A great number of America’s modern leaders are dangerously ignorant with respect to China. In between the bimbo eruptions, GOP Candidate Herman Cain took a few minutes out of his busy day to remind how a GOP foreign policy gaffe by Gerald Ford helped convince America’s voters to pull the lever for Jimmy Carter. Gerald Ford famously insisted that Poland in 1976, wasn’t militarily occupied by the Soviet Union. The 12 Russian Army divisions had just parked their tanks there for the past 25 years so that a high ranking officer could change a flat tire. Herman Cain recently informed us that China has “indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability.”
Sadly, it’s not just Republican leaders that display this lack of erudition. Leaders on the Progressive Left have captured America’s Democratic Party and provide its intellectual gravamen. They are also colossally stupid on the subject of China. Unlike Herman Cain, they don’t underrate China’s capabilities. Instead they overrate China, and commit the grim transgression against republicanism of suggesting we should carefully emulate their despotism.
Thomas Freidman describes why Barack Obama believes it would be easier to be President of China.
Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”
Yes, I seem to remember a bunch of Chinese protestors who scrutinized the words of Hu Jintao’s predecessor in Tiananmen Square. The government wasn’t particularly interested in their commentary. It’s funny that we haven’t heard much about #OccupyTiananmenSquare in the news lately. China is, after all, where Goldman-Sachs and the Koch Brothers supposedly shipped all of our jobs.
That gets us to the nub of why political leaders like Barack Obama paint us such a bucolic and ideal picture of China. “Folks in Congress are also going to get a chance to decide . . . whether our construction workers should sit around doing nothing while China builds the best railroads, the best schools, the best airports in the world.” claims President Obama. Michael Levy, a former Peace Corps worker in China, describes things a bit differently.
“Imagine that there’s a country exactly like the United States. Exactly the same size. It’s got the same cities. It’s got the same number of rich people and poor people. It’s just like us. And now add 1 billion peasants. That’s China.”
Further damage can be done to the Progressive case for making America more like China by studying just exactly how these 1Bn Chinese Peasants got to be so debased and impoverished. Unencumbered by foolish voters and inconvenient public dissent, Chinese Premiere Mao Tse Tung embarked upon his Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1960. The University of Chicago Chronicle describes the effects of this program below.
In pursuit of its goals, the government executed people who did not agree with the pace of radical change. The crackdown led to the deaths of 550,000 people by 1958. The government also plunged the country into a deep debt by increasing spending on the development of heavy industry. Government spending on heavy industry grew in 1958 to represent 56 percent of state capital investment, an increase from 38 percent in 1956.
Take away the 500,000 executions, and John Maynard Keynes would have been proud. Without any organized Tea Party to tell Chairman Mao to limit the exuberance of his “stimulus” efforts, the following results occurred.
Although in theory the country was awash in grain, in reality it was not. Rural communal mess halls were encouraged to supply food for free, but by the spring of 1959, the grain reserves were exhausted and the famine had begun. No one is sure exactly how many people perished as a result of the spreading hunger. By comparing the number of deaths that could be expected under normal conditions with the number that occurred during the period of the Great Leap famine, scholars have estimated that somewhere between 16.5 million and 40 million people died before the experiment came to an end in 1961, making the Great Leap famine the largest in world history.
And that’s what makes being in charge of China easy. There is no responsibility assigned to even cataclysmic failures such as The Great Leap famine. The 16.5 million starvation victims won’t exactly show up and vote against you. China isn’t any easier to run than the US. Chinese leaders just don’t ever have to worry about the career dissipation lights blinking.
This also underscores why all of us have to stay active and stay involved. We don’t want to trust these experts. The government can be very knowledgeable. But the institutional knowledge runs a mile deep and only three feet wide. They need to answer to us. The jobs of our political leaders don’t have to be hard per-se, but they should always be extremely consequential.