a faraway land to project one’s romanticized hopes
September 30, 2021 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Taiwanese journalist and insomniac Brian Hioe examines the recent 'China and the Left' conference with long critique titled "Manichaeism with Chinese Characteristics." Originally a 500+ live tweet marathon, Hioe details the many questionable assertions, such as China cannot be a colonial power toward Uyghurs and Tibetans because it's a manufacturing power, or that since the largest four banks in the world by total assets are Chinese government-owned, they are owned by the people and thus not a sign of the financialization of China.

"Broadly speaking, many of the speakers at the “China and Left” conference seemed to only ever view the state as fundamentally opposed to the free market, failing to note how despite their neoliberal self-understanding, capitalists often bank on the state to bail them out when necessary."

Hioe has also dissected earlier publications of the conference co-hosts, the Monthly Review and the Qiao Collective.
posted by spamandkimchi (31 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Diaspora dogfight, let's gooooooooooooooooooo !
posted by wuwei at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have to tell you, one of the most unedifying things about ageing as someone interested in politics is the re-emergence of tankies thirty years after the fall of the USSR. It's real 'first time as tragedy, second time as farce' stuff; the original pro-Soviet western communists were under no illusions about the brutality of the system they barracked for, but they at least admitted force was what they stood for; 'tankies' was a slur on their inability to actually convince anyone without the implied presence of armoured divisions over the Wall. These days it's pure culture war stuff, reflexively making pro-tyrannous argument for no reason than habit, a much ethically worse standpoint. I remember a much older former Communist telling me about the aftermath of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and pro-Soviet Australians; the anti-Soviet argument was 'fuck you, people behind the Curtain eat these garbage ideas because they have to, you do it because you seem to like it'
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2021 [15 favorites]

These days it's pure culture war stuff, reflexively making pro-tyrannous argument for no reason than habit

Tankie positions are deeply attractive in how they simplify the world and provide some Answers to folks who are desperately looking for them.

No defense of it here, but I think if the left is to keep moving forward we need to really understand why the attitude persists, and “no reason other than habit” doesn’t cover it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:29 PM on September 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

I think the problem of arguing that government = people for China is assuming it's communism when it's more of a socialistic oligarchy.

And China has long used economic powers in diplomacy, forcing Taiwan out of many diplomatic relations with various third-world countries, like various ones in Africa, with either promise of investments, or threaten to withhold such.
posted by kschang at 5:39 PM on September 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think the straw-man nature of the arguments against the Qiao Collective conference (which would probably have been a more interesting topic for a front-page post than a one-sided liberal take-down of it) is revealed in the term “Manichaeism”.

Implying that where we refuse to agree that China is as “evil” as the US, that we are asserting that it is “good” in some absolute sense.

It is important to recognise that while no great power can ever be “good”, China is not an equivalent evil to the United States.

It is important to recognise that its international posture is defensive rather than aggressive, and informed by an appalling historical trauma imposed by centuries of foreign intervention.

It is important to recognise that the largest and most rapid reduction of poverty in human history was the singular achievement of a communist government working to this deliberate end, in contrast to the neoliberalism prevailing elsewhere in the developing world where nothing similar occurred.

China’s government has nationalist interests that conflict with other nations’, but is not imperialist in the manner of US imperialism. China has racism but not a political culture centered on racism as prevails in the United States.

China has capitalism but does not have the same relationship between capital and the State that prevails in the United States. This distinction is not a trivial matter, indeed the fate of the entire planet may hinge upon it.

It is useful to consider the possibility that “tankie” governments may reject liberal forms and notions not because they are simply “tyrannous” but because they are implementing a long-term project for economic and social development that is highly vulnerable to the intervention of hostile internal and external forces. It is useful to consider the lesson of post-Soviet Russia’s world-historical collapse in living standards right next door. It is useful to acknowledge that there are coordinated propaganda campaigns based on disinformation that inform much of the debate that takes place on these topics.

Liberal posturing about the ‘Manichaeism’ of those engaging with these questions, by contrast, is not particularly useful, except to normalise the pathologies of the West. It is intellectually lazy, historically ignorant and completely missing the point.
posted by moorooka at 6:03 PM on September 30, 2021 [11 favorites]

China’s government has nationalist interests that conflict with other nations’, but is not imperialist in the manner of US imperialism. China has racism but not a political culture centered on racism as prevails in the United States.

