Charles Barkley joins the China crew

Charles Barkley

Yet more celebrities have lined up to defend business deals with the world’s largest totalitarian state. One of them is Charles Barkley. On October 10, TMZ reported that in the view of Barkley – the former power forward for the 76ers, Suns, and Rockets, and currently a sports commentator – anyone who criticizes the NBA for its zero-tolerance policy toward criticism of China, which includes ejecting from games those who express support at an for the people in Hong Kong who are protesting Beijing’s attempt to crush their freedom, is an “idiot,” a “jackass,” a “fool.” Try to follow this logic, which Barkley served up on the Dan Patrick Show: “you guys have been killing Colin Kaepernick for the last X amount of years,” but now “you want to control what happens in a foreign country?”

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick, of course, is the mediocre football player who worships the memory of Che and Castro and who started the whole business of “taking a knee” during the National Anthem as a way of protesting the unjust killing of black persons by white cops. Never mind that when you take into account the size of the different population groups, white cops don’t kill any more blacks than they do whites. There is evidence, indeed, that white cops are more careful about pulling a gun on a black person than on a white for fear they’ll end up being branding racists all over the news media. Besides, what Kaepernick was disrespecting was the Star-Spangled Banner and hence, by extension, the U.S. – a free country in which he has been able to become a rich man on the basis of a set of modest athletic skills. As for Barkley’s claim that “you guys” – presumably the media? – had been “killing” Kaepernick for taking a knee, au contaire: whereas Kaepernick’s less-than-spectacular talent on the gridiron had kept him pretty obscure, once he began taking a knee he won praise from all the usual suspects, collecting awards from GQ, Sports Illustrated, the ACLU, the Puffin/Nation Institute, Amnesty International, and Harvard. Yes, a lot of disgruntled fans, understandably turned off by his ingratitude and lack of patriotism, stopped watching NFL games. That’s their right.

Abe Vigoda as Tessio in The Godfather: “Tell Michael it was just business.”

But how to compare Kaepernick’s self-aggrandizing demonstrations against America, for which he risked no official punishment whatsoever, with the Hong Kong protesters, who are literally risking their lives by standing up for freedom? Bradley’s excuse for NBA honchos who side with the tyrants of China against the people in Hong Kong whose very freedom is under threat was simple: “They have billions of dollars at stake,” he said. “It’s a business decision. I understand the NBA. The players and the owners both got billions of dollars at stake.” Ah yes, the famous old distinction that keeps cropping up in The Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s business.” This is indeed how the Mafia operates, and it’s how the American creeps who get rich off of Chinese slave labor defend the indefensible.

Nike: selling shoes, selling Communism

Hong Kong protests, June 16, 2019

There is no more powerful beneficiary of the useful stoogery of various Americans than the increasingly powerful Xi regime in Communist China. As we’ve seen in recent days, while hundreds of thousands of brave people in Hong Kong are risking their lives in protests against Beijing’s growing effort to crush that city’s freedoms, shameless creeps in the NBA and at ESPN, aware that China pays big bucks to broadcast American basketball games, have variously condemned the Hong Kong protests, chosen to stay silent about them, or played moral-equivalency games, equating America’s failings with those of a totalitarian dictatorship that imprisons millions of its political enemies and religious minorities.

Steve Kerr

On October 11, Tucker Carlson devoted much of his hour-long Fox News evening program to the NBA apologists for China. The focus was largely on Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, who is apparently well known for the predictable PC opinions that he shares on Twitter and elsewhere. Kerr, noted Carlson, routinely acts as if his reflexive echoing of received elite opinions makes him some kind of fearless hero of the oppressed. But when asked at a recent presser what he thinks about China, which actually does oppress on the largest scale ever known to man, and which Carlson quite properly called “the largest police state in the history of the human race,” Kerr hedged. When first asked about China, Kerr dodged it; the second time around, however, he opted for a bit of moral equivalence, suggesting that America’s “record of human rights offenses” was comparable to China’s. Only a fool or a shameless liar could say such a thing. Guesting on the same episode of Carlson’s show, John Daniel Davidson of the Federalist pointed out that Kerr’s brother is a China scholar – so it’s not as if the coach is clueless about the true nature of the Beijing regime.

