BrownCast Episode 12: The global China, with Carl Zha

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After this podcast was recorded and edited Carl Zha Informed informed me that he is no longer doing CLASH! and rather is starting a new podcast: Silk and Steel. This is actually the first post on Silk and Steel as well. A “cross-over.”

First, Carl and I talked about the problems with the media representation of China. He did offer that The Wall Street Journal, in particular, gets it right more often than not (which made me happy since I’m a subscriber).

We also discussed a bit our disparate backgrounds.  And how Carl’s experience gives him a window onto both America and China. He arrived in the United States in 1990 as a tween.

We also talked about whether China was a colonialist power in places like Africa. Carl objected to the simple analogy, seeing as how China’s relationship with other nations is very economic and pragmatic, rather than rooted in an explicit imperial and supremacist agenda.

I asked Carl about the growth of Christianity within China and in the Diaspora. Carl thinks the Diaspora is different because in many nations Christianity allows the Chinese to cohere and become rooted. It enables the growth of community institutions. In China that is not as necessary, so he believes it will be a small minority religion like in Taiwan.

We talked a lot about Uygurs, Hui, and ethnic relations in China. And the pervasiveness of casual racism among many Asians.

This weekend I will be recording a podcast with someone sympathetic to Hindu nationalism. I don’t have a fixed set of topics. Omar will also be hosting a podcast on military history. And, I have gotten a commitment from a friend who is a screenwriter in Hollywood to talk as well.

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5 years ago

“This weekend I will be recording a podcast with someone sympathetic to Hindu nationalism.”

It would be interesting to know the person ethnicity, considering in India Hindu Nationalism differs from region to region, and more or less in tune with the wider ethnic/religious history of the region.

5 years ago

Loved the podcast. Learnt so much from it.

Just to add to the whole Western view on China, i feel that China proving almost every thing which the west thought was important to be a modern country wrong, has irked them. China did not become more democratic , after the 90s IMF thing , can get away with pure hard power and money in Africa,Central Asia etc without any major issues, do with Ughyurs what they want , without any condemnation from Muslim countries, people being happy with material success rather than democratic right (or wokeness) etc, all this has sort of put up a model for other countries to emulate. A sort of successful version of USSR .

That shows not only that you do not need to be a liberal democracy to be successful, but it might be that democracy ITSELF is the impediment to success. And when it seen countries like Turkey, Hungary, India, etc trying to replicate that system, it questions the fundamental tenets of the post WW2 consensus.

5 years ago
Reply to  Saurav

What does “western” mean? Do you mean baizuo? Because I totally back China and Asians in general with respect to baizuo.

“do with Ughyurs what they want , without any condemnation from Muslim countries”

This is not so. China is continually vilified on major muslim networks including Al Jazeera. China’s extensive security measures to reduce terrorism are a major tax on the Chinese economy.

I think the true threat to the baizuo crazy world image is Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan. Soon Thailand and India will hopefully join this list.

Hong Kong is prospering more than the rest of China in part because Hong Kong has more freedom.

Democratized systems with the consent of the governed with orderly-ness, structure, stability, rule of law, slight tinges of autocracy, respect and freedom are the largest threat to baizuo. Hopefully China will evolve into that. The world would greatly benefit from this type of China.

The baizuo would greatly hurt the global poor.

5 years ago
Reply to  Saurav

democracy ITSELF is the impediment to success

I sort of agree that democracies are good at preserving good conditions rather than enhancing them (which requires tough decision making, breaking heads, overriding sectarian and vested interests, all of which are incredibly hard in democracies.)

But can you envision any non-democratic way in which India could have remained a stable (relatively speaking) country since independence?

I think you could make a case that if India had separated into multiple countries, each with an overwhelming majority ethnic core, many of those countries would have turned out to be more “successful” than India as a whole is. But with our diversity, how do you imagine an authoritarian government ever succeeding?

I think, if we want to keep an India, we have no choice but to be democratic and trundle along for the foreseeable future.

5 years ago
Reply to  Numinous

Numinous, I think a case could be made for a benign mildly autocratic effective government which provides their people respectful freedom of art and thought.

I loved Singapore. First visited when I was 8. Longer visit when I was 11. I found Singapore to be better than America in many ways.

I also liked Chris Patten’s Hong Kong.

However these systems would not work in India and America. India and America need full freedom of art and thought. And are too accustomed to democracy to be denied it now.


