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Sen. Rubio and Rep. Smith Chide China?

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), (not shown above), released a very predictable opinion piece to CNN over the weekend. It comes on the cusp of an upcoming triple news play on Sino-US relations. On Wednesday, October 18, the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress will convene in Beijing. (See my previous post for the significance and my predictions.) On Thursday, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), of which Rubio and Smith are chair and co-chair, respectively, will issue its annual report delineating China’s alleged human rights violations and unfulfilled commitments to reform. And next month, of course, President Trump himself will travel to China for his first official visit to the Middle Kingdom. (I can’t fathom what a media circus that will be.)

Also predictably, China is sure to release its annual answer to the CECC report, detailing, in lengthy detail, America’s poor treatment of women, minorities, and children. Income inequality, climate change denial, and military aggression abroad are also likely to receive prominent treatment in the Chinese rebuttal.

Alas, you don’t have to be a Chinese apologist to accept that the Chinese do have a point in slinging right back at their American critics. The fact that American politicians still feel entitled, indeed obliged, to point out the faults, perceived or real, of the rest of the world, is perhaps the strongest evidence yet of just how out of touch America is with reality and itself at the moment.

After a week filled with salacious revelations about the exploits of Harvey Weinstein, who is most certainly not the exception to the rule in Hollywood, Trump’s threats to incinerate the people of North Korea, and Trump’s slap to the face of a country whose culture turns on face (i.e., Iran, if you have been away), Rubio and Smith apparently believe that China’s refusal to bend to US arrogance is worthy of America’s limited and painfully stretched supply of attention.

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Prominent in the Rubio/Smith piece is the accusation that “It [China] is increasingly dismissive of international norms and ‘Western’ ideas…” Say it ain’t so. How could China fail to yield to “principled American leadership,” as they call it? That we have to ask the question, once again, is ultimately both ruefully recursive and, quite frankly, beyond comprehension.

As is typical of the CECC report every year, this report will, if the Rubio/Smith letter is representative of the final product, focus on the alleged suppression of the freedom of expression in China. The Hong Kong “umbrella movement,” Tibet, religious expression, and, of course, the alleged repression of activists of all stripes, in areas from the environment, where it was the US which backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and ceded environmental global leadership to China, to, of course, the Internet and the media, where our digital gatekeepers are being openly criticized for not censoring Russian propaganda during the 2016 election, but censoring at least one Twitter account and a domestic political ad.

Taken in total, these accusations against China calibrate just how far America’s media myopia has progressed. If hateful social media platforms, fake news, and infantile political name-calling are the standard of a free and noble media, then the Chinese should consider themselves lucky to be ruled by such alleged oppression.

Finding bogeymen in the same old places, the letter also accuses China of “Coercive enforcement of population control policies continued in violation of international standards.” It is an unfounded and logically inconceivable accusation given that China already accounts for 20% of the world’s population (China’s population has tripled in size since it’s founding in 1949.), but where the government not only guarantees, but funds, a woman’s right to control her own body. The US, on the other hand, is one of only two countries in the world (Papua New Guinea is the other) that does not provide for paid maternity leave and even now operates the most expensive, and selectively available, health care system on the planet.

This kind of moral grandstanding is what our politicians discern to be worthy of their time? This, despite the reality that our prisons, part of the largest institution of incarceration in the world, are disproportionately filled with young men of color, an entire race of Americans feels compelled to call out selective use of force by the police, a single man can buy enough military-style weaponry to mow down more people than there are US governors, all because we nonetheless guarantee multi-millionaire professional athletes the right to kneel on the job during the playing of the national anthem.

I have nothing against kneeling, mind you, but I am deeply offended by hypocrisy. And that is why, no doubt, I felt so welcome during the nine years I lived in China. I was a foreigner, for sure. But the Chinese I met never pretended to be anything that they weren’t and that courtesy to be who we are was universally extended to my family and me as well.

The closing line in the Rubio/Smith letter actually made some sense to me. “President Trump would do well to remember, even in the midst of heightened diplomacy on North Korea (author: I’m really not sure where that comment is coming from. What diplomacy?), that governments which trample on the basic rights of their own citizens are unreliable international partners.”

Well said, Senator Rubio and Representative Smith. But who, exactly, are you referring to there? Us or them? As you and your colleagues have repeatedly taught us, the choices are digital. If we’re not with them we must be against them.

I only hope that the Chairman Xi Jinping and the leaders in Beijing don’t share that perspective.

header photo credit: iStock.com/quavondo

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

Here’s what legendary Kirkus Reviews has to say about the author’s new book: “More than a guidebook for managers, this is a manifesto for an intellectually deeper – and happier – world of business.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
click here

The latest in the Understanding Series is now available.
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photo credit: iStock.com/tupungato

The Bicycles are Back

Author Gary Moreau

In the late 1980s I was granted a special visa to travel to Guangzhou, then called Canton. I traveled by plane (a fairly antiquated one, at that) from Hong Kong.

