Friday, June 24, 2005

For lack of any other inspiration, here are a few more China stories that may be of interest to anyone who cares about what this century's hyperpower might be up to.

First, and closest to home, they're trying to buy Unocal -- or, to be more specific, one of their state-controlled oil companies has the current high bid. Contrary to what you might gather from this article, it's not the first time that a Chinese business has bid to buy out an American one. It's not even the first time an article on such a buyout has been featured in the New York Times this week --- though ownership of oil and gas fields has a grand strategic significance that washing machine makers rather lack.

Then again, outright ownership isn't the only way to have influence. Microsoft, in case you haven't heard, is kowtowing to the Chinese regime by forbidding posts with words like "freedom" and "democracy" from appearing on MSN blogs posted from that country. This while Bill Gates has praised China as creating "a brand new form of capitalism" without the "medical ... or legal overhead" of ours. (Sounds to me like the bad old form of capitalism we had here in the Gilded Age, before moderating influences from the labor movement to Fordism to "class traitor" FDR stopped it from tearing itself apart. But hey, that's just me). And that's from Microsoft -- as opposed to, say, Cisco, which (as I never tire of reminding people) has openly embraced "an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company".

So, if you're wondering, as Tom Friedman was a few weeks ago, why American CEOs aren't more upset about the decline of America, it's because they're out following the money. As, to some extent, are the Chinese. And in case you're confused about where that sort of thinking leads you, it's worth looking at where it's leading the Chinese: oil deals with the genocidal regime in the Sudan, and deals for stuff that's cheaper than oil with the leadership in Zimbabwe -- a regime which, to be sure, is probably not at the moral level of the Nazis, if only because it is looking up at them with the Khmer Rouge.

Lenin's take on capitalism was wrong in many respects, as the Chinese Communist Party has come to realize. But I'm getting the feeling he was right about capitalists and rope.

By the way, there's an argument to be made that if MSN wasn't blocking specific words from Chinese blogs, their blogging software would be banned altogether --- as, in fact, typepad has apparently been. I don't buy that argument. Nor, to be clear, does the blogger on whose site I found the story -- as she goes on to explain, the Chinese are only able to do that sort of thing because Cisco sold them the tools.

But that raises an important point. If you're interested in China at all, read this blog.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The going thing among lefty bloggers right now seems to be pointing out that "we have become a nation that tortures". So when Bellatrys points out that, given what we know about the CIA's activities in Latin America over the past few decades, that's kind of old news, it's a useful corrective.

Still, something's changed when Chris Wallace on Fox News responds to reports of prisoners at Gitmo chained up for days and defecating on themselves by saying that prisoners at Auschwitz "would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves." Back in the day, when our ambassador in Honduras, John Negroponte (gosh, where is he now?) denied all knowledge of death squads run by the dictatorship we were sponsoring there, it was all proxies and deniability. They seemed to know enough, back then, to be embarrassed by it.

As the man says (one of the same guys linked above, incidentally), "Guess what? Sometimes you're on a slope, and you're sliding."

(Wallace quote via Atrios).