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China (drewdevault.com)
847 points by kick 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 454 comments



Xi's in a trap. The nationalist fervor that the CCP has whipped up for decades, coupled with the demonization of the HK protestors by Chinese media and Xi's 'no compromise' stance, makes it impossible for him to lighten up -- and the protests to de-escalate -- without him seeming weak. The HK protestors/population at this point are so angry and the radical wing so large, that they won't willingly de-escalate. Even if Lam leaves the demonstrations will continue. This sets up the stage for atrocities and more international condemnation.

Already on the international front, China is in trouble. The pro-China KMT party in Taiwan may suffer greatly in the next election because of what's going on in HK now (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3037040/tai...), making China's aggressive demands for forced unification even more unlikely in the medium term. This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a HK rights bill (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-usa/us-...) that, if it becomes law, will put China through an annual review, which will further erode the Sino-U.S. relationship for years to come. There have been calls for a boycott of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing which seems fringey now, but won't be if China sends in the troops.

There's also the internal question. Ordinary people in China are getting censored news, but some of the raw information about what's going on is getting through via social media. What does this mean for sentiment in Cantonese speaking areas of southern China, or for areas of China where provincial officials are resented for unjust or unfair treatment of citizens?


> Xi's in a trap. The nationalist fervor that the CCP has whipped up for decades, coupled with the demonization of the HK protestors by Chinese media and Xi's 'no compromise' stance, makes it impossible for him to lighten up -- and the protests to de-escalate -- without him seeming weak.

Yeah I don't have any sympathy for him or for the CCP. Appealing to nationalist sentiment to amass political power is making a deal with the devil, and we know how that goes. Let's just hope the US doesn't need to learn this lesson as well.

The sad fact is that when these kinds of authoritarian regimes rise to power, it takes years of abhorrent violence to tear them down. The West naively thought the "free market" would liberalize China (and Russia) and we were very wrong. We're reaping the consequences of that policy mistake on a global scale.

It's the rule of law and human rights that are liberalizing (which careful readers will realize is a tautology). The West needs to stop legitimizing and funding regimes that don't respect these fundamental ideas, and here I'm thinking of China, but also other totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia. Furthermore we need to build alliances against these regimes across the world.


> The West naively thought the "free market" would liberalize China (and Russia) and we were very wrong.

We have all heard this idea thrown around now for some time. It’s only in the last few years it seems people have accepted that it wasn’t going to work.

In the context of the trade war and everything lately, I’ve really been thinking about this theory.

On one hand, we know the current reality. An ascendant authoritarian country looking to return to great power status. We have a trade war as a result of years of toxic codependency. It remains to be seen how far the trade war goes and wether or not it is the catalyst for some future war.

Now on the other hand, what direction would China have gone had Nixon not gone to China to open up trade negotiations in the 70s.

It’s impossible to know, but I can imagine quite a number of scenarios that are far worse than a trade war with China. Imagine a North Korea type situation where the country is much larger and influential and does not have such a co dependent trading relationship with the United States.

Is that really a better outcome?

Also important noting that China already had nukes when they began joining international trade in the 70s.

The situation could’ve been much worse.


Yeah, that's all fair and counterfactuals are impossible. My instinct, though I have nothing to back this up, is:

- The US foreign policy of regime change and bullying hegemony was a complete failure, and totally counterproductive.

- We should have deployed soft power, like aid, diplomacy, and the Peace Corps, to places that were vulnerable to falling into authoritarian rule long term, and invested in the development of poorer countries.

- We should have more seriously considered deploying hard power to places that initially fell into authoritarian rule. I know Cuba was a failure and I know military action has serious consequences (especially for civilians), but compared to authoritarian governments wielding vast nuclear arsenals and ponderous economic weight... it's a tough choice.

- We should internalize that as the US goes, the world tends to follow. Whenever we violate sovereignty, human rights, or our own values and laws, the world takes notice. Like it or not, we're responsible for showing the world how a liberal superpower behaves. We need to take that responsibility seriously.


> We should have more seriously considered deploying hard power to places that initially fell into authoritarian rule. I know Cuba was a failure and I know military action has serious consequences (especially for civilians), but compared to authoritarian governments wielding vast nuclear arsenals and ponderous economic weight... it's a tough choice.

I'm impressed how you blatantly assume that marching into some foreign country, guns blazing, will magically turn them into a liberal democracy.

I mean, your track record is abysmal. There are exceptions (eg Japan) but generally when the US puts boots on the ground somewhere, the place turns to shit.


Yeah, I agree we're bad at it. Are there alternatives you're thinking of I haven't considered?


Good point. Harder soft diplomacy, maybe? Eg Drew in this post proposes a full trade blockade.


Yeah I think trade and economic pressure is kind of the only other road; basically put authoritarianism in quarantine. I'm a little unsatisfied with that because it's hard to fully isolate anyone. We can't isolate China from Russia, for example, and it more or less just creates a club of authoritarian regimes. But like, realistically we couldn't have done anything about the Bolshevik revolution, or the rise of the CCP. Maybe we fucked up in the Korean War by stopping, but we failed in Cuba. It's a tough problem, and smarter, more experienced people than I have been trying to crack it for longer than I have.

Interesting.

It is important to realize that experts believe the NK situation would be totally unsustainable without China.

Ergo, if China were like NK, it wouldn’t last long, because there is no big-brother economy that could support the (disaster) situation.


It's also why foreign aid doesn't work. Corrupt politicians are effectively bribed to be incompetent. If they fix their country they lose the foreign aid.


But free market did liberalize regimes in both China and Russia, if you compare to the 1980s! It also fed their populations, that is, shortages of food are now hard to imagine.

The free market did not turn either country into an efficient democracy, that's true. It did not improve the tolerance to dissent to Western levels (sadly, not a particularly high mark recently). It did not prevent an authoritarian regime in either country, too.

There's no silver bullet.


China pulled out several hundred million people out of poverty because of the liberalization. That in itself is worth it.

Social media in China is also heavily censored and manipulated. There are quite a few in mainland China who understands what's going on here in Hong Kong, but most buy into the state propaganda and wants us exterminated for being "separatists" and "traitors of the Chinese race."


There’s a lot of mainland people in the US who think the western medias are all biased and that they are helping HK to separate from China.


> There’s a lot of mainland people in the US who think the western medias are all biased

Isn't it ? I mean, I don't respect China much but this is not a false statement.


Western media is diverse because they are not all controlled by the same government. For example, the China Daily US Edition is based in the NYC and therefore can be considered "Western media", but being owned by the CCP it obviously publishes pro-PRC propaganda.

Obviously if you define "Western media" as newspapers providing a certain viewpoint then by definition your argument would be correct. But that isn't an interesting argument.

Moreover, using the Internet people in the US can read diverse points of view, including e.g. those of pro-China websites. This is not possible in China, except for a small minority who have access to VPN and similar technology.


> Western media is diverse because they are not all controlled by the same government.

The majority of American News can be traced back to 6 billionaires

http://www.tiragraffi.it/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/thebig6....


> The majority of American News can be traced back to 6 billionaires

6 is more than one. A majority is not a totality. And not all Western media is American.


In 20 years it will probably be 3


Well, in Britain the majority of newspapers are owned or were bought by Murdoch, total media control seems to be part of his ultimate goal.

Personally I'm biased in favour of rights. If HK ruled over China I'd be in favour of Chinese independence.

I want Beijing to have universal suffrage just as much as I want the Cantonese to.


Most protesters don't want HK independence, they simply want universal suffrage which was guaranteed by the CCP in the 1997 joint declaration. But the CCP has failed their promise and almost half of the seats in the HK legislature are chosen by "functional constituencies" that do not represent the people. Of course the CCP has labeled these people as "separatists" to attract domestic hatred towards the protesters, and spreads propaganda in China that falsely represents their demands.

At least SCMP still gives a truthful view: https://yp.scmp.com/hongkongprotests5demands


I am not sure you are telling the full story. It seems to me different sides have different interpretations w.r.t the 'universal suffrage' as in the joint declaration.

What I've heard from PRC nationals in the US is that the CIA is behind the "riots". I'm assuming this is the narrative being pushed by the state-run media in the PRC.


Definitely, pretty much from day one the PRC has been accusing the CIA and MI6 for inciting the "riots" designed to hurt the feelings of Chinese people.


For reference here's the known efforts of the CIA in stirring the pot around the world. They are prolific by any comparison.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_involvement_in_r...


Who cares that the CIA might be behind this though? This is something that has to happen or your children are going to have pretty awful lives.


The same way Russians stirred our elections right?

The CIA would never do such a thing!


Several highly-educated Mainland China associates and colleagues have shared such thoughts with me and expressed general disdain for the HK protestors.


Well educated ≠ well informed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsWa9fieWSU

This interview was in Melbourne, Australia. Many of the interviewees were mainland students in Australia.

Not saying your associates and colleagues must be like one of them. Just offering one possible explanation.

You can also test their knowledge, by asking them about the Five Demands of Hong Kong protestors, and also Hong Kong legislative and government structures. Some of the answers can be found in the original article.


I met some while I was studying at a top 5 university in the U.S. One had come out of the fog after studying a decade in Singapore. He could look back clearly at the brainwashing and described how it is done, but it takes many years on the outside for even very intelligent people to realize what has been done.

Props to China though for having a pretty effective system.


I received news from mainland China, Taiwan and US media. Most of the US news (even NYT) are indeed often biased toward China and of course same for Chinese media. The biases contribute greatly to the increasing animosity between the two worlds.


Do they believe the CIA is running the concentration camps in China?


[flagged]


I was waiting for the orange man bad post. Do you know who built the cages for children? Do you know who banned the exact same countries for travel that Trump did? Do you know who arrested 8 whistleblowers? Do you know who killed the first US citizen without hearing? Newsflash, it wasn't the orange man.


Please don't take HN threads further into political flamewar or use HN primarily for political battle. We ban accounts that do that.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I know you very well, you specifically only target pro-trump posters. You have NEVER ever said anything to anti-trump baiters.



Sorry I apologize. Truce. :)

Yes and I felt betrayed by Obama when he did those things. I criticize them both.


I didn't comment on his policies, I commented on the style of politician he is. Obama was no angel, far from it, but he also wasn't elected as a populist. Trump was.


Both the west and China omit information when reporting about HK. China highlights protester violence, the west talk about police. The only difference is that west is doing it voluntarily.

