by Joe Shea
November 19, 2010
THE GUN UNDER GRANDMA'S CUSHION
BRADENTON, Fla., Nov. 15, 2010 -- When I was very young, I had a nightmare: Chinese soldiers rushed into our house, found me sitting in my father's chair, and with a sword swiftly cut me in half.
This week's cover of The Economist, a pricey British publication as serious as Forbes or Fortune, shows a neutral-faced Chairman Mao fanning out a stack of Ben Franklins as the headline blares, "China buys up the world." The story inside is compelling, and it threatens to slice this nation's economy in half.
In a week that saw Mao's nation announce plans to buy a 1 percent stake in General Motors (via a GM stock offering the company's making to raise funds to pay back its government loans), and President Obama taking an oblique swipe at China for artificially reining in the value of its currency so that it could export more products to the West, and especially America, and when a poisonous soliloquy by Rush Limbaugh ends just ahead of a commercial for gold in which the first words are, "China is telling its citizens to buy gold," the vast extent of China's wealth - mostly acquired from America - is beginning to glimmer at the surface of a very large ocean of yuan.
We shall soon learn far more about the Chinese plan to buy major corporations all over the world for their resources, technology and know-how, as America - which once accounted for a full 50 percent of all foreign investment outside America - begins to see that massive stake decline.
With the decline, we will notice, comes a strong upswing in coverage of China by all sorts of media, and a proliferation of the kinds of programs that are meant to inculcate us in the Chinese way of life. On the Parker-Spitzer show on CNN recently, a prominent politician they were interviewing said something to the effect that "China is going to own us," and some other pol swiftly shot back, "If they don't already."
It's in part a fait accompli, an accomplished fact. Americans have not been as well-guarded when it comes to commerce, thanks to the greed of the multinational corporations that call us home but where so often they pay no taxes. ExxonMobil, for instance, headquartered in Spring, Tex., but corporately-speaking domiciled in the Cayman Islands, paid no taxes on $19 billion in third-quarter profits last year.
Companies that won't pay taxes to the United States are quick to sell U.S.-born-and-bred companies to China now because the American economy appears as though it's going to be in the tank for a rather long time. The Chinese economy is on the rise at an incredible rate, and while it may be creating its own bubbles in housing, manufacturing and finance, it has at its core an authoritarian, unelected group of men and women who can order things to change in a way democratic governments cannot, and enforce their orders with all the firepower they need.
Particularly now that the Republicans - who would sell their mother's ashes in the name of free trade - are taking over again, Americans must do more to demand American-made products in their homes, in the stores they patronize, in the homes and offices they build, in the factories they work for - to help recapture our imaginative entrepreneurial spirit and rebuild an economy that has been largely sold out from under us by both Democratic and Republican presidents who had little concern for American jobs or our future.
I noted that in the movie "Skyline," which is really pretty good, all it took for the invading aliens to capture us is that we focused on them for a few moments. Within 15 seconds, the earthlings who did were suddenly sucked out of their homes and swept into a human tornado that sent them spinning up to the mothership.
The message of "Skyline" might be, Don't look too closely at what you can't understand." But that message may be the death knell of our economy and our culture as we know it, because, to risk a pun, if we continue to live in ignorance of these changes, yuan me are through. And that's a nightmare of its own.
Better we should look closely at the Chinese economic machine, and the cultural apparatus that comes with it - they didn't call it the Cultural Revolution for nothing - and ask ourselves who we can trust to serve us in these treacherous times, when even the good ol' boys and their great corporations are up for sale. The Economist says China's buying fever is a good thing, but I wouldn't count on it. After all, who owns the Economist?