In Brief: Speaking of Arrogance…

I haven’t the time or, at the moment, the patience to go into this in depth, but let’s look for a second at the trailer for the upcoming documentary Death By China and let its ridiculousness wash over you like a wave:

Now, with the huge caveat that I haven’t seen this film so it could just be a case of terrible (or overly sensationalized) marketing, this looks insane. What’s more, it projects that same I’m-the-center-of-the-world-arrogant-pride-thinly-disguised-as-victimhood that I recently took some Chinese media to task for. This is probably not surprising — for all their differences, I think America and China are similar in many ways, one of those being a deep-seated belief that they are better than everyone else. But come on, guys. Everything about this is absurd and hypocritical.

For example, the Gordon Chang money quote here — “China is the only major nation on earth preparing to kill Americans” — is both extreme scaremongering and ludicrous arrogance. Yes, China is boosting its military capabilities across the board. Is there any evidence this is with the goal of killing Americans? No. China’s military will protect its strategic interests, and while that could include killing Americans who are in the way, Chang’s phrasing makes it sound like China is raising an army that’s going to parachute into the US, Red Dawn-style, and shoot your grandmother.

That isn’t going to happen, and it doesn’t even make any goddamn sense. Why would China want to destroy one of its major trade partners? Moreover, why would China want to destroy a country that owes it so much money? It wouldn’t. China doesn’t want to kill Americans, it just wants them to shut up about the South China Sea and stop selling weapons to Taiwan. Since neither of those things are likely to happen, some eventual violence is certainly possible, but let’s not pretend China is planning Pearl Harbor here.

The discussion of jobs in the trailer is even more ludicrous because it leaves out a gigantic, hugely important facet of that issue: the companies shipping these jobs overseas are American. It’s true some Chinese manufacturers are beating with American workers in part because they’re willing to abuse their own workers (although the fact that many of these workers are, by American standards, willing to abuse themselves is also a relevant point). But if China is taking American jobs via workers rights abuses, what does that say about the American companies that are willingly choosing to ship jobs there anyway?

It is not my intent to defend the labor practices of Chinese manufacturers here, but that strikes me as a Chinese problem. American companies shipping jobs overseas to take advantage of abuses is a problem that could be resolved at home by holding companies to a higher (read: any) moral standard. But, of course, it’s easier just to blame all that on the Chinese.

This argument also ignores the fact that as far as cheap labor is concerned, if China isn’t willing to offer it, some other country will be (and is). Abuse of workers is one problem, but another is that Americans are willing to see hundreds of thousands of jobs shipped overseas if it means they can save $20 on an iPhone.

(Note that I’m not even mentioning the absurd, over-the-top animations or the part where Americans, with a straight face, appear to be criticizing someone else about carbon emissions.)

Anyway, I don’t really have the energy to go into this further, and it would be unfair of me to do a proper shredding before I see the actual movie, anyway. But if this trailer is any indication, Death By China looks like it’s going to make the Red Dawn remake look like a tasteful, nuanced look at US-Asia relations.

47 thoughts on “In Brief: Speaking of Arrogance…”

  1. Wow. It’s sad, pathetic, and disturbing that people in “think-tanks” come up with this drivel, and gob-smacking that they’d be willing to go on the record with it. Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing that fuels the existence of places like HH, who will go to town with this sort of thing. Can’t even comfort myself that this is some GOP prank, since Martin Sheen agreed to narrate the thing.


  2. @ S.K. Cheung, yeah, the fact that Martin Sheen is on board with this is the most depressing bit about it for me too. I’m in the middle of rewatching the West Wing, so my opinion of Martin Sheen was at sky-high levels again until I spotted his name on this.


  3. Hollywood actors getting involved in political issues never works out well as far as I’m concerned. They think because they’re rich they must be experts on everything.


  4. Well…in the original “Red Dawn” remake, the bogeyman was Chinese until they were forced to make them N. Korean for fear of offending potential purchasers/investors in H-wood. Did they actually know something all along?? ;^)


  5. To Custer,
    Jeb Bartlett would easily be my favourite president of my lifetime to date. I often wonder if the White House inner circle is as smart as the Bartlett crew…and at the very least I wish they were. That was one of my favourite shows of the 2000’s.


  6. Both China and the US are guilty of scaremongering in order to meet their needs.

    The US engages in this stupidity in order to drum up popular support and shift the blame.

    China does it to cover for more pressing problems and shift the blame.

    Both sides absolutely DESERVE each other.


