On “Intimidation” (and a very short, truncated history on the Chinese diaspora in America)

At the risk of excessive navel-gazing, a commentary on what responsibilities Asian-Americans have in calling out China. An Econbrowser reader writes:

[D]o I think Menzie is a China apologist? No. Do I think Menzie is thoroughly intimidated by China? Absolutely.

But he is hardly alone in this.

Nevertheless, there is a bigger picture. If China follows trend, if this trend leads to open conflict with the US, then Menzie will regret not having taken a more public and determined stand to argue for democracy in China. As I have stated: Our best hope for China’s peaceful rise to superpower status is the rapid development of that country’s internal democracy.

This conversation began because this same reader criticized my banning a commenter on the basis of the use of the term “China virus”. My view was that this was racist and xenophobic, falling under the exclusion conditions of the blog commenting policy. See discussion here.

I’m all for more democracy in China. However, as an American (I guess I don’t need to say it, but for full disclosure, born in the geographical borders of the United States), I don’t think the fact I haven’t made a public call for democracy in China implies I’m intimidated by China, any more than the fact that I’ve never made a public call for democracy in Russia means I’ve been intimidated by Russia.

What sparked this debate was the comment by the same reader:

I was, of course, referring the to banning of PeakTrader for using the term ‘China virus’. I see it as an extreme and discriminatory step. Moreover, because it is by a Chinese-American professor in an attempt to suppress what appears to be implied, but deserved, criticism of Chinese authorities, the optics are terrible and I believe serves no one, and in particular, the Chinese-American community whom you are ostensibly seeking to defend.

This is what drives my focusing on what would otherwise be a merely irritating and mildly insulting thread. It reflects the view that Chinese-Americans (and by transitivity, although the reader denies it), Korean-Americans and other hyphenated Americans, be viewed with a caveat about their motivations. In principle this should apply to Australian-Americans or German-Americans, but we know that in the real world where I live, by second generation all such concerns disappear because the readily identifiable visual markers are gone. Few who have never been asked in rapid succession “Where are you from?” and “Where are you *really* from?” (despite having no accent to my knowledge) can understand that (admittedly that happens a lot more when I interact with certain demographic groups than others).

So, I view Mr. Kopits’s comments as presaging a lot more Asian-American bashing (because the general population is not very good in discerning the features that distinguish Chinese from say Vietnamese from say Korean) in the wake of continuing anti-China sentiment — and hence better to confront now than later. The end of the pandemic will not end the attacks on Asian-Americans, although they may become less physical in nature.

I can’t speak for other Chinese-Americans (and more specifically American-born Chinese), but here is my view:

Why should I — an American with no financial interest in China (unlike our current president) — be intimidated? I don’t have any close relatives in the country. I don’t plan to be moving there. I don’t plan to work there. I don’t plan to be working with any public or private entities there.

So why pick me out to call me intimidated. I’ll let the non-blind answer.

I will also observe the sheer ignorance some purportedly informed people display when talking about China, and more importantly the Chinese diaspora in America, is sometimes stunning. So for the Steven Kopits of the world, I will note:

  • There once was a great civil war in China. (actually, several, but I’m referring to the past 100 odd years).
  • There was a losing side.
  • There were a lot of people who left the country as a consequence, with lots of property nationalized.
  • So, there are lots of Chinese Americans in America who are no friends of the current political management of China.





89 thoughts on “On “Intimidation” (and a very short, truncated history on the Chinese diaspora in America)

  1. Steven Kopits

    I’ll take it. A little extreme, but it’s beginning to surface an issue.

    I think the question is whether the Chinese authorities will provide you a travel visa to China.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Steven Kopits: Well, as an international finance expert – as opposed to a China expert – it’s not a big deal. It’s not as if I go to the PRC even once every two or three years. Truly, there is no leverage, but the fact that you impute it as a reason I don’t call for democracy in China speaks volumes.

      Personally, I think it’s as futile as asking for democracy in Russia. However, I think that imposing economic sanctions for mass incarceration, possibly genocide, of Uighurs might be useful once we have a sentient president in place.

      1. Steven Kopits

        I don’t know, Menzie. My sister-in-law is Korean, fix or six years younger than you. She is very sensitive to the whole Asian thing. I have to wonder about its historical roots. If you go back to our childhood, there was a huge disparity between Asians and whites, certainly at the national level, and this was interpreted, certainly until at least 1980, as inherent racial superiority. It wasn’t limited to Asians. I remember around the time of NAFTA was passed, it was an open question whether Mexicans could assemble cars as well as Americans. It’s ridiculous if you think about it, but it was a real topic. And that applied to Asians as well.

        But a lot has happened in the last forty years, and traits once considered inherently racial have proved instead to be related to economic development and education. My younger son’s favorite country is Korea: “Everything’s so modern and clean,” he said, implying they were so far ahead of us. But that’s really all happened in the last generation or two. I have to wonder whether Asians who grew up prior to 1980 tend to nevertheless carry that earlier feeling of inferiority with them, of being less than white people. On the face of it, it’s ridiculous: My sister-in-law has degrees from Byrn Mawr and Darden, the family is wealthy and accomplished, her daughter is at Haverford and her son at Yale. By any objective measure, they belong to the elite of society, but I don’t believe she feels that way. I think in her mind it’s still like the Korea of MASH, the rich, confident Americans saving the poor. backward Koreans. In important ways, Korean to her is the Korean of her childhood, a world that has objectively disappeared but still casts shadows over her view of herself.

        I believe calling for democracy in China in important ways speaks to this same issue. Like it or not, someone who lacks the right to vote is not the equal of someone who does. The latter is a citizen, the former is a subject. In calling for democracy in China, and doing so publicly, we are also signaling the the Chinese public that we believe they have merit, that they are citizens and not just subjects, and that we hold them to be the equal of all men and women.

