Monday, 11 July 2011

Anatoly Karlin's Top Ten Sinophobe Myths

Big thanks to an eagle-eyed Splintered Sunrise for sending me Anatoly Karlin's demolition of a slew of hates, hopes and wishful thinking about China. In his Top Ten Sinophobe Myths he refutes what much of the Western liberal press have been breathlessly chanting like a mantra since the sleeping dragon yawned, had a stretch and rubbed the gunk out of its eyes.

Anatoly's Myth No 1 is the old chestnut about China's disregard for intellectual property curbing innovation. 'Fraid even that was nicked — the West got there first with, among other things, the stealing of China's highly profitable tea plants (camellia sinensis) to grow in India.
Anatoly says:
Throughout history, many successful developers, such as Germany and Britain, flouted IP rights and funded industrial espionage to modernize their economies. They only started praising the virtues of IP rights when they got rich to protect their own new interests.

After all, who invented James Bond, spy extraordinaire?

The Ten Myths contains some nuggets. F'rinstance, I wasn't aware that China's infamous corruption, while a blight on any society, let alone a socialist one, is on a par with Japan in terms of proportion of population who've paid bribes. Though, as reminder of how bad it undoubtedly is, in a Facebook discussion I had recently, Professor Gregor Benton commented:
... a report released by China’s central bank said corrupt Chinese officials smuggled an estimated $123.6 billion out of the country over a 15-year period. Apparently 17,000 Communist party cadres, police, judicial officers and state-owned enterprise executives fled the country between the mid-1990s and 2008. Higher-ranking officials who absconded with money had the US as their favourite destination, followed by Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. Those who couldn't get visas went to eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, to await a chance to remigate to a 'better' destination. Lower-ranking officials went to countries bordering China, or to Hong Kong. For those read Chinese, the report is abridged here

In answer to the assertion that "the Communist Party suppresses all freedom of thought, which will inevitable lead to stagnation, regional rifts, and pro-freedom uprisings", Anatoly says:
First, the idea that the CCP truly suppresses free thought nowadays is a bit quaint. There are plenty of think-tanks – more than in the US – that are discussing exciting new concepts such as deliberative democracy, Comprehensive National Power, and new ways of measuring economic growth.

Personally, I do think China could do with loosening up somewhat. But, then, who is without sin? (Oh, stop hyperventilating about "moral equivalence" and grow a funny bone before you cast that rock.) I remember freedom of thought being suppressed in The Guardian only at the end of 2009 with the collapse of the Copenhagen climate change summit, When the exposé of the Danish Text — a secret stitch-up by the wealthy nations — threatened Western credibility, Ed Miliband, Mark Lynas and others deflected attention by accusing China of being the arch-villain polluter of the planet. Since then, Miliband has checked his facts and now praises China for the strides it's made in green technology while we are still barely off the starting block. But you try saying that online at The Guardian in late 2009 and see where it got you.

Anatoly says: "For instance, in response to its reliance on coal China invested in renewable energy manufacturing capacity and now produces half the world’s wind turbines and solar panels." and " So it jailed Liu Xiaobo for 11 years (who claims China would be better off under colonialism). But in the meantime, the Marxist activist Binayak Sen got life imprisonment in India, and the US is waging a campaign to shut down Wikileaks and imprison Julian Assange. No talk of a Nobel Peace Prize for those two." So nyah!

As for the myth that China is still Third World, he points out:
This is belied by fairly basic statistics. A country with 67% cell phone penetration, 36% Internet penetration, and more cars sold per year than in the US as of 2009 cannot be “Third World” be definition. Nor does a literacy rate of 97% or an infant mortality rate of 16/1000 jive with this description.

I don't agree with everything Karlin writes but he certainly has the drop on Western hypocrisy here.

Perhaps we can now have a grown-up debate with an informed critique of the new superpower rather than the usual yellow peril shriekage of late. Sinophobes, rebutt the refutation all you like. Just, purdy puhleaze, know what you are talking about first.

(Artwork of Madam Miaow by John Mendelsohn)

1 comment:

akarlin said...

Hello, I'm Anatoly Karlin.

Thanks for the prop. Just to be clear, I don't consider that political repression in China is comparable to that of the West (or indeed most other countries).

I'd also estimate that overall corruption is worse than in the US and Japan - e.g. the incidence of bribe giving may be low (at least according to the Global Corruption Barometer figures), but higher level corruption seems more prevalent in China (though we can't really know because the judiciary and mass media are not independent, and budget transparency is very low).

That said, I agree with you that the Western media coverage of China is very slanted and basically (1) exaggerates everything, or invents things outright - e.g. the export dependency myth, and/or (2) latches on to anything it can that could conceivably "prove" that China will collapse soon (e.g. China's bad loans, whereas the situation in the West is far worse in that respect). In this respect it has many similarities with the way the Western media covers Russia, constantly ranting on about how Putin is a dictator who is bringing the country to collapse any day now.

This is why I was motivated to write the Sinophobe myths article. In a way it's as one-sided as the media coverage I (we?) rant about but as that same mass media proves "balance" doesn't win you mass readership. It's a diametrical response to the MSM's biases.