Mark Cuban

As Carlson put it, the NBA is “beholden to China.” The league has actually banned its own players from speaking about China while on tour in that country. Carlson also noted another dog that hasn’t barked: Mark Cuban, the billionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks and who is famously outspoken, has stayed mum on the question of China.

Jason Whitlock

Carlson brought on a guest, radio host Jason Whitlock, who made a fascinating argument: the ultimate problem, he said, doesn’t lie with the NBA; it lies with Nike, the sneakers company whose products are cheaply manufactured in Chinese sweatshops by veritable slaves, worn and advertised by NBA stars who have lucrative promotional contracts with the shoe manufacturer, and sold at handsome prices around the world, with China, of course, being one of its largest markets, if not the largest. “Basketball exists to sell shoes,” charged Whitlock, who maintained further that “Nike is control of basketball.” Hence the refusal of everybody connected to Nike to breathe a negative word about totalitarian China.

More NBA toadying

Hong Kong protests, June 16

And on it goes. In recent posts we’ve contrasted the courage of Hong Kong protesters – who are putting their lives on the line to risk the growing encroachments on their freedoms by the government in Beijing – with the readiness of American individuals and firms that do business with China to sell out the idea of liberty for a buck.

Sam Wachs and his wife before being ejected from the arena

Since American sports are so big in the PRC, many of these latest stories of cravenness and cowardice have had to do with athletics. We’ve seen that the NBA and ESPN have both been lightning-quick to sacrifice any pretense of principle in order to avoid offending Xi’s tyrannical regime. Well, here’s more. On October 10, Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm reported that two different sports arenas in the U.S. had ejected fans protesting the Communist Chinese attempt to crush liberty in Hong Kong. On October 8, it happened at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where Sam Wachs and his wife, who had bought tickets to a preseason game between the Philadelphia 76ers and a visiting Chinese team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions, displayed small signs reading “Free Hong Kong.” Security guards were quick to give the Wachses the heave-ho.

Protesters in DC

The next night, the same Chinese team were in Washington, D.C., for another game, in this case against the Washington Wizards. This time there were several protesters. They wore t-shirts bearing slogans in support of the Hong Kong protesters and unfurled a “Free Hong Kong” banner. When the banner was confiscated, they waved a homemade sign reading “Google Uighurs,” a reference to the current internment by the Communist Chinese government of more than a million adherence of that Muslim minority. That effort, too, was quashed.

Adam Silver, NBA boss

As Boehm pointed out, the NBA’s aggressive treatment of what was frankly a small number of protesters at a couple of U.S. basketball game has only served to draw attention to China’s perfidy and to the NBA’s eagerness to do China’s bidding. On October 10, the New York Post ran an op-ed by one of the Washington protesters, Jon Schweppe, who explained that he and some friends had decided to stage a protest at the Washington game after reading about what happened to the Wachese in Philadelphia. The sight of NBA thugs “groveling to a totalitarian regime and censoring…fans” in Philadelphia, of all places, “home of the Constitutional Convention and the Liberty Bell,” had gotten his dander up. Would the NBA, he wondered, dare to treat supporters of freedom the same way in the nation’s capital?

That tiny Uighurs sign that was too much for the NBC bigwigs

The answer came quickly. When he and his pals unfurled their banner, they were told by NBA reps: “We respect your freedom of speech, but…we don’t have any stance on [Hong Kong]. So we’re just asking not to have any signage related to that in here tonight.” The little sign about the million-plus imprisoned Uighurs didn’t please the NBA bosses either. “My friend,” writes Schweppe, “pleaded that we were simply seeking to educate some of the NBA officials, coaches and players, many of whom had expressed ignorance about the issue. It was in vain: The supervisor still confiscated the sign and told us that if we continued to disrupt the game, we would be ejected.” Instead, Schweppe and his friends just chose to leave. Good for them for standing up for freedom. Shame on the NBA for putting its profits first.