I just woke up because it's morning in southeast asian hours, so i have no brain juice for anything intellectual beyond, "ha!".
posted by cendawanita at 6:36 PM on September 30, 2021 [22 favorites]

FWIW, 'tankies' aren't the non-democratic governments, who can be forgiven for behaving, like all single-party states, in single-party interests, 'tankies' are their supporters in the West who argue in single-party interests and political use of force out of conviction. Liberalism might have a bad name, but a conference cheering a single-party state, held in a democracy?—there are lots of worse things to be than liberal.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

"China’s government has nationalist interests that conflict with other nations’, but is not imperialist in the manner of US imperialism. China has racism but not a political culture centered on racism as prevails in the United States."

Speaking as the citizen of a country whose incompetent President may have been sponsored by Beijing interests and is presently beholden to them... I call bullshit. Pie-in-the-sky, tankie bullshit.

I've seen the American and Chinese government influence at work in our government policy and their outcomes and your horribly misinformed "not imperialist in the manner of US imperialism" is a distinction without a difference.
posted by micketymoc at 7:14 PM on September 30, 2021 [17 favorites]

Yes, a “democracy” that just killed 600,000 of its people, where you get to choose between the white nationalist party that denies climate and vaccine science and another party who wants to be “bipartisan” with them. What could possibly be worse than cheering a single-party state that doesn’t offer its people any such choice.
posted by moorooka at 7:15 PM on September 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

I've seen the American and Chinese government influence at work in our government policy and their outcomes and your horribly misinformed "not imperialist in the manner of US imperialism" is a distinction without a difference.

Maybe ask those Afghans whose kids were just blown up.
posted by moorooka at 7:16 PM on September 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

calling china politically "left" is so preposterous that deprives the word "left" of whatever little meaning it has. there is nothing politically left about a place with no rule of law to speak of, no individual rights, a social surveillance state, arbitrary detention of dissidents, and concentration camps of ethnic minorities. whatever "left" means, it has to include the rights of minorities against the majority and respect for individual autonomy over thought and body. whatever is going on in china, it is definitely not that, and no abstract argument about what counts as capitalism versus socialism changes that underlying fact.
posted by wibari at 7:18 PM on September 30, 2021 [19 favorites]

From an interview about their new book Social Contagion and Other Material on Microbiological Class War in China.
On the widespread belief that China's pandemic response was "successful because of the enormous capacity of the state:"
Interviewers: In the book, you argue, quite convincingly, that the pandemic revealed instead the weakness of the state, and that the state was ultimately capable of dealing with the crisis by recognizing this weakness and delegating authority to local governments and ad hoc volunteer groups. This is a fascinating thesis, so can you explain how the state’s response to the pandemic was structured, what failed, and what ultimately worked?

Chuang: This is definitely a pervasive view, both in China and overseas. Part of the reason it was so effective at obscuring what really happened during the pandemic is that this image of the all-knowing state was already widespread beforehand. Maybe we can nickname it something like the “myth of totalitarian omnipotence.” But it’s important to remember that this myth is not just cultivated by the official organs of the party state in China to protect its interests. In fact, it’s even more avidly propagandized in Western media, for example, through the sort of dark Sinofuturist clickbait pieces constantly reporting on how everyone in China has a “social credit score” that determines their life choices, how facial recognition technology in every major city automatically tickets you for minor infractions, or how the government is planning to settle hundreds of thousands of its own citizens in far-off countries in Africa. None of those things are true, but an environment of constant bombardment with this sort of content naturally cultivates a mythic image of the all-powerful state.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:58 PM on September 30, 2021 [11 favorites]

Also super interesting from the end of the Chuang interview:
China has its own vibrant and longstanding philosophical tradition that has always been concerned (in fact, this is arguably its central concern) with questions of governance and statecraft. More importantly, this philosophical tradition is being actively revived today, fused with conservative strains of Western thought and selectively deployed by those in power to ideologically justify, conceptualize, and even guide the material progress of the state-building project on the ground. It’s very important to understand this dimension of the process, even if we also have to keep in mind that the philosophical expression of the state-building project is going to differ from the reality on the ground. It’s not really the case that this philosophy acts as the “playbook” for those in power, or even that it gives an accurate picture of how state power functions in reality. In fact, it often does the opposite, idealizing the state and affirming an almost cosmological mission for the CCP, tasked with leading the spiritual rejuvenation of the supposed Chinese nation. But this is itself an important feature of how this process is being expressed through reflection on itself. For all these reasons, we borrowed some of the overblown language of these philosophers and gave this chapter a tongue-in-cheek title: “Plague Illuminates the Great Unity of All Under Heaven.” Of course, such unity is a joke.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:03 PM on September 30, 2021 [7 favorites]