If you step back and think about it, if this protest were to happen in the US, with subways burned, shops destroyed, road blocked, for 6 months. What is going to happen? Compare this hypothetical scenario with what happened in Hong Kong.

Where’s the gap? In 2019 we’ve been accustomed to export thinking to other people and import outrage from the cheapest source. And it doesn’t take a dictatorial government to push a narrative.


> If you step back and think about it, if this protest were to happen in the US, with subways burned, shops destroyed, road blocked, for 6 months. What is going to happen? Compare this hypothetical scenario with what happened in Hong Kong.

If the same protests happened in the US, with a quarter of the population marching peacefully on June 16 (as it did in Hong Kong), the government has to immediately respond to its people’s demands, for otherwise the current government will lose in landslide in the next election. And all the subway burning, shops destruction, etc will be avoided — these events happened at least three months into Hong Kong protests in September, long after the mega march on June 16.

Thank you for pointing out Hong Kong has no genuine democracy, which is directly related to one of the five key demands.


In the US I can read any English source, both ones from China and ones from US/UK media. I read that the CCP imprisoned approximately one million Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang, where they are being held indefinitely without due process, and there are reports of physical torture (waterboarding and tiger chair), rape, and occasional killings. I also read from CCP's point of view that this started because there were some terrorist knife attacks in 2014. So I can get both sides' point of views. But after reading both sides, my conclusion is that even if 10,000 people are guilty it does not justify a Holocaust-scale genocide of one million Uighurs, where the overwhelming majority are innocent and did not participate or condone the terrorists. There is no difference between the logic of those perpetrating the genocide in Xinjiang and the logic of Hitler during WWII.


You’re right and entirely sideway to my point, which is that narrative pushing are not just from one side alone.


Let's consider a hypothetical scenario similar to the one you put forward then. Suppose the US government conducts mass imprisonment of a certain population in concentration camps, like CCP is doing to Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Well, it's not hypothetical, we already did it during WWII to Americans of Japanese ethnicity. And newspapers across the US spoke up against this atrocity [1]. Contrast that with China where the newspapers are forced to push the government's narrative, and invariably focus on the terrorism in 2014 that sparked the CCP's disproportional response rather than the barbaric violence perpetrated by the CCP.

The US government has formally apologized for the atrocities in the concentration camps where Japanese-Americans were held, and paid reparations ($42K per camp survivor in current USD). We vowed never to do something so horrible again. But in 2019 China is still playing with mass forced incarceration, and they even have the gall to call it a model for combating violence that other countries should follow. The CCP has replaced the Japanese empire in abusing their own population (but I think some in China are racist and view Uighurs as not part of the Chinese people, just like how Nazi Germany viewed the Jewish people, and how some in US during WW2 viewed Japanese-Americans).

[1] https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/11/protests-against-in...


> Suppose the US government conducts mass imprisonment of a certain population

I'd argue that's not hypothetical at all, even with Xinjiang the US has by far the highest rate of imprisonment on the planet both of adults and children.

Most are black. Vast majority are not violent crimes.

It's entirely out of step with the rest of the developed world.


Ah, yes. Because someone convicted of a crime going to jail is the same thing as someone being sent to a camp due to their religion. Equating the issues in the US justice system to concentration camps is ridiculous.


Ah yes, my mistake, you only lock up convicted criminals, let's review that claim for a moment. Here's a visual:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/uKLej0KwcfGN583uqvyfQ...

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

I've noticed a massive apathy amongst Chinese towards Xinjiang, the vast majority don't care and think they deserve it. Perhaps you have a lot more in common than you think.

Both countries have horrendous records and many from there feel not the slightest bit of shame about it.


I grew up in Jiangsu province of China. I heard some very nice stories about people in Xinjiang from my neighbours who had worked in Xinjiang for some time. I also heard some very bad stories about certain group of people from Xinjiang. It's hard to agree with you that 'a massive apathy amongst Chinese towards Xinjiang' --- as an ordinary Chinese, I want a peaceful country, and no terrorists, and I love diversity.

The definition of "crime" in the USA was carefully chosen to primarily target undesirable races.


> If you step back and think about it, if this protest were to happen in the US, with subways burned, shops destroyed, road blocked, for 6 months. What is going to happen? Compare this hypothetical scenario with what happened in Hong Kong.

It's not hypocritical because the US has democratic avenues and Hong Kong (and China) doesn't, disruption is their only option.

When Hong Kong has universal free and fare elections I'll think about joining your condemnation.


> China highlights protester violence, the west talk about police. The only difference is that west is doing it voluntarily.

Both in the US and in China people work in media voluntarily. In neither case they have freedom to publish anything they want, they have to push specific narratives coming from the top. In China narratives come directly from the government, in the US indirectly through the system of "manufacturing consent".


China Daily has an office in NYC [1], and publishes a US edition of their newspaper. This is a newspaper directly owned by the CCP. And you can pick up a copy of the regular China Daily in many cities. Is the uncensored New York Times available in China? I think not. Trying to equate the two is ridiculous. No one is going to buy your argument that "manufacturing consent" means that the level of freedom of speech is the same in the US and China. It's just completely wrong.

[1] http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/2011-04/13/content_12319455.htm

When the police come in and arrest everyone working for the China Daily in NYC and send them to jail and physically torture them like the CCP did to Simon Cheng or harvest their organs like the CCP did to Falun Gong followers, then you can make your argument. And many people in the US will fight just as hard for the rights of China Daily US Edition as they fight for freedom of speech and universal suffrage in Hong Kong.


>”It’s economically productive for the 1% to maintain a trade relationship with China. The financial incentives don’t help any Americans, and in fact, most of us are hurt by this relationship...”

So true, since its inception with GHW, its execution and realization through Clinton and then once fully engaged the timid, supplicant responses from GW and BO, China has contributed to the stagnation of the blue collar worker on America with the full complicity of Democrats, Republicans and most of Industry and even unions who didn’t oppose their cozy politicians. They all only saw starry dollar signs...

That’s where we are now. People have had enough. That’s why they put up with the guy no one likes because he’s willing to sever that codependent relationship.

Now, if you ask any pol running for the nomination who the greatest threat to America is... it’s not going to be China...


The article focuses on human rights abuses which I think is a cogent criticism of China-US trade.

On the economics issue though, readers should know he disagrees with economists, who nearly universally agree that trade with China benefits Americans as a whole, with the caveat that there are concentrated losses in certain populations. Economists are highly certain on this, with uncharacteristically few people responding "uncertain" on the survey [0]. You can go through the other surveys on the IGM Forum to see what more common distributions looks like.

[0] http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/china-us-trade


> On the economics issue though, readers should know he disagrees with economists, who nearly universally agree that trade with China benefits Americans as a whole, with the caveat that there are concentrated losses in certain populations.

The thing is: economists are hardly unbiased and neutral. Their theories are far from scientific truth, and typically embed significant political content.

For instance: "benefit" can be a highly political term. How do "economists" define it and is that the definition we should be using?

This is an interesting article on the subject:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/22/economists-globalizatio...

> ECONOMISTS ON THE RUN

> Paul Krugman and other mainstream trade experts are now admitting that they were wrong about globalization: It hurt American workers far more than they thought it would. Did America’s free market economists help put a protectionist demagogue in the White House?


If it wasn’t China, the US would be importing goods from elsewhere.

It’s unlikely the response to not China will be America.

There are reasons to believe the US should still do not China even if it means Bangladesh or Vietnam (in fact, this is exactly what the TPP was supposed to have achieved, and would have better protected worker rights as well as IP...but I guess that wasn’t blunt enough for America).

The US is wealthier than it has ever been thanks to trade abroad. It makes absolutely no sense that the country that has overall benefited the most from trade, is complaining about it.

What the US hasn’t done, is spread the benefits of trade internally. The US economic problems stem from whatever led to a small percentage of the economy pocketing the vast gains. It’s far more likely that tax changes, regulatory changes, and changes in union power have a lot more to do with that than anything else.

But it’s always easier to blame Johnny Foreigner and people have been doing it for millennia, so there’s no reason to believe the US would be immune from it.


"If it wasn’t China, the US would be importing goods from elsewhere."

Other places don't cheat with market access or steal IP anywhere as much as China. Any economic rebalancing would have been far more gradual.

"What the US hasn’t done, is spread the benefits of trade internally. The US economic problems stem from whatever led to a small percentage of the economy pocketing the vast gains."

You mean policies such as open trade with China, which was inherently biased towards profits to the top, given the way offshoring worked?

This does not mean there weren't other factors at work, rather that China trade was one policy in an array of policies with a similar outcome.

"But it’s always easier to blame Johnny Foreigner and people have been doing it for millennia, so there’s no reason to believe the US would be immune from it. "

My country profited from the US's Free Trade advocacy, and I still think the US's China policy was either insane or driven by elite concerns. It's one thing to have free trade, another to have one-way free trade with a country that cheated so openly, and is now a superpower competitor.


> The US is wealthier than it has ever been thanks to trade abroad.

And more unequal than it has been since the Gilded Age, when the infamous robber-barons ruled the economy unrestrained.

As you said, the US hasn't "spread the benefits of trade internally", but that has a lot to do with globalization. Workers lost bargaining power and income as competition for their jobs increased due to globalization, and unions became weak when companies responded to strikes by moving operations overseas.

The benefits of globalization naturally flow to foreign workers and the few Americans in charge, while the cost of globalization falls on American workers.


>If it wasn’t China, the US would be importing goods from elsewhere.

I don't see the problem. USA has practically no leverage in the trade relationships with China. They can't change China for the better. So cutting China off is a net benefit even if other countries will take its role. That also means USA can now trade with countries that actually respect American laws and do in fact share American values like democracy or human rights.

This idea that we must sell our soul for a small profit must die.


Agree with you. That's how free market-based economic works, seeking maximum return. Inside an economy, free market tends to increase economic inequality and monopoly, which seems to be the major source of many things going on (Trump elected, protests in HK, France). When this happens, blaming Johnny Foreigner is easier..


I do not trust economists on this issue. Many doctors and even prestigious academics and journals are openly admitting that aspects of medicine have been compromised by the processed food industry and pharmaceutical industry. I posit that economics has been even more compromised by multinational corporations and financial entities, but economics is such an insular "science" that they've just built their ivory tower up higher to hide more and more bullshit.

