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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on China

Posted on Jul 1, 2010

(Page 3)

10:35 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:35:39 GMT


 (To Gerard) I think the desire for human rights is universal. It’s built into the nature of our species. I don’t accept that either China or India will develop totalitarian political models combined with a basically capitalist economy for long. We already see in China movements for labor organizing, for increasing free speech, the strikes that have affected Toyota and others are very significant. And even the government there had to back the strikers, which is a new development. It was Karl Marx, after all, in the Communist Manifesto, who paid tribute to capitalism for ending what he called “the idiocy of rural life.” And there is no question that one major—if not the major—consequence of capitalist development is the increase in at least consumer sovereignty, and that ends up including the right to see movies, read books and think thoughts that a government might find inconvenient. In India, you have actually a rich tradition of respect for democratic impulses and individual freedom, and I don’t expect [for India] to do anything but flourish in the future. I take your point about Americans not learning foreign languages and not knowing much about other countries, which is just fine as long as we don’t go and shoot up those places that we don’t understand. 

10:36 Truthdig


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Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:36:11 GMT


 Question from reader TCB: “Does China pose a threat to the U.S. economically? In other words, are the Chinese, in fact, coming after all, but in a way the American war-based economic mind-set can’t conceive of? So many of our products are made under their watchful eyes, and, as you wrote, we’ve borrowed rather large sums from them to support our own illogical military spending. What happens when they decide to renegotiate trade deals with the U.S.?”

10:37 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:37:19 GMT


 (Time is almost up; we may have time for one more question.)

10:38 Comment From Silent Otto

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:38:25 GMT

Comment: Thanks for doing this, Mr. Scheer. You do important work.

10:39 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:39:38 GMT


 My answer to that is that the Chinese understand, in the last recesses of their Marxist education, that capitalism must precede socialism and that successful capitalist development, which means ending the enormous rural poverty and dependence upon back-breaking labor and educating your population, developing rational calculation in your markets and use of resources, are all preconditions for more enlightened development. The Chinese need good international relations. They need a sound international market. And in fact, in response to the banking crisis that originated on Wall Street, they have actually responded in a much more logical, coherent way to protect their people than our own government has in relation to the unemployed and otherwise suffering in this country. China and India do not have a stake in instability in this world. They are playing on the playing field of international trade; they are very good at it, and they recognize that chaos in this world is not in their interest. Hopefully we can come to recognize that as well.

10:39 Comment From truthdiguest

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:39:43 GMT

Comment: Bob, you say that the Taiwanese are “wise, wily capitalist bandits ... who are quite capable of looking out for their own interests without American taxpayers and troops getting involved” but what about all the protests? Surely you can’t ignore that the Taiwanese people [will] be hurt by this. ...

10:40 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:40:17 GMT


 This will be our last question—thanks to Bob for going overtime. 

10:45 Comment From Guest

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:16 GMT

Comment: The current situation between Taiwan and China has little to do with American interventionalism. First, since 1996, Taiwan has been a democracy, a hard-fought one at that. For the people of Taiwan, the Cold War ended then, perhaps even sooner. Second, most people in Taiwan consider themselves to be Taiwanese, not Chinese. Therefore, you can’t generalize that the ECFA is simply a matter of the Chinese people kissing and making up. I encourage you to rethink your analysis of the significance of the ECFA with these facts in mind, as well as updating your knowledge of Taiwanese history. A recent movie, “Formosa Betrayed,” might be a good beginning.  The documentary “Red Caution” can be found on YouTube and would also be instructive.

10:45 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:23 GMT


 (To truthdiguest) First of all, public opinion polls from Taiwan show that a majority do support these initiatives. And second, I am in favor of grass-roots organizing and labor organizing and people speaking out to make sure they are not screwed by international deals—be it NAFTA or the two sides who just negotiated in China. Struggle for social justice is a necessary part of the equation, and I don’t trust the leadership in China or Taiwan to take care of the interests of ordinary people in those societies any more than I trust the elite in the U.S. to do so. But the basic point here is that both the Taiwanese people and the people on the mainland would benefit from peace and be destroyed by war. Clearly the enormous investment that has taken place between the two formerly warring parties attests to a common interest in pursuing a better life rather than butchering each other, which happens so much throughout history. After all, our own government considered dropping nuclear weapons on China not that long ago. We were involved in a horrible war in Vietnam supposedly to prevent Chinese expansionism. What has been left out of this whole discussion is a point I made in my column, which is that we have an enormous so-called defense budget, which was geared as much as anything to preventing Chinese occupation of Taiwan. That is now a dead issue, and with it the excuse for this enormous, $700 billion budget which is largely devoted to high-tech weaponry that does not make us safer, certainly not in the so-called war on terrorism, and can no longer be justified as being necessary to militarily containing China, that last-relic argument of the Cold War. The point of my column is that we do not think rationally about what national security consists of, and yes, there are problems of dislocation resulting from the strength of the Chinese economy and China’s closer relation with Taiwan, but that pales in comparison with the enormous waste of human lives and natural resources brought about by being in a permanent war economy that benefits no one but the war profiteers. 

10:45 Robert Scheer

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:29 GMT


 Goodbye everyone, and thanks.

10:45 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:41 GMT


 Bye, Bob, thanks for joining us this week.

10:46 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:46:09 GMT


 Thank you for joining us this week. We hope to see you next week!
Make sure to follow Truthdig on Facebook ( and Twitter (

10:46 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:46:46 GMT


 And here are some videos that might be of interest:

10:48 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:02 GMT


 ... and Guest was referring to some videos in the “Red Caution” documentary series. Here they are:

10:48 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:14 GMT


10:48 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:22 GMT


 Thank you, Guest, for that contribution. 

10:48 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:37 GMT


 We’ll keep the floor open up a little longer for you to chat among yourselves.

10:52 Truthdig

Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:52:17 GMT


 That seems to be the end of this week’s session. Thank you again everyone, for joining! 

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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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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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