“Peak China” – a new low in Western attempts to persuade China to commit suicide / By John Ross

Image credit: The Economist, May 11, 2023

Posted in MR Online on May 23, 2023

One of the latest covers of the magazine The Economist carries a headline “Peak China”. This, as its name suggests, is a claim that while during the last seven decades China’s has enjoyed a peaceful “rise”, specifically in relation to the U.S., this has now ended:

Whereas a decade ago forecasters predicted that China’s GDP would zoom past America’s during the mid-21st century (at market exchange rates) and retain a commanding lead, now a much less dramatic shift is in the offing, resulting in something closer to economic parity… One view is that Chinese power will fall relative to that of its rivals… The Peak China thesis rests on the… observation that certain tailwinds are turning to headwinds… All of this is dampening long-run forecasts of China’s economic potential. Twelve years ago Goldman Sachs thought China’s GDP would overtake America’s… and become over 50% larger by mid-century. Last year it revised that prediction, saying China would… peak at less than 15% bigger. Others are more gloomy. Capital Economics, a research firm, argues that the country’s economy will never become top dog, instead peaking at 90% of America’s size in 2035… the most plausible ones [of these projections] seem to agree that China and America will approach economic parity in the next decade or so—and remain locked in this position for decades to come.

| Will China be next | MR Online

The first reaction, was really to literally laugh at what, as will be seen, was the latest of decades long wildly inaccurate predictions by The Economist regarding China. Indeed, the record shows that probably a good working guide to what will happen in China is to take what The Economist says and assume that the opposite will occur! Second, to reflect on what are the deep reasons for such a combination of ignorance and arrogance that it leads to a refusal to make any balance sheet of entirely wrong analyses repeated for these decades but when it still claims to be taken seriously on an issue on which it has such a provenly lamentable record. As the latter applies not only to The Economist but to many other Western publications that make similar claims it will be returned to at the end of this article.

The Economist on China and the Asian Financial Crisis

First, however, in order to avoid any suggestion that we are misrepresenting The Economist, let us factually establish its prolonged inaccuracies on China. Similarly, to avoid any suggestion of seizing on incidental or secondary remarks, taken out of context, which do not represent the central views of the publication, only front pages, and special supplements, that is the journal’s most important publications, on China will be used.

| Out of Puff | MR Online

A suitably distant starting point is to go back 25 years to The Economist’s analysis of China and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. The Economist’s front page on 24 October 1998, referring to this, was “Will China be next?” Inside it posed the question: “whether China’s growth is slowing or even grinding to a halt… yes”. It then posed the question:

whether the resulting unemployment will prompt political unrest, or a power struggle among the leadership… yes.

In fact, as is well known, China was fundamentally economically stable during the Asian financial crisis. There was no unemployment leading to political unrest, let alone a “power struggle”. In short, The Economist was completely inaccurate.

The Economist “out of puff”

Moving ahead four years, on 15 June 2002 The Economist published a a special supplement on China. This had the title “A Dragon Out of Puff”—a self-explanatory analysis. Its conclusion on China was the following:

the economy still relies primarily on domestic engines of growth, which are sputtering. Growth over the last five years has relied heavily on massive government spending. As a result, the government’s debt is rising fast. Coupled with the banks’ bad loans and the state’s huge pension liabilities, this is a financial crisis in the making… In the coming decade, therefore, China seems set to become more unstable. It will face growing unrest as unemployment mounts. And if growth were to slow significantly, public confidence could collapse, triggering a run on banks.

| How India | MR Online's growth will outpace china's

Turning from The Economist’s analysis to reality, what actually happened in the decade that followed was simple. China’s economy from 2002-2012 expanded by a total of 173% or an annual average of 10.5%. For comparison, in the same decade world GDP grew by a total 37%, or an annual average 3.2%. The U.S. grew by 21% or an annual average of 1.9%. In summary, China’s GDP grew 4.7 time as much as the world average and 8.4 times as time as much as the U.S.

And this is supposed to be China “out of puff”? It is just known as The Economist being hilariously wrong.

The Economist wrong on China and India

Let us now turn to another major sortie of The Economist into analysing China. Its front cover headline of 2 October 2010 was “How India’s Growth Will Outpace China’s”—also self-explanatory. The analysis this headline referred to stated: “Chetan Ahya and Tanvee Gupta of Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, predict that India’s growth will start to outpace China’s within three to five years… For the next 20-25 years, India will grow faster than any other large country, they expect. Other long-range forecasters paint a similar picture.” The Economist approvingly quoted that India would “outpace” China because socialist “China’s growth has been largely state-directed. India’s, by contrast, is driven by 45m entrepreneurs.”

Once more, turning from a comparison of what The Economist predicted to what happened, the reality was clear and is shown in Figure 1. Taking the data from the Economist’s prediction in 2010 up to the present, that is to the end of 2022, China’s economy grew by 116.0% and India’s by 94.6%. Far from India “outpacing” China, China’s total economic growth in this period was 23% greater than India’s. China’s annual average GDP growth was 6.6% compared to India’s 5.7%.

Figure 1

| Figure 1 | MR Online

Regarding the supposedly negative features of China’s socialist “largely state-directed” economy even more striking, because it is an index of overall economic efficiency, was the result in terms of per capita GDP growth. From 2010-2022 China experienced an average annual population increase of 0.4% and India of 1.2%. So, China’s more rapid growth of total GDP than India was despite the fact that India had significantly more rapid population increase.

In terms of per capita GDP, as Figure 2 shows, China’s total growth from 2010 to 2022 was 105% and India’s 69.6%. That is, China’s per capita GDP growth was 51% higher than India. China’s annual average per capita GDP growth was 6.2% compared to India’s 4.5%. It turns out that China’s socialist “state directed growth” was far more effective at producing per capita GDP growth than India’s “45 million entrepreneurs”. Once more The Economist was not wrong on details but got the entire course of events wrong.

The significance of population trends in China’s economic growth will be considered in more detail below.

Figure 2

| Figure 2 | MR Online

The current claims by The Economist

Having established the successive previous errors of The Economist on China let us now turn to its claims in its most recent issue. This, as already noted, is summarised in the front cover issue with the headline “Peak China?”—that is the claim that China’s rise has stopped. Regarding the details of this inside we read supposedly regarding the “certain tailwinds are turning to headwinds” that:

The first big gust comes from demography. China’s working-age population has been declining for about a decade. Last year its population as a whole peaked… Wave goodbye to the masses of young workers who once filled ‘the world’s factory’.

The Economist then goes on to claim: “China has this year liberated its economy from the lockdowns, quarantines and other strictures of its ‘zero-covid’ regime. But it has not freed itself from longer-term worries about its growth prospects. Its population is shrinking. Its epic housing boom is over.” Supposedly China has problems from “a regulatory crackdown on e-commerce firms.” Regarding comparison with the U.S.: “Some ask how much longer China’s economy can grow faster than America’s.” Quoting works which it considers notable, and which coined the “peak” claim:

Hal Brands and Michael Beckley, two American political scientists, argue that China’s rise is already coming to a halt. The age of ‘peak China’, as they call it, is upon us.

As already noted, The Economist justifies these claims in particular with reference to population trends—the bogus claim, promoted for several years, that “China will grow old before it grows rich.” More precisely: “What accounts for the lower expectations for China’s economy?… Start with population. China’s workforce has already peaked, according to official statistics. It has 4.5 times as many 15- to 64-year-olds as America. By mid-century it will have only 3.4 times as many, according to the UN’s ‘median’ forecast.” It then goes on to discuss issues such as productivity—which are analysed below.

The Economist then goes on to conclude:

It also seems safe to say that China and America will remain in a position of near-parity for decades. In Goldman Sachs’s scenario, China maintains a small but persistent lead over America for more than 40 years… in Capital Economics’s projection, China’s GDP will… be over 80% of America’s as late as 2050…. if China’s peak is more Table Mountain [a flat-topped mountain in South Africa only slightly over 1,000 metres high] than K2 [Qogir Feng, the world’s second highest mountain at 8,611 metres] its leaders will have little incentive to rush to confrontation before decline sets in.

Leaving aside that China’s leaders have not shown any desire whatever to “rush to confrontation” let us dissect this evaluation of The Economist.

Elementary reality checks

Because no angle should be ignored in dealing with this analysis by The Economist, we will discuss below its assertions using technical methods of economic “growth accounting”. But actually, elementary reality checks and calculations, which can be understood by almost anyone (apparently apart from The Economist’s writers), shows their falsity.

Start with the question of population, on which The Economist lays such emphasis. China’s average annual population growth from 1978-2022, that is since the start of “Reform and Opening Up” is 0.9%. China’s annual average GDP growth in the same period is 9.0%. So, 8.1% a year GDP increase, that is 90% of the growth, could not possibly be accounted for by population changes. In summary, even before doing detailed growth accounting, it is clear that population growth could have played only a very small role in China’s economic development. This will be fully confirmed by the growth accounting data.

Turn to the second feature. According to The Economist we ae entering “the coming age of superpower parity”. What this means in GDP terms is that China and the U.S.’s economies will be roughly the same size—one possible a little bit bigger than the other. Let us analyse the implications of this claim.

Of course, no one doubts that after the “century of humiliation” China’s economic starting point was far behind the U.S. In 1950, in purchasing power parities (PPPs), on the calculations of Angus Maddison, who was the world’s leading expert on long term economic growth, China’s per capita GDP was slightly under 5% of the U.S.. By 2022, measured in PPPs by the IMF, China’s per capita GDP was 28% of the U.S.. That is, since the creation of the People’s Republic in 1949, China has improved its per capita GDP position relative to the U.S. by more than five times.

