Air Date 6/6/2021
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the tensions building between the US and China, with an emphasis on understanding the context in which China has grown from a cold war afterthought into a force capable of challenging American hegemony. Clips today are from a TEDTalk by Graham Allison, Worldly, The East is a Podcast, NowThis World, Vox, Democracy Now!, ChinaTalk, and Economics and Beyond with Rob Johnson.
Graham Allison: Is war between China and the US inevitable - TEDTalks - Air Date 11-20-18
GRAHAM ALISON: [00:00:36] As we saw with this flipping the pyramid of poverty, China has actually soared. This meteoric, former Czech President Václav Havel I think put it best, he said all this has happened so fast we haven't yet had time to be astonished. To remind myself how astonished I've should be I occasionally look out the window in my office in Cambridge at this bridge, which goes across the Charles river between the Kennedy School and Harvard Business School.
In 2012 state of Massachusetts said they were going to renovate this bridge, it would take two years. In 2014, they said it wasn't finished. In 2015, they said it would take one more year. In 2015, they said it's not finished, we're not going to tell you when it's going to be finished. Finally, last year it was finished three times over budget.
Now compare this to a similar bridge that I drove across last month in Beijing, it was called the Sanyuan Bridge. In 2015, the Chinese decided they wanted to renovate that bridge, it actually has twice as many lanes of traffic. How long did it take for them to complete the project? What do you you bet? The answer is 43 hours.
Now, of course that couldn't happen in New York. Behind this speed in execution is a purpose driven leader and a government that works. The most ambitious and most competent leader on the international stage today is Chinese president, Xi Jinping. And he's made no secret about what he wants. As he said when he became president six years ago, his goal is to "make China great again", a banner he raised long before Donald Trump picked up a version of this. To that end, Xi Jinping has announced specific targets for specific dates. 2025, 2035, 2049.
By 2025, china means to be the dominant power in the major market in 10 leading technologies, including driverless cars, robots, artificial intelligence, quantum computing. By 2035, china means to be the innovation leader across all the advanced technologies. And by 2049, which is the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, China means to be unambiguously number one, including Xi Jinping an army that he calls quote, "fight and win". So these are audacious goals, but as you can see, China's already well on its way to these objectives.
And we should remember how fast our world is changing. 30 years ago, the worldwide web had not yet even been invented. Who feel the impact of this rise of China most directly? Obviously the current number one. As China gets bigger and stronger and richer, technologically more advanced, it'll inevitably bump up against American positions in prerogatives.
Now for red blooded Americans, and especially for red necked Americans like me, I'm from North Carolina, there's something wrong with this picture. The USA means number one, that's who we are, but again, to repeat, brute facts are hard to ignore. Four years ago, Senator John McCain asked me to testify about this to his Senate Armed Services Committee, and so I made for them a chart that you can see that said compare the US and China to kids on opposite ends of a seesaw and a playground, each represented by the size of their economy. As late as 2004, China was just half our size. By 2014, its GDP was equal to ours. And on the current trajectory, by 2024, it'll be half again larger. The consequences of this tectonic change will be felt everywhere.
For example, in the current trade conflict, China's already the number one trading partner of all the major Asian countries, which brings us back to our Greek historian. Harvard's Thucydides's Trap case file has reviewed the last 500 years of history and found 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. 12 of these ended in war, and the tragedy of this is that in very few of these did either of the protagonists want a war. Few of these wars were initiated by either the rising power or the ruling power. So how does this work? What happens is a third party's provocation forces one or the other to react, and that sets in motion a spiral, which drags the two somewhere they don't want to go. If that seems crazy, it is, but it's life.
Remember World War One, the provocation in that case was the assassination of a second level figure, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which then leads the Austria-Hungarian emperor to issue a ultimatum to Serbia, they dragged in the various allies, within two months all of Europe was at war.
So finally we conclude, again, with the most consequential question. The question that will have the gravest consequences for the rest of our lives. Are Americans and Chinese going to let the forces of history drive us to a war that would be catastrophic for both, or can we summon the imagination and courage to find a way to survive together?
The world's great powers - Worldly - Air Date 2-18-21
JENNIFER WILLIAMS - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:06:37] Especially in Washington, it's become this catchphrase that is being used, especially in the Pentagon, but State Department, think tanks, you can't really throw a rock without hitting someone talking about great power competition. Also, please don't throw rocks at people, that's not nice.
But your question of what it actually means, what is the definition is part of the problem that a lot of people don't take the time to really define, in a deep way, what it's supposed to mean. But in a general sense, it means competition on the international stage between great powers in particular, like you said, it's usually used to describe the global framework in international relations through which US policymaking is being seen right now, and it's primarily used to talk about US and China, and like you said, to some degree with Russia.
The idea here is that there was the cold war with the US and the Soviet Union as these two poles who were battling it out on the world stage. When that ended we entered this fuzzy era of not really having any cohesive framework to understand the world. There was a lot of talk about unipolarity, meaning one pole, meaning the United States being the dominant superpower. Then we had the war on terror as this organizing framework after 9/11. Introducing the global war on terror and focus on counter-terrorism, smaller operations around the world. And it wasn't so much focused on this broader grand strategy among world powers.
And so now we're back to this idea of this great power competition between US and China, with a rising China now coming to challenge the US in all kinds of ways, militarily, economically, now diplomatically. And so that's the framework that people are talking about, that this is the way that the world is organized now, and that's how US foreign policy needs to be oriented, that's the argument. That we need to focus on things like our defense spending to make sure that we match and not even match, but that we maintain dominance over China's military. Things like diplomatic efforts to make sure that China isn't expanding its influence all over the world and challenging the US economic trade, everything being put under this framework. That's the general definition, I guess I would put it out there.
ALEX WARD - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:08:46] Absolutely. And I guess I would add it is a bit more defined I think than at least you believe, and I totally get why you feel it's a nebulous concept because it is a nebulous concept, but it is really clearly meant to say two things. One, the era of small wars, the war on terror, as you said, Jen is over, and it is meant to say that the entirety of the US system, foreign policy apparatus, national security apparatus, is really geared towards two nations, China and Russia. Where I agree that there's a lack of definition is okay, but then what? So you say...
JENNIFER WILLIAMS - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:09:18] Yeah that's kinda what I mean. You're right.
ALEX WARD - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:09:20] And there were an agreement. I don't know what it actually implies other than, China, Russia bad. Now I get it from a messaging and political standpoint to call it this. If you spend any time in Washington or covering this stuff, you'll find that people very much like little monikers and acronyms, and especially if you cover the Pentagon for a while.
ZACH BEAUCHAMP - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:09:40] Oh God, the acronyms of the Pentagon.
ALEX WARD - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:09:42] It's bad, right? But when you're trying to get a sprawling government in line with the thing you're trying to get them to -- get them to focus on something, you need a little pithy bumper sticker like this and great power competition works that way. It also works for just the regular voter who isn't paying attention to almost anything, understandably, but if they hear what are we doing about China or Russia or whatever, you hear a great power competition and even if you're not familiar with these topics, you get at least an idea in your head as to what all this means. So that matters at least from a communication standpoint, but from the political standpoint, as we were alluding to, I don't know what it really implies other than fight China and Russia.