I don’t have a great deal of intellectual respect for the sort of thing going on at this conference but the essay does seem to get a little sloppy in its quest to say something dismissive about every individual speaker. For example,

Michelle claimed that it was the US that was engaged in unilateral aggression toward China, such as pushing for the installation of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea—failing to bring up that the antimissile system is in theory supposed to defend from missile attacks from China or North Korea

is this necessary to bring up? Is the assumed purpose of an anti-missile system something other than defending from missile attacks? If one thought the assertion that the deployment of this system does not constitute an escalation “in theory” was worth taking at face value, would one feel the need to clarify that this is “in theory?”

Desai sought to uphold Third Worldism, claiming that revolution would not happen in the imperial center—though one should remember that Marx believed that revolution would begin in the advanced capitalist countries.

Isn’t this disagreement a - the? - distinguishing feature of “Third Worldism” in this context? Is something accomplished by putting that up against an appeal to Marx?

I guess I feel like I would have gotten more out of this if it had focused on refuting a smaller number of speakers in depth.
posted by atoxyl at 8:22 PM on September 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

As a basketball fan, I think I got something of a taste of this during the uproar of Daryl Morey's Tweet in support of the Hong Kong protests. Like most of reddit, the vast majority of NBA fans supported the protestors, but you'd get the odd post from what was assumed to be Chinese citizens supporting the group. Basketball and the NBA are very popular in China, which was what fueled the controversy. I wonder if some of the pro-Chinese government posts came from these groups.

I must confess that I've never viewed China as being particularly left wing despite its ostensibly communist government. Certainly China's participation in Chimerica has done a great deal to undermine labor's bargaining power in the US.

I guess I'm not as much of a hardcore leftist as the Monthly Review people. I had to google it. The article seems to focus on Chinese emigrants supporting their government, but I suppose the idea that someone, somewhere might have figured out better solutions to problems facing the world might also appeal to a certain type of younger leftist who may very well have come of age long after the Cold War was a distant memory. I'm hardly the first person to notice this, but Marxism can function as something of a religion too given its teleological and eschatological dimensions. The closest comparison in "liberal" thought might be Civil Religions, in particular America's idea of itself as an "indispensable nation" and exporter of liberal values, sometimes by force.

Either way, the idea that China isn't or won't be an imperial power strikes me as odd. Till the late 90's it simply hasn't had the power to project its economic, cultural, and military influence far beyond its immediate borders. I would imagine, much like the United States, Britain, and the European powers before it, its imperial ambitions will follow the growth of its economic interests, as well as is ability to enforce territorial claims linked to national pride. After all, the United State started out with the idea of largely confining its imperial ambitions to the Western Hemisphere until WWII killed "isolationism" for good.
posted by eagles123 at 9:25 PM on September 30, 2021 [6 favorites]

Yeah it's fun (read: awful) getting into back-and-forth arguments with reddit tankies. But because I'm a curious person I do think it's a valid question to ask, if China could be understood as a legitimately socialist project, but then how would one go about actually proving that? It's an open-ended research question in my mind, but I also think that it is one that tankies cannot truthfully answer because they exist in a filter bubble.
posted by polymodus at 10:49 PM on September 30, 2021

It sounds like a good question at first, but then before you know it you're surrounded by Trotskyists arguing about deformed vs. degenerated workers' states. A Hoxhaist shows up and starts ranting about anti-revisionism, and as you wander off you start thinking that maybe authoritarian state capitalism is a significant historical formation in its own right, regardless of how well it fits into any particular version of historical materialism. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, the insurrectionary anarchists are talking about the best way to torch cop cars.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

The question is how do “we” (westerners?) prove that any faraway project is legitimately socialist. Have any such “legitimate” socialist projects ever existed? There can be opinions and criticism, but there is no objective criteria, and no external authority to appeal to on these matters. Legitimacy is not a binary category and cannot be “proven”, it can only be disproven by degrees, and not without regard for the ‘legitimacy’ of its opposition, since these projects do not exist in a vacuum.

