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    Sinophobia: China viewed from the USA and... the USA viewed from China
    (April 2019)

    (GDP at PPP - 2019)

    Until about 2017 i was frustrated that the West was ignoring the technological rise of China. The West was still treating China like a developing country (it is not even part of the G7, not even of the G8 that includes Russia, whose economy is eight times smaller than China's). I felt that it was disrespectul towards China and for a few years i witnessed how the USA was congratulating itself for its innovation (which was really mostly Silicon Valley and Boston) while China was catching up and even surpassing it (see my lengthy slide presentation on Chinese Art & Science that you can download for free).

    Finally, the West (or, at least, the USA) has realized that China has been quietly becoming one of the most technologically advanced places in the world. But now i am worried that the West, especially the USA, may exaggerate the reality and, via a mixture of envy and anxiety, may plunge into anti-Chinese paranoia ("sinophobia"?). Case in point is a report published by Stanford University, titled "China's Influence & American Interests". The fact that it refers to the USA as "America" already tells you something about the competence of the authors (America is a continent that includes Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, etc, and also the USA); but that report reflects concerns and fears (and stereotypes) that are rapidly spreading through US society, media and political class. See below for an analysis of the Stanford report.

    I think there are at least three reasons for this growing sinophobia. The simple one is that Trump is generally doing what serves Putin's interests (See Why Trump Decided to Abandon the Nuclear Treaty with Russia and Why Trump Slapped Sanctions on China) and pointing the finger at China distracts from the real threat, which is Putin. But China's president Xi also bears a huge responsibility for the change in the world's perception of China: Xi started projecting China as a new colonizing power (militarizing islands in the Chinese Sea and launching the One Belt One Road initiative), and a power that will rule supreme in 2025 (the now famous "Made in China 2015" plan launched in 2015 when nobody was paying attention). Third, many in the West are irked that the Chinese experiment didn't fail. China is a one-party system. It is the "big-government" nightmare of right-wing politicians. According to them, big government always fails. China, instead, has staged the biggest and longest economic miracle of the last 100 years while Western democracies were mostly stalled in relentless political bickering and gridlock.

    It is pointless to name China's One Belt One Road initiative, certainly a plan by China to expand its reach around the world, as a source of anxiety for the USA: nobody forced the USA to get out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and hand China a major geopolitical victory. See Let's make China great again.

    China's spectacular and rapid transformation from a poor (even starving) agrarian society to an intimidating high-tech superpower goes counter almost all the prediction of Western gurus (politicians, economists, historians, self-taught bloggers and random TV "experts"). Defying all the reigning theories, China managed to do in 30 years (in one single generation) what took England more than 200 years (from the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 to the empire's apogee in 1914) and took the USA 140 years (from 1776 to 1916, when its GPD passed Britain's).

    It did so without causing the world too much pain. China has almost 20% of the world's population but only 6% of the world's water resources and 9% of the world's arable land. Any other empire of the past that started in similar disadvantageous situations had to resort to violence, invasion and plunder. The old European powers, in particular, had to employ colonialism, imperialism, slavery and unfair trade with colonies to finance their economic development. During its economic expansion, the USA fought wars against the "Indians" (Native-Americans), Britain, Spain, Germany, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, and invaded several Latin American countries or supported bloody coups, in addition to the slave trade, its own civil war, and all the proxie wars of the Cold War, notably the ones in the Middle East. All previous powers relied on warfare to feed their economic growth. Not China. Since the beginning of Deng's reforms that transformed China, China has only fought a very brief war with Vietnam. Its economic miracle has been achieved through international trade.

    (Now, in 2019, one can argue that China is creating a new form of imperialism. For example, India could argue that China buys raw materials from India and sells to India manufactured goods, exactly what colonial power Britain was doing until 1948; but that's for another article. See for now Malaysia and Chinese colonialism).

    When China came out of the Maoist nightmare, it had little or no direct experience of capitalist practice. By comparison, India had more than 200 years to learn from English capitalism. So did all the other European colonies of the world, from Dutch Indonesia to French West Africa. Nonetheless, none of these countries matched China's growth, nor did countries like Brazil and Argentina that became independent approximately when the USA did and were spared the horrors of the two world wars. The theory that India didn't industrialize rapidly because it had a huge reservoir of cheap labor (who needs machines when you can hire hundreds of workers for very little money?) doesn't work anymore because China had an even larger base of cheap labor.