Now it’s ESPN’s turn to bow to Beijing

A Taiwanese flag emoji

The bowing and scraping to China doesn’t stop. Last week we wrote about how Apple has removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from IPhones sold in Hong Kong. We mentioned that Google and Microsoft, as everybody knows by now, happily jigger their products in accordance with Chinese censorship. Then there’s Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, who, when he dared to express solidarity on Twitter with the freedom protesters in Hong Kong, saw his whole world came crashing down on him. His team owner, the NBA, the Chinese Basketball Association, a Chinese broadcaster with which the NBA has a lucrative deal, and a bunch of Chinese companies that manufacture NBA-branded clothing – all of them, shamefully, took Morey to task for giving freedom a thumbs-up.

ESPN’s China map

Next thing you knew it was ESPN’s turn. On October 9, the show SportsCenter, which is aired on that network, showed a map of Communist China that included within its borders the island of Taiwan, part of the Philippines, and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The map also included the notorious “nine-dash line,” whereby Communist Chinese maps indicate its utterly unfounded claims to the South China Sea. When called on its use of this map, ESPN refused comment, as did the Disney Organization, its principal owner.

Let’s look at this disgraceful episode piece by piece. Of course, Communist China officially claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and has never renounced its supposed right to take the island by force, although Taiwan is in fact an independent – and a free – country, and no map other than one produced in Communist China would include it as part of Communist China.

The red line indicates China’s South China Sea claims.

As for the South China Sea, Communist China has been more and more aggressive about it in recent years, treating much of it as its own property even though if you look at a map – a real map, not a Chinese map – you’ll see that the sea stretches far south of China, and is bordered on the east by the Philippines, on the west by Vietnam, and on the south by Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia. In order to bolster its territorial claim to most of this body of water – which is comparable to the U.S. claiming the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea – China has actually created artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that contains settlements and military establishments owned by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Xi Jinping

And what about those bits of the Philippines and India? What exactly is on the minds of the bullies of Beijing? No wonder the countries of east Asia are trembling at China’s increasing pushiness. That ESPN map was no mistake, any more than the maps of the Middle East put out by Muslim countries that just happen to omit Israel. Indeed, looking at that bogus China map, it is hard not to be reminded of the way in which the Third Reich, after it had attained a certain level of power, began to grab one chunk of neighboring territory after another, painting more and more of Europe a bright red, with a big swastika right smack in the middle. Make no mistake about it: Chairman Xi and his crew plainly want to paint their neighborhood red too. And when it happens, don’t expect the cowards at ESPN to object.

The NBA: a fully owned subsidiary of the PRC

Writing on Tuesday about the courageous stance of the people of Hong Kong, who have taken on the totalitarian tyrants of Beijing in the name of personal liberty, we concluded with the observation that sensible people in the Western world, who were lucky enough to be born in freedom, should look upon the bravery on display in Hong Kong with respect and humility.

Daryl Morey

Well, somebody admired the folks of Hong Kong. The other day, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted “Stand with Hong Kong.” But the owner of the team, one Tilman Fertitta, rushed to Twitter to say that Morey wasn’t speaking for the team. Former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming, who now heads the Chinese Basketball Association, suspended its relationship with the Houston team. Several Chinese companies that churn out merch for the NBA, including athletic wear manufacturer Li-Ning, also expressed outrage at Morey’s tweet. Ditto Tencent, a Chinese firm that has paid the NBA $1.5 billion to broadcast its games for the next five years. The NBA itself was quick to distance themselves from Morey’s anti-totalitarian sentiments, with league honcho Mike Bass lamenting that Morey’s tweet had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” Bass added that “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

Tilman Fertitta

In the end, Morey deleted his pro-freedom tweet and feebly assured all and sundry that he had not meant to offend anybody. “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted on Monday. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.” Could any of this be more pathetic? Yet this is the world we live in, where a Communist tyranny wields such power that an American citizen dare not speak up for freedom for fear of outraging Beijing. Sports like basketball and baseball are all tied up in a lot of people’s minds with American patriotism. But to the people who run the NBA, it’s clear, the greenbacks they get from Beijing are more important than the red, white, and blue.

