Globalization is often described as an endurance match between the mighty West and the fragile East. Twenty years ago this stereotype may have been spot on. Today, it’s only partially true. Sure, the rules of the fight are still skewed in Western favor and the almighty corporate muscle is squeezing every possible drop of productivity from the vast Eastern workforce. But it’s obvious that by maintaining this dynamic for decades without considering any alternatives, the West got irreversibly hooked on Chinese manufacturing. We are effectively in a middle of a new Opium War and only China seems to know it.
During the first two Opium Wars the Chinese emperors lost because they were blinded by their own divine arrogance. Today the roles are completely reversed. Tim Cook put it bluntly during a TV interview with Charlie Rose: It’s not cheap labor that forces Apple to outsource production overseas. It’s skill. Rose, acting like a 19th Century Chinese emperor, couldn’t believe his ears. Are the Chinese more skilled than the Americans? You betcha, said Cook: “You can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.”
Those multiple football fields are coveted not only by big corporations like Apple. Smaller companies are getting progressively dependent on them as well. Apparently, so is my Italian publisher, Rizzoli.
Few months ago, as I was ironing out the last details on the Italian edition of the Atlas of Prejudice, I received a strange email from my publisher. It said the book was scheduled for printing in China but unfortunately, the Chinese government objected to a label on one of my maps. My first thought was, “Did Xi Jinping break the news personally? I’m flattered!” Because, of course, I could be the new Ai Weiwei and that means a lot of money.
When I came back to my senses I realized that most likely my book was inspected by an anonymous clerk in a dusty office instead of the Politburo headquarters in Beijing. I got immediately pissed. As a proud indivudualistic Westerner, I had no intention whatsoever to allow such a blatant attempt at censorship to destroy my artistic integrity!
And then I started reading the forwarded message from Rizzoli’s Chinese partner:
I got the message.The Chinese Government Kindly Approved the Italian Edition of Atlas of Prejudice V. 1, by Yanko Tsvetkov
If you think that a commitment to freedom, or scientific integrity, or love of nation & tribe, or even the profit motive is going to preserve and improve civilization… think again.
In the end, all these Visionary Innovative Committed Challengers to the Status Quo will all kneel to power and the promise of a payoff.
(An ever-shrinking payoff, by the way.)
We Christians are expected to do better than that.
And this means we must accept the price tag victory demands to be paid: something that is sure to include the Displeasure of Powerful Men.
Others can afford to kneel to them. We cannot: not when it comes to the Kingdom.
No servant is higher than his Master. As Christ paid the great price for a great victory, we also must pay smaller prices, for the smaller victories we can win.
But victory is the goal.
Not stability. Not safety.
The West is old. The visions of God, long ago replaced with a hunger of power, is increasingly swapped-out with just a worn-out need for safety and stability.
China is driving for power too: but she is also getting old, fast. They are no longer on a slow but steady march to wealth and dominance, as they were in 2016 (the date of the quoted article). It’s all about austerity and perseverance… with no bright goal at the end.
Except, maybe, National Glory and Keeping Things the Same.
No more talk about growing wealth for the average Chinaman, anymore. Those days are done. Today’s move is back towards socialist autarky.
Just like all the other hardcore socialist nations, international or nationalist.
(North Korea says hi.)
The aging leadership of China (…just like the aging leadership of the West…) is just pushing for the good old days of their youth: in their case, the late Mao era of the 60s and 70s.
I’m expecting a softer, kinder, gentler Cultural Revolution to follow: and even that will have little to do with revolutionary ideology, and lots to do with just Obeying the Leader and the Strength and Unity of the Nation.
Christians are going to have to make the difference here. We are the ones who will have to shape the future, instead of merely holding on to the dead past.
God expects growth, life, victory.
God insists on justice, repentance, mercy, love.
Not in some masturbatory fantasies over the dead times of the 1950s or 1840s or 1650s.
He wants us to build His Kingdom TODAY.
Stone by stone. Step by step. Word by word. Child by child. Day by day.
As victory build on victory, year by year, the prices will shrink while the prizes will grow.
The wheat are going to crowd out the tares: it’s a wheat field, after all!
And the Owner of the Field is going to get what he wants.