Rorschach Test: Revealing Western Press Reactions to Xi Jinping Speech at Davos

I’m a smidge late to a curiously underreported keynote speech by China’s president Xi Jinping at Davos, which was held online. The text is embedded at the end of the post.

Admittedly, any recounting of a presentation will wind up inserting the tale-teller’s noise in the signal, if nothing else through what was highlighted and omitted. But the filtering by Bloomberg and the Financial Times seemed odd, and the fact that the Wall Street Journal didn’t deign to take notice of it, even odder. Instead, the Journal’s front-page China article yesterday was China Seeks to Cushion Blow of Economic Pain as Momentum Slows. Here’s what the Journal serves up when you search for “Xi” and “Davos”, in reverse chronological order:

One might wonder why Xi would deign to speak to Davos billionaires. First, the Chinese leader doesn’t have many opportunities to speak to a Western audience that isn’t in the context of some immediate political business. So he would have more degrees of freedom than he would in other settings by not having topics he felt compelled to address before getting to any other messages. Second, the rich at that level often have political influence or aspire to, and have the ego to give themselves high scores of their ability to assess individuals and situations. So at the margin, the speech would be a low cost investment in playing ambassador and promoting China. Third, this was a friendly forum; no pesky journalist Q&A.

And it was a fine speech, albeit not as clearly structured as Xi’s 2021 Davos remarks: introductory formalities and clearly spelled out cultural references, and a series of measured, thought out points, on his vision for China’s growth and prosperity, the dangers of uncoordinated monetary policy at a time of high uncertainty, the treatment of foreign participants (short version, if you behave, you are welcome), a request for the US to stop eyepoking (with one of the supporting arguments that geopolitical spats are bad for commerce), and a big pitch for continued globalization and stronger world governance, provided China has a suitable number of seats at the table.

The two articles touched on these themes to some degree, as we’ll discuss below. But both completely bypassed Xi’s attention to the interests of developing economies and by implication, China’s attentiveness to them. This sure sounded like China arguing for a role as the natural sponsor/leader of developing economies. As the prior year’s Davos, Xi had set forth “four major tasks facing the people of our times;” take note of number three:

The first is to step up macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy.

The second is to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.

The third is to close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth and prosperity for all.

The fourth is to come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity.

The argument for economic coordination was if anything even stronger this time, given the divergence between the US and China’s interest rate policies. From the Bloomberg story:

Xi made a case for coordination in the name of developing economies:

The world economy is emerging from the depths, yet it still faces many constraints. The global industrial and supply chains have been disrupted. Commodity prices continue to rise. Energy supply remains tight. These risks compound one another and heighten the uncertainty about economic recovery. The global low inflation environment has notably changed, and the risks of inflation driven by multiple factors are surfacing. If major economies slam on the brakes or take a U-turn in their monetary policies, there would be serious negative spillovers. They would present challenges to global economic and financial stability, and developing countries would bear the brunt of it…

Major economies should see the world as one community, think in a more systematic way, increase policy transparency and information sharing, and coordinate the objectives, intensity and pace of fiscal and monetary policies, so as to prevent the world economy from plummeting again. Major developed countries should adopt responsible economic policies, manage policy spillovers, and avoid severe impacts on developing countries. International economic and financial institutions should play their constructive role to pool global consensus, enhance policy synergy and prevent systemic risks.

This is a more serious concern than Davos squillionaires appreciate, unless they are currency traders. When the Fed lowers and raises interest rates, destabilizing hot money flows in and out of small economies. For instance, former IMF Chief economist, then India’s central bank governor Raghuram Rajan took issue with the Fed’s efforts to shift blame for its policy damage in 2014. From an interview with Bloomberg:

Emerging markets were hurt both by the easy money which flowed into their economies and made it easier to forget about the necessary reforms, the necessary fiscal actions that had to be taken, on top of the fact that emerging markets tried to support global growth by huge fiscal and monetary stimulus across the emerging markets. This easy money, which overlaid already strong fiscal stimulus from these countries. The reason emerging markets were unhappy with this easy money is “This is going to make it difficult for us to do the necessary adjustment.” And the industrial countries at this point said, “What do you want us to do, we have weak economies, we’ll do whatever we need to do. Let the money flow.”

Now when they are withdrawing that money, they are saying, “You complained when it went in. Why should you complain when it went out?” And we complain for the same reason when it goes out as when it goes in: it distorts our economies, and the money coming in made it more difficult for us to do the adjustment we need for the sustainable growth and to prepare for the money going out

International monetary cooperation has broken down.

