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FoxConn factory workers in China (screenshot)

Vassar Bushmills

A little background to President Trump’s proposed use of tariffs to punish China, a background that most businessmen his age will understand, while many of more recent generations won’t.

China cheats and steals.

And has for as long as I can remember. And since Taiwan was equally as bad about intellectual property, especially in their bootlegging of copyrighted books, I’ve often pondered if it isn’t cultural.

During the Vietnam War we had a small military mission in Taiwan, which allowed for a lot of TDY travel to the island. Military who traveled there were given small handouts warning against buying bootleg books which printers there had copied, in really cheap print and binding, but still, for a NYT best seller going for $10 back in the states, a great buy at $1. A friend of mine bought coins there and told me there was a pretty good export business for buying some books in large lots then bringing back to the states via Air Force runs from Japanese airbases such as Tachikawa or Yokota AB, near Tokyo. There was a regular hashish run from Thailand at the time, so criminal teams were all over the place, but the next leg back to the States was much safer for big boxes of books. College textbooks were more preferred than hot novels.

Publishers were losing millions, but students didn’t care.

That was Taiwan, not mainland China, which was not yet into economic expansion into commercial Western markets. Mao was still in charge, the Cultural Revolution still at full throttle, and Deng Xiaoping, who would transform the Chinese economy, was still in some type of internal Party exile.

So by the time I left my corporate position in textiles in ’89, with some history with the PRC Chinese, and decided to take my knowledge of Chinese business practices on the road, as a private consultant, it was with the belief, based on some practical observations, that they were not, in the western sense, men of honor in business.

They believed then, and to a great extent still do, that “foreign devils” from the West were well beneath them, notwithstanding that every improvement to their material culture since the fall of the Manchus had come about by Western invention. Still, that every Westerner was beneath contempt and worthy of being fleeced was deeply engrained. And a few American presidents proved them right. (Interesting factoid: “Kowtow” is a Chinese word, and not a New York Times word to define an effete Obama mannerism.)

I won’t turn this into an ethnic screed, as I know far too many Chinese living here who are not of this frame of min. But still, a thousand years of acculturation of royal Chinese worldviews could not have been erased by a few short years of “democracy” in the period just before WWII, when China was largely run by warlords. Chairman Mao simply provided a Marxist validation and system of control for what centuries of despotic rule had bred into them, especially about how humanity was designed, by nature to be ranked, top to bottom[…]

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