    Note also that China tried at least four times to industrialize and it failed consistently until the Communist Party, under the control of Deng Xiaoping, launched the economic reforms of 1978. Qing China tried after the second opium war, a decade before Japan's Meiji Restoration (commonly considered the turning point for Japan), but that failed. Then it tried again after the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 that deposed the Qing dynasty and installed the first (non-communist) republic. That failed too. Mao's "Great Leap Forward", inspired by the Soviet Union's communist model, failed too. The context certainly matters: the world was wildly different in 1978 than it was in 1957 than it was in 1911 than it was in 1860. But it is not clear why the world of 1978 (Cold War, minimal commerce outside the Western alliance, oil crisis) would be more conductive to a giant developing country like China than the world of, say, 1911. What was truly different in 1978 was that there was someone in full control of the nation. In 1860 the Qing monarchy had only limited control over the country. In 1911 Sun Yatsen's republic was weak like all newborn states. In 1957 Mao had just fought a civil war until 1949, fought the Korean war in 1950, invaded Tibet and Xinjiang in 1950, launched the mass trials against "counterrevolutionaries" in 1951, opened the vast network of "laogai" (labor camps) in 1954, and launched the "Hundred Flowers Campaign" to liquidate political opponents in early 1957. China was hardly stable. In 1978 China, instead, was controlled by an efficient and reliable Communist Party.

    (Controversial footnote: i personally think that we underestimate religions when we compare the fate of nations. Religions shape minds and shape behavior. The Islamic world is a mess because it is Islamic just like southern Europe is poorer than northern Europe because one is Catholic and the other one is Protestant. And India is Hindu and Muslim. And China was Confucian until 1911. India didn't get rid of its religions, China did.)

    In retrospect, it is funny to remember how many times the West lectured China on how to manage economic development and how many times China rebuked the West and did exactly the opposite. China is not a market economy. China is a one-party system that mainly allocates resources (land, capital and energy) to state-owned enterprises, which are in turn protected by the party from foreign competition. And it is certainly not a democracy. There are very few countries that are less democratic than China. But the West ended up with the global financial crisis of 2008, whereas China ended up with 30 years of continuous economic boom. The West kept reminding China that all the major economies are democracies, which is still true: more than 75% of the world's GDP is generated by the European (19%0, Anglosaxon (32%), Indian (3%), East Asian (10%) and Latin American (7%) democracies. China (which now accounts for 15% of the world's GDP) is the exception to a rule that seemed proven beyond any doubt. The West's free-market proponents assume that China's post-Mao economic boom has occurred only to the extent that the country moved away from communism. The theory is that government officials cannot be as efficient as the market at picking winners and losers. Governments, so the theory goes, end up hurting the most valuable sectors and firms of their nation when they interfere with the market. Central planning by a one-party system (especially if that party calls itself "communist") cannot possibly lead to economic growth, let alone to innovation. Surprise: it did just that in China.

    (A panel at Stanford with George Schulz and other economists during which they explained what it takes to create prosperity, forgetting that China did just the opposite of what they prescribe and it achieved the biggest economic miracle of the last century).

    One problem with the theories of Western analysts is that they often confuse the cause and the effect. The effect of the British and then American industrial revolutions was to create a democratic regime. The "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 followed, not predated, the emergence of the commercial capitalist class (in fact it came right after the three Anglo-Dutch wars that established English supremacy over international commerce). The USA was born capitalist when it wasn't yet a working democracy. The "Asian tigers" (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea) were not democratic at all at the end of World War II when their economic miracles began. China wisely understood the difference between cause and effect that Western analysts missed.

    Western analysts also tended to misunderstand what had happened in Russia, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious: the collapse of the Soviet Union created chaos, not prosperity, and abandoning the inefficient state-owned factories of the Soviet era (through an inept privatization program) turned Russia into an exporter of natural resources with little or no manufacturing skills. The causes were freedom and democracy, the effects were economic recession and industrial regression. China, instead, understood correctly. China (wisely) chose not to abandon the inefficient state-owned factories of Mao's times but instead repurpose them for international trade. The Chinese Communist Party remained in control of all major firms and one can say that it still is today (the Chinese equivalent of a corporation's board of directors consists of Communist Party delegates).

