Well, the New York Times is at it again. Courtesy of Real Clear Politics, the NYT has published an editorial attacking “Congressional China bashers”, for their decision not to hand over a strategic prize to Red China. The problem in doing an autopsy on anything from the Times, is deciding where to begin. The ubiquitous abandonment of facts is a given, but the way in which rational analysis is savaged and ripped from the piece by the various editors makes it difficult to identify the victim. Which provides the first point of reference, actually: I noticed as I began to look at the corpse, that the Times has not bothered to sign a name to their work. As an aside, it occurs to me that one reason blogs carry at least a minimal level of credibility, is that the blog author has his/her name attached to the work; none of this anonymous presentation of a piece which everyone can claim they had no connection with, should it bomb in public opinion. Weasel Journalism, that.
Next is the title: “No Way to Treat a Dragon”. My, what a choice. First off, dragons are mythical, which is to say fictitious, creatures – they are not real. Rather like China’s long-term capability of making and keeping business contracts. There is not, for example, a single privately-owned business of a billion dollars’ worth or greater which has done business with China to its profit for even one decade yet. That is a big red flag, if you’ll pardon the imagery, to any investor capable of comprehending a financial statement, which admittedly is a skill beyond the abilities of the NYT editors.
But just that title creates the air that the United States somehow owes the People’s Republic of China deference, in the manner of a humble man addressing the majesty of a celestial creature. Leaving aside other comparisons between the United States and China, to imply (as the Times does here) that the USA’s business climate and conditions are such that we are obliged to treat China as an equal, let alone a superior financial power, is to display an appalling ignorance of how finance, trade, and strategic resources operate.
Here’s how the Times summarized the attempt by China to take over Unocal: “Facing crippling delays imposed by Congress, Cnooc, a state-controlled Chinese oil company, has now withdrawn its $18.5 billion bid for Unocal, conceding the prize to Chevron”. That is, having found the foreign offer unsuitable, the United States Congress acted responsibly, and took actions which worked in favor of the American-held oil company remaining in the control and ownership of Americans. The technical terms for keeping a strategic interest out of foreign hands would include “wise”, “sound”, even “smart”. To the Times, however, it was “a loss for the United States' global interests, and it sets a dangerous precedent of dealing with China by demonizing the Chinese”. Sorry, but that doesn’t come close to being accurate. Serious and competent businessmen do not throw a tantrum, just because they do not get what they want, and denying a strategic resource to a nation likely to use it to America’s disadvantage does not 'demonize' China, anymore than anyone who voted for Bush last year was automatically questioning Kerry’s patriotism.
But it gets even sillier. The Times then goes on to opine that keeping strategic resources in American hands “risks turning China, an emerging Superpower, into an aggressive opponent rather than simply a global competitor.” Bull patties. First off, in no substantive way is China a “superpower”; they enjoy regional hegemony in certain areas, but for their size surprisingly small influence or real power. Second, until China allows for a true Free Market, there is no way that real businessmen can trust their statements, which amount to allowing the Chinese government to audit itself, and present the numbers with nothing remotely like due diligence. You wouldn’t buy a used car for five thousand without expecting an independent confirmation of its condition; only a complete moron would suggest a multi-billion dollar deal with a nation which refuses to allow independent audits.
Ever the self-convinced, the Times pushes on: “So the way has been paved for tit-for-tat retaliation. That could be a precursor to escalation, which, in turn, could be the catalyst for a serious economic clash. Congress has already spent the summer considering half a dozen proposals for across-the-board tariffs against Chinese imports. The Bush administration is also trying to forcibly stem the flow of Chinese textiles into the United States.” In English, that simply means that the United States, a true First-World nation, is being very careful to make sure it is not bound by unreasonable requirements from China, a Second-World nation. I’m sure the Chinese government would like more contracts on the level as they received from LORAL during the Clinton Administration, but Dubya is the kind of man to check the door before he opens it, much less let you date his family. Keeping an eye on companies and capacities the U.S. cannot afford to lose, is not “tit-for-tat retaliation”, it’s good sense. But then, good sense has been missing from the Times for quite a while.