What is the overall implication of this? In 2022 Mainland China’s population was 4.24 times that of the U.S.—put in other terms, the U.S. population was less than 24%, approximately a quarter, that of China. That means, in turn, that for China to remain having the same, or a smaller, GDP than the U.S. its per capita GDP would have to remain less than one quarter of the U.S..

Why should China be incapable of reaching anything more than one quarter the per capita GDP, with therefore roughly one quarter the living standards, of the U.S.? Is it some xenophobic illusion that the average Chinese person is only one quarter as smart, or only works one quarter as hard, or cannot work out a way to achieve more than a quarter of the living standard of an average American? Or to put it the other way round, that the average American works more than four times as hard, or is four time as smart, or can work out a way to remain living more than four times as well as the average Chinese person?

That type of thinking is delusional and is also leaving the U.S. open to a terrible shock not only in regard to China but a second one later in this century when it finds out that the average member of the more than 1.4 billion Indian people is just as smart, just as hard working and just as capable of working out how their country can develop as the average American.

In fact, China’s development has come from successful policies by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and work by the Chinese people—not from economic “miracles”. China is perfectly aware that, given its extremely low economic starting point after a century of foreign intervention in 1949, it has set its goal of becoming a “strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country” to be achieved only by 2049. In the more immediate term, at the 20th Party Congress, its goal was stated as reaching the level of a “medium-developed country by 2035”. Slightly earlier, in 2020’s discussion around the 14th Five Year plan, it was concluded that by 2035 for China: “It is entirely possible to double the total or per capita income”. These two goals are essentially the same. This target requires an average annual growth of GDP of at least 4.6% a year by 2035. That this target can be achieved will be shown in detail below.

But the size of China’s population, and the speed of its economic development, does have an inevitable consequence. Those who believe that China will never significantly exceed one quarter of the per capita GDP of the U.S. and therefore that China’s GDP will never become significantly greater than the U.S., are deluding themselves. It is only necessary to be able to multiply by four to know what will be the final result.

Growth accounting

So far only issues that can be understood by anyone, whether or not they are an economist, regarding the elementary errors of the thesis of “peak China” have been dealt with—that is, the facts that the very slow growth of China’s population compared to its GDP growth shows that increase in labour supply plays only a very small role in its economic growth, and the consequences of the fact that China has over four times the population of the U.S. Actually, these are quite sufficient to understand why the theory of “peak China” is false. The fact that these false arguments can ignore such elementary realities shows how blinded people can be by their own propaganda. But nevertheless, it is also useful to analyse more detailed issues of economics—it should not be thought that any questions are being avoided. Therefore, more detailed issues of economic growth will now be examined. Analysing these, furthermore, does cast a light on important questions and further clarifies the fundamental errors of the theory of “peak China”—and what lies behind it.

Turning from the most fundamental trends to detailed growth accounting the most recent data will be examined in order to avoid any accusations that what is really being analysed is the effects of the period immediately after 1978—which almost no one would dispute brought gains but which some claim have now disappeared. Figure 3 therefore shows the latest 10 years, 2011-2021, for which detailed growth accounting data exists—it is not yet available for 2022.

Changes in labour inputs in China

As labour is the aspect most concentrated on in the theory of “peak China” it will be dealt with first. Initially, to get these out of the way, some elementary conceptual mistakes of the “peak China” brigade will be dealt with and then their most fundamental fallacy will be shown.

The detailed data on labour inputs in Figure 3 immediately shows one of the first elementary arithmetical fallacies of the old “China will get old before it gets rich” argument—which is essentially the same as that of “peak China”. This is that this fails to distinguish between the “quality” of labour inputs (that this their level of education, training etc) and the “quantity” of labour inputs—that is simply the number of hours worked.

Figure 3

| Figure 3 | MR Online

This fallacy can be easily illustrated for non-specialists in economics. Take an hour of labour in South Korea—this country is chosen because today it has one of the highest levels of higher education in the world. In 1945 85% of South Korea’s population lived in rural areas and Illiteracy was 88%. Today 85% of South Korea’s population lives in urban areas and enrolment in tertiary education is equivalent to the entire population of the relevant age groups. China’s is passing through the same historical process from its own extremely rural past—with urbanisation reaching 65% by 2021, and enrolment in higher education reaching 60% by 2022.

The value produced by an hour’s labour by someone with a university degree in Korea, very possibly a PhD in engineering or computing, in 2022 is obviously far higher than that of a peasant who was illiterate in 1945. Similarly, as China’s population becomes more and more highly educated and trained the inputs of “labour quality” (to use the technical economic term) will rise even if “labour quantity” (the total number of workers and therefore the number of hours worked) goes down.

This is precisely what occurred in China from 2011-2021. As Figure 3 shows, the total number of hours worked (labour quantity) fell, reducing GDP growth by 0.4%. But the contribution of labour quality, that is better training and education, increased GDP growth by 0.4%. Therefore, the actual change in total labour inputs was zero. (As a side note for technical economists, calculating labour inputs simply by hours worked, without taking into account labour quality, was an error in Solow’s original formulation of growth accounting which has been replaced in modern growth accounting. For non-technical economists the difference between the value created by an hour of labour by someone who is illiterate with someone who has an engineering PhD makes the point clear).

But even leaving aside this basic distinction, actually regarding labour quantity itself China’s position is not remotely as bad as claimed by “peak China”. For example, approximately a quarter of China’s working population is still in the countryside—the passing of a substantial part of this into urban areas, as will occur over the coming decades, will increase productivity, China’s current retirement age, of 60 for men and 50-55 for women, is extremely low by international standards and is bound to gradually increase given China’s great increase in life expectancy—which will produce an increase in available labour quantity compared to if the retirement age had not been raised .

In short, because they make the elementary mistake of failing to distinguish between labour quantity and labour quality, because they do not take into account the consequences of shift of labour from the countryside to urban areas, and because they do not note that China’s very low retirement age is bound to gradually increase with growing life expectancy, claims about the reduction of labour inputs in the theory of “peak China” are greatly exaggerated even in their own terms.

The small role of increases in labour inputs in China

But actually, even all the above issues are secondary to the main one which was already analysed in fundamental terms above—the point that China’s average annual population growth from 1978-2022 is 0.9% and China’s annual average GDP growth in the same period is 9.0%. Therefore, 8.1% a year GDP increase, that is 90% of the growth, could not possibly be accounted for by population changes. What this shows is that the increase in labour inputs has played a very small role in China’s economic growth.

Turning to analyse this in detail, it was already noted that in 2011-2021 the contribution of labour inputs to GDP growth was zero—a 0.4% annual increase in GDP due to improvements in labour quality, offset by a 0.4% of GDP fall caused by a reduction in labour quantity (hours worked). Even if the longer period from 1990-2021 is taken, the contribution of labour inputs to GDP growth was only 0.7% a year out of an average of 8.7% annual GDP growth—that is 92% of GDP growth was due to factors other than increase in labour inputs.

The reason that a slowdown in labour inputs will not produce a very sharp fall in China’s economic growth is therefore very simple. Because the detailed growth accounting data naturally confirms what was already obvious from the most fundamental facts on China’ population and GDP changes since 1978. That population and labour input changes have only played a very small role in China’s economic growth!

The fundamental factors which really do affect China’s economic growth, and their consequences, will be analysed below.

The reasons for China’s rapid economic growth

Turning from what has not made a large contribution to China’s economic growth, labour inputs, to those which have made a big difference, again the latest period 2011-2021 will be taken. China’s annual average GDP growth in that period was 6.7%. The detailed contributions to growth of the different inputs are shown in Figure 4. This chart is simply a different way of presenting the facts given in Figure 3—which showed the relative weight of different inputs into China’s economy. Figure 4 is merely more convenient for present purposes because by showing how much of China’s GDP growth is due to different inputs it makes it easy to see which changes would, and which changes would not, seriously affect China’s economic growth. That is, what would, and what would not, create a real situation of “peak China”. It also allows an easy calculation of whether China can or cannot achieve the 4.6% annual average economic growth necessary to achieve its target of doubling per capita GDP by 2035.

Figure 4

| Figure 4 | MR Online

The role of labour inputs

The first reality from these facts which is obvious, as already noted, is the relatively small effect that changes in labour supply will make. Assume that no changes are made to offset the decline in labour quantity, for example there is no increase in the retirement age, and this continues to deduct 0.4% a year from GDP growth. Assume also that the increase in the beneficial effect of increases in labour quality is eliminated and therefore this deducts the 0.4% a year from GDP growth due to this factor—there is no justification for making such an assumption as China’s education and training growth will continue, but it is hypothetically assumed here just to analyse a “worst case” scenario. What then happens? It means that China’s GDP growth would fall from 6.7% a year to 6.3%—easily enough to surpass the 4.6% a year growth required to achieve the doubling of per capita GDP by 2035.

The role of Total Factor Productivity

Now consider productivity, more precisely Total Factor Productivity (TFP)—for non-economists, TFP measures all processes raising the output of the economy which are not due to increases in capital or labour (for example, improvements in technology, the benefits of larger scale of production, improvements in management techniques, scientific discoveries, benefits of increased specialisation in production etc). Assume a catastrophic case that China’s rate of TFP increase fell to zero—once again there is no justification for such an assumption and China’s rate of TFP growth is one of the fastest in the world, but it is analysed here just to demonstrate the effects of the most extreme negative assumptions. What then happens is that China’s GDP growth would fall by 1.5% a year—from 6.7% to 5.2% a year. China would then still achieve the 4.6% a year target to double per capita GDP by 2035.