        I would be pleased if President Biden, after a meeting with President Xi, would say, “I asked President Xi what I will always ask him: ‘When are you going to hold free and open elections?’ He said that he has no intention to. And that is and will remain a key difference between us. We believe that China is now sufficiently developed that its citizens should have the rights that those of Japan, Korea, and yes, Taiwan, take for granted: the right to choose their elected leaders. The Chinese people are not a lesser people, as President Xi contends. We believe they are the equal of others, of other Asians and of the people of the United States. It’s time to take the next step to bring China properly into the family of nations governed by law and held accountable to their citizens.”

        I think that would be a good thing.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: You live in NJ. I live in Wisconsin. While Madison is a bubble, it’s a very small bubble. The Beltline highway, the de facto dividing line between where the Biden-Harris signs are and the Trump-Pence signs is less than 2 miles away. I would venture to say attitudes have not changed as much as you think.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Well, like Madison, both Princeton and Cape Cod are also a bit bubbly in this regard, although as with Madison for both of them people are not far away who would just as soon punch a Chinese-American out of anger of Japanese car imports as punch a Korean-American over a virus that seems to have come from China.

          2. Steven Kopits

            Cape Cod is pretty much straight up granola. (I am speaking now of the Outer Cape, north of the elbow at Chatham.) The culture of the area is focused on nature and the ocean. No cows. No guns. Few Republicans. And of course Provincetown is famous for its LGBTQ culture.

            Lots of Boston Brahmin and crunchy New England types hang about. Highly educated people in the summer on average. Many people who have second homes here are academics.

            And lots of covid exiles (including me) at the moment. The real estate market is entirely crazy. And you can’t find a dentist or doctor to save your life. They are absolutely swamped. Very unusual situation, actually.

  2. Macroduck

    You are responding to bigotry with reason. The idea that someone with the surname “Chinn” is likely to be intimidated by China (A country? A government? A culture? An abstraction?) is quite like suggesting that I am probably intimidated by ducks. The claim that China intimidates you is a crude conflation of stereotypes, nothing more.

    I want ti maje myself perfectly clear here. I have needs. Selfish needs. I need access to intelligent discussion of economics, and there is a conspiracy to prevent such discussion. That conspiracy is widespread, but is on clear display in this comment section. Every post draws trolling comments aimed at derailing rational thought, rational thought being contrary to the interests of your trolls ideological masters.

    Comments to the prior post included the assertion, by a troll, that “free speech” is of such importance that it ought to trump all other considerations. Coming from a troll, that is nothing more than a demand that trolling be given free rein to prevent rational discourse. Trolling is the weaponization of speech against reason.

    “Free speech” demands have long been waved around by liars and bullies to justify their behavior. Liars and bullies often misconstrue the guarantee of free speech. Menzie, by banning trolls, you provide a space for meaningful speech. I appreciate that you want to provide a justification for your decision, but you never need yo justify yourself to the goons who pollute your comment section.

    1. 2slugbaits

      Macroduck I don’t think Menzie banned PeakTrader for trolling. If that were the case he would have banned him long ago. My understanding is that PeakTrader was banned because he violated a civil discourse policy that proscribed racist slurs. It’s important that we keep that distinction in mind, otherwise it just feeds the Breitbart and Parler line that conservatives are being banned for simply being conservatives.

      Personally I’m not smart enough to know whether PeakTrader or sammy or CoRev or Bruce Hall are merely uninformed or are part of a troll conspiracy to derail discussion. They seem too passionate about their views to be mere paid trolls, but what do I know. OTOH, one thing I do know is that you can always skip past their posts if you don’t want to feed the troll. I also know that it does me no harm to try and correct them even if it proves to be a futile effort.

      1. macroduck

        When I look at the results, I conclude that the volume of off-topic comments discourages on-topic discussion. If the purpose of Menzie’s (and James’… James?) effort is the analysis of economic conditions and policy, then allowing this endless flood of ill-i formed, ill-i tended comments is contrary to the blog’s purpose.

        You know enough economics to avoid confusion when the likes of Kopits or Hall attempt to mislead. Many are not as well armored with knowledge. And efforts to understand the limits o human rationality have discovered that rebuttal is more likely to reinforce lies than to weaken them. That’s why the Koch brothers pay people to lie and to learn how to lie effectively.

        Energy firms and tobacco firms teamed up to see doubt about science, giving bought-and-paid-for politicians cover so they could go on protecting energy and tobacco firms rather than the public. That pattern of behavior has become common, and it’s purveyors routinely make high-sounding speeches about open debate and speech rights while abusing debate an speech in calculated ways. Harm is done when a forum is provided for lies.

        1. 2slugbaits

          macroduck Here I think you’re making a slightly different argument. Keep in mind that Menzie’s policy is to ban people for using racist slurs and discourse that goes beyond the bounds of civility. As I read your comments you are suggesting that Menzie should expand that to include comments that are off-topic and/or intellectually corrupt. In PeakTrader’s case I don’t think his comment was off-topic, although it was clearly racist. So we appear to have three categories of blog offenses:
          (1) racist slurs and uncivil discourse
          (2) threadjacking with off-topic comments
          (3) posters who deliberately try to misstate facts

          The first category is pretty easy to identify and police. The second category would have us all banned at one time or another…including Menzie himself. The third category is a slippery slope and all but impossible to enforce. It would also impose an undue burden on Menze and JDH.

          1. baffling

            “The third category is a slippery slope and all but impossible to enforce. It would also impose an undue burden on Menze and JDH.”
            a lot of comments, perhaps, but from only a select few culprits. it would probably be less of a burden than continue to read their asinine commentary.

      1. macroduck

        Oooo, how manly you (are trying to) seem! Impressive.

        Not clear how using my legal name would make my scribblings more or less useful. Kind makes me wonder why you care to know my name.

        I happen to know (because of questions from bank tellers, of all places) that at least four people in Brooklyn share my name. And the FBI once treated someone with my name very shabbily. And there’s this insurance broker… I suspect there are hundreds of people with my name across North America. I believe, however, that I am the only macroduck in existance.