    China did learn something from the West: the importance of infrastructure. Britain's wealth came from the commercial routes of the empire (and before that from the railroads and steamships of its own island). The USA's wealth came from the railroads, the rivers, the canals and eventually the freeways and the air routes that criss-crossed the nation. China correctly understood that the size of a nation's market is not given by the nation's population and not even by its wealth: it is its infrastructure that determines the size of its market. Therefore China invested massively in electricity, transportation, and telecommunications. In both the British and the US case, the state was crucial: without the English monarchy's determination to support at all costs English commerce (often through wars and even piracy) England's industrial revolution would have petered out quickly, as it did in other places; and without the US government's determination to enforce an international order that mainly benefited its business the US economy would not have developed as it did. Therefore China learned the correct lessons from looking at what had happened in the world and the conclusion was simple: a form of socialism that is basically state-driven capitalism; and definitely under one and only one party.

    (See China's Anniversaries and how the Tiannamen Square massacre shaped today's China for my opinion on what triggered Deng's economic revolution).

    Incidentally, China learned one more thing from the West: the importance of stealing technology from the reigning power. Britain invented very little before the 18th century: it mostly stole the inventions of other countries. The USA shamelessly stole technology from Britain during the 19th century, besides the technology that Britain itself had deployed in the colonies. Therefore the West's lectures to China about "IP theft" fall on deaf ears. (See Does China steal?).

    China is also aware that, despite all the talk about the free market, US innovation has been mainly driven by the military: the computer, the GPS, the semiconductor industry, the Internet and so on were all born as "defense" projects. To this day most long-term research in the USA is funded by DARPA.

    People like me who complain that today's China doesn't have any great philosopher, scientist, writer or musician forget that the USA didn't have any great philosopher, scientist, artist or musician until the 20th century, and had its first great writers in mid-19th century. The great philosophers were in the German-speaking world, the great musicians in Italy and in the German-speaking world, the great scientists in France and Britain, etc. Worse of all was California, and even worse the San Francisco Bay Area, the future site of Silicon Valley. That's another case where China correctly understood the difference between cause and effect. The English industrial revolution with the rise of the steam-powered factory and the US industrial revolution with the rise of the assembly line were mostly the effect of slow step-by-step innovation driven by entrepreneurs with little academic education. Only later did science catch up. Ditto for Japan's and Korea's industrialization that started when these countries had very little theoretical science (but a very capable and aggressive business class).

    China's ideology is not a true ideology as much as an empirical discipline. China learned from its own history (the rise and fall of dynasties, the humiliations suffered at the hands of foreign powers); from the Soviet Union (freedom led to disintegration and decline); from India (what a filthy under-developed mess the largest democracy in the world looks like, compared with clean high-tech disciplined China); from the "Arab springs" (that led to anarchy and terrorism); and now from the West (Brexit, the gridlock during the Obama years, and the endless Trump scandals).

    See also China's New Era (a History Lesson for Westerners) and a History Lesson on Prussia (for the Chinese) where i compare China's miracle to the miracle of Prussia two centuries ago.

    So where does sinophobia come from?

    Let's start from the obvious points. There is certainly an asymmetry in "access" between the two countries. Chinese journalists can do anything they like in the USA and write any kind of report about the evils of the USA (it is not difficult, as we in the USA specialize in writing about our own evils). On the other hand, the list of non-Chinese media that are banned from China is very long: BBC, New York Times, and so on. Worse: foreign journalists and historians do not have access to Chinese politicians, often do not have access to Chinese archives, and, if they write anything that China doesn't like, they may never be allowed to enter China. Any Chinese journalist can interview politicians who disapprove of the current president. Even if you could find a Chinese polician who disapproves of China's president, it would be impossible to even meet with such a person, let alone work on an interview. China's national TV station in English (China Global Television Network), established and funded by the Communist Party, is available anywhere in the world: the whole world can listen to China's version of the facts. On the contrary, no Western station is available in China: the Chinese cannot listen to the Western version of the facts.

    There is asymmetry also in ethics and laws. China can do in the USA a lot of things that the USA cannot do in China, from investment to competition.

    China's famous "Great Firewall" bans Google, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of Silicon Valley companies from competing in China against China's own social media. But those Chinese social media are perfectly free to compete in the USA against US social media. Chinese tourists, students and business people who travel to the USA can use China's WeChat, whereas foreign tourists in China cannot use Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. This is clearly unfair. Google was fined by the European Union and Facebook is under attack in the USA for not protecting privacy and not fighting disinformation, whereas Baidu and WeChat (that routinely censor information) are not under such pressures (in fact the Chinese government uses their data to access private information and spread disinformation): Western governments are not exactly helping Facebook and Google, whereas the Chinese government protects and de facto nationalized their rivals. Less publicized, but possibly even more damaging, are the limitations imposed on foreigners in the lucrative fields of telecommunications, transportation, construction, and media, while Chinese investors are free to invest in the corresponding US fields.