The main benefit that they give for Americans is that everything became cheaper. We can buy cheaper phones, appliances, cars, clothing, and household goods. But that's exactly what most of these things are - cheaper. We're importing a vast quantity of crappy junk, exporting untold pollution and human suffering onto factory workers and laborers in China, and hollowing out the American middle class in the process.

When presented with evidence about the declining quality and huge externalities of imported goods, they hand-wave about rational actors and price discovery and how consumers will just select for the products that minimize heavy metal pollution in some far off mine in rural China. There's similar hand-waving about how Americans will simply find new jobs when all the factories in Ohio automate or close. When products die more frequently because they're not engineered for durability or serviceability, they hand wave again about how consumers are making informed decisions to maximize their utility at the time of purchase.

The truth is a lot of this was a great con with a thin veneer of respectable economics on it. A few of the economists were in on the con, but most of them were taken for a ride. There were a few warning us all along about market failures, wealth inequality, disruption of rapid globalization, and unchecked externalities, but most just wanted in on the money.


There are winners and losers in every decision, and I've already acknowledged there are concentrated losses among certain populations. It hurt certain sectors of manufacturing, yes, but as you can see pulling back from trade hurts a different set of American workers[0][1], and may not even be benefiting the manufacturing sector[2]. Manufacturing is not a simple "I make things or you make things", with free trade it's a cooperative process and protectionism affects inputs to manufacturing as well[3].

Without belaboring the argument which I'm sure everyone's seen before, I would like to re-focus on the point of my comment: The idea that "The financial incentives don’t help any Americans, and in fact, most of us are hurt by this relationship" is counter to everything we know about economics. You can give counter examples yes, but overall trade has been a benefit to Americans, especially for lower-income Americans who rely on low cost goods. We can say with our engineering jobs that we're willing to bear the cost of protectionism, but we don't really bear that cost in the first place.

[0] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/07/the-costs-...

[1] https://fee.org/articles/tariffs-hurt-the-poorest-the-most/

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/07/the-costs-...

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-steel/in-michig...


> There are winners and losers in every decision, and I've already acknowledged there are concentrated losses among certain populations.

Decisions are political, and these decisions have been, more or less, presented to the losers as a fait accompli by the winners. It is good and right that such a decision be challenged, and that it potentially be moderated or rolled back entirely.

These decisions also have had important effects outside of the areas typically focused on by "economists" that need to be taken into account.

> The idea that "The financial incentives don’t help any Americans, and in fact, most of us are hurt by this relationship" is counter to everything we know about economics.

The thing is, it's not inaccurate to say economics is a political ideology. We should speak about it honestly: as politics and not science. So it's more accurate to say that idea is "counter to everything we know about [my?] political ideology."

Posting links to blogs from explicitly libertarian think tanks that quote chapter and verse does little to convince me economics is something other than politics by another name.


The scientific side of economics is the description of the properties and behavior of economics systems. The political side is what we should do with this information. I think I and the sources I've cited have kept largely to the former, and I'm the only one in the comment chain to at least throw up a graph. Call it what you want, but we should be able to make observations on systems. At the very least it's a step up from say, pointing out that a source comes from libertarians.


> The scientific side of economics is the description of the properties and behavior of economics systems. The political side is what we should do with this information.

No, sorry. It's not that clean cut. Your links had economists stating things like "America’s low-income households benefit the most from free trade and having access to cheap imports." But defining good as having access to cheaper goods is an intensely political statement (even ignoring the fact that statement was made though an organization advocating for a particular political policy).

If economics was not political, economists would merely say things like "All else being equal, if our models are correct, increased tariffs will lead to increased domestic prices of international trade goods. However, all else is not equal, so we cannot comment if tariffs are good policy or not."


> "America’s low-income households benefit the most from free trade and having access to cheap imports."

This is a description of a property or behavior of a system.

> But defining good as having access to cheaper goods is an intensely political statement

This would be apolitical in all but the most semantic of arguments. "Buying the things I want to buy" is assumed to be a good thing by the vast majority of people.


>> But defining good as having access to cheaper goods is an intensely political statement

> This would be apolitical in all but the most semantic of arguments. "Buying the things I want to buy" is assumed to be a good thing by the vast majority of people.

That's a myopic view: it's not the only good thing, and it's arguable that it's not even the most important good thing. The politics are embedded in the shape of the myopia.


Arguing against that being the most import good thing is the most ridiculous straw man.


> The thing is: economists are hardly unbiased and neutral. Their theories are far from scientific truth, and typically embed significant political content.

That may be true, but are there any less biased and more neutral experts on the economy to turn to, or do we just throw up our hands and say that no one knows anything about the economy and thus all opinions are equally valid?


I’m not sure these economists have spent time in the Rust Belt, then. Entire cities were economically destroyed from the offshoring of jobs to China and other low-cost areas.


Umm...economists know all about this. I taught international trade classes out in North Carolina. Talked to numerous people affected by the loss of textile manufacturing. There's a massive literature, going back decades, on the topic.

I wish there was a way to raise the level of discussion on HN. Instead, completely uninformed comments like this get upvoted.


Perhaps my comment was a bit dismissive, but I think the general point stands: academic economists don’t live in the places that have been economically ruined by offshoring jobs. University professors are white-collar professionals and don’t live in run-down, economically-dead towns.

It’s easy to draw abstract analyses from afar, but without actual hands-on experience, you end up with unexpected side effects - like the current rise of populist protectionism.


Your comment seems very anti-intellectual, which is surprising to find on HN. Academics do not need to live in a place in order to study it rigorously.

Not being blasé, but the rust-belt is the trade-off for globalization. The US asked the rest of the world to open up their markets for American goods and services and promised to do the same.


The attitude that “it’s just a trade off” is exactly the problem with abstract analysis. Millions of people in the Rust Belt lost their livelihoods and thousands of cities were economically destroyed. Maybe it was overall beneficial for Americans, but that isn’t the point I’m making.

The point is that academic economists pushed policies that had unintended side effects (populism and protectionism) that perhaps they would have anticipated if they had actual experience in the areas that were affected.

Finally, there’s a difference between merely studying a place from afar and enacting policies that dramatically affect said place.


>Finally, there’s a difference between merely studying a place from afar and enacting policies that dramatically affect said place.

Economists do not enact those policies -- they suggest policies. The fisherman also suggests policies to benefit his own work, just as the steel worker suggests his own policies, and just as the architect, the construction crews, the parents, the etc..

These policies are aggregated, and enacted, by your politician (of cascading hierarchy), whose job is to do that -- review the possible set of policies and their impact on different areas of his total domain, and with this overarching view, enact policies. The fisherman does not himself review his policies for how they would impact the steel worker, and neither does the economist review his policies for how they will impact the presidential election.

If your local politician is blindly following the recommendations of the economist, without concern for the rest of his domain, whose fault is that but the politician's?

The economist is not supposed to be an expert in all things about the world, and it would be absurd to imagine him to be. He is intended to be an expert of his domain (economics), and is meant to be one of many experts, each supplying their own, scoped, understanding of the world.

If the economist claims that his suggested policies will purely benefit all aspects of the economy, and have zero negative impact, then it would be fair to blame him, because he was plainly incorrect about the area he's intended to be an expert in. But if he fairly claimed that it would generally be beneficial, but certain areas of the economy would be impacted negatively in such a fashion, and his predictions are generally correct, then he has done his job without fault. The decision to enact the policy, knowing the benefits and the losses, is not made by him.


> The point is that academic economists pushed policies

Sure, the Chicago school of economics has been banging this particular drum for ages, but it found a responsive ear in the "deciders" in both public and private spheres from the late-80's.

This rust-belt is a symptom on ongoing class warfare, pure and simple - China only happens to be a tool (and a convenient scape goat). The global domination of Wall Street and Silicon Valley is the flip-side of the globalism coin.

I'd say on average the US benefitted, but this hasn't been evenly distributed (capital wins). How do you fix that without using any big-government, pinko communist/socialist interventions? (being sarcastic here, but that's ironically a big part of rust-belt politics).


I don't see how it was anti-intellectual. The reality is some combination of trade policy, automation and massive income inequality led us to electing a narcissistic reality TV star to be President.

The bargain of cheaper goods in return for us moving up the value chain may be good for GDP, but we have left tens of millions behind in the process, and they are pissed.

I am pro free-trade, but we need to come up with a system that more equally distributes the gains. You can't kick millions of people out of work, leave them to fend for themselves and not expect massive societal issues.


>Academics do not need to live in a place in order to study it.

I mean, pretty sure biologists would disagree. Maybe economists need to rethink their trade if that’s the prevailing mindset. The idea that you are modeling a social structure that you don’t think you need to have ever been a part of or experienced is pretty rich.

Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression is that the US opened its arms to free trade and the rest of world shrugged and took advantage. Non-reciprocal free trade might be good for the US economy on the whole, but when a handful of people control half the wealth, and their half is the part of the economy that reaps the benefit while everyone else sees full time employment harder to come by and inflation adjusted wages stand still for 3 decades, I think it’s probably a bad policy for a democratic republic.


> my impression is that the US opened its arms to free trade and the rest of world shrugged and took advantage.

The rest of the world also took hits in some industries - US farm subsidies destroyed corn farming in poor countries

Different US industries fared differently - without globalization, Silicon Valley (and American tech in general) as well as Wall street wouldn't be as globally dominant as they are

> I think it’s probably a bad policy for a democratic republic.

I think it could work great for a democratic republic with sane corporate tax and safety net policies to more evenly distribute the upside


>I think it could work great for a democratic republic with sane corporate tax and safety net policies to more evenly distribute the upside

True. But how would modern medicine have faired?

I think the bigger issue with globalization is that it has a huge environmental impact and makes our species more susceptible to the effects of climate change.

We ought to at least enforce free trade policy better; I can tell you first hand that competing against unregulated competitors in manufacturing is hilariously unfair. If we really cared about the Environment or Human rights we would at least level the playing field in markets we control. It’s cheaper to buy from China largely because of our regulatory environment.


“The rust belt is the trade off for globalization”

I want to frame this.

If that’s the trade off, it wasn’t worth it. Glad we are finally being honest, though. Could’ve used a bit more of this frankness in the 1990s.


Indeed academics do not need to live in a place to study it, but they need to live there to feel it.


It's not clear to me that people discussing the overall economy should also be charged with discussing the political outcomes of the outcome -- that's the role of the politician who chooses to act on the data provided by the economist.