In general governance systems matter less than the collective consciousness, collective mental health, collective intelligence, collective physical health of people. Governments over time (even autocratic ones) tend to reflect their people rather than the other way around.

If the merit, competence and capacity of people are surged, if the hearts of people are melted; good things follow. This in my view should be the focus, not specific governing styles.

5 years ago
Reply to  AnAn


Like you, I admire what Singapore has achieved, but I don’t believe that model can scale, definitely not to a pan-India level. Now, if we are prepared to allow city-states in India with the freedom to impose zoning laws and such, then Singapore-like experiments can be tried. But as long as our cities and villages are symbiotically linked in a bad way (man-made ossification of the rural economy, with the consequent exodus to the cities, and the cities permanently addicted to cheap labor from the countryside), the example of Singapore is of no use to us.

Having lived in Singapore, I think its authoritarianism is overstated. The kinds of “freedoms” they mostly restrict are those even libertarians can sign on to. (OK, not the laws about drugs.) You know the philosophy of being allowed to extend your fist, but only just short of my nose.

5 years ago
Reply to  Numinous

Love Singapore! Its authoritarianism is overstated. I have always defended Singapore from her critics.

Singapore has only one problem. Heat!

5 years ago
Reply to  Razib Khan

Lol! Looking forward to the host of “Vijays” commenting on his views.

5 years ago

No surprise. Chinese won’t say they are imperialist.

5 years ago
Reply to  EastAsianMan

What does imperialism mean?

China’s policies (and America’s, Europe’s, India’s, Japan’s, Brazil’s, Turkey’s etc.) generally help poor people around the world. China should not apologize.

5 years ago

I really loved this interview. Zha should be a repeat guest. Huntington Beach? Trying to make everyone else jealous?

I didn’t get what subject areas he is deeply interested in. For example:
—extraction industries
—global Islamism
—religion/faith/spirituality/mind sciences/neuroscience

I would love to hear his thoughts on areas that especially interest him.

A few points on LBGTQ:
—eastern philosophy has their own ancient tradition of multi-gender. Albeit their ancient and deep understanding is different from how most modern intersectional cultural marxists understand it.
—It is not at all surprising that Vietnam supports LBGTQ. In general societies tilted with eastern philosophy are naturally supportive of LBGTQ

I would have loved to hear his thoughts on Toaism and Buddhism:
—related to the Chinese establishment
—Chinese upper middle class
—most Chinese
—Chinese R&D to hack Toaism/Buddhism for medical technology, neuroscience etc.
—Chinese efforts on boosting intelligence
—perhaps how this intersects with Chinese efforts to boost deep intelligence with genetics, growing tissue for implantation into the body, brain AI computer interface with high bandwidth

On Pakistan, the Chinese establishment (Razib, would you like to interview a senior Chinese geopolitical official?) views Pakistan as a frenemy and albatross. Extremist Islamists backed by the Deep State are increasingly attacking China. There is a significant risk of a Pakistani WMD device exploding in a Chinese population center. Hussain Haqqani recently warned that anti Chinese sentiment is growing in Pakistan. Many in the Pakistani establishment believe that China has joined the global conspiracy to destroy Pakistan. The current main conspirators are Jews, Indians, Afghans, Iranians, Jews, twelvers, sixers, fivers, Jews, Americans, Sufis, Irfan, Jews, Europeans, Israelis, Persians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Jews, Australians, Stans (former southern part of the USSR), Russia, Jews, Malays, Indonesians, crusader Christians, Serbs, Iraqis, Jews. Apparently billions of people from all over the world wake up in the morning wondering how they can hurt Pakistan and her amazing army.

With respect to Chinese imperialism in Latin America, Africa, Europe, North America, and across Asia, the best response is the truth.

Post modernist cultural marxists have no idea what “imperialism” means and have completely distorted and destroyed the word. Different groups of people from around the world have voluntary relations with each other. This can be called “imperialism” or not. But there is nothing wrong with friendships, alliances, relationships, trade between different groups of people around the world.

For example India’s alliance with Vietnam is good for both countries. China’s, Russia’s, India’s, America’s, Jordan’s, Turkey’s relationships with Iraq benefits all concerned parties. The UN and international community’s relationship with Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan and the international community. China and Afghanistan are increasingly allying with each other. This benefits the whole world.

In 2014 the Chinese government publicly offered the Iraqi government Chinese Air Force [PLAAF] close air support (CAS) air strikes in support of the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) to fight Daesh (also called the Islamic State). This offer was popular among Iraqis. A lot of people freaked out including President Obama. This response was wrong. The Chinese should have been welcomed into Iraq.