        Given the propensity among righties to use doxing and other pernicious actions to bully those who disagree with them, I wouldn’t want to expose any of my namesakes to you and your buddies.

        1. Steven Kopits

          OK. But I think you’ll agree that using one’s name tends to contribute to accountability. Look at the comments in the WSJ, which requires an actual name. A little more restrained than here, on average.

          1. macroduck

            Accountability? What an odd standard to raise here. Honesty seems relevant. Good intentions seem relevant. Factual seems relevant.

            Why should I be accountable to someone who pays me nothing, to whom I have made no pledge? Accountable to whom? You? Nice try, but no. Of all be possible standards you could have suggested, you chose one to justify you tough guy attitude in the earlier comment, but which doesn’t make any sense.

            I’ll set my own standards, thank you very much. Honest, factual and with good intentions toward those who also have good intentions. None of this accountability little, unless you start signing my checks. And that ain’t gonna happen.

          2. baffling

            the wsj is a poor example. i quit my subscription after one too many editorials that were basically unhinged. the name was there. it did not stop them from lying. i found the ft has been a much better option overall.

    2. Barkley Rosser

      “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it is a duck.” – Joseph McCarthy (really) Quack, quack, quack!

  3. Steven Kopits

    “There once was a great civil war in China. (actually, several, but I’m referring to the past 100 odd years).
    There was a losing side.
    There were a lot of people who left the country as a consequence, with lots of property nationalized.
    So, there are lots of Chinese Americans in America who are no friends of the current political management of China.”

    Of course, we had that in Hungary, too. But like the Cubans, we expatriate Hungarians screamed loud and clear for two generations to get rid of the Communists and restore democracy. We succeeded. The Cubans struggle to this day.

    This country has long stood for democracy and individual rights. Such rights are increasingly trampled in China, most notably in Hong Kong, but throughout Chinese society in greater China as well. I believe the US should continue to champion the rights and dignity of the individual, including in China.

    In the case of China, this may prove an existential matter. Can the rise of China to superpower status be accomplished without a Sino-US war under President Xi? I believe the most plausible answer is ‘no’.

    While I can appreciate sensitivity to anti-Chinese sentiment, should a US aircraft carrier finds its grave in the Taiwan Strait, it is only the faintest shadow of the hostility one might reasonably expect in its wake. Democracy in China is our best hope to avoid such an outcome, and I believe democracy in China should be vocally and consistently championed by US political leaders, the American press and public, and yes, by the Chinese-American and Chinese expatriate community.

    1. 2slugbaits

      Steven Kopits Can the rise of China to superpower status be accomplished without a Sino-US war under President Xi? I believe the most plausible answer is ‘no’.

      I’ve read my Thucydides and I think he was wrong. I don’t agree with the Thucydides Trap hypothesis that’s so much in vogue these days.

      1. Steven Kopits

        Yeah, Slugs, but in comes down to evidence and theory. The trend lines are all in the wrong direction. I think a test of power is where we end up from extrapolating recent data points.

        I see no signs of Xi’s policies moderating. Exactly the opposite. So you’re either whistling in the dark or you have some different narrative that you might share.

        Right now, there is a growing mismatch between China’s economic, technical and increasing military power and the development of its social and political institutions. That’s the occupational hazard of catching up on about a century’s growth in a few decades. The problem is that, at China’s size, even a small screw-up, perhaps a little lapse at an otherwise advanced lab, can trash the global economy and kills millions of people.

        In any event, I hope you are right, but either way, I think it’s time to start talking about China becoming a normal democracy.

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            He really has no idea does he?? Was “Princeton”Kopits sleeping when Chinese expatriates and ethnic Chinese of multiple other nations were protesting at embassies and other large public parks and landmarks when Liu Xiaobo was arrested and went on hunger strike?? And the public protests by ethnic Chinese in multiple nations during Hong Kong’s forceful takeover?? Wow, I think you are not the one navel-gazing here Menzie.

            Does Kopits think German Americans or those with largely German heritage should run around apologizing and demonstrating against current Nazi activity in Germany?? I’m trying to remember if Kopits has EVER stated as such on this blog. Can anyone help me find a reference to said such on this blog???

            Did “Princeton”Kopits make a single comment on this blog deploring donald trump’s tacit approval of Nazi violence in Charlottesville?? One SINGLE comment against donald trump for putting his stamp of approval on that?? Kopits’ little puppet show of “caring” he’s putting on for the audience brings new meaning to the description “unmitigated gall”.

        1. macroduck

          Trend lines? Stevie thinks he sees trend lines.

          So, here’s a question. Is Xi continuing the domestic and foreign policies of his recent predecessors, or do his policies represent a divergence? If there are any such things as tend lines in history, you should be able to inform us of Xi’s place on one. And if Xi’s policies are not a continuation of those of his predecessors, how do manifestations of his policies amount to part of a trend? How does an inevitable march read from a changing course?

          I gotta know, Stevie, because this grasp of historical trends you claim to have seems like another big if intellectual posturing.

    2. Barkley Rosser


      There may well be a war between US and PRC. But I see absolutely no reason why one is necessary for China’s relative position in the world to continue to rise. The real bottom line here is indeed economic. As long as the Chinese economy continues to grow much more rapidly than that of the US, with it already well ahead of the US in aggregate PPP GDP,. its relative position in the world will grow stronger. Period.

      And again, you are coming across as incredibly naive with this idea that somehow if PRC were to become democratic this would somehow slow down its drive to retake Taiwan and otherwise increasingly dominate or strongly influence neighbors. Again, has democracy in Russia or Turkey kept either of them from invading neighbors? No, and both Putin and Erdogan gained in popularity by doing so.

      1. Steven Kopits

        China is well positioned to exert influence over Taiwan in the long run, in particular absent military force. So then why the show of force? Does this make mainland China more attractive the citizens of Taiwan? Everything Xi is doing now is unnecessary and taking China in the wrong direction, unless force is the preferred mode of interaction — and it appears to be so for Xi. Why steal what you can buy? Because force is Xi’s currency.