(It is easier to answer the similar question of how to prove that America is a “legitimately democratic project”, given that elections in America can be won by the candidate with fewer votes.)

The fact that China only recently reached a level of development sufficient to project any international power is very relevant to how, or whether, we describe it as an imperial power. The imperial power of the European and Japanese empires were categorically different, being based on direct naked conquest of huge swathes of the world (China included). The US empire is categorically different, being a hegemonic nuclear superpower controlling both sides of both oceans with overwhelming margins of technological and military advantage - a control that includes the encirclement of China by US forces operating far from their homeland.

The world’s largest national population is returning to its long-run historical position of as a major power as it recovers from a ferocious foreign imperialism that ruined it within living memory. It has been militarily encircled by the world’s superpower for seventy years - a superpower which has subjected its direct neighbors to terrifying slaughter. China’s foreign policy is far from wholly innocent, but it simply cannot be called “imperialist” as though it belongs in the same category as the US and the European or Japanese empires. It just doesn’t.
posted by moorooka at 1:04 AM on October 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's very likely the NBA stars are being engaged by astroturfers in employment of the state, i.e. state-sponsored shills who are designated to agitate "fans" into a direction advantageous to Chinese policies, and engineer PR disasters for those opposing such policies.

Don't forget China has a "real online ID" policy that requires EVERY citizen online, even playing MMO games, to register with their actual ID number. Unless you have a way to create your own mesh apart from the official ISPs, there is no hiding from their censors, unless you talk in riddles and homynyms and symbols that's basically "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" to Westerners.
posted by kschang at 1:07 AM on October 1, 2021

After all, the United State started out with the idea of largely confining its imperial ambitions to the Western Hemisphere until WWII killed "isolationism" for good.

I’d just add (because it’s not irrelevant here) that the United States started out as thirteen colonies to the east of a native population that was almost completely exterminated across a continent. China has been around for thousands of years before these settler-colonial countries were imagined, and from this perspective might fairly consider these countries to not even belong where they are. This is the context in which we must assess the assertion of the US and Australia’s duty to “contain” China’s ambitions in the south china sea , for example.
posted by moorooka at 1:16 AM on October 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

"China has been around for thousands of years before these settler-colonial countries were imagined"-- as if the expansion of the Chinese state over those thousands of years hadn't involved displacement, genocide, assimilation (forced or voluntary), and the usual moves of empires everywhere. Myths and slogans (particularly of the "Manichaean" kind) are not going to lead to an understanding of the world we live in.
posted by homerica at 2:25 AM on October 1, 2021 [14 favorites]

I know the modern Chinese government looooves to make the claim, but imperial China =! CCP. AND even if there's some kind of continuity it doesn't mean the nine-dash line prevails over international maritime borders, for example. Hell, it doesn't even make sense historically, speaking as someone from a place whose pre-modern kingdoms every so often sent tributes but not as vassal states to the Chinese court.

But that's the kind of irrelevant pointscoring that makes it so frustrating to talk to tankies, as though China's regional neighbours can't make the distinction between big powers and their nationalist narratives.
posted by cendawanita at 3:10 AM on October 1, 2021 [9 favorites]

I am mostly following along here to sit and listen to folks with a better grasp of Chinese history and politics than my little smattering yields me, and for that I'm really grateful to other participants here (and for spamandkimchi for bringing the conversation here where I can see in the first place).

I do know that it seems absolutely buck wild to me to assert that a modern nation state that mythologizes its thousands of years of continental power is not capable of playing in the atrocities big leagues because it happened to be knocked back for a century or so of that history.

Y'all would laugh in Italy's face if it tried that even after a much longer period out of continental power. And Italy's ventures into colonial power projects and international maneuvering in the past few centuries have been way the fuck less competent, anyway.

Nor am I particularly convinced by desperate tankie attempts to draw the attention back to American atrocities. It's a big globe, y'all. Plenty of room for atrocities for everyone.
posted by sciatrix at 5:31 AM on October 1, 2021 [13 favorites]

After all, the United State started out with the idea of largely confining its imperial ambitions to the Western Hemisphere until WWII killed "isolationism" for good.

Interesting that we're comparing the US and China, because the US was part of the Eight Nation Alliance that put down the Boxer Rebellion (1900). That was also after annexing the Philippines and Hawaii in 1898. That's a good 40 years before WWII. I mean, you don't annex two islands in the Pacific (there are probably also other things I'm forgetting) and still get to say your imperial ambitions are only in the Americas.