Even if the ludicrous assumption is made both that China achieved no increase in labour quality, deducting 0.4% of GDP growth a year, and that its rate of TFP growth collapsed to zero, deducting 1.5% a year from GDP growth, then the combined slowdown of 1.9% a year would still leave China growing at 4.8% a year—enough to achieve its 2035 target.

These negative assumptions are of course themselves ridiculous—there is no reason China’s improvement in labour quality will fall to zero, on the contrary it is pouring resources into education and training, and there is equally no reason why its TFP growth will fall to zero. But these extremely unrealistic assumptions have the benefit that even with them the thesis of “peak China” will not work.

Cutting China’s investment

It is factually clear that only one assumption would justify the argument of “peak China”—i.e. that a drastic slowdown in China’s economy will occur. This is that there is a huge fall in China’s level of investment in GDP—that is, in technical terms, in capital inputs into the economy (it should be understood that by “capital” in this sense is simply meant fixed investment—it is irrelevant whether this investment is carried out by the state, private capitalists, or any other form of ownership). This is, indeed, an inevitable result of the fact that 78% of China’s economic growth is due to capital/investment inputs—or in other terms that these account for 5.2% annual GDP growth out of a total of 6.7% growth. China’s dependence on capital inputs for economic growth is furthermore fairly standard, the average percentage contribution of capital inputs to economic growth of the world’s 20 largest economies in 2011-2021 being 81%. This is indeed why reductions in the level of investment in GDP do produce very large slowdowns in economic growth. This was analysed in the earlier article 它曾成功“谋杀”了德国、日本、四小龙,现在想要劝中国“经济自杀” and is dealt with in detail below.

In reality, although they spend large amounts of space discussing other issues which would have no great effect even if true, the statistics of those arguing for the theory of “peak China” show that they arrive at their claims because they assume that China will drastically cut the percentage of its economy devoted to investment. The reasons this claim is made will be analysed below, but first, to clarify the issue, the arithmetic of those who present serious quantified justifications for the “peak China” arguments will be examined—although, it is striking, that some who makes such claims don’t even bother to attempt to quantify them.

Taking first, among those studied by The Economist, an analysis by Roland Rajah and Alyssa Leng for the Lowy Institute with the self-explanatory title “Revising down the rise of China”. This concludes regarding China that: “our projections suggest growth will slow sharply to roughly 3% a year by 2030”. This analysis precisely assumes a huge fall in the percentage of China’s economy devoted to fixed investment/capital inputs:

total investment falls from the current 43% of GDP to 33% of GDP on average over the coming decades.

The same assumption is made by Goldman Sachs, which projects that China’s GDP growth will fall from an annual average 6.0% in 2013-2022 to 3.4% in 2023-2032—that is a decline of 2.6%. The reason for this alleged slowdown is because of the overwhelming effect of a single fact that the annual increase in GDP growth created by capital investment is projected to fall by 2.4%—from 4.8% to 2.4%. As this fall in capital investment accounts for 92% of the decline in the GDP growth rate, only 8% of the decline the Goldman Sachs report projects, or 0.2% GDP growth a year, is attributable to factors other than the decline in investment. Without the investment decline, the Goldman Sachs report’s data shows that China’s annual GDP growth would only fall from 6.0% to 5.8%—a level which would easily allow China to exceed its own targets for 2035. In short, Goldman Sachs shows that only the decline in investment makes a decisive difference to China’s growth rate, and therefore, to use The Economist’s terms, accounts for “peak China”.

Of course, these calls for, or predictions that, China will cut the level of investment in its economy are put forward in a concealed way. They are presented as calls for China to increase the percentage of consumption in its economy. But as consumption and capital creation/investment combined necessarily add up to 100% of China’s economy the call for China to increase the percentage of consumption in its economy is necessarily to call for it to reduce its level of investment. This would indeed, of course, for the reasons already given, lead to a drastic slowdown in China’s economy—to “peak China”. But it would simply be a case of China deciding to commit economic suicide.

While the studies published by the Lowy Institute and Goldman Sachs at least have the virtue of being clear, others don’t—so these will be examined below.

A leader is certainly different

There is no doubt that from the facts already given that if China drastically cuts its level of investment its rate of economic growth would indeed substantially fall—as capital inputs account for 78% of China’s economic growth that is inevitable. But why should China make such a drastic cut in its level of investment in GDP?

The alleged reason for this is because China is different from other “Western” economies. For example Capital Economics, which unlike the Lowy Institute or Goldman Sachs studies, does not even properly quantify its findings, but is nevertheless cited by The Economist as a source, argues: “we expect China’s trend rate of economic growth to fall to around 2% by 2030.” It notes:

China… has an unusually large capital stock…. If China’s capital stock to GDP ratio were to continue to rise at the rapid pace of the past decade, it would soon be much higher than in other major economies.

Similarly, Goldman Sachs argues that China’s level of investment in its economy will fall sharply: “Investment as a share of GDP is forecast to decline from 42% in 2022 to 35% by 2032.” The reason that this will happen is apparently because China is at present an upper middle-income economy, although approaching the level of a high-income economy by World Bank standards, and:

Investment as a share of GDP in upper-middle-income countries is 34%.

Well certainly China is different from other economies. Why? For the simple reason that its economy is growing much more rapidly than they are! Therefore, it is producing a more rapid increase in average living standards than they are, it has produced a more rapid reduction in poverty than they have etc. Naturally the leader is different to those who are further behind£ The economy with the most rapid economic development is different to the countries with slower economic development.

Why should the more rapidly developing copy the less rapidly developing

But then it is a completely bizarre logic that says that the economy which is most rapidly developing should change to become like the less successful ones! What would a client of Goldman Sachs, or any other bank or consultancy, say if it argued “We notice that you are developing more rapidly than your competitors—so you need to stop that and reduce yourself to their level.” Or if they said to a company: “We notice that in this field one company is developing much more rapidly than the others. Therefore, you should ignore that company and copy the less successful ones. Incidentally we are advising this most successful company to abandon its advantages and instead accept the approach of its less successful competitors.” Anyone who made such a proposal would be laughed at—in the few seconds before the contract with them was immediately terminated.

But that is exactly what those who are arguing the case for “peak China! are doing. They are saying: “We note that China’s economy is developing more rapidly than others. Therefore, it should abandon the reasons for this success and adopt the methods of the less rapidly developing.” Instead, of course, what any sensible person would argue is: “China is different because it is the most rapidly developing. Therefore, other countries should learn from the reasons for China’s success (which is not, of course, to pursue the impossible course of mechanically copying it).” This entirely logical argument is, of course, what other countries are doing. It explains the increasing international interest in China’s socialist development strategy.

Instead, what those arguing the case for “peak China” propose is that China should voluntarily commit economic suicide. That it should abandon the methods that have made it the most rapidly developing economy in the world and adopt the methods of the less successful. If China decides to commit economic “suicide” then that certainly would produce “peak China”—if someone decides to commit suicide they will undoubtedly be dead. But it would be very bizarre for China and the CPC to adopt such a logic! Why, having brought China from almost the poorest country in the world in 1949, after a century of foreign intervention, to achieve the most sustained rapid economic growth of any major country in world history should the CPC decide to adopt a less successful approach? Gorbachev may have decided that the USSR should commit suicide, bringing ruin to his country, by adopting Western approaches, but the CPC has shown no similar inclination.

The reasons for blind arrogance

Turning from these specific economic points to more general considerations, these factual issues are so obvious to anyone who thinks about them seriously, that it takes us back to a point made before the discussion of detailed analysis of growth accounting. That is, what is the explanation of the blindness to reality, to facts, that is created by unconscious arrogance?

The Economist, Goldman Sachs etc note that China’s economy differs from their capitalist ones. But instead of drawing from the more rapid development of China’s economy than theirs the conclusion that China’s system shows its superiority, they conclude that necessarily China must be wrong—and that they are right! The reason is because to accept the facts would be to overturn their, conscious or unconscious, arrogant way of looking at the world. It is worth looking at just a few of these implications to understand the reasons for the blindness.

The first is the role of CPC. It is the CPC, no other political force, which created the socialist market economy, an economic system which had never before existed in history, which has created the most rapid economic growth of any major country in human history, which has produced the most rapid increase in living standards or any country, which has produced the greatest reduction in poverty in any country in human history, and which overall has produced the most rapid sustained improvement in the living standards of any country in human history. The idea that such gigantic achievements could occur by “accident”, that is without thought or theory leading it, is laughable. What it means is that the CPC not only produced better practical results for its people than any other political force but that the CPC out thought every other political force.

Second, it means that China has achieved what every country that was once dominated by imperialism dreams of—that China, and China alone, will decide its destiny. This is indeed the greatest of all the CPC’s national achievements. That after a “century of humiliation”, in which China was simply trampled on by other states, only China will now decide its own fate. If China takes wise decisions it will prosper. If China takes foolish decisions it will suffer. But no one else will decide the outcome. In a fundamental sense that is precisely the basis of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”..

Third, China’s success, brought by the CPC, brings to an end an entire centuries long epoch in human history—perhaps this is particularly to be commented on by someone from Europe? During approximately the last 500 years, “white” European countries, and their offshoots, became the most powerful in the world. That 500 years is certainly a short period in the approximately 5,000-year history of human civilization. For most of that time it was Asia’s people—China, India, West Asia/parts of North Africa (falsely labelled the “Middle East” in Eurocentric worldviews) who were the most advanced. But, of course, 500 years is far longer than the life of anyone alive today. And during that 500 years these “white” countries built into the foundations of their capitalist system the vile dregs of racism—this is a point particularly emphasised in recent material produced by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research which should be regarded as of fundamental importance. Slavery, the treatment of non-“white” people as not equal in order to justify colonialism, were built into the foundations of that European originated capitalist system.

