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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on China

Posted on Jul 1, 2010

(Page 2)

10:13 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:13:41 GMT


 (To WSmart)—I happen to be a teetotaler.

10:15 Comment From Guest


Square, Site wide

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:15:41 GMT

Comment: Mr. Scheer, I hope that you read the comments section of your recent article “The Chinese Aren’t Coming.”

10:16 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:16:10 GMT


 Guest, would you like to direct Bob to any particular comment he should have read?

10:16 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:16:44 GMT


 (To dihey) Well, it is amazing that this historic event—the first-ever agreement between these sworn enemies, Taiwan and mainland China—has largely gone unnoticed. We wasted the lives of millions of people, enormous resources, over a half-century of fighting a Cold War against a Communist bogeyman that was accepted throughout our political and intellectual circles as a unified, unchanging, inevitable menace to our freedom. Towards that end, until now, we have felt the need to support the government in Taiwan, assuming that it requires our intervention. The real lesson is that these people have been quite adept at making their own history, evolving dramatically into new forms of social order, and determining that peace is more advantageous than war. That’s a lesson that I believe can be applied to the warring tribes of Afghanistan, Iraq or lots of other places where we want to poke our unwanted noses.

10:16 Comment From Guest

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:16:44 GMT


10:16 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:16:56 GMT


 Here’s another reader question: “Bob, what about in terms of the importance of government intervention? I mean, with the U.S. and the financial crisis, deregulation, we’ve seen that this is a problem and it’s important sometimes for the government to protect the people. Shouldn’t the Taiwanese be protected? What implications will it bring to them? Rather than this being a fear of China getting stronger, shouldn’t we view it as a fear of the Taiwanese quality of life decreasing and capitalism growing stronger for the worse?”

10:21 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:21:03 GMT


 Well, first of all, the Taiwanese are masters of capitalism, and this deal very much more benefits them than the people on the mainland. Taiwan already has 41 percent of its trade with the mainland, and what this deal does is give them legal protection, give them access to financial institutions on the mainland, and basically legitimize the integration of two capitalist economies—one which pays tribute to both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. They don’t need our protection. These are wise, wily capitalist bandits on both sides who are quite capable of looking out for their own interests without American taxpayers and troops getting involved. That is the lesson of modern history that George Washington tried to teach us at the founding of the nation when he said (paraphrasing) beware the impostures of pretended patriotism and avoid entanglements of foreign adventures.

10:21 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:21:16 GMT


 Here’s another question: “After China unchains the yuan, how soon will Obama start subsidizing imports?”

10:23 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:23:30 GMT


 Let me answer this question in an unexpected way: I don’t believe in any of the principles of protectionism. I think American workers, without having an erosion of their working conditions, can be competitive with workers anywhere in the world. We just have to get back to producing products that people want to buy. We have great resources, great climate, a very skilled workforce, and as we’ve seen in relation to the entertainment, computer, agricultural industries, no one can touch us. It’s just when we make cars that people don’t want to buy that we have problems. I don’t think we have to be competitive in producing T-shirts and underwear; that’s not where the real money is anyway.

10:23 Comment From Silent Otto

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:23:35 GMT

Comment: How can we persuade China, and India too, to find a third way and NOT adopt the “greed is best, wasteful personal transportation for everyone, me me mine” attitude of Western thought?

10:25 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:25:27 GMT


 It’s for them to find. I am so sick of the assumption that our basically intellectually clueless population somehow has the answer for other people. The Chinese and Indians operate out of rich traditions—a much higher level of civilization than we have been able to obtain—and it is for them to make their own history and find their own models. I know that is difficult for people raised on the notion that we represent the center of all human achievement to accept, but it is a reality that we’d better get used to. They don’t really need us all that much. 

10:25 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:25:44 GMT


 Another question: “Why should lifestyle for citizens in China rise, & USA citizens fall into Third World poverty?”

10:29 Comment From WSmart

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:29:39 GMT

Comment: (To Robert Scheer) Floored. That makes at least two of us. Now if we can just get Chomsky to sober up. smile Men stopped being men when they started drinking alcohol if you ask me, and our alcohol-loving cultures are a ticking time bomb. The first step to problem solving (and developing character) is being real, and that’s not on the table.

10:30 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:30:45 GMT


 If that happens, it is our fault and has nothing to do with the Chinese or anyone else out there. We are still largely underpopulated and resource-rich—by world standards. For example, China, when I was a fellow in the UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies a half-century ago, was thought to be incapable of any serious growth, because it was thought to be hopelessly overpopulated with 400 million people at the time; its resources, particularly its agricultural land, were considered to be depleted beyond reclamation. It did not have oil to speak of, and now, with 900 million more people, its resources have not significantly expanded. And yet, its quality of life has expanded beyond anyone’s expectations. The same is happening in India. And we’ve got to stop blaming our failure on their success—this is a very dangerous notion: that our prosperity is dependent on holding back other people. Our prosperity is dependent upon becoming better at what we do in terms of production rather than military conquest, which we have been focusing on and is a big loser—it is not cost-effective. It is the Chinese succeeding—not through the power of their army but through their trade. How ironic that this lesson about the health of free-market capitalism has been exemplified by the success of the Red Chinese.

10:31 Comment From Gerard

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:31:04 GMT

Comment: They also “operate” out of a tradition of massive poverty, acceptance of cooperation for survival, and lower expectations, financially speaking, and even in the area of civil rights. We had better understand both cultures before we start making major decisions. How many Chinese and Indians speak English? How many Americans speak Chinese or any Hindu subculture’s language—Gujarti, for example, crucial in the northwest?