  7. Chang, and, increasingly Minxin Pei, are rent-a-quote types who get way too much air-time nowadays. A good friend of mine helped produce a similar documentary, according to what he heard certain ‘experts’ are asking 5,000 USD an interview – so I guess there’s no pressure on them to provide the kind of quotes the interviewer wants him to give, right?

    In the end he quit and the documentary that ended up getting made sank without a trace (the fact that Yang Rui was one of the interviewees couldn’t have helped). There’s way too much of this kind of dreck being made at the moment.


  8. It is so disappointing to see that adult human beings produce this kind of drivel. I´m simply shocked and amazed! These are morons; these are educated, informed people, right? How is it possible for them to be so narrow minded in targeting China as the primary actor in this? *shakes head* Just like those campaign adds vilifying China, I am stunned.

    Does this kind of vilification happen much in other countries, or mostly just in the United States?


  9. The comment I left for Kaiser on Facebook when he linked to this trailer still seems appropriate. To be fair, I think there are legitimate concerns one can have about the way China figures into American trade policy, and monetary policy for that matter. Some of the political candidates who use language critical of China – like the senator from my adoptive home state, Bob Casey – are really just concerned with bringing well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt. I say more power to him on that score.

    But the sort of scaremongering this film seems to engage in only serves to distract from the fact that it is not China (which is itself trying to secure a dignified economic future – whether it is succeeding or not is a different question) which is to blame, but rather the Davos clique and the global one-percenters who are willing to sell out their own nation’s store of capital to chase after the cheapest possible labour.


  10. To MFC:
    “are really just concerned with bringing well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt. I say more power to him on that score”
    —agreed. No issue with a politician wishing jobs had stayed at home rather than going overseas. But Americans can’t be blaming China for making cheap labour available when it is Americans who are choosing to take advantage of said availability.


  11. Personally, I think politicians should have better things to do than playing beggar-my-neighbour for votes. Few jobs can be ‘brought home’ from China because few went there. American workers do not by-and-large compete with their counterparts in the third world, but with workers in other advanced countries, and against automation. If the number of job relative to the size of the population in advanced economies, and their type, is changing, it is not primarily because of what is happening in China.


  12. @Gil

    Exactly. The USA doesn’t really compete with China economically, and I don’t know why our politicians pretend that we do. We compete with Germany, Japan, Canada, France, etc. China competes with Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam. Really, if anyone should be livid about Chinese currency manipulation, it’s Mexico. NAFTA was supposed to make them what China is now–the low-skill workshop of North America, and it never did largely thanks to cheap Chinese currency.


  13. American media and Hollywood in general constantly feed the American people red meat. Their primary role is to mislead and misinform the public on wide range of matters; this is more so when it comes to China. Paranoia, politics, race and difference in ideology are the central driving force.

    Like I said elsewhere, the meida and Hollywood love to exploit Gordon Chang and the like as attack dogs–the subliminal message is obvious us to decipher.

    It is detrimental to mutual understanding.

    China’s reactions are more often than not passive.


  14. “Their primary role is to mislead and misinform the public on wide range of matters”
    —dude, chillax. It’s one movie. Let’s not over-generalize based on one anecdotal example…ooops, forgot who i was talking to.


  15. It’s not just one movie. Just look around and see for yourself how many ppl are misinformed about the world ar large. Lol. I’ve never watched a single piece of positive news about Africa, for example. So many expats are on a singled minded mission to spread pussy riot abroad, talking about arrogance and stupidity!


  16. @Benjamin D – Don’t forget that Americans were getting the benefit of cheap Mexican labour anyway simply through illegal immigration, so it’s no surprise that NAFTA didn’t change things much. There’s no reason to outsource to Mexico if you can simply employ a Mexican locally for marginally more without having to carry the risk and expense of setting up in Mexico.

    The reason why China comes in ahead of Mexico for outsourcing though, is that Mexicans are more expensive. The average nominal manufacturing salary in 2005 in Mexico was 2.5-3 times higher than that in China. Despite the hype, Mexicans are still much richer than Chinese, with an average nominal GDP of 10,153 USD compared to 5,414 USD in China. Whilst China no longer publishes income equality statistics, it at least appears that Mexican income is distributed marginally more equally than Chinese income. Even if the Chinese currency were to appreciate in value by the largest amount that it is estmated to be under-valued (~50%), this situation would not change appreciably.

    Actually, the US’s relations with Mexico suffer from much the same kind of grand-standing that her relations with China do. Logically speaking, it is long-since time that the same freedom of movement of goods, capital, and labour were opened up between Mexico and the US as now exists between Western and Eastern Europe, where a similar difference in living standards exists. This would end the quasi-state-of-siege on the US’s southern border, legitimise the involvment of millions of Mexicans in the US economy, greatly improve relations between the two countries, cut off a source of funding to criminal gangs, and act as an incentive for the Mexican authorities to address societal problems (which are real but exaggerated – particularly the drug war).