And that's dangerous because, especially when competition is the buzz word, it could lead to ruin, it could lead any leader or any government employee to think, oh, this means fight at all costs. There's no real clear goal here, and so the mind could run a bit wild. And that's the danger I think of when you use pithy things like this, despite the pros that I discussed, the cons are also quite bad.
JENNIFER WILLIAMS - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:10:49] Yeah, I think that's an important piece too, but yeah.
ZACH BEAUCHAMP - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:10:51] I think it's important to drill down on the competition half, but I want to come back to the great power half of the phrasing, because competition can mean lots of different things, and ultimately it depends on what you're competing over. In its most obvious sense, great power competition refers to competition over security and balance of power. So who's stronger where and in what ways can you prevent your enemy from getting some military foothold or territorial control or something like that.
But honestly, that is not the biggest axis of conflict right now between the United States and either China or Russia. There are territorial concerns in Eastern Europe and in places like the South China Sea, where the sides are coming into conflict, there are concerns about balance of power with respect to the strength of the NATO Alliance, and China's increasing ability, arguably increasing ability, to threaten Taiwan depending on who you're talking to, but it strikes me that a lot of the competition, the places in which these countries are trying to vie for influence, often happens in the political diplomatic and economic realms.
So they're competing over things like 5G placements in different countries, like whose companies get to place 5G. They're competing over trade linkages between Germany and Russia. They're competing over which country looks the best after the COVID-19 crisis, with the United States and China blaming each other for the pandemic spread and Russia coming out with a vaccine and there being competition over whether or not Russia's vaccine is any good or not, turns out it probably is.
And this is a different kind of competition than is normally conceptualized when people talk about great power competition. The phrase really, when you talk to the IRS scholars or you look at the literature, it most classically refers to 19th century style multipolarity, which means lots of different powerful countries competing over influence that often breaks down and turns into wars and conflicts over territory and over security, and so the balance of power system that you had in mid 19th century Europe in particular is the classic example of great power competition. So is European colonialism in Africa, with lots of different kinds of countries trying to scramble for control over different parcels of land in order to maximize their influence with respect to each other.
But now with war not looming in the immediate term, it seems like a lot of this competition is happening in different spheres, which means you need to think about different objectives. What is the point of competing over 5G? What is the point of the messaging war over COVID-19? And that's where I find a lot of the competition side conversation tends to break down. There's the sense that you're supposed to win a competition, you want to be better than the other side, but nobody is super clear on what ordinary people in the United States or the rest of the world gain from a USwin in something like the competition over 5G and that kind of thing. It's just often disconnected from broader strategic objectives, and just set in terms of "we have to win because we have to win."
ALEX WARD - HOST, WORLDLY: [00:13:56] I mean, I think it's somewhat clear what those objectives are. It is at least from the US standpoint, if China runs technology, if it runs the economy, if it is the best that all these things, they write the rules of the world and we don't, and that doesn't make a lot of American policymakers feel good and a lot of our allies feel good. They've enjoyed a US underwritten global systems since 1945-ish. So the notion that you're going to now have an autocratic country be in charge of the things that let our cell phones run, and our computers run, and global economic rules, and the future technologies that we'll all be using, that just doesn't sound good and it doesn't make people feel good and they worry that the world being a worst place if that were to happen.
And that, I think, is if we dig really beneath the surface of what great power competition is, this is if we don't push back on China and Russia and make sure that America doesn't stay number one, the world's going to hell. And that's really the messaging here, in every sphere, and so this is why you see people say well this really is a new cold war with China, and we'll mention Russia in a bit -- I have my very big disagreements with that for no other reason than China is integrated into the global economy, way more than the Soviet Union was, but that, I think, is the issue.
And so great power competition is meant to imply this is a moment where the US needs to stand up and defend itself, and stay the number one power, and make changes to out-compete Russia and China in multiple facets, otherwise there will be a new world, a new global order, et cetera, et cetera.
The Century of Humiliation w/ Carl Zha - The East is a Podcast - Air Date 6-12-20
SINA RAHMANI - HOST, THE EAST IS A PODCAST: [00:15:28] I want to ask you about the term "century of humiliation" and what that means. Because I discovered it long ago. I actually read some horrible kind of anti-China memoir by a Western journalist here, her name is Jan Wong. I don't know if she's known outside of Canada. But yeah, I didn't know back then, but it's like, oh, I missed the good old days before the revolution. I didn't recognize it then, I was in high school, I didn't know any better. But one of the images that I had is -- but I don't know if I learned about it there -- but sometime around there I learned about "century of humiliation" and it's always been a phrase that's stuck with me. And this is a kind of orientalist reading too, to say this, but when I see China -- whatever it does in a strategic, like geostrategic sort of outreach to the world or whatever, its flexing -- I just think in the back of my head "century of humiliation." These are the grandchildren of people who saw the tail end of that century. Like the living memory of colonialism is still basically alive, right, in China, '49 -- there's still people who are alive from '49, probably tens of millions of people actually.
So I would love to hear you riff about what that means, even what's the word in Chinese? Where does it come from? I should have given you time to prepare this, but it's always something that I've wanted to learn about.
CARL ZHA: [00:16:42] Yeah. Okay. So the term "century of humiliation" refers to the period from 1840s, the start of first opium war, to the founding of People's Republic in 1949. So it's almost exactly a hundred years. And this late 19th century and early 20th century is years to be a person of Chinese ancestry because prior to that, for the longest time, even for millennium, China had been the center for civilization in east Asia. I mean, there was a China-centered east Asian civilization where, you know, the neighboring countries like Japan, Korea and Vietnam borrow extensively from the Chinese culture and adopted to their own. And so from that position the catastrophic opium war, which is only a beginning and before China's saw themselves as the Chinese sees himself as the inheritor of this thousand-year-old unbroken line of civilization, and suddenly to be subjugated by the power of gunboats to humiliating treaties.
So for example, now Hong Kong is the news. Hong Kong came into being because [the] British, through the first opium war, defeated China, because British wants to sell opium to China. And when China outlaws opium sales, the opium smugglers of Britain they lobby the British parliament and British government launched a war, a drug war against China, forced China to accept the opium trade, and a defeated China had to cede Hong Kong island to Brit. And, that's how the history of colonial Hong Kong came about.
And like I said, the opium war was only a beginning. I mean that was the first opium war. And 10, 20 years later, there was a second opium war in 1860. And it's nonstop. And after that, there was a Sino-French war in 1884, and then the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894. That's when the Japan itself westernized and joined the imperialist club. And so it was just this non-stop pounding by Western powers. And then come 1900, the Boxer Rebellion, when the so-called eight allied nations, that's Britain, France, Russia, United States, Japan, Austro-Hungary, Germany -- now I'm coming to seven -- and Italy.