That is, it's not the economists job to predict that the demolishment of the rust belt will lead to Trump's election; their job is to predict that the demolishment of the rust belt will bolster the coastal cities, and improve the health of the American economy in general.

Also notably, towns come and go based the industries they support -- it has happened in the past, and will happen in the future. It's simply the inevitable outcome of an ever-evolving economy. How to mitigate the impact of that fact is not the really job of the economist.

And economists are not expected to live in the towns they discuss.. the local politician is intended to represent the local concerns. If he's failing to do so, or failing to have any impact, the economist can merely say "this is what will probably happen, if you do this and don't do that", and nothing will happen.


Where do you think the jobs in the rust belt came from?

The same thing happened to artisan economies with factories during modernization, yet people didn't decry the loss of the local blacksmith when the rust belt took over their jobs too.

The transition from local to city to regional to global specialization is a natural effect of economies of scale. Trying to freeze economic development and preserve the status quo is like trying to push water uphill.


There was most certainly massive push back against industrialization. The Luddite movement being one obvious example.

In the US we ended up with 40 hour work weeks, and universal high school as a government response. We will need similar large measures to deal with globalization and automation this time as well.


Precisely, and as the history of automation has shown, having a social safety net to retrain and shift workers is critical.

Unfortunately the focus is on blaming immigrants and other countries, not helping the disenfranchised American workers get back on their feet. It's easier to be an angry luddite but it's also historically the wrong side to be on.


At the city and regional levels, workers could at least go where the added jobs are and compete on the same terms (regulations and cost of living). At the global level that’s rarely permitted.


Modern economists are completely out-of-line with reality on many things, "life outside of George Mason University" being one of them.

Pick your flavor of elitist sub/urbanism, it doesn't matter, none are substantially different.

(HN's poor Markdown formatter transfers asterisks cross-paragraph, so what was originally "George Mason University (asterisk)" and "(asterisk)Pick your flavor" just made everything between italicized.)



It's not just China. It started with Japan, and even without China, it will continue in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and eventually it will be replaced by automation.


So we know international trade is a thing and we know specialization is a thing. We know economies will over time become more value add and go up the chain.

That’s not a problem if we put in place policies and regulations that put our workers on even footing with foreign workers. Benefits, protections (OSHA), anti-dumping, market-based pay (no institutional labor), IP protections, even access to markets, etc. that is handicap any imports proportionately for not meeting those baselines.


I don't follow. How would increasing the cost of labor in the US make it more competitive against foreign labor?


Our workers would not want to be on even footing with workers who have few to nil safety standards and poor labor laws.


Some of those low cost areas are in the country. A lot of the Rust Belt jobs moved within the USA to the South (especially with the auto industry), which is one of the reasons top line US industrial production is pretty stable/growing but you have some very obvious depressed industrial regions.


But don't a lot of people who live in the Rust Belt shop at Walmart and benefit from cheaper prices generally? I haven't seen any "made in America" competitor to Walmart that's thriving because there's so much demand from customers who are willing to pay more to buy domestic made goods.

Having access to cheap goods might not make up lost jobs, but weren't most of the manufacturing jobs in the Rust Belt automated away rather than being offshored? Since 1990, production of metals in the U.S. has held roughly constant, but the number of people employed in the industry has fallen steadily. So it's not like the steel mill jobs from the Rust Belt were shipped overseas, they were just automated away.


The Rust Belt lost most of its jobs prior to 1990, so I’m not sure how that’s relevant data.

I find it a bit hard to understand how someone could suggest that having access to garbage cheap Walmart goods would make up for the utter destruction of a region’s economy. A good place to observe this is southwestern Pennsylvania: there are hundreds of former industrial towns which are now almost completely empty. Drug use is also rampant in these areas and indeed it’s easy to make a direct connection between offshoring jobs and the opioid epidemic.


Foreign trade policy is not defined via consumer preferences. It's the exactly the same as for environmentally sound products: the burden is not on consumers to choose better, but on government to regulate the market.


Mainstream macroeconomics still have problems dealing with real returns of capital investment and technology improvements. And free commerce with China creates some quite large unnatural changes on both of those factors. (And microeconomics can't save the day here.)

So, well, I would add disclaimer to not blindly trusts the economists on this one. Their opinion are probably much better than the one from the average Joe, and also much better than anything you'll get out of the news or a politician's mouth, but not completely reliable either... and the most certain a economist is of it, the less I would trust him.


Because everyone having taken Econ 101 knows what principle of comparative advantage is.


I don't disagree with anything you are saying regarding the culpability of American politicians, but this common narrative overlooks the role of unadulterated greed on the part of American corporations. BigCo saw a billion person market. They saw cheap labor and a Wild West of regulations, especially environmental. Nevermind that they had to form joint ventures and expose their IP, it would be worth it. I saw an article earlier this year - think it was in the NYT - making the statement that now the US understood that the Chinese never had any intention of letting US companies gain a foothold in their domestic market - well duh! It was clear as day twenty+ years ago to anybody paying attention. It wasn't the Chinese that did this to the American worker and consumer, it was our own corporations with the full support of politicians.

The current buffoon political administration has identified a surface problem, but not the causes and certainly not a solution. The only solution I see comes in two parts: 1) The world needs to make China persona non grata. 2) Shareholders and corporate boards need to hold corporations accountable, not just on a moral basis, but also in terms of good business. Foreign companies cannot win there because the playing field isn't fair.

Thus, while yes we need politicians who can defend American interests, we also need to hold their corporate masters accountable.


most of the job losses of blue-collar work are the result of automation, not foreign trade (this is a statement for which ample evidence exists[1]), furthermore on the aggregate Americans do benefit from trade with not just China but also other low-cost nations, which again is economics 101. If the United States were to produce goods at the level of domestic wages a small segment of the workforce would benefit, but consumers on average would lose out due to the increase in price. The price for an iPhone could go from ~850$ to ~2000$[2]. Now imagine that this happens for every good that is produced largely in China and think again if bringing back a few ten thousand jobs is worth the total loss of consumer welfare in the states.

Also, it goes without saying of course that it would also hurt the Chinese workers who are equally deserving of good employment as their American counterparts, and it's not clear why discounting their welfare is anything other than tribalism.

[1]https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/upshot/the-long-term-jobs...

[2]https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/how-much-would-an-all-america...


> Now imagine that this happens for every good that is produced largely in China and think again if bringing back a few ten thousand jobs is worth the total loss of consumer welfare in the states.

On the other hand, perhaps a reduction in frivolous consumption would be good for an ailing planet.

> it's not clear why discounting their welfare is anything other than tribalism.

They are citizens of an authoritarian regime, and for the most part, deeply nationalistic. Their labor produces the regime's prosperity, and enables the very economic influence that leads the international community to constantly turn a blind eye to its human rights abuses.

I don't think it's controversial or inhumane to suggest that we should allocate resources to those who play by (or belong to groups that play by) fairer rules.


>increase in price

I, and I’m sure many many others, would be willing to pay a little more if I know that money is staying here and supporting families in this country. I can do without more plastic crap from China, and I consider it strategically important that high tech manufacturing comes back to the US. For defense reasons, among others. I’m sure someone will link the Wikipedia page with some neat plots from “economics 101”, which is fine. But some things are worth paying a little more for.


Exactly. This is the template for emerging economies. Grow your domestic economy, have your consumers support your industry. That’s the recipe, but suddenly this is “bad” for our own economy and people.


Well you may be fine if you have a lot of disposable income, but many poor Americans will not. Which is of course the opposite story that the OP tried to tell. If you are a minimum wage US worker paying hundreds of dollars more for basic goods is a drastic cut into your quality of life.

This mercantilism on display here will be extremely harmful to people in America who rely on low cost imported goods just for the sake of predominantly wealthy people attempting to play geopolitics. If you're willing to harm poor Americans and cut trade then please state it like this, don't wrap it up in patriotism.

And to expand on the 'jobs coming back'. Given the high production costs that American companies would have to live with would instantly make their products unattractive in the rest of the world, where people are still going to buy Chinese phones. Giving companies like Apple an incentive to drastically increase the pace of automation, which again is the primary eliminator of jobs.

And even worse, unless you put a tariff on Samsung who will still produce in countries with access to cheap labour, american products will be uncompetitive in their own markets. If you do eliminate competition, the incentive to innovate will vanish. This in fact already happened in the US in the 80s, when the Reagan administration engaged in a trade-war with the Japanese to protect the automotor industry. We all know what this did to the american car market as a result.


> Well you may be fine if you have a lot of disposable income, but many poor Americans will not.

Why are they poor? Hasn't globalization directly contributed to making the American working class poorer? For instance: Offshoring a factory obviously eliminates those workers' jobs. The owner of a American factory can also use the threat of offshoring to keep wages down. The owner is better off, but the workers clearly aren't.

One of the obnoxious things about free-trade ideology is that the cause of problems and the proposed solutions often seem to be one and the same: more market faster.


> Hasn't globalization directly contributed to making the American working class poorer?

My understanding is that our standard of living has continued to increase throughout my lifetime, and thus that the American working class is on the whole richer than it was decades ago.

> The owner is better off, but the workers clearly aren't.

Aren't they? If they make $10/hour instead of $15/hour, but the goods they buy are 40% the cost that they would have been, their $10/hour is effectively $16/hour (I think I got the math right there).

Of course, maybe they are making $9/hour, or maybe they lost their jobs after all, or maybe the goods they buy are 95% the cost that they would have been … but the principle still holds that they can be doing less well than they would like but still better than they were.


> Aren't they? If they make $10/hour instead of $15/hour, but the goods they buy are 40% the cost that they would have been, their $10/hour is effectively $16/hour (I think I got the math right there).

I think it's a mistake to treat it like a math equation, since (among other things) that engages in the fallacy of equating Homo economicus with Homo sapiens.

But if you do want to treat it like a math equation like that. The workers may still be worse off because they don't just buy trade goods. The owner's income didn't drop, and maybe increased, so he can use greater relative income to bid up non-trade goods like real estate, healthcare, and education, pushing those things out of reach of the workers.


Yeah I don’t agree with any of this. I find it really fascinating that, after WWII, the US finds itself in this self-imposed fatalism where we can “never” compete with the rest of the world on manufacturing because of labor costs. It’s also a little odd because in multiple threads at a near daily pace I see people advocating that we explicitly cut back on consumption spending for environmental reasons (reasons I find very compelling). China is also one of the, if not the, world’s biggest polluter.

