Locklin on science

America Against America: the Chinese de Tocqueville

Posted in Book reviews by Scott Locklin on November 3, 2021

Imagine if a hyper-intelligent and perceptive communistic space alien landed in America of 1988, and wrote an account of his impressions of the country.  The book America against America, published in 1992, is such an account. The author, Wang Huning is one of the most important people in China today; China’s “grey cardinal.” You’d think the meteoric success of China, and the ridiculously precipitous decay of America, incidentally predicted in every detail by this book would make America against America a widely studied book by US intelligentsia, but it’s so forgotten there isn’t even a wiki entry for it for me to link to. It isn’t available on Amazon (have a look at what Amazon thinks you’re looking for and despair), nobody talks about it, and you have to be resourceful to find it. People do know about Wang Huning; I had read something about him before the recent Palladium article in WSJ and Foreign Affairs, but somehow his seminal book remains un-commented upon and presumably largely completely unread. A book telling us what the Chinese elite think about their greatest geopolitical rival; seems somewhat relevant to current year.

The Chinese Grey Cardinal

I assume the legendary American incuriosity is partly at fault here; modern “political scientists” will have better careers catering to baizuo obsessions, like how to get people to eat more insects. Such gibbering ninnyhammers labor under the delusion that the Chinese are merely a variety of technological and industrial serfs; inconsequential exotic looking peasants who make their nerd dildoes, rather than a 3000 year old civilization with the world’s largest economy, and poised to overthrow the world hegemon if it wants to. Hell, the baizuo don’t even think much of Chinese-Americans, considering the efforts they go through to keep Asians out of their schools. Having more court eunuchs and persecuting uppity American peasants seems to be of more pressing concern to American alleged “political scientists” than the view of America presented by one of the most powerful men in China. I assume if contemporary political scientists actually read his book, a model of perceptive clear thinking, they’d mostly wrinkle up their noses at it. Perceptiveness and clear thinking are anathema to our modern mandiranate, who revel in red herrings, nebulosity, complicating simple problems and the fumes of hypocritical moral preening; preferably preening about progressively more grotesque causes detached from physical reality and offensive to neurotypicals. Read the Grey Cardinal’s book on America? Naaaah. The task falls to an obscure barbarian bit twiddler writing in his underpants.

Contradictions

Mr. Wang goggles at the material prosperity of America from the perspective of a 1980s Chinese. Kids these days are no longer familiar with the phrase “starving children in China,” but it was a phrase still in current use in the  United States of the 1980s. China’s 1988 GDP per capita in current year dollars was less than $700/year. The idea that every American house would have multiple telephones, automobiles; even the concept that the average American had his own house was heady stuff to the young representative of the Middle Kingdom. The idea that one could get these wonderful things without ration cards (and the wonderful magnetic strip ration cards Americans use) seemed utterly bewildering to young Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang also wondered at the productivity of the American farmer; he describes one man with 800 acres and 2000 pigs, and foresaw that the individual farmer, would give way to some form of collectivization, which it very rapidly mostly did. America of 1988 was already past its historical apex, which I peg as somewhere around 1965, but the outline of the actual triumphant America was still present, and the contrast to $700GDP/cap-year China will probably never be so enormous.

Young Mr. Wang then contrasts the mainstream and prosperous American with phenomena like the Amish (or the Amana, who I never heard of beyond their microwave ovens). People in the most industrialized country on earth chose of their own accord to live like Chinese peasants without the blessings of electricity and automobiles. This is extremely weird to a person from a third world country (remember, sub $700 year GDP/capita), but he recognized the Amish and other such religious groups are an important part of America’s cultural DNA.

National character

Mr. Wang saw most Americans as being relatively culturally conservative, though open to the world and cultural and technological change. He praises our inventiveness, wonders at the horror of modern architectural atrocities, weird fashion and punk rock haircuts. He also thought we have a particular talent for demystification. Most people with souls are  mystified by the sky, the ocean and nature; Americans mostly aren’t. We’re the children of the scientific (or at least scientistic) method in ways that no other culture is. Nothing is holy to the American; leaders aren’t particularly respected, and even scary stuff like ghosts are demystified by the American ritual of Halloween: a holiday which turns the terror of the supernatural into something fun for kids. This gets at something really deep in the American character compared to normal people. Especially when combined with his observations about the solemnity of workaday events like elections and sporting events, and the sacralization of insipid oafs like football players, newscasters and other celebrities. I guess he saw the religious impulse being used in strange ways in America; it really is pretty strange.

Mr. Wang viewed working Americans (he disdained those who refused to work) as generally in possession of good work ethic and diligence; almost wondrously so. He correctly identified the old protestant work ethic, and wondered that it had persisted well past the sell-by date of Protestantism. He noticed that a lot of people worked hard for Maslowian self-satisfaction, and judged this a useful system for getting people to work harder. The phrase “work hard, play hard” was illustrative of an attitude which is almost uniquely American. Making fun of people who forget to play hard is also something American:

The Japanese have a famous saying, “work until your pee is red”. Many people in the United States also work hard, but there is a difference between them and the Japanese.Americans have a special word to describe this kind of people, called Workaholics, directly translated as “alcoholic workers”, consisting of the words “work” and “alcoholism.”

Mr. Wang attempted to come to grips with American and general Western sexual ethics, and compared the skimpy ethics of 1988 to those of  Westerners from 100 years previous. He noted there was a broad spectrum of private opinions on porn, gay rights and non-marital sex, but that the sexual revolution gave all such opinions sort of equal cultural standing. He did not approve of liberal views on sexuality. I assume $700/year 1988 China didn’t have time, wealth or public health resources for the kind of antics Americans get up to, as they were too busy working in the fields. I wonder what he makes of current year Chinese sexual ethics? Many of the Asian strongmen decided it was pretty useful for social control: “muh dick” types don’t tend to make effective revolutionaries, and they make decent enforcers of the existing order when you tell them dissidents want to take their cummies away.  He also saw the side effects of social atomization, divorce and promiscuity; a lonely, alienated people: America has always been a lonesome place.   He also discusses a group of problems with socialization and introversion he probably didn’t realize were fairly unique to WEIRD college types -before the Chinese came up with the splendid baizuo sobriquet. A few of his anecdotes of upper middle class WEIRDos are too precious to not relate:

A delegation from the Japanese business community came to speak at a university, representing some of Japan’s major corporations and important academic institutions. The Japanese are rich and already known to the world. At the reception, many Americans treated the Japanese representatives with respect and looked for things to say. One woman official from the local government held the hand of a Japanese man for several minutes, smiling all over and saying straight out that the Japanese man had a beautiful tie. I felt uncomfortable looking at her. In fact, she was trying to get some Japanese investment for the local area. Americans mostly despise Japanese, but their attitude towards Japanese and what they think inside is different.

I’m with Mr. Wang; I’d have to look away in horror as well.

Social regulation

Mr. Wang was from a country with central planning, so the idea of using basic Keynesian fiscal and taxation controls to organize society was probably particularly foreign, and the way he pulls it all apart gives hints as to how the Chinese would eventually accomplish this themselves. Other subtle forms of governance which seemed noteworthy to him: for example, private sector accreditation.  His observation that pervasive technology of all kinds was a form of social regulation was insightful. Most American political scientists treat technology as a sort of external thing that happens, rather than a force for social regulation that both fit and shape the broad outlines of the culture. People become accustomed to their place in the vast machinery of society; becoming rather machine-like themselves. He had some interesting thoughts on regulatory capture, which is one of the major problems afflicting the US today (arguably not so much in China). Also worth mentioning: though he didn’t reference the thinker, he described Sam Francis’ idea of “anarcho-tyranny” where ordinary law-abiding people are regulated to the smallest detail, and criminals are allowed to run wild. Essentially the current year situation in America where inhuman monsters terrorize the ordinary law abiding citizen from above and below. He laughed at our tax code which is ridiculously complicated and causes absurd amounts of lost productivity. He did seem fond of the totalitarian possibilities for social control opened up by the fearsome IRS’s fancy-pants databases and national ID number which allowed for total control of the productive part of the population. Again, you can see the future Grey Cardinal rubbing his hands together over database technology; prelude to what was coming in China.