So eight allied nations, mostly Western powers, just Western powers plus Japan, and they stormed the Chinese capital Beijing, capture the Forbidden City and this is ostensibly to protect foreign interests in China. I mean, the reasons they are forming interest in China is because prior , after the opium war, the imperialist powera have imposed a series of unequal treaties in China.
So as a carve out, in addition to grab[bing] places like Hong Kong, they carve out these so-called foreign concessions in places like Shanghai. So Shanghai was a divided segregated city. There was a Chinatown, there was a Chinese part of Shanghai, and there's a foreigner part of Shanghai, you know, so-called international concession that was formed by a merger of the British and US, an American concession. And then there's a separate French concession. So on these concessions foreigners do not answer to Chinese law. They're governed by their own laws. They imported their own police. The British actually imported the Sikh police from India to police the Shanghai international settlement.
And this not only limited to Shanghai. As China lose s more wars, more cities are forced to open up. So my hometown is Chongqing, which is not on the coast at all. It's about, 2,500 kilometers off the Yangtze river, like in the very heartland of China. Now Chongqing was also forced to be open and forced to have host like foreign concession. And in places like Wuhan -- now Wuhan is famed because --
SINA RAHMANI - HOST, THE EAST IS A PODCAST: [00:21:17] Poor Wuhan! Everyone's going to talk about the virus for the next 50 years. You're going to talk about Wuhan. All the Chinese people and other provinces are going to make fun of the Wuhan people. They're going to be like, ha, ha, you were the virus people. This is gonna be very annoying for them and their children and grandchildren.
CARL ZHA: [00:21:35] Well, I mean, finally Wuhan got its name recognition.
But Wuhan also was forced to host foreign concessions. So basically these are a series of -- the foreigners to carve up the best real estate in town, right? All the waterfront property.
And even outside of the foreign concessions, the foreigners are still exempt from the Chinese laws. You could kill somebody, kill a Chinese person, it cannot be tried on there's a Chinese justice because, according to the British, you know, the Chinese justice system is wonton and cruel, like we can't have that. So the foreigners are only servable to their own police and their own civil law in China.
And on top of that, China had to pay huge war indemnities to these imperialist powers each time China got defeated. So [the] British received a huge amount of silver. So did Japan. So in fact when Japan defeated China in the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894-1895, that amount of silver that Japan received from China as a silver payment was equivalent of six years of Japanese government revenue.
And then Japan reinvested that money into military buildup and to build up five battleships and eventually allow them to defeat Russia in [the] Russo-Japanese war, which by the way, was fought on the Chinese soil. So most of the Russo-Japanese war, aside the famous battle of Tsushima, which was fought on the Tsushima straight between Korea and Japan, all the land battles was fought in Manchuria, Northeast China. Whereas the Chinese themselves become helpless bystanders on their own soil.
This period in China was often referred to as the semi-colonial period, because China was not governed as a full colony as maybe for example, India.
SINA RAHMANI - HOST, THE EAST IS A PODCAST: [00:23:35] But this is something that Iran shares too, with China, too. Dominated, but never colonized.
CARL ZHA: [00:23:41] Yes. And so it's definitely dominated and the Westerners enjoy immense privileges, which all of them enjoy up until today.
Against this background of humiliation and defeat, interestingly you know, in the west, there's a corresponding evolvement of Sinophobia. So just as you know, so Western armies are in China, brutalizing the population, in the Western popular imagination, right, I think it's a function as some sort of guilty conscience that these Chinamen are out to get revenge, right? So that's why we have a caricature like Dr. Fu Manchu, which is popularized by a guy who never has been to China, doesn't know any Chinese. So he wrote this series of high fantasy novels, basically about this evil Chinese genius, trying to take over the world, trying to dominate the Western world and threatened the white civilization, right, especially white women. And it was made into a series of Hollywood films.
So this was against a backdrop of [the] Boxer Rebellion when the foreign armies were actually in China fighting and looting.
Why Is China Investing Billions in Africa - NowThis World - Air Date 12-16-18
KIMBERLY AVALOS- HOST, NOWTHIS WORLD: [00:24:56] China has invested billions of dollars into the continent of Africa to build massive infrastructure projects. Much of this infrastructure is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, an estimated $1 trillion plan to connect the country to trade routes all over the world. African leaders like Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta have favorably compared China's investments to earlier projects built by colonial powers.
PRESIDENT OF KENYA UHURU KENYATTA: [00:25:25] When your railway was built by force and violence against the wishes of those whose land it divided, the new railway is built by consent and partnership both between ourselves and China and between the governments which will prosper and profit by it.
KIMBERLY AVALOS- HOST, NOWTHIS WORLD: [00:25:42] But is China's investment in the continent actually a win-win, as some African and Chinese leaders have said? Or just a new form of colonialism on a continent that's experienced so much of it?
In this episode, we're examining China's Belt and Road Initiative, and what it might mean for Africa. China's belt and road initiative was only proposed in 2013. The country's first infrastructure project on the African continent was built decades ago. The Tazara railway, completed in 1976, was built to connect copper mines in Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's former capital. The Tazara railway was the first infrastructure project to built on a pan-African scale. China's belt and road projects will be designed with this scale in mind, creating new trade routes within and between African countries. In 2017, a Chinese firm opened a railway network in Kenya, connecting its capital Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa.
There are already plans to extend this network into South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. China, through its public and private sectors, has already loaned about $132 billion to African countries from 2006 to 2017. Many observers worry that African countries won't be able to pay back these debts, placing them in what's been called a quote "debt trap." The Jubilee debt campaign, which campaigns for poor countries' debts to be canceled, estimates that about 20% of debt held by African governments is owed to China, making it the single largest lending nation. For comparison, 35% of African debt is owed to multi-lateral global institutions like the World Bank.
Earlier waves of Chinese firms that invested in Africa made mistakes that caused problems for those countries' governments. Starting in 2005, tens of thousands of workers from China poured into the west African country of Ghana to take advantage of a gold rush. This eventually provoked a local backlash due to accusations of illegal mining, inflaming tensions between Chinese miners and the local government.
Many observers have pointed to projects like this, as examples of China exploiting Africa for its natural resources through quote, "neo-colonialist behavior." However. other observers contend that the majority of investment from China has largely avoided creating the problems seen in Ghana's gold mines, precisely because resource extraction has not been the main focus of other investments.
In fact, the number one industry for Chinese investment has been the service industry, according to IMF economist Wenjie Chen. She also points out that the countries where China's investment has been largest include those without abundant natural resources, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, in addition to resource rich countries like Nigeria.
Ultimately, African governments may feel that the risk of accumulating debt is outweighed by the benefits of new infrastructure. The China Africa Research Initiative found that roughly 40% of China's loans between 2000 and 2015 went towards paying for energy projects. And another 30% went toward modernizing transportation on the continent.
These loans were set at relatively low interest rates, and with longer periods of time to pay them back. The Center for Global Development crunched the numbers on debt to China as a result of the belt and road initiative, and found that eight of the 71 countries involved in the project were particularly vulnerable to getting caught in a debt trap. Of these eight countries, only one was in Africa: Djibouti, a poor country that's also become a military strategic point for China. The other seven countries are in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, China has denied engaging in debt trap diplomacy.