Back to 2022. This was Bloomberg’s take on Xi’s economic message:

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on nations to secure global supply chains and prevent inflation shocks, as the leader of the world’s No.2 economy seeks a smooth path to clinching a precedent-defying third term in power…

An energy crunch in China’s border nation Kazakhstan led to Russian troops being enlisted to help crush a public uprising earlier this month, bringing supply-chain risks to Beijing’s back door. China is seeking to minimize economic and diplomatic instability as Xi prepares to keep power at the ruling Communist Party’s leadership congress in the second half of this year.

Xi also warned about global inflation pressures and the resulting effects of higher interest rates…

On China’s economy, Xi downplayed concerns even after data Monday showed growth slowed to 4% last quarter, the weakest pace since early 2020.

“The fundamentals of the Chinese economy are unchanged — it remains resilient, has sufficient potential and its long-term prospects are positive,” he said.

Angela Mancini, partner at Control Risks Group Pte in Singapore, told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday morning that Xi avoided spelling out for a global audience the risks confronting his government.

Since Kazakhstan’s total exports to China in 2019 were $7.9 billion out of gross Chinese imports of over $2 trillion, or less than 0.4%, it’s hard to see how it creates supply chain issues, particularly since the protests are in the cities, well away from suppliers who export petroleum products to China. Kazakhstan is important, however, as a key partner in a pipeline project under development.

And why should Xi describe domestic risks to an external audience?

The Financial Times, by contrast, gave pride of place to another set of Xi’s economic points, on how egalitarian growth should be. First, let’s look at the germane section of his talk:

Thanks to considerable economic growth, the Chinese people are living much better lives. Nonetheless, we are soberly aware that to meet people’s aspiration for an even better life, we still have much hard work to do in the long run. China has made it clear that we strive for more visible and substantive progress in the well-rounded development of individuals and the common prosperity of the entire population. We are working hard on all fronts to deliver this goal. The common prosperity we desire is not egalitarianism. To use an analogy, we will first make the pie bigger, and then divide it properly through reasonable institutional arrangements. As a rising tide lifts all boats, everyone will get a fair share from development, and development gains will benefit all our people in a more substantial and equitable way.

This was the pink paper’s assessment:

Under the policy, spearheaded by Xi, the Chinese Communist party has been reshaping the country’s business and cultural landscape via a months-long series of crackdowns. This has targeted industries including fintech, education and entertainment as well as perceived societal ills such as celebrity culture, gaming and effeminate fashion trends.

The moves, which have wiped billions of dollars from Chinese and foreign investors, have sparked international debate over the political and economic motives of the policy, and made the future of investing in China uncertain.

Xi attempted to ease some concerns, insisting to the Davos audience that China remained committed to open to foreign business.

“All types of capital are welcome to operate in China, in compliance with laws and regulations and play a positive role for the development of a country.”

This is quite some cherry picking. In this speech, as in 2021, Xi spoke repeatedly about globalization as an irresistible force. This paean came before the discussion of the approach for domestic China:

Economic globalization is the trend of the times. Though countercurrents are sure to exist in a river, none could stop it from flowing to the sea. Driving forces bolster the river’s momentum, and resistance may yet enhance its flow. Despite the countercurrents and dangerous shoals along the way, economic globalization has never and will not veer off course. Countries around the world should uphold true multilateralism. We should remove barriers, not erect walls. We should open up, not close off. We should seek integration, not decoupling. This is the way to build an open world economy. We should guide reforms of the global governance system with the principle of fairness and justice, and uphold the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its center. We should make generally acceptable and effective rules for artificial intelligence and digital economy on the basis of full consultation, and create an open, just and non-discriminatory environment for scientific and technological innovation. This is the way to make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all, and to fully unleash the vitality of the world economy.

And the crackdown started with rule-defying Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, and as far as I can tell, has gone much harder after other too-big-for-their-britches home players than foreigners. The Financial Times might consider the noteworthy part that Xi finds it necessary to remind outsiders that they have to follow local rules and not act like looters.

Again noteworthy was that Xi’s first big point for the 2022 Davos speech was the need for international cooperation to beat Covid, and that was also downplayed by the press. The one Bloomberg mention was to question China for pursuing a zero-Covid policy that is a negative for growth; the Financial Times noted only Xi calling for more use of vaccination and closing the global immunization gap.

Xi pointed out how China had delivered 2 billion doses of its vaccines, a fact that Lambert and I can’t recall ever having seen in the English language press despite our Covid fixation:

China is a country that delivers on its promises. China has already sent over two billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations. Still, China will provide another one billion doses to African countries, including 600 million doses as donation, and will also donate 150 million doses to ASEAN countries.

Xi also had a long discussion of the “need to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes” and accept other political and economic systems. Again the Western press averted its eyes.

