Wednesday, July 11, 2007

China -- Can't Wait to Visit

There's one set of people more scared of China than Lou Dobbs. That'd be the gang running the place.

The popular Western image of the Chinese government is that's a repressive authoritarian regime in total control of society. It's true, too, except for the last five words of that sentence. They're nonsense.

Consider what the government did to ITS Michael Brown, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration. In response to the scandals involving poisoned food and other products, they shot the poor schlub. Brutal? Sure. But it doesn't speak of a government in control of anything. Firing mid-level bureaucrats is a PR move whether you shoot them or just make sure they retire to write memoirs.

Here's a little anecdote about China I found in the informative pages of "Asian Textile Journal." Chinese citizens aren't rebelling by forming a political opposition. They've gone right to creating their own money.

Tencent is China's leading e-mail and instant message service. It has about a quarter-billion subscribers. As a promotional gimmick, the company began offering what it called QQ coins, virtual currency one could purchase at a fixed exchange rate. Then you could purchase the company's goods and services at a discount with QQ coins. Sort of a 21st century Green Stamps concept.

So far, so good. QQ coins became very popular. Then the trouble started. The Chinese aren't just using QQ coins to buy stuff from Tencent. They're buying and selling anything they can think of with them. QQ coins have become a medium of exchange in such volume that the value of the yuan, the government's currency, is under threat. There will be new laws, officials say, proving that locking the barn door after the horse has won the Belmont is a trait all government share-ideology be damned.

Let's walk a mile in the nifty Hong Kong suits of China's rulers. They don't think they're enjoying Stalinesque control of the zombie masses. They've got to figure they're surfing 50-foot waves in a sea of battery acid. Here they turn their back on the public for a minute to try and stage a nice antiseptic Olympic Games, and the public goes and invents its own money! Americans bitch a lot, but that sort of creative civil disobedience is beyond us.

Unless there's a sudden turn of fortune, I won't be in Beijing for the Olympics. Too bad. Somehow, I don't think they'll be antiseptic at all.


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