Generally Mr. Wang wasn’t a fan of the detailed regulations Americans have inflicted on themselves; he blames individualism for this. He might very well be right; a nation of individualists gives very little thought to social harmony unless there are laws requiring it. One of the wittiest bits of his book is his listing of animal control regulations; he just gave the broadest outline of the insanity of dog and cat laws, while the actual laws are considerably more detailed and absurd, working himself up to the following:

With a little more discussion, one can feel that American society is not so “free” and not as free as one might think to do whatever one wants. Even dogs and cats are not free, and those who have cats and dogs are bound by them, and in my opinion, by choice. Although some people love dogs like life itself, and the dog and cat industry is thriving, dog houses, dog cars, dog clothes, dog food, everything. But dogs and cats are very restricted. If dogs and cats had any sense, they would have gone to Washington to demonstrate and demand “dog rights” and “cat rights”.

Political Forces

Wang nails it early in this chapter: the two parties are a uniparty of the ruling class. Classic communist theory, which in this case happens to be a good description of reality. That’s why we can’t have nice things, and why outsiders breaking into the system caused an all-hands freak-out after the 2016 election. He arguably idealized the system too much stating, “The policy ideas that both parties talk about actually summarize voters’ problems, and then propose solutions.” I mean, it might have been true in 1988, it certainly wasn’t true from the 1990s through now. On the other hand, the CCP more or less does this today, from the block captain level on up. I’m guessing at least partially inspired by Wang’s experiences in the still mostly functioning US. People are easier to manage when they’re basically happy with how things are going, with their everyday concerns taken care of; something the budding totalitarians in our ruling caste of human soybeans would do well to recall. If it costs you a few hundred workers worth of effort to make the peasants happy, it’s a lot cheaper than paying for a policeman for every 10 people to keep them under control. He describes something bizarre that Americans accept as being the normal state of affairs in divvying up post-election political spoils with appointments; he names names, goes into details, something the incurious numskulls in the American media basically stopped doing almost 100 years ago in the FDR administration.

Special interest groups and lobbyists, he sees as an inevitable consequence of capitalism. He takes a sort of “schoolhouse rock” idealistic view of lobbying and special interest groups, but he immediately realizes the problem with it: the powerful group gets its way, and the regular people pretty much have no say in the matter of concern to special interests. He also called out the ridiculous Pentagon to Lockheed dynamic that makes much of American politics around military procurement so ridiculously corrupt. Obvious problem to a visitor who was only in America for 6 months; somehow nobody who lives in the place in current year considers it a serious issue, despite all the cost overruns and technological turkeys we’re afflicted with from the military industrial complex.

Soft governance

Wang had an amusing adventure getting an American ID card, I think in Iowa. The idea some insignificant local state-level bureaucrat rather than a policeman or the Federal government would issue identity documents is pretty objectively weird to most people on Earth. He attributes this to the American love of freedom, which is probably how it got that way, along with the fact that the state-level institutions existed before the invention of things like ID cards. He was also fascinated by the database system backing it all up, and the idea that people could feel freer by not visiting a bunch of intimidating armed ogres at the police station, despite the ogres having total access to all the information. Obviously the roots of the social credit system happened somewhere here. Wang Huning really liked American databases.

Mr. Wang saw the coercive and totalitarian possibilities of business; after all, a lot of conformity and soft power in the US is enforced by employers; from ever more byzantine “civil rights” enforcement (generally compliance serves business since it invents new reasons to fire people; keeping the uppity peasants in line) to vaccine passports: none of which actually increase the rights and power of American labor. He thought the American system of management was pretty tough on labor, and figured it would never fly in China; even on a social level. It was probably too close to the time of Mao for that, though for all I know there is still some kind of social informality between Chinese employer and employee which we don’t have in the US.

His adventure examining a county human services agency is illustrative; he was interested in the fact that this agency was designed to resolve some of the inherent contradictions of capitalism (of course, young Wang Huning was an orthodox Marxist). As a good political scientist studying a very foreign culture, he was intrigued by the management chain of command, and the various social problems, such as “Americans are known to beat their wives.” You can imagine the conversations that led to that conclusion. He wonders at the vast sums spent on this, and whether it can be maintained in the long term. He also traces the social services tradition back to old England in the 1500s, which was something new to me.

No visit to America would be complete without a visit to the Coca-Cola company. Seemed like mostly a wash; gawking at the beautiful investment grade art in the inconspicuous building. Also the fact that they donate ridiculous amounts of money to thinktanks and pressure groups to get political favors so they can sell more caffeinated diabetes juice. He’s a political scientist rather than a businessman, so he’s most interested in power relations. He’s too polite to call this what it actually is; a byzantine form of bribery, but he’s probably thinking it.

Like Coca Cola, Christmas is an American tradition, and he helpfully includes information (presumably for his mostly Chinese audience) on the origin and actual celebration of the institution. He also wonders at the ugliness of most of the churches, and the modernist and desacralized way the American Christian religion perpetuated itself via radio, TV, modern music and various good works. He takes the marxist sociological view of the function of religion in our society, and seems to think it’s over all a pretty good influence on American culture, with valuable social cohesion effects and few downsides. He doesn’t think Americans are particularly superstitious, as I suppose is the orthodox Marxian view of religion, and he argued that Americans of 1988 take a pragmatic approach to religion much as we used to with technology and virtually everything else. He mentions the downsides in the form of the various goofy televangelist scandals which were happening at the time. You’d need a petrified diaphragm to avoid laughing at the antics of Bakker and Swaggert and the rest in the late 80s and early 90s; Mr. Wang had a good laugh as well.

Educational institutions

Mr Wang mostly admired US educational institutions; I assume the Chinese ones of his day were a mess, and the US ones were still pretty impressive back then. Some of the social observations are interesting; the idea that education was a collaborative experience, and that the universities had tremendous soft power in spreading American influence abroad -these are things most Americans take for granted to the extent we’re unaware of them. He also examined government training institutions like the Kennedy and Maxwell Schools. I take it from his comments that many  80s era ChiCom functionaries were not so well educated, and were often fairly ineffective. He thought the military academies were of supreme importance, as was the political indoctrination which took place in these schools. He recognized the powerful cultural influence of football and what it revealed about the American national character; Americans respect honor, strength and are very outspoken; all characteristics on display at a humble football match. I hate football, but his account of the game was oddly touching and innocent.

Wang esteemed the various policy setting think tanks in existence at the time. These are institutions he eventually reproduced back home in China. He considered them to be a different form of postgraduate educational institution, which in the best case is what they actually are; albeit one with a particular ideological bent. He also marveled at the intricacies of the inter library loan system; something that didn’t exist in China of 1988.

Decay

Now the good stuff; the overt undercurrents of decay. The first thing he observed was how bizarre American families had become. He thought the decline of the family was a result of …. liberalism and individualism, which of course is exactly correct. Americans are individualists even down to child rearing practices: Americans isolate children from family from early ages, to cultivate individualism and sense of self. This is probably crazy-making for many -at least it seemed so to a 1988 Chinese man. The lack of care for family members was bizarre and disgusting to Wang, and the atomization into pure individualism caused him to ask questions which resonate with thoughtful people today such as,

Is human nature adapted to living a life with or without family emotions?

What kind of emotions should human society maintain in addition to sexuality?

Wang commented fairly extensively on the extreme ignorance and utter barbarity of the television generation, and the failure of primary schools to educate citizens to basic levels of human competence. He was shocked at the re-wilding of teenagers, the numerous runaways and juvenile criminals. I suppose the latter social problems aren’t as bad as they were in the 80s. I assume the lower testosterone levels of kids these days keeps them from running off and knocking each other up as they were when I was a kid. Kids are now raised by their telephones instead of the television, and are mostly too physically broken and mentally unwell to try to run off and make it on their own. He didn’t understand how America could continue to be American without basic civilizing of children and educating them to the culture of America:

If the transmission of basic knowledge is problematic, how can the basic values and beliefs of society be transmitted? How can they be socialized? This is the greatest challenge not only to American society and economy, but also to American politics.

