Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Smug journalist reports on smug bureaucrat being smug to formerly smug business types about the fact that he can be smug now and they can't.

Yes, it's that protracted smirk also known as the World Economic Forum again. Robert Peston, himself a connoisseur of all things self-satisfied, describes Wen Jiabao enjoying some banker-bashing:

The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, both reassured and humiliated the western bankers. He reassured them with his account of how the supply of credit is rising again in China, which gives him confidence that the Chinese economy will grow by a more-than-respectable 8% in 2009. He embarrassed them with this manifestation of the strength of Chinese banks compared with their US, UK and eurozone peers (a strength that is the direct consequence of Chinese government policy).

It's very irksome for the Americans in particular that the Chinese version of what they see as their business model is holding up so well. And as if to rub their noses in it, the Chinese premier confided that he re-read Adam Smith over the summer (note "re-read") to reassure himself that the founder of modern economics wasn't the dogmatic opponent of government intervention that liberal market ideologues contend.

Now I've only skim read The Wealth of Nations, but I'm still pretty sure it didn't look like a blueprint for the modern Chinese state. Maybe I missed some of the nuance: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest in making damn sure they don't piss off a member of the ruling party if they know what's good for them."

But credit where credit is due (sorry), that was some good smug.

Update: Lots of typo correction and a link added.


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