And the press failed to call out Xi for a major lapse, given his positioning China as being on the side of cooperation: skipping over climate change and ever rising competition for resources.

Mind you, this site has not been gaga over China. But Xi has accomplished a great deal, and what he says deserves a fair hearing. The basis for criticizing China is not grand or grandiose ideas, but the degree to which China walks its talk. For instance, despite the palaver about sharing technology, foreign companies who have set up in China warn that Chinese partners are world-class in knocking off products and ripping off intellectual property.

But US leaders are no longer capable of making stirring talks about the future. Obama was given credit for being a visionary when I found most of his speeches to be uninspired. Deep down, our elites know too many people are on to how deeply corrupt our society is. They may not do anything about it, but they sure won’t swallow the lies.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Thank you for this, excellent overview.

    As a long time China watcher, one of the most fascinating aspects is not what happens in China, but how really bad most takes on China are by… well, China watchers. Its fascinating to see how many otherwise pretty smart and insightful people insist on viewing China through their existing priors, whether those biases are ideological or nationalistic or whatever. The left is just as guilty of this as the right.

    China is China, and it has its own very long history and its own internal battles to deal with. You cannot accurately assess what is going on within China unless you strip yourself of your own biases and priors as far as possible and simply look at what China (in this case Xi) says, and what China is doing, particularly in regard to its economic and military policies. A lot of what China is going through is not unique – its the same growing pains that every ‘catch up’ country has had to go through in its attempt to match the developed world. The only thing that makes China unique is its sheer scale. Much of what Xi says is straightforward and needs to be assessed on its own merits. But much of what he says is, like any other politicians word, is self serving BS, and needs to be recognized as such. The problem of course is working out which is which.

    What needs to be recognized of course is that despite the intense work China has done in studying other countries models (and its astonishing just how detailed their analysis can be, and how long they’ve been doing this), they are also groping around to find the right direction, as well as dealing with China’s own internal inconsistencies. We’ve seen this clearly over the past 2 years where despite the obvious fact that Beijing recognizes that an investment/housing/infrastructure dominated economy is not sustainable, for whatever reason they have failed to take the obviously needed change in direction. Very obvious policy alterations such as just giving regular Chinese people a pay rise rather than throw cash at the construction sector have not been taken – the reasons for this are no doubt lost in smoke choked Beijing offices and restaurants. China’s behavior abroad is also deeply contradictory. The Belt and Road Initiative is clearly based on highly contradictory aims (its not been widely reported, but lots of Chinese banks have lost a lot of money on it), but how Beijing will resolve this is not clear. I doubt Beijing itself knows right now.

    So far, Xi has been very impressive, at least when measured on basic competence, if not his commitment to human rights or democracy. He has made more good calls than bad calls, and he very clearly has a vision, even if China’s neighbours and everyone else may not like what it means for them. The massive investment China is currently making in trying to be a peer competitor with the US in military technology may blow up in China’s face (they are creating their own horrible industrial-military complex), and their gigantic investments in AI and chip technology and aerospace may pay off, or they may become monstrous self licking ice creams (as HSR has already become). Only time will tell.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      PK, some rebuttal for your consideration:

      The only thing that makes China unique is its sheer scale.


      China is different in some key ways:

      1. They have a pretty good national decision-making process which is written by people with a lot of deep technical grounding. They make long-term plans, and they seem to actually follow them. That certainly sets them apart.

      2. They have a policy of lifting all boats, and they seem to be delivering on that policy. China has lifted more people out of poverty and into the middle class – and in less time – than any other society in history.

      3. They have a policy of “mutual benefit” w/r/t international investments, such as BRI, and they seem to be willing to sacrifice some to make that happen, evidenced by banks’ book losses on some of their foreign investments.

      4. China has identified “culture” as a key element of long-term national success, and have pointedly and deliberately and consistently screened out cultural malware, internal and external from the cultural context. Who else is doing that?

      5. China has used tech to systematically engage all the levels of society in the process of industrial transformation. Example is Alibaba. Alibaba is a marketplace of sub-assemblies. Components. Everyone from individuals to Mom and Pops to small biz…all the way up has a marketplace to sell into, to procure other sub-assy inputs, to integrate, manufacture, sell. That is what made Alibaba so freakin’ wonderful. Everyone was involved, and most of them made money, built skills (mfg, integration, design, sales, marketing). I have never seen anything like it, and there is nothing in the West that I’ve seen to date to rival it. Alibaba would not have been possible in the West. Here in the West, innovation and creation is something that “someone else does”. China built a massive machine to knock down entry barriers and simplify the create-trade activity so anyone could participate.

