China

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The Albanese government’s policy on China so far is beyond disappointing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 4:56am in

Tags 

China, Politics

Prime Minister Albanese is happy to begin his prime ministership by fawning on the U.S., Japan and NATO, while all three move further away from China as a systemic competitor, threat or worse. China has sent out several conciliatory messages to Albanese, implying it wants a reset, with Albanese hurling back insults. At least as Continue reading »

The Hong Kong diaries: Patten revives colonialism, trying to attract interest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/07/2022 - 4:17am in

Tags 

China

Although the United Kingdom traditionally regarded Hong Kong as a colony, this changed over time. Given the stigma increasingly associated with colonialism, and the need to confront historical realities, the UK decided, in 1981, to rename British crown colonies as British dependent territories (BDTs). In consequence, when Chris Patten arrived in Hong Kong in 1992, Continue reading »

Tucker Carlson Is As Much A Propagandist As Anyone Else In MSM

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2022 - 2:28pm in

Tags 

Propaganda, USA, China

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/8ec96c5296eb352c1366e9df51de3e9f/href

Fox News’s fabulously popular right wing pundit Tucker Carlson has ratcheted up his show’s anti-China propaganda yet again, introducing his interview with Brazil’s rightist president Jair Bolsonaro with a psychotic rant against Beijing that, were it about Moscow, would have looked perfectly at home among even the most demented mainstream liberal punditry at the height of Russiagate hysteria around 2018.

Before attempting to help Bolsonaro reverse his abysmal polling against his left-wing opponent Lula da Silva in a presidential election this coming October, Carlson led with the completely unevidenced claim that “China has been busy with its own agenda — taking over the world.”

All facts in evidence say that China is not working to “take over the world” (that’s what the US is doing), but is rather working to give rise to a multipolar world order that’s no longer dominated by a single unipolar hegemon. All the facts you ever see people citing to claim that China is attempting to supplant the US as unipolar hegemon are, when you drill down on them, in reality perfectly in alignment with Beijing’s stated agenda of multipolarism. China taking up more space on the world stage only looks like an egregious assault when viewed through the prism of a worldview which believes this planet is the property of the United States government.

Carlson’s claim that China has an agenda of “taking over the world” is also absurd on its face because it’s nonsensical to claim that Beijing has been watching the US empire crush itself under its own weight, burning itself out in a few short decades with its frenzied attempts to rule the globe, and thinking “Hey that looks awesome, let’s do that.”

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Carlson also made the even more ridiculous claim that “the Chinese have succeeded in re-colonizing the entire continent of Africa.” Carlson does not bother explain how Africa was “re-colonized” in its entirety by China while the continent remains dominated militarily by United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and economically by the World Bank, the IMF, and western plutocrats and corporations.

Clearly the Chinese government is not run by self-sacrificing martyrs who gain nothing from Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa, but it’s absurd to put this on anywhere near the same level as the US dominating the continent with dozens of military bases and amassing proxy forces and the crushing neo-colonialism of the World Bank and IMF. Anyone who’s done any intellectually honest research into Chinese infrastructure development in Africa knows that it is far more mutually beneficial and far more ethical than the western systems of oppression which have been exploiting that continent for centuries.

“So, why isn’t the New York Times writing stories about any of this?” Carlson asks of the horrors in Africa he just invented in his head. “You know why — because the New York Times is on China’s side.”

Carlson is lying. This claim of his, that The New York Times is “on China’s side,” reveals so much about the fraudulent nature of Carlson’s populism schtick. It takes nothing more than a quick search of the keyword “China” on NYT’s website to show that the outlet has been frenetically churning out articles that can only be described as aggressively critical of China, like this one, this one, this one and this one, just to choose a few examples from the last few days.

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Do you see how this works? Carlson portrays himself as an anti-establishment hero who’s sharing knowledge with his viewers that they’ll never hear from the elitists at The New York Times or those fat cats in Washington, then goes on to tell them things that are perfectly in alignment with the agendas of those establishment institutions. Do you see how this tricks viewers into believing they’re getting the inside scoop on what the powerful are really up to behind closed doors, while actually manipulating them into alignment with the long-term goals of the powerful?