In an attempt to strengthen this collaboration, China has also promised to align its goals for the belt and road initiative with the African union's own development goals of greater interconnectivity on the continent. However, these promises have yet to be outlined. Ultimately, China's push in Africa may be seeking to increase the country's influence rather than reap financial gains. Its investments are already strengthening China's alliances with African governments to China's benefit. Every African country, but Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has cut ties with Taiwan, a prerequisite for diplomatic relations with mainland China.
Some observers think that as African countries rise economically, they could actually have the upper hand by the time they negotiate payments back to China. This explains why African leaders have been so confident in calling Chinese investment a win-win, but only time will tell if their long game pans out.
China's trillion dollar plan to dominate global trade - Vox - Air Date 4-5-18
SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: [00:30:59] There's a new highway in Pakistan. And a new rail terminal in Kazakhstan. A Seaport in Sri Lanka recently opened as well as this bridge in rural Laos. What's interesting is that they're all part of one country's project that spans three continents and touches over 60% of the world's population. If you connect the dots, it's not hard to see which country that is.
This is China's Belt and Road Initiative -- the most ambitious infrastructure project in modern history, that's designed to reroute global trade. And it's how China plans to become the world's next superpower.
It's 2013 and Chinese president Xi Jinping is giving a speech in Kazakhstan where he mentions the ancient Silk Road, a network of trade routes that spread goods, ideas, and culture across Europe, the middle east and China as far back as 200 BC. He then says, "we should take an innovative approach and jointly build an economic belt along the Silk Road."
A month later, Xi is in Indonesia. " The two sides should work together to build up a new maritime Silk Road in the 21st century." These two phrases were the first mentions of Xi's legacy project, the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI.
They're also the two components of the plan. There's an overland economic belt of six corridors that serve as new routes take goods in and out of China. Like this railroad connecting China to London, and these gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea to China, and a high speed train network in Southeast Asia.
Then there's the maritime Silk Road, a chain of seaports stretching from the South China Sea to Africa that also directs trade to and from China. The BRI also includes oil refineries, industrial parks, power plants, mines, and fiber optic networks, all designed to make it easier for the world to trade with China.
So far over 60 countries have reportedly signed agreements for these projects, and the list is growing because China promotes it as a win-win for everyone.
Take, for example, the BRI's flagship project, Pakistan. Like many countries in central and south Asia, Pakistan has a stagnant economy and a corruption problem. It wasn't a popular place for foreign investment -- that is, until China came along. In 2001, China offered to build a brand new port in the small fishing town of Gwadar. By 2018, the port, as well as a highway and railway networks, became a $62 billion corridor within the BRI. It's where the economic belt meets the maritime Silk Road.
And it seemed to benefit both countries. Pakistan saw its highest GDP growth in eight years and forged a tight relationship with a major world power. China, on the other hand, secured a new alternative route for goods, especially oil and gas from the middle east.
Through projects like these, it also found a way to boost its economy. Chinese construction companies that had fewer opportunities within their own country saw a huge boost from BRI contracts. Seven out of the 10 biggest construction firms in the world are now Chinese.
What tips the balance in China's favor even more is a requirement that it be involved in building these projects. In Pakistan, for example, Chinese workers have directly built projects like this highway here, and a Chinese firm has worked with locals on a railway here in Serbia.
China's involvement is one of its very few demands and that's set these deals apart so far. See, typically, to get investment from the west, countries have to meet strict ethical standards. But China's offered billions of dollars, mostly in loans with far fewer conditions. So it's no surprise that BRI has been a big hit with the less democratic countries in the region.
China's signed agreements with authoritarian governments, military regimes, and some of the most corrupt countries in the world. It's even affiliated with Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, and Iraq, all currently splintered by conflict. Because of China's willingness to loan money to unreliable countries, many experts have called the BRI a risky plan. Eventually these countries will have to pay China back, but corruption and conflict make that payback unlikely. A recent report found that many of the countries indebted the China are very vulnerable, including eight that are at high risk of being unable to pay. So why does China keep lending? Because there's more to the BRI than just economics.
In Sri Lanka, China loaned about $1.5 billion for new deep water port. It was a key stop in the maritime silk road. By 2017, it was clear Sri Lanka couldn't pay back the loan. So instead they gave China control of the port as part of a 99-year lease. China also controls the strategic port in Pakistan, where it has a 40-year lease.
It's pushing for a similar agreement in Myanmar and it just opened an actual Chinese naval base in Djibouti. These are all signs of what's been called "the string of pearls theory." It predicts that China's trying to establish a string of naval bases in the Indian Ocean that will allow it to station ships and guard shipping routes that move through the region. So while China's not getting its money back, it's still achieving some very important strategic goals.
China's growing influence challenges the status of the US, which has been the world's lone superpower for the last several decades. But isolation is trending in the US, meaning that they are investing less and therefore losing influence around the world.
The BRI is China's way of leveraging power to become a global leader by building relationships and taking control of global trade, China's well on its way.
Vijay Prashad Warns Biden Is Doubling Down on Trumps Anti-China Cold War Policy - Democracy Now! - Air Date 3-16-21
AMY GOODMAN HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:36:25] Secretary of state Antony Blinken and defense secretary Lloyd Austin met with their counterparts in Japan today. And will next head to South Korea as part of their first overseas trip. The meetings are widely viewed as an attempt by the Biden administration to secure allies in Washington's campaign to counter China's growing power Blinken spoke earlier today in Japan.
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:36:49] United in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region where countries follow the rules, cooperate whenever they can and resolve their differences peacefully. And in particular, we will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way,
AMY GOODMAN HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:37:08] the Japanese foreign minister also spoke at the joint news conference.
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:37:13] [ translated] We agreed to oppose China's unilateral bid to change the status quo, including in the east China, sea and south China sea and shared concerns about China's coast guard laws.
AMY GOODMAN HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:37:24] And this is defense secretary, Lloyd Austin. Also speaking at the joint news conference.
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:37:30] I know Japan shares our concerns with China's de-stabilizing actions.
And as I have said before, China is a pacing challenge for the department of defense.
AMY GOODMAN HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:37:44] Last week President Biden met virtually with the leaders of India, Japan, and Australia. In the first meeting of the so-called quad, the quadrilateral security dialogue. Beijing has accused the quad of perpetuating a cold war mentality on [Thursday] ,secretary of state Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska for the first direct Talks between Beijing and the Biden administration. Earlier this month, Blinken described China as the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century for the United States.
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:38:20] China is the only country with the economic diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system.
All the rules, values, and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to. Because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American
AMY GOODMAN HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:38:40] people.
This comes as the United States and China are taking markedly different approaches to vaccines and the COVID pandemic while the United States faces accusations of hoarding vaccines and blocking efforts to waive vaccine patent rights at the world trade organization, China has shipped millions of vaccine doses to nations in the global south, in what's been described as a Form of vaccine diplomacy. China has sent free samples of Sinovac’s vaccine to 53 countries and has exported it to 22 nations that have placed orders. Recipients include Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia. To talk more about The U.S.-China relations. We are joined by Vijay Prashad, director of the Tricontinental: Institute for social research author of many books, including the poorer nations, a possible history of the global south, his latest book, Washington bullets, a history of the CIA coups and assassinations.