    Incidentally, the asymmetry in freedom of speech is allowing China to rewrite history. Westerners cannot defend their version of the facts on Chinese media (let alone in Chinese), whereas fans of the Chinese Communist Party (whether paid or not) can defend the official Chinese version of the facts on Western media (in English, French, German, Italian, etc). The result is that in China very few people dispute the official version of the facts, whereas in the West even the most obvious facts of communist China's past and present are under constant attack. A Chinese communist can write what she wants on Facebook or Reddit, whereas a Western anti-communist cannot write anything on Wechat or Weibo, and the Chinese public has no way of knowing what gets written on Facebook or Reddit because they are banned in China. But this is not a problem unique to China: this asymmetry has always existed between the countries with freedom of speech and the countries with no freedom of speech.

    There is no question that the USA's "open" behavior towards China has not been reciprocated by China, which has remained as "close" as necessary in order to protect its national businesses and its regime. In fact, when my Chinese friends ask me about the "trade war" between China and the USA, i reply that China started it when it banned Google. Why did successive US presidents accept China's behavior? Economically, it made a lot of sense: the USA escaped inflation thanks to cheap Chinese goods, and, in the globalized economy, US corporations got more competitive thanks to offsourcing a lot of manufacturing to China. Last but not least, China has been buying a lot of US debt. If you meet a staunch anti-Chinese in the USA, ask him/her whether s/he ever bought US bonds: most likely no. China is the biggest creditor of the USA, owning more than $1 trillion of US bonds.

    Now let's move to the view inside China. There is very little crime. The streets are clean. There are 20,000 kms of high-speed railways. There are brand new subways in all major cities, and not just one line, but many lines. Mobile payment is commonplace: even street vendors accept Alipay and WeChat payments. The bureaucracy is fairly efficient and friendly. Last but not least, the middle class has experienced real improvements, unlike the middle class of the USA, thanks to a growth rate that is unthinkable in the West (Trump hailed a growth rate of 4%, which was actually just 3%, when China was lamenting a decline to... 6.5%). Hence the average Chinese citizen would ask: "Where's the problem?"

    After two successive air disasters involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane, China immediately ordered its airlines to ground all such planes; the USA didn't. Which government do you trust better for your safety?

    There is another view from China that is important, the view of the leadership. The leadership notices a different kind of asymmetry with the USA. China has no soldiers or warships deployed anywhere the USA. The USA, on the other hand, has military bases or allied military forces in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Afghanistan, Mongolia, plus air carriers in the Chinese Sea, plus a nuclear treaty with India. Basically, China is completely surrounded. Imagine if China had soldiers and warships deployed in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbeans... Which is the only country ever to have dropped nuclear bombs on civilian populations? and that deployed the first computer virus as a weapon (Stuxnet, to neutralize Iranian centrifuges)? Who is more likely to be using satellites to spy on the other, given that the USA has three times more satellites than China despite having one fourth of the population? Who has invaded two countries since 2001 (Afghanistan and Iraq)? Who has killed hundreds of civilians in at least six countries using drones (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia)? The list can go on and on. There is no question that the USA has been way more aggressive than China around the world. And who pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change? Add to this list the fact that mainland China considers Taiwan a runaway province, and the only reason it hasn't yet invaded it is that the USA protects it: imagine if Arizona declared independence and China sent troops to protect it. In June 2019, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, China's defense minister Wei Fenghe gave a simple explanation for mainland China's attitude towards Taiwan: what did US president Abraham Lincoln do when the southern states decided to secede from the USA?

    These days, China clearly resents being lectured on democracy. The Chinese system has mostly produced competent leaders, a fact that cannot be said of Western democracies (especially presidents George W Bush and Donald Trump, not to mention the Brexit farce and the endless Italian saga). Trump owes his political fortune, largely, to noncollege voters (white voters with no college degree favored Trump over Clinton by a 62% to 32% margin), whereas China's leaders are all highly educated. Trump made his fortune with casinos and TV shows, whereas the Chinese leaders ran cities and provinces of tens of millions of people. Which system produces the most competent leaders? All my Chinese friends are convinced that Xi would win democratic elections, whereas Donald Trump lost by three million votes. Congress has an even lower approval rating than Trump, and, yet, nobody resigns or is fired. Corruption is rampant in Congress and in the White House (see The Trump Scandals). The Supreme Court is not elected. California has the same number of senators as tiny Delaware. And so on. It is not so obvious to the Chinese which is the more democratic country.

