an enemy.”

Economists, those not busy lionizing America’s favorite new source of dirt-cheap labor, might recognize this as a perverse set of incentives that hastens undesirable outcomes. “Pick a dictator anywhere on the globe,” Mann writes, and you’ll find Chinese backing. The Chinese gave Robert Mugabe an honorary degree–and “new surveillance equipment to crack down on Internet traffic and block dissident radio signals.” The military regime in Burma has enjoyed consistent backing, as have Uzbek President Islam Karimov (the “body boiler”), the genocidal government of Sudan, even the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Don’t raise a fuss: “Any tension between America and China is inherently bad,” Mann paraphrases the China watchers, “and is the responsibility of the United States. However, if the confrontation involves intellectual property rights or other U.S. commercial interests, then it is China’s fault and is a legitimate issue that must be addressed immediately.”

Though it may be that they are not suckers at all: They enjoy a handsome quid pro quo. First Kissinger, then Brent Scowcroft, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Sandy Berger–all have set up lucrative China consultancies. So have “ordinary working-level civil servants.” Mann singles out Kenneth Lieberthal of the University of Michigan, a former Clinton NSC aide who pontificates wisely against China bashers (“Those who raise alarms focus too much on the problems of success and too little on the problems of failure” is a recent extrusion) without disclosing his employ at Sandy Berger’s consulting firm. […]

Wonderful stuff.

And a note to trolls: try not to fall into the undistributed middle fallacy, as does Dr. DeLong. One can be against the neoliberals’ reflexive and corporate-whorish ass-kissing of the authoritarian Chicom government without advocating a New Cold War a la 1995 model Bill Kristol or Richard Cheney’s goons in early 2001.


Comments: 25

Qetesh the Abyssinian

“If we reflexively treat the Chinese as a threat, we will answer our own question: They will become a threat,� says Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson. “If you treat China as an enemy,� says Harvard China hand Joseph Nye, “it will become an enemy.�

Does anyone think that sentence would look just as good with China replaced by Iran?


HTML. An honest question from one of your lesser-educated acolytes. I agree with the piece, the Chinese government is brutal and oppressive, despite having improved somewhat recently. My question, and I ask it in all seriousness. How does this knowledge inform the discussion? What do you and “your ilk” think we should do. Should we curtail imports from China? Surely we could have an effect on their behavior with a couple hundred billion in annual imports. Of course, that might have its own set of ripple effects.

Or am I getting it wrong and the point is just to rail against their practices, to make sure the american consumers are aware of the human costs of cheap flatware at walmart?

Is there a realistic set of actions america could take that would make China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and all the rest of the “asian dragons” behave in a more acceptabe fashion without ultimately bringing about more negative consequences that positive ones?



Mikey — the point of this information is that elite American opinion on China is worthless; it was and is largely offered out of cultural or political ignorance (Perlstein’s riff against the anti-Chinese cold warriors) or personal and professional self-interest (the neoliberal whores as well as Nixon and Kissinger). One thing that is banned from elite opinion is the self-interest of working class Americans. Poor Chinese are only mentioned by such people as a fakey moral cudgel to use against ‘protectionists’.

Part of it is to rail against their practices, yes. Part of it is to destroy the ideological monopoly in the press on issues pertaining to China and trade. Part of it is to expose the fact that many people who defend China policy actually *admire* ithe Chicoms’ ruthlessness (this was certainly the case with Nixon and Kissinger). Part of it is to acknowledge the Chicom government’s interest in maintaining the illusion of ‘future democracy’ that neoliberals have pushed for 20 years now. Part of it is to ‘raise the consciousness’ of the need for fair trade in general.


Part of it is to ‘raise the consciousness’ of the need for fair trade in general.

Tariffy ’em, then.


Informative, sure– but; just “what” have kaye grogan and marie” jon been up to?

Sadly, I don’t know.


roger said,

June 8, 2007 at 1:24

Informative, sure– but; just “what� have kaye grogan and marie� jon been up to?

Sadly, I don’t know.

They’re having a 3-way with Fred Thompson.


Informative, sure– but; just “what� have kaye grogan and marie� jon been up to?

True, that. We have been slacking. All apologies. I almost made fun of Brian Cherry last week but then got distracted and forgot about it. Meh.

It’s true we need to get back to our roots. I wonder what Adam Yoshida’s been up to…


Iffin you partook of the rss feed, you’d know what MJ”s been up to.