Drugs were a problem in 1988; this problem has metastasized to being all-pervasive with  giant tent cities of discarded half-human madmen and druggies. The very fiber of Americanism resists doing anything about it; we’re the country of freedumb after all. Why not let people be crazy and do all the drugs they want?  He saw the nefarious machinations of various drug gangs being a huge potential threat to both civil society, the social order and the government itself. The Sackler family hadn’t blessed us with their entrepreneurial ventures yet in ’88, but I’m certain Wang would have recognized them for what they are: evil drug dealers who subverted both American government and sowed chaos in American civilization.

Drugs are encroaching on the United States with a force that, I fear, exceeds the various forces that have impacted the country throughout history.

Black lives mattering: Wang saw relations between blacks and whites as one of the most obvious and threatening social fractures. He observed the social and legal progress of the black community; still fairly recent in 1988. He also couldn’t help but notice the hypocrisies of white people, the fact that most of the bums and beggars were black, and that the ghettos were horrific and dangerous. He was horrified at the violence of blacks against Chinese-American people who obviously had nothing to do with black problems; something which persists to this day. He saw the cycle of black poverty for what it was; a social dysfunction of weak families that is passed on from generation to generation. Oddly, Wang talked a lot more sympathetically about the plight of the half a million American Indians than black people; probably because he was less likely to be sparechanged or mugged by an Indian. Both sets of racial problems seemed not remotely solvable to Wang. I wonder what he thinks of the racial situation now, with another 70 million or so people from all corners of the globe added to the population.

Spiritual crisis: Mr. Wang was very concerned that even elite university students knew little to nothing about the history and culture of the society to which they belonged. His heart was at least somewhat with the neocons of the day; mentioning Alan Bloom and his best selling 1987 jeremiad against the ignorance of contemporary university students. Mind you: the morons described by Bloom and Wang are now professors in the universities and high officials in government. They’re still ignorant pustules, now responsible for creating ever more callow gelded toads to infest the crumbling halls of American power. He identified the cultural nihilism of the baizuo all the way back in 1988; the upcoming tribe of people who would run the country into the ditch didn’t understand it, and didn’t much care for most of its inhabitants either. Dr. Professor Wang was/is a communist, so he understands that without some kind of ideological didactics or indoctrination, you can’t perpetuate your society. Without basic common values, you don’t share a common culture or society.

if society is left to develop naturally, traditional values will be difficult to preserve, and the trend of social development will always be to constantly eliminate the past, the new generation will inevitably have no concept of the past, and without education there will be no continuity. ….  Who, then, will perform this social function? Everyone who thinks about social stability and development, I am afraid, must first think about this issue.

Japan: OK, of course this was written in the 1980s, and it really looked like the Japanese were taking over back then. Since then, they sort of mutated from terrifying threat into a benign country of autistes who make reliable products and don’t reproduce. Whatever he says about Japanese hegemony in those days goes triple for China today, except somehow most contemporary people don’t recognize it as a commercial and cultural threat the way we feared Japan in the 80s. The problems of affluenza in the US eventually hit Japan, and is now a problem the Chinese elite are dealing with. Notice how they’re now limiting video game use, celebrities, reigning in their oligarchs and banning overt cultural subversion? All the people doing these things probably read this book, and saw the dangers of following America into such minefields. They understand the American cultural disease can spread to their own population and are trying to prevent it from ruining the heroic gains they’ve meticulously built up over the last 30 years.

A thoroughly enjoyable read; I learned much about my own society by viewing it through the eyes of a perceptive stranger who visited 34 years ago. I’ve always liked Chinese people for their frankness and open nature. Wang Huning had that quality in spades; a curious and pleasant, but very foreign guide to peak America and a diagnosis of its illnesses. It’s difficult to relate to current year people how much of an outsider Mr. Wang was when he visited. He was merely from another culture, but the effect was as if he was from another planet. I don’t even know if it’s possible to be that foreign any more now that we have internets. Mr. Wang is a sort of communist Chinese Virgil guiding the reader through the outer circles of American hell. Even if you don’t give a shit about the rise of China,  Americans will learn more about their own society from reading this than anything  published in America in the last 50 years.

This book should also tell you that America is probably going to lose in any serious confrontation with China, if that weren’t obvious enough from current events. Consider the China/Alaska summit in the early days of the Biden administration. Classic baizuo diplomacy; new administration, first meeting with Chinese counterparts, what do you do? Apparently someone thought it was a good idea to bring some ridiculous “broken branch” purple haired freakazoid, then harangue the Chinese about their internal affairs, and generally engage in unhelpful moralistic preening and grandstanding, as if the US were morally or physically capable of lecturing them about anything. It’s like the nose-ring twitter activist who lives in their parents basement insisting society change completely to suit their neuroses. This is pretty standard fare for the self-regarding bozos presently running things. Bringing someone that offends the diplomatic counterpart you’re dealing with, then lecturing them why they’re horrible people is a pretty major flex; sort of like Caligula’s horse. This might have worked in the past, or with weaker countries, but this time the Chinese were not impressed, and gave us a good foretaste of what an assertive China will look like, and how it will deal with the pathetic dorks in the American diplomatic corps.

While Mr. Wang gets some small details wrong in his book, or interprets the facts in a weird way because of his own cultural orientation; in general he’s dead right about everything. He and people like him are calling the shots over there. The American managerial class actively works to prevent accurate understanding of …. pretty much everything. At this point, you can’t join this social class of managerial parasites without overtly denying reality a half dozen times before morning coffee. That can be a useful social sorting mechanism when you have a bunch of over-educated grubinses knifing each other to get the good seats; but that only works when the corner office doesn’t confer any responsibility with real world consequences. You don’t get to remain the world hegemon when you don’t even vaguely understand your own society, let alone that of your geopolitical rivals. People with normally functioning nervous systems understand that baizuo-run America isn’t even worth living in, let alone fighting for. Good luck trying to recruit competent soldiers to fight for the rights of Taiwanese people to go to a gay bar or whatever it is I’m supposed to care about in baizuo-America’s ridiculous, unnecessary and completely ham-handed confrontation with China.

If you want to understand the problems we have in America as a technocrat, or even how American actually functions as a political society, consider the book of comrade Mr. Dr. Professor Wang Huning; our potential new overlord.  He’ll also shed some insight onto the successes of China. I hope he’s  laughing his ass off how unutterably stupid the leaders of the US became in one generation.

79 Responses

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  1. Montius said, on November 3, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Excellent. I will have to try and track this down sometime and give it a read.

  2. Ash Williams said, on November 3, 2021 at 11:57 am

    Read https://thehundredyearmarathon.com/ , “Unrestricted Warfare” (summary here https://nuke.fas.org/guide/china/doctrine/unresw1.htm ) and watch this https://www.bitchute.com/video/qg7DGd9XffZA/

    If you can’t put the pieces together after that, you’ll have to learn the hard way.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 3, 2021 at 1:18 pm

      That bitchute link originated in Guo Wengui’s Fu-Manchu like imagination.

      The Chinese have certainly done well in getting Western bureaucracies to discredit themselves, but that video is just being silly. The vaccines are relatively dangerous, but they’re significantly less likely to create mass death than cigarettes.

      • Altitude Zero said, on November 5, 2021 at 7:39 pm

        “The vaccines are relatively dangerous, but they’re significantly less likely to create mass death than cigarettes.”

        But nobody ever felt like having a good vaccine after sex, so I’d call it a wash…

  3. mitchellporter said, on November 3, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    Nice to see Wang Huning reviewed here. I first heard about him at “Reading the China Dream”, which showcases essays by Chinese intellectuals.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 3, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      It’s a great book if you care about America or China. It’s also very funny!

  4. Raul Miller said, on November 3, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    From my perspective these are all informative concepts, but they’re also missing something about the weaknesses of both China’s society and the USA’s.

    For example, when I go to the store and find that basically all the hardware is made in China, that tells me something. But when I inspect my options and see that it has been… uh… improved… in a fashion which makes it useless to me, that tells me something else. One possibility of course would be malicious intent. But a more likely possibility is that the people designing the stuff have no real world experience in its use. (A third perspective is that lack of such experience is indistinguishable from malicious intent.)

    For example, I have been seeing, more and more often, a degradation of the capabilities of word search systems. This does force me to use alternative mechanisms to find information, and presumably those are good skills to have, but also says something about our lack of resilience.

