The China Fantasy

Here is an excerpt from the 2007 book
The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression
by James Mann.

[pages 66-67, the end of Chapter 3]

Foreign investment in China brings in huge new sources of money
to the emerging elites in China’s major cities.
It enriches
the Chinese consultants who provide advice to Western companies,
the Chinese entrepreneurs who start up new businesses,
and, often, the Communist Party cadres
who approve loans or grant licenses to Chinese business ventures
(which, not infrequently,
are run by the children or friends of the party cadres).
These elites need to keep Chinese wage levels low,
so that the foreign investors keep flooding into China.
They have an interest in repressing political dissent
so that the country looks quiet and stable to prospective investors.
Needless to say, the Chinese business elites strongly support
perpetuating the existing state of affairs for as long as possible.

Similarly, American elites are content with the status quo.

It enables American firms to shift manufacturing operations to China,
where labor costs are low
and corporate leaders don’t have to worry about
independent trade unions.

[Nor the need to provide their employees with super-expensive health insurance.]

To be sure, the American and Chinese business elites
do not always see eye to eye.
American companies sometimes complain that
their Chinese partners are ripping off their designs
or diverting money from a joint venture.
The Chinese executives complain that
Americans fail to understand China’s culture
or the intricate ways in which the Chinese system works.
But these are disputes over business operations.
In the larger sense, the Chinese and American elites
share a common interest in the existing economic order, in which
China serves as
the world’s low-wage, high-volume
all-purpose manufacturing center.

Thus, on the surface it looks as if
middle-class Americans are identifying with middle-class Chinese,
dreaming that the Chinese, too,
will one day insist on a choice of political candidates
the way they are now able to select from
a range of lattes and mochas at Starbucks.
Look beneath the surface, however,
and you will find a more troubling reality.
The business communities of China and the United States
do not harbor these dreams of democracy.
Both profit from a Chinese system that permits no political opposition,
and—for now, at least—both are content with it.

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