We landed at an airport where the terminal seemed no larger than a modest house. Today’s Baiyun airport, by comparison, handles 60 million passengers per year, more than New York’s Kennedy airport.

Bureaucracy and security were in full view. My paper work was passed along a row of officials, none of whom apparently spoke English or asked a single question. They did, however, stamp with big, loud, mechanical stamps that just sounded very official. Today, China is one of the most automated and digital countries on the planet. Many cities are very close to a cashless economy and there isn’t much you can’t do with just a mobile phone.

The latest in the Understanding Series is now available. Click here.

On the security side there were a lot of young men in military uniforms at the airport holding some fairly serious weaponry, and they had all apparently been trained to look menacing. We were supposed to put our hand luggage (in my case, a briefcase) on a conveyer for x-ray inspection, undoubtedly in search of contraband coming in from Hong Kong. I was so overwhelmed with the scene, however, that I didn’t see the sign directing everyone to do that until I was almost past. I continued to walk by at least three automatic weapons but no one said a word. (Probably because I was a foreigner, I know now.)

And then I walked out the door. There were bicycles and people everywhere. I still can’t put it in words. There were very few cars, although my official host, a representative of the Communist Party at some level, had a car, so I was a given a bird’s eye view of what a swarm of bicycles looks like.

What was most impressive, however, was the total lack of carnage. The cyclists were packed so close together that a single accident was sure to turn into a massive chain reaction. And there appeared to be no rules of the road. Cyclists ignored the cars, what few traffic signals there were, the pedestrians, and each other. And somehow it all worked.

Substitute cars for bicycles and you have the same scenario today. The traffic in places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou makes the traffic in any major American city pale by comparison. Imagine New York or Chicago with 25 million residents. And, to this day, while there are well-defined rules of the road, no one obeys them. Or even pretends. And the police don’t care.

This is China. It’s crowded and noisy. And it’s chaotic. (The Chinese don’t normally honor queues either.) But it works.

It works because the Chinese have learned how to cope with chaos. They live it every day. And yet things get done, usually at a speed Americans can’t quite fathom.

Bikes are now returning to the streets of China in the form of ride sharing platforms that work much like Uber and Lyft. It’s not a new idea. Bike sharing has been offered in major US cities for some time now.

Here’s what legendary Kirkus Reviews has to say about the author’s new book: “More than a guidebook for managers, this is a manifesto for an intellectually deeper – and happier – world of business.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The difference, however, is transformative—or disastrous—depending on your perspective. China’s popular bike ride sharing platforms, like Ofo and Mobike, don’t require pickup, drop off, and storage stations. You find the bike wherever the last patron left it, but the app on your smart phone will tell you where that is. And you drop it off wherever you like. And that’s where it sits until someone else wants to use it.

The obvious lack of structure is ideal in solving the last mile problem. It really doesn’t matter where your last mile is. You don’t have to live next door to the subway entrance or bike rental station.

That same lack of structure, however, Americans have already noted, can create visual and pedestrian anarchy. Bikes will just pile up at the entrance to other forms of mass transit, and since there are no racks, and the Chinese typically reject rules, that can create an inconvenience for people just trying to get into or out of the tube.

This, I suspect, will be a much bigger hurdle for the Chinese ride sharing companies trying to expand into the US than they probably realize. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these companies aren’t banned in otherwise “progressive” cities around the country. A recent article in The Washington Post claimed, in fact, “Opponents have branded Ofo and Mobike a menace, a plague and a public nuisance.”

It will start with the bureaucrats. In San Francisco the City Supervisor referred to China’s Bluegogo, which put 20,000 bikes on the street without permission in January, a “public nuisance,” and threatened legal action. (Of course. It’s the American solution.)

Even though these companies require no support from the cities themselves, since they don’t need racks or real estate, they will have to get a license to operate and they will, without a doubt, be excessively regulated. Local governments will try very hard to tell them where they can leave the bikes, offer the bikes, etc. And the police, of course, will be called upon to enforce the regulations, giving the men and women in blue yet another regulation to occupy their time and dilute their efforts to stop crime.

One of the reasons that the Chinese economy is so resilient is that the regulators don’t worry about the little stuff. If you want to start a small business, just start it. Sure, you technically need a license, but chances are that no one is going to bother you unless you give them a reason to. The police are more likely than not to patronize your business than shut it down.