  5. anonymous said, on November 3, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    He thought the American system of management was pretty tough on labor, and figured it would never fly in China; even on a social level. It was probably too close to the time of Mao for that, though for all I know there is still some kind of social informality between Chinese employer and employee which we don’t have in the US.

    I dunno. Certain facilities in China house their labor in vast barracks: Their lives consist of queuing up for morning calisthenics, working 9-9-6 (9AM – 9PM, 6 days a week), and never leaving the vast factory compounds in which they are interned (unless they try to jump off the roof, in which case nets have been installed.) Factory managers are given an allowable deathrate of a few people a month due to industrial accidents, with mild reprimands for exceeding their quota. It’s total slavery, and perhaps a good contributor to their low birthrates. In order to have kids, you first have to have a life: Very few places in the world make very much room for actual life anymore, outside of work. In China there are so many people that their nation has been treating life as very cheap and expendable.

    Japan, a very different country without so much overt slavery, was the first to seriously encounter below-replacement fertility: Again, because their people had no lives. Work took everything, and only gave a salary in return. I’m sure the first 9PM office party on a Saturday night after a 6 day week is a fun social occasion, but after it goes on every week all year, edging out any time you could get to yourself for your own hobbies and your own family, I’d want to throttle the kapo who keeps dreaming up the mandatory fun. There is society, then there is “socialization”, and one drives out the other!!

    The argument for China is that maybe having the vast majority of your country reduced to being immiserated suicidal meat robots makes you powerful and able to win in any conflict. The production benefits of slave-labor are upfront and obvious.

    I’d rather make the argument that the solitude that few other cultures on Earth seems to value is *vitally necessary* – it’s the breathing space in which people can grow their own lives, which are necessary for any creativity, and any invention, and even just propagating the species.

    • Raul Miller said, on November 3, 2021 at 3:34 pm

      “The argument for China is that maybe having the vast majority of your country reduced to being immiserated suicidal meat robots makes you powerful and able to win in any conflict. The production benefits of slave-labor are upfront and obvious.”

      Conflicts which presumably do not have your adversary leveraging the suicidal character of your meat robots…

      (With the internet in place, the inevitable conflicts play out differently — in some ways, not in others — from pre-internet conflicts.)

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 3, 2021 at 4:43 pm

      I have no idea what conditions are for the working class in China. I know it’s fine for most white collar types.

      >it’s the breathing space in which people can grow their own lives, which are necessary for any creativity, and any invention, and even just propagating the species

      Maybe so, but it’s not human-normal either. Most people aren’t creative or inventors; most people probably should just be around people all the time. I live in a culture closer to Chinese norms, and it’s a lot more sane (and, oddly, less stiflingly conformist) than, say, Berkeley.

      • Bah said, on November 4, 2021 at 3:05 pm

        This is why China lacks innovation and has to *ahem* steal/hack/IP share then reverse engineer (why many of the things out from China are close knock-offs to being very similar in shape). That is slowly changing now though as rebellions form (people that want to live a relaxed lifestyle than slave away) and after learning what they can from Western institutions to bring back home.

        Imo I think progressive culture in moderation is fine but the way it’s going with the left, it starts to look like degeneracy and decline for society.

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 4, 2021 at 5:19 pm

          I don’t think that’s why they steal IP; they steal IP because it’s easy to do, vastly more predictable than running an R&D program and there are no adverse consequences. Plenty of dipshits in Silly Con valley work like this also, as did Edison’s lot, the 60s space program and everyone else who ever got things done.

          “Progressive culture” used to consist of being nice to people who were different from the mainstream. Now it’s a weird gnostic death cult. I’ve written about this before; my first Takimag article even: it’s extremely common in human history when civilization becomes too comfortable, and broken people start calling the shots.

  6. […] America Against America: the Chinese de Tocqueville […]

  7. anonymous said, on November 3, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t think America really has any idea why the Protestant work ethic actually worked for us: What made it a functional cultural trait instead of a suicidal handle that sociopaths could use to manipulate people (as it was used in Dickensian England). Yes, Americans worked hard – they worked incredibly hard *on their own enterprises*. Putting in 60+ hour weeks makes sense when the thing you put in 60 hour weeks on is *yours*: Your farm, your grocery store, your small industrial concern. Something where you keep the profits, the credit, and build what you can pass on to your kids.

    Putting in a 60 hour week at “the office” for some pat on the back and a 2000s+ era “market competitive salary” is stupid. Especially when you’ll be fired at random in 4 years when some corporate aristocrat has a brainwave and decides to sell off your division.

    Americans worked hard, and then they GOT PAID. And then they got to take extremely liberal vacations/sabbaticals/etc. I was watching this video on steel-ships on the Great Lakes. It had to have been taken in the late 70s/early 80s. It was like encountering the film reel in that TV adaptation of “The Man in the High Castle”: So shockingly different was that world from the tragic remnant of it I drive by every day. The commercials, the TV advertisements for jobs at various firms doing things with matter in the real world, how well maintained the houses were, what the cars and architecture looked like.

    Yeah, those guys would work continuously, leaving home for 3 week tours out on the lakes. They worked around dangerous equipment, using overpowered machinery to move tons of ore and steel around. They also got to take 3-4 months a year off, and were paid more in inflation adjusted dollars as working class schmoes than I manage. Their off weeks were theirs to do with as they pleased, which they used building their own civic culture on shore.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 3, 2021 at 4:39 pm

      This one?

      The post-Soviet history of America (and the West in general) has been the slow-motion looting of the place and the utter destruction of labor’s bargaining power. It’s like the lack of scary commie enemies made the lizard men think they could just steal everything and nobody would get mad. And of course “muh experts” telling them somehow everyone was better off shipping all the jobs overseas.

      • anonymous said, on November 4, 2021 at 10:38 pm

        That looks like it might be it. Familiar scenes anyway. I must have been watching a different video on the shore-life stuff, I vaguely remember there being more of it.

      • gbell12 said, on November 4, 2021 at 11:38 pm

        I had never thought of Cleveland being an industrial city (ignorance/generational).
        Out of curiousity, I had a look at jobs available. How depressing:

        Part-Time Stocker
        Mail Processing Clerk
        Residency Compliance Officer
        Temporary Meter Reader
        Lottery Ticket Sales Representative

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2021 at 12:18 pm

          I think Trent Reznor was a scion of a heater manufacturer. Pretty sure those heaters are no longer made in Cleveland. So, most notable Cleveland export of the last 20 years: music for a dying civilization.

          • Raul Miller said, on November 6, 2021 at 11:31 pm

            Being depressing is plausibly an evolved cultural defense against “treasure hunters”.

            Specifically: making a habit of having nothing worth taking. Not a perfect defense, obviously.

  8. a scruffian said, on November 3, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    He also thought we have a particular talent for demystification. Most people with souls are mystified by the sky, the ocean and nature; Americans mostly aren’t. We’re the children of the scientific (or at least scientistic) method in ways that no other culture is. Nothing is holy to the American; leaders aren’t particularly respected, and even scary stuff like ghosts are demystified by the American ritual of Halloween: a holiday which turns the terror of the supernatural into something fun for kids. This gets at something really deep in the American character compared to normal people.

    True. Arguably the most archetypical American was Robert Heinlein; the common threads of its 19th, 20th, and 21st century attitudes all run through him, from libertarian-frontierism to transsexualism. As he said, ” ‘supernatural’ is a null word”.

    …somehow most contemporary people don’t recognize it as a commercial and cultural threat the way we feared Japan in the 80s.

    Not at all true in my experience: Rising China has been a conversational commonplace from about the year 2000 — if it’s emphasized less now, that’s just because it’s too obvious to need stating. All our stuff is made in China, ergo they have us by the balls.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 4, 2021 at 11:36 am

      80s movies and futurists just assumed Japan would run everything: see Blade Runner. It was a huge thing back then, amplified by rage of WW-2 war veterans who fought in the pacific theater. The attitude today seems to be to pretend China doesn’t exist. You’ll get some twee newsweek article once in a while, and Very Serious Persons talking about China justifying an increased military budget, but that’s about it. Not the same on a cultural level at all.

      • Raul Miller said, on November 4, 2021 at 3:12 pm

        Pandemic presumably overwhelmed a lot of people.