        Again, for me, it is not of principal importance whether the US or China is the hegemon. Rather, the question is what sort of hegemony will prevail. Under Xi, a darkness is spreading, and it is this darkness which may precipitate war. This kind of darkness can last a long time. I do not want it.

        You write: “Has democracy in Russia or Turkey kept either of them from invading neighbors?” Russia is not a democracy; Erdogan is dictator in all but name.

        Russia did indeed invade Ukraine and suffered for it. The country has been quiet since.

        Turkey has been active in Armenia / Azerbaijan, in what can be described as a complex regional situation. Ostensibly, Russia was lining up behind Armenia; in practice, it appears to have accepted a Turkey-supported, Azerbaijani fait accompli.

        Turkey is active in the war in Syria. Well, so is everyone else and I frankly see no other possibility for Turkey, given that the war is being fought on its border.

        Both Erdogan and Putin have imperial ambitions. Putin would clearly like to reacquire at least traditional Russia, eg, Ukraine, Belarus, and a Baltic state or three. But he has perhaps 10% of NATO’s GDP and one-quarter of its population. Russia cannot act in material opposition to NATO. Again, please note that Putin is not an elected official in a traditional democratic sense. He is an autocrat, and like autocrats traditionally, he is acquisitive, ie prone to conflicts of conquest. But don’t think that will go down well with the public unless successes are quick and cheap. If pensioners fail to get their checks, domestic problems will loom large. And Russia depends heavily on oil revenues, currently low.

        I would add parenthetically that Russia is a European, not Asian, power. The greatest risk to Russia is not Europe or America, but rather a rapidly advancing China coveting the raw materials of empty Siberia. It is not so much that China may invade, but rather than it makes material territorial demands of Russia as compensation for support in what would otherwise a losing proposition of a conflict on Russia’s western flank. As a structural matter, Russia should be a member of NATO, and that will become increasingly apparent as time goes on, to the extent that war does not break out sooner. Putin is no fool: Russia’s risk is China, not Europe.

        Like Putin, Erdogan aspires to be an autocrat. The Guardian calls Erdogan ‘a dictator in all but name.’ In any event, like Putin, Erodgan seeks to reassemble the Ottoman Empire. But Turkey will structurally remain the sick man of Europe. It is too hemmed in with too many regional rivalries and weak internal governance. And keep in mind that the Ottomans’ traditional enemy is in fact imperial Russia, sitting just across the Black Sea and coveting unrestricted access through the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean.

        Neither Russia nor Turkey represent systemic risk by themselves. But you are correct that Putin, Erdogan and Xi are three of a kind. They are all actual or aspiring autocrats — not democrats! — and all are acquisitive, which is the organic objective function of the dictator.

        China, of course, represents systemic risk. A war with China could easily unleash a world war in short order.

        Thus, I reject your premise that either Russia and Turkey are really functioning democracies. Neither is. Look it up for yourself.

        If they were, ambitions would be more muted, at least to the extent that quick and cheap victories were not available. That’s the point I am making and you seem to be supporting.


        1. Barkley Rosser


          So, where so you suggest I go to “look it up yourself” regarding which nations are “really functioning democracies”? Maybe a leading book on comparative economics like the one I coauthored? (I did that just to make “Moses Herzog” splutter cheap wine all over himself, :-)).

          I think what you really mean is “liberal democracies,” not “really functioning” ones, with indeed this concept implicit as the opposite of the authoritarian “illiberal democracy” concept that Hungary’s Orban cooked up (as it is, my coauthor and I have a long bit by our old friend, Janos Kornai, on the nature of the Hungarian political/economic system in the latest edition of our book). Taiwan and South Korea probably qualify. Japan sort of does too, but is a much murkier situation given that although they do not throw dissidents in jail and the there have been brief periods when the LDP has not been in charge, one of the more subtly informative jokes about Japanese politics is that “the Liberal Democratic Party is neither liberal nor democratic nor a party” (calling the lateEzra Vogel).

          On Russia, well, I know dead people there, not just dead voters like Trump thinks he knows here. But Putin is popular, and his nationalist exertions have mostly been popular. The Minsk Accords may be holding, but he just did a massively unprecedented hack on US systems and poisoned his most serious political rival. As it is, the comment by Trump that I thought should have totally disqualified him from even being a candidate for prez, much less sitting in the WH trying to overthrow an election to stay there, was when before he even ran he was asked about Putin having dissidents killed, and Trump replied that this showed that “Putin is strong,” with not a hint of disapproval.

          Turkey is doing more than just “active in the war in Syria,” which it does not need to be at all. Not too long ago, with Trump’s approval, they invaded northeastern Syria, controlled locally for centuries by Kurds. But, hey, Trump has hotels in Istanbul.

          The more general problem, which the current trend in PRC to centralization and Xi installing himself for a lifetime like Putin is just a part, is one towards authoritarianism, with this often within a nominally democratic system that looks pretty functional in many ways, with parliaments and opposition parties that run against the leader, and much more. I note that while I have some issues with their approaches, the leading outfits that measure “freedom” around the world curiously correlated in finding it reaching a global maximum around 2005, and declining since. It was not blazingly obvious in the years right after 2005, but it certainly is now, and this effort by Trump to undo the election here and how much support he has for doing so shows just how far this tendency has gone.

          But, the bottom line remains that I think you need to go further than giving Menzie a “B” on his attitudes towards PRC. Pushing him to loudly support some campaign to tell the PRC that they should have the political system of Taiwan is really not going to go anywhere, even if the world would probably be better off if the PRC were to move in that direction.

          1. Steven Kopits

            What I meant by “look it up yourself” is that neither Turkey nor Russia qualifies as a democracy, at least not at the top leadership level, and I believe you were mistaken to identify them as such.

