One of the biggest stories of recent days was the crash of the Chinese stock market. It drew headlines around the world, but not in China. The state-run media made sure that the news was safely hidden from view. As journalist Frank Langfitt noted in an interview on August 29:
Well, it was interesting, because, initially – in the first couple of days – there was hardly any coverage at all. Take the People’s Daily – that’s the Communist Party mouthpiece – on Tuesday, when it came out – and keep in mind, on Monday, the stock had dropped over 8 percent – the stock market – and it was the worst since the global financial crisis. But if you looked at the front page of the People’s Daily, it didn’t have anything. There was a headline about a government development project in Tibet and a feature on how beautiful Haikou, this city in Hainan – China’s Hawaii – is. When you turn to CCTV – that’s China Central Television – their lead story was a press conference on plans for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. So it was as though it actually didn’t happen.
Those who were prepared to believe that China was poised to take over the world got a lesson in reality this past week. But I wasn’t surprised. I never trusted anything the Chinese government or corporations said about anything. There’s just no transparency there; you can’t trust the numbers. The culture of scamming, lying, and greed is so deeply embedded that it will never be shaken.
A country can never achieve greatness when its citizens refuse to respect the rule of law, refuse to follow the rules of civilized behavior, and refuse to put the common good ahead of their own petty greed.
I’m not impressed with China. From what I’ve seen, there’s no social glue holding the fabric of the society together. At the end of the day, there is an absolutist authoritarian system running the show that is deeply and irredeemably corrupt. There are schemes on top of schemes, and scams on top of scams, and you’re never going to be able to trust the numbers that they feed you.
I agree with Donald Trump on his point. Regarding China, he has said, “They’re killing us on trade. They’re laughing at us. They have geniuses negotiating for them, and we have idiots.” He notes—correctly—that China has destroyed US industry with the active collusion of the business class here in America. In other words, the rich in America sold out their own country’s economy, and dismantled its manufacturing base, to make an easy buck with China.
To anyone with a sense of national pride, this is intolerable.
I see the same thing in Brazil, a country I visit often and means a great deal to me. In one recent trip, I was on a date with a girl who had tried to set up a clothing store in her city. But she just couldn’t compete with the Chinese product dumping. The Chinese use networks of immigrants (many illegal) to import huge shipping containers full of junk, and sell it at rock-bottom prices to destroy their competition.
The Brazilian government could care less, as long as customs officials get their payoff. Meanwhile the girl I knew lost all her savings trying to keep her business afloat.
It’s the same story all around the world. One of the more incredible examples is China’s canal project in Nicaragua. A Chinese company (Hong Kong Nicaragua Development Group) is currently preparing to dig a canal through Nicaragua, in order to short-circuit the American monopoly on the Panama canal. The scale of the project is staggering. It will be three times as long and twice as deep as the Panama canal, and will require the removal of over 4.5 billion cubic meters of earth.
It goes without saying that the environmental consequences will be disastrous. HKND plans to begin near the mouth of the Punta Gorda River, and then cut a channel along 55 miles of the river. It will create, in the process, a 153 square mile reservoir. It will then go another 23 miles into Lake Nicaragua, and from there another 20 miles to the Pacific.
The whole project reeks of corruption and insider dealing. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista leader, heads the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Ortega’s chief liaison with HKND is his own son, Laureano Ortega Murillo, who conducted secret meetings with the company in 2012 and earlier.
There was no bidding process. The CEO of HKND, a telecom billionaire named Wang Jing, has zero experience in engineering projects. And this canal is set to be one of the biggest in history. Wang claims to have no ties with the Chinese government, but I don’t believe that for a second.
At Ortega’s instigation, the Nicaraguan National Assembly “approved” the creation of a Nicaraguan Canal Authority, giving HKND exclusive control over the canal zone. But the concession gives Wang much more. He has rights to build nearly anything that is related to the canal: airports, free-trade zones, highways, railways, oil pipelines, and anything else.
The concession is a major blow to the country’s sovereignty. Nicaraguan law will not apply in the canal zone, HKND will handle its own security, possibly in partnership with the Russians. The Nicaraguan government is trying to sell the whole project to the world by proclaiming how many “jobs” it will create, but the numbers are plucked from the sky.
Ortega, essentially, has sold out his country’s economic future to the Chinese. Sound familiar? I’m sure the payoff was substantial.
What’s even more absurd about all this is that there is no need for another canal in the region. The Panama Canal is almost finished with a major renovation; it can handle all shipping needs in the region for the foreseeable future.
But this hardly matters, since the Chinese canal project was never about rationality, it was about control. It was about gaining a commercial toehold in the Americas as a platform for commercial plunder and exploitation. The same game it is playing in Africa. And local leaders have just handed them the keys to the kingdom.
Not to be trusted
I know there will be readers who dismiss this article as an anti-China diatribe. So be it. But I don’t trust the Chinese government, its business elites, or its corporations. I see them as an army of scammers and plunderers swarming around the world, who profit from the stupidity and venality of the local elites. If anything, this is a diatribe against our own leaders here in the Americas.
Our own leaders have sold us out, in this as in so many other things. They do nothing while our industry gets outsourced, dismantled, or bought out. I blame our leaders, I blame Latin American leaders, and I blame Brazilian leaders for selling their people out to Chinese money. They took the easy road, they took the quick payoff, and that was all they cared about.
This is not the stuff that great nations are made of. There’s nothing wrong with commerce, and there’s nothing wrong with seeking profits. That’s what industry was built on. But China takes things to an extreme. In China, money is God. To me, its people have embraced greed and mendacity in business dealings to a terrible extent, to the detriment of everything else.
And this is why China, for all of its supposed economic “prowess,” will never be a truly great global power. Man needs a spiritual center, a moral structure born of civilized values, to sustain him. Without this, he is nothing but an avaricious barbarian. Western values are superior to Chinese values, if only we can regain our confidence and sense of mission.
The Chinese government and business leaders have sold their souls to the idolatry of cash. And this is why their cities are drowning in pollution and poisonous gases, why their government and leaders are corrupt, and why money is worshipped as a god. Until this changes, we should be very, very alert in our dealings with them.
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