And, it may seem modern China is very far away from it, but during the height of the Cold War China did try to spread Maoism beyond it's borders, into Southeast Asia, India and even further into Africa and South America. The current China is only about 60 years of time from that period, and Mao is still revered as a founding father figure if not totally for his ideas and policy.

I also really don't get why we're focusing on "tankies" when I don't see them in any position of influence or power in the US. Of course, I may eat my words in a decade once they start running for office and becoming company managers.

Finally, I try to avoid playing the online game of "Who's the worst?: US or China" because you'll end up saying how this country is better because it killed thousands of people less than this other country who also killed people. In the end, they're both garbage in their own ways and they both have to do better.

Also, this isn't meant to apologize anything, but I just like reminding everyone that the US and China (along with UK, Soviet Union, and France of course) were all super best buddy Allies during WWII. And we're only 76 years from that.
posted by FJT at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I know a few ranty anti-China folks who like to talk about economic sanctions. I always like to ask them how they would feel about buying a $500 shirt, a $5,000 cell phone or a $500,000 sedan. My way of life is built on Chinese labour.
posted by No Robots at 10:54 AM on October 1, 2021

Something that is very frustrating about these conversations (in English, especially) is that there is a lot of ambiguity in what "China" means, and that this ambiguity can be deployed strategically to make whatever point the speaker is trying to make. Does "China" mean "Imperial China," or does it include the PRoC? What about the RoC? What about the diasporas? If "China" means imperial China, does that include dynasties not ruled by Han Chinese? What about the Warring States period? What does "Han Chinese" mean anyway, given the hundreds of ethnic minority groups that have been crushed and assimilated over millennia? When the CCP claims to be the rightful inheritors of "five thousand years" of "Chinese" history, what are they trying to signal, and for what purposes? Ought "China" be understood as the state, its people, or some combination thereof? Who, existing within the assumed borders of any given "Chinese" state, gets to be counted as "Chinese"? So when I read something like:

China has been around for thousands of years before these settler-colonial countries were imagined, and from this perspective might fairly consider these countries to not even belong where they are.

What does "China" mean in this instance? Reading, this sentence seems to slip from the past tense (China as the imperial bearer of "thousands of years" of history) to the present tense (how China today might consider where "settler-colonial countries" "belong" in the world). The implicit assumption here is that there is some sort of immutable continuity of "Chineseness" that extends from the distant past into the present, and that this makes it "fair" for China today to (I guess?) see the world according to its Qing Dynasty-era borders.

(I wonder, does this same sense of fairness extend to the peoples of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Mongolia, who were being violently dispossessed of their lands during the Qing Dynasty?)

It might be true in the narrow sense that many different Chinese states have risen, existed, and fallen for thousands of years before modern Anglophone settler colonies. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Chinese state(s), at many points throughout history—and in relatively recent centuries, too!—actively participated in violent, extractivist actions to assimilate peripheries into empire. As Hioe points out, the name "Xinjiang" for the Dzungaria and Tarim Basins literally means "New Frontier"—a colonial-ass name if I've ever heard one. In 1920, Sun Yat-Sen called for the colonization of Xinjiang, using Western settler-colonial states as successful examples!

"The Colonization of Mongolia and Sinkiang ... is in itself a greatly profitable undertaking. The results of the United States, Canada, Australia, and Argentina are ample proofs of this. ... If within ten years we can transport, let us say, ten millions of the people, from the congested provinces of China, to the Northwestern territory to develop its natural resources, the benefit to the commercial world at large will be enormous." (The International Development of China, p. 10)

Xinjiang is just one example, but the modern-day borders of the land claimed by the PRoC aren't as large as they are because of some magical transhistorical Chinese essence: they're that way because of a long history of expansionist colonial violence. The echoes of this history of violence are not lost on me when wumao trolls on social media spam "留島不留人" ("keep the island, dispose of the people") at myself and other Taiwanese people.