I have some overlap with Carlson’s audience because I criticize some of the same things he does like the US proxy war in Ukraine, so some of my readers get confused and upset when I say he’s just as much a propagandist as the empire spinmeisters on CNN and MSNBC. But if you actually look at what Carlson does from day to day you start to notice that he only criticizes some imperial actions which are opposed by right-wing populist strains in the US while continuously sheepdogging that audience into supporting establishment agendas like the cold war with China, legitimizing two-party electoral politics, and keeping everyone fixated on vapid culture war bullshit.

There is no more important goal for the oligarchic empire than securing US hegemony by halting the rise of China, and there is no figure more effective in manufacturing consent for that goal than Tucker Carlson. He gains credibility by appearing to fight the power, then uses that stolen credibility to help manufacture consent for the most high-priority agendas of the powerful.

And that’s just the sort of behavior you’d expect from someone whose life has been full of highly shady overlap with the Central Intelligence Agency and who has actually admitted to having applied to join the CIA.

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Carlson introduced Bolsonaro as a leader who opposes “allowing Brazil to become a colony of China,” implanting the idea that this is a real thing in his gullible audience’s mind. China is taking over the world, and the powerful political and media elites want it to take over the world, so the best way to fight those elites is to support the fight against China. Never mind the fact that the fucking Pentagon says openly that China is America’s number one enemy, and that the entire political/media class is firmly in alignment with the agenda to stop it.

The propaganda campaign against China has been quietly heating up on the back burner while everyone focuses on Russia and Ukraine. Every so often I mention China on social media and the responses I get from those who listen to Tucker Carlson and his fellow “right populist” pundits are just appalling in their stupidity and their white hot emotionality.

I am really not looking forward to when the imperial crosshairs move to Beijing, partly for the self-evident reason that this will be extremely dangerous and economically disastrous, but also because getting swarmed by all these brainwashed dupes in my replies is going to be excruciating. They’ve already been made crazy, and they’re going to be driven a whole lot crazier as this propaganda campaign gains more and more momentum.

If you’ve fallen for this ruse, it’s not too late to step back and realize that you haven’t been receiving brave anti-establishment commentary from the single most prominent pundit in the Murdoch press. Anyone who tells you that the correct response to your instinct that things are messed up is to vote for one of America’s two mainstream parties, consume mainstream media, and hate your government’s enemies is very clearly working to deceive you.

___________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Peter Drysdale and Shiro Armstrong: Australia must find common purpose with China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 4:55am in

Tags 

China, Politics

Both nations depend heavily on a multilateral trading system. Strengthening it together is a way of managing their troubled bilateral relationship. What might become the new normal in Australia’s relationship with China is a major question for the Albanese government. There will be no simple reinvention of the old relationship. But the change in government Continue reading »

Mike Pompeo’s Revealing Hudson Institute Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 12:02am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/09528fae7da52a34f0d6d50dfcdffdf2/href

Former CIA director and secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave a speech at the Hudson Institute last week that’s probably worth taking a look at just because of how much it reveals about the nature of the US empire and the corrupt institutions which influence its policies.

Pompeo is serving as a “Distinguished Fellow” at the Hudson Institute while he waits for the revolving door of the DC swamp to rotate him back into a federal government position. The Hudson Institute is a neoconservative think tank which has a high degree of overlap with the infamous Project for the New American Century and its lineup of Iraq war architects, and spends a lot of its time manufacturing Beltway support for hawkish agendas against Iran. It was founded in 1961 with the help of a cold warrior named Herman Kahn, whose enthusiastic support for the idea that the US can win a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was reportedly an inspiration for the movie Dr Strangelove.

A think tank is an institution where academics are paid by the worst people in the world to come up with explanations for why it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid, which are then pitched at key points of influence in the media and the government. “Think tank” is a good and accurate label for these institutions, because they are dedicated to controlling what people think, and because they are artificial enclosures for slimy creatures.

https://medium.com/media/3d08695cee43317cf642f1cf84c01568/href

Pompeo’s speech is one long rimjob for the military-industrial complex which indirectly employs him. He repeatedly sings the praises of the weapons that are being poured into Ukraine, two of them by name: the Patriot missile built by Raytheon and the Javelin missile built jointly by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, both of whom happen to be major funders of the Hudson Institute. He repeatedly decries the “disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” and excoriates the Biden administration for failing to control the world’s fossil fuel resources aggressively enough in its efforts to “prostrate itself to radicals.”

Pompeo, easily ranked among the most fanatical imperialists on the entire planet, hilariously says that “China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a form of imperialism.” He decries a “genocide” in Xinjiang and repeatedly implies that China deliberately unleashed Covid-19 upon the world, calling it “the global pandemic induced by China.” He repeatedly claims that Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union.