    The reason why this is not done is because any politician fool-hardy enough to propose such a highly logical policy would instantly be accused of virtual treachery. Visions of the entire population of Mexico decamping for the US en-masse would dance before the eyes of the US public and they would vote accordingly, despite the experience of countries that have opened up in this fashion that this would not be the case.


  17. @YoungIT –

    “I’ve never watched a single piece of positive news about Africa, for example.”

    If you’ve never seen a single piece of positive news about Africa, this has to be because you just haven’t been looking.

    From today’s BBC News Africa page:

    – Namibia donates animals for Cuban zoo

    – Man travels by wheel-chair across the African continent.

    – Ethiopia welcomes the Dreamliner

    – Great Strides: Fair-trade income from Ethiopian footwear

    – Mogadishu rising from the ashes

    – Fun in the snow in Johannesburg

    – Africa’s Olympic stars

    Sure, you can say that bad news outweighs good, but this is the same on the Europe and North America pages as well – that’s simply in the nature of what people want to know.


  18. PS – A few interesting facts:

    1) There are 26 counties (i.e., just under 1% of all US counties) in the US that are poorer on average than Mexico in terms of average income. Just one county (Buffalo County, South Dakota) has a lower per capita income than China, and then only just.

    2) If Mexico was an EU state, it would rank 3rd from bottom in nominal GDP per capita – above Romania and Bulgaria but below Latvia and Lithuania.

    3) If Mexico was a Mainland Chinese province or province-level body it would rank higher than all Mainland provinces in nominal GDP per capita, and higher than all directly-controlled municipalities except Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin by the same measure.

    4) If Mexico was a US city, it would have a lower murder rate than Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, and New Orleans, although these figures are obviously detection/reporting/definition-sensitive.


  19. Gil: I would say that comparison between Mexico and china the way you did is meaningless. Forgot to take into consideration some basic premises?


  20. Mexico is a full fledged democracy and free flow of information runs smoothies than pipe dreams, whereas china is a xxxxxxxxship where there is no “free” flow of information and as a result ppl desperately are in need of saviors who would bring them “gospel” like good news about ai weiwei and the like. Lol!


  21. @Gil very interesting! I didn’t know Mexico was actually wealthier than so much of China, or especially that it was marginally more equal. You would never know it from the media portrayals of the two countries (yes, that’s right YoungIT, China has a better image than Mexico in America).

    I’d also like to see more open borders. A lot of the complaints about illegal immigration (crowded emergency rooms, school overcrowding, and the like) would be greatly reduced if movement of labor was freed up. Why? This may come as a shock to a lot of Americans, but most Latinos don’t actually want to live here permanently. They’d rather move here to work, save some money, and go back. They wouldn’t be bringing their families nearly as much if they knew they could easily go back and forth.

    Anyway in addition to the economic gap being similar between Mexico and the USA and Western/Eastern Europe, I think the cultural gap is actually *smaller* between the former than the latter, especially if we’re talking about the Southwest.


  22. “Mexico is a full fledged democracy and free flow of information runs smoothies than pipe dreams, ”

    Again, Mexico is portrayed as a violence-riddled basket case in the American media. It gets far worse media treatment than China does.


  23. “Just look around and see for yourself how many ppl are misinformed about the world ar large.”
    —this is true, but it is true the world over. But there is a difference. Now, in China, most of the responsibility rests on the CCP, since her primary motivation is to try to keep Chinese people in the dark. Thankfully, the CCP is not completely successful, but on the balance of things she is doing better at that than i would have hoped. So one can’t primarily blame Chinese people for not knowing something because the CCP tries so hard to prevent things from being known. But in the west, if the information is out there but people don’t seek it out, the blame does not rest with government or media, but with the people themselves.

    Now, you are a typical apologist, so one’s expectations must be tempered. But your recent entries depict exactly why you folks are so annoying and worthy of constant ridicule. You make a stupid remark about news coverage of Africa, and FOARP shows you to be woefully misinformed. Rather than showing the dignity and character to acknowledge it, you make an even dumber remark about BBC. And then you make some dumb-assed comparison of Mexico and CHina that doesn’t relate to anything. You people are just so pathetic. At least you’re always good for a laugh.


  24. SK:

    Your frequent abuse of the “ccp apologist” is so ridiculous. It shows you are truly a zealot of a different kind.

    I never mentioned British when I stated that misleading and misinforming the public was the intention of the US media. And somehow someone brought up BBC? Come on, it has no relevance to what I stated. I do believe BBC is somewhat less misleading.


