(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.
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.?”
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. ...
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.