China and Mitt Romney:
Tale of the Mandarin and the Yankee Plutocrat (Folha,
involves the devil, an ambitious man and a powerful mandarin - a senior
government official in ancient China. ... One day in a secondhand book shop, Teodoro, a low-ranking civil servant and a greedy
individual prone to social climbing, discovers a book containing a certain fable.
The book says that the mere ringing of a bell, at a specific hour, will kill the
mandarin and that he, the assassin, will inherit his millions. ... Romney wants
to ring the bell: he wants to formally declare China a currency manipulator, triggering
a cascade of events that could be extremely detrimental to the global economic recovery."
In 1880, Eça de Queiroz wrote a
short story [called The Mandarin]
that completely clashes with the realist style that marked the body of his
work. The story involves the devil, an ambitious man and a powerful mandarin - a
senior government official in ancient China.
One day in a secondhand book shop, Teodoro,
a low-ranking civil servant and a greedy individual prone to social climbing,
discovers a book containing a certain fable. The book says that the mere
ringing of a bell, at a specific hour, will kill the mandarin and that he, the assassin,
will inherit his millions.
After this discovery, Teodoro has a vision. In it, the devil
visits and tempts him to ring the bell. The protagonist doesn't resist. The tinkling
of the bell sets in motion a series of events that will forever change Teodoro's life. Teodoro becomes rich but goes on to lead a
life of betrayal and guilt.
Things don't end well. Teodoro pleads with the devil to
take back his fortune and make everything go back to the way it was.
The Republican candidate for U.S. president, Mitt Romney,
isn't a "civil servant" - yet - nor does he have a middle-class
salary like Eça's. However, according to his most
recent statements, he is a restless man.
He wants to ring the bell: he wants to formally declare China
a currency manipulator, triggering a cascade of events that could be extremely
detrimental to the global economic recovery.
During campaign debates, Romney has said that if elected,
this would be his first act as president. His timing couldn't be worse.
China is today going an extremely important process of
political liberalization and economic transformation, both internally and in
the context of the global economy. In recognition of this, the Nobel Prize in
Literature, which traditionally implies a strong geopolitical element, was awarded
to a Chinese writer who forms a part of China's domestic cultural milieu.
The unprecedentedly transparent Communist Party leadership
transition to take place in November and the change from investment and export-led growth
to increased domestic consumption are essential
for China to elevate its geopolitical status and consolidate its position as an
economic power, and reducing the risk of macroeconomic imbalance that come from
maintaining excessively high growth rates.
China is the global mandarin - the senior adviser
presenting itself to the world. But Mitt Romney wants to attack the mandarin.
His threats are more than mere campaign rhetoric or a
simple and inexpensive way to curry favor with American voters concerned with
their jobs, with the growing influence of the Asian country, and with America's
He actually seems to believe in what he says. Moreover, his
threats with regard to China are more credible than fears about the possibility
of a Republican administration (or a Democratic one without support in the
legislature) failing to restore the benefits that have sustained American
middle class incomes. After all, once elected, no government wants to run the
risk of antagonizing the middle class. But antagonizing China … well, that's
Romney's provocation, if it happens, would entail innumerable
risks to the global economy.
If China were formally accused of manipulating its
currency, lobbies from a wide range of U.S. industries would gain strength and
ask Congress to impose protectionist measures. China would certainly retaliate,
which would have dire consequences on activity and jobs in the United Stated,
since the Asian country is one of the main destinations for American exports.
It would set off a genuine trade war between the planet's
two largest economic powers, with disastrous consequences on growth and
In this context, Brazil would face a very different picture
from the "long-term scenario of low-growth and deflation abroad," which
sustains the Brazilian government in relation to interest rates, exchange rates
and controlling inflation.
It therefore behooves us to reflect on Teodoro's final words, as he agonizes on his deathbed: "And
to you men, I leave only to you, without further comment, these words: the only
bread that tastes good is that which we earn every day by the toil of our hands:
never kill the mandarin!"
Unfortunately, the plutocrat doesn't appear to be a reader
of Eça de Queiroz.
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