[sob] She doesn’t comment on MY threads anymore.

I’m going to the liquour cabinet….


Funny, I thought the body boiler was our guy.

Oh well, America versus communism makes fools of us all.


Funny, I thought the body boiler was our guy.

He is — or until very recently, was.

China & America can sometimes find common ground when it comes to supporting fascists in the cause of opposing the Great Muslim Horde.


China & America can sometimes find common ground when it comes to supporting fascists in the cause of opposing the Great Muslim Horde.

I know that’s true, but everytime I read that, it makes my head hurt.


And tangential to this, what the elite opinion-mongerers ban is any allowance that protectionism with regards to any other nation is not a dirty word, and that it is not synonymous with isolationism or nativism.

Fair trade, not free trade bitches.


Which of course you totally just said. I’m treading water here.


We live in Brian Cherry’s fabulous tresses.

George Gobel for the Block

After living in China a couple of years it seems to me the Cheney growling vs. neoliberal accommodation divide is Titanic-deck-chair stuff for China itself. China is readying itself to roll over the U.S. economically as the next super-power in a few decades, and in many people’s minds there the U.S. is already something for the Paul Kennedy museum– requiring study to avoid its mistakes. Some of the most interesting analyses of the U.S. economy these days are coming out of China. Here’s a summary– long, steady decline. I don’t know what that means for a viable fair trade movement, aside from a U.S. led movement looking ludicrous.


I love a good wingnut bashing, but I also really like your rather scholarly treatises, HTML. Keep ’em coming.

And we can’t promote Fair Trade enough. I’m trying to buy as many FT certified products as possible, although they’re few and far between around here. So far, mostly all I see with the FT label is tea and coffee. Sometimes, I wonder how dependable the label is?

What do you think, HTML? Can you trust the Fair Trade Certified label?


Funny, I thought the body boiler was our guy.

He is — or until very recently, was.

He broke up with us about 2 years ago. Like all US right wingers he also hates George Soros and banned his Open Society group 3 years ago. Yet another purely coincidental similarity between freedom loving wingnuts and brutal authoritarians. Almost makes one wonder.


Ok, sure, everybody has a problem with somebody’s trade policy, somebody’s economic policy, somebody’s human rights record. Great. Is there anything prescriptive in any of the chattering? I mean, with energy policy, I can make a difference. In american politics, I can make a difference. Should I avoid walmart? Should I only buy shit made in the US or EU? What’s the call to action here?



I’m understand the fallacy, but the China hawks are the most dangerous people in America. I’ve also noticed this is a current bubbling back up on the militaristic right now that the 21’st century crusades are going south. I’ve become something of an agnostic on human rights groups because all they seem to be good for is providing agitprop for the invasion du jour. I don’t want to buy a bunch of crap made in slave camps, and I don’t but I don’t know how I feel about making a bunch of noise about China if there is remote possibility of a Sino-American war.



If possible, you should buy products made in the US (or Canada or Mexico) IF ONLY because of the CO2 generated by schlepping shit from continent to continent. Fewer imports =less bunker fuel burned.

You’re a Californian, so you’re fairly well set up: you have no reason to buy wine or beer or produce or other agricultural products (like of the flammable variety) from any other state or nation. All else is secondary. You really don’t need another sweater, do you?


That’s a good point, Doc. Here’s a related anecdote. In the past, when I needed more than 50,000 CDs or DVDs, I would produce them in Hong Kong or Taiwan, put them on a plane and land them at any airport in the US 20-40% cheaper than domestic manufacture. Guess what? In the last year and change, the cost of air freight has risen to the point that it makes no sense to do asian manufacture for US consumption. Nobody can wait six weeks for a container ship. Even if the discs were free, it would be a close call. So the market is kind of regulating itself with regard to transportation – generated carbon.







As a bicyclist, I’m very, very pleased with the “expensive fuel” thing. I won’t suffer if I have fewer Australian syrahs to choose from, since I much prefer Sonoma Sangiovese, and the loss of Guinness is compensated for by Anchor Porter. I might miss that Canadian import product, but that, too, is done well in these parts…


Ok, this is all good. But I’m gonna have to continue to get my single malts from scotland. I don’t know of an alternative.

I believe it was m’man Marley who said “…first take care of head…”




Candy — the short answer is, I don’t know. The long answer is, probably as much as you can trust organic labels. Caveat emptor.

Buy local as much as you can.


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