      6. China took steps to pop their real estate asset bubble. They took a very, very different course of action than we did in 2008 when our real estate bubble popped. We reflated our bubble (avoid pain, sacrifice long term vitality), and in 2021 they deliberately popped theirs.

      7. China can endure hardship. The notion of the Long March is deeply held across the society. They can do things that are quite painful and endure that pain for decades, even generations. Who else … ?

      China is quite different. Waaaaaayyyyy different. And they’re different in ways that make a huge … difference.

      I think there are some very important, highly useful things for the West to learn from China.

        1. lambert strether

          Thank you for your witty contribution. But our labs don’t need any help creating leaks. Remember the CDC lab with doors sealed with duct tape?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I don’t have time to pick through this in detail, but really, this is simply not the case. The Chinese quite deliberately, and sensibly studied development patterns and policies in Europe and Asia and picked and chose what suited them. This is extensively written about in the Chinese development literature. The only unusual aspect of their policy was the manner in which they deliberately stoked competition between provinces, and this was because of Beijings recognition that China lacked the strong administrative structure that bound ROK, Taiwan, Japan, Germany and Sweden (just to identify five of the countries they studied in intense detail).

        Your point 1 is to avoid all the literature on regional and national development. For point 2, please look at some Gini coefficient figures. Or maybe just take a stroll around any Chinese city or wander down the backroads away from the glamorous hotspots. You’ll see a very different China. Point 3 shows you don’t understand the BRI, and you haven’t checked any figures on international aid. Point 4 – well, there is a vast literature on the use of ‘soft’ culture in Asia, used for both domestic and international soft power. China is, if anything, by far the weakest nation it its use, with the possible exception of Vietnam. Point 5. Well, the South Koreans and Japanese might have something to say on that. Point 6. I can’t stop laughing. As a survivor of the Celtic Tiger I’m a connoisseur of property bubbles. The Chinese one is epic, even by Irish/Japanese/Spanish versions. And no, they haven’t popped it, they’ve punted the problem down the road for another year. Point 7… talk to any older Germans or Koreans or Japanese. Really, that point makes no sense at all.

        I hate typing this sort of thing, because I admire China and the Chinese people enormously, and I’m hugely impressed by the manner the CCP has run the country. But this sort of boosterism does a disservice to Chinese people and is entirely unhelpful when it comes to trying to really understand China and its future.

        1. ArvidMartensen

          And I am now of a mind to look at what people do, not what they say.
          Tibet: Looked like a takeover to me. And even if the previous Tibetan rulers allowed inequality to flourish, it was their country. This sort of behaviour makes China no different to the US when it invades countries like Iraq for commercial or tactical gain.Just on a smaller scale.
          Australia: Chinese economic punishment for admittedly unfriendly behaviour. By slowly banning Australian goods from China under all sorts of pretexts, as a punishment, while denying that is what it is doing. The difference to the US is that the US swaggers and bellows as it cuts off trade to unfriendly countries, whereas the Chinese deny and prevaricate. The outcome is similar.
          Belt and Road: Using financial sweeteners to draw other countries into dependency of one sort or another. The British then the US perfected the model of using money to buy up the rulers of other countries to make them toe lines of commercial and hegemonic interest. As money flows, so economic and military power flow behind it. Maybe that is a model China has learned.

        2. Tom Pfotzer

          First, thx for the reply. I don’t agree with most of what you said, but you took time to say it, and ya made me think and research.

          PK: “Your point 1 is to avoid all the literature on regional and national development. ”

          Tom: your point seems to be to avoid looking at the results. They got more done in less time than any of the subject-countries they studied. Has ROK, Sweden, Germany or Taiwan put a lander on Mars? (Got to be really good at a lot of things to do that). Cherry-picked that one, but it’s a fair index of tech mastery.

          PK: “please look at some Gini coefficient figures”.
          Tom: I did. US: 41. China 38. 2021 numbers. Lower is better. Gini only shows relative distribution of income at a point in time; it doesn’t tell the story of where they were, and where they are now (absolute income growth). Here’s a link showing per capita income (rural and urban) last 30 yrs.

          PK: Tom, you don’t understand BRI.
          Tom: I understand it well enough to know that China is making big investments in transportation and materials sourcing in countries throughout Asia, and is financing that construction via loans and equity stakes. Things are being built, and other countries seem to be interested in participating. I see projects – big ones – getting built. I don’t see Norway, Germany, ROK, or the US doing that at anywhere near the scale or coherence.

          Bubble popping: they closed off Evergrande’s funding capability and sent shock waves thru the RE construction, financing biz, and scared the bejeesus out of a lot of families whose nest egg is in RE. Yes, they have to do containment / gradualize the wind-down, but that was a heck of a wake-up call, and it was _optional_, It was pre-emptory and not reactive.

