How China sees the Black Swan

Al-Jazeera, 10-4-11

Occupy Wall Street, that Black Swan in the making, is probably going to be an ongoing event for months; but in the normal ways of the media, no story can hold center stage for long.  So, soon, something is going to push it out of the way, as Egypt, Syria, Libya, the tsunami relief, nuclear meltdowns and the troubles in Central Africa have been pushed aside for new stories.  But while we may be watching some other story, in other parts of the world the Occupy story has legs.  It has legs because it shows the United States, not as a world power and all powerful, but as a country with deep rooted problems.  It is a story made in under-dog heaven, all those who have watched us march in economic triumph are enjoying what they perceive as our economic decline.

Over the weekend I watch the coverage of Occupy Wall Street by Al-Jazeera; it was a strange sensation – all of my adult life I have watched American reporters stand in foreign lands and tell their American audiences about the turmoil in other countries – countries whose political and economic systems were flawed and weak; the tone was almost always self-righteous – “if only they were smart enough to act as we do, they would not be in this predicament.”   Now the shoe is on the other foot and the pan-Arab press is having a field day with Occupy Wall Street.  The Al-Jazeera reporter I watched was almost giddy with excitement over the inequities of American society and the implications of the discontent.  But the Arab press is not alone in its joyful coverage, others such as the Chinese and Iranian press like it just as much.

Most of non-American, non-western coverage includes the reporters’ or the media management’s pet-theories about the flaws in both the American economy and the American political system – pointing out that it is no longer a model for countries in transition, not for political or economic systems.  This year the United States has lost a great deal of prestige and influence around the world; Russia, Turkey, Iran and China have each in their own way stepped up and offered to fill the void.  Turkey and Iran are competing for leadership in the Middle East and the Muslim world, but Russia and China are thinking globally.  Russia is not as outspoken as China, it is not quite as clear in its objectives, nor as omnipresent as China.  Maybe it is because China has more money and more people, or maybe it is because China has developed long-term plan for the world.  That possibility makes watching every move China makes not only entertaining and worthwhile, but obligatory.

The Chinese use every opportunity that presents itself to point out that the American system, capitalism and the ways of the west have run their course and are no longer suited to solve the world’s problems or offer leadership to the world.  The Chinese People’s Daily loves to editorialize on the the American economy, the national debt crisis and now on Occupy Wall Street.  This year may be remembered for many things, but for me it has been the year that China took off the kid-gloves and started some bare-knuckle punching. Here is a quote from one such editorial.  I suppose in time this will all be old-hat to me, but for the time-being, I frequently caught off guard by the signs of the shifting of power that is taking place around the world.

These issues have been ignored when the economy is in an upswing, but when a downturn hits even a tiny issue will cause bursts of anger.  The structure of capitalism is no longer fit for globalization. This is the root of every ongoing problem.  The current system of the Western world, though encouraging innovation, fails to emphasize hard work. It has been enjoying the legacy of its top brands and the technology it has, but forgot to keep competing with the basic industries…The mechanism that used to concentrate capital to develop industries and society has been severely twisted. Wall Street, the “CPU” of the US, has become a model known for creating money out of thin air, rather than accumulating wealth via hard work. Its fall indicates a decline of the US system, and people doubt whether Washington has the determination to reverse this trend. When the elites in the Western world don’t want to or are unable to make changes, the most convenient approach will be transferring dissatisfaction to other countries, such as China and other developing countries. The world is now in turbulence. China needs to stay clam and observe how the street movements in the Western world develop and to make the right choices for its own good. Chinese People’s Daily, 10-17-11



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