            Yes, I understand Putin is popular, and frankly, I think he has been pretty good for Russia overall during the transition from communism to, well…some sort of something. While I am all for democracy, I do not think the Russians would likely have gotten much better than Putin, and they could have gotten worse. That does not mean I endorse all of Putin’s policy — what moron thought to not only to poison Nalvany, but then blow it and allow one of the henchmen to confess everything to Nalvany over the phone in a Borat-style sting operation? (Would the Chinese be this stunningly incompetent (outside the lab)? I don’t think so.) But Putin has brought stability and prosperity, and those are big accomplishments by themselves. No middle class, no democracy, as The Economist would say. Putin is at least allowing a middle class to develop, and that may prove his lasting achievement.

          2. Steven Kopits

            I think Menzie has done enough and I appreciate him for taking on the project.

            Thank you, Menzie.

    3. noneconomist

      By your metrics, the 185,000 “Chinese” who are residents of San Francisco should spend considerable time interjecting themselves into China’s politics. China first, America second? Sweat Xi, not Trump?
      At the same time, Using the same logic, all Turkish Americans should be working for maintaining a more secular Turkey. All 4,000,000 American Muslims should daily prove their patriotism by denouncing terrorism and religious fanatics in the Middle East.
      In other words, any ethnic American—“Chinese” American, for example—shouldn’t worry so much about democracy here before concerning himself with the lack of democracy in China and should be actively working to improve the government there.

      1. baffling

        as i have pointed out to steven multiple times now, you need to get your own house in order before telling other nations how to run their lives. right now, as other nations look at the usa under the shenanigans of trump, they should question democracy in general. steven needs to take care of the trump problem before trying to solve other nations problems.

      2. Steven Kopits

        I believe the situation has arrived at a level, both in terms of China’s social and political development and its systemic global risks, that it is time to talk of democracy. We Hungarians championed it. The Cubans do it. Why not the Chinese? Why is there this soft racist expectation with respect to the mainland Chinese? Why do we somehow think they are not good enough for democracy? Why do we say, ‘Sure, democracy is okay for the Taiwanese and Japanese and Koreans, but those mainland Chinese, we’ll they’re not in the same class in terms of human rights.”? It’s time to stand up and say that, if China is going to be a great power, it’s got to act like a great power, and that starts with respecting the rights of its own citizens, including the right to choose their own elected officials. China is all but middle class and its time that its political structures and individual rights corresponded to its level of economic development.

  4. macroduck

    Just an example of the limited tolerance allowed in comments sections of other generator Economics blog:

    “Comments are off and will remain off until readers are willing to adhere to our written site Policies. I am tired of adjudicating extended off topic discussions (aka “thread-jacking”), regular Making $hit Up, conspiracy theories, and threats of bodily harm.

    “I made the mistake of leaving comments largely on during what was billed as a comments holiday over the Christmas-New Year period. Lambert warned readers about the need to stay on topic, provide evidentiary support, and argue in good faith. Enough of you have fallen well below these requirements so as to necessitate shutting down comments entirely. It is too exhausting intervening in comments to maintain some semblance of quality when conduct degenerates, as it has.”


    Note the refusal to tolerate “thread jacking” and conspiracy theories. Note that comment thread quality is given prominence in making comment-thread decisions. Thread jacking and repetition on conspiracy theories are recognized as quality problems. Menzie, you have been tolerant to a fault toward partisan goons. The thanks you get is that they howl at you for enforcing the the rules you have chosen for your blog. Such lack of gratitude demands a response. Ban ’em. Ban ’em all.

      1. Barkley Rosser

        For the record, md, I have never banned anybody on Econospeak, although I have had some people arguing that I should have. But it is Menzie’s blog (or half of it), and I think he is being fairly clear about what is acceptable and what is not.

      2. Moses Herzog

        It’s not even “hijacking threads”. Yves Smith (btw a blog host who has long used a pseudonym, but whose real name can be found with minimal investigation) doesn’t like open discussion. I don’t mind she uses a pseudonym, I support that. The point is, readers and blog hosts often use pseudonyms for very good reason. What would Richard Nixon have gotten away with if not for “Deepthroat”?? Yves Smith likes lapdogs and sycophants to repeat her own opinions back to her. It’s also worth noting, although I don’t visit the blog regular, probably since about 2010 and certainly after about 2012 I stopped reading her blog~~that when I read the blog 3/4 of her posts was copy/paste of NYT, 3/4 copy/paste of Bloomberg, and 3/4 copy/paste of “XYZ”. She DID give attribution, but that’s not a “real” blog in my opinion, you have to able to write your own content.

        Another point I’d like to make. I’d rather be seen as whatever negative attribute someone wants to throw up against the wall as an anonymous commenter or blog host, than to have my real name out there, while I’m “self-employed” and in the cottage industry of catering to racists and illiterates while prostrating myself to get on FOX “News” and settling for the dog crumbs on OANN radio etc. What kind of life is that??~~~kneeling down and selling my soul for the backwards folks of “the South” and rural areas??? Everyone knows who I am referring to here in Menzie and Prof Hamilton’s comments section. The self-evident insult is so obviously accurate I need not “name names” for everyone here to know who I am discussing. Who has more shame, this racist person or someone using a pseudonym?? The gentle blog reader may decide themselves.

        There are also the issues of being DOXXED. Ask a parent of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims how that all goes. Or does our great expounder of “society’s ills” in New Jersey think Sandy Hook parents deserve that?? Not that I expect a man who doesn’t understand statistics 101 for undergrads to “get” what being DOXXED involves.

  5. JohnH

    The problem here is that Trump made COVID a political issue, in this case a geopolitical one. When that happens, you can kiss the truth goodbye. As Pompeo said in a rare moment of candor, “we lied, we cheated, we stole.” The narrative about the enemy du jour is most likely to be dominated by propaganda.

    As a descendant of Swiss immigrants, my family lore talks of ethnic persecution when the geopolitical winds shift. Although they had immigrated over half a century earlier, they immediately became suspect because they spoke German during World War I. This happened after Wilson one day decided to reverse his election promise to remain neutral and instead chose to side with Britain. The geopolitical winds had simply shifted, and German speakers suddenly became the enemy within, even though they might have been Swiss, and even though they may have been pacifists.