The Apple example is a good one, but, again, I find it very hard to believe that an 80% (or hell even 90%) automated manufacturing footprint here in the US is a) infeasible and/or b) undesirable relative to the status quo.

I’m tired of the fatalism about this issue. It’s pathetic and signals that America is near collapse if we are essentially just giving up on our industrial base and willing to be reliant on cheap consumer goods from China.


The US isn't near collapse at all. The postwar era and the fact that the US is the primary consumer of global goods is a different way of saying that the US is one of the most prosperous countries on the planet.

The US could compete with foreign countries on manufacturing, but not through human labour unless you want Americans to work 9/9/6 in hazardous conditions and under environmental degradation. The dematerialisation of the US economy has made it cleaner, more energy-efficient, less physically demanding, and richer, because it extracts value from its global IP, and it has given Chinese workers a step up the ladder to prosperity. If manufacturing is coming back its in the form of robots, and that does very little for displaced workers.

There is no reason for fatalism because the premise is all wrong that deindustrialisation is bad. It's not. The problem the US has is a cultural one where the vision of the Ford company man working the same job at the conveyor belt with a dog and car and a house in the suburbs hasn't been updated. Adjust the political system to compensate the segments of the population that lose out, find different ways to provide meaningful work, and we'll be better off, instead of making everyone worse off.


This analysis is just garbage.

“We consume a lot of goods therefore we are prosperous.”

Utter nonsense. I implore you to actually hang out in, not just visit, these places that got blown up so that some companies could make some basis points on their quarterly returns.

It’s also amazing that you’re saying that the “cultural” hangings on about the mid 20th century are something to be readjusted. Dude, these people are not going to become firmware engineers at night school. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting what was a normal family life at that time to exist in 2019. If your claim is that that is not possible, then declare what sacrifices are required. Did globalism make this impossible?


Not everyone is as materialistic as you. The goods you are talking about are luxury products we can do without - have you read of the sacrifices people make on the homefront during all out war? Even basic necessities such as food are rationed. To complain about not having the newest iPhone is a slap in the face of the sacrifices made by our ancestors in order to endure the world wars and stave off facism.


You will be surprised how materialistic the average American will be when their basic cost of living increases.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say in your post, that you'd like to live like a WW2 soldier on the homefront rationing food without a phone? Or that you think there is majority support for your romanticised wartime lifestyle?

The replies to my original post are getting increasingly strange and unhinged


Basic cost of living (housing, education, healthcare) has already sky rocketed.


You don't know the steady state is harm to poor Americans. That Americans are poor is likely a consequence of the current trade imbalances.


>That Americans are poor is likely a consequence of the current trade imbalances.

This story is improbable because the overwhelming majority of America's poorest are employed in the domestic service industry who are not facing negative exposure to international trade. Every store clerk, every McDonalds worker, every garbage man, cleaning lady, janitor, nanny, teacher and so on will be one-sided losers of an increase in prices due to reduced trade.

The benefactors will be a relatively small number of American manufacturing workers (given that it's overall only a small source of employment), who already earn solidly middle-class wages.


In places like the oil boom towns in west Texas and South Dakota the average salaries for all jobs are multiplied higher. Because the average worker in an oilfield makes so much more they have to pay the cashiers 4x what they normally would make. You are wrong.


What if they are only in those jobs because there are no factory jobs for them? If we started employing a lot of factory workers, they would have to come from somewhere. A lot would come from worse jobs. This would also make labor scarcer for those jobs allowing the people who do them to demand higher wages and better conditions.


So you’re claiming if manufacturing had stayed and it offered decent wages those service workers would still choose to stay in the service industry?


there is no such scenario because manufacturing would not have stayed. As explained in my original post, automation constitutes the bulk of replacement of manufacturing jobs. If every single manufacturing job from China came back to the United States we would be talking about a low single digit percentage number of the american workforce.


Poor Americans in the rust belt are poor largely because of the decimation of a path to the middle class.

So now we need to keep the status quo because they are no longer middle class?

Your argument doesn’t make sense and until you understand that Trump wins re-election easily.

Even if he was not particularly effective in improving their lot, at least he followed through on his promises instead of preaching to them how raping them was good for them.

Globalization went too far.


That's certainly the traditional narrative, but it always smelled a bit fishy to me because I've seen far more success in outsourcing manufacturing than I've seen in automating it. Sure enough:

https://qz.com/1269172/the-epic-mistake-about-manufacturing-...


Both are definitely contributing, but automation/process improvements is very apparent in steel production: "In the 1980s, American steelmakers needed 10.1 man-hours to produce a ton of steel; now they need 1.5 man-hours, says Joe Innace of S&P Global Platts." https://apnews.com/cae426730cd74e64932e4be7fa5cdebc/As-Trump...

Or in Austria: "The plant, a two-hour drive southwest of Vienna, will need just 14 employees to make 500,000 tons of robust steel wire a year—vs. as many as 1,000 in a mill with similar capacity built in the 1960s." https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-21/how-just-...


> he price for an iPhone could go from ~850$ to ~2000$[2]. Now imagine that this happens for every good that is produced largely in China and think again if bringing back a few ten thousand jobs is worth the total loss of consumer welfare in the states.

And it wouldn't matter one whit, because 90% of the expenses of the average American aren't going into buying consumer goods.

They go into buying transportation, medicine, education, food, and housing (With the price of housing rising to consume all of the middle class's economic surplus). None of those things are made in China.

Housing is the most fun one, because no matter how much people save, the price of houses rises to eat all of those savings. The only reason for why a house can cost a million dollars, is that people have saved that amount of money up. If that money weren't there, housing prices would be lower.


>”it goes without saying of course that it would also hurt the Chinese workers who are equally deserving of good employment as their American counterparts...”

You know what, I’ll start caring about their wellbeing soon as they give two shits about the American workers they have displaced.

It’s their economy, they can fix their own problems.


Do we still need a new phone every year or two like was necessary in the past? I've had no desire to upgrade my phone and don't see a compelling reason to in the future. If manufacturing had stayed in america there would be copious amounts of technical jobs in the (now decimated) regions, even if mechanization reduces the overall number of people.

The world has too many people to support as is, so it is beneficial if automation reduces the number of workers needed in the long run. But sending all of the factories out of the US benefits no one.


Automation that is in China, you mean? Because most of it isn't in the US.


This upcoming presidential election is definitely more interesting due to this issue. My brother is a staunch Democrat, but he's made it clear that he's not voting for them if they put someone up who's soft on China. I suspect he'd be voting 3rd party in that scenario.


which means he is voting to keep the incumbent in

This is a binary choice dem or repub any other choice is a vote for the incumbent


I have someone I work with who quite literally mocks people for voting for a 3rd party and actually tries to "shame" them for it, usually using a line like "which means he is voting to keep the incumbent in" (usually with more colorful words about the incumbent and the voter).

Voting 3rd party exercises your right to say you don't like either of the other 2 candidates. I will not argue which candidate it will help, but i think this line of thinking is detrimental to our voting process and wrong to rub in peoples faces.


> Voting 3rd party exercises your right to say you don't like either of the other 2 candidates

You can say whatever you want, but no one is listening. Voter turnout is so low that the signal of voting 3rd-party is completely lost in the noise of passive non-voting. 3rd-party votes might feel good, but pragmatically (and what is voting except a pragmatic attempt to advance your preferred policy), they are useless.

I encourage everyone on this comment chain to read Clay Shirky's "There is no such thing as a protest vote" [0], and really take it seriously, instead of jumping to thought-terminating cliches by angrily denouncing him as a sheep or whatever. He's right.

[0]: https://medium.com/@cshirky/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-protes...


In a Presidential election it really depends on the state you vote in. California is going team blue no matter what, Alabama team red. Voting 3rd party in one of those states is not going to change the outcome.

Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin etc the calculation totally changes of course.


Just for a clarification, when I said

"Voting 3rd party exercises your right to say you don't like either of the other 2 candidates"

I actually voted for a third party, i liked better than the other 2. It was not a protest. I did just read your link and won't denounce him as anything, but I do think telling people who vote for someone they like who is not in the main 2 parties that their vote was a "throw-away" is again not a good thing.

We will have to agree to disagree on this. Although it is interesting in some other countries where there are more than 2 parties that do all compete.


Pragmatically every vote is useless. The chances that the election outcome will come down to your single vote are infinitesimal. Every individual vote is a protest vote lost in the noise. So anyone reading this should feel perfectly free to vote their conscience.


Can’t you both be right at the same time? Going all in for poker may be interpreted as an exercise of my human rights, but it can also be interpreted as giving all my money to the chip lead.

Of course I don’t wish to argue the efficacy of my poker moves. They are an expression of my free spirit.


Yup. Votes are earned, they are not owed anyone. You want my vote? Earn it.


I like to think of it as showing up to not vote. You made an effort to express your disappointment that can't just be argued away as 'people are too busy'.

Here in Australia at least I can do that every time and still have my vote go to the lesser evil due to preferences.


Well unfortunately the idealism in voting 3rd party (which I understand) to make a statement can't really stand up to the realities of game theory and the American political landscape.

> this line of thinking is detrimental to our voting process and wrong to rub in peoples faces.

Our voting framework is detrimental to our voting process. The line of thinking that a 3rd party vote is a vote wasted is simply an assessment of reality.

There are only two realistic candidates for President in a given US election. And no matter the reasoning, a vote for third party is equivalent to a half vote for both major candidates.

If you truly find equally unappealing, then a third party vote is a (very quiet) way to voice that opinion. Otherwise, you are giving a half vote to your least preferred option.


As far as fallacies that can be demonstrated to be mathematically incorrect to bright 5-year-olds go, this one is absurdly common.

0 may not be equal to 1, but it isn't equal to -1 either. It takes TWO people changing their vote from <your favored major candidate> to <third-party candidate> to match the effect of one person changing from <your favored major candidate> to <the opposing major candidate>.


Its not a full vote for the incumbent, but it is mathematically equivalent to a half vote for both candidates, so the statement that they are "voting for the incumbent" isn't incorrect.


I don’t think it will be all that interesting. Trump has it in the bag.


so did Hilary


The guy "no one likes" isn't innocent of China-worship. Guiltier than most. On Jinping: "He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a 'tough business.'"

