Last week, Henry Kissinger (96) former Secretary of State and all-around brilliant pundit and educator, said in China that the current trade war between China and the U.S. has all the makings of a flash-point into WW III. WWI, he noted, started over a similarly seeming small incident. I respect Kissinger, and he is correct in many aspects. The Balkans were a time bomb of newly created nation-states, Bolshevism was being openly presented as a reasonable alternative to life and the Islamic State, as it was then incorporated, was under threat. Germany was high-hatting the world, convinced its superiority in technology would rule in time. Economies were good, giving belligerents a sense of infallibility, and there were regional wars here and there, with larger economies taking sides.
However, an always-valid question in statecraft is what would happen if we did nothing, e.g., what if we did not impose tariffs on China? In this case, we can agree there is always room for debate when you talk about what-ifs, but if many people think China would start to behave after taking over this area of the world economy or that, I haven’t met them. China’s history seems to be, like the Muslims, growth by conquest until you reach critical mass, then add another layer and tumble. The proverbial house of cards.
Back when I minored in anthropology, we were taught that there are “guilt cultures” and “shame cultures.” I am not defending that as fact; it is simply a fact that we were taught that.
The U.S., they said, is an example of a guilt culture. That is, we have a sense of right and wrong, and we tend to hold society together based on a fear of feeling guilty if we commit an offense. An offense would include anything from breaking your brother’s model plane to murder and sedition. Conversely, they said China is a shame culture, meaning that China’s mores, folkways and taboos are known and enforced, but only when you get caught.
In the West, enforcement is internal and enforced first by the individual; in the East they are enforced by the enforcement arms of society causing public shame, and especially public shame that extends out from the violator to his family and associates.
Obviously, those definitions don’t work on a micro scale, since westerners certainly feel shame and are shamed to force conformance, and easterners are completely capable of recognizing and interrupting deviant behavior before committing an act, let alone getting caught. In fact, I still am not sure I understand what they were getting at in anthropology, but I did manage to get straight As. In both Eastern and Western Cultures, that means I was a pretty good BSer.
Nonetheless, there seems to be something there, when observing China vs. the U.S. For example, they seem to have no problem violating the spirit and letter of just about any trade agreement, right down to adulterating baby formula with melamine. We can do that, too, but when we get caught, we plead not guilty (no guilt), and when the Chinese get caught, they commit suicide. In fact, it is my observation that Communist China is the biggest assisted-suicide culture on the planet. How perfectly woke.
We received a complaint from Lockdowel last week that another industry publication had “stated there were no United States RTA cabinet providers,” predictably pointing to some of Lockdowel’s U.S. customers that make RTA components.
There is no reason to suspect Lockdowel’s claim. It sounds perfectly logical, although we admit we have not verified it. We will just accept it on its face.
However, the complaint raises the reasonable question as to why so much RTA manufacturing is going on in China. We will skip the obvious wise-crack regarding melamine to avoid irking China’s security forces. They are busy beating up kids in Hong Kong at the moment, but they monitor e-mails and I don’t want my lungs and liver on China’s export market. If that is unclear, just search the internet for China, capital punishment and organs.
Even that, however, does not close the investigation when we learn that even organs from freshly executed political prisoners may not be safe on the international market, as China has discovered that the cost of a single dose of lethal injection is cheaper — at 300 yuan — than the 700 yuan price tag of a firing squad. This, again, raises the specter of melamine.
Back to the topic, Kissinger may be right, but avoiding war by conciliation doesn’t work every time, and manufacturers in the U.S. may be able to fire up an RTA line or two if the costs of dumping and currency manipulation get higher.