Spin, Mao, Spin

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From a description of the Chinese National People's Congress in today's New York Times:

The national chamber of private businesses warned the legislature that the lack of secure property rights was forcing investors to send money abroad. The Congress should, it said, "make it clear that property is a citizen's basic right and give state protection to citizens' legitimate private property rights."

A group of 30 legislators from Guangdong, the booming southeastern coastal province, called for a constitutional amendment making private property "sacrosanct and inviolable."

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  1. I think it essentially worked with the USSR

  2. And do sanctions do any better, joe?

  3. Who said anything about trading with a dictatorship? Don’t trade with the government, trade with the citizens.

  4. Translation: China’s gangsters and new business class (which overlap) have now accumulated so much money that they’re itching to get the government (which in turn overlaps with the business class and he gangsters) to auction off land and buildings outright.

    It looks like China’s Communist Party is continuing along the very successful path they set on back in the late ’80s: divvying up the country’s assets amongst themselves just like Russia, but without giving up poilitical power like that danged fool Gorbachev.

  5. But Russ, the government and “citizens” (you mean corporations) are one and the same in China. I’m all for letting peasants buy bags of our fertilizer with no middle man, but I’m pretty sure the middle man has other ideas.

  6. joe, you made it sound like the “middle man” is the “front man”, like the head of state approves every purchase order and sales order. You cleared that up, so fine.

    The middle man (government) always gets his cut. When you buy a bag of fertilizer at your favorite store, the US government middlemen have already gotten (or will get) their cuts.

  7. IMHO this is very good news.

    I?ve traveled to China a couple of times for business over the past year and have spent some time in the cities of Guangdong province as well as in Beijing. To me, the whole place was just an amazing bustle of business activity, shopping, and eating. I saw a ton of what I would consider average, hi-tech type workers that were pretty well off and lived lives that are very similar to mine. One of my friends in Beijing just emailed me to say that he had purchased an apartment. I haven?t got all the details yet, but I heard from another source that a purchase is something like a 70-year lease on a piece of property (I need to verify all the details).

    In my mind, property rights are going to be something that will make or break that country. Creation and enforcement of these rights are something the middle class city folks are going to start demanding, especially as more and more Westerners influence the average person. And it is the only thing that?s going to alleviate the poverty found in the countryside, where most of the population still resides. Even if this is a CCP money-making scheme, it will still help a great number of people

  8. Indonesia is an example of where trading with a country turned it into a democracy. The 1997 protests leading to the resignation of President Suharto were carried out by students – whose existence was only made possible by the presence of an emerging middle class. Indonesia still has a lot of problems of course, and it took 30 years to work – but that’s still better than Cuba.

  9. So….have they been imprisoned yet?

  10. Now if we can only get Congress to pass an amendment for our constitution.

  11. I’m sure civil liberties won’t be far behind. Yep. Any day now.

  12. The best way to defeat communism is to give the people a taste of the alternative. We should’ve put a McDonalds, Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret in Hanoi, is what we should’ve done.

  13. Scott,

    I hear this argument a lot – that trading with a dictatorship (Cuba and China, usually) will turn it into a democracy. Could anyone please point out an example of when this actually worked? We opened up trade with Japan in the 19th century, and it just turned them into a more powerful, dangerous dictatorship.

  14. >>I’m sure civil liberties won’t be far behind. Yep. Any day now.

  15. >>I’m all for free markets–the freer the better–but this ain’t it.

  16. If what made the US such a fine and relatively “free market” was the articulation and encoding of pro-freedom tenets into written, and supposedly inviolable, form (i.e, our Constitution) then please click the “Back” button and re-read Jacob Sullum’s original post.

    Because isn’t this EXACTLY what China is now attempting to do? Encoding pro-freedom tenets into basic law? So what’s the suspicion for?What’s all this griping about?

  17. I thought what made the US such a relatively free market was that the Revolution’s generation inherited a fully-functioning capitalist and private-ownership system from the Dutch and English colonial goverments, and then when enough people outside the government and its affiliates got rich and powerful enough, they waged the revolution in order to get rid of some specific taxes and trade regulations (the framework we call “mercantilism”) that were getting in the way of further growth of their businesses.

    The disenfranchised majority–the artisans, tenant farmers and everyone else who didn’t own land–generally didn’t give a damn about the revolution, unless promises of free land (either seized from Tories, which ended up not really happening, or seized from Indians, which did) were thrown into the mix.

  18. I beg to differ, Mr. Koppelman. What made the US such a relatively free market was A CERTAIN PHILOSOPHY.

    What you’re talking about is various actions based on an “old school” European way of thinking.

    What I’m talking about is a rational PHILOSOPHY OF LIBERTY that was encoded into our founding documents.

  19. The only thing that’s made that “philosophy of liberty” trickle down over the centuries is threat of protracted social unrest or another revolution–first by small landowners, then by tenant farmers, by indentured servants, by landless urban tradespeople, by slaves, by trade unionists, by women and so forth.

    If you think the swarms of infantrymen serving under Generals Washington et al were motivated by Tom Paine’s pamphlets more than they were by conscription at bayonet point or by the promise of three square meals a day and a monthly paycheck or a land grant that would pull them up from grinding wartime poverty, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.

    Those middle-school history textbooks sure do a good job, don’t they?

  20. Maybe YOU are thinking in terms of middle school, Sir. I’m looking at a much larger picture here.

    Surely there were the same elements of “small landowners, tenant farmers, indentured servants, landless urban tradespeople, slaves, trade unionists, women, etc.” in RUSSIA, in pre-Napoleonic FRANCE, in the Middle East, in the Far East — but those elements did NOT stir up the same results we got here in the U.S., did it. (Far from it.)

    And that is why I believe you keep missing the point.

    That point is: no matter what the MEANS, it is the MOTIVE and rationale that undergirded those actions, that gave us what we have today. It was a well-articulated philosophy set down on paper. Something that had never happened on this planet before.

    (Wish they WOULD teach that in middle school.)

  21. S. M. Koppelman:

    You’re probably right–China is on the way to being a kleptocracy like the former USSR. They are not exposed to the “free market” through trade; rather, Chinese elites are working hand in glove with state capitalist global corporations and with the global financial elites running the WTO, etc. The sweatshop manufacturers who service Wal-Mart, etc., are there precisely BECAUSE there is an authoritarian political regime that will act in collusion with foreign capital and repress labor organizers–same reason they locate in Central American death squad regimes.

    The collusion between the commissars of this “workers’ paradise” and the foreign corporations reminds me of the meeting between the pigs and the neighboring farmers in Animal Farm: “They looked from the men to the pigs, and from the pigs to the men, and couldn’t tell the difference.”

    I’m all for free markets–the freer the better–but this ain’t it.

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