Potemkin villages in China

Catherine the Great’s beloved Grigori Potemkin used to be her advance man as she toured Russia.  He become famous in history for building entirely false villages in the recently conquered Crimea to elevate the status of her new conquest:

Potemkin villages were purportedly fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress’s eyes.

(Read more here to learn how these villages might not have been as duplicitous as they sound.)

The Chinese have gone Potemkin one better.  Rather than building something out of nothing, they’ve used elaborate false fronts to hide the squalor in which so many of their citizens live.  The QandO Blog has more, along with a little dig at Obama’s naive belief that Beijing has created a fully functional infrastructure, just for the Olympics.

Hat tip:  suek

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  • BrianE

    Another amazing develpment in the past few years: People are actually arguing that we should have continued to fight the Vietnam War. Did they ever hear of the Pentagon Papers?

    We should have continued to support the South Vietnamese. When Congress cut off funding, they put a noose around many South Vietnamese necks.

  • Ozzie

    But the Chinese already have them in place – now – and use them for women who are nearly 80 years old.

    If you don’t see a difference, then no further discussion is of value.

    Why do you feel threatened by what “might” be, but not by what “is”?- suek

    I’m most threatened by the future my children face, which is based on a whole set of “what might bes.”

    But since you asked, I’ll tell you what scares me about China.

    From my understanding the U.S is spending billions and billions on the war in Iraq – and currently borrowing $22 for every $100 we spend.

    China is carrying a large chunk of that debt.

    I don’t like being indebted to other nations.

  • suek

    >>I don’t like being indebted to other nations.>>

    I agree with you on that.

  • suek

    You raise two separate issues: spending and the financing of that spending. Both need consideration. I’m not sure I know enough to discuss either of them…I know that the deficit seems huge, but as a percentage of GNP is not as high as it has been in the past, and has been decreasing. I also know that the reason countries buy our bonds is due to the fact that they are considered reliable and secure. I’d be happier if we bought our own bonds and notes, but let’s face it – if our government went broke, what can they do? March in and take our gold? we’re not on the gold standard. Still, I’d rather see us on a balanced budget, with the SS funds out of reach of the Congress.

    The balance of trade is another issue…apparently intellectual material isn’t included in the balance of trade. Only hard goods. That means that software isn’t included, and that’s a big bunch. At least, that’s what I understand. And even if it were all included, that’s private industry, not government debt. I need to take another class or two in Econ. Why is there always more to learn!

  • Ozzie

    You raise two separate issues: spending and the financing of that spending. Both need consideration. I’m not sure I know enough to discuss either of them…suek

    This isnt my strongsuit, either. I keep hearing about how China is floating our debt, however and it has me concerned.

    At times, I think that only those who dont have a clue about money are the ones sounding the alarm, and other times (like when I turn on David Letterman and see Donald Trump yacking about how America is falling behind countries like China, as we spend billions of dollars on a war of choice) I think we’re in deep trouble.

    A documentary about this very issue debuts this month:

    http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3873177881/

  • suek

    Why do you call it a “war of choice”?

    Because we have chosen the time and the place, or because you think that it just simply wouldn’t have happened at some time in the future had we not grasped the nettle when we did?

  • suek

    Heh…

    For you, Ozzie, just because you’re concerned about how much we’re spending!

    http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2008/08/pure-economics.html

  • Ozzie

    Why do you call it a “war of choice”? — suek

    Because Iraq wasn’t a threat to the U.S.

  • Ozzie

    For you, Ozzie, just because you’re concerned about how much we’re spending!suek

    This is what concerns me:

    The Chinese are subsidizing the American way of life. Are we playing them for suckers—or are they playing us?

    . . . In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.

    Any economist will say that Americans have been living better than they should—which is by definition the case when a nation’s total consumption is greater than its total production, as America’s now is. Economists will also point out that, despite the glitter of China’s big cities and the rise of its billionaire class, China’s people have been living far worse than they could. That’s what it means when a nation consumes only half of what it produces, as China does. . .
    For America, it has meant cheaper iPods, lower interest rates, reduced mortgage payments, a lighter tax burden. But because of political tensions in both countries, and because of the huge and growing size of the imbalance, the arrangement now shows signs of cracking apart. . . .

    Americans sometimes debate (though not often) whether in principle it is good to rely so heavily on money controlled by a foreign government. The debate has never been more relevant, because America has never before been so deeply in debt to one country

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/fallows-chinese-dollars