Everybody’s Addicted to China | Ben Weller
However glorious one’s outlook may be towards the British Empire, there is no hiding from the fact that one of the most prosperous and long-standing jewels in the British crown, Hong Kong, was obtained through some rather un-Christian practices which in their most simple form can be described as the Opium Wars. In short, the need to stem domestic financial issues was plugged by the smuggling of Indian opium into China, resulting in more than 15 million living under Qing rule turning to the habits of those in Glasgow’s back alleys. Around 150 years later it seems that we could be seeing a Third Opium War in which the Chinese now have the upper hand. Could it instead be that the 21st century West is addicted to China?
Whenever people come together to debate the place of monopolies in society, we talk of one company’s domination in a market; the “a genuine free market requires restrictions on the ability of predator multinationals to create monopolies” query forever dividing those who sit in the purple square of the political compass. Why do we never talk, however, of monopolisation by one nation? People incessantly speak of the competition authorities’ necessary role in preserving consumer choice (a bastion of any free market), yet today in the West any consumer with morals is backed into a corner. The only place money can realistically flow out of that corner is into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. The nation manufactures 90% of mobile phones and in 2008 became the world’s biggest manufacturer of cars. This is the root of the criticism. Are Apple Chinese? No. Is BMW Chinese? No. Are iPhones and X8s manufactured by victims of Xi Jinping’s social credit system? The answer can easily be assumed.
This narrative is upsettingly versatile, highlighted by the NBA’s Enes Kanter Freedom’s incessant attacks on the Chinese Premier (who he named “Xinnie the Pooh”) and more importantly, his own colleagues. One of those is LeBron James. Kanter makes clear that James is as American as open carry laws, the same said for his supplier, Nike, but the desire for profit means Chinese labourers make his shoes, giving Kanter Freedom’s “money over morals” remarks a strong foundation. Those in Tibet’s subjugated nation toil to line LeBron’s pockets and pad consumer’s feet whilst domestic production is available minus the exploitation (of people and the “precious” environment). Yet escape appears to be impossible. The People’s Republic have designed an economy to hook the West for Chinese gains. Chinese fiscal gains. Nothing is not produced in their eastern monopoly; everything is laced with oriental opium.
This addiction to eastern money (or eastern cost-saving) extends further than solely King James’ sweatshops, and into the financial sector also. The recent debt default of Evergrande, which led to speculation of a more volatile global economy, a prime example. A century ago, closer to the original Opium Wars than the current ones, America was the drug and the world fell to its knees because of the failures of the then US economic system. Now, we’ve had certain economists predicting the knees of the world to meet the floor once again because of policy-making ineptitude from the Chinese government.
As a result of the Chinese state’s intricate moulding of the economic system, residential property represents 20% of China’s GDP, while real estate activity in general is about 30%. Thus, founder and president of Kynikos Associates, Jim Chanos, says “these are just the off-the-chart kind of numbers, and they’ve gotten worse under President Xi, not better. We don’t think it’s systemic to the Western financial markets”. Now half of that is collapsing, and whilst kneecaps are yet to shatter, the crash has sent its ripples across the Pacific. The value of general cryptocurrencies fell by 11% after a mass ‘sell-off’ over fears of a second ‘Lehmann moment’.
This is the problem, raw and visible for all. The financial stability of the world’s ruling classes and consumerist public is reliant on the decisions of one nation. Such a statement would be less chilling were we referring to a nation with a parliament, scrutiny processes, and re-election threats, but today’s topic of conversation does not fit this evaluation. One nation becomes one man as an autocracy has dominated the world. This means that unless there is an unlikely change in its governing ideology and electoral processes, the threat will never dissipate.
All this culminates at the assertion that the Western economy is addicted to China whether it chooses to be or not, so it seems that a previously free market has been monopolised; not by one brand, but by one nation. Western economies must, then, distance themselves from Joe Biden’s “old friend” Xinnie the Pooh before the withdrawal becomes impossible. Back then the Chinese said no to imports. The Brits imported. If the Brits and their friends say no too late now, the outcome will be mirrored. Maybe retribution for The East India Company will soon be served. Served in the form of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.