          Long-march. Neither Germany nor S. Korea nor Japan had to face a full century of systematic repression from the West as did China. I put them in a class of their own. And…you only cited three contra-cases, and those three are the top of the Western-aligned realm. China is different from most – nearly all. I’d also put Russia in there.

          Re: Systematic effort to engage all level of society in creative works. I’ve never seen SK nor Japan field an app like Alibaba, nor involve the sheer number and range of roles China engaged via Alibaba. I buy a lot of components and I shop around. There are some recent China-based knock-offs of Alibaba, but I don’t see anything like it from SK or Japan or Germany. That was an impressive confluence of social and systems engineering, marketing, finance. Hammered it. And the Chinese reveled in it.

          So, I’m not seeing the “boosterism” label you applied to my remarks.

          I think every point I made is accurate and fair. Your thesis was “the only thing that’s different about China is scale” and I think I demonstrated that what’s different is culture.

          They are making some darned good choices and applying the effort and discipline necessary to execute those good choices, and all this across a very wide spectrum of competencies. They’re qualitatively different, not just bigger.

          1. Tom Pfotzer

            And BTW, when I point out China’s strengths, I’m trying to grow us, and any other country that seeks to grow itself.

            I don’t want to move to China, and I don’t wish to cheer-lead for China. I want us to learn from China.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            The point of all these BRI projects is to turn these countries into China’s natural resource hinterlands and turn China into their manufactured-goods colonial metropole. Perhaps we need a new word for the way China runs its economic relations with the outer world.
            I suggest Mercantilonialist.

            America can either survive separately, or assimilate with all the rest into the One Ball One Chain Great Han China Co-Prosperity Borg.

            1. Tom Pfotzer

              Your assessment may be valid.

              Saying it’s so doesn’t change anything on the ground here in the U.S.

              In order for us little people to find a viable niche in tomorrow’s econ food-chain, we’re going to need to do a lot of effort-ing and innovating.

              Where do you propose we start in the quest to reformulate a viable economy that rebuilds the natural world and provides a basic viable living?

              Grumbling != solution.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Cancel and withdraw from all the Free Trade Agreements and Free Trade Organizations we are currently trapped in. Starting with the very simplest industries and endeavors first, re-protectionize them one by one, so that as we invest in reviving them they are not immediately destroyed by underpriced undercutting production-dumping from our trading enemies overseas.

                Perhaps starting with food itself. Shift our farmland away from growing food for export to growing food for domestic consumption. Maybe one crop at a time to see how it goes. Ban imports of that one crop so that domestic growers of that crop can have a market to sell to.

                Better and more detailed advice might come from studying the legacy works of Raw Materials/ Energy Flow economists like Charles Walters Jr. in his two books, Unforgiven and Raw Materials Economics. The various economic analysts linked to the National Organization for Raw Materials would also have specific things to say.

                And aside from innovating, we also have to do a lot of retrovating . . . . studying what worked well for us in the past and how and why it worked, and what sovereign national-economy protections we have to re-institute so that the methods proven to have worked in the past can be made to work for the future. The New Deal was a good deal in its day, and a Renewed Deal can be a good deal in our day, but only if we are protectionised enough to prevent our trading enemies from destroying every attempt we make from the first day.

                And the same is true for technology itself. Many viable technologies existed in recent history and have since been forgotten about under a flood of cheap oil energy. Time to study and revive those methods where applicable.

                1. Tom Pfotzer

                  First-class work dw.

                  I come at this from another, complimentary angle:

                  a. ID the main inputs to running a household. Food, water, energy, shelter, education, communications, healthcare

                  b. Pick out the ones most amenable to substitution away from rent-seekers / global comparative-advantage holders, and
                  1. Build appropriate-tech (new or old, whatever works and many ways to skin the cat) systems at household or village level to provide those services/products
                  2. Build a culture that will support the development process till it matures enough to be roughly competitive. We’re doing that now with farmer’s markets, just extend it to other products

                  We have 2 big probs: enviro degradation, and workers getting factored out of the production equation (corollary: workers not deriving benefits of their own productivity).

                  Those two problems can be co-solved.

                  I really like your “pick a place to start, and get going, and adapt to the road-blocks” philosophy. That will actually work.

                  Expecting top-down help with tariffs, etc. is gonna be slo-going, which is why I prefer the “start at HH level, much fewer external dependencies” move.

        3. Roger

          When an economy is still capable of growing at 5-6% a year (and all of that flows to GDP per capita due to the static population numbers), and a little more in nominal terms when inflation is added, kicking the can down is a functional choice. Property prices remain relatively stable, or go down an acceptable amount, while the growth in GDP per capital (nominal) brings prices and earnings into alignment. China has proven quite adept at letting bubbles deflate rather than crashing, it helps to have the banks owned by the state.