Along with praise for NATO and for the various anti-China alliances in the Indo-Pacific, Pompeo names “Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan” as “the three lighthouses for liberty” which those alliances must work to support militarily. You will notice that those three “lighthouses” just so happen to be the hottest points of geostrategic conflict with the top three opponents of the US empire: Russia, Iran, and China.

But there are a couple of things Pompeo says which have some real meat on them.

“By aiding Ukraine, we undermined the creation of a Russian-Chinese axis bent on exerting military and economic hegemony in Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East,” Pompeo says.

“We must prevent the formation of a Pan-Eurasian colossus incorporating Russia, but led by China,” he later adds. “To do that, we have to strengthen NATO, and we see that nothing hinders Finland and Sweden’s entry into that organization.”

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That’s all the major international news stories of today are ultimately about, right there. Underlying all the smaller news stories about conflicts with nations like Russia, China and Iran, there’s one continuous story about the US power alliance trying to secure planetary domination by relentlessly working to subvert any nation which refuses to align with it, and about the nations who oppose that campaign working against it with steadily increasing intimacy.

This is all the Russia hysteria from 2016 onward has been about. This is all the phony, hypocritical hand-wringing about Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong have been about. This is all the staged histrionics about human rights in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba have been about. It’s all been about manufacturing international consent for an increasingly dangerous campaign to secure unipolar global hegemony at any cost.

It’s worth calling this to mind, as NATO for the first time designates China a threat due to its alignment with Russia and as NATO’s secretary-general admits that NATO has been preparing for a conflict with Russia since 2014. It is worth calling to mind the fact that the US has had a policy in place since the fall of the Soviet Union to prevent the rise of any rival superpower to deny any serious challenge to its planetary domination. It is worth calling to mind that in 1997 the precursor to the US Space Force committed to working toward “full spectrum dominance,” meaning military control over land, sea, air, and space.

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People like to talk about secret conspiracies by shadowy cabals to establish a one-world government, but what is by far the most tangible and imminent global domination agenda has been orchestrated right out in the open. The US government has long sought to unite the world under a single power structure, no matter how much violence and devastation it needs to inflict upon humanity and no matter how much world-threatening nuclear brinkmanship it needs to engage in to do so.

This is the US empire which corrupt psychopaths like Mike Pompeo support. A power structure which wages nonstop wars in order to keep the peace, which continually oppresses populations around the world in order to protect freedom, and which risks nuclear war with increasingly reckless aggression to in order save the world.

_________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

China’s Singles Have Had It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Singled out

Marriage in China is at a crossroads. More young people than ever are choosing to remain single, pushing the country’s marriage rate down by some 40 percent in seven years. Yet Chinese laws still strongly encourage marriage — single people in China can’t adopt children, claim maternity benefits, or even easily buy a home in some cities.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that support groups are popping up for the millions of Chinese men and women who have vowed to stay single for life. Online havens like Huddling Group host hundreds of members who share tips on everything from dealing with stigma to navigating a legal system that discriminates against them. A report in Sixth Tone says these groups add up to a de facto “singles rights movement,” with members organizing for increased visibility and slowly winning public support. In one case, when a young single woman who was barred from freezing her eggs sued the hospital, a survey found 84 percent of respondents took her side.

“The best thing about this community is that when you express your concerns and worries about life, no one will pop up and tell you, ‘Go get married and everything will be fine,’” said one single.

Read more at Sixth Tone

Sea of tranquility

There’s an underwater idyll off the coast of New York that’s home to an immense array of colorful aquatic life including whales, turtles, sharks and corals — and its fate is now in our hands.

Known as Hudson Canyon, this ecologically diverse submarine trench could soon become the newest US marine sanctuary, a protected underwater area similar to a national park. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has the power to protect areas of the ocean, wants the public’s input on everything from what it might be called to where the proposed sanctuary’s boundaries should lie.

Achieving protected status would help the ancient chasm conserve its vital marine habitats, promote sustainable economic activities and create new scientific research opportunities. But the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which nominated Hudson Canyon for sanctuary status, hopes the federal government will go one step further and permanently close the area to oil, gas and mineral development. “We want to make sure we’re protecting it for the future,” said John Calvelli, WCS’s executive vice president for public affairs.

