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An unspeakably inhumane regime

Young, ambitious, Chinese officials are being required to read Tom Friedman if they want to get ahead.

I knew the Chinese government was cruel, but until now I had no idea just how cruel.

36 comments to An unspeakably inhumane regime

  • Paul Marks

    Reading The Coming Chinese Crises (even if it over eggs the pudding) might be better.

    For example if Chinese production is anything like as wasteful of resources as such works claim… (perhaps not ten times as much stuff to make something as an American company would use – but say two or three times more stuff) then the Chinese economy is going to run into trouble.

    As for those “environmentalists” whose taxes and regulations have forced manufacturing to move from the West to China – perhaps they might want to have a good long look at themselves in the mirror.

  • BigFire

    It’s much worse than having to read from the Selected Wisdom of Dear Leader. At least Kim Jung Il’s rambling is just plain patented non-sense. Tom Friedman’s dredge is made possible only with postgraduate degree.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It could be worse. They could be made to read Krugman. There are degrees of malice.

  • Laird

    I actually found parts of “The World is Flat” to be quite interesting (if somewhat overwrought).

    So sue me.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    The problem is that they start believing their own press and think there are no flaws to their current system…

  • guy

    The real question is: Just how thrilled is Tom Friedman over this revelation? Schoolgirl Squee level?

  • James Waterton

    Tom Friedman is a successful journalist and has a knack for coming up with pithy and compelling-sounding theses. “The World Is Flat” is no exception. However, when it comes to China, he suffers from tourist’s disease. He’s been overwhelmed by the gleaming new office towers in the big cities (many of which are empty), and the high-speed rail network which is being constructed at a worryingly fast pace in a country where corruption is endemic. I suspect we’re going to see some pretty spectacular high-speed rail crashes in China over the coming years. Anyway, never mind that. Friedman’s visited China and been escorted around all the prestige projects by mayors and senior party officials. He’s seen the future, and decided that it works. The underlying – often profound – dysfunction throughout the Chinese economy and society in general which could torpedo the Chinese miracle at any time…well, he doesn’t seem to have noticed that.

    Of course, many Chinese would lap up a prominent American’s lauding of their achievements and using them to highlight the faults of his own nation, as there is an acute Chinese inferiority complex when it comes to the west and the USA in particular. It’s widely felt that Chinese culture is better than western culture, and the fact that the west is much more developed than China is an anomaly that must be corrected. Many are obsessively fixated on “surpassing” the USA. So “The World Is Flat” sells its socks off in China, despite the second half of the book being an embarrassingly poorly argued partisan rant. Why the Chinese would be interested in such inanities that can be found in the book – “if you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat” springs to mind – is entirely lost on me. And Friedman’s solution to what he identifies as the core problem in America, the education system, is evidence of a third rate intellect. Apparently the US government needs to channel Kennedy, take the 1960s space programme zeitgeist, and apply it to the education system. Meaning throw ever more government money at education, so that by the year 2020, we will be able to put a man on a university campus, or something.

    Friedman isn’t alone, however. Other western Sinophile authors who tell the Chinese what they want to hear have similar success in China. Take the crank historian Gavin Menzies, who wrote books claiming the Chinese admiral Zheng He to be a far more consequential historical figure than Christopher Columbus, and that Zheng Menzies was particularly impressed by the size of the junks Zheng commanded, which he claimed were much larger than the boat that Columbus navigated across the Pacific. This is idiocy; what is verifiable about Zheng’s voyage shows that the fleet never ventured far from land, and would have likely been smashed to pieces in open ocean. Columbus’s journey to the New World was a vastly more impressive feat of seamanship; his boat being much more advanced than Zheng’s junks, in spite of their alleged size (there is actually no conclusive evidence that they were as large as Menzies claimed). Oh, Menzies also wrote a book about how a Chinese fleet sailed to Venice and inspired the Renaissance. So all of the west’s progress that stemmed from the Renaissance can be attributed to China. Of course, no credible authority supports Menzies’s claim that a Chinese fleet visited Venice in the 15th century. Still, he sells more books in China than any other historian.

  • James Waterton

    “and that Zheng”

    should have been “and that Zheng beat Columbus to the New World by several decades”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I haven’t been able to find it again, but somewhere on YouTube I once saw a clip in which Jim Rogers was talking about great China’s economy is. He also talked about the bicycle tour he had taken in 1988 all over China, out in the country and all, and how wonderful it was to see the Chinese people seemingly becoming more prosperous, and looking happy.

