Insert near daily “Mark Steyn has a terrific piece on…” boilerplate here: this time, it’s on the claims that the 21st century will be “The Chinese Century”. (Hey, I can remember 15 years ago, when it was supposed to be the Japanese Century. And 10 years prior to that it was going to be the Soviet Century.)
Steyn’s title says it all: “Who can stop the rise and rise of China? The communists, of course“:
Mao, though he gets a better press than Hitler and Stalin, was the biggest mass murderer of all time, with a body count ten times’ higher than the Nazis (as Jung Chang’s new biography reminds us). The standard line of Sinologists is that, while still perfunct-orily genuflecting to his embalmed corpse in Tiananmen Square, his successors have moved on – just as, in Austin Powers, while Dr Evil is in suspended animation, his Number Two diversifies the consortium’s core business away from evildoing and reorients it toward a portfolio of investments including a chain of premium coffee stores. But Maoists with stock options are still Maoists – especially when they owe their robust portfolios to a privileged position within the state apparatus.
The internal contradictions of Commie-capitalism will, in the end, scupper the present arrangements in Beijing. China manufactures the products for some of the biggest brands in the world, but it’s also the biggest thief of copyrights and patents of those same brands. It makes almost all Disney’s official merchandising, yet it’s also the country that defrauds Disney and pirates its movies. The new China’s contempt for the concept of intellectual property arises from the old China’s contempt for the concept of all private property: because most big Chinese businesses are (in one form or another) government-controlled, they’ve failed to understand the link between property rights and economic development.
China hasn’t invented or discovered anything of significance in half a millennium, but the careless assumption that intellectual property is something to be stolen rather than protected shows why. If you’re a resource-poor nation (as China is), long-term prosperity comes from liberating the creative energies of your people – and Beijing still has no interest in that. If a blogger attempts to use the words “freedom” or “democracy” or “Taiwan independence” on Microsoft’s new Chinese internet portal, he gets the message: “This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech.” How pathetic is that? Not just for the Microsoft-spined Corporation, which should be ashamed of itself, but for the Chinese government, which pretends to be a world power but is terrified of words.
Does “Commie wimps” count as forbidden speech, too? And what is the likelihood of China advancing to a functioning modern stand-alone business culture if it’s unable to discuss anything except within its feudal political straitjackets? Its speech code is a sign not of control but of weakness; its internet protective blocks are not the armour but the, er, chink.
India, by contrast, with much less ballyhoo, is advancing faster than China toward a fully-developed economy – one that creates its own ideas. Small example: there are low-fare airlines that sell