Read more at Smithsonian Magazine

Care instruction

Hygiene poverty is real, and not just for people experiencing homelessness. Studies have shown that for students, limited access to clean clothes promotes absenteeism, which can lead lower literacy rates and higher dropout rates.

So, when Pastor Leo Robinson of North Flint’s Good Church realized the nearest laundromat was four miles from his community, he built an affordable laundry facility right in his church’s basement. Now, students from the local school get their clothes washed there on a regular basis, and school administrators say it’s making a difference.

“One counselor said that she takes kids’ clothes home herself to wash them,” Robinson told Flint Beat. “So I know it’s a big deal.”

Read more at Flint Beat

The post China’s Singles Have Had It appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

A word on war with China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 4:57am in

Tags 

China, Politics

Professor Hugh White argues, in an essay, ’If growing US-China rivalry leads to ‘the worst war ever’, what should Australia do?’ published in Pearls and Irritations on 26 June, that, ‘..the very real possibility that a war with China launched to preserve the US’s position in Asia might end up destroying it, just as the Continue reading »

Anger at lockdowns in China fuels dissent against the regime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 4:32pm in

Tags 

China, China

After two months of total lockdown, some semblance of normal life has started to return for most of the 28 million people who live in Shanghai, China’s largest and richest city.

However, the Shanghai lockdown was just one—the most important—of many.

Through March and early April, at least 23 major cities, with a combined population of 193 million people, implemented full or multi-district lockdowns. These included Shenzhen, home to 12 million people on the border with Hong Kong and the centre of China’s computer, smartphone and hi-tech industries; Dongguan, the nearby manufacturing powerhouse, home to another ten million people; Changchun, the capital of Jilin province with nine million people; and Shenyang, the capital of northeast Liaoning province and former capital of the Manchu empire.

This wave of lockdowns was driven by rapidly rising COVID infections, which were testament to the unsustainability of the Chinese government’s “dynamic zero COVID” policy.

The world has long known that the Omicron variant is so contagious that a single infection, if unchecked, can spread to literally millions of people in a few months.

The Shanghai government tried to contain COVID by a strategy of targeted lockdowns and selective restrictions on people’s movements. By late March, cases were rising, but the high vaccination rate in Shanghai meant that no-one had died, and there were limited cases of severe illness.

Despite this, the government announced on 28 March that it would lock down the entire city for a week. That day 50 symptomatic and 3450 asymptomatic cases were recorded. Over the following two weeks, despite the near total lockdown, daily new infections rose and peaked at 3590 symptomatic and 25,173 asymptomatic; and took six weeks to decline enough for the lockdown to be lifted.

There are still significant restrictions on people’s ability to move around.

Lockdown and repression

The experience of the Shanghai lockdown was horrendous. Millions of people found themselves confined to their apartments. Not only were they unable to go to work or school, they were prohibited from going outside to buy food or other essentials, or to get medical attention.

The Shanghai government seems to have been completely unprepared. People waited weeks for food deliveries, and these were small and the contents of the food packages quite random. Some would get a few eggs, noodles and some green vegetables, others entirely different food.

This official incompetence led millions of people to use social media apps to organise their own food supplies, banding together to order large quantities directly from shops and warehouses.

People who tested positive and their family members were forcibly taken to makeshift hospitals which were often little more than camp beds in large warehouses, with no medical attention.

There were nightmare stories of people dying because the hospitals refused to admit anyone who failed to present a negative COVID test; of children who tested positive being separated from the rest of their family, their whereabouts unknown; and of a 13-year-old who was forced to look after himself for 66 days because his parents had been locked down in Shanghai.

The temptation in the western media has been to use these stories to reinforce a narrative of China’s government as a heartless, totalitarian monster. They ought to reflect on the similarity between the experience of many in Shanghai and the experience of people living in the public housing towers in Melbourne who also found themselves suddenly locked into their apartment buildings with no food, medicine, and no information. It wasn’t just in Shanghai that people were told to ring numbers where no-one answered the phone.

Resistance

This trauma has also sparked moments of resistance and self-organisation. In Shanghai, residents in some areas fought police and neighbourhood party committee-members, while hundreds of thousands came out on their balconies at night banging pots and pans in protest at being locked up without food and other essentials.

The severity of the Shanghai lockdown also sparked a series of student protests in Beijing in mid-May when faced with new COVID restrictions. At the China University of Political Science and Law, hundreds of students rallied, their mobile phone flashlights turned on, demanding the right to go home.