He's a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for financial studies. Renmin university of China, his latest article for Peoples Dispatch is headlined. Biden continues the US conflict with China through the quad. Welcome back to democracy now, Vijay. let's begin right there with that headline.
can you talk about the Biden administration's approach to China, how it compares to Trump and what you see needs to happen and change?
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:40:09] It's great to be back with you, Amy. The first thing I'd like to say is that there are deep continuities, not only between the Biden approach to China and the Trump approach, but also before that the Obama approach, because Obama after all, inaugurated something called a pivot to Asia.
I just want to point something out, which is, that, you know, when they say that China is a threat, as Antony Blinken said in what I thought was a very sharp. And rather bellicose speech when he says China is a threat, what do they mean? I think here precision is important. They don't mean that China is a military threat to the United States.
After all the Chinese military has the capacity to defend its Homeland, but it's not in any way threatening the United States. In fact, it's US Naval vessels that are sailing very close to the Chinese mainland in so-called, freedom of navigation, sorties right close to Chinese territorial waters.
the Chinese don't have a military threat against the United States at all. What they're talking about has been very closely clarified, at this quad meeting, which is that the United States government understands. that China’s scientific and technological developments, particularly in robotics, in telecommunications, in green technology.
And so on has far surpassed that of us and European companies. And this is an existential threat. As far as the United States is concerned. The U.S. government is concerned to Silicon valley. China doesn't threaten the American citizen, the average American citizen, but Chinese telecommunication companies like Huawei and ZTE are perhaps a generation ahead.
Of us telecommunications companies and rather than compete in a, as it were free market with these companies, the United States, government is using immense military pressure, diplomatic pressure, and a sort of information war, to push China back into its boundaries. It's one thing as far as the U.S. is concerned, Amy, for China to deliver its workers, to produce products for us companies.
It's quite another. When Chinese companies are competing fair and square against us companies, that's the real issue here. It's not human rights. It's not military pressure. It's not what Lloyd Austin, I think quite gingerly called destabilization. That's not the issue. The main issue here is scientific and technological competition and China I'm afraid as far as Silicon valley is concerned is ahead of the United States in that game.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: [00:42:59] Vijay, I wanted to ask you about how China is covered in the U.S. and the Western media. you mentioned the technological competition that often gets some play, but the main issues that the us press seems to concentrate on are, the trade deficit with China. the democracy movement in Hong Kong or the fate of the Muslim Uyghurs in China, very little attention is paid to China's role as the principal.
reducer of poverty in the world today, there are about 112 million manufacturing workers, in China. that's more than the combined workforce manufacturing workforce of the United States, Germany, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan combined. So what's happened over the last 30, 40 years is that China has lifted about 700 million people out of extreme poverty. Could you talk about this role of, China as really changing the nature of the distribution in terms of now of course, American companies have benefited from that from the low wages in China, but the Chinese people have also had an enormous change in their living standards as well,
VIJAY PRASHAD: [00:44:20] The first thing I'd like to respond to juan, is you mentioned the U.S. media. Look, frankly, most of the U.S. corporate media have become stenographers of the us state department. You know, the credibility to have Mr. Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state, stand up there on behalf of the Muslims of China after what the United States has done in Afghanistan in Iraq.
And don't forget, Pompeo used to head the CIA, I mean it strains credibility when the U.S. government is defending people in the Hong Kong, Hong Kong, which was a colony of the British empire for a hundred years. And was ruled as a colony. the British government now standing up for human rights and democracy.
It's extraordinary that nobody asks the question about their own integrity on these questions, but let's leave that aside. Yes, it's certainly true. That as far as a developing country is concerned, China has played an extraordinary role in, producing the ability for the Chinese people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Let's be clear about one thing. China had the longest second world war on the planet. It started in 1937. Ended in 1949 that's years, more than the second world war in Europe, the country was devastated when the Chinese communists took power in 1949, they have fought a very serious battle to end poverty and they didn't do it merely by transfer payments, by cash payments.
They did it by improving social indicators by improving healthcare literacy education in general and so on. This is an enormous, enormous feat that they've done by lifting, as you say, 700 million people out of poverty. This should be the headline, but it's not And even more so, you know, Amy, you're quite right to mention what's been called vaccine diplomacy rather than the vaccine nationalism we're seeing in north America, Canada, where, for instance, There's double the number of vaccine doses needed and Canada shamefully has taken vaccine out of the COVAX vaccine fund, which is supposed to provide vaccines to developing countries.
Yes, China is producing a kind of vaccine diplomacy rather than vaccine nationalism, but more than that, Chinese medical personnel like Cuban medical personnel have been going around the world, assisting countries. In combating COVID-19. You know, we are all for the Cuban doctors to get the Nobel peace prize this year, but we should also recognize the number of Chinese doctors.
who have been overseas, providing assistance in the global south. Recently, even the Atlantic magazine ran a story to show that the myth. Of the Chinese debt trap needs to be called into question. In other words, China has been lending enormous amounts of money for development purposes in the global south in countries like Bolivia, where the United States has come in with a project called American Crece, trying to undercut Chinese investments.
By bringing in U.S. private sector investments and strong-arming countries. As we saw in El Salvador, strong-arming the government saying, if you don't take American money and cut the Chinese out, we're going to make great trouble for you. I mean, this is old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy and people need to see it for what it is.
If you’re going to talk about human rights. What about the human rights of the people of El Salvador to craft their own foreign policy? Why should they be dictated to by Washington, DC?
Industrial Policy: How the Green New Deal's Architects Would Do IP - ChinaTalk - Air Date 5-13-21
VISHNU KANNAN: [00:47:53] I'm interested in how you both think about making trade-offs between competing priorities, right? This is a gigantic society-wide project, and it seems like the Biden administration has a couple of gigantic society-wide projects, they've got COVID in the short term, they've got geopolitical competition with China in the medium term, they have climate change in the relatively longer term.
so, you've got these relatively finite resources. You've got money, bureaucratic tension, things like that. How do you think about balancing something like climate change, this long-term definitely existential threat, against a shorter term, not existential threats, something like foreign policy priorities and competition with China?
ZACK EXLEY: [00:48:35] I think this is maybe a good place to bring it back to China actually. Cause I think that we have this zero-sum thinking in America, we've had it for a while. And this is a fallacy that's imposed on our brains by economists.
To make new things happen, like to build new industries, new, higher value industries that will pay people more, create more value, we tend to think about it as, oh, we have to get money from somewhere. So that means we have to raise some people's taxes or stop spending money on this other thing. But that's really not how it works in any economy. We have people and we have resources and we have capital. We have machines and knowledge and all kinds of stuff. And to a huge degree our people and resources and capital are not being used productively and not being used for anything useful.
So it's not just unemployed people. Like we have so much power that is just spinning in place or not being used for anything good. And we could point that in the direction of building new industries, new higher value industries, upgrading improving our industries.