China’s rise, that of almost one fifth of humanity, which it should be remembered is more than the population of all “advanced” economies in the world put together today, not only creates a socialist society but completely destroys the entire cultural basis and assumptions of that 500-year-old epoch in human history. A long time Afro-Caribbean friend of mine, knowing I followed China as closely as I could, once said to me “but what does China’s rise mean for the rest of us?” I said: “Well among other things it destroys the myth of the ‘superiority’ of the white race”. To which their reply was “well that’s a victory for everyone.”

Indeed, in terms of the entire moral dignity of humanity, China’s success is playing an indispensable role in putting an end to the shameful traits of an entire period of human history. It is in large part because of that entire 500 year history that those proclaiming “peak China” can continue to write views that are so completely out of touch with the facts and with reality and why they refuse to draw any lessons even when they are repeatedly shown to be wrong—as was shown with the test case of The Economist at the beginning of this article (and many more examples could be taken). The stubborn blindness of the refusal of Western reporters and analysts to face the fact they have repeatedly been proven entirely wrong reflects not only bad journalism or a love of capitalism. It reflects the blindness to reality produced by 500 years of an unconscious cultural arrogance produced by a system which is fortunately now progressively disintegrating.

Xi Jinping noted carefully at his first press conference after becoming General Secretary of the CPC that China directly sees its own national rejuvenation as a part of the overall progress of humanity:

Throughout 5,000 years of development, the Chinese nation has made significant contributions to the progress of human civilization… Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.

This is not simply a goal for the future. This is a process that is underway today. It is a part of China’s great achievement, brought about by the extraordinary struggle of its people for national rejuvenation, that the rest of humanity benefits from it. That certainly involves economics. But it goes far beyond it.

[This article was originally published in Chinese at Guancha.cn.]

John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He was formerly director of economic policy for the mayor of London.

Western media has not much evolved from the era of the yellow peril in its routine China-bashing / by Felix Abt

[Source: yahoo.com]

Originally published in CovertAction Magazine on November 27, 2022

It is common for Western media to automatically imply or label everything that happens in China as “evil.” The most recent case concerns the events surrounding former Communist Party Chairman Hu Jintao at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

| Source jpostcom | MR Online

[Source: jpost.com]

“A ghostly scene at China’s top of power: Xi Jinping’s predecessor is taken away. The ‘new emperor’ is reaching for absolute power. What are the consequences for the world?” This is the title and the introduction of the newspaper Die Weltwoche to a German-language article by the British historian Francis Pike, in which he writes: “Hu’s media-fueled removal takes on the appearance of a political drama reminiscent of Chairman Mao’s brutal purges of party members in the 1950s.” He is referring to a video from the Chinese Party Congress showing former party leader Hu Jintao allegedly being “forcefully taken away.”

“The removal of Hu from the hall occurred mere minutes after foreign media were allowed into the Great Hall,” Pike adds. This immediately raises the question of why Xi Jinping should wait to “remove” Hu Jintao until Western media are on the scene, having only waited for such an opportunity to pillory the “cruel and inhumane dictator Ji Jinping”?

As for Xi Jingping’s dictatorship, it is worth noting in passing that last month at the Athens Democracy Forum (in collaboration with The New York Times), a scholar from the University of Zurich was asked to comment on democracy in China, and her response was not exactly what one would expect with so much Western dictatorship talk: In recent years, under Xi Jinping, there have been increased “democratic experiments, for example, to allow greater citizen participation and to make local government officials more responsive and accountable to citizens.” This is all the more remarkable because, in the so-called democratic West, the trend is in the opposite direction, namely toward a creeping dismantling of citizens’ democratic rights. And, as might be expected, the media did not report on it because, unlike Hu Jintao’s earth-shattering “removal” from the convention hall, it was apparently an insignificant detail that would also upset their China narrative.

Unwelcome details blanked out

| Ex Chinese President Hu Jintao being removed from Communist Party Congress on October 22 2022 Source nypostcom | MR Online

Ex-Chinese President Hu Jintao being removed from Communist Party Congress on October 22, 2022

[Source: nypost.com]

The same media did not mention that the frail 80-year-old man, who left a somewhat bewildered impression, had been escorted to and from the convention for several days during the Party Congress and before the “forced removal” hyped by the Western media on the last day of the Congress.

Here, for example, you can see Xi Jinping taking care of him as a friendly usher.

Cutting away an important part of the message and changing perceptions with misleading text is manipulation and is—rightly!—castigated by the same media when it is done by China.

That Hu Jintao has a health problem was first noticed by China observers at the 2019 National Day parade, when he was seen on the Tiananmen Balcony in Beijing with his hands shaking badly.

Immediately prior to the incident at the Party Congress, Hu Jintao participated in the election as the second eligible voter, just after Xi Jinping, who cast his vote at the ballot box. In a society that is much more Confucianist than Communist, this symbolic placement in the vote signifies great respect for the elder statesman. The Western media also blanked this out of the overall picture. This made it easier for them to construct a coup, a purge and a humiliation of the former president.

| Source biz at itblogspotcom | MR Online

[Source: biz-at-it.blogspot.com]

If Hu had really been purged during the day, as Western media claimed, it is highly unlikely that Chinese television would have shown him in its report in the evening.

According to George Soros, Xi is the “most dangerous man in the world.”

Political purge and humiliation for the history books or disruption of “worship”?

Little was heard from the official Chinese side about the incident, apart from a tweet from Xinhua News Agency saying Hu “did not feel well” during the meeting.

A report by Singaporean TV station CNA added an important detail that Western media representatives who were in the room seemed to have deliberately ignored: Hu had been looking at some documents on the table in front of him and apparently had a disagreement with the current chairman of China’s legislature, Li Zhanshu, who was sitting to his left, who took the documents out of his hand.

| Child soldiers in newsrooms turned into shooting galleries drop speculative bombs on China Young German journalist Fabian Kretschmer writes from Beijing for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ and various other media in Germany Austria and Switzerland as well as for the history books Above translation into English by Felix Abt | MR Online

“Child soldiers” in newsrooms turned into shooting galleries drop speculative bombs on China: Young German journalist Fabian Kretschmer writes from Beijing for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and various other media in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as “for the history books.” (Above translation into English by Felix Abt)

And when Li Zhanshu tried to get up to help Hu stand, Li was briefly dragged back to his seat by Wang Huning, a party ideologue and former professor of international politics to his left, making matters even more confusing. Xi stopped this disruption to the choreographed party meeting and summoned a staffer, who then tried to get Hu to leave, and who then escorted him out of the room. The video also shows that Hu, after standing up, first hovered in place, then took a few slow steps, then stopped and turned to Xi, who nodded briefly but continued to look at the assembled delegates.

Claimed purge makes no sense

If it had been a dispute, the incident would have been extraordinary, because in communist parties, which are not known for their transparency, disagreements are settled behind closed doors, and in any case not in front of running cameras from the whole world. So one would need to know what is in the documents. A former Chinese insider told the BBC, “Why would the party put a document on Hu’s desk if he wasn’t allowed to see it?”

Bill Bishop of the China newsletter Sinocism stated that the “purge claimed by the media doesn’t make sense that way.” Hu Haifeng, Hu Jintao’s son and party secretary of Lishui, Zhejiang, also sat in the room. “A purge of one without the other would be unlikely,” Bishop explained.

A real China insider was interviewed by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. When asked about Xi Jinping’s possible motives for the alleged “forced removal” of Hu Jintao, he replied:

“Xi is certainly not shy about taking drastic action, but his obsession is to restore party discipline through rules and procedures. He has never gone the way of Stalin or North Korea of just making his enemies disappear. Even with his bitterest foes—such as Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and Guo Boxiong, people who, in fact, plotted a coup against him—Xi took them down, but did everything according to the procedures.

He is a stern but not an arbitrary ruler. His books and speeches have more citations from China’s Legalism school than anything else. Legalism (a bad translation) stresses the importance of rules and regulations over arbitrary power.

If anyone wants to challenge Xi, it would be incredible for them to do so on the last day of the party congress, which is mainly for formal endorsement and communication. The debate and negotiations happened behind the scene MONTHS beforehand. There were plenty of opportunities for the two to argue if they didn’t agree with each other. This was simply not the case.”

Why have some Western media platforms gone wild with speculation, including suggesting it was a purge, the interviewer asked:

“This is the problem I have with the Western media and those ‘experts.’ You can be critical of the Chinese system, and you may dislike it intensely, but you at least need to understand what you are criticizing. Their imagination of China is just a plus-size North Korea, a modern-day Stalinist state, or the new Nazis. In fact, many Western media just borrow the same analytical tools they used to analyze the Soviet Union or North Korea or even Nazi Germany and apply it to China.

This is what I call the intellectual Procrustean bed they have forced on everyone studying China. Sometimes it can get really ridiculous. It’s either laziness or dogmatic rigidity or having an agenda—or a combination of all these.

| Hu Heifeng Source taiwannewscom | MR Online

Hu Heifeng [Source: taiwannews.com]

There are many problems in Xi’s system, and so far he and the party have not come up with convincing answers to them. But to imagine it simply as another Soviet Union or North Korea is missing the point. If people start to make decisions based on such skewed views and perceptions, that will lead to real-life consequences. Hong Kong is a living example of it.”

So it is okay to criticize the Chinese system harshly, and pundits and the media may deeply loathe it, but they do so while being quite clueless.

Also, contrary to the predictions and speculations of experts and media in the West in the run-up to the Party Congress, the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was not shortened to Xi Jinping Thought in the Constitution, nor was Xi given new descriptive titles such as “Leader/领袖.”