China should not apologize for their relationships and friendships around the world, generally speaking. [There are some small exceptions here or there.] Nor should other countries. As long as these relationships are transparent.

I would have also loved to hear Zha’s perspectives on how to improve the ability of the Chinese ministries (I share his perspectives on them) to collaborate with the rest of the international community to solve global problems. Currently the Chinese ministries (civilian as well as intelligence and defence) lack the cultural understanding, ministerial capacity and interoperability to work effectively with other countries.

One of many examples where such collaboration would be useful would be FID to surge the capacity of the African Union to deal with Islamism and instability on the African continent. The world and Africa needs Chinese help. However to be effective China has to closely collaborate with the US, Europe, Russia, Turkey, India, Japan and other important partners.

Other examples are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Chinese have offered to help the Afghans in a large way under American and Indian command. However both the US and India oppose collaborating with China in Afghanistan.

Similar examples abound around the world.

China has an enormous stake in economic growth in Africa, Latin America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan. Otherwise they won’t be able to repay their debts to China. This would threaten the Chinese financial system and the global financial system.

How will China facilitate more rapid global economic growth in total factor productivity (product development/process innovation/R&D)? How will China reduce global structural unemployment? How will China deal with global pollution and rising global CO2 levels? How will China keep global sea lanes open?

China’s global challenges are legion.

5 years ago

With respect to the 1980s, I felt that in California and NYC immigrants were generally celebrated and treated very well. And they were regarded as Americans. Asians and Latino Americans too.

I was fascinated to hear that this was not true everywhere. I guess America has a lot of diversity and variation between cities and states.

In 1984 the vast majority of Asians and Latinos likely voted for Reagan (we didn’t yet have accurate nationwide polling for small subgroups). Reagan was deeply popular among Asians and Latinos. He celebrated immigrant, Latino and Asian Americans. He was America’s grandpa. He represented many positive aspects of America’s deep culture. Which is mostly gone today.

Where is today’s Reagan? Maybe Nikki Haley? Maybe Tulsi Gabbard? Maybe Julián Castro? Maybe John Delaney? Maybe Kasich? Maybe Jim Web? Maybe Andrew Yang? I like Lindsey Graham, but America does not seem to.

How about Carl Zha for President? (yup I know that little natural citizen bit 🙁 )

5 years ago

Imperialism means that the country claims they are doing something great for the native people, taking over their lands. It was called “White Men’s Burden” in the 19th Century.

Is this guy real or what?

5 years ago
Reply to  EastAsianMan

“Imperialism means that the country claims they are doing something great for the native people, taking over their lands”

Free exchanges and collaboration between people’s generally benefit most parties. Are you familiar with Ricardian equivalence (benefits of specialization)? Economies of scale? Public goods (where the provider of the good only enjoys a fraction of the benefits of the good provided)? Often putting together diverse people onto a team creates better products and processes than if these people worked separately from each other. Increased skilled immigration often increases productivity, product development, process innovation, and makes countries richer than they would otherwise be. We do not live in a zero sum world. Often 1 + 1 =3.

We humans share common values and long term interests. We share a common heart.

As a species we need to collaborate with each other far more often and far more effectively. This would sharply improve global socio-economic outcomes and solve many global problems.


“White Men’s Burden”

The desire to help others is good. But in doing this we should not assume that others are not potentially powerful and wise. When the caucasian intelligentsia or baizuo (mostly subconsciously) assume that the “other” is not as potentially powerful and wise as they are, this becomes “White Men’s Burden.”

We need to facilitate others making their own miracles versus “help them”. This is what it means to be human.

I also do not like the concept of “other-ness”. I think we all are divine and same in deep feeling. It is our many differences that complement us, unite us and demonstrate our shared essence.


Are you referring to confiscating private property paying the owners less than market prices? Or a type of eminent domain? To the degree that European colonial powers did this in the 1700s and 1800s this was wrong. Property rights are important for efficient markets.

If you are referring to joining regional multiple participant conflicts, this was suboptimal for the parties collectively; European and non European. This is a collective action challenge.

If you are referring to how multilateral forces try to address areas of instability . . . this is something the international community has to get much better at dealing with. China needs to take the lead in improving global FID, global governance and global development capacity building in unstable parts of the world.

5 years ago

It does not matter how China perceives itself to be. The overwhelming consensus of her neighbors is that China represents unapologetic racist imperialism.

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