Sunday, January 30, 2005


Bill Gates Kowtows To China. . . It Might Be Time To Buy A Mac.

Bill Gates knows computers, but his economics is shoddy, and his politics. . . well, I'll let him speak for himself:
US software giant Bill Gates has high praise for China, which he says has created a brand-new form of capitalism that benefits consumers more than anything has in the past.

"It is a brand-new form of capitalism, and as a consumer its the best thing that ever happened," Gates told an informal meeting late Friday at the World Economic Forum (news - web sites) in this ski resort.

He characterised the Chinese model in terms of "willingness to work hard and not having quite the same medical overhead or legal overhead".
Unless, of course, you count living in a police state as "legal overhead."
Gates continued by heaping praise on the current generation of Chinese leaders.

"They're smart," he said with emphasis.

"They have this mericratic way of picking people for these government posts where you rotate into the university and really think about state allocation of resources and the welfare of the country and then you rotate back into some bureaucratic position."

That rotation continued, Gates explained, and leaders were constantly subjected to various kinds of ratings.

"This generation of leaders is so smart, so capable, from the top down, particularly from the top down," he concluded.
At first glance, I didn't get it.

There hasn't been this much dicksucking of China since Nixon walked the Great Wall.

What advantage does Bill Gates possibly gain by lavishly praising the corrupt leaders of the world's largest dictatorship?

Could his sycophantic remarks have anything to do with enlisting the Chinese government's help in cracking down on software piracy, particularly of Microsoft products?

Could I interest you in the Brooklyn Bridge?

I know the risk of caricature. I've never been to China, so I can't claim any personal knowledge. My many friends who have spent time there all report back that Chinese capitalism-- not to mention the non-political freedoms of daily life-- is wildy unregulated when compared to the United States. Money talks.

While I recognize that the China of today bears little resemblance to Maoist China, or even to the China of Tiananmen Square, no one should be under any illusions that the Chinese government is in it for anyone but themselves.

China is fundamentally a kleptocracy, committed to obtaining money at the expense of its people, and especially foreigners. They're happy to make money when they can, but they also have no qualms about stealing money when they can't make it for themselves.

China's chaoticly corrupt capitalism is staggering in its scale. *95%* of software is pirated. And piracy isn't limited to just software and DVDs-- everything is pirated, from erection pills to even cars. On top of this blatant disregard for intellectual property-- the lifeblood of Western economic success-- bribery is often the most effective mechanism available to deal with obsolete communist regulations.

What's worse is that many of the most influential companies in China are owned by the government, or even direct subsidiaries of the People's Liberation Army. What these inefficient companies lose out on in revenue they more than make up for with advantageous political connections.

To look at only one example there is a deal pending between the Lenovo, China's top computer maker, and IBM, in which Lenovo will buy IBM's personal computer unit.

For decades, the United States (mostly by itself) has had regulations prohibiting the transfer of high-technology to China and Chinese corporations, for national security reasons. IBM's PC business may not be cutting edge anymore, but I still don't see how this sale can possibly meet the national security test.

Especially when the largest shareholder of Lenovo is the Chinese government.

I guess Bill Gates and others like him think that's all okay, though. Because hey, those Shanghai shopkeepers are so free to make money-- who are we to crush their romantic capitalistic spirit?

C'mon-- It's. Not. Like. China. Has. Ever. Stolen. Western. Technology. For. Use. By. Its. Military.

Wait a moment, why am I worrying? The world's richest man says China's cool, I guess that means they're cool, right? Who's going to disagree with that assessment?

I mean, who aside from him?

Apart from piracy, Microsoft is also trying to convince China not to go with Linux. China has its own in-house version of Linux called Red Flag that is trying to position itself as the system of choice for government offices and major corporations.

China is highly suspicious of Microsoft and indeed of having to use many foreign products (unless you're talking about Russian jets or Israeli radar, that sort of thing).

A persistant conspiracy theory here is that Microsoft has built a secret "back door" into Windows that would allow it to snoop on any system running it.

Gates' comments are ridiculous on many levels. Not having the same "medical overhead" means that 80 percent of Chinese lack health insurance. And not in the U.S. way in which a hospital will eat the cost (albeit at the expense of your credit rating) and treat you anyway if you can't pay for a life-saving treatment. If you have a life-threatening illness or injury in China and can't pay, you die.

China has come a long, long way from the Mao-era tyranny that permeated every into every level of society, including the family. Yet it's also far from some wondrous meritocracy driven by respect for deeply held libertarian priniciples.
Scott- thanks for your comments.

As for Windows backdoors, I'm using one right now.

Man, you should really delete all those "special" files you have on your hard drive-- what would your Mother say?
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