Further background and insights censored by the Western media

There are two other key current things that pundits like John Pike and the mainstream media will not tell you:

  1. China has remained essentially Confucian for more than two thousand years. Confucius advocated a government that cares for the people and makes their welfare its primary concern. It should be a meritocracy, in that “those who govern should do so on the basis of merit and not on the basis of inherited status,” he proclaimed, and that it should be enlightened and benevolent (in which the demonstrably most capable people who best serve the people should rise to positions of leadership).
  2. This is in contrast to Western democracies, where even the most incompetent can come to power thanks to empty promises and/or because they were well sponsored, and then have their own interests and those of their patrons in mind rather than the interests of their constituents. In China, civil servants still have to pass exams and prove themselves if they want to keep their jobs. This corresponds to the centuries-old Confucian tradition, according to which anyone, regardless of their social background, could obtain a position in the civil service at the imperial court after passing an entrance examination in various subjects. The fact that 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China over the past 40 years, accounting for more than 75% of global poverty, is no accident, but part of the application of this philosophy.
  3. Mainstream media such as Foreign Affairs magazine highlighted the “Collateral Damage in China’s War on Covid,” or Nikkei, the world’s largest financial newspaper, headlined “Self-isolated: China’s lonely zero-COVID battle in spotlight” without ever telling their readers and viewers why the Chinese government took draconian measures against the Covid pandemic: China’s biggest weakness is its health care system. South Korea has 10 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, America has 34, and China has only 4. As a result, the government feared that the health care system would not be able to handle a large influx of seriously ill patients. Most retirees are not vaccinated.

The reason that modern medicine, including hospitals with intensive care units, lags behind the rest of the world in China is that the Chinese believe in their traditional medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet, exercise, and manual therapy to correct imbalances in the body and promote mental and physical health) because it has been used for thousands of years and is steeped in tradition, belief, popularity and anecdote. Western remedies are far less popular because the vast majority of Chinese also believe that traditional Chinese medicine has fewer side effects and has a stronger restorative effect on the body.

In contrast to the seemingly completely out-of-touch Western media, East Asian media, which have a far better understanding of China, used less charged language related to Hu Jintao’s escort out of the Party Congress hall. It is also important to note in this context that, unlike Europe, Asian countries do not want to be drawn into the U.S. fight against China at their own expense, as I have detailed here.

For example, the conservative Korea Herald in Seoul soberly headlined that Hu Jintao was helped off the stage at the Party Congress.

It can therefore be assumed that the escorting of Hu Jintao at the Party Congress will not go down in the Korean history books.

“Media war between China and the West”

On the one hand, everything that comes out of China is hyped up, twisted and used in the West for China-bashing. On the other hand, more important things that would contribute to a better understanding of the country are simply suppressed. Another recent example:

Do you know Dilana Dilixiati? No, of course you don’t. But you certainly know Peng Shuai, the famous Chinese tennis player who, according to Western media reports, accused a retired top politician of rape (the word rape does not appear in her original Chinese text), after the years-long secret love affair with many ups and downs between the two had gone to pieces.

| Tennishead magazine wrote December 6 2021 The USA are reportedly set to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games this week in response to the censorship of Peng Shuai and her sexual assault allegations This boycott was carried out by the United States and its Western coalition of the willing Source Screenshot courtesy of Felix Abt | MR Online

[Source: Screenshot courtesy of Felix Abt]

Tennishead magazine wrote (December 6, 2021): “The USA are reportedly set to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games this week in response to the censorship of Peng Shuai and her sexual assault allegations.” This boycott was carried out by the United States and its Western “coalition of the willing.” Western politicians and media therefore immediately called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The athlete was subsequently often seen in public, laughing and talking to other people. Since she apparently did not disappear into a gulag, as Western politicians and media must have secretly hoped, she soon disappeared again from Western media discourse.

Dr. Pan Wang, a China expert from the University of New South Wales, provided background information and insights into the case on Australian television that were not available elsewhere.

She said it was only natural that Western organizations such as the World Tennis Association interpreted Ms. Peng’s social media post as a complaint of sexual misconduct and were suspicious of Beijing’s response given the lack of detailed information, communication or transparency and censorship on the matter.

However, she dismissed the accusation, saying there is no clear allegation of rape, which is a criminal offense in China, and “sexual harassment” falls under the Civil Code.

Whether the persuasion or coercion of the former vice premier described by Peng Shuai could be called “sexual assault” in the usual sense is subjective, she said.

She added that, while Beijing wants to suppress any controversy about its officials, the Western media are also pursuing their own political agenda regarding China.

“This case is about harassment, power and skepticism, and it occurred in a broader context of growing tensions between China and, for example, Australia, stemming from diplomatic tensions, trade disputes and growing accusations against China’s human rights, democracy and censorship,” she added.

She concluded: “So there’s a media war between China and the West and the Australian media here, too, and that’s reflected in the opposing views of the social media posts.”

The hidden story of the amazing career of a Uyghur woman

Back to Dilana Dilixiati. She, too, is a Chinese sports star. Her team had recently won an unexpected, sensational victory in the semifinals against basketball superpower Australia at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Australian media reported, “They defeated the hosts 61-59 at the Sydney Superdome on Friday night in a thrilling encounter that was decided only in the final seconds.” The dramatic thriller sent shock waves.

| Source englishnewscn | MR Online

[Source: english.news.cn]

Those who followed the game immediately recognized that Dilana Dilixiati (on the left in the photo above) looked different from her teammates. The journalists must have noticed her. Strangely enough, the Uyghur, who writes her name in Uyghur like this: دىلانا دىلشات, which does not look like Mandarin, did not attract any interest, although she would have been more suitable than any other for a sensational success story inviting clicks.

The 1.94-meter (6’ 4-1/2”) center basketball player of the Guangdong Vermilion Birds, who helped the Chinese women’s national team win a silver medal at the World Cup, regularly visits her family in Xinjiang.

A Twitter user found out that a Uyghur woman played on China’s successful national women’s basketball team and that the media did not want to know about it.

The Australian think tank ASPI, funded in particular by the Australian Department of Defense, the U.S. government, and the Western war industry, published the widely cited but refuted pamphlet “Uyghurs for Sale.” The organization was one of the driving forces in spreading the propaganda campaign of “genocide” against the Uyghurs in China, which originated in the United States.

The case is clear: Dilana Dilixiati, a Uyghur, and her ability to pursue a career as a top athlete and to travel, contradicts the Western narrative that is ingrained in people’s minds that Uyghurs, who are totally discriminated against, are prisoners and victims of genocide and cannot leave Xinjiang. Their story had to be kept quiet by the media, because consumers would naturally have noticed that there was something wrong with the prevailing narrative, and who likes to be manipulated.

Felix Abt is the author of “A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom” and of “A Land of Prison Camps, Starving Slaves and Nuclear Bombs?”

MRonline, November 29, 2022, https://mronline.org/

U.S. media searched for crisis at China Party Congress / by Eric Horowitz

The New York Times (10/27/22) invited readers to scrutinize video of a 79-year-old retiree being escorted from a meeting for signs that he was “purged”—a conjecture that the Times otherwise provides no evidence for.

For the Western press, the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party offered a number of signals which—if read in good faith—could have been perceived as reassuring.

Instead, establishment outlets reverted to familiar narratives regarding China’s Covid mitigation strategy and tied these into renewed predictions of a long-prophesied economic disaster—one that would inevitably befall China as a result of its government’s decision to forsake the orthodoxy of open markets.

More than anything else, corporate media fixated on Hu Jintao’s departure from the congress hall, engaging in tabloid-variety speculation around the fate of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s 79-year-old predecessor.

SCMP (10/16/22): “Analysts said Xi’s remarks suggested that Beijing was exercising restraint on Taiwan, despite the soaring tensions.”

SCMP (10/16/22): “Analysts said Xi’s remarks suggested that Beijing was exercising restraint on Taiwan, despite the soaring tensions.”

Invoking the specter of a purge, outlets like the New York Times and CNN pushed the narrative that Xi manipulated events to consolidate his power. However, the “evidence” used by corporate media to suggest that Xi orchestrated Hu’s exit as part of a power grab was far from convincing.

| SCMP 101622 Analysts said Xis remarks suggested that Beijing was exercising restraint on Taiwan despite the soaring tensions | MR Online

Substantive developments

If establishment outlets covering the congress were on the lookout for substantive developments—rather than additional fodder to comport with their prefabricated narratives—they could have found them.

Despite the Biden administration’s belligerent posture vis-à-vis Taiwan, demonstrated by escalations like Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island and Biden’s own promise to deploy U.S. forces in the event of a forced reunification, Xi indicated that China would continue to approach cross-strait relations with restraint.

Of Xi’s relatively measured statements on reunification, Sung Wen-ti, a political scientist at the Australian National University (Guardian10/16/22), said, “The lack of ‘hows’ is a sign he wants to preserve policy flexibility and doesn’t want to irreversibly commit to a particularly adversarial path.” Lim John Chuan-tiong, a former researcher at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica (SCMP10/16/22), deemed Xi’s message to the Taiwanese people “balanced and not combative.” This sounds like good news for everyone who wants to avoid a potential nuclear war.

In addition, Xi’s opening report to the congress placed particular emphasis on the task of combating climate change. The section titled “Pursuing Green Development and Promoting Harmony between Humanity and Nature” presented a four-part framework to guide China’s policy efforts in this area. Even the avidly pro-Western Atlantic Council had to admit that “China is showing its leadership in green development in a number of ways.”