Misrepresenting him as "willing to sever that codependent relationship" is harmful. He's just as complicit if not more than most politicians, and most of his actions involving China have been inconsistent and self-serving.


This is how negotiations work. It's rarely productive to simply trash and call out the guy on the other side in speeches from the top level. The real sticks and carrots are mostly in fine print and smaller-time negotiations. They call him "unsophisticated", but how sophisticated are the people who think that public speeches towards you geopolitical rivals really mean what they say?


How is that a misrepresentation? He's started a trade war with them. In a world with a few nations with ICBMs it's often valuable to maintain some semblance of respect with countries capable of destroying you, even when initiating a trade war. Most people didn't enjoy the cold war.


Countries routinely disrespect each other all the time.

"War is the continuation of politics by other means." - Carl_von_Clausewitz


> and most of his actions involving China have been inconsistent and self-serving.

I think what we're seeing is a president who is at odds with the intelligence and diplomatic communities. It's truly testing the ideas of who's actually in charge.

The president assumes since he was elected and runs the executive branch that he has the final say on what will be done, and will go "off-script" in direct communications with other leaders to forward his agenda. The diplomats/intelligence have long-established precedents and procedures and want everyone, including the president, to not rock their boat.

When they are unable to work together, you will see these inconsistent decisions being made.


Every US President has had the final say on what will be done, within the laws established by Congress. Including this President.

The problem is this President does not take into account the knowledge and capabilities of his intelligence and diplomatic communities, leading to stupid and naive decisions because the other heads of state are better informed and are better negotiators than him.

The intelligence and diplomatic communities are resources at his disposal he often chooses to ignore, so his screw ups are squarely his own with no one else to blame.


> On Jinping: "He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a 'tough business.'"

Praising him doesn't mean he likes him or he'll make of him his friend. It's more of a respect thing. He respects the man for working on the interest of his country.


"Good man" implies moral endorsement, and Jinping isn't working in the "interest of his country," he's working in the interest of Han Chinese. "Hitler was a great man!" is a totally appropriate thing to say using the logic you're applying.


I mean, "Alexander the Great" was a great man by common definition. That should be pretty obvious. I'd expand that to other great conquerors - Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and many others.

Does Hitler really not belong on a list like that? So would Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, of course - but I don't think greatness requires goodness.

Or from popular culture:

> “The wand chooses the wizard, remember … I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter … After all, He Who Must Not Be Named did great things – terrible, yes, but great.” - Ollivander


He’s prone to this honne tatemae and it’s hard to know his actual take. I think he’s like a used car salesman who uses and throws whatever cheap trick he has to try to get his way...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne_and_tatemae

> In Japan, honne are a person's true feelings and desires (本音 hon'ne, "true sound"), and tatemae are the behavior and opinions one displays in public (建前 tatemae, "built in front", "façade").


He started a trade war with the country. He isn't just one thing, but idk how people are forgetting the last year and a half so quickly on the run up to Christmas. This guy is notorious for being 'post truth' and making off colour jokes which is bad, but what he says is surely quieter than what he does?


Pretty disingenuous don't you think? We all know trump says a lot of bullshit and contradictory things. He isn't Obama who was really good with his words.

But if all you have is trump saying "good strong leader", then you don't have much. Show actions not words.


Trump abandoned the TPP which would have put actual pressure on China in favor of this visible trade war which is nothing more than a tax on American consumers.


Even Bernie Sanders was against TPP. Do you also think he's in bed with the Chinese government?

Chinese economy is definitely struggling. I don't buy the argument that the trade wars do not work. They hurt both sides. Question is who does it hurt more?

It feels like you haven't thought of it in a game theoretic perspective. In the classical prisoner paradox, the two prisoners gain the most by collaboration. But if one of the prisoner shows no good faith collaboration, it might be necessary for the other prisoner to also stop putting their faith in the uncollaborative one.


Sanders is an ideologue who was against the TPP on anti-business position and nothing to do with its impact on China.

The TPP set up an alliance between all of the players in that region and explicitly left out China in order to give that group negotiation power over China. But nuanced policy debate is dead in America so let's use the tool that fucks us all.

The worst part about the trade deal is the harm on our agricultural sector, but I guess at least they voted for their own demise.


Those public statements are part of his negotiating style. It's mostly disingenuous speech.


Despite his praise of Xi (IMO it's just part of Trump's "style" of negotiating), he's willingly initiated a trade war. I think that's a good indicator that he's willing to at least threaten decoupling. Trump has taken this much farther than any preceding US president.


The problem with Trump is that he says many different things at different times which are contradictory and then people hone in on one thing over another. His actions too are contradictory, he has tried to curry personal favor with Xi whilst engaging with a trade war with the same.


It’s one of the only issues I agree on with the current president. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem willing to actually be effective, and he doesn’t seem to care about the actual human rights issues. I’m hopeful that he might be willing to get things done though.


I’m genuinely shocked Trump hasn’t capitalized more on the HK situation. It would have been perfect for him to, at the very least, get some major concessions from China. Instead, we’ve been ones suffering.


>Now, if you ask any pol running for the nomination who the greatest threat to America is... it’s not going to be China...

Well, that's not exactly true. There is at least one person who ran his campaign saying exactly that- China was America's greatest threat... He's "the guy nobody likes"... he is the current President!


I know this wasn't intended but I thought it was interesting that he doesn't think of the 1% as Americans.


The 1% are above any state. They will align with any state that gives them favorable tax loopholes. If America clamps down they will just leave. Look at Eduardo Saverin for example.


> The 1% are above any state. They will align with any state that gives them favorable tax loopholes. If America clamps down they will just leave. Look at Eduardo Saverin for example.

The ability for an individual to choose their favored tax jurisdiction is an artifact of law, and laws can be changed. If America decides to clamp down on the 1%, it can also create laws to disincentivize leaving for tax reasons, like Saverin did.


I think you mean .01%. The 1% maybe have 1-10million of savings.


And likely invest in assets that can't be moved to foreign soil.


Technicality: You're not referring to the 1%, but something like the .01% or even .001%. The difference between 1% and .01% income is staggering.

kick 15 days ago [flagged]

They aren't, generally.

Given the condition of the lowest of our nation, "traitors" isn't an unreasonable way to describe the 1%, and no one in the 1% has ever seen a firing squad or the electric chair. Not even lethal injection. If they aren't subject to the same rules as Americans, are they really Americans? If they have a higher amount of wealth than sovereign countries, can they be considered anything but sovereign?


1% of the US population is something like 3 million people; let's say about 2 million adults. Do you really think that there are 2 million adults in the US who have "a higher amount of wealth than sovereign countries" and that the US should go and execute 2-3 million of its citizens?


[flagged]


Actually, the number of German citizens (or ex-German-citizens, given that German Jews were stripped of citizenship) executed by the Third Reich was "only" about 200,000-300,000 [1], which was about 0.3-0.4% of the population (~70 million). So sort of in the ballpark of "1%", but not even close to 2-3 million, given the much smaller population.

Lots more killing of non-German citizens, of course...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_casualties_in_World_War...


Why stop at 1% and not 5% or 10%?


> It’s economically productive for the 1% to maintain a trade relationship with China.

This leading argument is not specific to China at all and would equally apply to India and most poor countries. Severing trade with all those countries would severely hurt their economies and their citizens.

It's the same logic behind "dey terk er jerbs" but somehow made reasonable by throwing accusations of fascism.


I think with every president there r good things and bad things they do. Would like to just say that in the good category of our current president is their stance on China. Finally someone standing up and saying no more. I have not decided who to vote for in the next election but this issue will be one of the main ones I will be looking at.


Speaking as if the jobs of the blue collar workers are going to come back, ever.

If China is an ocean instead it’s still gone, forever, either to other cheap country or robots.

It’s currently politically convenient to hate China, but quit blaming every woe on China.


I am still shocked by how many people do not give Trump credit for putting China on the political issue radar. Both sides of the aisle were destroying the American economy and middle class, and literally no one was talking about it. The guy has issues, and even if he fails in his endeavors, he brought trade and immigration into the national conversation. For all we know, he saved the USA


You aren't the only one who feels that way.


He definitely isn't.


Because automation is an even bigger factor in the decline of manufacturing jobs than China. Because focusing on China specifically will not lead to outsourced jobs coming back to the US when there are many, many other countries with cheap labor (many cheaper than China at this point). Because even if you banned foreign trade altogether, automation would probably happen 10x faster since then the incentives would be so high. Because manufacturing has many steps, and sometimes the US is in the middle (buy steel from China, make motorcycle, sell to Europe) and lack of access to trade can put these jobs in jeopardy. Because even if by some miracle all these issues disappear, manufacturing is a small percent of employment so you don't fix the problems for the rest of the middle/lower class.

Because the expenses that are killing us (housing, health care, education) aren't outsourced at all.

As far as I can tell (and according to most economists), the idea that "we can fix the middle class by going after China trade" is intuitive, simple, and wrong. And it's popular on both sides of the aisle. And historically, it's always been easier to find some group to blame than to fix structural economic issues.

So I think the further we go along this path, the less likely it is we will end up fixing our actual problems, and the more likely countries will be distracted by trade wars and maybe real wars in various parts of the world as those problems increase, and various groups are blamed instead of fixing economic policy.

This is separate from the human rights issues. But I think if we want to put penalties to try to address the human rights issues, we should be clear about that. Because if the penalty is for other political reasons it doesn't add an incentive to improve human rights, since that wouldn't make the penalty go away.


The alternative to allowing manufacturing to move to China is higher prices for goods in the United States. Instead of having really cheap TVs, TVs are more expensive -- they are manufactured here.

Why would we want this?

Because the alternative is a destruction of the USA manufacturing sector. Moving those jobs overseas only helps two groups:

1.) The Chinese 2.) The owners of capital in America, high up business men (the so described 1%).

The third group who may be helped, are everyday Americans who benefit from cheap goods.

What would imposing large tariffs do?

Goods are more expensive, so people can buy less. TVs, Clothes, Cars etc are more expensive. But middle class Americans keep middle class jobs. Right now the policies are ultra capitalist, the middle class is being gutted and replaced with a heroin epidemic.

Why dont we replace their jobs and retrain the workers?

The retraining of older workers for new industries has never been shown to work. Its an economic theory that has yet to play out in any economy on a large scale. I believe the root of Americas economic woes among the middle classes is this concept, which was conceived of and pushed hard in the 90s. Behind the scenes academics like Noam Chomsky fought hard against this concept, but the arguments never trickled down into the public.