    In 1988.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Julie – the fundemental economic reform happened in 1978, by 1988 its effects were clear.

    But is the modern Chinese economy a bubble?

    It is impossible to know for sure (one way or the other) because facts and figures from the Chinese government are even less trustworthy than facts and figures from Western governments.

    No one is suggesting that China will implode back into the Marxist bloodbath of Mao – with tens of millions starving to death.

    But a Great Depression is possible.

    We shall see.

  • Julie near Chicago

    In 1989, the happily prospering Chinese proved their prosperous happiness at Tiananmen Square.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    Gavin Menzies books got a surprising amount of publicity and surprisingly large sales in the West, too, given that they are obvious bollocks. We have physical evidence of such relatively minor things as Dutch visits to Australia in the early 17th century and, more famously, Norse visits to the Americans around a millenium ago, and the idea that much larger Chinese expeditions would visit much more densely populated places with more advanced civilizations and leave nothing behind and non unambiguous history of their visits is silly, frankly). The belief that Chinese civilization is and was more sophisticated and more planned and run by more cunning people than it actually is is attractive to some of us as well as the Chinese, for some reason.

    A thing which gets me about visiting China, and particularly visiting Beijing, is the amount of doublethink going on. There are official party lines about Chinese history, the Chinese economy, the relationship of the rest of China to Beijing, etc etc etc, and you just hear them repeated endlessly. Mostly they are partially or completely untrue. This includes hearing them repeated by foreign expatriates, who should know better. Talking about the relationship between culture and commerce gets some particularly dumb responses, as does talking about the history of Chinese relations with the outside world. I don’t think it is entirely people being afraid to say what they think – at least amongst expatriates – as that the fact that this is how the system works. You think what you are told to think, and this has been internalised to the point where many people can’t comprehend doing otherwise.

  • Kevin B

    I reckon Terry Pratchett’s take on China in Interesting Times is probably as good as Freidman’s. The Emperor’s friends get the chicken breasts, the apparatchiks get the chicken wings, and the peasants get the chicken feet, (or the bird’s nest soup).

    Totally OT, the news that the former governator of California is making a movie come-back, not only as a Terminator but also as Conan reminded me of a character in Interesting times and other earlay Pratchett works, Cohen the Barbarian.

  • Paul Marks

    I remember it well Julie.

    And freedom of speech is no more supported in China now that it was in 1989.

    And Mao, the largest scale mass murderer in human history, is held up as hero – the foundation of the present regime.

    It is as if Germany had pictures of Adolf Hitler on its money – and taught that he was a great man (and example)in the schools.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, Paul. I just get frustrated with people like Rogers who are certainly smart in their own area, but seem to be completely out to lunch when it comes to the nature of the regime they’re dealing with. He touts himself as a libertarian, for heaven’s sake. And he’s far from the only one. It just seems incredibly naïve, or incredibly blind.

    Thanks. :>)

  • Paul Marks

    Ah – but he is not so dumb as to actually live in China. Jim Rogers lives in Singapore.

    People can make money in China – but they would be very unwise to keep the money (or themselves) there.

    The “Mandate of Heaven” can change – over night.

    It has happened many times in Chinese history.

  • Michael Jennings

    People can make money in China – but they would be very unwise to keep the money (or themselves) there.

    Having made money in China, try getting it out. It’s extremely difficult.

  • Paul Marks

    Good point Michael.

    Perhaps spend the money on expensive products – and then take the products out.

    Wealthy Chinese are even taking the precaution of having their children born in other countries (the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand) just in case the Mandate of Heaven suddenly shifts…..

  • Julie near Chicago

    Warning: One of my Musings….

    My problem is, I don’t see how people, presumably bright and allegedly libertarian — like Jim Rogers, like Peter Schiff, like others I know of — can bring themselves to do business where the power is with much worse slaveholders than were ever seen in the American South, where the money is blood money and no mistake about it. Would you do business with Al Capone and his thugs?

    Heck, would you buy stuff that you knew perfectly well was stolen?

    (It’s the wrong question to ask, perhaps. Better: Under what conditions would you compromise your values by buying it from thieves, knowing it was stolen? Not “would you draw the line,” but rather “WHERE would you draw the line?”)