Since China is home to one-fifth of the global population, and is currently the most prolific CO2-emitting country on Earth, its government’s decision to prioritize a comprehensive response to the climate crisis seems like an unambiguously positive development.

The congress even provided some encouraging news for those who claim to care about human rights. In a surprise move, Chen Quanguo, who was hit with U.S. sanctions for his hardline approach as party secretary in both Tibet and Xinjiang, was ousted from the central committee.

The New York Times (10/16/22) refers to the “idea” that China’s zero Covid policies “have saved lives”—as though it’s possible that China could have allowed the coronavirus to spread throughout its population without killing anyone.

The New York Times (10/16/22) refers to the “idea” that China’s zero Covid policies “have saved lives”—as though it’s possible that China could have allowed the coronavirus to spread throughout its population without killing anyone.

But U.S. corporate media generally failed to highlight these developments as positive news. In fact, with the exception of some coverage of Xi’s statements on Taiwan—which largely misrepresented China’s posture as more threatening than a good-faith reading would indicate—US news outlets had remarkably little to say about the substance of any news coming out of the congress.

Recycled narratives

As FAIR (3/24/201/29/219/9/22) has pointed out at various points in the pandemic, corporate media—seemingly disturbed by China’s unwillingness to sacrifice millions of lives at the altar of economic growth—have been almost uniformly critical of the Chinese government’s Covid mitigation strategy.

Indeed, establishment outlets have persistently demonized the “zero-Covid” policy despite its successes—in terms of both lives saved and economic development. After Xi indicated to the congress that China would continue along this path, corporate media were predictably dismayed.

Returning to its familiar line that, contrary to evidence, China’s decision to prioritize public health would ravage its economy, the New York Times (10/16/22) reported:

Mr. Xi argued that the Communist Party had waged an “all out people’s war to stop the spread of the virus.” China’s leadership has done everything it can to protect people’s health, he said, putting “the people and their lives above all else.” He made no mention of how the stringent measures were holding back economic growth and frustrating residents.

The article went on to quote Jude Blanchette, a “China expert” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who declared, “There is nothing positive or aspirational about zero Covid.” That CSIS would disseminate such a narrative—with the assistance of the reliably hawkish Times—is unsurprising, since the think tank’s chief patrons share a common interest in vilifying China.

CSIS’s roster of major donors includes military contractors Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, as well as a litany of oil and gas companies—all of whom derive financial benefit from America’s military build-up in the Pacific.

CNN (10/17/22) reported that “experts are concerned that Xi offered no signs of moving away from the country’s rigid zero-Covid policy or its tight regulatory stance on various businesses, both of which have hampered growth in the world’s second-largest economy.” CNN‘s experts don’t point out that China’s economy has grown 9% since 2019, when Covid struck, vs. 2% for the US.

CSIS has also received millions of dollars from the governments of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Sitting on its board of trustees are Phebe Novakovic, chair and CEO of General Dynamics, and Leon Panetta who—as Defense secretary in the Obama administration—helped craft the DOD’s “pivot to Asia.”

‘No to market reforms’

In “Xi Jinping’s Speech: Yes to Zero Covid, No to Market Reforms?” CNN (10/17/22) framed Xi’s statement that China would not allow the deadly coronavirus to spread freely across its population as part of a broader rejection of liberalized markets by the CCP.

Aside from the obvious shortcomings of a framework that evaluates public health policy on the basis of its relationship to economic growth, CNN presented the opening of Chinese markets to foreign capital as an objective good—the forsaking of which would bode poorly for China’s economic prospects.

While China’s “reform and opening-up” has been immensely profitable for corporations—as evidenced in media coverage (Forbes10/24/22NYT11/7/22) of global markets’ uneasiness over Xi’s alleged “return to Marxism”—its impact on Chinese workers has been uneven, to say the least. Living standards have improved generally, but labor conditions remain poor and inequality is growing.

Like the TimesCNN went the think tank route to support its thesis, quoting Craig Singleton—senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD):

Yesterday’s speech confirms what many China watchers have long suspected—Xi has no intention of embracing market liberalization or relaxing China’s zero-Covid policies, at least not anytime soon…. Instead, he intends to double down on policies geared towards security and self-reliance at the expense of China’s long-term economic growth.

Despite the fact that China watchers have, for as long as one can remember, predicted a collapse of China’s economy that has yet to materialize, corporate media keep on returning to that same old well.

For its part, FDD—to which CNN attached the inconspicuous label of “DC-based think tank”—is a neoconservative advocacy group that has an ax to grind with China. The chairman of FDD’s China Program is Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor to Donald Trump.

CNN (10/17/22) reported that “experts are concerned that Xi offered no signs of moving away from the country’s rigid zero-Covid policy or its tight regulatory stance on various businesses, both of which have hampered growth in the world’s second-largest economy.” CNN‘s experts don’t point out that China’s economy has grown 9% since 2019, when Covid struck, vs. 2% for the US.

The New York Times (10/27/22) invited readers to scrutinize video of a 79-year-old retiree being escorted from a meeting for signs that he was “purged”—a conjecture that the Times otherwise provides no evidence for.

Early on in the pandemic, a Washington Post profile (4/29/20) of Pottinger stated that he “believes Beijing’s handling of the virus has been ‘catastrophic’ and ‘the whole world is the collateral damage of China’s internal governance problems.’” The article quoted Trump’s second national security advisor, H.R. McMaster—who is also currently employed as a “China expert” at FDD—as calling Pottinger “central to the biggest shift in U.S. foreign policy since the Cold War, which is the competitive approach to China.”

Desperate search for a purge

If consumers of corporate media only encountered one story about the congress, it probably had something to do with this seemingly innocuous development: During the congress’s closing session, aides escorted Hu Jintao—Xi’s predecessor as China’s paramount leader—out of the Great Hall of the People.

Later that day, Xinhua, China’s state news agency, said that Hu’s departure was health related. This explanation isn’t exactly far-fetched, since the 79-year-old Hu has long been said to be suffering from an illness—as early as 2012, some observers posited that the then-outgoing leader had Parkinson’s disease.

Since the whole episode was caught on camera, however, corporate media were not satisfied with China’s mundane account of events. Instead, establishment outlets seized the moment and transformed Hu’s departure into a dramatic spectacle, laden with sinister connotations. The speculation that followed was almost obsessive in nature.

In a piece titled “What Happened to Hu Jintao,” the New York Times (10/27/22) resorted to a form of video and image analysis one would typically expect from the most committed conspiracy theorist. Despite conceding that “it’s far from evident that Mr. Hu’s exit was planned, and many analysts have warned against drawing assumptions,” the Times went on to do just that.

The article centered on nine video clips and three stills, providing a moment-by-moment breakdown of Hu’s exit from various angles and zoom levels. Some images even included Monday Night Football—style telestrator circles, which surrounded the heads of certain CCP cadres like halos in a Renaissance painting.

In reference to the haloed party figures whose “expressions did not change” as Hu was escorted away, the Times quoted Wu Guoguang, a professor at Canada’s University of Victoria:

Here was Hu Jintao, the former highest leader of your party and a man who had given so many of you political opportunities. And how do you treat him now?… This incident demonstrated the tragic reality of Chinese politics and the fundamental lack of human decency in the Communist Party.

While noting that Wu “said he did not want to speculate about what had unfolded,” the Times evidently did not consider this statement of caution as being at odds with his subsequent use of Hu’s departure to condemn the CCP in the broadest possible terms.

Indeed, the paper of record saw no problem with attributing the failure of Hu’s colleagues to react in a more appropriate manner—whatever that may have been—to “the tragic reality of Chinese politics” and a “fundamental lack of human decency” on the part of the CCP.

Here was a microcosm of corporate media’s contradictory approach to the episode: a professed reluctance to engage in conjecture, persistently negated by an overwhelming eagerness to cast aspersions. In line with this tack, the Times resorted to innuendo by posing a hypothetical question:

Was Mr. Hu, 79, suffering from poor health, as Chinese state media would later report? Or was he being purged in a dramatic show by China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, for the world to see?

The New York Times (10/27/22) invited readers to scrutinize video of a 79-year-old retiree being escorted from a meeting for signs that he was “purged”—a conjecture that the Times otherwise provides no evidence for.

The Wall Street Journal (10/27/22) subjected Hu’s exit to the kind of analysis usually done in movies with photos linked by string on a basement wall.

Rather than asserting outright that Hu was the victim of a purge, the Times advanced this familiar red-scare narrative by including two photographs from the Cultural Revolution—one of which depicts Xi’s father being subjected to humiliation during a struggle session. With these images, the Times coaxed readers into making a spurious connection between Hu’s exit and the political repressions of yesteryear.

Unfazed by lack of evidence

The same day as the Times released its “analysis,” the Wall Street Journal (10/27/22) published a similar piece under the headline “Hu Jintao’s Removal From China’s Party Congress, a Frame-by-Frame Breakdown.”

Short on substance, since there was no actual evidence to suggest that the 79-year-old—who hasn’t held power for a decade and has never even been rumored to oppose Xi—was being purged or publicly humiliated, the Journal chose to hyperfixate on every aspect of the footage.

Predictably, cable news networks and China watchers also took part in the orgy of speculation. On CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front (10/25/22), international correspondent Selina Wang said this:

Now, I have spoken to experts who think there is more to this than that pure health explanation, including Steve Tsang of [the] SOAS China Institute. He told me that this is humiliation of Hu Jintao. It is a clear message that there is only one leader who matters in China right now and that is Xi Jinping.

She did not mention the fact that Tsang is a fellow at Chatham House, a think tank that derives a substantial proportion of its funding from the U.S. State Department and the governments of Britain and Japan.

