Long before Communism, the Chinese had been considered “inscrutable”. Popular fiction of the late 19th-early 20th Century had portrayed them as possessing the most complex and cunning criminal minds, both for crime, Fu Manchu, (the creation of Sax Rohmer of Britain) and Charlie Chan, the detective-creation of American Earl der Biggers, who was the match for criminal minds on the other side of the law.
Most of the modern expert class never heard of these characters…
… or that the cab-driver class of Manhattan had insights about the Chinese modern scholars are generally unaware ever existed.
Pearl Buck added yet another dimension, the Chinese peasant worldview, from having been raised as the daughter of missionaries in China. Her parents only came back to America to have their daughter born in the United States (in West Virginia) then returned to China until she was 19, when she came to Virginia to attend college.
So, much to said here for home schooling. And a Christian home, although she had to sneak to read Dickens.
Still America knew China by stereotypes, to be sure, (but not racist, for those at NBC) and however portrayed, they generally conveyed in the 20th Century the notion of a depth and complexity of thinking most Americans found difficult to grasp. Exotic.
And superimposed over the diabolical commission of crime, and the foiling of the criminal, was Miss Buck’s image of rural China, and their obsession with food, caused by massive floods and famines, and which defined Mao’s link to the people. While Lenin-Stalin industrialized, Mao grew food. The factories came second.
It’s why, despite the disaster Mao brought on China in his last years, the Cultural Revolution, (I was there first time in 1974) and had a lot of dealings with Chinese textile producers in the 1970s-80s…the business side of almost of Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, were largely Chinese, most of whom would have identified with the “democratic” Nationalist Chinese of Taiwan. A kind of authoritarian system, versus the mainland Communist vision which had been the product of Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao and who Mao had imprisoned more than once and wanted executed. Part of China’s post-Mao “schizophrenia” is wrapped up in its still cult-like poster images of Mao everywhere in the country, to soothe the palates of the country people (think of the power of rural mullahs today in Iran, Iraq, even Turkey, where society is still locked in thinking from the Middle Ages, compared to Tehran and Baghdad and Istanbul) everyone paying homage to a man that brought them to the brink of total disaster in the 1970s.
I left industry and went out into the private business world in 1989, loaded with knowledge about how Chinese state managers cooked their books, cheating not only the state bosses, but their erstwhile their “owner-bosses”, financial partners (Europeans and Americans, even Taiwanese) and ultimately their customers.
And since, if you’ve known first-and-second generation Chinese who’ve been in America and played by American rules all the way back to building the railroad and opening the first opium dens and laundries in the gold fields you will not find those dark characteristics, and draw the obvious conclusion the mainland Chinese officials and managers just can’t help themselves. Earl Der Biggers drew a picture of the Americanized Chinese with Charlie Chan’s Number One Son (usually played by Key Luke) in pre-War Hawaii.
Whatever drives them in China is found in China, as witnessed by an arms manufacturer in south China producing SKS semi-automatic rifles (a very popular and inexpensive sports “plinking” weapon in America). A state producer among dozens in China, one factory in south China sold to a few American companies guns that could be easily converted to full-automatic, thus causing (or allowing) the Clinton administration to ban the import of “assault weapons” in the early 90s. (This is a short remembrance from my gun-running days, and one of the reasons I turned from Asia to Eastern Europe.)
Bottom line: The political and management class in China just can’t help it. They are indifferent to the all the things that go into a contract; meeting of the minds, honor, even producing a product or service that is fit for the use it was intended, whether a knitting machine or peanut butter. Or a pill.
So it matters little how we define the nature of current communism in China. It does matter if this Wuhan outbreak was by design in the sense of intentionally doing harm to a target nation, or some lab experiments gone bad, or just a fluke of an open fish and bat market which was allowed to be maintained at the health and sanitary levels of the London docks in 1700.
