Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 2 September 2021


This article in Le Monde articulates what I've suggested: the Chinese Party-State is not going to follow Big Tech; it is going to lead... which is what Western governments resolutely refuse to do... to their imminent damnation ...

"« Pour la première fois, la loi explique que les données constituent un atout stratégique de la nation et qu’elles ne doivent pas appartenir à des entreprises privées, surtout si elles sont dans une situation monopolistique », décrypte Cédric Delzenne, directeur Asie de Fifty-Five, une société de conseil en exploitation de données marketing, installée à Hongkong. « Jusqu’à présent, le gouvernement était plutôt réactif par rapport à certains abus, désormais il définit le cadre a priori », ajoute-t-il."

Translation : 

"For the first time, the law explains that data constitutes a strategic asset of the nation and that they must not belong to private companies, especially if they are in a monopolistic situation", decrypts Cédric Delzenne, Asia director of Fifty  -Five, a marketing data mining consulting firm based in Hong Kong.  "Until now, the government has been rather reactive to certain abuses, now it defines the framework a priori," he adds."

Even the FT Editors can't disagree with Xi. So, why don't they support similar measures in the West?

Xi Jinping is aiming to redraw China’s social contract

A campaign to address vulnerabilities risks a return to radicalism

People walk past an American Express billboard in Hong Kong. In advocating ‘common prosperity’, Beijing is signalling a campaign against social inequality

People walk past an American Express billboard in Hong Kong. In advocating ‘common prosperity’, Beijing is signalling a campaign against social inequality © Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/Sipa/Reuters


September 2, 2021 6:02 pm by The editorial board

The blizzard of new regulations, speeches and policies emanating from China in recent weeks appears motivated by what Beijing calls “changes unseen in a century”. That is code for the rise of China and the relative decline of US-led western power. The instability that such a shift in the global order may trigger has prompted Beijing to strengthen itself pre-emptively, by addressing internal and external vulnerabilities.

At times, the rhetoric has sounded like a blast from China’s revolutionary past. This week, for instance, Xi Jinping, China’s authoritarian leader, advocated “struggle” in a speech carried in the People’s Daily newspaper. “It is unrealistic to expect a peaceful life without struggle,” he said. “We must uphold China’s sovereignty, security and development interests with unprecedented determination.”

The aim appears to be to advance several objectives at once, some of which overlap, and some of which do not. In advocating “common prosperity”, Beijing is signalling a campaign against social inequality. In stressing “dual circulation”, it is seeking to reduce reliance on foreign markets. In promoting family values it is, in part, hoping that women will opt to have more babies. By cracking down on after-school tuition and video games, it wants to alleviate the financial and emotional stress on families.

Some of the moves are to be applauded. Outlawing the controversial “996” overtime policy, under which many tech sector employees work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, suggests Beijing may genuinely intend to improve the lot of China’s vast cohort of low-income workers. Limiting after-school tuition could reduce chronic stress for millions of sleep-deprived children.

The response to some of Beijing’s initiatives has so far been impressive. On Thursday, Alibaba, the Chinese tech giant, pledged to invest $15.5bn in economic and social development by 2025 to support Beijing’s “common prosperity” agenda. The amount promised matched a similar undertaking by Tencent, its rival, last month.

But there are dangers too. Exhortations to “struggle”, twinned with the campaign-style nature of some policymaking, could shut down reasoned debate and whip up officials into empty displays of loyalty, damaging the quality of policymaking over time.

Already, some announcements appear simplistic. A rule that limits children to three hours of video games a week may be tough to enforce. The government’s credibility ebbs when mass disobedience goes unchecked.

A bigger risk is that in the various broadsides against the vibrant tech sector, a prejudice against private enterprise is nurtured. Almost all of the tech companies — such as Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan, Didi and others — that have fallen under regulatory scrutiny in recent weeks are privately owned.

A campaign-driven approach to policy can easily spill over into radicalism. Wealth redistribution, for instance, would be better achieved in China by legislation that tweaks the tax code. Levying tax on property sales, inheritance and some other expressions of wealth would be seen to be transparent and equitable. This is a path that Beijing may yet decide to follow.

Xi appears intent on redrawing China’s social contract. The old mantra that some will “get rich first” is giving way to a more equitable creed. That may ultimately benefit some 600m Chinese who live off a monthly income of about $154 or less. But if such good intentions are derailed by radicalism, China will face a darker future.

Useful summary below from Corriere of the symptoms of the growing "disagio" (literally,  dis-ease) in the West and elsewhere reconducible to the vital "disease". (Clive James once lampooned someone who had drawn the interesting dual meaning of the word - disease as illness and as discomfort, social ill. James had his good sides, but he was an arsehole extraordinaire. The last act of indecency in his putrid existence was to deny global warming - by deriding his opponents. Such a mongrel deserved a long protracted illness ... er... disease... before he died.  Poetic justice!)

Once more, the writer perceives the symptoms, but not the causes !  of the dis-ease afflicting the West. That failure is itself part of the reason for its existence.

Michael Smith falls into the trap of comparing China to the Soviet Union. Unlike Ergas, these people can't see that the excesses of what is really a deformed capitalism are categorically different from those posed by the capitalism we had in the time of the Soviets. China is not the USSR, and today's capitalism is not that of 30 years ago! 

Ergas correctly emphasizes the first difference. But he does not dwell on the second, which I think is even more important.

Here is Smith's article:

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