          1. Bellatrix

            Generations change, as Neil Howe points out in The Fourth Turning. The new Chinese middle class like their holidays and isn’t there now a “lying flat” (?) movement among younger people in China?

            China is also now rapidly approaching the mother of all demographic time bombs, which may shake things up a bit.

      2. benne

        Economic disparity in China is greater than in the US. The number of children committing suicide because they have lost their parents to factories manufcturing for the west is a national and international disgrace. Over 30% of the Bejing population live in caves and cellars, known as ‘rat people’

        1. Return of the Bride of Joe Biden

          That’s like six and a half million rat people. Really? BTW, the Gini coefficients in China (38.5) and the U.S.A. (41.4) are pretty close.

          I suppose the U.S.A. has its share of rat people, too.

    2. Bellatrix

      No amount of study will solve the fundamental problem facing all authoritarian regimes, which is that authoritarianism (of whatever hue) is about power and once established it cannot tolerate further real change because real change alters the balance of power. Dynamism, innovation and foreign investment will be encouraged until they are not, as Jack Ma would attest and as I suspect Elon Musk and others will learn in due course, if they haven’t already. Raising many out of rural poverty and increasing per capita GDP to a level somewhere between the Maldives and the Seychelles through mercantilism was relatively easy, but now comes the hard part.

  2. Michael Hudson

    A key to China’s relations with the Global South will be how it treats the debts of Africa. It has supported debt write downs owed by African countries to bondholders and the IMF, but has asked for exemption for ITS advances because these were productive loans, not capital-fliight subsidies. China secures what is owed for its infrastructure development of ports, etc., as equity, not as debt as the Western economies do. So if the West DOES write down African debts, this should not have any bearing on China.

  3. stefan

    Confucius say, “Fine words don’t make a man.”

    I sat at the US Army’s China desk in the Far East in the years before the death of Mao. Already then, the amount of technology transfer American companies were willing to concede as the price for entering the China marketplace amazed me. But I’m no businessman.

    At that time, minority cultures in China were upheld as “national in form, communist in content.” Now a million Uyghers are confined to barbed-wire camps. Along with Tibetans and Mongols, what are they thinking about Han Chinese these days?

    “Xi Jing-ping Thought” is all that matters. (What was it Jack Ma was saying?) Xi, about to be anointed “emperor-for-life” at the next party convention, is obviously a highly capable man (the Chinese are a highly capable people, for that matter), but the problem with his ascension to the throne is that old habits die hard.

    China, 20% of the world, is—not two, three, or four—but five times the population of the US. That’s a lot of times bigger. With globalization, China looks to become the Walmart, Amazon, Facebook, and Google of sovereign states, all wrapped up into one. Something to look forward to.

    1. TimmyB

      Please cite to a source for your claim that “Now a million Uyghers are confined to barbed-wire camps.” Frankly, from what I can tell, most of the claims in the media about Uyghurs has been generated by propagandists.

  4. Dave in Austin

    China believes in globalization, meaning free trade, a free investment climate, availability of important raw materials through a competitive market and freely convertible currency everywhere… except in China. In China the policy is traditional mercantilism.

    And the Chinese people are almost uniquely isolated from foreign influences. Covid has been the perfect (and reasonable) excuse to fall back on the “Hermit Kingdom” model; the press and the internet are a walled garden; people who have traveled off the beaten track in China tell me that the only people in the world less likely to know a foreign language are Americans; Chinese are not allowed to “just travel” because of the way foreign travel is managed; and finally the very success of China in the past 20 years leads the average Chinese to say “See our system works and is superior”, which was the basic attitude of Americans between 1945 and 1960, a time when WW II had destroyed most of our competitors so American seemed to be “Advancing on all fronts”… until the victims of WW II got back on their feet.

    My greatest fear is that the Chinese leadership is as arrogant and out-of-touch today as America’s leadership was in 1960.

  5. Boomheist

    I spent a fair amount of time in China 2004-2009 (19 trips, once spending a month in Dalian studying the language at Dalian Maritime Academy) all having to do with ports and trade issues, and even in that short slice of time was astonished at how things changed visit by visit as regards infrastructure and building development. One thing we in the United States don’t think about is that one reason those nations we defeated in WW2 came back so quickly is they had had their infrastructure leveled with bombing, and so were able to rebuild a modern 20th century system (Japan, Germany) which was more efficient than the United State’s early 20th Century system (the latest being the Interstate highway system in the 1950s to 1970s). Now it is the 21st century and China has, unique among great nations, essentially built a brand new 21st century system directly from a medieval system of ploughs and rice paddies. And we, in the United States, having not suffered a war on domestic soil since the 1`860s, must live with the creaky infrastructure systems built between then and now. It makes a difference.

