We’ve all heard of the American Dream. The Communist Party has recently promoted the idea of the Chinese Dream. Well, what about the Human Dream? In a better world, we’d like to believe our values are universal. That at our best, we are all mostly the same. We are unique and special in our own ways, but at our core we’re joined in the same good, basic nature.
Now contrast this with the idea of the Arcturan Dream. In their universe things are slightly different. Here, you can start with nothing and make something of yourself. There, you can start with nothing and make nothing of somebody else. Here, you can use your talent and spirit to create something new, something people really want or need and thus enrich their lives. There, you can use your talent and spirit to destroy something old, something people really wanted or needed and thus ruin their lives.
The difference between these two constructs isn’t just the brutally unhinged view of a bunch of degenerate grizzled Arcturan exiles. It’s a variation between two choices, two ways we can roll forward as a planet. Believe it or not, I know this might shock some of you, but a lot of folks on this floating rock are committed to the Arcturan view of our future.
If you read yesterday’s post, you’d think that’s where my brain usually is. I guess you’re right, but every once and a while I have hope that by 2090, we’re somehow okay. It comes from the most random of places. To give you an idea how random, and as a window into just how bizarre and unbalanced my brain is, today’s optimism comes from Alibaba’s plan to go public. Wait, what? Hold on, don’t click away just yet, allow me to explain things in a coherent (nonsensical) manner. Even though explaining anything at the moment is rather difficult. One of them has an Arcturan bolt pistol to the back of my head while I type. They do it for fun, it’s their thing. Don’t ask why, the explanation takes like six hours and you come away fearing your own shadow.
So for those of you focused on what Lady Gaga’s next pathetic attention-seeking costume is, Alibaba is a Chinese internet company similar to Amazon or EBay. Except that in terms of scale, it blows them both away combined. Now I always try and avoid sounding like one of those smart (stupid) folks who always start off a story about China by shouting just how big it is, but just so we’re clear, Alibaba’s really freaking big.
Alibaba sold $248B worth of stuff last year. Amazon did $74B. Bloomberg offers a neat comparison: “Amazon makes less than a penny for every dollar in revenue, while Alibaba makes about 43 cents.”
Friends, they have a customer base of over one-billion people and they’re already making this kind of money. Plus, Chinese consumers have only jumped into the online shopping arena in the last few years. There are hundreds-of-millions of potential online Chinese shoppers who’ve yet to try.
So Alibaba is going to take this success and list publicly in America. This share sale is likely to be among the biggest in history and raise billions. The business community is beginning to talk of Alibaba making its mark as a truly global company. But why are they listing in America? Why not Hong Kong or Shanghai? So here then, we get to the point of why I really care.
Now I don’t know anything about anything. And I certainly don’t know much about stocks, finance, or business. But I’m going to take a guess here when I say that it’s because Alibaba does not believe a China based exchange provides them the best circumstances to operate and expand their business. Put simply, Alibaba doesn’t trust the Chinese system.
Jack Ma lived what the Communist Party considers the Chinese Dream. He didn’t grow up in rags, but when you take a five-figure loan and turn it into one of the world’s most successful companies in a little over a decade, I think you can say he’s made it on raw talent. He’s now one of the richest guys on the planet.
Now granted, he has to play in the Chinese system, so I’m sure he’s not as clean as I’d like to believe, but broadly speaking this is a guy you can probably embrace as living the way you’d want. He isn’t a guy who earned this by stealing peasant farmland and selling it to developers. He doesn’t make knock-off products or poisoned food and then bribe corrupt officials to get away with it. He didn’t get here by having people strangled in a back alley in Hangzhou, I think.
He’s also saying and doing things you’d normally consider virtuous. Now he could just be padding his image prior to the public offering, or lying his ass off like a cutthroat politician, but when one of the richest and most powerful guys in China is offering things like this, it’s time to pay attention:
“In China, because of problems in water, air and food safety, in 10 or 20 years we will face a lot of health problems, like increased cancer … My second focus is people’s culture and education – if we don’t do this then young Chinese people will grow up with deep pockets but shallow minds.”
“The most fun part of business, at least to me, is to contribute to the future. It’s not just about making money – it’s about making healthy money, enabling people to enjoy their lives. I think the important thing is to wake people up and let them know that our environmental issues need to be addressed.”
“Somebody has to do something … Our job is to wake people up.”
Now some of this same verbiage is coming from the mouths of Communist Party officials, but what if Ma actually means it? Whereas I’m pretty sure the Communist Party does not. When you combine Ma’s background, his stated vision for the future, and such a blatant “fuck you” to the Reds by not listing his baby on their regulated exchanges? Well, friends, this gets me a little giddy.
What I hope for is that down the road, a Chinese man or woman will have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms and liberties that I do. If you don’t believe in these universal values for all humans, I understand and respect your opinion, but you’re just flat out wrong. So in this forum, it’s about how China gets there. Not if, but when.
Most go by the assumption that if China will get to that level of freedom it’s going to be bottom-up generated. As in via a new people’s revolution or something like 1989 redux. I just don’t see this happening. The Communist Party controls the streets too tightly. Everybody remembers East Germany right? They had some insane ratio of citizens to internal security members. One of my lifelong friends once commented that the Stasi had so many folks on their pay they were “watching dogs and fire hydrants”.
It’s the same in China. The People’s Armed Police has a larger budget than the armed forces. They’re just simply not going to allow bottom-up changes in any capacity. Now you’ll say, if East Germany had that level of security, and they were destroyed from the street, why not China? Because when in doubt, the Communist Party would resort to the expenditure of ammunition before they’ll let things collapse.
The People’s Armed Police is willing to shoot folks in the streets whereas the East German forces were not. Syria has shown the dictators of the world how you solve revolutions. You exit the situation with unbridled amounts of gunfire against your own people. What’s the world going to do about it? Sanction Red China? The planet’s economy would collapse. And we can’t even do anything about Syria, let alone something dramatic in China.
If China’s going to change, it’s going to be top-down. It has to begin there, even if it does ultimately end on the street. It’s going to have to start with guys like Jack Ma. Men and women who have lived, tasted, and know what it means to be successful outside the blanket of the Party. Folks who are committed to a bright future for their country, and also have the money and power to do something about it. I truly hope he’s for real.
So here’s hoping Alibaba blows it away. That they make Facebook and Twitter’s recent offerings look like amateur hour. And more importantly, here’s hoping Ma uses the container-ship-full-of-cash and power he’s about to earn and turns it into a weapon for the light. Tools for a dream tomorrow for China. For his home.
If he means what he says, he has the power to become one of the most remarkable men in history