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The China Syndrome

You might wish for more coherent explanations about what is going on these days than we’re getting. Some of my pals are working on it, more or less behind the scenes. My daughter and some of her friends are compiling a new wiki for folks to either catch up on crisis theory, or check in on some of the current ruminations that are starting to appear.

Has the Chinese model triumphed?

Has the Chinese model triumphed? (art borrowed from the New Yorker)

For myself, I’m struck by the convergence that is taking place between the supposedly open and neoliberal U.S. and the authoritarian one-party state that is dabbling with market reforms in China. Some years ago I read this great novel, China Mountain Zhang, wherein Maureen McHugh presents a story set at first in New York in the 2100s, and the world is under the domination of Chinese Marxism-Leninism. She never explains how it got that way, and you just slowly figure out what’s going on from the context of people’s lives. Quite fascinating. And I’d have to say, rather prescient in light of developments.

The U.S. is basically a one-party state in which the media is dutifully the propaganda arm of the government and the corporations that own it. One political Party represents Capital and War and two factions within it (Dems and Repubs) fight for effective power within that logic. Other points of view are systematically exluded through ignoring or ridiculing them, and always dismissed as “unrealistic” or “irrelevant to most people,” in what quickly becomes a self-fulfilling dynamic. The One Party reliably uses the power of government to assure that the personal friends and business associates of the politicians with their hands on the levers of power get the goods, either through tax breaks or government subsidies, and always through institutional support via regulatory and financial bureaucracies. When things go bad (as they are doing) the government rushes to bail out the failed wealthy, arguing publicly that “we’re all in it together”; precisely the opposite rhetoric it uses when its cronies are getting rich during periods of expansion and profitability.

Turns out this is a whole lot like the China that emerged after the death of Mao, when the “capitalist roaders” led by Deng Xiaoping steered the country away from the Stalinist madhouse Mao had pursued for decades. The Chinese Communist Party has enriched its own and their allies, opening up selective property rights to favored friends while using the full power of the police and military to squelch political opposition and social unrest (in spite of this, China has been rocked by thousands of strikes and protests during the past few years). Given the rise of the surveillance state here in the U.S. and the suspension of posse comitatus wherein the military will now be used in domestic repression, I’d say the Bush/Cheneyites have done everything they could to re-engineer U.S. society towards the Chinese model. We’ll see if Obama breaks with this, or just builds on it and exercises even more executive power in the face of the “dire emergency” facing the country now that the house of cards has finally fallen…

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One Response to “The China Syndrome”

  1. 1
    ccarlsson:

    I’m leaving a comment to see if comments are working… if you’ve found me here on my url, please leave a note! Just to make sure the comments are working! thank you…

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