    My father spent a year in China in 1934, studying wild panda in the bamboo forests above the city of Chengdu in central China, I think supported by the American Museum of Natural history. To get there they went up rivers on junks, were attacked by bandits, and passed very close to Mao’s insurgent army on their Long March.

    In 2008 I was in Shanghai and during one lunch talk turned to the Long March and Chinese history. This was back when survivors of the Long March still were alive and hearty, and when I realized that many of China’s leaders today are sons or grandsons (mostly men) of Long March members. They are called “princelings” I believe. Xi Zing Ping is a princeling – his father was one of the original Communist Party members and likely on the first Long March. When talk turned to the Long March one of my lunch companions, himself a minor Princeling, leaned over and gestured outside the window where construction cranes rose like a forest all over the city.

    “This is our new Long March,” he said, smiling. I think, for the leadership, and perhaps for the people as well, the narrative that began a century ago with Mao and the start of the Long March, that multi-year struggle in the wilderness to seize the country, continues, but the Long March now is not taking a nation but creating an enduring national structure far into the future.

    1. coboarts

      Perhaps we should quit kissing the a$$e$ of princes everywhere and throw it all to the ground (burnt) and build it without ism’s and ist’s – just make it work for the people through – statehood – I propose the state of Uqbar, for the third stone from the sun

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    Xi and America’s anti-American ruling elites share support for globalization. The purpose of globalization is to make America as poor as Haiti. Xi is afraid of America running off the Corporate Globalonial Plantation before China and America’s anti-American elite have jointly looted every last thing there is to loot from America.

    I do not care how Xi feels about an American Protectionist Survival movement, if we ever develop one. I also don’t care about the false goal of America being “number one” or “leading the world” or other such shiny squirrel objects. I also don’t care about the feeling of America’s anti-American traitors for Free Trade against America. I want to see the country move towards being a United States of Autarkamerica, trading as little as feasible with the outside world, and reducing trade with the Slave Labor /Pollution/ anti-standards/ etc. Havens of the world to zero in either direction.

    If the entire rest of the world wants to be China’s raw materials and captive markets Hinterland and let China be the entire rest of the world’s Colonial Metropole Master, that is the entire rest of the world’s perfect right. It is America’s perfect right to survive separately, if we can delete from power those anti-American Americans who support Free Trade against American survival and recovery.

    1. MonkeyBusiness

      The founding fathers were always wary of foreign entanglement. The thing is America got rich producing stuff for the Brits, and without WWII, who knows how the economy would have recovered from the Great Depression.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And then we got poor Free Trading and Globalizationalizing with the rest of the world in our own day.
        If you think America is rich, ask any of the millions of Americans who aren’t.

        I remember when Bill Clinton made his ” building a bridge to the 21st century” speech. The very first thing I thought was ” I wonder how many people will be sleeping under Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century.”

        1. MonkeyBusiness

          I live in America. I have a good job, but I know I am lucky. All am I saying is that America did not get rich on its own. Could it have done so? Maybe?

          The thing about America being a country of immigrants is that you have people coming in bringing all sorts of ideas, both new and old. Some of the old ideas were bad and are still bad like the old class system and yes there are classes in America. I first arrived in this country almost at the end of the 20th century. I still remember how I felt after living here for a full year … “this could actually be home”. But now, ……

  7. Susan the other

    I liked Xi’s willingness to tell the Western world all this basic stuff about China. Kind of like a Chinese State of the Union speech. He is a master at being un-offensive. It all makes sense to me, especially his metaphor that the river is big and even though there may be obstructions it will keep on flowing. Because it is the natural course of history. I do think he is right and also that China’s attitude about equality will be a very important aspect to the direction not just China takes, but the world. His plea for the Olympics to be attended and appreciated was interesting in light of the fact that the last Chinese Olympics was widely promoted by the US – in fact I got the feeling that we held off letting the world know about the fall of Lehman until after the Olympics that year. And the best part of Xi’s speech/letter was his accounting on the environment – the Chinese natural environment is as precious as silver and gold. And China is organizing the world’s largest network of national parks. Very encouraging.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      That was Xi’s way of saying that Globalization and Free Trade are irresistible forces of nature. That is what Bill Clinton said before he made a poLITICal deCISion to FORCE free trade and globalization into total command by forcing America into the iron spiderweb of Free Trade Agreements and Memberships. That was just Xi Borg-Collective’s way of saying ” You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” in hopes of exerting the kind of psychological manipulation control to “make it so”.