    China also resents being lectured on human rights. Many political dissidents have been free to write documents against the regime, and they are still alive and free, and most of them still have their jobs (they won't get promoted, for sure, but better than in Russia where they would be corpses). Xu Zhangrun, the Tsinghua University professor who in August 2018 published a lengthy anti-Xi essay kept his position until March 2019 (he is currently suspended, but alive and well). Political killings have been extremely rare since the fall of Mao: the victims of political purges are sentenced to prison, which is often house arrest, they are not shot or hanged (for example, Gao Yu, a journalist who has spent her life criticizing the Communist Party when she's not under house arrest, or Bo Xilai, Xi's main rival, who is still in a federal prison). Compare with the murders of prominent Putin enemies in Russia (for example journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, both assassinated in 2006, or human-rights activist Natalya Estemirova and anti-corruption attorney Sergei Magnitski, both assassinated in 2009, or the mysterious "suicide" of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky in 2013).

    Outrage at the ubiquitous surveillance system in China? The US was the first country to fingerprint foreigners.

    Yes, there are "reeducation camps" for Muslims in Xinjiang province (China just published a white paper in English titled "The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang") but these are neither Hitler's extermination camps nor Stalin's gulag. So far we only know of one person who was "killed" in the camps (and it is not clear how he died), and there is certainly some kind of physical torture (see for example this testimony); but compare with the 200,000 killed by Putin in Chechnya (Xinjiang is a restive Muslim province just like Chechnya in Russia). For mysterious reasons, the Western press rarely talks about torture in Russia despite what documented in the report by the European Court of Human Rights and despite easily verifiable cases of torture (see for example "7 Jehovah's Witnesses Brutally Tortured in Russia" just to mention the most recent one). The USA defends Israel that has been keeping millions of Palestianians prisoners in a narrow strip of land, deprived of all civil rights (Gaza is de facto the largest concentration camp in the world). China, therefore, doesn't feel it is doing anything that others haven't done before, especially since in this case it is singling out what it considers the most likely perpetrators of future terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, the USA has been assassinating Muslims all over the world, mostly using drones, with no trial: we'll never know why someone was killed and whether the evidence was strong enough to justify the drone strike. Imagine if China or even Japan decided to kill a US citizen with no trial, and imagine if Mexico used a drone to kill a US citizen inside the USA! The number of innocent civilians killed during these strikes is unknown but estimated to be over 1,000. The USA also supports regimes like Saudi Arabia that fare much worse in human rights (at least women in China have equal rights). Trump even called North Korea's dictator a "honorable man": that's a dictator who has killed an uncle and a brother. Since nobody is perfect, China resents being singled out: if you want to defend the human rights of Muslim minorities, talk about Chechnya to Putin first; if you want to defend the human rights of political opponents, talk to Saudi Arabia about its thousands of political prisoners; if you want to grant autonomy to a restive Muslim population, talk to Israel first; and so on. And if you want to defend the rights of people in general, talk to the USA that routinely assassinates people with drones all over the world. Only one country in the world has explicitly complained about the concentration camps: Turkey. No other Islamic country has dared to openly criticize China. Russia did not, Trump did not (never mentioned the issue once), and the European governments were hipocritical as usual, welcoming Chinese investment while slapping China on the wrist (Italy didn't even slap at all).

    As far as we know, those reeducation camps are not extermination camps: they are meant to "brainwash" Muslims to be more loyal to the country than to their religion, especially the literal version of it. China correctly wonders why is this any different from Western schools in which children are routinely indoctrinated to respect the law of the land and to reject violent ideologies. China does not view the West as very successful at taming violent Islamic movements. For example, repeating that Islam is a peaceful religion and that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim doesn't seem to have helped France avoid terrible terrorist attacks. China is not willing to try the same strategy and see if it works with its own Muslim population, which is mainly located near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. From China's point of view (not only the leadership but also the general population), reedducating the Muslims of that province is very similar to educating children in school.