    And how can such presumably bright, intelligent, skilled observers as these not know about the forced-labor camps, the Potemkin Olympics, so forth? The Olympics scam was even widely reported.

    (Yes, I know Jim Rogers lives in Singapore. Singapore is not known as the Asians’ answer to genuine liberty.)

    There is a counterargument to be made of course; I have made it myself, but only so that people will understand the moral dilemma. And that is that maybe, MAYBE, with an increasingly prosperous China and increasing contact with the West–which companies like Google do help to make possible–and with the lessons of the “veneer of free markets” at least (as someone put it), slowly the regime will lighten up.

    I hope it’s so, that I’m all wrong, and that the day will come when I will have to apologize to one and all for my error and my blackguarding them–with the feathers of the crow encrusted all over my mandibles.

    That day has not yet come. And until it does–Would YOU buy the stuff made by the slaves of South, except in cases of necessity, where you would have to leave the Earth almost to live in a reasonably modern way? For instance, with the world as it is a good many medical devices would no longer be available…unless the device-makers could be persuaded that they too have no business doing business with the Chinese regime.

    Nixon. Mao. Horrible.

    What if the Southern or the Chinese slavemasters, seeing themselves losing business, decide to take it out on their slaves?

    People are always saying really stupid stuff like “we shouldn’t play God.” Well, if we give thought to issues like these, when we make a decision about what we’ll do we ARE, unavoidably, “playing God.” Because we are trying to arrive at a position which will be the best for all concerned–others as well as ourselves. And we know that what we do WILL affect others. Perhaps profoundly.

    The medical devices. Are we willing to risk sacrificing the lives of those who have some tradition and some inkling of “civil society,” of what “civilization” really means, and who are thus the carriers of Western Civ, to a possible improvement in the circumstances of the unfortunate individuals who are subjects of the Chinese regimes?

    Are those Chinese people so much more important than we Westerners are?

    Well, I will continue to boycott Chinese products and to try to persuade others to do so also, insofar as I can while still living a “modern” lifestyle. It would be more honest to throw it all up and go live with the Esquimeaux, if there are any who don’t have cell phones and computers. It might not even be a “meaningless sacrifice,” if it drew enough attention to the issue to persuade a critical mass of others to do likewise.

    But…I won’t do it. :>(

    One last thing — I wouldn’t have nearly so much of a problem with these folks if they acknowledged the moral dimension and indicated that they’ve engaged the issues and made their decisions based on considerations X, Y, and Z.

  • Julie:

    I wouldn’t have nearly so much of a problem with these folks if they acknowledged the moral dimension and indicated that they’ve engaged the issues and made their decisions based on considerations X, Y, and Z.

    I am not aware that Rogers has been asked this question, and so have no idea what his thoughts are. But here’s my take on it: as an individual, I reserve the right to live wherever I choose, subject to physical and other realistic constraints (such as governments). Seeing as there’s no place on Earth that is not controlled by some government, my choice to live on a turf claimed by a particular bully is in no way the same as a moral preference of that particular bully over other bullies out there. Speaking strictly subjectively, my moral right to live in the US, Iran or Singapore trumps any legal or other formal rights that particular government may claim on that particular turf (local residents’ claims being something else entirely). I view human power as just another natural power: something to accept on a philosophical level, but something to resist/control/use on a practical level. IOW, I wouldn’t choose to live in Iran for the same reasons I wouldn’t choose to live on top of an active volcano, no more no less. What, if anything, I am prepared to do to neutralize the threat posed by that volcano to the rest of the world in general, and to the local residents in particular, may not necessarily have to do with whether I live in its vicinity, and how much use I do or do not make of its byproducts (is lava useful at all?)

  • Paul Marks

    Is it acceptable to make money doing business in China?

    That depends on what is meant by “doing business”.

    Selling gold (or selling soap) to ordinary Chinese (or ordinary Germans living under the National Socialist government of the 1930s) is fine.

    Selling weapons secrets to the Chinese government is not acceptable.

    And Mr Rogers is not in the weapons business.

    Do people have a moral right to live anywhere they want.

    IF their intention in moving to a place is to destroy it (i.e. they have criminal intent) I would say NO.

    People who think Israel has no right to exist, and plan to help destroy Israel should not be welcomed into Israel – because they come with criminal (treasonable) intent.

    And people who think the Untied States rightfully belongs to Mexico should not be welcomed into the United States – nothing to do with “race” and everything to do with where their LOYALITY is.