Given that the Chinese state itself contemporaneously described itself as colonial, I find assertions placing "China" in stark (one might even say... Manichaean) opposition to "settler-colonial countries" to be misleading and revisionist. The only way that this can possibly make sense is if your definition of "settler-colonial" is so narrowly defined that it cannot include anyone who has ever been colonized before—which would exclude Japan and America, among others. We recognize that the abused can be abusers; why do we not recognize that the colonized can be colonizers?
posted by cultanthropologist at 11:20 AM on October 1, 2021 [19 favorites]

I am disturbed by China's settler colonial project (Xinjiang the new frontier as cultanthropologist points out) and/because I am engaged in confronting my own nation's ongoing settler colonization.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:41 AM on October 1, 2021

It sounds like a good question at first, but then before you know it you're surrounded by Trotskyists arguing about deformed vs. degenerated workers' states. A Hoxhaist shows up and starts ranting about anti-revisionism, and as you wander off you start thinking that maybe authoritarian state capitalism is a significant historical formation in its own right

That's actually not a good reason to not ask the question, because that just shows the asker is really gullible and easily influenced by various pseudo radical leftists, etc. One can read Chomsky, Harvey and/or Zizek rather than uncritically getting their epistemology from known tankie variants. The notion that a question is bad because exploring it will turn someone into a tankie sympathizer is... profoundly antiscience and uncritical. It's also a neoliberal line of thought.
posted by polymodus at 11:46 AM on October 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm also predisposed to side-eye what I perceive as economic development justifications, e.g. we lifted the country out of poverty, for state oppression due to my studies in contemporary Korean history. Yes, the scale of Chinese economic development is unprecedented. But (South) Korea also made impressive economic gains under right-wing authoritarian regimes that had a similar state-led development model to contemporary China. A summary that gives the barebones*:
The small Asian nation in 1960 was one of the world’s poorest countries, with a Gross Domestic Product roughly equal to that of Ghana. By 1995, it rose to become the twelfth largest economy, and Asia’s fourth largest. How Korea was able to accomplish this remarkable feat is a much analyzed story in international political economy, but at its heart was a largely autonomous state that employed a combination of state-directed bank financing, light and then heavy industrial export promotion, fostering of large industrial conglomerates (the fabled chaebol), and suppression of labor unions to create workplace peace.
*except how the hell do you not include the Cold War, the American war in Vietnam, U.S./Japan inputs and North vs South Korean economic rivalry to prove which regime had the mandate of heaven, ok fine that would be another paragraph but argh.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:52 AM on October 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, state-owned enterprises as an actual... thing is extremely common outside of the West, in part due to the notion that 'we' (non-first worlders) needed the boost as we were handicapped by war/colonisation/having our wealth extracted. A LOT of the features that're supposedly unique to China, i can find where I live and regionally. The expansionist nationalist narrative built on the back of "well, we were oppressed before" that included folding in previously neighbouring territories that's suddenly part of the state (North Borneo for Malaysia, South Thailand/Pattani for Thailand), the state-owned enterprise I've mentioned, the fact that most of the main banks have the govt via the finance ministries as the main or golden share stockholder, the fact that the populist social welfare programming is wedded to heavily exploitative capitalist manufacturing sector...

Anyway, 2 tangents:
1. There was a meeting once, where i pointed this out, and the person I'm meeting with, who works in that area of financial inclusion focusing on regulatory sandboxes and similar instruments, finally came to their own lightbulb moment why countries like ours can have treasuries setting out mere advisories and not outright law, because they don't have to push that lever first.

2. watching Turkish historical dramas have been very, hmmm, revelatory, in that since THEIR nationalist narrative is predicated on their Turkic Central Asian heritage and their fellow (Muslim) Mongols-- though you might have questions when you look at the casting-- the placement of imperial China in their narrative, is well, the inverse of stories like Mulan let's say. Other expansionist civilisations have always been here, and just because Americans are rightfully angry at their system doesn't mean other oppressive colonisers stopped existing.
posted by cendawanita at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

The notion that a question is bad because exploring it will turn someone into a tankie sympathizer is... profoundly antiscience and uncritical.

To the extent that I had a serious point, it's that people have been asking your question for over a century and the answers have largely amounted to endless unproductive factional hairsplitting. I think it's more useful to understand the real material conditions -- why these actually-existing post-communist authoritarian state capitalist regimes developed historically, how they work, what they do -- rather than measuring how well they fit somebody's idea of a "legitimate socialist project" (since there has never been any consensus about what such a project would entail).

It's also a neoliberal line of thought.

Nah. In my joke scenario, I'm with the anarchists.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 3:27 PM on October 1, 2021

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