And the reason that the police are able to keep a tight rein on violent crime is that they do little else. They don’t waste time writing out traffic tickets or fining some hapless predestination for jay walking. If you’re not threatening the Party or public security, the police are likely to leave you alone.

We Americans, on the other hand, are a nation of rule followers and enforcers. And rules are rules. There are no moral equivalents, if you will, when it comes to controlling what people do. Take a trip to your local DMV office and try to do something even remotely out of line with the rules if you doubt that.

The third, and perhaps most significant difference, however, is not that the Chinese won’t eventually see the need to do something about the problem. It is that the people impacted will do something about it. They will figure out some way to overcome the problem without throwing away the benefits.

Available in paper and electronic formats.

Americans, on the other hand, will, I suspect, look to the government to solve the problem. The government will inevitably over-reach, yet other people will get upset, and responsibility will just bounce around in that growing bin of social problems we just can’t seem to find a solution for.

The wealthy, of course, will get helicopter ride sharing apps or buy their own, if they can afford it. The mass middle will get prescriptions for higher doses of Xanax, and the poor will just shake their heads and get by.

Oh, one last thing. The regulators will tell you that they need to regulate these companies in the name of public safety and consumer protection. You will hear all kinds of dire concerns about the bikes being stolen, set afire in the middle of the street, or used in the commission of crime. These are all just red herrings. What is the price of climate change? What is the value of your time sitting in commuter traffic? What is the value of giving people just another simple way to get a little exercise without joining a fancy gym?

Ride on.

Opening photo credit: iStock.com/tupungato

Contact: You may write the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Author’s website & blog: www.gmoreau.com

Climate Change: Solutions, not Punishment

On the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference, Beijing has recently announced a code red smog alert; the highest level. It is only the second such alert, the first coming earlier this month.

It is a significant step as it involves closing factories and schools and strictly restricting the number of vehicles on the road.

Thankfully, the scale-topping 500 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) predicted has not yet materialized as of noon on Sunday local time. The AQI in Beijing stands at 200 – high enough to keep me inside but low enough that I can still see across the street.

China, unfortunately, seems to take a lot of the blame in the Western media for climate change. It has to change its ways, for sure, and the government understands this, but this kind of thinking shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the real problem.

According to the British Charity Oxfam, in a report released on December 1, “The total emissions of the poorest half of the population of China, around 600 million people, are only one-third of the total emissions of the richest 10 percent in the US, some 30 million people.”

Climate change, in other words, is as much about the economy as it is the environment. If we were all poor we wouldn’t be at the critical stage we are.

Of course I am not suggesting that we make everyone poor. But I do agree with China in that the developed countries can’t preclude the developing countries from further development in order to solve the problem.

It might be said that the climate issue is not so much about emission as it is treatment. Which is why the US generally appears to be ecologically sound while the Chinese are literally suffocating in smog. The US has the technology and the capital to address the issue. China does not.

Which is why the transfer of knowledge and capital will be the key to solving the problem globally. Restrictions, by themselves, won’t be the answer, assuming the developed nations don’t somehow – perhaps through force – convince the developing nations to accept a grave social injustice.

The biggest issue for China is the use of low quality coal. About 60% of its electricity is produced with this resource. But even though China is planning to invest $78 billion in new nuclear plants in the next five years, bringing the total number of nuclear plants operating in China to 110 by the year 2030, it will still be heavily reliant on coal for its power generation.

Which, in turn, means that the only real solution for China is the development of new cleaner coal-burning technologies.

And this, in my opinion, is where world leaders should be focusing their efforts and their investment. Focusing on restrictions in output won’t solve the problem. Technology will. Instead of trying to get every country to agree to a specific quota, we should have an international energy think tank and research body, the output of which belongs to all citizens of the world.

This, to me, is very good news indeed. Political consensus has proven difficult, nay impossible, throughout the history of man – and we’re running out of time. But technological advancement, now that’s another story. We’ve amazed ourselves with how far we’ve come and no one doubts there is plenty of runway left.

Solutions, not punishment. That is always the most productive path to follow.


Some early praise for the author’s latest book, “Understanding China – There is reason for the difference”

“An insightful, compelling introduction to the intricacies of Chinese business and life.” – Kirkus Review

To see the full review from this prestigious literary company, please click on this direct link:


“Understanding China is a “must-read” for anyone interested in culture, working with Asian businesses, visiting China or simply if you enjoy a well-written book! I worked in China in the 90’s and while I eventually understood the differences, I never understood “why” until now. Moreau does a great job explaining the “why”. Well done!!”

(Not a relative!)

“Having done business and gone on personal journeys through the Asia Pacific region, I wish I’d read a book like this first. The premise is that being happy and effective in China requires more than just learning how things operate and working within the established system. This will bring frustration and leave you ineffective because you, the Westerner, will still be looking at these cultural differences as irrational. Mr. Moreau contends that only by understanding why things are the way they are in China and in the West can a Westerner actually influence outcome in China.

