Tuesday, July 15, 2003

China's having trouble...? GOOD!

I derive a fiendish sense of satisfaction from articles like this: Hong Kong's Summer of Discontent. Maybe I'm just being an asshole, but it seems to me that China can't sustain its current "experiment": holding a quasi-market economy in thrall to a Communist government. I've been watching this experiment with interest for several years now, and have no idea where it's leading, but I tend to think that the relentless lapping of the free market wave is key to eroding the sand castles of Communism in China. It's happening, slowly but surely, and their government is denying it every step of the way. I enjoy watching this. I'd like to see a huge Chinese revolution sometime before I die.

The wrong approach for us is to demand, outright, that China reform itself re: human rights and all the rest. This leads nowhere, especially with East Asians, who believe good form involves polite indirectness. Business leads to the importation of technology that provides portals for those annoying Western values like freedom, capitalism, property rights, privacy, and all the rest. This doesn't happen perfectly or magically, I realize. The Internet's a good example: China, with the collusion of American business, has developed a large Internet infrastructure, but has also implemented all sorts of security and censorship software to make the Chinese Internet as hermetic as possible to outside influence, while keeping it porous enough for easy government monitoring. But communications tech has advanced to the point where brilliant and determined Chinese minds are able to find ways around the government.

We, as Americans, need to re-work the human rights issue by doing business with China in a way that implicitly reflects our values, and doesn't explicitly trumpet them. Selling monitoring software when we know full well how the Chinese are going to use it, for example, should be a no-no, but selling tech that leads, subtly, to more democratization is a very good idea (keep those security loopholes in MS products sold to China!). I realize it may be too much to ask corporations to act ethically, but it's important, in the long run, that they do so, if for no other reason than their bottom line. China is a huge market, but you have to squeeze the teats gently to milk it, not yank them off.

Enjoy the article. Especially this:

"With the rigid Chinese political system straining to contain rising discontent and keep pace with rapid economic change, China's leaders are worried that activists will use Hong Kong as a base to undermine the party's monopoly on power."

Haw haw haw.

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