|THE ROVING EYE |
Welcome, comrade Maobama
By Pepe Escobar
BEIJING - Dear comrade Maobama,
It's such an honor to receive you here in the northern capital of the Middle Kingdom as you pay tribute to the hub of the already developing 21st-century multipolar world.
Excuse us if we may diverge for a while from the outlines of established diplomatic finesse, but as we fully admire your integrity, honesty and magnificent intellectual accomplishments, allow us to address you with a measured degree of frankness.
First of all, we congratulate you for the auspicious sales of The Audacity of Hope in the Chinese market - 140,000 to date, and counting. But please excuse us as you won't be able to bask in the glow of wide-eyed, "audacity of hope" crowds as in Berlin, Ghana, Cairo, London or Paris. Certainly Sasha and Malia would be thrilled if you had the chance to snap up a commemorative comrade Maobama T-shirt in Houhai for a few undervalued yuan. You'd definitely look handsome in an olive-green Cultural Revolution suit and cap.
We are otherwise very pleased that you have just described yourself as "America's first Pacific president" - even boasting a half-brother living in our gloriously booming special economic zone, Shenzhen.
We find a remarkable convergence between "Pacific" and our own doctrine of heping jueqi - "sudden peaceful emergence". We are all pacifists at heart; if you're familiar with our doctrine you will know how it fully spells out why China is not a "threat" to the US. After all, our military budget is less than 20% of your military budget, and much less than the combined military budgets of Japan, India and Russia.
About our pacifist strain, President Hu Jintao - with whom you will have very detailed discussions - made it all very clear already during the administration of your predecessor George W Bush, when he announced his "four Nos" (no to hegemony; no to the politics of force; no to the politics of blocks; no to an arms race) and his "four Yes's" (yes to building trust; yes to attenuating difficulties; yes to developing cooperation; yes to avoiding confrontation).
We noticed you have also chosen to define us as "an essential partner" as well as a "competitor". Yes, we are very competitive. It's kind of built into your DNA when you have been a major economic power in the world for 18 of the past 20 centuries. If the "strategic reassurance" doctrine devised by your think-tanks works in the sense of respecting our competitive spirit as well as our views and customs, we certainly have no problems with that.
By the way, we're extremely pleased that you chose Tokyo, Japan, this past Saturday to finally reassure us that "the United States does not seek to contain China". But we were just wondering whether your generals - avid practitioners of the full spectrum dominance doctrine - were listening.
Dear comrade, there are some things that we must clarify at once. We definitely won't bow to US pressure on our currency policy. Please listen to Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. He has just pressed the fact at a forum here in Beijing that the very weak US dollar and low US interest rates are creating "unavoidable risks for the recovery of the global economy, especially emerging economies", and this is "seriously impacting global asset prices and encouraging speculation in stock and property markets". We're afraid you're more part of the problem than the solution. If you had the chance to meet average Chinese in the streets of Beijing - oh, those pesky security arrangements - they would ask you why China should listen to US hectoring, when the US prints dollars like crazy and expects China to prop them up?
For our part of the world, we hope you have the opportunity to appreciate how sound are our economic fundamentals - with rising industrial production, retail sales and investments in fixed capital, and moderate deflation, as outlined by Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics. Our economy will grow by 8% in 2009. Why? Because we have spent the past 11 months working 24-hours a day, investing productively in our economy, honing up our monetary policy and launching fiscal measures to support selected industrial sectors. We are forecasting a consumer boom lasting up to the next Chinese New Year on February 14, 2010. So our priority is to keep on growing; later we may think about devaluing the yuan.
Dear comrade, we're sure you'd marvel at the power of our three main industrial clusters. It's a pity you won't have time to visit the Pearl River Delta, the factory of the world, our hub of manufacturing and endless assembly lines. You might catch a glimpse of the Yang-Tze Delta - the hub of our capital-intensive industry and production of cars, semiconductors and computers. But if only you had enough time for a stroll in Zhongguancun, just outside of Beijing - our Silicon Valley.
A glimpse of just one of our immense info-tech malls, bursting with small businesses and eager, industrious, very well-educated youth, would imprint to you how technology has become China's new opium (without a war attached, as the British Empire imposed it on us in the 19th century). It makes us dream of a time when technological innovations originate in China and then swarm the world. Yes, we may have a cheap workforce - but most of all we have an extraordinarily motivated workforce, which is regimented under good health and education standards, has immense self-discipline and is fully mobilized for non-stop productive ends.
Dear comrade, now onwards to some more controversial matters. About that little war of yours in Afghanistan. You may have realized by now that it was China that actually won the "war on terror". And that explains in great measure why China is so much more influential now in East Asia - and around many parts of the world - than the US.
You may realize that as long as the Pentagon is fully deployed in West Asia we must be extremely careful. We closely follow the strategies deployed by your think-tanks. We are particularly amused by the strategy of our old friend Dr Henry Kissinger, who proposes to integrate China in a reformed world order still revolving around a US axis - after all, this still translates as US hegemony. There are far more worrying aspects inbuilt in the encircling of China by a system of military bases and a strategic military alliance controlled by the US - a new cold war in fact. We cannot abide by it, as it will only lead to the fragmentation of Asia and the global South.
