A few hours after my last post on Bill Gates’ unconscionable silence over China’s sorry political and personal freedoms, ZDNet has reported on a whole new series of agreements between Microsoft and China. This is more evidence of the lack of moral fiber, and the dominance of money and megalomania at the expense of courage in the global economy.
I’m not advocating a Fortress America attitude, just wondering why we can’t have leaders who’ll combine a desire to make money with a willingness to speak out enough to nudge repressive regimes towards more humane policies. If we believe—and I do—that business and commerce can change the world for good, doesn’t it behoove those who are profiting from this to use their success to try and make the world a better place?
So I’m bemoaning our country’s business leaders’ seeming inability to look at the big picture, pointing out how pouring billions into China may reap short term benefits but also props up a corrupt regime. At the same time a good friend, Dave Churbuck, is in China right now and is filing a series of fascinating blog reports about what he is discovering here, and here and here. They are all worth reading, and while I might argue with him that he’s being a bit naïve in his view of the cultural landscape, there is no mistaking the passion, and intelligence, and exuberance that he is encountering. Not to mention his.
So, what is the right way to engage with a reactionary country that has unleashed the floodgates of commerce? Will the rise of the middle class inevitably lead to a relaxation of political and personal freedom in China that will create a society as open and extraordinary as our own? Or is the great sucking sound of our money, know-how, ideas, and innovations heading across the Pacific going to end up with us as an emaciated hull, in thrall to a resurgent China?
Right now it looks like the Global Economy is a one-way superhighway when it comes to China. My argument is that the greatest export America can make is simple, eternal, and awe-inspiring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
If all we can export is Microsoft Windows, McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks, we’re not only shortchanging the Chinese, we’re shortchanging ourselves.