Live Chat: Robert Scheer on China
BLANK 9:46 Truthdig
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 17:46:01 GMT
|Welcome, Truthdig readers, to this week’s live chat session with Robert Scheer!
As we wait for our columnist, feel free to chat among yourselves and/or review some of the videos on the topic.
10:01 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:01:53 GMT
10:02 Comment From Guest
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:02:20 GMT
Comment: Sounds like the Taiwanese have a different take on this. China is definitely coming, from their perspective.
10:04 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:04:20 GMT
|Look, there’s no question that coming from a common cultural and linguistic background facilitates communication, but as we’ve seen in places like Korea, Ireland, and in the cross-strait conflict it can also heighten tension. What has happened over the past 15 years is that, through trade, the remnants of the Chinese nationalists that controlled Taiwan came to realize that their economic interests were enhanced by getting along rather than by confronting their former mainland opponents.
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:04:52 GMT
|One of our commenters said, “The unelected Chinese government looks out for China’s national interests almost as well as our elected government
looks out for Israel’s national interests.”
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:04:56 GMT
|Bob, do you agree?|
10:06 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:06:47 GMT
|I think this is one discussion that does not have to revolve around Israel. I think what happens to 1.4 billion Chinese who now have the second strongest economy in the world and are holding a lot of our national debt should be worthy of consideration on its own terms. And I think the real problem with our government is that it doesn’t look out for the interest of the average American, but rather for those who lobby it, and that includes the military-industrial complex.|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:10:17 GMT
|Alice Fay Hammer asks, “And you think WE haven’t been buying up resources & otherwise taking advantage of Third World countries? If our greed hasn’t gobbled up our top position in the world, please tell me what has?”
10:10 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:10:21 GMT
|(To Alice) — Clearly, what’s happening is that the Chinese Communists are behaving as far more effective international capitalists than our leaders. And what they are doing is what has been done by successful capitalists throughout hundreds of years of history, which is to gain control of resources, turn them into products that people want to buy, and focus more on trade than on military conquest, recognizing that military conquest is not a cost-efficient enterprise, as we learned in Vietnam, Iraq and now in Afghanistan.|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:10:39 GMT
|Here’s another question: “Will Obama subsidize imports because low prices are more important than bringing back jobs to the USA?”|
10:10 Comment From WSmart
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:10:47 GMT
Comment: Alcohol-fueled stupidity?
10:13 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:13:08 GMT
|I think this is a false issue. I don’t think our jobs are undermined by cheaper products coming in from China. I know this goes against the conventional wisdom, but I believe there is an enormous efficiency in international trade, which used to be called comparative advantage, and we have it in agriculture, we have it in our entertainment industry — both of which are incredibly successful in the world economy. That is certainly true of our information technology — the whole computer world — it is true in a large part of medicine, drugs, and I think we ought not to be testy when other people produce goods that we want to buy more efficiently. And that is what I believe the Chinese are doing. And I don’t believe in protectionism; I do believe in developing international human rights standards that protect workers’ right to organize and ban the exploitation of child labor.|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:13:18 GMT
|One of our commenters, dihey, asks:
Multiple thanks, Mr. Scheer, for reporting this. I actually knew about the breakthrough yesterday from the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Our MSM did not report this historic happening. The interesting issue now is: How can the Whitewash House continue to send arms to one of the partners of this historic deal? Will Mr. Obama toss a coin to answer this question?
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
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.”
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
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.|
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.|
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. 🙂 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.
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.|
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.|
10:45 Robert Scheer
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:29 GMT
|Goodbye everyone, and thanks.|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:45:41 GMT
|Bye, Bob, thanks for joining us this week.|
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 (http://www.facebook.com/Truthdig) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/truthdig).
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:46:46 GMT
|And here are some videos that might be of interest:
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:02 GMT
|… and Guest was referring to some videos in the “Red Caution” documentary series. Here they are:|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:14 GMT
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:22 GMT
|Thank you, Guest, for that contribution.|
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:48:37 GMT
|We’ll keep the floor open up a little longer for you to chat among yourselves.|
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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