More predictable is the depths that might, can and probably will go to shift their share of the blame when they do cause a “fail”…all in order to save “face”, which, if you get right down to it, is the most ancient of Chinese religions, both individually and institutionally. Think of how wedded certain 2nd and 3rd American corporations are to the “brand” of a product they had no personal sweat equity in creating or producing.
Certain American brands are deeply tied to a China manufacturing base, and would suffer great impact to their bottom lines if those brands were produced in America, only now may be faced with even greater consequences if they try to stay in China. Of course there has been talk for some time that China had become the shop-room of the mythical Global corporate design, which may or may not exist. But if they think the Chinese are their pals, they’d better rethink it because the Chinese have no intention ever of allowing themselves to be considered as the equals to “White Devils.”
A long introduction I suppose, but a short speculation.
Probably unintentionally, China has thrust before the world a showcase as to which type of society can meet a pandemic virus square on and defeat it. There are three models involved here, not two.
The Chinese have reported the Wuhan Virus has already reached a turning point in China, new cases there flat-lining. Our only problem is, we have only Chinese state controlled media and agencies telling us this. Trust me, the Chinese can disguise a retreat as a victory with the best of them. In matters of “face” they can get our of a pickle smelling better than getting themselves into that jar in the first place.
In America and the rest of the Free World, (Canada, the EU), especially Italy, France and the UK, there are two available forms of recovery. Only one, the UK, lean toward a liberty-based solution, and that outcome is still hotly contested. The rest of Europe wants to rely on the tried and true, top-down socialist solution, much like Obama’s (non) response to H1N1, which was to do nothing and rely on their media to say nothing about the 15,000+ deaths. Only they can’t stay out of the media’s crosshairs because America is there too. A simple hashtag, like Michelle Obama’s strident response to the kidnapping of all those Christian girls by Boko Haram, probably won’t be enough.
They will likely have to answer to their voters.
And within America, there are two contending factions, the Constitutional separations of powers approach and the leftist socialist approach, which itself is divided on how the costs should be allocated and the spoils apportioned, but always from the top down.
From the outset, almost as if he saw this showdown between democracy and authoritarianism coming, from both the way Chinese and the American Left would react to it, Donald Trump decided to exert only the constitutional powers given his office, conceding all the other powers to the states and through them. Then putting them in the spotlight.
I think the Media still hasn’t figured this out. But by constitutionally ceding the execution of emergency powers into the hands of states, the people can more easily punish wrong behavior. This was the original idea of federalism, for it is very apparent here that blue cities and states will approach this virus problem differently than red cities and states. (I doubt there are many blue small towns.) Each is becoming aware and prepared, and now each is on notice they will answer to their voters if they screw this up.(Except maybe Chicago, where they have already tallied the votes in the 2024 election.)
Federalism versus socialism in one form or another.
And some, as I’ve mentioned and referred to as the “imperial middle”, meaning Congress, several federal agencies as much a part of the deep state as the CIA and FBI, will make their own attempt at “wrecking” (an old Stalinist term) the President’s plan. While this federalism design doesn’t cut them out, it does make them vulnerable to the voters, even the bureaucracy.
For what we have already seen has been an attempt to use state institutions from the “middle” to inconvenience and punish private sector citizens disproportionately, not only of the working class but the middle management class. People who largely voted for Donald Trump, and are leaning toward the GOP in 2020. Virtually every public pleasure denied; televised sports of every kind, many subject to the final word of university presidents (on state payrolls), small business…not just restaurant and bar owners, but their patrons…the same sort of people Barack Obama and his last Congress tried to make unemployed and out of business in 2009 with the passage of Obamacare (ostensibly to feed the hungry factory-dragon in China…only who knew then. Paul Ryan, George W Bush?).
How the states handle the Wuhan Flu over the course of the next six months, and following year, will depend entirely on how the state governments and individual members of Congress meet the needs of their constituent voters. We already know that the media will be unable to affect the reporting of real news so close to home.
And China will have to watch and wait.