      America can re-protectionise and de-globalize any time we can destroy our ruling elites from existence so they are no longer alive to keep us from re-protectionizing and de-globalizing. We are a big enough country to re-autarkify our society after enduring several decades of ” no trade” pain and deprivation, like China endured. Once we recover at the lower level permitted by our depleted resources and by the cinder block ceiling of global warming, we can maintain just enough armed forces to exterminate any attempt to force us back into the Free Trade System and force us back onto the Corporate Globalonial Plantation.

      I think a good article to read about this subject would be Ian Welsh’s comment about China’s political economic plans for the future . . .

      1. Susan the other

        I don’t think China is sinister. No more sinister than any other country. Just bigger. Much bigger. And Xi’s biggest problem is keeping China held together by a benign government. A year ago when Xi was being rebuffed by the US/allies; having trade problems with Australia, being patrolled in the South China Sea by the Germans; in a big face off over Hong Kong and Taiwan (one argument they thought had already been resolved) and the Uyghurs too – Xi appealed to Putin for help. I assume the help Xi needed was reassurance that the border between those two countries would be friendly and essential trade would continue, i.e. oil from Russia. Xi actually, in his frustration, told Putin that Putin was his “best friend.” It looks like it had unfolded this way: Clinton saw a golden opportunity in the China trade – our most neoliberal leaders threw us to the wolves in order to make their profits in China. China was willing to go along because 1.5 billion people are hard to feed, etc. But after a decade of suicide, the US began to feel the heat at home – everyone in the country hated the government for its betrayal – and efforts to make China the source of extraction failed because China kept a wise distance from the profiteers. Only then did Obama (so almost 20 years of domestic destruction) “pivot” from the Middle East back to the Pacific. Our addiction to China’s manufactured goods wasn’t so easy to shut down because it required massive investments in our own industries, getting them up and running again. That is most likely the only reason we did not confront China more aggressively. We are the ones who were preparing (at that point) for a Cold War. And China was quick to follow suit. So pointing the finger at China and saying They are preparing for cold war is like Blinken pointing his crooked little finger at Russia and saying Russia is going to invade Ukraine. Faced with the enormous and super aggressive random variable that is the US Military, who wouldn’t prepare for war?

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Great summary: accurate and comprehensive and short.


          I often wonder “what comes next?”.

          Top down, the answer seems to be “more of the same”. Elections? Hah. Bip or Bop, Blue or Red, just different cars on the Stupid Train.

          Bottom-up? Well, that’s much more interesting, and way more fun.

  8. massny

    The CCP has created a social credit system that must be the envy of totalitarian leaders everywhere. At what point will every Chinese citizen be required to carry or be implanted with, a device that will monitor their lives? They are already doing some of this under the covid measures. They have no rule of law that can not be superseded by CCP elites. They have put increasingly larger demands for territorial rights on their neighbors. They deny their citizens any media narrative that doesn’t tow the party line. Despite green rhetoric, the CCP announced in 2021 plans to build 43 coal plants and 18 blast furnaces. They allowed the easy spread of Covid to the rest of the world at the same time transportation was shut down in China. They thwarted efforts to slow the pandemic and understand the nature of the virus. All this under the “unoffensive” leadership of XI.

    1. MonkeyBusiness

      “At what point will every Chinese citizen be required to carry or be implanted with, a device that will monitor their lives?”

      I have to laugh at this.
      1. Vblogging is a HUGE industry in China. It’s just like our young people here, i.e. lots of Chinese people don’t care about privacy. They would happily broadcast their lives 24/7.
      2. You can use cell phones to pretty much do ANYTHING in China. Make payment at the wet market? Check. Checking into the subway? Check.

      I don’t want to live in China (I don’t want to live in America either), but I’ve said this before to another poster, but Chinese people might be looking at the issues of privacy and control differently than how Westerners might view them. The thing is the Chinese have made life very convenient for people with access to cellphones. Also, why don’t you go to Youtube and check out a couple of videos from Western people who are living in China? Inevitably, they too will say that life is very convenient AND SAFE in China.

      1. Jeff

        life is very convenient AND SAFE in China

        Unless you’re a repressed minority in a reeducation camp, work camp or otherwise a modern slave, amirite?

        1. MonkeyBusiness

          Breaking News, the Chinese will be leaving Xinjiang as soon as every single white person has left America and returned these lands to the Native Indians.

          It’s clear that the lesson to learn from America is to just wait 400 years until everyone else has forgotten all the atrocities your ancestors have committed.

          Am I rite?

          1. massny

            You are not “rite”. You are awful. Atrocities historically have been committed by almost every group. By your reasoning any atrocity can be excused because “history”.

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