April 03, 2006

A Bronx Cheer from China

"Ha Ha Ha America" is the title of a 17-minute short at this year's Sundance Festival, and it's basically a 17-minute upraised middle finger aimed at us, boasting that the billion-plus nation is overcoming us in wealth and productivity and that we're in an economic and moral decline. The movie is rude, vulgar, obnoxious, one-sided, simplistic, laden with contradictions, and full of the loudmouthed insecurity of the arriviste, but its taunting hits a nerve. Particularly striking is its sarcastic gratitude toward the Bush administration for helping make China prosperous. Bush has enriched more Chinese than Mao ever did, the narrator claims.

Meanwhile, the NYT this morning says that China is starting to feel a shortage of unskilled labor, a result of its rise up the value chain as its workers are no longer content to be sweatshop slaves; and a shortage of skilled management. Vietnam, they say, is the coming source for cheap labor.

No economist, I await knowledgeable perspectives. Is the movie simply a latter-day form of Red propaganda with a dance beat and an MTV-derived style, or an augury of a shift in the scales of civilization?