  25. “I never mentioned British”
    —oh, so you’re one of those that just focuses on the US media with your over-generalizations, and actually excludes over-generalizations of “western media” like many of your brethren. Good to know. My apologies. That’s actually rather refreshing. No less ridiculous, but at least it’s different.

    As for “CCP apologist”, as I always say, if the shoe fits, wear it proud and sing it loud, brother. I’ve seen enough of you folks on blogs to know that if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it ain’t no chicken.


  26. @YoungIT – But you see pretty much the same thing in serious US news outlets (such as CNN’s Africa page: ), and if you’ve never even looked at the BBC website you can’t call yourself a serious consumer of news – it’s one of the world’s major news outlets. Again, if you haven’t ever seen good news about Africa, it’s because you aren’t watching the news.


  27. Gil:

    That’s the exception rather than the rules. I am not saying the American people are bad in any sense. The media are sophistigately controlled and manipulated to serve the owners. The people are fed with daily doses of cool aid. It’s no more fair and balanced than the Chinese media. People are just ignorant in general considerating the unparalelled wealth of the nation. I now believe the media does not want the public to be informed, period unless one has to be keen on learning the truth.


  28. As to SK, u r obssessed with ccp and apologist. When u utter the phrase more than too often as u have done, I don’t take u seriously anymore. LoL! Want do you want to install? 3P(pillars of powers) + horny journalists peeking thru the holes to look after what they are doing? LOL. It may suits others but u need to be aware that people will laugh at u for deficiency in creativity! LOL


  29. We all know how these farang-on-fenqing fights end (or fail to end), but why even bother to start with somebody who writes “free flow of information runs smoothies than pipe dreams”?


  30. To young and dumb,
    hey, if you didn’t behave like an apologist, I wouldn’t have to repeatedly call you out on it. What else should I call you? The un-enlightened? The perpetually stupid? The wilfully blind? I could call you those things, but “ccp apologist” has a nice ring to it. Besides, as I said, if the shoe fits…but hey, offer me up an alternate phrase that adequately depicts your lack of intelligence, and i’d be happy to oblige you and use it.

    There’s one more thing about you people: the incessant use of sexual innuendo. ‘peeping-tom’ “horny journalists” and the like. What is the matter with you people? I actually can’t directly relate CCP apologism with that kind of mindset, so I am left to conclude that CCP apologism simply attracts immature folks with those kinds of proclivities. Quite the association.

    It’s actually quite comical that you would try to equate the US media with Chinese state organs. You either have no experience with anything other than Fox news, or you are simply dumber and have less grasp of reality than I had initially given you credit for.


  31. From the trailer, some Americans simply do not know the difference between working hard and being abused. Or more likely, they just pretend they do not know.


  32. Speaking of arrogance, who reviews a movie without seeing it? Is this a joke? You are attempting to provide an insightful review of a movie you have never seen?
    Your words and write up are cowardly. Either man up, watch the film and do a real review or remain mum. Sure you will get blog hits for people searchin about the film as I did. But you post is a manipulative and half-hearted attempt at proving a point that you do not have the necessary information to do.
    You should do this right or remove the review.
    In addition you say it would make no sense for China to destroy a major trading partner. The actions of humans often does not make sense. Does it make sense for achina to defile its land when cancer is a leqding cause of death! Does it make sense to lace milk with poison or build bridges with no steel.
    You also say that China does not want to kill Americans, which is debatable. For instance, the Chinese were overjoyed when 9/11 occurred with 90 percent polled saying it was a good thing, you can google this. Also, the chinese were poled and over half were saddened by the death of Bin Laden, so ro say the Chinese do not want to kill Americans is questionable.
    Also, the question can be of how far the communists will go to remain in power. If it requires starting a war to do, can anyon edoubt that they would not?
    I am dissapointed with your site now. Shoddy journalism.


  33. “By IMHO I meant in my horny opinion…”

    Then you’re irrational, aren’t you? Sexual urges cloud your judgement and render you incapable of making detached and logical decisions.


  34. @Jack – In other news, internet polls have shown that the majority of people think that 9/11 was an inside job, that the government is covering up UFOs, that Elvis is still alive, and that the moon landings were faked. The operative words here are ‘internet poll’ – i.e., polls set up on random websites with self-selecting readership, which is itself drawn from the ranks of intenet addicts who strongly slant young and angry.

    Yes, the fact that the government bans any reliable polling in the country means we have to rely on such polls because we have no other option. This also goes for people who try to quote things like the Pew poll as showing that the CCP has strong support.


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