Yao Ming

Nor is this cowardly, craven attitude restricted to the NBA. On October 7, it was reported that Apple had removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from the newly updated keyboards of iPhones sold in Hong Kong and Macau, China’s other so-called “special administrative region.” Did Apple do this on its own initiative, or was it following orders from Beijing? Whatever the case, as the Quartz website put it, when viewed “against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, the move exemplifies continued corporate subservience to the Chinese government.” The Quartz article further noted that Google and Microsoft, which earn zillions in income from everywhere else in the world, are so greedy that they, too, happily bow to Beijing – in their case, producing Chinese versions of their technologies that accord with the censorious dictates of Xi Jinping’s regime. In short, Chinese money talks. And American freedom be damned.

What is happening in Hong Kong?

This is our 800th post here at Useful Stooges. It is a landmark for our site, and consequently we have decided to devote this post to an especially crucial ongoing development in the never-ending history of the human struggle for freedom.

The handover, 1997

Ever since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, the onetime colony’s spectacular success as an international financial hub and robust center of corporate activity has obscured the fact that it is, in fact, ultimately subject to the authority of the world’s most powerful and dangerous totalitarian regime.

Hong Kong’s history is rich in irony. Its acquisition by Britain in the early nineteenth century was, frankly, an imperialistic land grab. But by the mid twentieth century, it was, thanks to that land grab, a tiny outpost of democratic capitalism and individual liberty on the coast of the planet’s most populous Communist country. Its population was overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese, but they were ethnic Chinese who were glad to be living in a free and wealthy enclave under British rule rather than under Red China’s heavy tyrannical thumb.

Hong Kong

Yet the fact that people in Britain – and, by extension, Hong Kong – lived in freedom while people in China did not was hardly dispositive. As China’s power grew, it began to demand that Britain give up control of this wealthy jewel. Fearing that China might retake Hong Kong by force, the British government agreed in 1984 to return it in 1997 on the proviso that its people would be permitted to keep living in liberty until the year 2047. This was the famous “one country, two systems” agreement.

Hong Kong Olympic team, 2012

The result has been a often uneasy hybrid. On the one hand, Hong Kong’s legal system differs from China’s. It belongs to the WTO, issues its own passports, and sends its own team to the Olympics. There remains a tight customs border between Hong Kong and the rest of China, and Chinese citizens are not permitted to move to Hong Kong. On the other hand, the city is policed by the People’s Liberation Army – a fact that has been of crucial importance in recent weeks, when all of Hong Kong, it seems, has risen up in protest against the bullies of Beijing.

2019 protesters

It started with a proposed law that would permit the extradition of people from Hong Kong who are wanted for crimes on the mainland. Until now, rather remarkably, there has been no extradition agreement between China and Hong Kong – yet another indication of the degree to which Hong Kong has remained a separate entity. Such a law, of course, if applied aggressively, could spell an end to Hong Kong’s distinctive Western-style freedoms. Protests began in March of this year and grew in scale and violence over the course of the spring. Quite rapidly, the focus of the demonstrations broadened; they weren’t just about the bill but about Beijing’s authority generally. So it was that on the day after the bill was suspended on June 15, a massive protest took place; July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, occasioned another large-scale public display; August 5 saw a general strike and yet another huge demo.

Airport sit-in, 2019

At first, Beijing held back, not wanting to do anything that the world would compare to the Tienanmen Square massacre, which took place exactly thirty years ago, in 1989. But police gradually grew more aggressive, and yet another full-scale protest on August 18 took aim at police brutality. Meanwhile, from August 12 to 14, a sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport all but closed it down. On August 23, protesters formed a human chain 50 kilometers long that stretched across much of the metropolis. As of October, the people of Hong Kong were still coming out in force, with a number of violent protests occurring on the first of the month, which marked the 70th anniversary of the PRC’s founding.

