The economic battle of the 21st century is between India and China, with the US and Europe on the sidelines and South America and Africa outside the stadium. Mark Steyn, among others, thinks India will win because China is still too embroiled in the fascist/communist mindset:
Mao, though he gets a better press than Hitler and Stalin, was the biggest mass murderer of all time, with a body count ten times’ higher than the Nazis (as Jung Chang’s new biography reminds us). The standard line of Sinologists is that, while still perfunctorily genuflecting to his embalmed corpse in Tiananmen Square, his successors have moved on – just as, in Austin Powers, while Dr Evil is in suspended animation, his Number Two diversifies the consortium’s core business away from evildoing and reorients it toward a portfolio of investments including a chain of premium coffee stores. But Maoists with stock options are still Maoists – especially when they owe their robust portfolios to a privileged position within the state apparatus.
The internal contradictions of Commie-capitalism will, in the end, scupper the present arrangements in Beijing. China manufactures the products for some of the biggest brands in the world, but it’s also the biggest thief of copyrights and patents of those same brands. It makes almost all Disney’s official merchandising, yet it’s also the country that defrauds Disney and pirates its movies. The new China’s contempt for the concept of intellectual property arises from the old China’s contempt for the concept of all private property: because most big Chinese businesses are (in one form or another) government-controlled, they’ve failed to understand the link between property rights and economic development.
China hasn’t invented or discovered anything of significance in half a millennium, but the careless assumption that intellectual property is something to be stolen rather than protected shows why. If you’re a resource-poor nation (as China is), long-term prosperity comes from liberating the creative energies of your people – and Beijing still has no interest in that. If a blogger attempts to use the words “freedom” or “democracy” or “Taiwan independence” on Microsoft’s new Chinese internet portal, he gets the message: “This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech.” How pathetic is that? Not just for the Microsoft-spined Corporation, which should be ashamed of itself, but for the Chinese government, which pretends to be a world power but is terrified of words.
Does “Commie wimps” count as forbidden speech, too? And what is the likelihood of China advancing to a functioning modern stand-alone business culture if it’s unable to discuss anything except within its feudal political straitjackets? Its speech code is a sign not of control but of weakness; its internet protective blocks are not the armour but the, er, chink.
India, by contrast, with much less ballyhoo, is advancing faster than China toward a fully-developed economy – one that creates its own ideas. Small example: there are low-fare airlines that sell £40 one-way cross-country air tickets from computer screens at Indian petrol stations. No one would develop such a system for China, where internal travel is still tightly controlled by the state. But, because they respect their own people as a market, Indian businesses are already proving nimbler at serving other markets. The return on investment capital is already much better in India than in China.
Roger Simon, who’s been brilliant lately, takes Microsoft to task for playing along with China’s new speech code, forbidding the use of such terms as “democracy” and “demonstration” on blogs:
How pathetic is Bill Gates – what a moral weakling. I didn’t realize he was such a coward.
BTW, I can’t imagine any self-respecting blogger would even consider using MSN Spaces while this policy continues. That would be cooperating with totalitarianism, obviously the antithesis of what we are trying to do. (hat tip: Wichita Boy)
Here’s your Financial Times account of the censorship:
Microsoft’s new Chinese internet portal has banned the words “democracy” and “freedom” from parts of its website in an apparent effort to avoid offending Beijing’s political censors.
Users of the joint-venture portal, formally launched last month, have been blocked from using a range of potentially sensitive words to label personal websites they create using its free online blog service, MSN Spaces.
Attempts to input words in Chinese such as “democracy” prompted an error message from the site: “This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item.” Other phrases banned included the Chinese for “demonstration”, “democratic movement” and “Taiwan independence”.
China: unrepentant worship of the world’s worst mass-murderer; perpetrator of genocide in Tibet and mass murder of protesters at Tiananmen Square; thief of intellectual property and suppressor of political speech.
Who can defend this mess?