May 02, 2003


I referred to the "outlaws of Guangzhou" a few nights ago (SARS entry) and would like to return to that briefly. In Kingdom of Fear Hunter S. Thompson quotes Pablo Escobar, "the difference between a criminal and an outlaw is that an outlaw has a following." Thompson goes on to note that perhaps Escobar's only real crime "was that the the product his business produced was seen as a dangerous menace by the ruling Police & Military establisments of the U.S. and a few other countries that were known to be slaves and toadie of U.S. economic interests."

Begin Aside

I think that Hunter S. Thompson is one of our unsung brilliant writers. He can be over the top, but his writing is often brilliant and his political anaysis is very good.

End Aside

The reason I bring this up is that the image I have of the activites of Guangzhou is of lawlessness not in a gangster sense, but in an operating-outside-of-the-norms sense. That was what I was going for in juxtaposing Guangzhong and Zhongnanhai.

In a recent Wired magazine article Arthur Kroeber characterizes the Guangzhou region as follows: "An untamed technology boom is sweeping through China's Pearl River Delta, where cheap labor, mass production, police thugs, and get-rich-quick dreams rule. It's a terrible, horrible, lawless frontier. And it works." The image is one of raw capitalism in the shadows of communist China and within commuting distance of Taiwan. In this teeming economic cauldron new products, ranging from inexpensive computers to hybrid viruses, are being exported to all parts of the globe with little or no overarching framework.

So the point tonight is that strong systems can emerge in the absence of guiding frames, but there are costs associated with such unfettered, large scale activites. (I can see that I am going to have to return this yet again, but enough for tonight.)