Protesters jam the streets, 2019

Sensible people in the free world should recognize the extraordinary, months-long exhibition of love of liberty and hatred of tyranny by the people of Hong Kong as a reminder of their own good fortune, a reminder that free societies are the product of centuries of struggle and development, a reminder that freedom should never be taken for granted and sometimes needs to be fought for. The brave and inspiring actions by the people of Hong Kong should also shame the leaders of Silicon Valley tech empires who blithely adapt their products to conform to Chinese censorship laws. American politicians, retired politicians, and their family members who are willing to lobby for the tyrants of Beijing in exchange for impressive cash payoffs should also have trouble looking at themselves in the mirror. Indeed, it’s fair to say that most of us in the Western world, while snapping up Chinese imports at cheap prices, have given far too little thought to the factory workers who manufacture those products and who can fairly be described as slave labor. Nor have we reflected sufficiently upon our own roles, as bargain-happy consumers, in helping Chairman Xi and his crew to build up their wealth and power to such an extent that their autocratic empire now represents a serious economic and military threat to the U.S. and its free allies.

Trump vs. Beijing

There are many ways of measuring the advance of the Chinese economy in comparison with that of the United States. But one of them is this: in 2019, for the first time, the number of Chinese companies on the Forbes Global 500 list exceeded the number of U.S. firms.

When the rulers of China decided to turn their country into an international economic powerhouse, there was a widespread assumption that the adoption of capitalism by the world’s largest country would inevitably result in a transition from Communism to democracy.

Xi

That hasn’t happened. China has gotten rich – and a few million managerial-class Chinese people have gotten rich, too – by exporting cheaply made goods to the West and by using sky-high tariffs to keep out Western products. But at the same time it has remained resolutely totalitarian, and its blue-collar workers – you know, those proletarians whose welfare is theoretically at the heart of the entire Marxist project – continue to be drastically underpaid in comparison to their Western counterparts, which of course is why China can sell its manufactured goods so cheap.

In any event, the fact that a Communist country, for the first time in history, either has the planet’s largest economy or is close to it, should be a cause for deep concern throughout the free world.

Trump

It isn’t. Not yet. Not really. President Trump, who has tried to rein in the Chinese dynamo by raising U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports – although those tariffs are almost nothing compared to the Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods – has been accused of waging a trade war. In fact he’s simply making a modest effort to come somewhere near evening out what has for all too long been a very uneven situation.

Anyway, China has thrived. Which would not be a bad thing if not for the fact that, as Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon putitin a September appearance on The Mark Levin Show, Chinese President Xi Jinping has turned his country into a “communist nightmare.”

Gertz

Gertz, who has written a new book entitled Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy, told Levin that Xi “has his eyes set on global hegemony, he wants China to be the dominant superpower in the world, and in order to do that, he has to diminish the power of the United States.”

Some Americans in positions of authority recognize that. Most do not. Too many of them are distracted by thoughts of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where the vodka-addled population is taking a nosedive and the economy is no bigger than that of Texas.

On the Levin program, Gertz praised Trump for taking on China – not only by fighting for fair trade but by “cracking down on China” when it comes to “law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and spying.” Gertz didn’t claim to have a crystal ball, but he contended that just as the USSR collapsed, so might China: “with a little bit of pressure” of the sort being exerted by Trump, “the whole thing could come crumbling down in Beijing.” Which would be a magnificent development for the oppressed, brutalized, and painfully unfree people of China, and would also make the whole free world breathe a good deal more easily.

Sanders: praising China

The other day we wrote here about a prominent psychiatrist who, in an interview on CNN, maintained that President Trump is worse than Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. As we observed, to make such comparisons is irresponsible beyond measure, because it diminishes the scale of those tyrants’ destructiveness at a time when many Americans – especially young people – are poorly educated about twentieth-century totalitarianism.

Bernie Sanders

A few days later, a far more famous person than that psychiatrist made an equally outrageous statement. In a late August interview with The Hill, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that China is growing “more authoritarian” in many ways, claimed that the Communist dictatorship has “made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”

Mao Zedong

Is this true? Well, first of all, let’s make two things clear: China is a massive country (it’s by far the most populous on earth, and has been for a very long time) and it has long been a very poor country as well. Yes, it has undergone a major economic transformation. But because it started at almost zero, in the wake of Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, even achieving a middling level of prosperity per capita would have been a big deal. Yes, thanks to its gigantic population, China has managed in the course of a few decades to develop an economy that rivals the size of America’s; but that still means that the average inhabitant of China is nowhere near as affluent as his counterparts in the West.