At Peking University, students moved to more direct action when steel fences were set up to keep them locked in their dormitories while academics were allowed to leave campus. In both cases, the university administrations backed down. At a student rally at Beijing Normal University, where in person classes were cancelled and students required to stay in their rooms to study online, some chanted slogans associated with the peasant uprising of 209BC. The spirit of revolt is never far from the surface in China.

Even where city administrations have avoided total lockdowns, there have been severe restrictions on people’s ability to move about. Measures have included the shutting down of public transport, and allowing just one member of a family to shop for food once a week. In Shanghai many factories were allowed to reopen during the lockdown, provided they used a “closed loop” system. This required workers to live and sleep in the factory and not go home until the lockdown ended.

One of the most striking features of China’s series of lockdowns is how often city administrations have made the same mistakes, despite two years of experience on what can go wrong, and two years to prepare.

Complaints about lack of food, of being denied urgent medical care, of family separation, of bureaucratic cruelty were widely publicised during the first lockdown, in Wuhan in early 2020. Yet when the major industrial city of Xi’an was locked down in December 2021, there were also complaints of a lack of food and difficulties accessing health care.

It is reported that the surge in COVID cases that led to the Shanghai lockdown was caused by the virus circulating through the air-conditioning system in a quarantine hotel.

The economic cost of the 2022 lockdowns has been staggering. Shanghai is at the centre of a large proportion of Chinese manufacturing and is its greatest transport and export hub.

Production of manufactured goods has been disrupted across the country as the making of components has been stopped and freight severely disrupted. Around the world, businesses that import from China have faced massive shortages and delays getting orders.

Economic growth in China is predicted to fall to around 4 per cent, one of the lowest rates since the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, and that figure assumes the lockdowns succeed, and that the central government launches another massive stimulus program.

Very little of this trauma was necessary. The Chinese government claimed that without lockdowns, sick people would overwhelm the health system and up to a million would die.

Those dire predictions merely reflected the failure of the regime to vaccinate older people, and people with underlying medical conditions, who are the people most likely to experience severe illness, or to die.

China’s scientists were able to rapidly develop reasonable vaccines to limit the harm done by COVID. But the government prioritised the vaccination of working-age people. Production and profits were their priorities.

When they did decide to allow over-60s to get vaccinated, they excluded people with health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, exactly the people who needed to be prioritised.

So, while the overall vaccination rate in China is nearly 90 per cent, 17 per cent of over 60s remain unvaccinated—that’s around 48 million people—and around half of those over 80 years of age have still not received two doses of a vaccine. Only 20 per cent of over-80s have had a booster, and three doses of Chinese vaccines have been found to be very effective.

There are other obstacles to vaccinating older Chinese people. A large proportion live in small towns and villages, and vaccinating them requires more resources and determination, and a willingness to patiently convince people of the benefits of vaccination. These qualities have noticeably absent in many city administrations.

And there is great resistance among many of the elderly to getting vaccinated. A series of vaccination, drug and food safety scandals have left many suspicious of vaccines. And these scandals have helped fuel conspiracy theories on social media.

Regime discredited

Alongside the trauma suffered by tens of millions of people, confidence in the regime has also been dented.

Shanghai residents sharing their experiences of the lockdown with others in the same apartment complex found their discussions censored and their phones flooded with messages extolling the correctness of the government’s strategy and declaring the total support of the population for it.

Everyone in China knows there is censorship and dishonest propaganda from the government, but experiencing this censorship themselves, and collectively, allowed them to mutually realise and collectively understand the degree of regime’s dishonesty.

One reporter commented that her neighbours were discussing whether or not the government’s propaganda about its rule in places like Xinjiang and Tibet might be similarly dishonest.

In a thousand different ways, confidence in the regime has been fractured during the lockdowns. So, news of health officials committing suicide because of the mistreatment of sick people was spread widely before being censored.

Perhaps the most egregious abuse came in the central city of Zhengzhou. Four small banks are on the brink of bankruptcy, having used various scams to raise capital, promising high returns. The people who thought they were simply depositing cash with the banks have been protesting for weeks.

To punish them and stop their protests, the local administration changed the status of their health apps, from Green to Red, suggesting they had come from a COVID infected area. In many places, a green status on your health app is essential to go to shops, catch public transport and even to be allowed to be outside your home. These people suddenly found they couldn’t go anywhere, and couldn’t understand why their health app status had changed.