    “Paul that is not libertarianism – that is feudalism”.

    Then I am “feudal”.

    A rose by any other name…..

    Although middle aged men do not exactly smell of roses.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Of course people should be free to live where they want! If Maurice Strong wants to live in China, let him; he has the right to live there; but if he makes that choice I certainly have the right to question where he put his conscience. However, I wasn’t talking about Mr. Strong, who is in a different class of creature entirely (I gather) from Mr. Rogers’, nor about living in China.

    Alisa, I agree with what I think you’re saying. It merely surprises me somewhat that someone who does claim to be a libertarian can be comfortable living in as strictly circumscribed and, from what I understand, distinctly UNfree, a spot as Singapore. Of course, it’s possible that if the government holds up its end of the bargain properly, the effective freedom of people there is more than one would think. It’s also possible that one’s status or position has a great effect on one’s effective freedom. I wouldn’t know about that at all.

    Yes, I agree: We have to pick our spot in the real world, not some fantasyland where there is Absolute Freedom just over the next hill.

    Mr. Rogers’ choice of domicile is his own to make; it just strikes me as an odd choice for a libertarian. Coupled with what seem to be some serious misreadings of what has gone on in China in the past and what seems to be ignorance of what is going on there even now, it makes me question whether, putting the best face on it, his optimism blinds him to certain realities.

    . . .

    When anyone does business with a Chinese firm he is giving moral support as well as treasure to the regime, or perhaps more importantly to the very system, itself. He IS helping to prop up that regime (unless, behind the scenes, he’s using his business to help to take it down).

    That is why it was such a horrible thing for Nixon to recognize China diplomatically. The act said to the world: “See, these are folks just like us, and naturally they want to be honored and recognized as legitimate. Anyone would.”

    … I have read that it was an American firm that made and sold to the East Germans (or the Soviets…whichever is technically correct) the razor wire that they used in the Wall….

    I would not have done business with firms in pre-WWII Nazi Germany either, assuming I had known the situation there:

    The first Nazi concentration camps were hastily erected in Germany in February 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his NSDAP was given control over the police through Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring.[1] Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps held around 45,000 prisoners by 1933 and were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of that year.[2]

    –From the Wikipedia article on “Nazi concentration camps.”

    Nor with North Korea, nor the worst (at least) of the Islamic hell-holes of the Middle East. –And the shortlist seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Which was hardly unpredictable.

    All that with one big huge important exception: If I knew that in this particular case, the person or firm with whom or which I was dealing would be using the deal to help to overthrow the regime. Not necessarily by violent revolution, of course; the spread of information and ideas is vitally important.

    Helen MacInnes in one of her thrillers talked about the giving humanitarian aid to the Communist countries (this was back in the ’60’s). One of her characters spoke (as best I recall) of giving them aid, “which only helps their Communist masters to sit more firmly on their backs.”

    It seems to me that doing business in such a country is liable to the same observation.

    . . .

    Nevertheless. If I were able, would I help to get soap or food or books to an individual person in such a country, if I knew that the person was solidly against what was happening, but was unable to leave for some reason (perhaps the razor wire!)? Of course!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Speaking of doing deals with China:

    Here’s someone who apparently sees the issue as I do, and turned down a big deal with the Chinese government as a result. “Silicon Valley Inventor Refuses $60M Research Funds From China for ‘knowing people are losing their lives.'”

    — He seems to have an objection to the organ harvesting.

    From the article:

    “Middlebrook continued: ‘Here’s a foreign government holding money under our noses, and then I start reading about horrific things in China. I thought: “I can’t do this. I can’t take this money. I can’t go to China. No matter how much my technology means, no matter how much they are going to invest, I cannot take China’s money.”‘

    “Friends asked him: Why can’t you take the money, develop the technology to the benefit of the world, and then turn around and use it to do something good? Middlebrook responded: ‘To take their money is taking blood money. If it’s true that they’re killing people for organs, and it goes to the highest levels of the government—and I don’t know how it couldn’t—I can’t sell my technology and benefit financially, no matter how worthy the technology is for the betterment of the environment.'”

    The article states that the newspaper The Epoch Times found evidence indicating that Mr. Middlebrook was telling the truth about his invention.

