The Yellow Peril: The German Media has a New Hate Object

Looking for Amity/Enmity Complex data points?  Look no further than the German mass media, where inspiring hatred of out-groups has acquired the status of an art form, then as now.  It’s odd, given the country’s history, but there you have it.  The hate object du jour varies from time to time, but the hate fetish itself remains.  Predictably, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was increasingly concentrated on the “one remaining superpower,” the United States.  In the last years of the Clinton and the first years of the Bush administrations, anti-US hate mongering in the German media reached a climax that, in a favorite phrase of Dr. Goebbels in his Diaries, would have “made your hair stand on end.”  Eventually, people on the other side of the Atlantic began to notice, and the editors of Der Spiegel and some of the other major “news” venues began to realize that they could not keep it up and still expect to win any more of those prestigious international prizes for “objectivity.”  The “hate index” has declined considerably since then, but they still occasionally throw out a few chunks of red meat to the more atavistic of their fellow citizens to keep them interested. 

Lately, the trend has again been upwards, but with an interesting twist.  The US has acquired a co-bad guy:  China.  The citizens of the Middle Kingdom should be proud.  German hate is a testimony to China’s newly acquired power and status.  She recently co-starred with the US in a Spiegel rant about our “sins” at the Copenhagen climate conference.  It seems that, based on a careful parsing of the latest Wikileaks material, the US and China formed a “pact” to de-rail the conference, no doubt as part of their greater conspiracy to destroy the earth’s climate and eradicate mankind.  According to the byline of a Spiegel article charmingly titled, “USA and China were Brothers-in-Arms Against Europe,”

It was a political catastrophe – it’s now clear how last year’s Copenhagen climate summit became such a spectacular failure. The recently revealed US State Department documents betray the fact that the USA and China were working hand in hand. The two biggest climate sinners derailed all the plans of the Europeans.

The article is full of dark hints about the “revelations” in the Wikileaks documents.  For example,

It was a visit that China’s rulers could be pleased about. Towards the end of May 2009, John Kerry, the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had met with Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in Peking. Kerry told him that Washington “could understand China’s reluctance to accept binding goals at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. And then, according to a dispatch of the US embassy in Peking, the American sketched a new basis for a meaningful cooperation between the US and China against climate change.

and,

The US diplomatic papers now document how close the contacts between the two biggest climate sinners in the world, the USA and China, were in the months before (the conference). They give weight to those voices that have long speculated about an alleged coalition between the old and new superpower.

As anyone who takes an interest in climate negotiations will have noticed, all of this and, for that matter, the rest of the “revelations” in the article are old hat.  All of it was copiously reported at the time, for example, here, here, and here.  Read through these articles and you’ll notice that, at the time, Kerry was referring to his visit as another potential “Nixon to China visit,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who also visited China at the time, hailed the climate change negotiations as a potential “game changer” in US China relations.  Under the circumstances, it’s rather difficult to understand how Der Spiegel’s astute editors could have been “shocked, shocked,” to discover the “closeness” of the discussions between the US and China only after they had waded through the Wikileaks papers. 

The article continues with some pious remarks about the virtue of the Europeans compared to the sinfulness of the Europeans in matters of climate.  Under the byline, “The USA and China can continue to blow smoke,” we read,

Because the US signed the (Kyoto Protocol), but never ratified it, China and America can continue to blow smoke. The Europeans, on the other hand, must reduce their use of energy. That’s why they fought for a new treaty in the days before Copenhagen: at the very least, the USA, China and the other “threshold countries,” India and Brazil, should agree to firm goals for reducing (energy use).

Good Christians will be reminded of Luke 18; 11-12,

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

As for my Chinese readers of a certain age, they will, no doubt, recognize a remarkable similarity between the Spiegel rants against their country and the slanders and innuendo in the dazibao (propaganda posters) that were so prominently visible during the heyday of the Great Cultural Revolution.  To them I can only say, if you really want to be a superpower, get used to it.

