Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Circling back to Tiananmen Square in a failing western light

A VOGUE word now in play is “decoupling”. It is shorthand for the view that China, and other emerging markets, will be the economic locomotives to pull the world through the global economic recession — the worst on record since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The markets certainly reflect this sentiment: last month, for example the FTSE emerging markets index outperformed the developed markets index by 48,8%. Hard statistics support the disposition of the bourses. For example, China’s aggressive domestic stimulus saw its purchasing managers index surge above 50 , suggesting that almost alone, of the significant economies, it was enjoying growth while the world, especially the west, contracts. The equivalent index in the US measured 42,8 , while SA posted just 37,3 . Little wonder Goldman Sachs is predicting more than 8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for China. Its extraordinarily low levels of household spending (less than 33% of GDP, about half SA’s, and a third of the US ), and its accumulation of more than 200bn in foreign reserves, suggest it has room for manoeuvre and expansion, denied to the overborrowed, underperforming developed economies.
Last week saw another instance of decoupling. Last Saturday, the Allied leaders of the US, Britain, France and Russia gathered in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in nearby Colville-Sur-Mer. History records this event as the decisive moment of Europe’s liberation from the Nazis. Two days before that, last Thursday, another anniversary was commemorated, or more accurately smothered at the site of its occurrence, the marking of 20 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
While the events and outcome of the Second World War are beyond contestation, the import and consequence of Tiananmen Square remain contested. No figures have ever been released of the number of protesters shot and killed by Chinese soldiers on June 4 1989 — the figures range from hundreds to over 2500. In any event, the square itself was closed last Thursday — and Chinese officials erected what one wag called “the Great Firewall of China”, blocking internet sites, the BBC, and even the anodyne CNN, alongside Twitter, from informing the Chinese of the epic events of two decades ago, when student protestors confronted the fist of Chinese authoritarianism.
However, decoupling applies within China as well: the enclave of Hong Kong, which under its basic law enjoys civil liberties denied to the mainland, allowed hundreds of thousands of protesters to hold a candlelit vigil.
But 1989, the year of Tiananmen Square, was reckoned at the time to be a unique moment, the arrival of unipolarity, not decoupling. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and, here at home, the ascendancy of FW de Klerk and his reform agenda were famously — or fatuously — described by Francis Fukuyama as “the end of history”. The liberal, or Washington, economic and political consensus appeared ascendant and unchallengeable.
But China, and far less successfully Russia, challenged that consensus by adopting what Israeli academic Azar Gat describes as “authoritarian capitalism”. By shifting their economies from communism to capitalism, they switched to a “far more efficient brand of authoritarianism”. Ironically, the two defeated powers of the Second World War, Japan and Germany, with far smaller economies and with incomparably worse predations of human rights, had attempted something similar, and failed. But the ability of the west, in the wake of the current financial crisis, to continue to define and influence the course of economic and democratic events has been damaged. Globalisation guru Martin Wolf suggests that “the collapse of the western financial system, while China flourishes, marks a humiliating end to the unipolar moment”.
Last week, the New York Times thundered: “Beijing may be able to repress the memory of Tiananmen, but the yearning for freedom remains.” But, in fact, a number of influential commentators, who acknowledge the suppression of freedom, question this assumption. And it’s not simply the fact that, according to the World Bank, Chinese economic growth and planning have seen the fastest reduction of people living in absolute poverty in recent economic history, accounting for over 75% of the developing world’s total. James Kunge, who witnessed the events of 20 years ago, wrote in the Financial Times last week: “In a world of moral fluidity, Tiananmen is a gratifyingly fixed reference for our judgment of others... (but) I question the western assumption that the demonstrators were ‘pro-democracy’. The reality was less coherent.”
Perhaps in 20 years’ time, on the 40th anniversary of Tiananmen and the 85th commemoration of D-Day, we will know just how ascendant the Chinese alternative to liberal democratic capitalism has become.

*Published Friday 2 June 2009 in Business Day


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2 comments:

Andrea Murrhteyn said...

Sorry Mr. Leon,

On this I disagree with you upon.