Rest assured that we can deal with both North Korea and Iran on our own - not confrontationally but harmoniously. And coming back to Afghanistan, we believe the best solution should be worked out within the cadre of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - of which ourselves and Russia are the key co-founders. This is an Asian problem - in terms of drug trafficking as much as religious fundamentalism - that should be debated and solved among Asian powers.
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|Page 2 of 2|
THE ROVING EYE
Welcome, comrade Maobama
By Pepe Escobar
Dear comrade, you may have noticed that the Washington Consensus is for all purposes dead. What has emerged is what we might call the Beijing Consensus. China has shown the global South that "there is an alternative" - a "third way" of independent economic development and integration to the global order. We have shown that unlike the Washington Consensus "one-size-fits-all" package, economic development has to be "local" in every case. Our beloved Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping would have called it "development with local characteristics".
We have shown that developing states in the global South must unite, not to hail US unilateralism but to organize a new world order based on economic independence and at the same time respectful of cultural and political differences. We have embarked on a yellow BRIC road - and it's not only us, Brazil, Russia, India
and China, who are on to it; everybody else in the global South is. Yet we are also aware that the rich North will always be trying to co-opt certain countries in the South to prevent that hierarchical change the world can believe in - which, as you may already know, is incarnated by China.
You may also have realized why China has consistently beaten hands down the elitist economic and financial institutions controlled by the North. After all, we offer countries all over the global South much better deals to access their natural resources. We have been engaged in vast, complex infrastructure projects that invariably end up costing less than half the price charged by countries in the North. Our loans are more carefully targeted; they are impervious to political misunderstandings; and they don't come with exorbitant consultant fees attached.
You may have realized that key oil-producing countries have re-routed their excess capacity towards the South. Oil-wealthy countries from West Asia have started to heavily invest in East and South Asia some of the surplus that they normally would have directed to the US and Europe.
You may have noticed, comrade, that the monetarist counter-revolution is dead. So the question now is not whether Asia, and the global South as a whole, will continue to use the US dollar as their exchange currency - that, of course, will go on for years. The key long-term question is whether they will continue to place their excess current account balances at the mercy of institutions controlled by the North, or if they will instead work towards the emancipation of the South. Your egalitarian instincts may agree with the latter, but we are certain the US ruling class will fight it tooth and nail.
Forgive us what may be perceived as impertinence, comrade. Of course - taking a leaf from the great master Lao Tzu - we are also aware of our shortcomings. We well know that it would be suicidal for even one quarter of our population of 1.3 billion to adopt the mode of production and consumption known as the American way of life. We know that we must do more to protect the environment. Our 2006-2010 Five-Year Plan, for example, has made it a target to reduce energy consumption by 20%, and our industrial policy has shut down nearly 400 industrial sub-sectors and restricted a further 190. We well know what's at stake if, up to 2025, no less than 300 million peasants transfer themselves to our cities, where cars, including your American Buicks, already dwarf the number of bicycles.
We even acknowledge know many distortions may be implicit in our blind reproduction of the Western development model. To give you an example, when our foreign visitors go The Place megamall in the central business district in Beijing and watch the largest suspended screen saver on Earth - featuring computer-generated images - they complain what a waste of energy this is. It's an addiction for which we still have no cure. We just can't get enough of malls - and SUVs, and Hummers and Ferrari dealerships on Jinbao Dajie ...
We are well aware of hundreds of strikes and widespread social turmoil happening here every single month, involving especially the new Chinese working class - young internal migrants - that are the backbone of our enviable export industry. You may not believe it in the US, but of course there is a worker's movement in China - not one, but many, spontaneous and relatively unarticulated, all extremely active in virtually every city in the country.
We pay attention, and we are doing our best to attend to their grievances. Chairman Mao always alerted about luan - chaos - and nothing worries us more than social revolt in urban and rural areas. That's why we changed our policies, trying to correct development inequalities and passing new legislation offering more rights to workers.
At the same time, we always remember how comrade Deng Xiaoping's reforms first and foremost had to deal with the agricultural sector. That's why President Hu today is so concentrated on the development of education, health protection and social aid in the countryside. That's how we see the development of a "harmonious society".
To sum it all up, comrade Maobama. We really hope you appreciate the fabulous Peking duck in the company of comrade Hun Jintao, and that you conduct a frank exchange of views. And by the way, if you need a crash course on Chinese politics, don't bother to listen to your think-tanks; send a diplomat to a DVD shop to buy you a (pirate) copy of Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower, with Chow Yun-fat and our gorgeous Gong Li. It's all there; the cult of secrecy and dissimulation; the logic and cruelty of competing clans; the sense of political tragedy; and how, in China, the raison d'etat trumps everything. Yes, we may be a violent society after all, but our violence is internalized. Chairman Mao's luan is our deepest fear; we fear most what ill we can inflict on ourselves. If we master our self-control, then we can be a true Middle Kingdom - between heaven and Earth. "Global superpower" is just an afterthought.
Anyway, as comrade Deng said, to get rich is glorious - the more so when you become the banker of the current global superpower. We will always be here for you when you need it - just please refrain from asking us to devalue the yuan. May you be blessed to conduct an auspicious and prosperous administration, and may you and your family live a long and fruitful life.
The People's Republic of China
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).