It turns out, by the way, that the German’s are even more hypocritical than the Pharisee.  At least he actually did give alms to the poor.  When it comes to concrete results in reducing greenhouse emissions, however, they are the ones blowing smoke.  In the years between 2000 and 2007, they reduced their emissions per capita by 5%.  The “sinful” USA reduced its emissions by 5.5%.  Throw in the effect of reforestation (and it certainly should be thrown in, because it results in a real reduction in greenhouse gases) and the US reduction increases to 11%, bettering the German performance by better than a factor of two.  It would seem that the editors of Spiegel consider the striking of pious poses and signing of “worthless scraps of paper” of more importance in determining who is a “climate sinner” than actual performance.

And what really did happen at Copenhagen?  What became of the “close relationship” between the US and China that “remained hidden” from the blinkered eyes of German journalists until they were happily enlightened by Wikileaks?  Evidently they count on both the short memory of their readers, and their inability to use Google.  In fact, the US and China began quarreling about climate change before Copenhagen, their disagreements became worse at the conference, became even more strident as the conference continued, and, according to other European observers who apparently don’t share the sharp eye of Spiegel’s editors for uncovering secret conspiracies, eventually wrecked chances of reaching an agreement.

No matter as far as German editors are concerned.  When it comes to bashing their latest hate objects, the truth is of no concern.  If articles like this about Chinese women torturing animals, this, according to which China admits to being “climate sinner number 1,” and this, according to which China is “attacking” the West economically while its “paralyzed, weakened” victims look on are any indication, their latest hate object would be China.  Move over, USA, the new Yellow Peril has arrived.

Criticism, Self-criticism, and Thoughtcrime

Certain psychological types seem to persist across cultures.  For example, here is Stalin in a letter to writer and journalist Maxim Gorky:

We cannot do without self-criticism. We simply cannot, Alexei Maximovich. Without it, stagnation, corruption of the apparatus, growth of bureaucracy, sapping of the creative initiative of the working class, is inevitable. I know there are people in the ranks of the party who have no fondness for criticism in general, and for self-criticism in particular. Those people, whom I might call “skin-deep” communists… shrug their shoulders at self-criticism, as much as to say: … again this raking out of our shortcomings – can’t we be allowed to live in peace!

Of course, there were limits on the Communists’ fondness for self-criticism.  When Gorky criticized them in his paper Novaia zhizn’ (New Life) for their brutal excesses immediately after their seizure of power, they shut him down, and he was lucky to get away with his life. 

Here’s a similar bit from another variant of the worker’s paradise, Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution.  It’s from the book Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang, and describes the author’s experiences in one of the “self-criticism” sessions the Communists used to terrorize both adults and children (the author was 12 years old at the time).  She had called one of her friends by a nickname, and been overheard by one of the school bullies, who appropriately belonged to the “Red Successors,” a younger version of the Red Guards.  He dressed her down as follows:

It isn’t simply a matter of calling people by nicknames. It’s a matter of your looking down on working-class people… This is connected with your class standing Jiang Ji-li. You should reflect on your class origin and thoroughly remold your ideology… You’d better think seriously about your problems.

Moving right along to our own time, we find Greg Sargent addressing some similarly charming comments to Juan Williams in a column that appeared in the Washington Post.  Williams, you may recall, was just fired by NPR for what George Orwell once called Thoughtcrime.  Quoting from Sargent’s article:

The problem, though, is that in his initial comments he didn’t clarify that the instinctual feeling itself is irrational and ungrounded, and something folks need to battle against internally whenever it rears its head. And in his subsequent comments on Fox today, Williams again conspicuously failed to make that point.

Maybe Williams does think those feelings are unacceptably irrational and need to be wrestled with, and perhaps someone should ask him more directly if he thinks that. But until he clearly states it to be the case, there’s no reason to assume he thinks we should battle those feelings and work to delegitimize them.