Within days there was a widespread social media furore which even involved respectable legal scholars, and the central government moved to order an investigation.

Lockdowns are not some neutral public health strategy for our collective benefit in a pandemic. They rest on all the coercive powers of the state designed to keep us under control. They deny ordinary people the right and ability to make sensible decisions about their own circumstances, and impose harsh, blanket rules on everyone, creating extreme trauma for some, even to the point of death.

Lockdowns amplify all the incompetence and inhumanity of the bureaucracy because they impose this on everyone who lacks the power to demand special treatment. In China, a few of the worst excesses have been successfully challenged by protest and resistance.

But either way, the only positive achievement of the lockdowns—for all the trauma and disruption—has been to delay the wider spread of the virus. And it will spread.

In early June, as the lockdown was being lifted in Shanghai, there was a new outbreak, this time in the capital, Beijing. It was reportedly caused by a single, infected individual going to a popular bar, Heaven Supermarket, and passing it on to over a hundred others, who in turn spread the virus to their close contacts, leading to nearly 300 infections among nearly 10,000 close contacts living in 14 of the 16 districts of the city.

Just as they did in the West, lockdowns revealed the class divisions in Chinese society. They have amplified all the incompetence and inhumanity of the bureaucracy. In a sign of hope for the future, in China, a few of the worst excesses of bureaucratic power have been successfully challenged by protest and resistance.

By Phil Griffiths

The post Anger at lockdowns in China fuels dissent against the regime appeared first on Solidarity Online.

If growing US-China rivalry leads to ‘the worst war ever’, what should Australia do?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/06/2022 - 4:58am in

Tags 

China, Politics

Should Australia join the United States in a war against China to prevent China taking the US’s place as the dominant power in East Asia? Until a few years ago the question would have seemed merely hypothetical, but not anymore. Senior figures in the Morrison government quite explicitly acknowledged that the escalating strategic rivalry between the US Continue reading »

Ad Nauseum: Addressing America’s Advertising Problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 12:41am in
by Haley Mullins

One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving a steady state economy is advertising. While seemingly innovative solutions to consume conscientiously are becoming more prevalent, most people aren’t Marie Kondo-ing their way through each purchase, stopping to question whether the item in their shopping cart will “spark joy.” But how much blame can we really assign consumers when they’ve been dropped onto a hamster wheel of coupons, cash-back credit cards, and “consumer confidence” indicators?

We live in the age of the internet, where we can purchase anything with one click on Amazon. Websites track our movements and preferences as we surf the web, offering us personalized advertisements so we can discover and buy more of what interests us. To put into perspective how expansive advertising is in the USA, China is the second-largest advertising market in the world, yet its ad expenditures are estimated at less than half the amount calculated for the USA.

Advertising and Growth

Super Bowl promotions in a grocery store, featuring doritos advertising.

Super Bowl Sunday might be better named National Advertising Day. (CC BY 2.0, JeepersMedia)

In 1941, right before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, the first legal TV commercial aired in the USA. It was just ten seconds long and only cost the company nine dollars. Forty years later, the standard for prime-time TV was 9.5 minutes of ads per hour; today, it’s up to 14–17 minutes per hour. The cost of advertising has skyrocketed, too, but marketers are still willing to pay big bucks to make buyers aware of the “Next Big Thing.” In 2020, advertisers spent an average of $5.6 million for a 30-second spot in Super Bowl 54.

Firms advertise to create demand and promote consumption. (I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want socks with my cat’s face on them until I saw a Facebook ad for it.) While firms compete against each other for our business, they rally around the goal of GDP growth. Wall Street and Madison Avenue aren’t far apart—figuratively or politically—and both have skin in the growth game.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with ads though. A typical American might understand the role of advertising in economic growth, yet—apart from Super Bowl Sunday—we detest ads and go to great lengths to avoid them. By 2021, 27 percent of U.S. internet users used ad blockers on their connected devices. Younger generations are particularly put off; 48 percent of Gen Z consumers and 46 percent of Millennials prefer to pay a premium than watch advertisements on streaming video services.

First Things First

Steady staters have some significant hurdles to overcome in the degrowth of the American ad industry, the first of which is the First Amendment.

Advertising falls under the First Amendment right to free speech and free press, the most cherished of our constitutional rights. However, even the sanctity of the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee the freedom to say anything. The circumstances are important, too. Reasonable restrictions of free speech are imposed most notably when public safety is concerned. The classic example of unprotected speech is yelling “Fire!” at the movie theater when no fire exists, as the welfare of people supersedes your right to yell “Fire!”