The Wall Street Journal (10/27/22) subjected Hu’s exit to the kind of analysis usually done in movies with photos linked by string on a basement wall.

The day before, on CNN Newsroom (10/24/22), Wang stated, “Hu Jintao. . . was publicly humiliated at the closing ceremony of the Party Congress.” The only support she offered for this assertion came from Victor Shih, another China watcher from the aforementioned CSIS, who conjectured:

I am not a believer of the pure health explanation. And it seemed like [Hu] sat down in a pretty stable manner. And then suddenly, he was asked to leave. I’m not sure if he whispered something, said something to Xi Jinping.

Half-acknowledging that Shih’s description of events actually said nothing at all, Wang concluded: “Regardless, it was a symbolic moment. Out with Hu and the collective leadership of his era.” For Wang and for corporate media’s treatment of the episode writ large, “regardless” was the operative word—regardless of the fact that they were merely engaged in baseless speculation, they would still inevitably arrive at the most sinister conclusion.

MRonline, November 17, 2022, https://mronline.org/

The American Empire Runs Through the Compact States / by Edward Hunt

Pohnpei International Airport. (Photo: Mike LaMonaca/Flickr)

Originally published in Antiwar.com on October 24, 2022

U.S. officials are working to integrate the compact states more closely into the American empire in the Pacific Ocean.

For the past year, U.S. diplomats and military leaders have been advising the leaders of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) that their countries are part of the U.S. homeland, despite the fact that the countries are neither states nor territories of the United States.

“The United States regards our country as part of the homeland, and we regard ourselves as part of the homeland,” FSM President David Panuelo said in a September 27 lecture at Georgetown University.

For decades, the United States has administered compacts of free association with Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The compacts create a unique relationship between the United States and these three Pacific Island countries. Essentially, the United States provides the islands with economic assistance in exchange for military controls.

The compact states “receive U.S. economic assistance and grant the United States the prerogatives to operate military bases on their soil and make decisions that affect mutual security,” notes a 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Many U.S. officials argue that the islands are strategically important. They view the compact states as important components of a U.S.-controlled oceanic highway the starts in California, extends toward U.S. insular areas in the Pacific Ocean, and connects to U.S. military sites in East Asia.

“Together these three countries form a strategic bridge that stretches from Hawai’i to the Philippines, an area that is geographically larger than the continental United States,” State Department official Mark Lambert told Congress earlier this year.

U.S. strategists hope to use the compact states to contain the rise of China. They are working to integrate the compact states into U.S.-led “island chains” that encircle China.

The Pacific Islands “comprise the land features that form the first, second, and third island chains that serve as defensive buffers to threats from our west,” former U.S. diplomat James Loi advised Congress last year.

The compacts provide the United States with significant military powers. The United States wields the power of “strategic denial,” which empowers the U.S. military to exclude military forces from other countries from the islands. With the power of the “defense veto,” the United States prohibits the islands from implementing policies that are inconsistent with U.S. military priorities.

Under these controls, the compact states have refrained from joining the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, which Pacific Island countries implemented in the 1980s with the goal of keeping nuclear weapons out of the area. At this year’s review conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pacific Island countries called on the United States to join the nuclear-free zone, only to hear little in response from Washington.

At a military base in the Marshall Islands, the United States tests hypersonic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles. More recently, the U.S. military has begun developing plans to create a radar station in Palau and military facilities in the Federated States of Micronesia.

“The compacts deny an enormous and strategically important section of the Western Pacific to potential U.S. adversaries, while enabling U.S. presence and power projection in the region,” notes a 2019 report by the RAND Corporation.

Each compact state is a member of the United Nations. Their membership indicates that they are sovereign states, but they are highly deferential to the United States.

A 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks includes a message from Palauan leaders that their country will “never change its loyalty” to the United States. A Palauan diplomat told U.S. officials that a “good part of Palau’s sovereignty has been given to the United States” and “no modern, normative international law would allow this.”

According to the leaders of the compact states, U.S. officials have begun describing the islands as parts of the U.S. homeland. Over the past year, Palauan President Surangel Whipps and FSM President David Panuelo have been saying that U.S. diplomats and military officials have been talking about the compact states as if they are integrated into the United States, particularly on security matters.

“The United States said the FSM is part of the homeland defense,” FSM President Panuelo said in February. The United States will treat any attack on the Federated States of Micronesia as if it is an attack on the United States, he added.

It means we are part of the homeland like one of the states or territories of the United States.

When the leaders of the three compact states met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on September 29, Whipps and Panuelo repeated these claims, attributing them to the Defense Department.

The compact states form “a special relationship with the United States and, as the Defense Department says, part of the homeland,” Whipps said.

“Part of the homeland,” Panuelo agreed.

Many islanders develop close ties to the United States through service in the U.S. military. Island leaders often boast that their citizens serve in the U.S. military at higher rates than U.S. citizens in the states and territories.

The three countries “have a long tradition and high rate of service by their citizens in the United States armed forces,” Lambert acknowledged.

Still, islanders struggle with economic hardships. In comparison to the states and territories, the compact states remain poor and underdeveloped. Over the past several years, islanders have been fleeing their homes in large numbers, often moving to the states and territories.

According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the number of migrants moving to the United States and its territories increased by nearly 70 percent from 2009 to 2018, as islanders fled poverty, economic duress, and environmental threats.

As U.S. officials focus on how they can use the islands to advance their geopolitical objectives, island leaders remain far more concerned about climate change. In 2018, the Pacific Islands Forum identified climate change as the “single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of peoples of the Pacific.”

Recently, the Biden administration has made some effort to acknowledge the threat of climate change to the Pacific Islands. In its Pacific Partnership Strategy and National Security Strategy, the White House emphasized the importance of addressing climate change.

“For you all, it’s an existential threat,” President Biden acknowledged when he met with island leaders last month.

Still, the Biden administration is prioritizing its geopolitical objectives. Viewing China as the greatest long-term geopolitical challenge to the United States, administration officials are working to incorporate the compact states into the U.S. oceanic highway that crosses the Pacific Ocean and the U.S.-led island chains that encircle China.

In short, U.S. officials are moving to establish new imperial roles for the compact states, going so far as to advise the leaders of the compact states that their countries are now part of the U.S. homeland.

“The United States considered the Federated States of Micronesia, as I said, as part of the homeland, and we consider ourselves as part of the homeland,” Panuelo said in his lecture.

Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary. Originally published in Lobelog. Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus.

MR Online, October 26, 2022, https://mronline.org/

Uprising targets Canada’s man in Haiti / by Frantz Elbé, Jovenel Moïse, Mike Duheme, Sébastien Carrière

Sign reads: “Banks are not innocent in our misery.”

Originally published in Canadian Dimension, 09.15.2022

A popular uprising has paralyzed life in much of Haiti. While police are violently suppressing protesters, don’t expect Canadian officials to criticize security forces they fund.

Major centres across Haiti have been blocked for days. Protesters want foreign appointed leader Ariel Henry to go. They are angry about insecurity and the cost-of-living. Stoking the growing protests, the government ended a fuel subsidy on Monday that will have a broad economic implication.

In response to the strikes and marches, as well as some property destruction and looting, foreign embassies and banks have closed. The Dominican Republic reportedly sent special forces to Haiti on Thursday.

On Wednesday in the southern city of Les Cayes protesters held a casket draped with the U.S., French and Canadian flags and a picture of prime minister Henry. After President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated fourteen months ago the Core Group (representatives of U.S., Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, EU, UN and OAS) effectively appointed Henry to lead the country.

Since the U.S., France and Canada overthrew thousands of elected officials and instigated a UN occupation, Haitians have regularly targeted Ottawa at marches. Previously, protesters have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, as well as burned tires, in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Millions of Haitians clearly view Canada as an imperialist force.

As part of its influence Ottawa has devoted significant political capital and resources to the Haitian police. Since the 2004 coup Canada has spent hundreds of million dollars on the Haitian police. Last month the federal government approved the export of Canadian-made armored personnel carriers to the Haitian police. Canadian ambassador Sébastien Carrière recently boasted about Canada spending $30 million on the Haitian police in 2022 and Ottawa is leading the push for the United Nations basket fund to assist the Haitian police.

On Tuesday in Port-au-Prince police shot towards a journalist and when he complained one of the officers walked over and shot him. With video of the incident, BNN Canada reported,

Police open fire on a journalist who states, ‘I’m the press!’ during protests in Haiti’s capital. A police officer approaches and shoots him in the stomach with a handgun hidden behind his riot shield.

But don’t expect ambassador Carrière to criticize this incident or any other police violence. Over the past few weeks, the Haitian police have killed a number of protesters and beat many others with no comment from Canadian officials. Almost without fail Canadian officials have stayed mum about Haitian police repression. Instead, Canada’s ambassador to Haiti regularly tweets about supporting the police.

Recently Carrière tweeted about Haitian police Chief Frantz Elbé addressing the UN and about RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Duheme meeting Elbé. Last week Carrière also retweeted a Miami Herald article about the Haitian police and a few days earlier an Alterpresse story on the same subject.

Canada has chosen a side and it’s not the long-suffering Haitian people. Ottawa has trained and funds police to maintain its chosen leader, Ariel Henry, in office.

Canada’s actions speak loud and clear: ‘We support police violence. Popular uprising be damned. Democracy be damned. Non-interference in other country’s affairs be damned.’ Ottawa is sticking to its guns. Literally.