  • On doing business with China, I wouldn’t go nearly as far as you, Julie. When I buy a pair of sneakers made by some kid in a sweatshop somewhere in China, I help that kid get through another day or even hour. I wouldn’t deny him that, even though I know that a substantial part of the price of those sneakers goes to some party functionary who politically enables the whole enterprise. One of the reasons I don’t make such a big deal out of this is because in the West it works more or less under similar principles – albeit under a different system, with rules written in a different way, with the lipstick of the pig being of different color. I would apply the same to any larger-scale business with Chinese companies. Personally, I would draw a very clear line at dealing directly with Chinese government, or with Chinese companies which are directly profiting things such as labor camps, police, military and other government organizations in China.

  • Laird

    Julie, there is a difference between taking money from the Chinese government (which was what Mr. Middlebrook in that article you linked declined to do) and doing business with individual persons or companies there (which is what I presume Jim Rogers was advocating). Frankly, I think that doing business with individuals and private companies, thereby advancing international trade and helping to expand human prosperity and demonstrate the benefits of free markets, is working to bring down that evil system. Refusing to do business with the Chinese government, its military, or one of its state-owned businesses, is laudatory, but so is doing business with private companies there. You made no such distinction, so I basically disagree with your rant.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, I will happily help you not to service the Chinese government! :>)

    And I understand about the “kid in the sweatshop.” It’s a strong argument, and my instinct is to agree with you. Probably most good-hearted folk do. But I still think that when we do that, we help our society (including, unfortunately, ourselves) to believe that China is a reasonably normal place … we give ourselves permission and an incentive to believe that what is happening there, isn’t happening.

    (I don’t object to third-world sweatshops nor to buying their products, just to be clear. If that kid were so fortunate as to be living in Latin America or India or any number of other places I’d be delighted to buy his sneakers.)

    Also, as I said in the first place, I know that I could be wrong as to the real-world practical consequences of a full-scale boycott vs. dealing with human monsters in spite of everything on the theory that that’s how the regimes ultimately collapse–because the people get a whiff of air in which they’re not just livestock for the Masters.

    And if I were proven wrong, I would be delighted.

    However, I can’t agree with the “lipstick” equivalence.

    The West does NOT, repeat NOT, operate “under similar principles.” Not unless you believe that the Knesset, the Congress, Parliament, both P.M.’s and the person occupying the office of the Presidency, and their counterparts all over the West, authorize organ harvesting, forced abortion, kidnapping, unarguably real torture, rape, and murder, and that while the targetted group may be primarily the Jews–er, I mean, the practitioners of Falun Gong–the knock on the door in the middle of the night, or the hauling off by brute force in broad daylight, and no questions asked, can happen to anyone.

    Oh–and let’s not mention Tibet.

    This isn’t a matter of simple graft or corruption. It isn’t even a matter of “not allowing free speech” or some such such disregard of “human rights.”

    I can’t bring myself to help lend credibility to the Chinese rulership’s continued pretence that it’s just a nice, normal garden-variety totalitarian dictatorship, with policies that are basically just like ours … the same pig, just a different color of lipstick.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird, I made a special point of including this in the description of the article on Mr. Middlebrook: “and turned down a big deal with the Chinese government.”

    As to the substance of your comment, you obviously have a good strong argument and it is one that I have debated with myself, and discussed with others, many times. For instance, in my first comment above, at 2:31 a.m., I wrote:

    “There is a counterargument to be made of course; I have made it myself, but only so that people will understand the moral dilemma. And that is that maybe, MAYBE, with an increasingly prosperous China and increasing contact with the West–which companies like Google do help to make possible–and with the lessons of the “veneer of free markets” at least (as someone put it), slowly the regime will lighten up.

    “I hope it’s so, that I’m all wrong, and that the day will come when I will have to apologize to one and all for my error and my blackguarding them–with the feathers of the crow encrusted all over my mandibles.”

    By the way — since when are musings, or attempts to explain one’s position, “rants”?

  • No Julie, the pigs I was comparing were not the entire governments of, say, the US and China, but rather only the principles and rules having to do with business in general, and foreign trade in particular. Virtually all world governments, East, West and the rest of them interfere in their citizens’ businesses through endless regulations, taxes, tariffs, currency manipulations, etc. China has labor camps and political prosecutions *on top* of that, but those atrocities do not have much to do with the way business is done by most regular folks on a daily basis – which is to say, trying to get by and make a buck without pissing off their overlords.

    And I can’t help but point out that there’s nothing productive – and much counterproductive – about boycotting individual businesses because of the odiousness of their government.