And I was really excited to come on the podcast, which I've been a fan of for a while, because I studied in China back in 1987 when I was just 17 years old. And it really made a huge impact on me. And one of the things that struck me was just what incredible, like how China with had started with nothing, right? China was just a big basket case, agricultural mess at around the time of the revolution. And in just a few decades had built this incredible society, this really advanced, comfortable, almost middle-class in a way society by the time I got there. And I was just really confused as to how it could have happened.
And I grew up in Connecticut, which was the richest state in the country at the time, but just a couple miles down the road from me was one of the very poorest cities in the country. And the stores were all boarded up. And this was before gentrification and cities developed a daylife and a nightlife. And it was just it was just a mess. And I was like, you never saw anything like that anywhere in China. Everything was booming, everything, every resource was being utilized, everybody was thinking, how do we build? And I was just like, how did this happen? And it wasn't until years later that I realized it didn't have anything to do with any kind of Chinese system, it didn't have anything to do with communism, that was for sure. But over a couple of hundred years, one country after another got itself together and took what it had and made something more, by mobilizing people and resources and capital and building new industries, always higher and higher value industries. So I was like, why can't we do that?
So I think that zero-sum thinking of "to do this, we have to take away from this" is the main thing right now that's preventing us from moving forward and it's a fallacy.
JORDAN SCHNEIDER - HOST, CHINA TALK: [00:51:28] Yeah, I remember. And I think it was the 2012 debate, like at some point Romney said I'm going to grow the economy at two and a half percent and everyone laughed at him. And then it actually ended up growing at two and a half percent. But there's something about living and being exposed to a country which is growing at six, seven percent, six, seven, eight, nine percent.
ZACK EXLEY: [00:51:46] Or 15 or 20, which I think it might've been back then. Yeah.
JORDAN SCHNEIDER - HOST, CHINA TALK: [00:51:50] Oh yeah. But it's just your possibility space expands. And accepting the low growth developed world future, which it felt like for the 2010s, we don't usually debate to what extent was it, the people versus the party in creating a new China. But just seeing that it's possible, it makes your vision more ambitious for one, you know, what your society could do, I think.
SAIKAT CHAKARABARTI: [00:52:12] Yeah. One thing I was just, I'm going to say to Vishnu's question, cause I think there's sort of two things you brought up. One is a economic trade-offs, right, of picking to do one thing versus another. I think that's Zach is addressing. And the second thing you talk about is like the political trade-off. If we focus on this then does it take away from foreign policy?
And I think on industrial policy, the US really has no, I wouldn't say no, but like very little institutional support for anything. Like, we don't even have the capacity to make that kind of judgment. Like we don't even have the capacity of anybody thinking about which industry should we be investing in, which sectors do we want to lead in? How do we build the workforce to do those industries? It's all done kind of bill by bill randomly, one-offs, we'll do some semiconductor money today, maybe we won't, maybe we'll make some masks, which we didn't end up doing anyway.
And so I think at this stage, we really are a developing country and we should probably invest in creating some of those institutions. And that's some of the work that we ended up doing at New Consensus is trying to talk about how can you use the Fed as developing bank, or should we make a state-owned bank, like a national investment bank, looking at credit systems around the world, like China, of course, has their state-owned banks there that they use to do a lot of direct investment in industry, to even get started. Some sort of credit system, combined with some sort of planning, development strategy, whatever you call it organization, right? Some organization that's doing an actual economic strategy for the country. And I'd say that's key to everything. That's also key to foreign policy objectives, right?
There's this other piece of the way I think about how to line things up politically. The more wins you get early actually gets you more political capital, do more things later, which is different from I'd say probably the Obama-era mindset, which is you have a set amount of political capital that you must spend on one push, and for him famously it was healthcare. And I think that that's not the right approach. I think the right approach is go fast, go hard, message, take credit. I'm very excited about Biden's $1.9 trillion bill, but I'm very worried that they're not taking nearly enough credit. They're not actually making sure people know what they're doing. And then use that, build political capital amongst people, not DC, amongst people, to go bigger, go faster and do more.
JORDAN SCHNEIDER - HOST, CHINA TALK: [00:54:26] So this is one of the themes of your podcast is the sort of reluctance for Democratic politicians to dance in the end zone, I guess, I'm not sure what the exact metaphor is. But just this idea that we're going to govern and govern quietly and efficiently, and that is enough.
So you talked about it in the domestic context right there. I'm curious if there's a parallel in the foreign policy space, where in speaking to other countries, you also need to have a vision which might need to be a little more exciting or compelling to the rest of the world than what it seems like the Biden administration is focusing on, which is basically, it's not really America First, but we're going to do everything with the American middle-class in mind, which is certainly something that presumably will resonate with some people in the US but it's not necessarily what I would pick first on the list, trying to heal our relationship with our allies and restore the US's place in the world.
ZACK EXLEY: [00:55:22] I think a great American foreign policy should just be "hey, if anybody" -- we'll never do this though, by the way, and we've never done it, but we're still the biggest industrial economy in the world -- "we've got industry. We would love to help you build your economy if you would like to do business with us." And then just go in heavy with investment and real development, not aid. I'm not saying we should cut off aid. I'm not against aid, but let's offer real investment to other countries. That'll be good for our business and it will be good for their economies. But that's just not how the American foreign policy establishment thinks, because we've been working for decades, we don't -- I'm not saying we do this intentionally now, but we used to -- work intentionally to prevent countries from developing their economies in most cases.
SAIKAT CHAKARABARTI: [00:56:06] And I think a lot of it comes from the sort of fear -- it happens to everybody, like as soon as you feel like you're starting to fall behind -- you start governing and doing things and acting out of a place of fear where you want to stop the other side. And I saw a little bit about your "labs versus fabs" thing, and a lot of the stuff you pointed out is exactly that, where like the focus is on short term, fear-based trying to hold back the rest of the world, rather than investing in ourselves and investing in everybody else and seeing how that can actually collectively improve everybody's wealth. And everybody's happy has everybody's quality of life and way of living.
And yeah, and I think that could, that would be a better thing to talk to our allies about.
JORDAN SCHNEIDER - HOST, CHINA TALK: [00:56:48] Coming back to our FDR theme here, seeds of peace, I guess that was Truman. But after World War II, the vision was that the US would trade the magnificence of nuclear power in order for a commitment from countries around the world to not develop their own nuclear capabilities and not much ended up coming of that, but it's an interesting model to think of.
ZACK EXLEY: [00:57:08] It helped for a little while. But I think, but more exciting than that was like the Marshall Plan, the investments we made in Europe, there was a moment of understanding that, okay, we're really like our prosperity depends on getting Europe back up on its feet. And then out of necessity, okay, let's help Japan get back on its feet. Let's definitely allow South Korea and Taiwan to develop so that we don't get communist movements taking over there. But unfortunately that's where it stopped. And just imagine if instead of spending 30 years toppling every nationalist, Western-looking, usually pro-American government that popped up that wanted to develop their economies, if we had actually just invested massively into Africa, into Latin America, into the rest of Asia, the same way that we did in Japan and Europe, would have been amazing. We'd be living in a whole new world.
