I would like to point out to everyone that I did not say "and communism is the solution to this problem." I am happy to discuss my orientation towards communism at some point, which is... idiosyncratic. But I'm not saying it's the solution here. And this is my great frustration: if you say "this is bad about capitalism," very often people will say "but communism is bad, therefore your concern is invalid." But there are other potential futures than capitalism or communism, and more to the point, even if there was no such thing as a concept of another system, that would not change capitalism's great downsides in human rights and human welfare. We have to envision solutions to capitalisms problems without constantly being preempted by "but communism is worse!" In many ways, it may be. But so what? Saying that's not a solution to anything.

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Jun 30, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

You are a troublemaker Freddie. I like that.

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there's such a perfect and bizarre overlap between the sort of discourse warrior who otherwise complains about "whataboutism" and the sort of discourse warrior who does the "why isn't LeBron James talking about China???" bit constantly.

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It's really weird to see Western leftists try to deny that China is a communist state. It's a mix of lack of even basic understanding of China or the Chinese system and typical insular American arrogance. It's especially visible for the "expert on everything" type left pundit. China teaches Marx at every level from primary school on up, Xi Jinping gives multi-hour speeches on Marx making clear both his veneration for Marx as a thinker and his deep knowledge of his writings, the Internationale is played at official ceremonies and bureaucratic meetings, etc. etc. etc. I mean, someone like Xi Jinping has forgotten more about Marx than Freddie ever knew and that's probably understating it. The notion that a country can't be Communist because something it's doing offends your sensibilities is just really naive and ahistorical -- I'm not saying that as a doctrinaire anti-communist either but as someone who tries to be aware of the reality of how states (and not just Communist ones) operate.

Because Communist revolutions have succeeded at the periphery of the global economy, Communist states always faced a developmental challenge of catching up to cutting edge capitalist economies. China has used controlled market competition as one means of doing this, very successfully too, and has apparently pulled more people out of poverty than any country ever. The fact that a functioning Marxist-Leninist state is on the brink of becoming the largest economy in the world ought to be of more interest to leftists than it is.

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Not to be that typo guy, but its "buries the lede" :)

I think it's an interesting take. If you haven't listened to Bari's interview with Mark Cuban from a few weeks ago, they get a bit more in the weeds about the interplay of capitalism and china through the lens of the NBA, where she comes across as more sympathetic to the way you look at things here.

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The issue isn't Lebron James or Cena advocating for human rights, it's the disgusting groveling they do when China cracks the whip. Simply refusing to say anything in the first place is always an option and it's probably the only viable one if you intend to at least try to maintain your personal dignity/integrity.

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Jul 1, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

China has an atrocious human rights record, but I would like to ask Ms. Wiess how many weddings, funerals, and innocent civilians were killed overseas by Chinese bombs in the past 30 years, because I have a big surprise for her when she finishes her counting.

I think the failure of classical liberals is not their fetish for democracy and capitalism, but their belief that because they are so good at the how they should be left in charge of the why and what as well. In China the capitalists work for the government and in American the government works for the capitalists. China routinely ignores the profit motive to achieve their national interests. America never does. That's the difference between have Xi rather than Bezos running your country.

Freddie rightly points out that the Chinese have 400 million people below the poverty line, but does not mention it was twice that number in 1980.

Does anyone care to guess what has happened with the wealth gap in America over that same period of time starting off with a far smaller population and far more wealth.

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The last sentence of this is emotionally true, but it also made me think of why I dislike so many "classical liberal" bari weiss and IDW-types.

It's because Weiss doesn't appear to be a traditional politics & ideas nerd so much as someone who never holds on to an idea long enough to wrestle with it.

I think some conservatives, libertarians, etc., especially older ones, do actually wrestle with their ideas and, even if they never change, they sincerely bump up against the limits of their ideology, as we all do, and it's interesting to read.

Sadly Weiss seems more like the type who just holds two contradictory ideas and keeps them separated enough that she can keep phoning in self-contradictory columns. It makes me long for old-school nerdy conservatives who remind you to test your own ideology by bringing it into friction with counterarguments. The mind of someone like Weiss (or Dave Rubin, for another example) is like a lab full of ideas in bottles that never come into friction with each other.

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> As corporations they follow - must follow, can only follow - the profit motive.

It's very common to proclaim that corporations "must" pursue profit as if it were somehow a binding constraint on their management decisions, but it isn't true. Some businesses are more precarious than others, but the top managers of the most successful businesses (the ones we've heard of) have great power and agency and it's pretty secure. Only fairly rarely (as we saw recently with Exxon) is that power seriously challenged.

They do, usually, pursue profit out of custom, conviction, ideology (shareholder ideology in particular), and self-interest. But this is a matter of degree and there are many ways to (allegedly) pursue profits. Shareholder ideology is very flexible and provides lots of justifications to do what they want, just as politicians can justify whatever they're doing as the will of (some) people.Their cheerleaders in the press will explain why it's a brilliant strategy, until it turns out that it isn't.

If pursuing corporate profits were a binding constraint then there would be a lot fewer corporate perks and executives would be paid a lot less. After all, they're spending the shareholders' money. It's amazing what you can call a "business expense," an "investment in long-term profitability," "good PR," or "good employee relations."

So sure, the pursuit of profit can be used to justify doing business in China, but with a little spin it could also be used to justify staying out of China and investing in some other country with a "better business climate" or "more in line with our strategic vision."

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If you raison d'etre is profit why would you restrict your potential market to only Republicans or only Democrats? The private sector should be apolitical--the cognitive dissonance arises when we see companies that fly the pride flag, or BLM, or whatever the cause de jour is and then turn a blind eye to prison labor in Xinjiang. That suggests to me that corporate sponsorship for liberal causes is probably less than sincere.