    It is simply wrong to have unreasonable expectations of immigrants who have chosen to become American of of their descendants. And it is wrong to expect that they automatically fall in line with whatever Trump and Pompeo might claim to be right.

  6. Not Trampis

    On a related topic I am a tad unhappy when you call yourself a chinese american, You are an american of chinese descent. The former implies dual citizenship or even dual loyalty to both countries. The latter clearly does not

    We do the same thing down under unfortuately

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Not Trampis: Understood, and I concur. However, the purpose of language is to communicate, and that terminology has been widely accepted in the United States, for better or for worse. (It applies to Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans etc. as well here.)

  7. pgl

    You are now threatening someone for not having their entire name exposed in the blog world? Good God Stevie pooh – you really do not get how this stuff works.

  8. Willie

    As an Appalachian American, am I supposed to inject myself into West Virginia politics? That is silly, but no sillier than expecting Americans whose ancestry is Chinese or Turkish or Norwegian or Pakistani to feel required to inject themselves into the politics of those countries.

  9. joseph

    Kopits: “Can the rise of China to superpower status be accomplished without a Sino-US war under President Xi? I believe the most plausible answer is ‘no’.”

    Kopits: “If the virus was created or modified in the lab — which I personally think is most plausible …”

    You sure do get a lot of mileage out of your “plausibilities.” No word yet on your ha, ha confidence intervals since you don’t believe in them.

    1. Steven Kopits

      Joseph –

      I am fine with confidence intervals. But you have to be careful how you use them beyond the mechanical calculation.

      I would add that a 95% test is arcane to the average person. In reality, managers typically use a 51% test for ordinary decisions; maybe a 2/3 test for major decisions. Anyone looking for 95% confidence will find the opportunity long gone by the time they get there.

      For example, take a look at the EIA’s forecast for oil prices is 2021 (link below). The 95% confidence interval is bounded by $23 / barrel WTI on the lower bound and $84 / barrel WTI on the upper bound. And this is just for 2021!

      I love the guys at the EIA. Many are my friends and I consider them kindred spirits. But what the hell is a confidence interval of $23-84 / barrel WTI for 2021 worth? How could one plausibly use that for any kind of forecasting or actual decision-making? It is, other than as a mathematical curiosity, completely useless.

      So that’s an example of a bad use of confidence intervals, in my opinion.


      1. baffling

        steven, this is a silly comment. you misunderstand the idea of a 95% confidence interval. it is not supposed to define with accuracy a single number. it is supposed to define a range. and if the range is large, it simply means there is a large amount of uncertainty in the input. this tells you something. it also says, anybody trying to tell you the result will be close to a single number is simply a con man selling something-probably a “professional” forecast from a consultant? it is simply a guess. good businessmen and managers are not fans of a “guess”.

        “I would add that a 95% test is arcane to the average person.”
        i agree. but i think you also misunderstand what it means as well.

    1. Moses Herzog

      I’m probably blathering here, but I do think China’s government 100% FAILED in disseminating public health information to its own people (which debatably hurt Chinese citizens more than anyone else). But that doesn’t give America’s very similar failure (or worse??) on Covid-19 policy “a pass”. To me the best analogy I can think of is a sports analogy~~~playing team defense in basketball. Let’s say you have two guys in between the basketball shooter and the basket. One defender is playing one-on-one defense against the shooter on the perimeter and one defender is “switching off” different people nearer to the baseline. If the guy on the perimeter gets caught snoozing and gets dribbled around, does that then “clear” the guy near the baseline for not “switching” and getting his hands up for the short jumper near the basket?? I think both defenders get equal blame on not doing their jobs.

      I don’t know, maybe that’s how being a white dude 7 years in China colors your views.

    2. pgl

      “I think pgl follows James Baker more closely than I do”

      I bet Dean Baker is going to be a bit irked that you called him James Baker but thanks for this statement of his.

  10. sammy


    I think your fears of Asian persecution because of Covid are way overblown, notwithstanding Pgl anecdotal hysteria. Being 1/2 Asian myself, I have not noticed any antipathy towards myself, nor have I heard the even slightest hint of racism derived from Covid. Ever. The overwhelming majority of people recognize that a virus is a super simple organism that is incapable of racist reasoning, even as elementary as that is.

    You shouldn’t base policy on <1% of the population.

    1. Moses Herzog

      Never have I before wanted to know the actual identity of an Econbrowser commenter more than after reading this from sammy:
      “Being 1/2 Asian myself, “ If you believe that bullcr*p I’ve got some oceanfront property in New Mexico I’ll sell you.

    2. Moses Herzog

      For whatever it’s worth the Census Bureau reports that about 5.9% of America’s population is Asian, let alone about 1.5% is ethnic Chinese. Not that a a man claiming to be “half Asian” would ever bother to know that. Wow. Does sammy mean he’s “Asian” in the David Carradine “grasshopper” sense, or he’s “Asian” in the Chuck Norris B-acting, horrendous TV theme song intro singing and bad hair sense??

      Oh no, I’m having flashbacks ” ‘Cuz the eyes of the Ranger are upon yooooooooouuuuuuu…..” Oh, please Lord, kill me now.

      Was that entire comment by sammy a prank and I just got “punked”??? Why is the name Jessica Krug entering my mind now?? Someone help me here, I haven’t been this confused since Barkley Junior discussed a nonexistent “skewed” distribution he saw in a trance-like vision while learning what SAAR was.

    3. pgl

      My “anecdotal hysteria”? Yea I shared reports of things that are actually happening. But go ahead and deny reality. It is your forte.

    4. pgl

      “You shouldn’t base policy on <1% of the population.

      So in Sammy's world if the number of Proud Boys going out to beat up minorities is a mere 3 million, there is no problem. No problem at all.