SAIKAT CHAKARABARTI: [00:58:02] And of course, part of the thinking in the Marshall Plan was, as Zack said, it's lined up with our economic interest to build up Europe. But there's also this diagnosis of what led to World War II, because the period between World War I and World War II was we took the opposite approach to Germany where we were very punitive and we hurt them with these tariffs. And there was this realization that, oh, actually hurting a country to the point where it's at a breaking point might not be so good. It might get us into a world war-type situation again. So let's see if we can do it a different way this time. But we lost that lesson somewhere along the way.
JORDAN SCHNEIDER - HOST, CHINA TALK: [00:58:36] There was this recent piece by Hal Brands talking about the tensions inherent in some of the stuff, and like basically in the 20th century, America would cut a lot of sweetheart trade deals with allied countries and giving their industries the benefit of the doubt and not necessarily looking particularly askance at Japanese industrial policy, or what have you, until it was a fully developed country when you hit the mid eighties. And there will be tension doing the sort of Jake Sullivan-like foreign policy for the middle-class stuff, and trying to follow a path that you guys are advocating of really being much more open to more interaction and intertwining.
ZACK EXLEY: [00:59:14] But I would argue though, that's only true if we only go halfway. Now, of course we are only going to go halfway. We'll probably only go a 10th of the way. But it's too bad because if we went all of the way and actually built new industries, then the same thing that's good for the middle class in America is going to be good for everybody all over the world, because we will be selling stuff that the rest of the world needs to build their economies. And this is exactly what drove American prosperity after World War II. Remember when we built the biggest economy ever during World War II, which was oriented towards war, of course, what were we building? We were building ships, we were building vehicles, airplanes, steel, aluminum, radios, all kinds of stuff.
And we realized at the time that could be the basis for the most amazing consumer economy ever, but there needed to be customers. And so that's one of the reasons why we helped some parts of the rest of the world get on their feet. And of course we developed our domestic market [that] took off.
So there didn't turn out to be a problem of overproduction after World War II. We had the most incredible prosperity anybody ever saw. We could do that again, but only if we build the industries to fuel that. And if we don't, then it's just going to be that zero-sum thinking. And we are going to adjust, do tit-for-tat little tariffs and try to protect what little we have.
What the West Can and Cannot Learn from China - Economics & Beyond with Rob Johnson - Air Date 2-8-21
ROB JOHNSON - HOST, ECONOMICS & BEYOND: [01:00:34] There is a China which has a belief about how things should go and should be structured, which was quite different than we might call the American model, and then China is recovering from the woundedness of the opium wars and British control and the invasion of the Japanese, and what you might say regaining their national dignity, restoring the middle kingdom is on one side. The Americans, since World War II, have led the world system and they would like everybody to become part of a multilateral system, which you might call where the social model is chosen based on the experience and an affirmation of the United States.
And these tensions, in reconciling those two desires, are very difficult. And I remember even when Chairman Mao was involved, when I first started to, as a youngster, look at China, the way in which he would reach to the developing countries, as though both the Soviet Union and the United States were there for exploitation, not for what you might call the win-win game of development.
I've seen recent movies in China in recent years, very famous movie Wolf Warrior 2, which plays off of these themes of China as a international savior. And so I guess what I'm getting at, Rodney, is that I can see this kind of arc of comparative systems, tensions, ambitions, reaching out for strategic reasons, like the procurement of natural resources in the case of China, the military footprint of the United States, and what I see is that the pandemic has introduced what you might call a new dimension of comparative analysis that what I'll say say scrambles the deck a little bit. There's a new book in the United States that's been banned by Amazon.com, but it's written by a number of people from China and the United States, it's called Capitalism on a Ventilator, and I guess I would say the insinuation is there are things to learn from a government that can protect people through something like a lockdown, and then there are things to dread, like too much centralized control.
And without myself taking sides, I'm kind of in the, what you might call the yin and yang of this process, it does feel like, as I say, it's scrambled the deck, and how do we see what people aspire to be like, or alternatively, in a more constructive way, particularly with climate change on the horizon, what is it that America can learn from China and what is it that China could learn from the American system at this juncture?
RODNEY JONES: [01:03:46] We will always question and historians will spend decades arguing, did the pandemic speed up change or did it change the direction itself? And I think there's a reasonable argument to be made that, it did both of course it sped up and it changed the direction. And so one has to take a deep breath and we have a need of a bit of a reset, and this is where I struggle a bit is I think the pandemic has changed the direction. And, if we'd been doing this two years ago you would've heard a different story from me, because I think the Chinese Communist Party at home today is in a stronger position. The people see that, after that faltering start as we talked about in January and February, that they have come through this and they have protected life and health is a human right as well.
And against that, though, you get the fortification of the party state coming with that, which means individual rights and people who see a different path for China or a different vision still repressed in some cases, brutally. And then you look at what's happening in Xinjiang, that's playing out what the Western colonial did in terms of suppressing identity and, brutalizing a minority.
So we're left with how do we reconcile things that that are not reconcilable, and then given those contradictions that we can't resolve, how do we identify a path forward? And 10, 15 years ago, we talked about the fragility of the Chinese regime and that the brittleness, and at some point we'll see dynamic political change, but they also have an inbuilt internal error correction process and tremendous internal debate, and the things we identify, they also have identified. Five-six years ago, or four-five years ago we were very focused on the excess build up of leverage. What we've seen is a technocratic group emerge very focused on containing that leverage and ensuring that China doesn't have a financial crisis.
Part of the move we've seen recently this year, that has got a lot of global attention with Alibaba and the clamp down on Ant group, is concerned with financial stability, it is a great consciousness they have to go to any length to avoid a financial crisis, even if that means having a controlled financial system.
And so as we look at that path ahead, particularly with the Western crisis, and I do think if the West had not been in crisis for so long, and we had normal interest rates, 5% or 6% interest rates, Fed funds rate at that, that I think China would be more difficult. There's soft budget constraints in China, where they need very low rates to manage, well they've got that through the Western failure. And so how do we reconcile this and how do we create and understanding what the future may look like? China runs a very effective wartime economy. COVID is like a warning of the start of the year. I had got Keynes's papers out on how to pay for the war thinking about what are the dynamics of a pandemic as in the need for a wartime economy and for the state to allocate resources. Well, that's what China has done effectively and it's propelled them forward they will go very rapidly this year.
Some people express concern, like Michael Pettis expressed his concerned about the lack of consumption, and you look at the household sector though, and household sector deposit and financial wealth growth is strong and we keep waiting for the property market to crash, but the property market is strong. And so you're left with quite this complex picture that's more nuanced than we expected and where black and white views just don't work very well.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:07:45] We've just heard clips today, starting with a TEDTalk by Graham Allison on the cycle of forces pushing the US and China toward war. Worldly discussed the reorientation of the US foreign policy mindset around the rise of China. The East is a Podcast looked at the history of the so-called century of humiliation in China. NowThis World explained the belt and road project in Africa, while Vox looked at Afghanistan and the string of pearls theory, before Democracy Now! looked at China's economic development and compared it to the US's actions.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from ChinaTalk which discussed US policy in the context of and in contrast to China, and Economics and Beyond with Rob Johnson, explaining that there are really no clear cut, simple answers when it comes to understanding the story of China's rise in the wake of Western stagnation. And then you throw COVID on top and, oh.