Far be it for me to suggest that Sargent has anything at all in common with Stalin or Mao, or that his thought is otherwise anything but politically correct.  I merely suggest, based on admittedly anecdotal evidence, that there seem to be some psychological commonalities in human types that persist across cultures.  Apparently others have noticed the same thing.  Jim Treacher’s take in a piece he wrote for the Daily Caller was somewhat more emphatic:

It’s true, I haven’t heard Juan Williams call for the abolition of all crimethink. Thank goodness we have Greg Sargent of the Washington Post to remind us what’s permissible to think. Not what’s permissible to act on, or even to say aloud, but to think. How can we all be free if people are allowed to think in unapproved ways?

“Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime is death.”

The Chinese Sense our Weakness

Now they’re demanding a triple kowtow from one of our allies. Turkey has noticed the same thing. They’re demanding an apology from another of our allies for daring to react to a deliberate Turkish provocation. I’m surprised they bother with our allies. Why not just demand an apology directly from the US government? After all, we are without peers when it comes to groveling before our enemies. Vietnam would do well to take heed as China bullies her in the South China Sea. If she leans on us for support, she will be leaning on a weak reed. She should have learned that from her own history.

China’s Demise; is it Really Just Around the Corner?

Predictions of China’s implosion keep turning up on a regular basis, usually with the assurance that it’s just around the corner. Well, to celebrate her rise to spot number two among the world’s strongest economies, here’s yet another demonstration that, because a =b, and b=c, her collapse is a foregone conclusion. Wishful thinking? That’s what it’s always turned out to be in the past. It better happen pretty soon, or Gordon Chang, the prophet of doom who penned the article, will have egg on his face. He published a whole book on the subject back in 2001 promising that China would go belly up by 2011. He probably should have cut himself a bit more slack.

Minnesota in 1854: An Account by a Remarkable Englishman

The easy availability of a vast library of books is not the least of the Internet’s many gifts. If you find a reference to some interesting volume published before 1922, you are more than likely to find it among the online collection at Google books. Recently, for example, I happened to see a reference to an account of the Earl of Elgin’s mission to China and Japan in the years 1857-59 by one Laurence Oliphant. It was mentioned in one of the great British literary reviews of the 19th century, and described in such favorable terms as to pique my interest. In searching the author’s name at Google Books, I found not only the work in question, but any number of others attributed to the same author, including descriptions of travel in the southern regions of Russia, describing conditions there in 1852, just before the onset of the Crimean War, Palestine, and of no small interest to myself, as I grew up in Wisconsin, an account of an expedition through Canada to our neighbor state of Minnesota by way of Lake Superior in 1854.

I was pleased to find the book as entertaining and skillfully written as the earlier work about the Far East described in the British review, and highly recommend it to the attention of the interested reader. There are many insightful comments about social, economic, and political conditions in the U.S. at the time. Midwesterners will enjoy the many details and anecdotes about the rough and ready life in Wisconsin and Minnesota at a time when the region was still considered the “far west.”

For example, when Oliphant and his three companions climbed off their steamer at Superior, Wisconsin, they discovered that the only hotel in town was a large barn, which doubled as a carpenter shop and land office. Guests were expected to bring their own shavings to sleep on, should they be lucky enough to find an unoccupied spot. The author gives an interesting account of an expedition with a local realtor to have a look at some promising building lots in the growing metropolis:

…we commenced cutting our way with billhooks through the dense forest, which he called Third Avenue, or the fashionable quarter, until we got to the bed of a rivulet, down which we turned through tangled underwood (by name West Street), until it lost itself in a bog, which was the principal square, upon the other side of which, covered with almost impenetrable bush, was the site of our lots.

