It is not certain that Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, actually said, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” but if he didn’t, he certainly thought it, and if still around would like to claim that prophesy as his own. IBM has announced plans “to help a little-known Chinese company (Teamsun) absorb and build upon key technologies” that IBM licenses, according to the New York Times. The buyer knows what to do with that intellectual property: its advisor, Shen Changxiang, is the former supervisor of the cybersecurity of China’s strategic missile arsenal, was in charge of computer security research for China’s increasingly potent navy, and is a long-time critic of his nation’s reliance on U.S. technology. Teamsun makes no secret of its goal: eliminating the need to buy American products. IBM wants access to China’s market for its “rope”, and the price it is willing to pay is teaching China how to make its own. Perhaps that technology will help the regime to improve its already formidable Great Firewall of China, the web-filtering infrastructure that blocks content the leadership prefers to make unavailable to the masses.
There is more, and worse. Teamsun announced that it plans to “absorb” this intellectual property and technology from other companies such as Google [which should know better, given past dealing with the People’s Republic, unenthusiastic about an open Internet], and Oracle, and replace those companies’ products in world markets. And IBM will also be licensing advanced chip technology and other stuff to Chinese companies. The goal, according to IBM CEO, desperate to reduce the 10% slide in her shares in the three years of her reign, is to “create a new and vibrant system of Chinese companies producing homegrown computer systems for the local and international markets.” Thanks. Whether that is Mr. Shen’s sole interest is unclear, but it seems unwise to assume that he has no uses for this technology other than marketing computer systems. Cyberwarfare, his specialty, leaps to mind.
Then, in an act of whatever the Chinese word is for chutzpah, Premier Li Keqiang informed a U.S. delegation led by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker that China’s ability to cooperate with President Obama’s battle against climate change, ranked by some in the administration as far more important than the battle against ISIL, would depend on the willingness of GE and others to turn over their cutting edge intellectual property to China. This, say the Chinese negotiators according to the Financial Times, would be “part of richer countries’ commitments to a climate change summit this year in Paris”. Li Keqiang undoubtedly is a student of Lenin’s handling of relations with the “richer countries”, but student exceeds teacher when it comes to turning capitalists’ quest for short-term profits to a communist regime’s advantage.
Not to be outdone in narrowness of vision and a desire to prove Lenin right, a group of business executives, members of the Young Presidents’ Organization, visited Teheran in the guise of tourists (allowed under America’s soon-to-be-gutted sanctions program), but with the intention of “getting involved here” as one “tourist” put it -- the quotation marks are those used by the Financial Times to describe these visitors. At the purely social dinners organized by the Iranian hosts, tables were labeled “real estate”, “luxury”, “information and communications technology” so that the Americans could be certain of sitting with Iranians eager to do business. “Everybody loves us here,” exclaimed one American naïf. Well, not everyone. There is that nasty Ayatollah, calling for “Death to America.” But not yet to the American businessmen who will certainly help him earn the cash with which to finance his nuclear ambitions. After, as one profit-hungry businessman put it, helping Obama to sell his deal by speaking about “what we saw.” More precisely, “what we were allowed to see.” A good time was had by all, to the tune of “Happy”, a song to which some young Iranians danced last year, to the consternation of what have come to be called “the hardliners”, who promptly clapped the kids in jail.