  9. Igor Dabik said, on November 3, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Scott-

    Attached is the PDF of the book and it’s bibliography in case you have a way to host/link it for your readers.

    Great piece as always. Happy to see you found this book as important as I did. When I did my masters degree in national security studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown between 2011-2013 and heavily cited this book in one of my papers, a professor (and China “expert”) had never heard about the book or the man, and dismissed it as “a fringe account”.

    Cheers,

    Igor

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  10. Rickey said, on November 3, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    A couple of weeks ago, I sent the Palladium article “The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning” to three U.S. Naval intelligence officers I know. They were too busy to read it and did not think it was worth their time. Maybe they are interested in the CNO’s reading list.

    https://www.dodreads.com/product/purchase-the-navy-reading-list/

    There are some decent books in there but it includes several turds in the punchbowl such as
    HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST: By Ibram X. Kendi

    Most of the persons I know in the intelligence community are mainly bean counters and signal processors and completely ignore cultural and religious factors.

  11. Raul Miller said, on November 3, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    We have plenty of people concerning themselves with religious issues.

  12. X. said, on November 4, 2021 at 1:35 am

    Hey Scott,

    Do you think it’s still worth it to break into finance and work with hedge funds, or HFT or other more exotic sectors?

  13. gbell12 said, on November 4, 2021 at 1:38 am

    You mentioned declining testosterone levels… are you aware of Dr Shanna Swan’s work? Chilling.

    Here’s one:

  14. Igor Bukanov said, on November 4, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    An overweight coach potato man can have up two twice the level of testosterone than a man from hunter-gatherer societies that still exists in Africa. It is energetically expensive for a body to produce testosterone. The body syntheses the extra only in presence of unspent energy and there is none of that if one needs to walk for hours in Savannah each day.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 4, 2021 at 5:51 pm

      I’m not sure that’s true, and even if it is, it’s not useful. Men from Boston have higher T levels than in the rest of the country (probably coming from a long line of germano-celtic brawlers), but the decline in both testosterone and sperm count in Boston has been as bad as in the rest of Western Civilization. Whether it is aromatase/being fat, soy, xenoestrogenic chemicals in beer, pesticides, plastic, soap and BPAs in thermal receipts: whatever it is should be extremely alarming. I’m fairly well convinced it has had enormous cultural effects. Men with 275ng/dl or less are observably not psychologically normal, and it’s extremely common among men in the managerial classes.
      274, 144, 140 ng/dl for the men in this group of NPR geldings for example. All are eligible for HRT. Though they’d probably have a hard time keeping their jobs.

      https://www.thisamericanlife.org/220/testosterone

      Normal to be both physically and psychologically healthy is 500 to 1000, IMO.

      • Igor Bukanov said, on November 4, 2021 at 9:38 pm

        https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/17/12/3251/569620 from 2002 lists the average testosterone level for aboriginal people in Paraguay as 192 ng/dl, significantly lower then even the current average for USA. What is interesting that for them the level stays constant during lifetime, while among man in US it declines with age.

        https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040503&type=printable discuss energy expenditure among Hadza foragers and that hypothesis that higher level of testosterone in Western populations is a consequence of inactivity.

        But then when talking about testosterone and other hormones what is also important is the level of sensitivity of receptors affected by them. And as many bodybuilders know sensitivity to testosterone is affected by food, but the effect is not a long-term one as greater sensitivity decreases eventually the hormone production.

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2021 at 12:42 am

          C’mon man, it’s 192 picomole/dl, that’s 600ng/dl; quite high for an American man in the West; higher than Boston average. At least get the fookin’ numbers right.

          • Igor Bukanov said, on November 5, 2021 at 9:52 am

            That was stupid of me. Plus the numbers were for salivary testosterone level, which is entirely different from blood levels.

            The numbers given in the article are as following where US numbers is from men from Massachusetts in 2000:

            Population All ages 15 to <30 years 15 to < 45 years 45–60 years
            USA 259 335 288 238
            Congo 268 286 250 247
            Nepal 240 251 224 225
            Paraguay 192 197 187 192

            So for young adults in 2000 the numbers in US were much higher than in aboriginal populations and only after 45 years they dropped to level compared with those.

            Now, if one accounts for 25% decline during the last 20 years among young men in US that still translates to 240 pmol/l for salivary testosterone, which is comparable to aboriginal populations. That decline can be entirely explained by the increase in BMI and is much smaller for older population where again BMI increase explains it. So if one is young and lean in US in 2021 his level is still much higher than for young man in aboriginal populations.

            • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2021 at 12:15 pm

              I’m sure well fed cheeseburger people can have higher testosterone than people subsisting on grubs and roots. We no longer have hunter gatherers who subsist on megafauna to do a meaningful test against; the plains Indians seemed a little more impressive than the bushmen.

              It seems worth worrying about to me; whether it’s obesity (the real public health problem: covid is a disease of fat diabetics with no vitamin-D in their bodies) or chemicals, the fact that we’re gelding ourselves ought to be a matter of concern. Especially when we put the resulting eunuchs in charge of our societal institutions.

              • Igor Bukanov said, on November 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm

                The eunuchs (especially of self-made variety) in charge are really bad judging by history. But dropping testosterone itself is not since there is a good understanding of a mechanism why it is so. Body fat converts testosterone into estrogen. So stop obesity epidemic and testosterone will be back. At least for now there is no need to blame unknown chemical pollutants for that.

                • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2021 at 4:03 pm

                  How many of the squeaky voiced NPR geldings in the linked podcast above do you think are obese? My guess (I remember checking at some point) is 0. So, while obesity is a good guess as a factor, it’s definitely not the only factor. Virtually everyone I know in the tech business and managerial classes visibly has low testosterone. Most of them are not fat!

                  Just as the uselessness of our eunuchs is also not only due to their testosterone levels.

  15. Marty Grove said, on November 6, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    What do you recommend young people in America to do? Should ambitious young people leave America to settle roots somewhere else? An opinion that has grown popular in dissident circles is that young people should stay in small, tight-knit communities and build new institutions/systems, building and waiting a generation for the moment when the official government starts to really lose any sort of relevancy or control over normal people’s lives.

    • Raul Miller said, on November 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      Building small productive communities and preparing for disasters is often a good thing. Even if you prepare for the wrong disasters, some disasters are inevitable (given enough time).

      But most people aren’t going to have the necessary skills, and generally speaking this is going to be really tough. People who can pull it off have my respect (despite the nearly inevitable disagreements I might have with their people on specific factual issues).

      Leaving the country can also work for some people though it works best for people who don’t particularly benefit from the move. Still, some people enjoy that sort of thing.

      Anyways, … it’s difficult to come up with generically good advice. But if you can find something you enjoy doing, that other people benefit from, that can be a good starting clue.

  16. […] Scott Locklin reviews America Against America, Wang Huning’s 1992 treatise on his observations of the United States of America. Huning is now a high ranking Communist party official, and considered to be Xi Jingping’s “grey cardinal“. I suggest, as does Locklin, that if you want to understand China’s current position on the US, you start with America Against America. […]

  17. anonymous said, on November 9, 2021 at 12:23 am

    You know, I’m actually really surprised. I’m a little ways into the book. This guy genuinely seems to be trying to understand America, and he seems to have remarkable freedom to think his own thoughts and write about his thinking. I’m getting no cramped, dogma-hemmed Soviet apparatchik vibe from this guy. He hasn’t talked a lot about China, and maybe he can’t, but no one is feeding him his lines about America. You can’t say as much for the current President!

    So much of our own cultural output these days is like something vomited from a malfunctioning mindless ideological robot. The sheer amount of fear out there about the ludicrous hysterical punishment that reliably descends on people for following thoughts to bleeding obvious conclusions is infuriating. (And one of the reasons I keep anonymous.)

    PS: My view of Chinese labor comes from an industrial/manufacturing/automation engineer that I know. The general attitude of managerial class in this country seems to be “do it anywhere but here, and do it stupid cheap”, and so he’s been going anywhere but here for years. His stories from China, and those of a few other people I know that have been there, are the source of my impression.

    • Raul Miller said, on November 9, 2021 at 6:18 am

      Some of that fear is (arguably) valid: we need to fix some problems and deeply ingrained bad habits where there’s no particularly good workable solutions. And the hot potato trend you observed in our “managerial class” is a big part of that.