For non-members, those bonus clips are linked in the show notes and are part of the transcript for today's episode, so you can still find them if you make the effort. But to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at BestoftheLeft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now we'll hear from you.
Don't forget all the work that goes into the show - Nick From California
VOICEMAILER: NICK FROM CALIFORNIA: [01:09:19] And in addition to the fact that you aggregate and amplify and curate this content, et cetera, if you didn't have donors then this couldn't be your job or people's jobs, and then therefore it wouldn't get done. So this idea that you should just be happy with what you have is just ridiculous on its face, because if you don't have a sustainable level of support and funding for the show and the show doesn't get made.
So it just implies that like you use a computer program to do all the work for the show in like 20 minutes or something, and then just hit post and then you will want to just like sit back and collect money on that, but I think that person who wrote to you doesn't realize, sadly, how many hours and all the work and all the research and everything else that goes into these curation episodes, each episode.
So I dunno, I got mad when I heard that comment. You keep your calm and address these things much more calmly than I probably would if someone was attacking my life's work in that way.
So anyway, stay awesome Jay!.
#1358 and explaining the systems of power - Quai from North Carolina
VOICEMAILER: QUAI FROM NORTH CAROLINA: [01:10:34] Jay!, thank you so much for that podcast episode I just heard, episode number 1358. I'm not sure how I missed it, it looks like it was aired originally on July 20th, 2020, it may have been at time frame when I wasn't listening, but just so you know who I am, this is Quai. I've commented a couple of times before, and I actually got to meet you face-to-face when you did that town hall thing. Dr. Ray, and you were at my table at one point, and so it was a pleasure to see you in person.
But this episode number 1358 was amazing. And I know you gave a lot of apologies about how it's going to seem like a soap opera, and that's the way these things can be, and I had no problem with that at all. What I loved about it was the fact that you started out with this woman who seemed on the surface of it to not really know what she was talking about, just because of the way the podcaster that you're quoting presented it, but you did the work. You did the looking into the actual context and where she was coming from and what the politics were around it and the racial context and the way you explained things -- and just so you know, I'm a Black man, probably didn't mention that before, and you may not be able to tell by my voice -- and anti-racism is very important to me, not just because I'm a Black man but because I'm also interested in social justice of all kinds. And the way you explained things so clearly and so concisely and you got all the nuance right, and I really want to thank you for it, it really touched me, and I'm so glad.
I don't know what percentage of your audience is Black but I imagine I'm not the only one that felt good about this episode.
But anyway, I just wanted to say congratulations on that episode and I'd love it, loved it, loved it. My, I think, my favorite episode ever. The Systems of Power, I think it's what it's all about, including racism, including patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, and all the things. It's all about power and how power protects itself is key for all of us to know, no matter what side of any particular power equation we fall on.
So thanks so much, Jay! and keep up the excellent work.
Final comments on the Center for Humane Technology as a response to Surveillance Capitalism
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:12:53] Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as a VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991 or write me a message to [email protected]
Thanks to the callers we just heard from. Thanks to Nick for his supportive comments. I got to say I, yes, I was frustrated. I was frustrated when I got the message. Very much downplaying what the show, and by extension I, do and the work that goes into it and all of that, but I honestly wasn't mad and it's because it really wasn't that long ago that my understanding of these concepts were not that far off from the caller and so I had the sense, look, he's probably not the only one since I was sort of in that camp and I bet a bunch of people are in that camp. Okay, I will respond with some education, but it's an education that I needed too.
It wasn't until the last few years that I began to get a good sense of it, but doing this research has helped me dive in even more and understand the concept of curation even better. And the fact that there are people who think deeply about it and explain it to other people and explain the urgent need and a high value of it, I was like, geez, what am I, a hero? I didn't realize this was so important. I had the sense it was a good thing, like ugh, they're effusive in their praise of curation and curators, and the high technical and intellectual and problem solving and non lateral thinking and on and on. I'm just, whew, starting to blush doing that research. So I do have more to add on that topic. I'm going to come back with another lesson or two on the importance of curation, but that's for another day.
Also, thanks to Quai, I'm really glad that episode was helpful to him. He was referring to the episode, it was a repost that I put out recently, titled "How a System of Power Defends Itself" and it was a very irregular episode that no one would accuse me of just pulling clips from other places. Clearly, well I hope clearly, a whole lot of work went into that one. That was all original. That that was a Jay! original on that one. So I'm glad that Quai got a lot of value out of it and I hope that everyone had a chance to listen to it, which is why I re-posted it -- I was hoping that people would.
And then finally, I regret that I didn't mention this in the previous episode about surveillance capitalism. I clarified at the end some of Shoshana Zuboff's intentions, but I completely failed to clarify what you as an individual might be able to do about it. Amanda has been on medical leave for a while now. Medical leave, meaning she's physically well enough to do work, but is so consumed by dealing with the American healthcare system that she hasn't had time to do any activism segments in a while.
So we didn't have an activism segment on surveillance capitalism, and what I would really just direct you to is humanetech.com. That's the website of the Center for Humane Technology. They are some of the people who spearheaded the Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix, which obviously got a lot of play and a lot of people saw that. So I recommend watching that movie as well, but in terms of getting involved, that's a place to sign up, be on their email list, and then engage at whatever level, whatever depth you are able to with the activities, the discussions, whatever activism they may send out. Calling legislators and organizing around calls for regulation. Being directed both at the policy world and also at the Silicon valley world doesn't go in many different directions and it has to. Concerns about, and solutions to surveillance capitalism need to be shouted from the rooftops in all directions toward all major players with the ability to make change at all times. So humanetech.com is really the best place to start, so go there.
That is going to be it for today. Keep the comments coming as always. You can call us at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected] That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes, we just had a brand new one post for the members. Amanda had a very thoughtful, primal scream about her experience with the healthcare system, and then that flowed into a discussion of more broadly flowing from surveillance capitalism and the atomization of people and about the way technology is threatening democracy, isn't necessarily a straight line because it's not just that algorithms are pushing people toward toxic content that radicalizes them to believe in conspiracy theories, but it also contributes to the society-wide problem we already had about an epidemic of loneliness, which actually tills the ground and makes it fertile for people to be duped into believing in conspiracy theories and then accidentally overthrowing democracy if they were allowed to take their ideas to the logical conclusion. So people are definitely going to want to check that out, it'll be right in your feed as soon as you sign up for a membership.
Thanks, also of course, to Ben, Dan, and Ken for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together and thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, bonus show co-hosting and so forth. Thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support as that is absolutely how the program survives. For details on the show itself including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device you're using the lesson.
So coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com
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