10:31 Comment From Silent Otto

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:31:12 GMT

Comment: Thanks, Bob, I agree. As a Canadian, I see American exceptionalism from the outside (and Canadians are no less deluded). However, the prevalence of American culture in other countries is insidious in trying to inculcate Western “values”. I saw it in both Japan and Korea—all the kids wanted to be American. I’m thinking if this becomes the predominant thought pattern in China—i.e. you are worthless without a car—then we have no chance to arrest global warming, dominance of big oil, hyper-capitalism and the rest. Hope that makes some sense.

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By aaron, July 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe Scheer should have actually done some research on China and Taiwan before writing this piece. The two now have a free trade agreement but that does not equal peace. China exercises and trains to fight both Taiwan and the United States in a potential war. They have roughly 1,500 missiles pointed at the island and their military receives double-digit budget increases each year. The Chinese have never discarded the idea that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, they’ve just added economics to their concept of power. The PRC views ECFA as a carrot to bring Taiwan under its sway, however, the stick (PLA) is still there and it’s getting bigger. Yes, war is unlikely, but we should maintain a moderate level of military deterrence just in case.

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By Demian808, July 2, 2010 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

“Hulk 2008,” you said,“TaiWan and the mainland are separated merely by water and intense market competition.” Sorry,that statement is false. Over its history, Taiwan has had its own unique cultural and political development seperate from China. A trip to Taiwan, particularly southern Taiwan, would make that obvious.

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Hulk2008's avatar

By Hulk2008, July 2, 2010 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

Mr. Scheer, you ARE the best.  You have been right 99.9% of the time from the Vietnam War on.

Right now the “communists” are eating our capitalist lunches and dinners.  The Chinese are passionate Chinese before they are any other “ism”.  TaiWan and the mainland are separated merely by water and intense market competition.  I foresee ongoing market-oriented aggression from both Chinas and a probable merging of the two sometime in the future based on their shared culture .... not to mention their shared success in the world economy. 
e.g. when I was in TaiWan during the 60’s I saw the filming of “Sand Pebbles” - the locals were very shrewd in being totally supportive of the crew and cast and producers - and later very tough on extracting various royalties when the film was to be taken out of the country.

The US needs to forget the Iron Curtain mentality and take on the face of WalMart - China is more an economic antagonist than a military one.  But they still need US more than we need them.  And Yankee ingenuity still is alive someplace in our national soul.  We just need a “checkup from the neck up” as Zig Ziglar used to say.  The US can compete as long as we discard short-sighted bottom-line corporate greed.  We can return to the old Yankee clipper days if short-term greed is set aside.

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By Michael Turton, July 2, 2010 at 1:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This Global Views poll (a stuffily pro-government organization that does decent poll work) finds 46% support.

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By Michael Turton, July 2, 2010 at 1:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Do they not have Google in Scheer’s part of the world. Reputable surveys show that a 40% minority of the population supports ECFA. This information is not difficult to find. Once aagain, I refer Scheer to BBC’s Cindy Sui:

“Taiwanese people are torn on the issue. Surveys have shown while about 40% favour the ECFA, about 30% do not, and another 30% are undecided.”

Or you could go right to the polls themselves. This poll from a Hong Kong Chinese owned TV station in Taiwan, TVBS, which is a rabid supporter of the government….

.....has ECFA support at 41% in May. If Scheer wants others I will be happy to supply them. No majority of Taiwanese supports ECFA.

ECFA was negotiated under threat of 1,500 missiles and a massive military build up aimed at Taiwan. It is not an agreement aimed at peace through trade, though that is the justificatory rhetoric. If trade brings peace, why the military build up as trade between China and Taiwan rose to over $100 billion annually? Because China’s goal is to annex Taiwan, Chinese leaders have forthrightly stated that ECFA is the first step in this. Meanwhile Taiwan’s leadership consists of KMTers who want to annex Taiwan to China, and see the island mainly as a bargaining chip they can use to get into the action in China. The unpopularity of ECFA is one strong reason the President’s approval ratings are in the twenties.

BTW, as US officials here confirmed, the US has an arms freeze on (it also did the last time you accused the US of imperialistically selling arms to China) and is not selling weapons to Taiwan (the recent delivery was the final step of a decade old delivery).

Finally, ECFA is strongly backed by global financial players and large companies in Taiwan with close links to the government.

Your understanding of the situation is upside down. It would be great if you moved into the democracy camp on this topic. Because right now you’re not in it, Robert.

Michael Turton
The View from Taiwan

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By Richard Nixon, July 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two flaws I saw in Mr. Scheer’s comments

He wrote

“I don’t think our jobs are undermined by cheaper products coming in from

I would argue this is holding us down. It stems from the fact that U.S. citizens
want cheap products. For example almost every good at Wal-Mart is ‘Made in
China’. The people buying these goods don’t seem to care where the products
come from, who makes it, as long as they can afford it. I would venture to say
they barely even care if it is safe.

Rarely anybody buys American made products anymore, because they aren’t
being made. They aren’t being made anymore because they were too expensive
for the majority to make/buy.

We actually have labor laws, minimum wage, I’m sure if business owners could
legally make things cheaper in the U.S. they would. Or if there some
resurgence in American products they would begin making them again too
because they could make a profit.

If there was a demand for American products no matter the price, I feel we
wouldn’t see cheap Chinese made products here. With that being said I try to
buy American products whenever possible, even better when it is directly from
the person who made it.

Also Robert Scheer wrote

“And yet, its [China’s] quality of life has expanded beyond anyone’s

If anyone has any facts on this, or personal knowledge, I would be interested to
hear it, because I am skeptical.

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