While advertising isn’t as directly harmful as in this example, the prevalence and effects of advertising—unnecessary consumption, growth, and environmental impact—have become increasingly harmful to public welfare. Advertising restrictions already in place substantiate our cultural awareness of advertising as a danger to the public. Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, and cannot be deceptive or unfair. Additionally, there are restrictions on promoting harmful products like tobacco and alcohol, as well as advertising to children, who can’t interpret ads with a critical lens.

Society understands the power of advertising and the dangers it poses when used manipulatively. Thus, it’s poor reasoning to use the First Amendment as an excuse for “anything goes” in the advertising industry. So, what policies could we enact to moderate advertising, slow consumption, and (in the process) improve wellbeing?

Ad-equate Policies

Defenders of advertising argue the importance of the practice in aiding competition, a fundamental facet of a capitalist system to keep prices low and fair. As American economist Lester Telser once described, “If sellers must identify themselves in order to remain in business, then formally unless they spend a certain minimum amount on advertising their rate of sales will be zero. Regardless of price, buyers would not know of sellers’ existence unless the sellers make themselves known by incurring these advertising outlays.”

1960 Budweiser advertisement with four Black men holding beers and chatting in a kitchen.

Advertising: framing the consumption of market goods as raising one’s quality of life. (CC BY-NC 2.0, ChowKaiDeng)

Touché, Telser. Eliminating the practice of advertising isn’t practical, as people would struggle to discover necessary goods and services. But billions of dollars are spent annually on advertising, far surpassing the optimal scale of the industry. In 2020, U.S. firms spent $240 billion on advertising; all of it tax deductible, as it’s considered a necessary business expense to generate or keep customers. Herman Daly and Joshua Farley argue for advertising taxes in Ecological Economics (Second Edition), declaring it appropriate to tax advertising as a public bad because production should meet existing demand rather than create new demands for whatever gets produced.

But if we’re truly to curb overconsumption of market goods, merely reducing the quantity of advertising will only do so much in the aggregate. To change consumer habits, an alternative to market goods must be introduced. Thus, in addition to taxation, Daly and Farley suggest making media information flows more symmetric so that the public is equally exposed to nonmarket goods as they are to market goods. Essentially, we need a sort of nonprofit advertising to balance out the advertising of firms.

Nonmarket goods, things that are neither bought nor sold directly, do not have a readily quantifiable monetary value. Some examples include visiting the beach, birdwatching, or going for a walk. Perhaps, with more attention given to nonmarket goods, consumer culture might shift to better appreciate our planet and better understand the true cost of frivolously consuming market goods that come from the Earth and return to the Earth as waste. Our resources might then be reallocated to the preservation of invaluable nonmarket goods, a shift that may aid in transitioning to a steady state.

Redefining Ethical Advertising

Cartons of cigarettes with several different warning labels making it clear that smoking is hazardous to people's health.

Full disclosure: unchecked consumption kills people and planet. (CC BY 2.0, kadavy)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines “ethical advertising” as “truthful, not deceptive, backed by evidence, and fair.” The FTC assesses the adherence of these principles through the lens of a “reasonable consumer” to determine whether an ad meets the requirements. However, some argue that the FTC has a responsibility to protect the ignorant consumer to the same extent as the reasonable one.

If the last several decades of celebrated economic growth are considered, I’d say the vast majority of consumers fall into the ignorant category—ignorant to limits to growth, at least. Is it not within the scope of ethics, then, to make the true cost of consumption for advertised market goods evident? Is it not deceptive for ads to display a price tag that fails to factor in the environmental costs of production? We have warning labels on tobacco and alcohol products that consumption may lead to adverse effects, so why aren’t we warning buyers of the consequences of consuming other goods?

If we don’t restrict the amount or reach of advertising, the least we can do is demand full-disclosure advertisements that detail the environmental cost of producing and purchasing the product. This would, at minimum, include estimated life-cycle emissions, quantity of natural resources extracted, and the energy required to produce each unit. Such disclosures would, over time, raise awareness of limits to growth and could, perhaps, be the catalyst that converts our culture of conspicuous consumption to one of careful conservation.

Haley Mullins, managing editor for CASSEHaley Mullins is the managing editor at CASSE.

The post Ad Nauseum: Addressing America’s Advertising Problem appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

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