In my view, there will be no more exponential 'economic growth'. In fact I agree with Dr. Al Bartlett, even 'sustainable growth' is an oxymoron and an impossibility in a finite ecological environment; and poltiicains who pretned that it is not, are either intentionally or negligently deceiving their voters; or readers. In my view, industrialisation from here on, will only contract indefinitely; industrial civilisation has hit is overshoot point of no return; and like the Mayan civilisation is going to crash, and a dieoff is going to occur. The issue is only how much denial there is going to be about it, until people wake up and act to mitigate the worst of it, which is what I have attempted to warn about, since 2002.

My reasons and justification for my statements; are extensively clarified in HC-CPD Appeal A 696-04, but succinctly in the following documentation:

18 July 2006 :: PeakOil_RSA :: Briefing Paper: Is Gross Mismanagement of the Nation’s Energy Policy an Impeachable Offense?.... which is a 131 page briefing paper, delivered to yourself, and various other leaders; and to the South African Goverment, c/o and via the Minister of Intelligence. It warned therein, of the -- then impending, -- now occuring financial crisis, which is a direct result, of the fact that the debt based 'economic growth' economy, of fiat currencies and fractional banking; require a continuous expoential growth increase of cheap oil, to fuel its expoential debt based growth (more energy for more pizze huts, more tankers, more electricity for more businesses), but since the worlds has run out of cheap oil/peak oil; now the worlds is faced with less and less oil, each year (so less pizza huts, less tankers and less electricitiy).

It includes -- should you not recall having read it -- the following information:
** Introduction: Limits to Growth
* I. What is Peak Oil?
* II. Who Knows What About Peak Oil?
* III. How Serious is the Threat of Peak Oil?
** Peak Oil: Food Production and Population Issues
** Peak Oil: Medicine, Water and National Defense
** Peak Oil: Financial/Banking System
** Conclusions: What Does All of This Mean?
* IV. What about Alternative Sources of Energy?
* V. Who is Serious About the Threat of Peak Oil?
* VI. What should the people of South Africa, be doing about Peak Oil?
** Oil Depletion Protocol
** a. Limit Population
** b. Implement an Urgent New Deal Plan to Develop Alternative Energies
** c. Reinvent the Way Money Works
** d. Save Energy
** e. Foster Local Communities
** f. Get out of Debt
** g. Educate and Raise Awareness: Talk About the Issue
* I. Why are so many people who have heard of Peak Oil, in denial?

And furthermore an additional reason for the fact that there will be no future economic growth, is easily explained in Population Policy Common Sense: Human Rights, Peace and Social Justice: Exponential Functions & The Laws of Sustainability; Population, Politics and Political Cowards (1MB)

Anyway.. if just stating htat for the record... or should you wish to re-examine your 'economic growth' is endlessly possible within a finite ecological paradigm perspective.

And ain't got a problem agreeing to disagree. I can only warn those with ears to hear; and those willing to enquire into the information.

Respectfully,

Lara Johnstone

Andrea Murrhteyn said...

Mr Leon,

Also, not sure if you saw this:

Have you seen that China not only has a population policy that focusses on reducing births, aiming for a zero population growth population policy; but they have also recently amended their death rates policy: Execution Vans To Deliver Lethal Injections.

Its a pity when 'humanity' wants to call itself 'humanity' and like Boris Johnson the Mayor of London says, we canot find any world statesmen with the courage to speak out publicly about the need for an honest blunt discussion about hte need for a worldwide zero growth population policy, isn't it?

What is a Nobel Peace Prize worth, if you are too petrified to be brutally honest with your ignorant devotee fanclub and inform them of the laws of sustainability and the socio-economic consequences (crime, racism, poverty, unemployment, terrorsim, resource wars, depletion of resources, increased food prices, inflation, etc.. etc..) of overpopulation colliding with scarce and depleting resources...

Instead they -- at least in South AFrica -- all prefer to play the bandaid to braintumour blame game, of divide and conquer, for the biggest number of ignorant proles to vote for them. Ai tog!

Lara