Deng Xiaoping

In any event,what exactly changed? Well, let’s recall, to begin with, that Bernie Sanders loves Communism, and that when he celebrates Chinese accomplishment he is implicitly cheering on Communism. But China has experienced an economic boom not because it has clung to its Communist ideology and systems of social control but because, under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it abandoned its fierce devotion to Marxist economics and introduced elements of capitalism even as it remained a Communist dictatorship. It helped enrich itself, furthermore, by underpaying factory workers and selling its products abroad at dirt-cheap prices. This policy, which continued under Deng’s successors, was aided by the refusal of Western countries to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – a refusal that resulted in profound damage to large portions of the industrial base of the U.S. and other countries and great suffering on the part of blue-collar Western workers. China’s success also owed a great deal to its currency manipulation and its shameless theft of intellectual property from Western countries. Oh, and it also killed a lot of poor people, which of course is one easy way of eliminating poverty.

Xi Jinping

Hence, yes, poverty in China has declined to a considerable degree. Thanks to the spectacular growth of Chinese industries, the country now has a great many more very rich people than it had a few decades ago. But while its biggest cities now teem with gleaming skyscrapers and its richest citizens travel the world and send their kids to Harvard and Oxford, tens of millions of people in rural areas continue to live at a level of poverty that brings to mind the 1931 Pearl Buck novel The Good Earth. Indeed, the changes that Sanders so enthusiastically extols have resulted in what may well be the most formidable case of economic equality – a topic he frets over endlessly when talking about the American economy – in the history of human civilization. And let’s not forget this small detail: everyone in China is still unfree.

Nicolas Maduro

But of course that doesn’t matter to Sanders. He was a fan of the USSR. He loves Castro’s Cuba. Until recently, anyway, he was defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. As Jim Geraghty noted in National Review, this is a presidential candidate who in 1985, while the USSR was still around, commented: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” Well, the fact is that in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Guangzhou, the new Party-connected super-rich managerial class enjoys a whole lot of first-class cuisine, while out in the sticks there are still millions who are, yes, starving.

Gasp! The Guardian tells the truth about Mao

Mao Zedong

When we glance at the Guardian, the favored newspaper of Britain’s left-wing elites, we’re used to seeing nonstop demonizing of moderates, libertarians, and conservatives alongside articles in which the virtue of socialism is taken for granted and out-and-out Communism is whitewashed. So it came as something of a shock, last Saturday, to encounter a more than 3,000-word essay in the Guardian that presented a sane and sober view of Maoism. The author, Julia Lovell, whose book Maoism: A History has just been published, began by referencing “the strange, looming presence of Mao in contemporary China,” which, despite its radical economic changes over the past few decades, is, she explained, “still held together by the legacies of Maoism.” Even though the sanguinary utopianism of the Cultural Revolution era has been replaced by authoritarian capitalism, wrote Lovell, the ghost of Mao still hovers over the nation of one billion-plus, and can be found in, among other things, “the deep politicisation of its judiciary; the supremacy of the one-party state; the intolerance of dissident voices.” Moreover, Xi Jinping has resurrected the long-dormant personality cult of Mao.

Xi Jinping

And the West, warns Lovell, has largely failed to notice. For decades, observing China’s economic success from afar, many Westerners have assumed that China has been gradually changing, that it has been becoming a place less alien to us, a nation more like our own. Wrong, insists Lovell. “The opposite has happened,” she writes. She points out – and this hadn’t even occurred to us – that if the Chinese Communist Party is still in charge five years from now, it will have outlasted the reign of its Soviet counterpart.

But you don’t have to go to China to find Maoism. You never did. Maoism, Lovell reminds us, has inspired revolts in countries ranging from Cambodia to Peru – revolts in which, as she admirably underscores, millions of people died. For eight decades, Maoist thought has been “a pivotal influence on global insubordination and intolerance.”