      On the other hand, “our culture” certainly gives us a … plentiful supply of spurious speculations and suggestions.

      • William O. B'Livion said, on November 12, 2021 at 3:08 pm

        I suspect there are good and workable solutions, we just don’t what to do them.

        Deadlifts are hard. If you do them right they are very, very uncomfortable. But if your goal is to be the strongest person you can be, they are part of the toolkit and you *do* them.

        A lot of “unworkable” is people who won’t do deadlifts.

        • William O. B'Livion said, on November 12, 2021 at 3:08 pm

          s/what/want/ in the first sentence.

          • Scott Locklin said, on November 12, 2021 at 4:37 pm

            Most of the problems facing the US have obvious and painless to the general public solutions which upset too many rice bowls. Homelessness, health care, the media, education, police brutality, mass immigration, monopolies, military spending, the carceral state, drugs, the national debt: all are solvable -you could even do them all at once and most normies would only be pleased by the changes. But the people invested in such problems now are more interested in preventing any solutions than solving them.

            It’s not that people are wimps and won’t do deadlifts; it’s that the people tasked with solving problems make it worse, and we’re too cowardly to get rid of them because someone’s harridan ex wife will sign a petition and not invite them to box-wine night at the Homeowner’s association.

            • Raul Miller said, on November 12, 2021 at 6:22 pm

              “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H.L.Mencken

              That said, sure: generally speaking when you have a problem involving a lot of people the solution involves getting those people to work on solving that problem.

            • William O. B'Livion said, on November 13, 2021 at 4:17 pm

              43% of Americans are obese.
              20% Smoke (I used to be one)
              6% (roughly) are Type II diabetic. Another 10 or so percent are pre-diabetic.

              All of these are things that require a lot less effort than deadlifts to fix, but we don’t do it.

              We’re too big and too diverse a nation to be organized and ruled from a central government, but 1/3rd of our population won’t settle for anything else.

              And a significant percentage of them are fanatics. You can’t win against fanatics–they don’t quit, they don’t give up, they don’t stop of their own accord you have to stop them.

  18. […] Locklin on China’s view of America. […]

  19. Wang re: cultural continuity | Aeoli Pera said, on November 13, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    […] a book going around lately called America Against America. You can read a book review here or if you prefer audio content there’s a podcast on it here. H/T the former for this […]

  20. Dear Reader said, on November 15, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    So I get being bearish on America. Hard to miss.

    But I don’t get being bullish on China. Is it the zero-sum game, if we go down they must go up? Because I think that’s absolutely not the case. This is negative-sum at its finest.

    China is the biggest paper tiger in the history of origami societies. Biggest inverted population pyramid in human history. Biggest ghost towns and centrally-planned resource misallocation in human history (see Evergrande et al).

    In fact, they’ve already lost. They fell into the middle-income trap and now there’s no way to climb out. They will not become #1. They might still get Taiwan if they play it right before plateauing, kind of like Hitler probably could’ve gotten away with Poland. But currently, they’re poorer per capita than Thailand and Mexico, those shining cities on the hill. And their equivalent of boomers has started retiring. Even with the conveniently anti-old-people Fluhan cough, this will cripple their economy. Not nearly enough young people to pay for the old people.

    I don’t really see a global ascendant, to be honest. The U.S. is a sinking ship, but most ships seem to be sinking. EU? lol. Britain at least severed ties with that shit show, but doesn’t exactly seem to be led competently. Their version of Trump is also a populist, and The People rarely want what they need. They want more of the same.

    China? C’mon. I interpret their sabre-rattling as death throes. They know they’re out of time. That Alaska shit is like the Soviets pounding their shoes on the table.

    South America? lol. Africa? Maybe, I don’t know Jake Shite about Africa.

    I’m somewhat bullish on much the rest of Asia (not China), but it doesn’t seem like there’s a clear winner. The only one positioned really well is Singapore, but they also seem to be plateauing, having reached and slightly surpassed The Western Lifestyle, and their current generation of young people is as materialistic, woke, and useless as ours. Plus, it’s the size of a mid-sized Walmart parking lot.

    So, where does the Young Man go? Feels to me like the best strategy is to jump from sinking ship to sinking ship to prolong the decline. And the U.S. is still sinking from a higher level than pretty much anyone else, and slower than most competitors.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 15, 2021 at 5:36 pm

      >Is it the zero-sum game, if we go down they must go up?

      America is ridiculously obviously going down the toilet. China is ridiculously obviously ascendant. Neither fact are particularly related, though the US basically destroyed its economic base to fuel China’s rise. Not much we can do about that now that we’ve basically incinerated our manufacturing base.

      >the U.S. is still sinking from a higher level than pretty much anyone else, and slower than most competitors.

      Someone obviously doesn’t get out much.

      • Dear Reader said, on November 16, 2021 at 3:05 am

        > China is ridiculously obviously ascendant.

        Large part of them having ascended is that they killed off/drove out their educated and smart population to HK and Taiwan and America, then let dozens of millions starve to death. Hell of a lot more impressive to get people out of poverty if you throw them deep into poverty first. A lot more difficult to ascend further than Mexico’s standard of living (China’s GDP per capita is lower, even if you believe their fudged commie numbers).

        I find it ridiculously obvious that China is a paper tiger that’s failing on all the central-planning things the Soviet Union failed on. Xi is rolling back all of Deng’s free-market reforms, and has started ethno-nationalist sabre rattling and social control to keep his people in line… not exactly the hallmarks of an ascendant society.

        You could refute China with a VHS tape of Milton Friedman. “Chinese characteristics” is still just commie nonsense and hubris.

        > Someone obviously doesn’t get out much.

        I’m not American and I’m in Asia right now. Sure I’m the one who doesn’t get out?

        • Raul Miller said, on November 16, 2021 at 4:00 am

          Ascendant in terms of exports.

          Around here, we can’t buy much of anything made locally — it’s mostly made in China. That puts quite a bit of financial pressure on our politicians. (Perhaps rightly, though the underlying causes on our side of the ocean are also deeply rooted in both our university system and in our business leadership.)

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 16, 2021 at 10:51 am

          I suppose a non-American could be forgiven for thinking the US isn’t physically falling to pieces. Otherwise you’ve just regurgitated a bunch of boomer-tier US propaganda that doesn’t even begin to reflect reality.

          • Raul Miller said, on November 16, 2021 at 1:46 pm

            I should add: Hypothetically speaking, using labor as a cash pump might work without venturing into the realm of slave labor. And, it’s not going to be a universal system. But some of the news leaking out of the country indicates that slavery conditions for certain demographic (aka “racial”) segments of their population. (Which makes it odd that — despite all the racial fervor we get in this country — that there’s so much silence on this particular slice of that subject.)

            However, also, you can get an outline of the culture that built an artifact by studying it. And, one thing we have in spades here is stuff produced in China. And, for example, we can find hotplates which cripple their ability to produce heat when they overheat — arguably a nice safety mechanism, but inconvenient enough in implementation to suggest that the people who designed it (here? there? I do not know…) don’t rely on the things for cooking their food. And, for example, nowadays, when you buy fingernail clippers, they do not have holes for mounting on a keychain. This suggests that the people designing and producing the clippers favor not owning anything that needs keys — which around here would eliminate most vehicles and most housing (with the exception of prisons, I suppose).

          • Dear Reader said, on November 16, 2021 at 1:53 pm

            Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived there for a decade. It is somewhat falling apart. Services and quality of life are generally shit. But that doesn’t mean China isn’t a paper tiger.

            Just because you know about Milton Friedman doesn’t allow Wise Oriental Mandarins to centrally plan well. They are going down just as the Soviets were. Even the performative shit at conferences like the Alaska video you posted, right out of the angry Soviet playbook.

            I have yet to see any arguments against this “boomer-tier US propaganda.” But feel free to add some. Btw I’m a millennial, so forgive me. But it just isn’t “ridiculously obvious” to me that China is ascendant. They did have some pretty impressive growth over the last few decades, but not as impressive as Taiwan or Japan or Korea. They just do it in more obvious ways, because, well, they’re fucking commies. They like to put on big displays and show off. Other people are busy having lives.

