Reply To: The US Fails Me Again

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Avatar photoCharlie


You make some very valid points and I agree with many of them. Thank you for writing a thought-provoking reply. The reason why I mention law and the legality of American companies is because I have an interest in helping my friend discover potential cases in Chengdu or elsewhere in China that benefit his firm and victims of corporate wrongdoing at the same time.

So, this is a complex issue which could be discussed at great length, but I will just say a few things.

I don’t think that the legal atmosphere in China can be fairly called equivalent to the United States for many reasons. China routinely enacts laws which are outright laughed at, by locals and foreigners alike, like when they recently banned smoking indoors, or enacted a law to determine who the Dalai Lama will be reincarnated as. Laws like this are routine in China. No one in China really knows which laws will be enforced at any given time, so there’s a uniquely arbitrary quality to law enactment and enforcement here. Anyone who has been to the PSB or dealt with any official organ of the CCP will have experienced this.

The incarceration rate of non-violent criminals in the United States is a good example of the American police state, but not of lawlessness in my opinion. China is a place where parents with financial means don’t dare buy baby formula produced in China because there’s a widespread belief, with reason, that regulatory bodies are toothless to fight institutionalized corruption and rampant profiteering at the cost of human lives. Toothless is probably the wrong word to use, we all know they are being paid off. This is just an example, but there are many industries in China which operate under similar principles of lawlessness, and regulatory bodies which do nothing but provide the slightest appearance of oversight.

The laws in this case really don’t matter. First of all, corporations are the primary lobbyists for laws written. It’s easy for them to follow their own rules.

This is true in many cases but there are also cases which demonstrate exactly the opposite, like the US recently passing net neutrality laws against the commercial interests of many very powerful telecommunication incumbents. Ones with as many lobbyists as any industry has. A few weeks ago I was in Golden Gate Park and realized that nothing like that could ever exist in China, nor could Central Park in Manhattan. It would have long been made into condos by a property developer with guanxi. That’s China, with its relentless and uncompromising drive toward material wealth.

Secondly, US corporations don’t have to follow US laws when they hand off responsibility to a local/regional firm. Foxconn, for example. In other industries, sweatshops have existed for a reason. Look at P&G or Coca-Cola, who have been wreaking havoc over rainforests across the globe for decades. There may be laws, but who’s gonna enforce them? And against a foreign intermediary? There’s no law that can teach human decency. Laws are designed for punitive purposes, not preventative. By the time you punish someone, the damage has already been done.

Right, as you say, they hand off responsibility. It’s up to lawmakers in that country to determine and enforce the law. In many cases, like Coca-Cola and Foxconn, they enter into a morally reprehensible space. Capitalism is not without victims, but I don’t think this equates to any kind of legal or moral equivalency between China and America.

I think that law can guide people toward human decency when the system of enforcement works and the penalty is greater than the reward of circumventing the law. In China, this is clearly not working, which is part of the reason why China is rightly known as a society lacking ethics.

Just me throwing in my few cents……… Your boss in US was an Indian lady you said? They don’t have a good reputation as being “fair” managers….

Really? I’ve never heard that.

The #1 goal of any US publically owned company is to make as much profit as possible, so they don’t care about hiring ethical people, they care about getting profits without breaking the law (or getting caught breaking the law). I think deep down, the US and China are about the same. They try to give a different appearance on the surface but people everywhere have the same motives and drives.

All companies have an imperative to be profitable but I think it’s another leap of logic entirely to say that this means that US and China are the same. It’s not uncommon for companies in America to devote time and resources, which they could be using to generate additional profit, to do benevolent things like community outreach. Especially in economically prosperous places like San Francisco or New York City.