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Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part III
Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal
Stephen Gregory, The Epoch Times
10/12/2004



 Related Articles
Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part II
Book Review: Who is being transformed? Part I
 
Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal- Ethan Gutmann (Encounter Books) 253 pp. $25.95

Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal is at once Ethan Gutmann’s personal odyssey a story of idealism, temptation, possible corruption, and redemption, and his report from the front on the dangerous turn taking place in our relations with China.

The Transformation of American Business

The purveyors of transformation do not allow for the possibility of China transforming the U.S., but this seems to be one effect of the headlong plunge by American business into China.

A Chinese school teacher in Shenzhen speaks to Gutmann of “American companies with Chinese characteristics.” That teacher is referring to companies for whom “the normalization of illegal activity” has become “an accepted part of doing business.” They do so because without adopting corrupt practices they would lose the ability to compete at all. What these companies cannot now estimate is the long-term cost to them of abandoning the corporate culture of the United States, with its expectations of transparency, accountability, legality, and fair play. But corruption is perhaps the less worrisome competitive strategy adopted by American business.

Gutmann makes clear that the executives of Cisco Systems could have had no illusions as to the way in which their technological breakthroughs would be used to stamp out free speech on China’s internet. It is a short path from a Cisco router to the hell of a Chinese labor camp.

Network Associates could also have had no illusions, when it provided China with stocks of computer viruses, that those viruses could be used to jump start China’s ambitious cyber-war capabilities.

Similarly, Loral and other American high-tech companies have worked hard to gain opportunities to transfer dual-use technologies to China’s military. If China begins an invasion of Taiwan by disabling America’s satellites, and launching precision-guided munitions at its carrier groups, American business will have provided the know-how.

At work here is a different kind of transformation than what Gutmann used to sell gullible CEOs and Congressmen. The desire for profit, unmoored from other considerations, is leading some American businesses self-consciously to strengthen Chinese tyranny.

There is another wrinkle to this story, one about which I wish Gutmann had said more.

Laurence Brahm is a brilliant American lawyer who devotes himself to serving the needs of the Chinese Communist Party, a devotion for which he is handsomely rewarded. Gutmann relates, “One night, after too many drinks at the Red Capital Club, I asked what drove him. Was it, I asked quietly, the aesthetics of Chinese totalitarianism? Yes, he replied, smiling.”

Mr. Gutman continues, “Was Laurence Brahm an aberration? If so, it was largely a question of his panache. Other American expats grew phototropically toward the center of Chinese power, but less flamboyantly than he did.”

Is there in the basement of the modern democratic soul a hidden admiration for totalitarianism, and even a desire to serve it?

What’s in a Name?

Gutmann quotes the Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing as explaining the importance of referring to China as a “post-communist” country. By identifying China as “post-communist,” one is subtly making the case for the inevitable convergence of China and the U.S., and for the present, ongoing transformation of China into a democratic country.

Of course, “post-communist” does not necessarily mean “proto-democratic.” In the aftermath of the riots following the Belgrade embassy bombing, Gutmann asks himself what exactly he had seen: “Chinese hypernationalism? Fascism with Chinese characteristics?”

Gutmann most often refers to China as “authoritarian.” I myself prefer his suggestion of “Fascism with Chinese characteristics.” China’s leaders have made love of China the ground for their own legitimacy, the political principle that transcends all others, and the basis for an aggressive campaign to dominate Asia. At the same time, they have assured that economic activity in China will remain under the control of those friendly to the Party, a corporate organization of the economy that strengthens rather than challenges the Party’s rule.

Applying the name of “fascist” to China is a matter of political taxonomy about which opinions may differ. What should be clear is that the Chinese Communist Party is far advanced in transforming China along a trajectory far different from that described in the press releases of the American Chamber of Commerce. America’s businessmen are working to assist that transformation, while beginning to adopt the ways of this corrupt society. This is the urgent news that Ethan Gutmann brings back from his trip to China, news for which we should be grateful, and to which we should closely attend.

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