Sunday, November 20, 2011

When China meets the west, the river turns its current a new direction.

The world today is undergoing a transition. China is on an upswing and Europe is down and seems to drag the U.S. kicking and screaming. The economies that was once built on colonialism, and then industrialization, overburdened themselves with growth and debt; now seeking refuge in talks of stability and world order.

These once proud monarchies and democracies beckon at the every sneeze of a socialist market economy.

What everyone seem to ignore, however, is the once colonists nations—the ones to introduce industrialization to their own lands and found cheaper labors and less demanding regulatory environments to do their dirty work, now faces an invariable irony: the world is running out of these places with cheap labors and uncaring residents suffering environmental injustice silently— the world can no longer suffer exploitations. Profit models have to be restructured, laws rewritten to fit this changing modern world. That is the $64 dollar question: how are laws changed and enforced in light of this transition of power between the once exploitive to the once exploited? What happens to the old world laws when the new world of the masses, the world of the poor—of the 99%, take over global redistribution of wealth, equality, and justice?

The Chinese have an saying: “30 years the river will run east, but 30 years will the river run west.” What has mounted the industrialized nations on the backs of the poor from developing countries, now is rattling the status quo; the once colonial powers now recede to a debt servitude. China stands to reclaim its position of power exercising its “socialist democracy soft power,” whatever can that mean? But the U.S. and Europe now must confront the course of their past in light of China’s new future.

I take intellectual property as an example here. For thousands of years, China lacked the concept of intellectual property protection. Ideas and the exchange of ideas are free and encouraged in the deeply Confucius culture. No one achieved the status of a monopoly, except the emperor—son of haven. This was a relatively stable environment and did not impede the spirit of innovation as some capitalist world argue resting the creative forces of man kind simply on the drive for profit. No, China was once prosperous-having invented many technologies that moved the world. Paper, printing, gunpowder, compass, and the list goes on; China never thought to protect this thing called “intellectual property” until the world of corporate interests and monopoly interests so demanded it.

The enforcers runs into problems: at the local provincial level, where the rubber of the proverbial tire meets the road, the people sees intellectual property as they have always seen—the free and unassociated ideas that will be bought and sold to make their living and feed their hungry children. The provincial leadership and judiciary yield to this powerful interests—it is the interests of the masses, of the 99%.

As the river runs 30 years to the east, we see a convergence of rule of law problems in China preserving the monopoly rights over intellectual properties of corporate interests. While we scream rule of law fouls, we forget the river is running their way and their poor now demands a change of fundamental ontology.

In this new course of our human history, it’s pointless to fight the currents of change. We may as well embrace the principles of Confucian emphasis on free ideas, on learning, on access to education and opportunities. Rather than protectionism and wasting on international litigation that amounts to no real change, we may as well open source and figure out a new way of sustaining the economy.  We all stand to benefit from this; this is the meaning of sustainability—taking flight and changing with the course of history for the benefit of all, not for the benefits of the few.

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