    Ethical concerns rank very low in the Chinese mind: ordinary people as well as politicians will justify a blatant injustice against a group if it leads to improvements in the well-being of the vast majority. The goal is not to be "righteous" all the time. The goal is to make sure that the nation as a whole gets better all the time. That's why the Chinese still admire Stalin more than Russians themselves do. Starting with Krushev, Russians gave Stalin an ethical judgement. The Chinese have always judged him based on how much he did for his nation, the Soviet Union. The fact that he murdered millions of innocents is irrelevant, just like the fact that Mao murdered millions. What the Chinese hold against Mao is the fact that the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution caused great damage to the Chinese nation, not that millions were persecuted. Mao is revered as the man who created the current Chinese empire, including his forceful annexations of Tibet (all of today's Xizang province plus regions annexed by the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan) and of East Turkestan (now renamed Xinjiang). The Chinese leaders would never do to Mao what Krushev did to Stalin. The Chinese blame Krushev and Gorbachev for the decline and fall of the Soviet Union. They admire Putin who is rebuilding it. They now admire the dictator of North Korea (who used to be mocked on social media) because he outsmarted the US president. The methods are not important, the results are. Unity is a virtue, hence dissidents are frequently frowned upon if not despised by ordinary people: whether the dissident is right or wrong is not as important as the unity of the nation. This attitude rejects "abstract" values like "truth", "justice" and even simple empathy. Modern materialist China is very different from ancient moralist China.

    At the same time China's state-driven economy is more Confucian than communist, and its citizens are probably influenced by 2,500 years of Confucian thinking in accepting it passively. Each imperial dynasty since ancient times has prided itself in organizing vast infrastructure projects (like the Great Wall and the Grand Canal) by drafting thousands of people who were supposed to obey and not argue. Thoughout the history of China the crucial sectors of the economy (including commerce) have been controlled by the state while allowing ordinary people to conduct their business and to rise through the hierarchy (according to a much more meritocratic system than anything in monarchical Europe). The Communist Party doesn't need to use extreme violence to impose its model on the nation because its current post-Mao model is much more traditional than its ideologues would like to admit. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had a much more difficult task with a Russia population that had no tradition of loyalty to the state because the state had never done much for them.

    And, by the way, China's much reviled (in the West) "social credit score" system is nothing new for the Chinese people. For those who missed the news: the Communist Party announced in 2014 the intention of assigning a score to each citizen based on how well the citizen behaves in several areas, the original one being financial (equivalent to the "credit score" of the USA) but soon expanded to social behavior ("State Council Notice concerning Issuance of the Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System"). When the score is low, the citizen is denied jobs and even flights or and train tickets. The score is definitely low if you are not able to pay your debts or if you have committed a crime. It has been extended to businesses. The Communist Party intends to use artificial intelligence to also check what people are writing on social media such as WeChat and adjust the score according to its own criteria of what constitutes "good behavior". The West (including me) views this as a "Big Brother" kind of mass surveillance. But something similar to this social credit score has always been part for centuries of traditional life in China, especially in rural communities. Citizens have traditionally helped the state perform this kind of pervasive surveillance in return for security and, again, for a chance to rise up the ranks of the meritocracy. (For mysterious reasons, the same US citizens who find China's social credit scoring system abhorrent are perfectly happy that, in their country, private companies decide their credit score and that the Department of Motor Vehicles decides, without appeal, whether they are good or bad drivers based on how many times a police officer caught them making a traffic violation, which largely depends on luck, as my good friend Ross can testify - he got two speeding tickets in one year and i got none when in fact i exceed the speed limit way more often than him).

    As hard to swallow as it is, the fact is that the Chinese people trust their government better than Westerners trust theirs. "Democratic" governments used to be accountable only to a tiny section of the population, the ones who had the means to understand what is going on and/or who had the means to influence public opinion. Over the last 30-40 years, Western governments have become much more transparent and accountable. An army of journalists and lawyers watches over their every step. Historians have published countless books that revealed disturbing facts about past governments. Parliaments feel more empowered to scrutinize the leaders. In theory, these factors are leading to more and more democratic systems. For example, originally the European Union was not created democratically: the voters of the various European nations were asked to rejoice at the news that their enlightened leaders had achieved a historical feat, a little bit like when the Roman emperor returned to Rome in triumph after winning a war that he had decided to wage without consulting his people. Now Europeans demand referendums on European Union matters. The effect of this democratization, however, is to empower people to doubt the politicians and the experts. For example, each referendum within the European Union (not only the "Brexit" referendum) has weakened the union. The USA, where presidents had to resign and have been impeached, the public is constantly bombarded with scandals and conspiracy theories. The general rule seems to be: when government becomes more transparent, public trust in its institutions plummets. China's government is not transparent at all, and the psychological effects on its population are exactly the opposite: the Chinese trust their government in all matters, from security to economics. The rule seems to be that, sadly, the more a government allows people to see what it is doing, the less people trust it. That's another fact that the Chinese Communist Party has learned from watching the West.