            • Dear Reader said, on November 16, 2021 at 1:56 pm

              Example: Evergrande. Also, China has massive brownouts right now and many apartments are without power. Malls close at 6pm to conserve energy. You think gas prices are high in America?

              I just don’t get how people are calling China ascendant when they’re literally in the process of unraveling. I get it, the US sucks. But that doesn’t mean China doesn’t.

              • Scott Locklin said, on November 16, 2021 at 4:19 pm

                As I said multiple times; China had a GDP/capita of $700/year when this book was written; it is now $19,000/year and the world’s largest economy. Seems pretty ascendant to me. Oh noes, they have problems with their power grid! It’s only existed for a few years, and still doesn’t even extend to large parts of their country, so, like, who cares? Evergrande …. gee a big conglomerate that didn’t exist 25 years ago has problems… Quelle surprise.

                Meanwhile, in America, which more or less invented electricity, we have regular black outs because its run by barbarians who don’t understand the systems they have inherited. We almost blew up the world financial system earlier this year because a couple of spergs short-squeezed some shitbag hedge funds, and the clearing corporation (the real danger) has been issuing insanely toxic uncovered shorts for, like, decades without anyone going to prison.

                • Dear Reader said, on November 17, 2021 at 2:28 am

                  China is only the largest economy with PPP, nominally the U.S. is still about 35% bigger. And this is with their fudged commie numbers. Remember, the Soviet Union was about to pass the U.S. any second now the whole time, until it imploded. I think that’s happening now.

                  China had a GDP/capita of $700 because they had thrown their country into the gutter and murdered all the smart people. That’s what happens. They’ve done a pretty good reversion to the mean, but lots of freer countries in the area have done much better. Like I said, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore. Even Malaysia has higher GDP/capita.

                  I like Asia, but many countries here are way more impressive than China. China just has that communist/authoritarian big parade, big plans, big infrastructure BS going on.

                  But I think the biggest issue is their crazy population distribution. You think the U.S. has a boomer problem? China’s is that on hormone replacement therapy. This will drag their economy down so hard, and make fighting wars difficult. Losing young men is suddenly more costly when you need them to prop up your legion of senior citizens.

                  And, again, I am also very bearish on the U.S. But just because the U.S. sucks doesn’t mean China is therefore good, or ascendant. They can both suck.

                  The Chinese military hasn’t fought anyone since the Korean war. You know who they fought? The U.S. and his is like 17 wars ago for the U.S. military, which has been grinding and gaining XP this whole time. I was watching a video comparing the duty rifles of various countries’ armies, and it mentioned that while the Chinese one looks pretty cool, it has never seen battle (!).

                  Remember how the M16 did in Vietnam, and how the M4 does now? There’s 30+ years of tweaking and experience in there that they don’t have. Same goes for all their weapon systems.

                  Now, if their winning condition is merely to take Taiwan and then sit back and relax, sure, I could see that. But somehow, mad dictators rarely seem to stop. Hitler didn’t stop after Poland.

                  • Scott Locklin said, on November 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

                    China had a 700/year GDP because it never industrialized. China industrialized a few years ago. Apparently you never got the memo or are somehow in denial about it because someone served you a bad plate of noodles at the airport. That’s what “ascendant” means; things are getting better there in every way, and the country grows in power and influence.

                    I don’t really think the last 50 years of American military experience losing wars is relevant to anything; not very impressive! I also don’t think there will be a war over anything other than possibly Taiwan (which the US will lose).

                    • Dear Reader said, on November 17, 2021 at 6:03 pm

                      Ok, sure, China is “ascendant” in the sense that Estonia is ascendant. I thought you meant “rise above the U.S.”

                      China’s GDP per capita now is just between Costa Rica and Iran. Seems like Estonia is actually almost 3x as rich as China, my mistake.

                      Korea started out at similar GDP/capita numbers as China. They’re now 3x as high as well. Singapore, 6x as high, though they started higher, probably due to the limeys.

                    • Raul Miller said, on November 17, 2021 at 6:44 pm

                      GDP (value measured in dollars) is only a useful metric where a dollar equivalency is relevant.

                      Put simply: most of our industrial capacity is in China because we put less value on it over there than over here.

                      And then we pay a premium to ship it back here.

                      The system itself had some good thinking behind it. But that thinking falls apart if we confuse metrics with outcomes.

                      Which seems more valuable to you: the capacity to make things, or the pieces of paper which in some way represents some of that capacity?

                  • Igor Bukanov said, on November 17, 2021 at 9:27 pm

                    In 1969 there was a military confrontation between China and Soviet Union, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Soviet_border_conflict. By all accounts China lost in 1969, but a low-level military confrontation continued until beginning of eighties.

                    And then like 40 year after that Russia under Putin gave to China all claimed territories. Those where significantly bigger that Crimea.

  21. Chiral3 said, on November 16, 2021 at 4:01 am

    I’ll jump in late here. For me something weird happened maybe five or six years ago. I’d be in in Miami or New York at a conference or roundtable or a meeting and instead of being pulled into meetings with economists or government affairs people I started to get introduced to political strategists and former national security advisors. Very quickly this became the normal. Everything because very geopolitical. Maybe five years ago a former national security advisor said “forget Russia, that’s a well-played bluff hand, watch China, watch their ‘two internets’ and if they pull that off watch for the ‘two financial systems’”. A few months later I was with his successor (one of the guys in the infamous bin laden raid war room photo) and he starts yammering about the same thing. So apart from China being a national security threat to allied nations the thing with China is they may run out of money as they deficit finance their ascension. It’s a risky strategy that really may not work. The US, for all its issues, has a ton of balance sheet, infrastructure, resources, and allies. I’ve seen the simulations and the resultant curves and it isn’t remote that China will have levered itself too much plain and simple. The “two financial systems” is a real danger because if China can somehow develop more independence there’s fewer levers. Fortunately for the US China’s only friends are piss poor wing nut states like Russia and Syria and Iran and North Korea and no amount of belts and roads is going to help with the meteoric leverage they’ve taken out on an increasingly disenfranchised people.

    • Raul Miller said, on November 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

      A thing to be careful of here is that money is a token system representing human efforts.

      And as long as China is willing to run slavery operations and sell us the results, and we’re willing to pay them to do that, they’ve got a steady cash flow to finance whatever it is that they want to finance.

      And, meanwhile, since we’ve outsourced most of our production facilities, we’re running dry in a variety of areas. And to some degree, this includes a variety of skilled labor pools.

      It’s not pretty, and it’s difficult to talk about (especially since China has dedicated something in the range of 10% of its extensive population to censorship activities), and they certainly have not been shy about pulling financial levers.

      You are right that the outcomes here are not set in stone. It’s not even a stable situation. But we need to be aware of the limitations of our financial models if we’re going to be dealing with this.

    • anonymous said, on November 18, 2021 at 3:20 am

      and allies

      Wow, do we? *Why*? I remember reading about some government agency (probably the State department) ringing up TSMC (Taiwan semiconductor) and demanding all their die files, supplier lists, and customers, “for safekeeping, in these turbulent times.” TSMC told them to get bent.

      The sheer arrogance of the request was breathtaking. “Give us all your technology which you developed and we desperately need, in case you get carpet-bombed and we fink. Wouldn’t wanna be you. Bye.”

      Let’s see:
      We screwed over Serbia
      We screwed over the Kurds, several times, despite them fighting for us several times.
      We screwed over the Tajiks due to our breathtaking inability to see the real boundaries of loyalty in the world in favor of lines on the map that the British doodled two centuries ago.
      We betrayed our treaty with Ukraine. (Would have been a bad idea in the moment to honor it, but that means it was dishonorable to make it.) I remember someone waffling on about nuclear nonproliferation: I asked: After doing that to them, why wouldn’t any country that thinks they could afford it make a desperate beeline for nuclear weapons? What incentive could we possibly offer them not to? You could wipe your ass with our treaties, but nukes make people really think before launching adventures into your territory.

      I’ll give you resources and infrastructure, but the allies thing is one of the more tragic aspects of the past few decades.

