Open Thread Friday 5-29-2020
A Look at China Part Six
Trade has defined the progress of Western civilization around the world. Measuring trade, negotiating treaties and trying to achieve the best deal has not changed.
After Muslim dominated countries blocked the overland trade routes only a few restricted sea ports were used for trade with the West. First English ships arrived in Macau in the 1620s.
At the start of his reign, the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722) faced a number of challenges, not the least of which was to integrate his relatively new dynasty with the Chinese Han majority. The Manchu-led Qing dynasty had only come to power in 1644, replacing the Ming dynasty. Support for the previous rulers remained strong, particularly in the south of the country.
Kangxi twice banned all maritime trade for strategic reasons, to prevent any possible waterborne coup attempt. Several rebellions took place, including one led by Ming loyalist Koxinga and separately the Rebellion of the Three Feudatories, which led to the capture of Taiwan in 1683. Once the rebellions had been quelled, in 1684 Kangxi issued an edict:
Now the whole country is unified, everywhere there is peace and quiet, Manchu-Han relations are fully integrated so I command you to go abroad and trade to show the populous and affluent nature of our rule. By imperial decree I open the seas to trade.
By the 18th century, Guangzhou, known as Canton to British merchants at the time, had become the most active port in the China trade, thanks partly to its convenient access to the Pearl River Delta. In 1757, the Qianlong Emperor confined all foreign maritime trade to Guangzhou. Qianlong, who ruled the Qing dynasty at its zenith, was wary of the transformations of Chinese society that might result from unrestricted foreign access. Chinese subjects were not permitted to teach the Chinese language to foreigners, and European traders were forbidden to bring women into China.
A significant trade imbalance was created with the Western countries over the centuries. British high consumption of tea moves the story along.
The lopsided British victory in the first Opium War (1839-42) inaugurated what is known today in China as the ‘century of humiliation’. Put simply, tea helped launch the British empire while also setting into motion the long decline of China and the Qing dynasty. Only with the rise and victory of the Communist Party in 1949, the nationalist lore goes, could the original shame of military defeat and colonialism be redeemed.
China had been cultivating the tea plant for more than 1,000 years – a wondrous product of nature painstakingly perfected by artisanal masters. England, however, came to the contest with iron ships, powerful artillery and the backing of the world’s first industrial revolution. For scholars of European empire and modern Asia alike, it’s typically at this point in the story – with the rise of the West now firmly established – that the Chinese tea trade recedes from view.
But, in fact, the post-Opium War tea trade has some important things to tell us about the history of capitalism. Looking beyond the North Atlantic world, in the tea districts of 19th-century China in particular, modern capitalism continued to develop, flexible and globally oriented in character. Even in the Chinese hinterlands, we find the accumulation of capital dependent neither upon spectacular technological innovation nor particular class relations, but instead manifest in a new social logic of global competition. After all, the Chinese treaty port system implemented after the First Opium War didn’t spell the demise of the tea industry but its expansion.
The Chinese tea trade actually represented China’s entry point into global capitalism. Tea was traded, directly and indirectly, for Patna opium, Peruvian silver, Caribbean sugar, English textiles and Burmese rice. Such activity constituted the first truly global division of labour, powered by the regional specialisation of colonial-world cash crops.
Changes in trade have been rapidly happening since China reopened to the West. This series of chart
1989 - Tienanmen Square episode
2001 - became a member World Trade Organization and 9/11 happened
2018- last year in interactive chart
For comparison countries impacted by British military historically.
(19:40-23:30) Discusses trade imbalance and importance of currency dominance (hat tip Joe Shikspack) full video 28:20
The United States and the UK were the only two holdouts in the World Health Assembly from the declaration that vaccines and medicines for Covid-19 should be available as public goods, and not under exclusive patent rights. The United States explicitly dissociated itself from the call for a patent pool, talking instead of “the critical role that intellectual property plays” – in other words, patents for vaccines and medicines.
Most countries have compulsory licensing provisions that allow them to break patents in case of epidemics or health emergencies. Even the World Trade Organization (WTO), after a bitter fight, accepted in its Doha Declaration (2001) that in a health emergency, countries have the right to allow any company to manufacture a patented drug without the patent holder’s permission, and even import it from other countries.
Why is it, then, that countries are unable to break patents, even if there are provisions in their laws and in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement? The answer is their fear of US sanctions against them.
Every year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues a Special 301 Report that it has used to threaten trade sanctions against any country that tries to compulsorily license any patented product.
Author Francesco Sisci explores the question - Does China offer the world more than the US? Does concede bureaucracy was invented by China imported to the West by the Jesuits.
“When the PRC acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, Beijing agreed to embrace the WTO’s open market-oriented approach and embed these principles in its trading system and institutions. WTO members expected China to continue on its path of economic reform and transform itself into a market-oriented economy and trade regime.”
China is accused of systematic counterfeiting, theft of intellectual property rights, and systematic misappropriation of technology, damaging the US to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars every year. And “the United States believes it is in the interest of all nations to improve Beijing’s transparency, prevent miscalculations, and avoid costly arms buildups.”
Beijing is accused of having broken promises, employed predatory behavior, and used the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) to expand Chinese companies’ clout at the expense of non-Chinese companies.
Not only trade is at stake. “The CCP has accelerated its efforts to portray its governance system as functioning better than those of “developed, Western countries.” Beijing has made clear that it sees itself as engaged in an ideological competition with the West. In 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping called on the CCP to prepare for a “long-term period of cooperation and conflict” between two competing systems and declared that “capitalism is bound to die out and socialism is bound to win.”
Therefore, “the United States does not and will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order. We will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the United States is in strategic retreat or will shirk our international security commitments. The United States will work with our robust network of allies and like-minded partners to resist attacks on our shared norms and values, within our own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.”
The American people’s generous contributions to China’s development are a matter of historical record. Now the US wants tangible results, not “pageantry,” the report coldly states.
A Look at China Part One Potential Conflict with China
A Look at China Part Two Documentary Series on development of Chinese culture
A Look at China Part Three Timeline of Christianity in China beginning prior 100 AD
A Look at China Part Four Century on Humiliation
A Look at China Part Five Players on the Path to Westernizing
Open thread all discussions are welcome.