    China feels that it has accomplished a lot. Not only it created a system that its citizens love, but it has become a global competitor. They are unlikely to change model. For example, buying technology and copying it is a model that has worked so well that nobody in China wants to change it, and they even resent any talk of being forced to change it. China feels that it is entitled to "stealing" from foreign firms because it provides well-being to its population: what's wrong with a process that makes people more prosperous? It is hard to explain to a modern Chinese (who, individually, are very hospitable towards foreigners) that stealing from foreign firms is a crime.

    (I must admit that i am of two minds when it comes to intellectual property. The "shanzhai" movement in Shenzhen was the closest thing to Silicon Valley, characterized by an open-source attitude and rapid prototyping, yielding collective bottom-up progress. One is tempted to tell other developing countries to imitate the shanzhai movement. But it was made possile by the fact that back then China was not enforcing IP laws at all: the shanzhai "inventors" were shamelessly ignoring foreign and even domestic IP in their "anything goes" frenzy. So are IP laws good for developing countries or are they a form of imperialist pressure to keep poor countries poor and under-developed forever?)

    Ditto for the political model, the one-party dictatorship that has worked so well in providing security and service to citizens: pressures to open up to multi-party democracy are interpreted as an attempt by foreign powers to sow discord and cause yet another implosion of China.

    Back to sinophobia. It looks like the USA, if not the whole West, is now revising the world order. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, the main threat were the jihadists, followed by some rogue states (Iraq, North Korea, Iran and Syria), then Russia, then China. Now the order has been reverted by many US and international observers: the main threat to the USA is not terrorists (which are now mostly viewed as criminals, not particularly different from the many psychos armed by the NRA who commit mass shootings in the USA), and it is not rogue states (whose ability and motivation to attack the USA is viewed as greatly reduced), but it is the two adversarial powers, Russia and China, both of which have greatly expanded both their military and their geographical reach. And not so much Russia, which is now protected by the US president in person, but China. It is telling that few US politicians spent time commenting on Russia's new hypersonic weapons announced by Putin in december 2018, the Kinzhal missile and the Avangard glide vehicle, whereas several politicians were alarmed by the Dong-Feng 21 missile (also known as the "carrier killer") and the DF26 (also known as the "Guam Express") introduced by China, missiles of the kind that Russia has had for decades.

    But there is also a new "world order" viewed from China: 1. The US foreign policy is dictated by lobbies, mainly the military industrial complex (that constantly needs excuses to build more weapons), the oil lobby, and the Israeli lobby (that constantly wants the USA involved in the Middle East, and now specifically targets Iran); 2. China's only foreign policy fear is that South Korea absorbs North Korea and becomes one big ally of the USA right there in China's background; or, worse, that North Korea becomes a friend of the USA (the way Vietnam is doing); 3. As the USA becomes less of a reliable ally (especially after Trump killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP), East Asia is quickly realizing that its future fortunes are tied to its stable neighbor China not to the distant and messy USA. The USA, increasingly run by unstable, erratic and/or gridlocked regimes, looks like a banana republic compared with China's stable, reliable and fast-paced regime.

    The USA would do well to be more "phobic" about its own structural shortcomings than on sinophobia.

    Yi Wen: "The Making of an Economic Superpower" (2015)
    Gordon Chang: "Fateful Ties: A History of America's Preoccupation with China" (not the idiot with the same name who wrote "The Coming Collapse of China" in 2001)
    Elizabeth Economy: "The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State" (2018)
    David Lampton: "Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping" (2014)
    John Carlin: "Dawn of the Code War: Inside America's Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat"
    Michael Pillsbury: "Hundred Year Marathon"

    P.S. The report "Chinese Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance", jointly issued in November 2018 by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Center on US-China Relations at Asia Society, urged US governments, organizations and individuals to engage in "constructive vigilance" to counter a systematic program by China to influence US organizations, institutions, firms and individuals.

    One of the cardinal points of the report is that China exports censorship: it suppress dissenting voices abroad. First of all, it intimidates its own citizens abroad, who know that they can face retaliation when they return home and may also fear for their families. Secondly, China restricts visas for US scholars who want to study modern China (and who are likely to criticize what they will discover, or at least likely to refuse to praise what they will discover). This way China intimidates not only its national scholars but also foreign ones. On the contrary, Chinese scholars and tourists can travel freely in the USA, and are free express any negative opinion both in the USA and back home in China. This asymmetry clearly favors China's image in the world.

