I just returned from a ten-day visit to Beijing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the blog.
It appears that the Chinese are weathering the economic slowdown fairly well. In the U.S., politicians on the left constantly meddle with markets and expand the debt to buy votes, and the consequences have been devastating. Chinese politicians enjoy single party rule; they are not subject to a free and independent press, not to mention talk radio. Our open government approach creates serious problems when so many Americans are recipients of transferred wealth from the productive class. It takes vigilance to defend liberty, while Marxism festers with incessant emotional appeals to class envy.
The Chinese don’t have the type debt problems we have in the U.S. Consumers buy what they can afford, only borrowing for big ticket items like a house (apartment) or car. The government is more interested in holding U.S. debt than incurring its own. An estimated 150 million Chinese live below the global poverty level, but they are not in a good position to seek redress from their political leadership.
Wealth redistribution is central to communism, but I really didn’t see any more of it in China than in the U.S. Beijing has more than its share of inequality, while the professional class lives pretty well. Reasonable health care and decent housing by U.S. standards are still hard to come by for many Chinese families, especially those outside of the large cities where poverty is a major problem.
The Chinese government blocks a number of websites outside of the U.S. for political reasons. Major U.S. news sources like FOX and CNN are available. I was able to log in to Sirius online, and to the major conservative talk show sites I tested as well (Church, Hannity, Levin, Limbaugh, Wilkow) as well. BATTLE4LIBERTY is blocked, however.
The list of sites blocked for political reasons is not always rational, but is often tied to particular comments posted on a particular site or to the use of certain phrases picked up by webcrawlers. This is unfortunate in the case of BATTLE4LIBERTY. I do my best to analyze the Chinese economy as objectively as possible, and the people I work with there are certainly warm and friendly. Relations between the U.S. and Chinese governments have their tense moments, but they have moved far beyond what they were a couple of decades ago. I may be a frequent critic of economic and social policy in China, but it’s not like my own government hasn’t created enough problems of its own.
The truth is that many of the economic challenges we have with China have been facilitated by poor U.S. policy and too much economic intervention. The ongoing problem with the dollar-yuan exchange rate in a good example; the Chinese government is pursuing a policy it believes to be in its best long term interest, while we lack the resolve to take a strong position and defend a fundamental principle of free trade. While I was there, the Chinese government instituted a tariff on U.S. poultry imports. They cited “dumping” that was “unfairly harming Chinese agriculture.” Go figure.
I always enjoy traveling to China and I learn a lot when I’m there, but it’s good to be home. One thing is true: I love my country, but I must say that it’s getting harder to preach the merits of free markets in China these days with a straight face.