  22. Thorvald said, on November 24, 2021 at 4:14 am

    Lens of Military Systems Theory. Research what makes a system strong, and which centers of gravity to attack, so you can topple it. See it in action when America bombing small country, in culture wars left vs. right, and perhaps relevant to more recent times. According to Warden III these are the pillars/subsystems/clusters:

    – Leadership
    – Organic/System Essentials/Key Production
    – Infrastructure
    – Population
    – Fielded forces

    Weigh up their sizes in your own mind, often both sides have strong and weak elements. Rings can be abstract: fielded forces can be IP theft by PhD students. Military attacks or cultural attacks are most successful when these target all centers at similar times.

    Or maybe it is some tough guy Powerpoint presentation about the conjoined triangles of success or something, what do I care?

  23. Sean D. said, on November 30, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you for drawing my attention this work. Much appreciated.

  24. mihai said, on November 30, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    > discarded half-human madmen and druggies.

    I grew up as a kid in Ceausescu’s communist Romania, in the ’80s, and I remember more than one propaganda book (at least that’s how they were labeled by the new elites after communists fell) describing scenes exactly like the ones I could see in that Philly video. Reading those books as a kid I was telling myself: “yeah, the situation in here is shitty, we have rationed food, but at least we don’t have druggies wondering on the streets like hell on earth”. 30+ years from that moment I still think that I’ll most probably take rationed food than having to live in a society that generates that drug-hell dystopia.

    Talking about communist propaganda books on the Americans, those books were also right about the situation of the black population in the States. That subject got sidestepped in the US media/movies for I don’t know what exact reason in the 1990s and the ’00s (it’s like the 1991 LA riots had never happened), only to famously resurface recently and for the US elites to partially act surprised “hey, we live among racists!”. Again, those books I read as a child in a communist country had exposed the problem pretty damn well and they weren’t blaming the black people’s situation on some specific racist maverick that was turning all the other Americans into racists, those books were blaming the American socio-economic system as a whole.

    • Raul Miller said, on November 30, 2021 at 11:49 pm

      Here, a unique thing about the USA is the sheer volume of distinct racial groups — each bringing to the table their own flavors of racism.

      Another is our free speech laws which both guarantee the right to complain about such things and also pretty much guarantees that most people are tired of hearing about it.

  25. stassasideromasa said, on December 1, 2021 at 5:41 pm

    Regarding the “freakazoid”, that’s not purple hair. That’s white hair with the remnants of black dye, that has worn off and has not been replenished.

    You see, black pigments are typically not black, as such. Rather, they are either deep blue or deep red. You gotta know a thing or two about both art and technology to know this I guess, but around the Mediterrannean, poor ancient painters who couldn’t afford fancy and expensive materials (often because they were slaves) could get by with only three pigments in their palette: red ochre, yellow from saffron stigmata and black from coal dust. To make blue, they diluted the black with water and that was blue enough to make green when mixed with yellow, and purple when mixed with red. Smart ancients! You can do the same thing with modern-day tempera.

    So what you see in that picture is not a woman who has dyed her hair purple, but a woman who dyed her white hair black and then let them turn back to their natural colour. I agree it doesn’t look good but there really isn’t any better way to let white hair return to natural than well, to let it. Return to natural. In any case this really doesn’t look like a deliberate provocation. Most likely a faux pas, but that lady was probably too good at her job to be replaced just because she’s having a bad hair day. Or month, as the case may be (it takes a while for hair dye to wear off).

    Anyway I think this is a bit too much fuss to raise for hair. It sounds more like typical shit-talking, than a serious diplomatic episode in the making.

    Which reminds me: that 6park.news page that you link to starts with a meme pointing out the “purple” hair with text in Chinese. I can’t read that particular Chinese script (or any other) but my best guess is that it’s just a bunch of Chinese adolescents taking the piss with nationalistic intent. Then of course it seems that juvenile internet trolling was picked up by US media who don’t like Biden and who probably think that kind of meme is the height of intelligent criticism. I mean because they’re complete morons who can’t articulate actual criticism to anyone anyway, so.

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 1, 2021 at 7:41 pm

      1) I paint icons; you don’t make black from coal dust, and purple is blue (various copper salts and azurite/lapis) and red. Black don’t make blue no matter how much you dilute it.
      2) It is a purple haired lady. There is no excuse for trotting out a purple haired lady, nor one with tumors or tattoos on her face.
      3) Yours is a very typical shitlib response to something you don’t like: 1) try to look clever (hard fail on that), 2) deny the overt evidence of your eyes in an attempt to gaslight your enemy, then marinate in smugness. You should feel stupid, but are probably hopped up on something which prevents you from feeling much of anything.

      • stassasideromasa said, on December 1, 2021 at 9:19 pm

        I am delighted by the warm welcome you have extended to me as a first-time commenter on your blog. May I express my gratitude for your exquisite hospitality and courtesy? A true gentleman!

        You paint icons? You’re not Greek Orthodox, surely?

        Yes, you do get blue by diluting black, and then green and purple etc. I’ve done it the way I describe it above. Anyway you should try it and see for yourself. Like I say, it works with tempera.

        I may well be wrong about getting black pigment from coal. I am wrong about the red ochre. I mixed that up: it was yellow ochre and I don’t remember the source of the red pigment. So the palette was yellow ochre, red something, black something. I suspect that the person who taught me that had learned it from a Greek orthodox icon making tradition. Since you make icons, you’ll probably know where to look to fact check this, and probably get more detailed information about it, than I remember.

        And I must insist about the colour of the lady’s hair. It’s really not purple. You could say it’s lilac, but I’d call it more like grey-blue. It’s like I say what you’d see if you were looking at worn-off black dye over white hair. And there’s plenty of white there, too. Although it’s true that, in order for purple dye (and all those pokemon style dyes) to take and to show as the intended colour, the hair must first be peroxided all the way to white, but given the lady’s apparent age that’s more likely white hair than peroxide-platinum hair.

        You’re not my enemy, and I’m not trying to gaslight you. I humbly apologise if that is how I made it look like in my ineptitude.

        • stassasideromasa said, on December 1, 2021 at 9:42 pm

          So I had a look around the internets to see if I could remember more details about the ancient palette I’m talking about. It turns out what I remembered was the technique of grisaille, with a palette of white, black and yellow ochre. So, no red! Or purple… But, yes, the black is diluted to make blue and then mixed with the yellow ochre to make green. This was most likely used in Orthodox icons, like I say. The Greek language wikipedia points out the back panels of The Garden of the Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch as an example of green-tinted grisaille:

          Although I’m not sure if it was made with the white-black-yellow palette I (mis) remembered. It’s from a later era than the one I had in mind. I can’t find any examples that clearly show what I mean though.

        • Scott Locklin said, on December 1, 2021 at 10:11 pm

          Maybe you should see an optometrist.

        • gbell12 said, on December 2, 2021 at 1:28 am

          Since you’re new, I’ll give you the unofficial introduction: “Scott Locklin’s blog – come for the absolutely unique content, stay for the insults and unyielding opinions!” This isn’t the normal internet. Take from it what you will.

          • stassasideromasa said, on December 2, 2021 at 10:01 am

            I am grateful for your friendly intervention! I guess it must appear as if I randomly stumbled on this blog? I’ve actually read the blog for a while and I’ve even interacted with Scott before, on Hacker News and without any insults. I just haven’t commented here before.

            I read the blog out of curiosity after my exchange with Scott on HN and found a couple of his more technical posts that I liked so I stayed on and kept reading every once in a while. On the other hand, I find blog posts like the present one very boring. I am not American, so the culture wars don’t mean anythng to me. I commented because I wanted to point out a technical detail I thought Scott didn’t know (after all, he may paint icons, but I bet he doesn’t dye his hair). I figured he might appreciate that. But I guess there’s a strong prior for polarised comments and trolling from newcomers or once-off posters, so I put my foot square in it. Hence, I suspect, the response about enemies and gaslighting and so on which caught me a little bit by surprise.

            My initial comment _was_ smug, but I thought Scott would take it on the chin and give a funny, if rude, answer and then we’d have a bit of friendly banter that we’d both enjoy. Instead, I guess because of that prior, my comment was perceived as basic trolling from his culture war opponents. My very bad.

            I also realise this comment sounds very awkward, addressed to you rather than Scott, but I don’t know if Scott wanted to take this any further so I’m replying to you instead.


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