Consequently I am surprised to see people who advocate for the expression of "cancel culture" that involves ratting out somebody to their employer for their political views. Either you a) believe that these large corporations really are on your side fighting the good fight or b) believe that corporations can be forced to kowtow to the pressure of negative publicity. The first option is of course ridiculous. The implications of the second are bidirectional: for every James Damore I can think of many more examples of individuals forced out of companies because of their lefty politics.

Although I do wonder if a certain segment of the population has bought into the PR line. How else to explain the curious phenomenon of activism at work, e.g. the #metoo walkouts at Google and so on?

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I think she was pointing out the hypocrisy, that at home, these corporations claim to care about things like DEI, BLM, etc., then theymanufacture in, and for, the world's number one abuser of human rights.

It's just, slightly, you know, hypocritical :-)

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She's no dummy but she's extremely inconsistent, including when it comes to civil rights, period. She may be a classical liberal, but she's no free thinker.

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I agree, but would go even further and say (human)rights discourse itself is a product of liberal capitalist and can't and never will be exported from that context while still logically intact. Trying to square that circle has led many on the left to trot out the most naive bromides. I don't even really thinks rights discourse is a useful framework for analyzing geopolitics, full stop. China may have a bad record as every empire does and the profit motive is absolutely a factor, but the mistake is thinking human rights discourse is in any way separable from the liberal capitalist project and more darkly the moral justification ofUS attempting to dominate the globe.

I dislike even participating in the conversation. It's a waste of breath, like arguing about the best rain dances for crop irrigation.

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it amazes me that you even have to point this out. Of course it's all just capitalism. Every culture warrior on Twitter wants it to be because of the tyranny of people tweeting about social justice, but the only real power in our system is market power. Of course that's the reason so many companies' logos are gaudy with rainbows this month.

However there is nuance to the stories about the publishing industry that writers like Weiss conveniently ignore. Some of the pressure on publishers (particularly Penguin Random House from what I have read) has come from workers within the company, which I would hope any committed leftist would support. If the workers don't want to be a part of publishing books they find objectionable, fine by me. I certainly don't take the bosses side of putting money over principles. If there's a market for it, I'm sure someone else will publish it.

I think you're being generous by saying Weiss is no dummy, but if you are correct that only makes me think the China saber rattling more cynical. I'm not sure I even agree with you Freddie that China feels "more and more emboldened". This is how the modern Chinese state has been for at least fifty years (to be clear: it's repressive, I'm not defending it, don't even call myself a communist). The only thing that's changed is that their consumers have some money now so our corporations are eager to hoover it up. Whatever threat to our freedoms China poses pales in comparison to the threat posed by our own militaristic, plutocratic system. It's no coincidence that the people rattling the saber the loudest (Bari Weiss, lots of libertarian Silicon Valley VCs) are people that have benefitted enormously from our own massively unequal system.

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I hopped on to Twitter to ask the IEA’s brilliant (and very witty) Kristian Niemietz about this. He posted some tweets back:

1 It's an uncharitable reading of his point, but it's not completely wrong.

He was not an "ardent supporter of dictatorship", but he did say, more as a thought experiment, that we can at least imagine a benign liberal autocracy, and a tyrannical democracy.

2 Which is true. Venezuela under Chavez (and well into the Maduro years) was a democracy; Hong Kong under British rule was not. But where did people enjoy greater individual freedom?

3 The point of this was not to praise dictatorships, but to praise the rule of law, and limitations on state power. However, under a democracy, limits on state power are limits on democracy. If there's a constitutional guarantee of private property rights, that rules out socialism.

4 Under different circumstances, Lefties wouldn't be opposed to that. Ask a Leftie whether they'd want a referendum on the reintroduction of the death penalty, or on a very tight immigration cap. The answer, of course, is no. Because they know which way the public would vote.

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I have a hard time understanding why Bari Weiss is taken seriously, especially when it comes to US foreign policy, or human rights. She first gained notoriety as a student at Columbia University, campaigning to silence and oust faculty who defended Palestinian rights.


That has been the constant through her whole career: she vociferously supports the religious ethno-state that is Israel, no matter how vicious it is on any given day. (Yes, sports fans: Israel is an apartheid state. The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem says so. Even Human Rights Watch says so. And two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa join the chorus:


Back to China: where is the proof of "slave labor camps," mass imprisonment, "genocide", etc etc, all the usual charges being thrown at China now? Produce the evidence. Real evidence, not bullshit generated by some Adrian Zenz-linked phony "university." And while you're at it, maybe discuss, just a bit, the actual history of Uyghur fighters role in the attempted destruction of Syria, and the terror attacks in Xinjiang in the years before that.

However one wishes to define China's political economy (the great Michael Hudson is grappling with this), it is clear that more people - hundreds of millions - have been lifted out of poverty in China in the past few decades than anywhere else. By far.


Is there anyplace else that could have (never mind has!) built 20,000 miles of high-speed rail in the past two decades? Compare and contrast with the US of A... Call it what you will, but something is happening with a rapidity, and on a scale in China that is NOT happening in developing countries that are clearly "capitalist."

Freddie: please discard the "tankie" epithet. Anyone on the left who opposes US "regime change" and "color revolution" operations now gets tagged as a "tankie." Whether in regard to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Syria, doesn't matter. It comes from those who could more justifiably be called the "cruise missile left", always ready to find some excuse to line up with the US sanctioning, bombing, or overthrowing the recalcitrant government of the designated enemy du jour.

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