Julia Lovell

And what is Maoism, as opposed to Soviet-style Marxism? Lovell is helpful here. Unlike Stalin, Mao presided over “guerrilla wars deep in the countryside.” He preached “revolutionary zeal” and “anarchic insubordination” and “a pathological suspicion of the educated.” Stalin was no less evil and bloodthirsty than Mao, but the USSR never had an equivalent to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The most radical ’68ers in the West looked not to the Kremlin but to Mao, especially his “message to his youthful Red Guards that it was ‘right to rebel.’” Mao posters adored dorm rooms in American college; copies of The Little Red Book abounded. In fact, the Black Panthers – that terrorist group celebrated, then as now, in chic leftist circles in the U.S. – “sold Little Red Books to generate funds to buy their first guns.” In West Germany, the violent but trendy Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader-Meinhof group) parroted lines from Mao, such as “imperialism and all reactionaries [are] paper tigers.” Today, Maoist insurgents threaten peace and freedom in 20 of India’s 28 states, and “self-avowed Maoists” now rule Nepal. So much for Francis Fukuyama’s declaration after the fall of the Iron Curtain that “the end of history” was at hand. “Write Maoism back into the global history of the 20th century,” emphasizes Lovell, and you get a “different narrative from the standard one in which communism loses the cold war in 1989.” Bottom line: with China now challenging America’s economic superiority and global power, it makes no sense whatsoever to pretend that Communism lost out to capitalism thirty years ago.

Kentucky Fried Communism

Colonel Harlan David Sanders (1890-1980), KFC founder

We’ve criticized the New York Times frequently enough on this site for its readiness to soft-pedal the evils of Communism, to sentimentalize the enduring devotion of aging Stalinists, and to assert that in some ways the ideology that gave us the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and the Cultural Revolution was, quite simply, preferable to our own.

But we have to give credit where it’s due, and the Times did deserve a thumbs-up when, in April of last year, it ran a piece by Alexandra Stevenson about the ominous way in which the Chinese Communist Party is asserting its power over international firms doing business within its borders.

Even more ominous is the alacrity with which the firms are knuckling under.

A display of some Cummins products

Stevenson provided some specifics: “Honda, the Japanese automaker, changed its legal documents to give the party a say in how its Chinese factories are run.” When Cummins, an engine manufacturer based in Indiana, named a new manager for one of its Chinese subsidiaries, Beijing put the kibosh on the appointment, and Cummins obediently agreed to new “articles of association” with the Communist state.

A KFC in China

Since Stevenson’s article appeared, things seem to have gone from bad to worse. At least that’s the impression one gets from a recent Associated Pressstory about Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). On March 5, according to the report, the fried-chicken empire opened a new restaurant in the city of Changsha in the province of Hunan that is specifically dedicated to the memory of its local hero, Lei Feng.

You may have heard of Horst Wessel, the storm trooper who died at age 22 and who was thereafter transformed into the center of a Nazi personality cult. The official anthem of the Nazi Party was called the “Horst Wessel Song.”

Some images of Lei Feng by Chinese children

Think of Feng, who coincidentally also died at age 22, as Communist China’s answer to Horst Wessel. After his death in 1962 when a telephone pole fell on him, he began, at the direction of Mao himself, to be officially celebrated as the perfect embodiment of Communist virtue. As one Guardian reporter has put it, he was depicted as “the epitome of selflessness, socialist spirit and devotion to Mao.”

A Lei Feng propaganda poster

The problem is that even ordinary Chinese citizens recognize the whole thing as a crock. Feng’s published “diary,” a book-length paean to the virtues of Mao, is said to be an obvious posthumous forgery. Also fishy, to quote the Guardian, are “the numerous, professional-quality photographs that mysteriously captured every good deed by a then anonymous soldier.”

But who cares about the truth when you’re out to make a buck? KFC, like other international companies in love with Chinese cash (it has some 6000 restaurants in the People’s Republic), has decided to go along with the Party propaganda. “Lei Feng has been the role model for generations of Chinese,” KFC’s Hunan honcho, He Min, told the Xinhua News Agency, adding that the new KFC branch “will spare no effort to promote his spirit.”

The date of the KFC branch opening was no coincidence: in China, March 5 is Lei Feng Day.