Archive for June 13, 2019

How and Why China Has Succeeded Where USSR Failed

June 13, 2019 11 comments

A few days, I started writing a post about why China will defeat USA in any long-term trade or ‘cold’ war. However, it quickly became obvious that many concepts in that post had not been well explained in previous ones. I then realized that an older draft post (abandoned over a year ago) contained enough elements for a prequel post. Readers should, therefore, see this post as a partial explanation for why the challenge posed by China to the terminally-ill american empire is fundamentally different from anything the later has encountered in the past, and indeed beyond what the anglo- mind is capable of imagining. As you will see in a future post, there is a reason why I chose to say that it is beyond the comprehension of “western” minds.

Let us now get back to the topic of this post, namely why China succeeded in spades at what the erstwhile USSR failed. USA, since its inception, has faced only two semi-credible threats, the first being Japan during WW2. However, as any person with a half-decent map and some basic stats about the two countries in 1940 can figure out, the manufacturing base of USA at that time was about 10 times larger than Japan. Moreover it’s land area was about 1/20th of contiguous (lower 48) USA and hence had far fewer natural resources. And ya, I am aware that Japan had occupied Korea and some parts of China- but it was never a close fight. Even Isoroku Yamamoto (of Pearl Harbor attack fame) was quite open about USA being the inevitable winner if the war lasted over one year. In other words, neither pre-WW2 nor post-WW2 Japan was ever a real threat to USA.

USSR, on the other hand, was land and resource rich (about twice the area of lower 48). While its population was a bit less than USA, especially in the immediate aftermath of WW2, it rivaled and often surpassed USA in areas ranging from high technology to the manufacturing and deployment of large numbers of diverse weapon systems. Furthermore, it was able to build its own sphere of influence in eastern Europe after WW2. So why did a country with more natural resources than USA, about the same population (in aftermath of WW2), tons of very smart scientists and military tacticians finally implode in 1991. Many Americans attribute it to all sorts of solipsistic bullshit, ranging from “socialism”, “Reagan”, “Afghanistan” to even more ludicrous ones such as “race” and “people yearning for human rights”.

In my opinion, the real reasons why USSR finally collapsed in 1991, but China just kept going and went on to become the world’s largest economy in real terms about a decade ago has to do with reasons which the vast majority of Americans are either unwilling or incapable of understanding. So let us start listing them, though not necessarily in order of importance.

1] China had both the size and population advantage. While is has about half the area of USSR, China is a bit larger than the lower 48 of USA. Moreover, unlike USSR (or Russia) it’s population has been at least 3-4 times larger than post-ww2 USA. Possessing a large enough landmass and population translates into a very respectable amount of natural resources and enough people to properly exploit those resources. With the exception of oil and a handful other minerals, China is large and populous enough to be internally self-sufficient. It also helps that most of China is neither too hot nor cold and the only limiting factor for human habitation is availability of water in its western half. But that is no different from the South-Western quadrant of USA being either a desert of semi-arid region. In other words, China is more than the equivalent of USA in Asia.

2] Issues surrounding race and culture. One of the most infrequently talked about, but important reason, why USSR seemed like a follower to the “West” and generally susceptible to its influences has to do with how most people in that country (and in Russia today) saw themselves. For a number of historical reasons, Russians have always seen themselves as white and western, perhaps a bit distinct from the “western” mainstream- but still white and western nonetheless. In my opinion, this inability to create a distinct cultural identity led to many other pathologies and bad decisions which shall be partially enumerated later in the post. Chinese, for obvious reasons, did not have that option and neither were they interested in being white (at least most of them).

3] Many of you might have noticed that post-1980 China seems to have stable and good to OK relations with a very diverse range of nation states all over the world. Contrast this to USSR, whose relations with countries in Africa and Latin America were colored with racial paternalism- though not as bad as USA. But why was that so? Well.. USSR (and Russia today) unfortunately bought into the whole white racial supremacy bullshit- which is ironic since we all know what Hitler thought of Slavic people. To be clear, I am not implying that Chinese people are not racist- just far more pragmatic and not so obsessed with race.

4] One of the other visible differences between China of erstwhile USSR concern administration. It is no secret that China, and east-asian countries in general, seem to have this bureaucracy thing figured out far better than the west. The most relevant differences between the two, in this area, concern how responsibility is delegated. More specifically, east-asian bureaucrats have far more latitude and autonomy to get things done- as long as they didn’t fuck up too badly and embarrass the central government. This translates into a far more robust, flexible and innovative system run by fairly competent people with skin in the game. There is a reason why China achieved in 20-30 years what took many other nations over a century.

5] Pragmatic and flexible ideology. Unlike USSR, China (except between late 50s-late 60s) was never obsessed with ideological purity. They just tried to solve problems facing them in the most optimal manner, given their resources and ability. That is why, for example, China was fine with people becoming rich after 1980s. They, correctly, saw the influence of capitalists on governance rather than its mere presence as the real problem. One of the reasons why things went so bad in Russia between 1991 and 2000 was that the system was run by capitalists at the expense of everybody else. China, on the other hand, focused on curtailing the political power of capitalists rather than making sure nobody got rich. We can all see who got it right.

6] China never really bought into western ideas of money, finance and “austerity”. Many of you heard about how material conditions for average citizens in USSR weren’t that good and quality of consumer goods were bad. But why was that so? Why couldn’t USSR spend enough to ensure that the quality of life for its citizens was good. Well.. it comes down to how they saw money and finance in general. Long story short, they bought in the “western” idea of money as a limited resource over which the government has little to no control. China simply decided to go down the MMT route, before it was even a thing. That is why China never seemed to be short of money to build new cities, apartment blocks, roads, airports, high-speed railways, factories, shopping malls, universities, research institutes etc. It is profoundly ironic that an allegedly communist country displays the best practical understanding of economics.

7] China understands censorship far better than USSR and the supposedly “free West”. One of the other realities of life in USSR, as told to me by former inhabitants, was that open humor and mockery of the establishment was not a good idea. Contrast this with how the Chinese system works, where polite criticism of the government (especially as far its ability to solve problems) is not especially problematic. While making off-color jokes about the government on the internet might get you temporarily banned or a visit from the authorities, very few end up in prison for being loud on social media. Also, unlike USSR, the Chinese government is not interested in regulating the private lives of its citizens beyond what is necessary to keep up external appearances. But by far the best censorship of dissent involves making sure that people have enough jobs, opportunities to make more money, reasonably good and affordable consumer goods and no persistent shortage of essentials.

And now I can write up the rest of that post about why China will prevail over USA in any long-term trade or ‘cold’ war.

What do you think? Comments?