Oliphant goes on to describe a harrowing journey with two Canadian voyageurs in a birch bark canoe through swamps and over rapids to the headwaters of the Mississippi, from which they descended to St. Paul, the up and coming capital of the Minnesota territory. They were pleased to find it a great deal more civilized than Superior, with a hotel that was passable, even by European standards. Oliphant recounts that the guests would rush through their evening meal in typical American fashion. The process of digestion, however, was another matter. The men would retire to the front porch, where they would lean back in chairs, criticize the passers-by, and pontificate on the politics of the day at their leisure.

Among the topics of conversation was the issue of slavery, and while latter day Marxists and sentimental writers about “southern heritage” have “proved” that the Civil War was not really about slavery using any number of facile and unconvincing arguments, there was no confusion about the matter at the time, whether among opponents or proponents of slavery or European observers. Oliphant described an exchange on the subject between an eastern Yankee and a scowling Texan, and observed,

Whatever may be the views of Americans upon the great question of slavery, which seems destined, before long, to split the Union, they do not scruple to avow themselves annexationists.

The great question of slavery will lead to an explosion which it is to be hoped will not terminate in a Kilkenny-cat process.

The author and his friends took a river steamboat to Galena, Illinois, a point which was already connected to the rest of the country by rail. Apropos railroads, he notes in passing,

…we have no business to question the engineering performances in a country in which there are already 21,310 miles of railway laid down, or about 2500 miles more than the whole of the rest of the world put together.

The story of Oliphant doesn’t end with travel stories. Strangely enough, this obviously intelligent and articulate writer later went completely off the deep end as an adherent of the then-fashionable “spiritualist” craze. Among the collection of his works available at Google Books, one will also find a remarkable production entitled, “Scientific Religion, or Higher Possibilities of Life and Practice through the Operation of Natural Forces.” Published in 1888, it is full of revelations about “dynaspheric forces, the vital atomic interactions between the living and the dead, the transmutation of material forces by conversion of moral particles, Magnetic Conditions in the Holy Land,” and any number of similar ravings, all of which have so far failed in their author’s evident intent of enlightening future generations.

Those who pique themselves on the supposedly high intelligence of humankind would do well to read such stuff occasionally. Oliphant was a man of no mean intellect, possessed of remarkable insight and powers of analysis in his description of life in the United States of his time, and the political affairs then current. He also published ravings about “spiritual forces” that even a child would laugh at today. Those who consider themselves infallible would do well to recall that they belong to the same species (starting, of course, with me).

Steamboats docked at St. Paul, 1858

An Execution in China

The international uproar over China’s execution of Akmal Shaikh demonstrates once again the truth of Stalin’s dictum, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” It is unlikely that Mr. Shaikh was the victim of a high-handed act by local officials. It is more probable that his killing was deliberate, approved at the highest levels, and intended to send a message. Mr Shaikh was caught smuggling narcotics. I’m sure China’s rulers have not forgotten the Opium Wars. Perhaps they wanted to send the British a message that those days are over once and for all, and that, eventually, what goes around comes around, even if it takes a long time. As they demonstrated when they turned the guns of their tanks on their own people in Tienanmen Square, they don’t lack the level of cynicism required for such an act.

China Ramps up Nuclear Power

According to FuturePundit (hattip Instapundit)

Bloomberg reports on an interview with the President of Japan Steel Works that China will build more than double previous estimates. 132 units will take China way past the US (at 104 units and probably smaller average size) in total nuclear reactor capacity.

The country may build about 22 reactors in the five years ending 2010 and 132 units thereafter, compared with a company estimate last year for a total 60 reactors, President Ikuo Sato said in an interview. Japan Steel Works has the only plant that makes the central part of a large-size nuclear reactor’s containment vessel in a single piece, reducing radiation risk.

More nukes means a slower growth rate in coal electric power plant construction. The total amount of CO2 emissions from Chinese plants will continue to rise. But it would rise as fast and as far as previously projected. That high build rate should bring down costs and make China the low cost leader in nuclear power plant construction.

Low cost leader indeed! Perhaps we should help our Chinese friends out by sending over Michael Grunwald to explain to them that nuclear power is “really, really expensive.”

ostrich