Prime Minister Abe Shinzo recently visited three African countries to unveil plans to provide 320 million dollars in aid to Africa. This should, of course, infuriate China enough as they seem to consider the continent their own in 2014.
However, following Abe’s stupid disregard for common sense in his visit to Yasukuni and a spokesman’s less unrealistic quip about China’s unwillingness to hire locals, the Chinese Ambassador to the African Unions call a press conference. In truly comic fashion, he screamed at the press, labelled Abe the “biggest troublemaker in Asia” and held up graphic pictures of Japanese war crimes committed during World War II.
During his press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, where Abe had just visited, Xie held aloft photos of Chinese he said had been massacred by Japanese troops. “[Abe] has worked hard to portray China as a threat, aiming to sow discord, raising regional tensions and so creating a convenient excuse for the resurrection of Japanese militarism,” said the Chinese envoy.
Is there any level at all where this isn’t absolutely ridiculous? First, we have to question Abe’s judgement in visiting Yasukuni, which enshrines a number WWII war criminals, as an inexplicable act of stupidity. The stunt was guaranteed to annoy China, setting back already strained relations over the Senkaku islands off the shores of Taiwan. It’s possible, though, that it was orchestrated to do just that. If so, it worked.
Second, setting aside the fact that most people who were participated in WWII are long dead now, and China’s old history of bloodshed, no matter how one looks at it, waving pictures of war crimes at the African Union is likely to have, well, no effect at all. Many African countries are still autocracies and nearly all have deep pasts of violence against civilians. In fact, both of the highest leaders of Kenya are currently in court for crimes against humanity!
Third, let’s just ponder how stupid it is to have two of the largest economic powers in the world quabbling like crying children. Please, we can do better, kids.
I was perplexed when a recent essay from the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda mouthpiece XinHua News came running through my social meida feeds. The article in question, “Commentary: U.S. fiscal failure warrants a de-Americanized world,” which spouts a litany of transgressions that the United States has committed throughout the world, calls for an end to the “Pax Americana” and even suggests a new, international currency.
The essay is, of course, quite odd in that it conspicuously ignores China’s dangerous territorial disputes with Japan and overt threats to the sovereignty of Taiwan and the brutal occupation of Tibet. It’s glaring in its zeal to criticize America as a dangerous hegemon, but ignores China’s stated quest to become a broker of all things East Asian. It also fails to offer who would back this new, mythical international currency (can one *really* imagine the world seriously using the Chinese Yuan as a foreign reserve currency?).
The entire article sounds like a wishful hegemon-to-be poking at an existing hegemon, and bizarrely offers itself as a benign counter-factual aligned with the poor and downtrodden of the world.
Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.
Ignoring for the moment how uninterested China is in the having the world respect the key interests of Taiwan and Japan, are we really under the illusion that China cares whether the interests of Sub Saharan African countries are respected or not? Can we really take China’s call for democracy and regional understanding seriously when it fails to do either domestically?
The record of China in developing countries and its commitment to doing anything besides resource extraction, however, is decidedly mixed. Soccer stadiums and lavish dinners for African bureaucrats don’t feed people (except the fat African bureaucrats, of course).
Further, the article is laughable in the context of China’s own fiscal and political problems. China’s economy is export driven and follows the same model that Japan and South Korea did by encouraging household savings to fuel investment in public services through interest, while discouraging consumption. Though South Korea and Japan both moved on to consumption economies, it is unclear (at least to me) whether the Chinese Communist Party has the courage to take the political and social risks associated with such a move.
As another blogger pointed out, our disastrous Government shutdown and the public reaction to it are actually indicators that the US system works, and this fact hasn’t been lost on Chinese microbloggers. “Where are the riots?” Political violence, rioting and heavy handed responses are commonplace in China.
In the States, though the shutdown was devastating for public employees and an embarrassing waste of money and time, the effects of the political impasse were largely unfelt by the American populace (outside of some rising blood pressures). Though a repeat performance is infuriating (and inexcusable), it’s interesting to me that the long term effects are few. In fact, I would argue that, despite all of our ideological and social problems, the political system itself may have been strengthened, though it’s too early to tell.
If nothing else, we’ll see a few less Tea Party Republicans in Congress in November of 2014.
The purpose of this post is not to relieve the US of criticism. It deserves plenty. But critics need to be aware that China is not without major problems. Rage on the us all you want, but using China as a benchmark for the future of the United States is wholly unproductive.
1. A Military Man Denounces Guns.It’s worth the read for the neanderthalic comments. The presence of the poorly worded 2nd Amendment to the Consitution doesn’t not preclude criticism, nor does the color of the subject’s passport (he’s a Brit) compromise his views on guns. Comments are always to be avoided, but this particular set is a ridiculous and unnecessarily hostile expression of jingoistic stupidity. (HuffPo)
2. Part of Obamacare came unceremoniously into effect on January 1st, namely the part where insurance companies have to actually tell you what you’re buying within four pages, using the language of an 8th grader. (HuffPo)
4. The US Government is not only NOT a household, its also NOT a small business. It is frightening how ignorant Americans (particularly elected officials) are of the differences between business and government. “In the news release announcing his bill to derail the platinum coin effort, Republican Representative Greg Walden says something really stupid: “My wife and I have owned and operated a small business since 1986. When it came time to pay the bills, we couldn’t just mint a coin to create more money out of thin air.”” I’m glad the US government isn’t a small business. They tend to fail, and provide poor returns on labor and investment. (Bloomberg)
5. An interesting take on the austerity debate. Latvia was more austere than Greece and is now experiencing growth. Given the differences in other factors, such as tax evasion, corruption and past growth, I’m skeptical. (Bloomberg)
6. Japan is dumping some of its reserves to buy European bonds in order to devalue its currency. Let’s hope it works. (Bloomberg)
7. Should we tax people for being annoying? The arguments for taxing negative externalities, like traffic jams and public noise. (NYT)
8. Rape is horrible, but not because women shame their families. That women are still praised for killing themselves following rape in India is reprehensible. (NYT)