      In Sammy's world if he has not been beat up then he could care less if other minorities are being beaten up.

      What a guy!

  11. sammy

    I don’t have a ton of experience commenting on blogs, but I do have one: I participated on a liberal blog for many years, Even granted the opportunity to publish main posts. Being conservative, these posts generated 200+ comments and were linked to other blogs, extending to the WSJ “Best of Blogs” However, slowly, conservative commenters were banned. Finally I was banned, not because of impropriety, but because my ideas were unpopular on the blog. OK, fine, I get it. It’s your blog.

    But that blog plummeted in views probably 95% from it’s former heyday when I was allowed to publish main posts. Simple reason: when the blog eliminated contrary viewpoints, it became an echo chamber. And echo chambers are boring. Boring = Death on the internet. Your call.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      sammy: It’s only boring when controversy and sturm and drang are what you want, i.e., a WWF of blogs. If you have a comment on statistics/econometrics & economic policy, that’s welcome. We’re looking for constructive debates.

      Those banned from Econbrowser (you can check) are banned for racist comments or – in one case – where invective was repeatedly directed at me. That’s a total of 5 over 15.5 years. I hardly think that’s culled measurably the number of conservative commentators (unless being racist=conservative for you).

      1. pgl

        “unless being racist=conservative for you”.

        I know a lot of conservatives who abhor racism. Yes PeakTrader wrote a lot of racist garbage. And folks like Sammy go out of their way to defend Peak’s “right” to be racist. Why would they do that? Only they can answer that.

      2. Moses Herzog

        Poking at pro wrestling!!!!! Poking at pro wrestling!!!! Menzie, now you have gone too far!!!!!!!!

        I’ve always been more of a “Ring of Honor” type guy. “Title Match Wrestling” isn’t horrible, although I was angry at them for still promoting Tessa Blanchard matches after racist comments she made in Japan. Of course, nothing can ever beat watching “GCW” on the old TBS Superstation while my grandpa sat in a fake leather recliner with a look in his eyes like he had gone into a complete vegetative state [ nostalgic sigh ] Good times……

        Of course I am one of those guys that likes the high school gym/auditorium matches or preferably matches held in very run down Armory buildings. “Battle Club Pro” is a good one for that. Tall metal ladders, tables, all metal folding chairs, chains, large metal thumb tacks, and conceivably chainsaws are a PLUS. Now, if I was to guess, only guessing, I think Menzie would have been a Scott Steiner type fan. Remember, it is a thinking man’s sport and one very conducive to poetic verse:

        I’m thinking Menzie would have really gotten into it during the metallic headgear phase of Steiner’s career. One never knows…… If not Steiner then I’m absolutely certain Menzie would have gotten into Buzz Sawyer around the ’79–’82 era of “GCW” or late 1990s Terry Funk. Did anyone make it this far into reading my comment?? [ shrugs shoulders ]

    2. baffling

      “Finally I was banned, not because of impropriety, but because my ideas were unpopular on the blog. OK, fine, I get it. It’s your blog.”
      sammy, my guess is you were banned because you used false arguments. you do the same thing here. it is one thing to have a different opinion. it is another thing to not accept the facts of reality. case in point is donald trump and his followers. the fact is he LOST the election. he is arguing that he WON the election, with more votes than biden. this is patently false. he is taking opinion and lies and trying to make them facts. that creates a dishonest environment for having a discussion between sides. one side is constrained by the facts, and the other side has the freedom to consider falsehoods and opinion as fact. this does not create an enlightening environment.

      1. pgl

        Maybe Sammy’s comment got so much attention as the rest of the community was having way too much fun laughing at the absurdity of what he said. I know that when I read what Sammy writes here I usually fall on the floor laughing.

      2. sammy


        “he is arguing that he WON the election, with more votes than biden. this is patently false. ”

        We’ll see. Kraken Day is tomorrow Jan 6………….

        1. Baffling

          Sammy, your refusal to accept fact is astonishing. Personally i would ban those who refuse to accept facts in the discussion. It is these types of back and forth, between facts and fantasy, that dirty up the comments section. If people are forced to comment within the facts, comment discussions are more relevant and enlightening.

    3. pgl

      “But that blog plummeted in views probably 95% from it’s former heyday when I was allowed to publish main posts.”

      Is the blog Mark Thoma’s EconomistView? Sounds like it. Its views dropped because Dr. Thoma retired from blogging. But of course the only reason it was popular was Sammy, Sammy, Sammy!

      As usual – you are so full of it.

    4. Dr. Dysmalist


      I am specifically recalling the the many comments on the many posts about the pandemic when it started to run rampant in the spring because this is still a sore point for me. I will further preface this by referring to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said something to the effect of, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” As the rate of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths accelerated, and Trump denied the severity of the situation while bellyaching about “opening the economy,” Menzie posted often with some of the data about cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and he also cautioned us to not draw conclusions from the most recent data, as it was unreliable. Bruce Hall and CoRev (in particular) repeatedly tried to defend Trump’s actions and statements by denying the data, the facts. (!!!) You were somewhat guilty of this too, but less so than the others.

      When they were criticized and corrected for this, they doubled down. They usually followed up by trotting out a segment of the time series of a different variable, not the entire time series which showed shape of its behavior over a cycle, and then drawing erroneous conclusions from the short segment. They even did this with data from the time period which they had been warned was unreliable. They were of course criticized for using data that was unrepresentative of the entire data set over the entire time period. It is a truism that good conclusions cannot be drawn from bad data.

      In our world, the world of actual facts, not made-up bulls##t, of people who are or were actual/b> data analysts, what they were doing is unforgivable. It’s this behavior that has made Steven Moore a target for deserved criticism in both posts and comments on this blog. In our world, this kind of data abuse is grounds to deny you credentials, advancement, even employment. It is a most serious offense, and that was the basis for the repeated, and warranted, criticism.