    Concerns about the activities of the Confucius Institutes that China opened inside Western universities dates from at least 2012 and is absolutely legitimate. The Confucius Institute bans the very use of the words "Dalai Lama" (let alone any visit by the Dalai Lama), bans any discussion about the independence of Tibet and Taiwan, bans any discussion of China's militarization of the Chinese Sea, bans any discussion of the "reeducation" camps in Xinjiang, and bans any discussion about the many politicians purged by the Communist Party. A Confucius Institute is automatically a force on campus to erase from campus activities a lot of facts about China.

    The report then discusses how China uses money to shape the research agenda of universities. If a department wants a donation from China, it certainly cannot invite the Dalai Lama or a Taiwanese politician to speak. It is unknown how many university professors accepted this tacit requirement.

    The report charges that the Chinese government targets all ethnic Chinese in the world, all of which are pressured to contribute to China's greatness or be treated like traitors at home. I find this one hard to believe. I have no evidence that it is true. It may be true that the Chinese-American community is vulnerable to China's blackmail, but most Chinese-Americans can provide very little of value to China (very little that China doesn't already know). A very tiny percentage can indeed be a valuable "spy" for China, but China could as well recruit blonde blue-eyed Iowans or Texans by using the old fashioned method: money. One has to be careful not to return to the traditional bigotry of the US population against Chinese immigrants.

    According to the report, China is actively lobbying US politicians and pressuring the news media. Here the report is not fair because it implies that ONLY China does those things when in fact every major country does them, to some extent or another. For example, a similar report on Israel's efforts to influence US government and public opinion would be ten times thicker, including the names of certified spies. In 2019 Israel was even suspected of having deployed spying devices near the White House. Why is Israel considered a friend and an ally whereas China is considered a threat to national security if they do the same things to influence our government and media? The report says "During his time as ambassador, Zhou Wenzhong boasted that he had visited some 100 members of Congress". But nothing is said of how many members of Congress received visits by the Saudi ambassador or the Polish ambassador. The statement doesn't even tell us if he was ambassador for 2 years or 20 years: 100 members of Congress in how many years? And which members did he visit? If they were all in districts that export goods to China, what is wrong with it? A fair report would start with a survey of how countries look for ways to influence our government, how they try to appropriate US technology, how they try to recruit spies in the USA, and then one can place Chinese actions in this context.

    The report is instead too gentle on other issues.

    China is refining its program of mass surveillance in the age of the Internet. The Internet makes a difference. Today, China's surveillance is limited to what its citizens write on Wechat and Weibo, but tomorrow it could expand to what all citizens of all countries write on all social media: it is not terribly difficult for China to create "bots" that will read all posts by all people on all social media, and then create a "social credit score" for each individual of the planet, rated according to the Communist Party's criteria. Then this score will determine how China treats you when you apply for a tourist or business visa or when your firm wants to do business in China. It could be that some day the Chinese social credit score will become so important for foreigners that many foreigners will voluntarily start using the Chinese social media and write appropriately about China for the simple reason of increasing their social credit score over competitors or for the purpose of obtaining a Chinese scholarship. Some day the social credit score may ban from entering and/or doing business in China all individuals who do not abide by Chinese values.

    The other point is that all countries in the world are already under pressure to delegitimize Taiwan. Any country that wants to do business with China has to severe its diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This is likely to be just the beginning. The day may come when India will have to surrender the Dalai Lama if it still wants to sell textiles to China and receive aid from China. China may slowly change the history of the world, pressuring people and organizations to remove from history books and websites what it doesn't like about Mao or its current leaders, and changing facts such as the history of Tibet or erasing facts such as the massacre of Tiannamen Square.

    See also the study by the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies or MERICS, "Authoritarian Advance: Responding to China's Growing Political Influence in Europe" (2018). Quote: "Beijing aims to present its political concepts as a competitive, and ultimately superior, political and economic model. Driven by these motivations, Beijing pursues three related goals. First, it aims to build global support on specific issues and policy agendas. This includes fostering solid networks among European politicians, businesses, media, think tanks, and universities, thereby creating layers of active support for Chinese interests. Second, China seeks to weaken Western unity, both within Europe, and across the Atlantic. Third, Beijing pushes hard to create a more positive global perception of China's political and economic system as a viable alternative to liberal democracies."

    P.S.: The United Front has attracted attention for its work to influence (and sometimes blackmail) Chinese communities living outside China. Some good background studies:

    More articles on China in 2019
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.