  • Paul Marks

    Maurice Strong – the James Bond (Ian Fleming version) villain.

    Billionaire totalitarian – who believes in no private property rights, bar his own.

    Most people do not know him – but their local councils are busy pushing his “Agenda 21″ ideas.

    Although, I suspect, that dear Mr Strong privately does not really like China.

    Too much freedom there – at least too much for his taste.

    And China is an “industrial society” – Boo-Hiss.

  • Plamus

    I’ll just leave this here.

  • Paul Marks

    North Korean regime…..

    “We are not murderers – and if you say we are, we will hunt you down (where ever you are in the world) and murder you!”.

    If only all Progressives were so stupid.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, then I did misunderstand you. Apologies.

    Although there do spring to mind several analogies that might further illustrate my position, and although there is another whole class of consequences that should be considered pro and con, it’s probably time to table the discussion. Although I do understand your feelings quite well (because in fact I do share them), I will continue to boycott — although, unless a great many people are persuaded to do the same on the same moral principle, it does no good beyond making me feel a little less unclean.

    “How is it productive?” Massive boycotts of particular products or companies can indeed have the effect of killing the product (e.g. the DC-10), or the company; or at least of persuading the latter to change its ways. Insofar as the Chinese regime is subject to boycotts affecting the country’s entire export market, as well as its labor market, AND of the estimate of “the marketplace of ideas” upon its notion of acceptable government, I see no reason why the same would not be true of them as is true of any managerial enterprise, although that is only one of the ways in which the regime should be attacked and de-legitimatized both by nations and in the minds of people all over the world.

    (By the way, a different example of this is the aim of the large and disgusting effort to incite anti-Israelism through the boycotting of academic conferences in which Israel participates. Is it working? Well, it’s certainly recruiting massive numbers of young people to the Cause, while destroying their capacity to observe carefully and to reason clearly, and also their capacity to recognize the difference between good and bad, thus perverting the capacity of conscience–both of which are downright evil–since it presents draughts of hemlock sold as wine to the minds of young people. Also, there’s the snowball effect on the as-yet-unreconstructed academics. You know more than I do about whether it’s actually affecting Israel’s participation.)

    Massive boycotting, after all, is the theory behind embargoes. [The problem with embargoes by the U.S., at least, tends to be that we undercut them ourselves by sending humanitarian aid–food, medicine, even money (the Helen MacInnes quote states outright that this policy cannot work)–and by failing, or perhaps not even trying, to rally everyone else to join us. Thus the “embargo” of Cuba is only a gesture–exactly like my boycotting of Chinese-made goods, sad to say.]

    Still, your idea (and Laird’s, and I suppose most others’) may turn out to be the winner in the long run. I hope so.

    Thank you for the interesting discussion. :>)

  • Yes, it looks like we’ll have to agree to disagree for now, Julie – but it is always a pleasure:-)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks, Alisa. Backatcha! ;>)

  • James Waterton (Perth, Australia)

    Having made money in China, try getting it out. It’s extremely difficult.

    Ah, not if you know where to look. The enormous Chinese diaspora in the west comes in very handy in this regard. You go to a shop that’s ostensibly selling tea or somesuch, pay over the RMB you want sent home, they minus a 1% transaction fee and then convert the remainder into the currency of the destination account using the prevailing rate. They take your bank account details, then tap their contacts in your country to transfer the money from their account into yours. Sometimes the merchants have their own accounts in your country, and you can watch them perform the online transfer if you like. It’s perhaps not totally secure (although it’s been used countless times by expats repatriating their Chinese earnings) but totally legal. You’re paying money to someone in China – that’s not a crime. As a result, someone in the US or UK or Australia and so on transfers money into your account. That’s not a crime in China, either.

    In Vietnam, this same service is much more widely available, reliable, and can be accessed through any of the numerous ‘gold shops’ that dot Vietnamese cities.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    Your experience of this is greater than mine, but I think that depends on who you are and how much money you are moving. Large western companies rather famously go into China, are compelled to operate with Chinese partners, and when they want to take their profits out find that they are either unable to do so due to exchange controls or that the money has somehow ended up in the hands of their Chinese partner. I get the impression that the Taiwanese in particular have informal networks for getting around this sort of thing, but to do it with the transparency that is necessary for a publicly listed western company is harder. That’s all an impression, though, rather than something that really comes from personal experience.