In short, tariffs stop the outsourcing and middle class destruction. Things get more expensive, we accept that. If automation kills the jobs here, it still holds off the destruction of the middle class for another 15 - 30 years. Which is better than nothing.


For your argument to make sense, I'm going to assume by "China" you actually mean "all inexpensive 3rd world countries". So this isn't about the current trade war but tariffs in general.

I agree that retraining doesn't work. But I disagree that stopping trade can save the middle class. Manufacturing is only 7.9% of jobs [1] and stopping all trade will only slow the decline, with huge amounts of collateral damage for other jobs. Almost all jobs used to be in farming, but now they aren't. Manufacturing isn't going to be something that employs a huge number of people anymore. In China they're automating away jobs that pay $10,000 a year.

How are you going to help retail workers, 9.8% of jobs [1], as automation (Amazon warehouses) takes their jobs? Tariffs don't help them any although they'll pay for them.

There's real problems for the middle class and/or certain geographic regions, but stopping trade is a solution that almost no economists think will work. I'd rather try something more promising like UBI.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/employment-by-major-industry-...



Because despite his bluster he’s been completely ineffective. Talk is cheap. Execution matters.


Talk isnt cheap when politicians wont even speak about real issues in the country


> Now, if you ask any pol running for the nomination who the greatest threat to America is... it’s not going to be China...

Well, they asked a similar question during one of the democratic party debates [1] and some candidates said Trump but others pointed out climate change, Russia meddling in elections, China, etc. But the question was greatest "geopolitical threat" so I guess it's not exactly the same.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/2020-democratic-debate-respo...


The destruction of much of the working class industrial base also provides the opportunity to shift them into a right wing alliance with the ruling class through scapegoating. And because of both their location (the industrial Midwest) and undemocratic structures like the electoral college, allows the ruling class to maintain a tight grip on executive branch power.


The biggest issue with Trump isn't his domestic policies, which aren't too divorced from typical Republican ones. It's not even his uncouth persona.

The biggest issue with him is how he's destroyed our system of alliances, which administrations of both parties have defended and cultivated over decades. See, for instance, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/18/china-signs-defe....

This is disastrous. It's insane that the US is losing South Korea to China, considering we sacrificed tens of thousands of soldiers and considered starting nuclear war to prevent it in the 1950s. And people just shrug, because to the extent people care about politics right now, it's to focus on impeachment hearings, which themselves are happening because Trump blackmailed an important ally.

The core foreign policy of whoever is President should be recognizing China as our most formidable strategic competitor and working to maintain and build upon a system of alliances to limit its power and reach. Instead Trump is just a thug trying to shake down our allies for cheap wins and PR releases based on an idiotic understanding of American foreign policy interests.


> because Trump blackmailed an important ally

Allegedly blackmailed, which nobody who was actually involved corroborates, to investigate exactly how it is that Joe Biden's son managed to get a very high-paying make-work job on the board of a Ukrainian oil company, and Joe Biden bragged on videotape about how he did infact blackmail the Ukrainian Government to fire the prosecutor who was investigating that.

What we're discovering is not that Trump is that out there. It's that the entire US Government and political elite has been that out there for many years now, and the entire mainstream media conspired to ignore it and cover it up. As they are continuing to do now.


It’s telling that when the establishment agrees with you executive orders and privileges are just that. If they disagree then it’s “it’s your privilege but you’re abusing it”.

What seems to be happening is people are losing some of their dirty money connections (like these post term engagements and talk circuits and appointments where you have no expertise, etc and these people are furious and upset. So they are willing to engage in destabilization or at the minimum distractive tactics (collusion didn’t work, let’s try this for that, no, let’s try bribery, if that doesn’t work it’ll be something else).

Not to say the current president is a Saint, but it would appear he’s ruffled some important feathers, otherwise they just wait him out.


i applaud your willingness to publish this content under your real name, and also understand your real name is closely associated with your software service.

i understand that gives you a certain amount of power that other employees, say of Apple, may not have. kudos to you for using it fruitfully - sincerely.

i am sure this will come across as tin foily, but i would advise you to monitor your digital assets and maybe even personal ones for probing/attack/etc. you're publishing an anti-CCP piece on a widely trafficked web property and are easily identifiable. you are making an enemy of a powerful adversary.

appreciate the piece and best of luck.


Author here. Thank you for your earnest concern. I'm a pretty risk-averse person and I take lots of pains to address those contingencies for all of my digital services.


I agree with you and imagine many others do as well. I think you are right it's about time I draw a line in my own personal life as well. No more Chinese manufactured goods for me. In fact, I think I will go ahead and get rid of what I currently own.


People suggest this a lot, but I don't think it does the trick. Some merchant bought a bunch of inventory from a Chinese factory, then tried to sell it to you, and you didn't buy it. When they get tired of holding onto it, they'll sell it at deep discount and eat the loss, then try to make up the loss on another product (and politically indifferent consumers will happily swoop in for a good deal). Meanwhile, China is laughing all the way to the bank.

If you really care, reach out directly to the merchants you buy from. Tell them you used to be a loyal customer, but you won't buy from them again until they stop carrying products made in China. Get your friends and coworkers to do the same, and keep the pressure on. If they go for it, follow through by rewarding them with your loyalty, and broadcast that win as publicly as possible. Talk about it, hashtag it, whatever. Organize.

Changing individual consumption habits rarely amounts to much more than virtue signalling.

And don't toss your existing stuff. You already paid for it, so it's not helping China anymore, and throwing it away doesn't hurt them. If anything, selling it to someone else reduces demand for new products (by exactly 1 unit).


It is about the principles and the message it conveys.

Gandhi protested against the British by spinning his own fabric, making his own shoes, and being completely independent. It made no difference to the British companies, but it sent a powerful message to the nation that Indians can be independent.

Do not underestimate or discourage people from doing what they principally object, even if practically it makes no sense or has no objective benefit.


Perhaps getting rid of what I currently own won't hurt China but it will help me maintain my resolve. Much like a former smoker tossing his old cigarettes in the fire.


Consider giving your excess to people in need of it

Hi author, wondering what you think China should do with the organs of executed prisoners? It’s easy to find fault with them for (presumably) not asking for permission but it seems it would be a pity for them not to be used to help patients in need, no? This is separate from the question of what supposed crimes led to the execution. Short waiting lists can be explained by the lack of permission not only for executions but for all deaths of healthy people... not to defend China on other points, but this one seems like a odd concern possibly just zeroed in on for dramatic emotional effect, rather than for any actual practical reason.


There's substantial evidence that China has timed executions for the benefit of organ recipients: they're executing people to do organ transplants, not because they did something wrong.


If the prisoners didn't consent to their organs being used (to bolster the health of the people who imprisoned them), they should not be used.

Anything else sets up a perverse incentive to execute more undesirables.


The perverse incentive part makes sense.

For the other part, I have trouble understanding why a dead person would care about anything after their death ...although I can understand them having wishes before death, but any such wishes should be weighed in context for their reasonableness given all factors.


It's not just about the rights of the person being executed, but also those of their loved ones.

You may say you wouldn't care if your dead carcass was, say, grotesquely abused for someone else's amusement—after all, you're dead and no longer around to have any feelings about it—but how would your children feel? How would you feel if that was the fate awaiting your life partner?

The shared endeavor of human society entitles people to dignity even in death. That includes the right to bodily integrity.


>grotesquely abused

Yeah that would be disrespectful. Kind of moving the goalposts though to use that example when talking about organ transplant, something that helps people who might otherwise die. Obviously I am not saying execution is worth it for that. Just more that if someone is dead already for whatever reason, it's hard to see it as a bad thing to help the living, if that can be done.

I mean if we're going to fashion extreme examples for dramatic effect, that can be done on the other side too. Imagine if the relatives have racist objections to donating an organ, and let someone die because their own feelings would be hurt if they saw a person of the "wrong" race being helped. How do you weigh their racist feelings, versus the life being saved? It's not that clear to me that their feelings should be at the forefront when other factors are considered.

I agree that dignity in death is a good thing. Just not so certain as you that there is only one way to get there. And none of this is to claim that China does what they do with dignity... I highly doubt that. But organ transplants are not such a terrible thing.


You said

> I have trouble understanding why a dead person would care about anything after their death

Examining the unstated implications of your argument, taken on its face, is not the same as moving the goalposts. Saying "I don't care what happens after I die, so no need to even ask if you can take my organs... except hang on, no, don't abuse my body in weird ways, I'm not okay with that"–THAT'S moving the goalposts.

> it's hard to see it as a bad thing to help the living

except to the extent that 1) harvesting organs from political prisoners is just about as close to a bad thing as you can imagine, and 2) even if we're not talking about China in particular, involuntary organ extraction harms the dignity of living kin.

> Imagine if the relatives have racist objections to donating an organ, and let someone die because their own feelings would be hurt if they saw a person of the "wrong" race being helped. How do you weigh their racist feelings, versus the life being saved?

The right to bodily integrity, to the choice about how your body is used, is unaffected by your motives. A right does not cease to become a right once you disagree with how someone wishes to exercise it.

You don't want your organs to go to a black man? Exercise your right to bodily integrity by not agreeing to be an organ donor.


For some religions, organ donation is a grotesque abuse of the body.


True, but you can find a religious belief from some random major or minor religion to justify or prohibit just about anything.

Including things that harm others or infringe on their rights.

So if that is guiding policy, policy is going to be a mess at worst or severely hobbled at best.

China doesn’t generally hold religion in high regard when formulating policy. They are more guided by practicality and expediency.

That puts them in conflict with many western values but it’s interesting to look at it from their perspective.

For those people who believe that organ donation is a grotesque abuse, that is bad but it should be weighed against other bad things. People dying is also bad. Which is worse? Grotesque abuse of a corpse, or letting someone die? China appears to have made a decision on this question.


Step 0: Don't execute people for non-violent crimes.

That's a part of the problem here. People speak their mind, disappear into a black bag and end up donating their organs to a Party member's daughter five months later.

The other major part being that there's very little due process, or fair justice, not in the way that you or I would expect it. Certainly not with lives on the line.

Worrying about wasted organs misses the point by an absurd distance.


Don't worry; your political views are completely mainstream as the discussion here also demonstrates.


Mainstream in America. But far from it in mainland China.


