Sourpuss Reads: The Coming China Wars by Peter Navarro

*The synopsis below is my interpretation and understanding of The Coming China Wars, and is not necessarily exactly as outlined in the book or the author’s intent.*

Over the last few years, the economics gurus and world trade experts have flocked to the market to hawk their flavor of “Fear the Evil Chinese!” non-fiction. China’s undeniable emergence as a massive geopolitical force is certainly foreboding, but an absolute glut of literature on this topic has saturated the market. If someone bought me a coffee every time a new “China Is Satan!” book was released or discussed in depth in a business magazine, Starbucks would be lining up to offer me partial shares in their business. That said, I’m a sucker for economics and trade nerdity, so when the The Coming China Wars landed on my lap, I decided to take it for a ride.

Navarro – the author of a number of highly acclaimed business tomes and a professor at UC Irvine – has managed to make this book more North America-centric, rather than a US focused read. I appreciate this, as I lose interest rapidly when content is completely aimed at US trade and economic policy.

The framework of the book emphasizes a number of points that enlighten the reader about the reasons why China and it’s appalling human rights stance and aggressive trade tactics should be sending off alarms:

  • PIRACY – anything and everything can/will/is knocked off or forged in China. Intellectual property law does not apply here, and the government openly supports businesses that pirate everything from car parts to medication, software to cigarettes. Navarro touches on reasons why piracy is rampant here: 1) old communist “everything belongs to everyone” mindset buttressed against a complete and total free-market orgy 2) Confucian cultural roots, which subscribe to the mindset that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
  • DRUGS – China has managed to launch itself as the word’s biggest dope slinger. Historically it has always been a hot-bed for opiate trade, but all  four of the extremely problematic hard drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth, X) come to market by way of China and it’s diaspora of triad gang networks around the world. China is also a leading producer and exporter of chemicals needed to create synthetic drugs (meth, X) in addition to actual production.
  • ENVIRONMENT – China’s lax to non-existent rules governing pollution, massive dam projects (i.e. Three Gorges Dam), and air quality that is so heinous that it follows aircraft back to cities like Vancouver make it enemy #1 when it comes to environmental destruction. As the world’s biggest polluter, China’s blatant disregard for nature is unequalled.
  • OIL – China is poised to surpass the USA as the world’s biggest consumer of petrochemical products. In order to feed the massive machine of industry and production, China has entrenched itself as a backer of oil nations such as Iran and Angola. By supplying a stream of cash, weapons, chemicals and clout on the world stage – in exchange for oil – they create  a sort of pimp (China) and prostitute (Angola/Sudan/Iran etc.) relationship.
  • IMPERIALISM – In a strange sort of karmic backlash, China seems to be becoming something of a neo-colonialist. When one considers it’s history under it’s various colonists over time (England, Portugal, Japan in recent history) it is almost ironic that China is up to it’s elbows in places like Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Angola.  China exploits nations that suffer from the stereotypical “Paradox of Plenty” or “Resource Curse”  (rich in resources, wildly wealthy minority, vastly impoverished majority, inability to get ahead despite having the tools to do so) by feeding their despots and having a hand in bloody genocide/violence in these nations. Human Rights Watch has pointed out that China’s interest in being a massive arms supplier to these places is completely out of economic self-interest.
  • WATER SUPPLY – World Bank and World Watch have warned that China will eventually end up waterless.  Continued chemical polluting of fresh-water, massive commercial use of water for industrial and energy production, and simply hosting a massive human population (in excess of 1.3 billion people) has lead to an epic crisis of nearly doomsday proportions. Currently strained for potable water resources, China is pushing ever closer to a “dry age.” What happens to a growing nation, with a growing appetite for consumption, when it can’t get enough water? Stay tuned.
  • DEMOGRAPHICS – I mentioned that there are nearly 1.4 BILLION people in China, right? That is a helluvalotta people that eat/work/breed/buy/protect. As a result, China has a massive work force that is extremely well educated and works for next to nothing. No other country on earth can compete with China’s ability to undercut manufacturing on every level. China IS the world’s “factory floor” and as they continue to strangle competition with their cheap goods, cheap labor and quick turn around time, domestic manufacturing is hitting the big shit can. Conversely, 1.4 billion fish in the pond have dreams and aspirations too, and will continue to migrate, en masse to more developed nations like Canada and the US, creating a large expatriate population in other nations around the world. Vancouver is a fantastic example of this.
  • SOCIAL UNREST – Eventually people get sick of being oppressed and of having few social liberties, such as freedom of thought or speech. People will rise up when they get fed up with continued human rights abuses – history tells us this. From livable wages to worker protection, China is behind the eight-ball on the world stage when it comes to equality and the safety of it’s people. Denial of events like Tiannamen Square and the overt “Hanification” of the mainland are creating a ticking time-bomb between the people who are increasingly aware that they deserve more/better, and the schizoid government that is still striving to straddle The Little Red Book and wild west-esque free enterprise.

A lot of the content I was familiar with, as I have been force-fed mass quantities of Beware of China literature in mainstream media. However, I was not intimate with China’s neo-colonialism (or denial thereof) in Africa and the Middle East, nor was I really aware of the legal issues facing North American/European manufacturers that deal with piracy and liability issues that stem from the rampant piracy that drives the economy.

There is also a non-credit OpenWare course through University of California – Irvine that anyone with internet access can run through. Consisting of one of Navarro’s lectures, the course addresses the content spelled out above. Interested? Access the course here.

On the Sourpuss Scale, I give this book: ***** –  5 stars (meaning that I would actually pay money to own this book and read it more than once.)


Citizen Sourpuss Book Rating Scale:

  • *  –         toilet paper grade
  • ** –        line the birdcage with it
  • *** –      meh
  • **** –    merits a re-read
  • ***** –  I’d own that

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