MR Online, September 21, 2022, https://mronline.org/

Fidel’s guidance in all of Cuba’s struggles / by Alejandra Garcia

Originally published: Resumen English on August 11, 2022

These days Cuba is recovering from an unprecedented fire, which has kept Matanzas, the whole island, and especially rescuers, firefighters, and authorities on full alert since the night of August 5. The continuous explosions in one of the main oil storage facilities in the country left a trail of thick black smoke that covered the Havana sky for five days. It also left so far two deaths, 14 people missing, and over a hundred people injured. Now that the flames have been extinguished the next phase of clean up will begin and it will start with finding the remains of those brave firefighters who threw themselves immediately into battle for their homeland.

However, amid pain and agony, Cuba has one great consolation: since 1959, the people have never been alone in struggles, accidents, or catastrophes of any kind. Fidel never permitted it. Today, when the island is just 2 days away from remembering the 96th anniversary of his birth, the 6th that has passed without his physical presence, the people proved once again that his ideas and his example do not abandon them.

In the most uncertain moments of the fight to put out the fire, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez mentioned, again and again, a phrase well known to Cubans: “The protection of our citizens will always occupy the first place in our efforts. Nothing will have priority over this.”

Fidel repeated those same words in March 2003, a few months after two powerful hurricanes, Lili and Isidore, crossed the island in September 2002, both of which had an almost identical path, coming barely 11 days between one another.

“In the face of climate changes, the environmental damage caused by humankind, economic crises, epidemics and cyclones, our material, scientific and technical resources are increasingly abundant,” he added.

Cuba had already lived through other extreme experiences at that time. Hurricane Flora, for example, passed over the island in October 1963 and is remembered for its heavy rains, which overflowed rivers, ruined crops, and destroyed houses. More than 1,150 people died during that violent five-day storm, as well as thousands of animals.

According to Bohemia, Fidel directed the relief operations and moved from one province to another. First Santa Clara, then Camagüey, and even into the most dangerous area of the Cauto River.

“The Commander-in-Chief of the Revolution was, as always, in the front line. It was not uncommon to see him personally organizing rescue brigades, attending to the victims, sharing the pain of the people,” the magazine reported.

Fidel Castro was on the front line of the catastrophe, even during the battering of the winds and waters, even though the historic hurricane had not yet left the eastern province within which it performed several loops while trapped by the mountains.

The leader of the Revolution moved there with amphibious tanks of the Rebel Army and he personally saved many victims who remained on the roofs, the top of trees, or those who were trapped in the floodwaters. The helicopters fought against the heavy winds, taking advantage of every space of calm to save entire families.

All the victims received material assistance. The enormous damage was mitigated and everything was rebuilt. No family was left behind.

Since 2016, the year Fidel died, Cuba has faced other situations of great pain: Hurricane Irma (2016), the plane crash at José Martí International Airport (2018), and the tornado that destroyed hundreds of houses in Havana (2019), an unprecedented pandemic, a raging fire…

But Cuban leaders continue Fidel’s legacy. From the checkpoint stationed a few kilometers from the fire, after it was made known that the flames were already under control, Díaz-Canel took a few minutes to recall – as he does every day – some words of the man who remains and will remain present in each of our struggles: “Our people will be able to overcome any obstacle, any difficulty; our people will be able to march forward unstoppable, and they will be able to overcome their own weaknesses.”

In commemoration of Fidel’s  birthday on August 13 we present Estela Bravo’s extraordinary documentary, Fidel the Untold Story

MR Online, August 14, 2022, https://mronline.org/

Former CIA chief admits to U.S. meddling in foreign elections / by Morning Star Online

Former CIA director James Woolsey | Photo: Christopher Michel Creative Commons

Originally published: Morning Star Online on July 26, 2022

Former CIA director James Woolsey has admitted that the U.S. “interferes” in elections in other countries to protect its interests.

He made the candid remarks during an interview with Fox News presenter Laura Ingraham on Saturday.

Asked whether the U.S. “meddles in other countries elections,” the former CIA chief replied:

Oh probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to prevent the communists from taking over.

Mr Woolsey cited Greece and Italy in the years following World War II as examples of how the U.S. has intervened to prevent communist parties from coming to power.

“We don’t mess around,” he told the Fox News host.

Nazi collaborators known as the Holy Bond of Greek Officers were handed $1 million (worth approx £13.7m today) annually by the CIA to prevent the country coming under the influence of the Soviet Union.

Greece was an integral part of the NATO military alliance, with the Mountain Raiding Companies acting as part of its so-called stay-behind teams which crushed leftist groups across Europe.

The Greek Communist Party was banned and the country was ruled by right-wing dictatorships for decades until an uprising finally overthrew the military junta in1974.

When pressed on whether the U.S. continues to interfere in elections today Mr Woolsey laughed and said:

Only for a very good cause and in the interest of democracy.

The former CIA chief’s admission comes a week after former US national security adviser John Bolton confirmed Washington’s involvement in coups, including plans to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela branded the former Trump aide “a psychopath.”

MR Online, July 26, 2022, https://mronline.org/

“In Defense of Housing” / by Zachary White

Madden and Marcuse’s essential book on the political economy of housing shows how in an alienated capitalist society, affordable/free housing becomes an “underperforming asset” and gentrification and becomes a “business plan.” From the enclosure of the commons in early modern England to the 20th century trend of deregulation, class war dominates the social relations which determine housing.

America made a neoliberal deal with the devil when it began to whittle away New Deal protections for the vulnerable. The rise of the U.S. prison population and the crisis of homelessness are direct results of this ideology of disposability. In Defense of Housing by David Madden and Peter Marcuse points to the commodification, financialization, and deregulation of the global housing system as some of the roots of modern housing insecurity. In Defense of Housing cites social movements, history, economic data, and social theory to advocate a world where “housing is not real estate, but a home.” (p. 218)

Coming from the Portland, Oregon area, homelessness and gentrification are impossible phenomena to ignore. However, these issues seem to bewilder the middle class people I typically engage with. While I think I’ve long known that capitalism and greed are at the heart of the problem, I also fell into the misconception that the issue of homelessness was “complicated.” The sociologist and urban planner who wrote In Defense of Housing are clearly very well-read and smarter than me on this subject, but reading their book has elucidated how simple the housing crisis actually is. This should be the goal of an academics of liberation: to make comprehensible that which is incomprehensible. “When housing units are bought on the assumption that they can be turned into more liquid commodities, displacement is the predictable result.” (p. 43) Identifying the unequal power relations at play, Madden and Marcuse write that the removal of policies which reign in landowners “shifts power towards power towards capital and away from residents—while also, not coincidentally making land more valuable and more amenable to speculation.” They continue, “The commodification of housing is a political project that refuses to acknowledge itself as such.” (p. 47)

While transnational speculation in the form of private equity drives development projects and raises rents, local communities see their wages stagnant or declining. In class with Poor People’s Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Washington state homeless organizer Rev. Sarah Monroe quoted Isaiah 5:8, “Woe to those who attach house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, and you alone are a landowner in the midst of the land!” Far from the neoliberal claim that the free market is “efficient” and “rational,” Madden and Marcuse write that “developers routinely engage in land hoarding and other strategies centered on speculation and scarcity.” (p. 48) From the enclosure of the commons in early modern England to the 20th century trend of deregulation, class war dominates the social relations which determine housing. One of the many chilling Henri Lefebvre quotes in the book can be found on page 38: “The Olympians of the new bourgeois aristocracy no longer inhabit. They go from grand hotel to grand hotel, or from castle to castle, commanding a fleet or a country from a yacht.” While increasingly less high-end real estate becomes a “primary residence” and increasingly more becomes a “second home,” luxury housing becomes a currency in itself.

The transformation of housing from dwelling to commodity or status symbol is brought out in the first chapter on commodification, and even deeper in the second chapter on “Residential Alienation.” Madden and Marcuse write, “If something is ‘alienable,’ it is exchangeable. It can be bought and sold. Alienation is thus the precondition of all private property.” (p. 56) This theoretical discussion is a powerful counterpart to the materialist grounding of the book. “Feeling at home” is contrasted with the concept of alienation, which economically forces so many to live in overcrowded, unsafe, and inadequate conditions. In an alienated society, gentrification becomes a “business plan.” Affordable homes become “underperforming assets.” Jesus says foxes have holes, birds have nests, but ben-adam “son of man” children of humanity, live without homes. Homelessness is the ultimate expression of alienation. Humanity was not made for society; society was made for humanity. As Jesus says in Matthew 6, we cannot serve both God and wealth. In the same way, housing cannot serve both humanity and wealth. Madden and Marcuse are clear about what is needed: “More than a simple legal claim, a real right to housing needs to take the form of an ongoing effort to democratize and decommodify housing, and to end the alienation that the existing housing system engenders.”

The demands of the book include the revitalization of public housing, rent control, public ownership of land, limits on speculation, and breaking the monopoly of for-profit developers. Harlem-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio is cited by Madden and Marcuse, “We all share a common enemy and it’s called neoliberalism.” The MJB document continues, “This displacement is created by the greed, ambition, and violence of a global empire of money that seeks to take control of all the land, labor, and life on earth.” (p. 182) Rather than seeing New York City as a “luxury product” like Mayor Bloomberg (p. 181), our neighborhoods must be understood as the lifeblood of our society—havens for the wellbeing of ourselves and our children. If America’s housing system isn’t working for the least of us, it’s not working for any of us. Like access to healthcare, water, clean air, and electricity, housing should not be an opportunity for corporate profiteering, but a human right.

Originally published: Midwestern Marx on May 23, 2022

Zachary White is an M.Div. student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. From Portland, Oregon, Zac is interested in the history of the  U.S. empire, film, and the Christian liberation traditions which Friedrich Engels traces back to the book of Revelation.

MR Online, May 26, 2022, https://mronline.org/