      If you are willing to use actual, verifiable, facts, and use good reasoning, you are entitled to draw conclusions that are favorable to a conservative philosophy. If you choose to use non-factual data, and/or poor logic to reach those conclusions, you will be rightly criticized. If you persist in doing so even after being corrected, you will deserve, and should expect, ample scorn.

      So there’s your challenge: support your conservative conclusions with good data and good reasoning

      1. baffling

        “Bruce Hall and CoRev (in particular) repeatedly tried to defend Trump’s actions and statements by denying the data, the facts. (!!!)”
        don’t forget the incredible rick stryker and his accomplished pandemic modeling. how are those predictions working out dick? he has been quiet recently, must be back working his day job in films.

  12. Left Coast Bernard

    If “hyphenated”-Americans involve themselves even indirectly with the affairs of their countries of origin, some other Americans will accuse them of dual loyalty. In this post’s comments, we see “hyphenated”-Americans criticized for not involving themselves with the affairs of their countries of origin. If some people criticize members of another group for doing something or its opposite, we clearly see that the problem, for the critics, is not the actions but the character of the group they criticize. That is the definition of racism.

    1. pgl

      I’m Scottish-Irish-American so I have triple loyalty I guess. But a lot of people want to have a beer with me on March 17.

  13. David O'Rear

    Fascinating discussion.
    We all know what an Chinese-American is, but we also know – deep in our hearts – that there is no such thing as an American-Chinese. Chinese culture, in which I worked for half my life, does not accept non-Chinese as a legitimate part of their society. Non-Chinese, that is, barbarians in the traditional way of thinking, therefore cannot have any significant influence on how China behaves. cf Tibet or Xinjiang.

    In the American way of thinking, to challenge someone’s words, actions, or perspectives based on nothing more than the ethnic origins of that person’s surname, is flat out bigotry. To suggest that someone surnamed Chin, Chan, Chen, or Chinn “should” — solely on the basis of that name and person’s ethic origin — take a particular position vis-a-vis the current Chinese leadership has no place in polite discourse.

    But, we are tolerant, perhaps to a fault.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ Mr. O’Rear
      I lived IN China 7 years, and do to my own extreme laziness didn’t learn as much of the language as I should have, and therfore robbed myself of understanding more. STILL I would argue that being immersed in a culture 7 straight years (never once returning in that time to visit my parents or touch native ground) counts for something. The early part of your comments are extremely unfair in my viewpoint, and painted with WAY too broad of a brush.

      And might I add, I have reasons, some personal, in which it would be very easy and self-comforting for my self-psyche to agree with you. But I don’t. You cannot go to a MAGA rally and take away that is the “majority” of American thinking, anymore than you can point to the crimes in Tibet and Xinjiang as being palatable to a “random” Han Chinese snatched on a street corner and asked their opinion, if they were even necessarily aware of what was happening in Xinjiang to begin with. Think of how the American police selectively release body cam footage or “lose” it etc. and you might start to get the idea.

      1. David O'Rear

        Mr Herzog,
        Thank you for a thoughtful response. I started learning Chinese in 1979, and lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong until 2015, so my experience will be different than yours. However, never in any context whatsoever have I ever heard anyone use the phrase “American-Chinese” the way we commonly use the phrase “Chinese-American.” Not once.

        More, I have never, in any part of my analysis of Chinese politics, seen any legitimacy afforded to non-Chinese in the conduct of policy making. There have been, at times, expert advisers, but there are no true foreign partners at the elite level.

        I think (correct me if I’m wrong) your comments also suggest that just as a majority of Americans are likely appalled by the MAGA crowd, so too would a majority of Han Chinese be appalled by their government’s treatment of ethnic minorities. With that, I disagree. With the caveat that the average Zhou doesn’t have a clue what’s happening outside his own immediate area, I have never heard any ethnic Han person in the PRC express any sympathy for any ethnic minority. Quite the reverse, particularly when it comes to people from afar (ever talk to an African in Guangdong?).

    2. pgl

      Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940 and his parents soon after that moved back to Hong Kong. He wanted to be accepted in both cultures but at first was not accepted in either. Now he decided to move on and develop his incredible talents in martial arts. Now everyone wants to be Bruce Lee.

  14. Kien

    I haven’’t gone through all the comments, but there seems many legitimate reasons to oppose using “China virus”, and so it’s hard to understand why such opposition is attributed to “intimidation” by China.

    Even if it is true that the virus originated in China (which strictly speaking is simply the country that first detected it), we might still oppose using the term “China virus” as it associates China with something negative. Yes it’s true that we have used the term “Spanish flu” and “Ebola virus”, but we no longer use this (per WHO guidance) upon reflecting that it has naming viruses this way has illegitimate connotations.

    If a commentator wants to argue that China is responsible for the Covid-19 outbreak, just make that argument! No need to use the term “China virus”. Reasoned discussion is not at all restricted by refraining from using “China virus”. What we value is reasoned discussion, not the freedom to abuse!

    1. baffling

      i will add that “ebola” was named after a very specific geographical region. it was not called the africa virus. china is a vast geographical location. why not simply call it the “asia” virus? unless one has ulterior motives, such as to denigrate chinese society? same thing with zika virus, named after the ziika forest in uganda where it was found, again not the africa virus. i agree with the who, we should simply stop referencing these viruses geographically anyways. that serves no scientific purpose, and only results in political controversy, abused by some people.
      “If a commentator wants to argue that China is responsible for the Covid-19 outbreak, just make that argument! ”
      i gave this link to steven, but can share it again. the article pushes the angle that it was a virus out of the chinese lab. this was my first thought, although over time i have come to believe the virus is probably a naturally emerging item. nevertheless, the article is pretty thorough. however, if you want to argue china is responsible, based upon this article, you need to acknowledge that the usa provided all the knowledge necessary to create such situation. i don’t think you can blame china without acknowledging the usa as an accomplice, if that were the case.

  15. David O'Rear

    Anyone who grew up in Southern California in the 1950s and 1960s remembers the Asian Flu and the Hong Kong Flu. But, times were different then.

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