The author proceeds to explain the differences with very engaging writing that made me say, “Of, of course! It all makes sense now.”

(Also not a relative!)


Copyright © 2015 Gary Moreauschools, etc 146

Note:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.

You may contact the author at glassmakerinchina@gmail.com

The Narrative on Xi-Obama

In business and politics there is no longer truth and lies. There is only narrative. The narrative is all that matters.

The narrative is the truth wrapped in context – like a beef pattie in a bun. That makes it a hamburger.

While I assure you that I mean nothing political about the example I’ve chosen but you can’t miss the point on this one.

A former president of the United States once declared, with obvious sincerity, “I did not have sex with that woman.”   What he forgot was the context, being that he does not consider oral sex to be sex as the term is commonly understood. Did he lie? Not in that context. Did he tell the truth? Not in the context others would have considered understandable applied to the declaration.

Both sides won.

It will soon be earnings season again in Corporate America. And I can assure you that any company that comes up short of expectations will have a narrative.   The narrative won’t change the facts, but it will attempt to change the context (e.g. strong dollar, weakness in China, etc., etc.) and that, in a nutshell, will change the narrative.

I learned about narrative at a very young age. “Gary, did you do this?” “Yes, but my brother made me do it or he would beat me up.”

OK, so what was the narrative that came out of this week’s visit of President Xi Jinping to the United States, his first official state visit since he took office in 2012? The narrative on both sides of the Pacific was the same, “We won!”

In a previous post I correctly predicted that commercial cyber hacking would be on the US agenda but was a non-starter. According to President Obama, I was wrong. In a Reuters report reprinted by CNBC President Obama triumphantly proclaimed “The United States government does not engage in cyber economic espionage for commercial gain, and today I can announce that our two countries have reached a common understanding on a way forward.”

But what is the context? Since moving backward is not an option in a case like this, that truth could have been proclaimed months ago with a high degree of certainty. But what does forward look like? Forward to where? And how will we know when we’re there.

President Xi responded in kind. “Confrontation and friction are not the right choice for both sides.” Fair enough. But when are they? And how far will each side go to avoid them?

As is often the case these days, President Obama wanted to talk issues: human rights, the South China Sea, etc. And President Xi wanted to put it all in context. To paraphrase, “We are a developing country with a different history and different culture.”

Victory all around.

The one area that there was general factual and contextual agreement on – a common narrative – was climate change. President Xi officially announced that a national carbon cap-and-trade system would be in place in China in 2017. The US, unfortunately, has yet to meet that goal.

This was commonly viewed by the Western media as a victory for President Obama. I beg to differ. While it certainly wasn’t a loss for President Obama, the narrative victory will ultimately go to President Xi. After all, China is already the biggest carbon-emitter in the world. And in a recent poll that the leadership in China is obviously taking very seriously, the Chinese public have said clearly that corruption, pollution, and income inequality are their three biggest concerns. It is easy for Westerners to think of global climate change and pollution as conceptual issues. But for we who live it every day it’s much more on our minds than your own, I’m sure. (When was the last time you wore a breathing mask to go to the grocery store?)

All told, I believe President Xi got very high marks for his visit to the US here at home in China. He was greeted in Seattle by the Governor of the State of Washington and in Washington D.C. by Vice President Joe Biden, but he took it all in stride. The Pope was in the country, to be fair.

But here’s the context. The Communists took over in 1949. President Nixon was the first US President to visit the People’s Republic of China in 1972, 23 years later. The U.N. General Assembly seat previously held by Taiwan was only given to the PRC in 1971.

And here they are, less than 50 years later, the second largest economy in the world, having brought 300 million people out of poverty in one generation, and doing $550 billion in bilateral trade with the country of the century, the US.

As the narrative goes, all sides can claim victory. Within the context, however, I believe President Xi Jinping will receive a hero’s welcome in the weeks ahead. His narrative never changed, he never backed down on the issue of the South China Sea, and he was treated with a respect that was acceptable. (The narrative of the 2016 presidential race was put on hold for the most part – at least as far as China. After all, whomever wins will have to deal with this President of China for his or her entire term(s))

No one in China pretends that China is yet the US. They know, however, they are gaining fast and Xi’s reception and performance this past week reinforced that.

For him, I think, a successful week.

Gary Moreau's latest fictional novel written under the pen name of Avam Hale.
Gary Moreau’s latest fictional novel written under the pen name of Avam Hale.

Copyright © 2015 Gary Moreau

Note:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.

You may contact the author at glassmakerinchina@gmail.com