I’d add that mainlanders here in the US completely disagree with you as well. (I am not, but know many.)


I would say many mainlanders are reluctant say anything in this topic so you don't know.

BTW, I'm Canadian but was from mainland. There are also a lot of debate inside WeChat groups which include oversea Chinese who have access to all information.


You are a brave and principled man. Thank you for posting that.


The very worst case, he'll be denied access to China (and possibly HongKong) but otherwise he's fine. China is more interested in Chinese living in China and not some western somewhere.


China has very publicly ran DDOS attacks against GitHub when GitHub did some things they didn't like. Specifically they used infrastructure co-located with the GFW to run a MITM on connections to Baidu and serve malicious javascript. The malicious javascript used users computers to DDOS GitHub.

https://citizenlab.ca/2015/04/chinas-great-cannon/


The fact that this is a concern should send red flags to everyone that's not in China.

We should not feel threatened to criticize a foreign country. Speak up fearlessly against China. Now is the time.


It's generally always worth keeping an eye on that, but AFAIK, the CCP doesn't normally target western nationals who talk trash or take modestly effective actions. They tend to focus on their own citizens, who they can do pretty much anything to without consequences, and on spying on anybody who might have information of significant use to them.


I agree, I am deathly afraid of Putin and Xi Jinping and the other dictators quiet assassination machines.

As a Hong Konger, thank you for writing this.

One nitpick: Hong Kong has its own legal definition of "rioting". It's from the Public Order Ordinance[1], and carries a maximum 10 years jail sentence. The entire law itself is quite draconian and was struck down in the final days of British rule, but was reinstated immediately after the handover.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Order_Ordinance


When China took the book sellers they prosecuted them in China under Chinese laws. It stands to reason China could take and prosecute some "rioters" under Chinese law and Chinese implications.

https://qz.com/1110266/two-years-later-the-last-of-the-vanis...


Of course. But I'm specifically talking about "rioting" as referenced in the Five Demands.


I'm a Chinese. I admire your courage to post this article.

But there's one thing that's fundamentally wrong in your article. Trading with China is, for now, beneficial to EVERYONE, including you, Drew DeVault, and the top 1% richest. Specialization and trading are the fundamental ways to advance the economy. Surely there will be blue collar workers in the US losing their jobs, but that's just how economy goes. We care about individuals, and it's a tragedy that anyone loses job, but looking at the big picture every working individual should be able to learn new skills and ready to move to new industries if the current industry no longer provides enough jobs.

When Samsung moved its factories out of China and into Vietnam, lots of Chinese workers lost their jobs. One day if Samsung pulled their factories out of Vietnam and moved to an even cheaper country, workers in Vietnam will lose their jobs too. What should those workers do? Learn new skills and move on to other industries. That's a cold thing to say but that's how the economy works. Workers in country A lose their jobs because of the trading with country B does not mean trading with country B is wrong.

If you hate (and you should) what the Chinese government has been doing, the right thing to do is work together to move factories, plants, and companies out of China and to another country, if and only if they can still provide the products/services at the same or even better quality with a lower cost.


I think it is not about not trading persay - it's about not supporting a totalitarian mercantilist. While we both benefit on paper, the fact that so much of this wealth is concentrated at the top in America slows the velocity of money, and the fact that the Chinese are using it to fuel totalitarian measures compounds the trade deficit to the point where it is no longer simply about money and jobs.

Maybe having a gigantic trade deficit is natural and okay, but when it is being used to fund the CCP it is problematic. America may have to take a short term hit, but if it moves its factories out to India, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, even back to America the marginal loss in wealth due to trade will be outranked by the substantial benefit to society we will get from not fuelling a nation that seeks supremacy at the cost of humanity.


Also a Chinese here, I think free trade and globalization should be coupled with strong domestic redistribution. Otherwise, inequality will go through the roof.


A company is only going to move their production to another country where production is cheaper if they know their consumers will continue consuming despite where said production is taking place. So I disagree, trading with China is NOT beneficial to everyone; we are simply feeding the dragon.


Samsung just announced they are moving some production back to China. Mainly ODM work for their lower end devices due to the cost.


> Trading with China is, for now, beneficial to EVERYONE

No, it's beneficial from an idealized economic perspective for economies.

Economics makes no guarantee that all individuals within an economy benefit economically benefit from free trade. And if you look at the actual average effect for US workers over the past few decades (period of opening trade with China), their purchasing power hasn't increased: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us...

How can this be? "The economy" is still growing on average because the top 1% have been getting richer and richer. Also China devalued its currency to protect its own industry (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/beggarthyneighbor.asp). Not exactly "free trade"...

But coming back to this:

> every working individual should be able to learn new skills and ready to move to new industries if the current industry no longer provides enough jobs.

Yes, from an economic ideal perspective, working individuals "should" do that to maximize their own income. And in the US, people have been doing it for a while, leading to a drain of talented individuals from rural communities to urban areas and repeatedly disconnecting people from their friends and families as they chase economic opportunities around the country. Now everyone is lonely and depressed, there's a huge political divide between rural and urban areas, and, well, Trump happened.

So I don't think chasing the shiny economic ideals is necessarily going to lead where we want to go as a society.


I don't necessarily disagree with the article, I just want to point out that outside of the US others will readily view this line of thought as hypocritical and self-serving.

As a US citizen, I try to consider how the rest of the world may view our actions (glass houses and all). Following the logic here it would make sense for the rest of the world to cutoff trade with the United States due to the Iraq war, which has caused many civilian deaths.

But if you agree that the rest of the world should have sanctioned the US for the Iraq war (among other things) then there might be a consistency with trying to sanction China.


There's no moral equivalence between China's totalitarianism and the U.S. China is worse by orders of magnitude both in degree and kind.

Comparing the two is just an excuse to do nothing.

In the meantime, feel free (pun intended) to protest misdeeds by the U.S., vote for new leaders, organize with like-minded individuals, or buy weapons.

(Aside: many people feel like buying weapons is completely futile against oppression. But it reduces your dependence on the government for protection, and makes it harder for the federal government to convince local police to carry out their dirty work. Also, really bad governments never seem to want citizens to be armed, so perhaps there's a reason for that.)


Meta: I think the rhetoric of humility is more powerful here.

"We are not perfect, but we can't stand by. We have sins of our own that we are trying to rectify, but we cannot allow what you're doing."

The flaw in mutual criticism without admission of guilt is that saying "we're good" even in comparison is so obviously self-serving that it gives your opponent a trivial excuse to dismiss you.


Americans are admitting our flaws, constantly. And when we do that, we don't compare ourselves to China to divert the issue. But debates about China always end up with this diversion into US flaws.


The Iraq war is just one example out of the many atrocities that the US has committed around the world. (as we speak, the US is currently supporting coups in Latin America).

So even though the US has absolutely no moral high ground - I still think that it is important for individual Americans to take a stand against atrocities around the world. I don't think we can discredit Drew's post based on the fact that the US government is just as (or more) evil than the Chinese government.

I do think that special care needs to be taken to avoid the hypocrisy and call out US atrocities as they happen - but calling out the Chinese crimes is very important in the current global climate.


> the US is currently supporting coups in Latin America

Should it support popular coups (that promise elections as soon as they take over) or dictatorships?


The US has always valued "principle" over actual results. In Iraq, Saddam was "evil", so he had to go, even though it would leave the entire country in the power vacuum and destroy the livelihoods of the average Iraqi. Ditto for Gaddafi in Libya.

This post is much the same way. A poorer China is only going to deteriorate their human rights. A wealthier China is going to crave for more freedom. This happened in South Korea, which many forget used to be a brutal military dictatorship.


"A wealthier China is going to crave for more freedom."

We've been testing that theory for decades with negative results.

Maybe it works other places, but it doesn't seem to be working in China.


Baby steps. China has fewer political prisoners than they did during the Cultural Revolution. Crowd control uses rubber bullets instead of metal ones. They even allegedly stopped using execution victims' organs 2015, which is doubtful, but they most likely aren't doing it as often (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_transplantation_in_China).


Perhaps you just need to wait longer?


I hope so. But we have to start considering the possibility that we are causing more harm than good.

For instance, if China's economic influence is stifling free speech in the west, that's a pretty disturbing trend.


Given that the USA has federal and state laws preventing and punishing even muttering an idea about not selling to Israel, I'd say you should consider adding a few names to that list.

If its actually free speech you care about.


South Korea achieved democracy when their GDP per capita was $4k. China's GDP per capita is approaching $9k. When will they be rich enough that they yearn for democracy?


The PRC will most likely not escape the Middle Income Trap before their population pyramid massively inverts. No other country has aged so quickly at such a large scale before. Their population and working age groups are at the largest they will ever be right now and will steadily decline starting in 5-10 years.

I think collapse of the current government is more likely than a peaceful ROC-esque (Taiwan) transition from dictatorship to democracy.


I'd argue that the ROC transition was not peaceful at all. Thousands of civilians were killed in the February 28 massacre [1] and tens of thousands imprisoned in the ensuing White Terror [2], and martial law did not end until 30+ years later. But now I think Taiwan is by far the leading democracy in east Asia.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_28_incident [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Terror_(Taiwan)


Well, "peaceful" relative to historical Chinese government transitions at least. :D


>A poorer China is only going to deteriorate their human rights. A wealthier China is going to crave for more freedom.

This was the lie told to the American people in the 90s to justify PNTR with the PRC. We know it was a bald-faced lie now. Why are you saying this?


> Many forget

They never knew, if lying by omission is a crime, all media is guilty of it.


This line of thinking just makes people sit on their hands. Individual citizens can always urge their Government to take actions against atrocities such as being committed by China.

The fact that I, a non-citizen can live in US and call out its mass killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan denotes the difference between US and China.


I am sure the relatives of the mass killings in Iraq and Afghanistan appreciate this subtle difference.


This is an example of whataboutery, a fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism


Not its not, but even if it was - so what? Since when did pointing out double standards become trivially dismissable by a single word?

Its seems to be a very recent American phenomenon.

Where I live it is shameful and very damaging to one's credibility to be exposed for maintaining double standards.


> outside of the US others will readily view this line of thought as hypocritical and self-serving

Sitting here in a former eastern block country I completely disagree. It is absolutely obvious that communism is by far humanity's greatest moral failure and China just proves it again.

United States would need need to start dropping nukes on cities to even approach communism's death toll. A regime change, however misguided, here and there won't be enough for centuries.


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