“People think it’s real communist there. It’s a very capitalistic, industrious nation right now.”
Mark Lazarus, Chairman, Horry County Council
With this week’s Chinese-announced purchase of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Americans took even greater interest in the flood of investments coming into Myrtle Beach from China. Myrtle Beach has witnessed over $200 million dollars of Chinese investments into our community largely brokered by Mayor John Rhodes over the past 15 months.
Among Myrtle Beach’s best journalists, Mande Wilkes just this past week has written an editorial column for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach that raised awareness among many citizens here at home. In her column, Mande addresses a recent trip to China by local politicians — a visit fraught with secrecy and resulting in a mysterious new deal that residents won’t get details on for up to 90 days. Mande’s opinion: “Because of the secrecy and questionable dealings, a partnership with China is ill-advised, if not altogether treasonous.” These same concerns have been raised by area residents, local merchants and many tourists. We have read those same concerns expressed across social media throughout this week.
As many of our readers are concerned, but also unclear, about the workings of what has been called “Chinese Capitalism”, we hope to explain the model as best we can here.
According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) survey (October, 2014), China has replaced the USA as the world’s largest economy. China and Chinese investors are also well on their way to becoming the largest land owner in America. How will this current wave of “Money Invasions” affect America and the greater Myrtle Beach area?
As for Myrtle Beach, we currently have a $100 million Pending Acquisition as laid out in uncertain terms by Mayor Rhodes and County Council Chair Mark Lazarus. In expressing the nature of that deal and its associations with the Chinese government Councilman Lazarus stated, “People think it’s real communist there. It’s a very capitalistic, industrious nation right now.”
One of the “facts” commonly spread by corporate America and American politicians across our nation is the myth that China today is “communist in name only.” As explained on the Foriegn Policy website, this is absolutely untrue. By owning the ports at both ends of the Panama Canal the Chinese have merely made certain tactical adjustments in the way they deploy their skills in managing and levering foreign investments.
Internally, only modest changes have been made in the way China does what it calls “government sponsored capitalism”. In that brand of “capitalism”, corporate planning and government planning are done in partnership, with the government running all the “Free Enterprise” systems in the country. Oddly it is America and American towns, like Myrtle Beach, who are increasingly preferring and modeling such systems.
In these systems large corporations, like Burroughs and Chapin, work with city government to plan enterprise zones and business investments. These zones then lock out small merchants who would have naturally participated. Through trade organizations like the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, these large corporations also loosely control and collect up to $50 million in annual tax payer subsidies to promote such zones.
This Chinese model has been played to perfection in our very own local economy. As exemplified by comments from both Mark Lazarus and Mayor Rhodes, residents can see how each elected official holds up this model as superior to what has historically been “Free Enterprise” in our country. As Mayor Rhodes stated in announcing the latest $100 million investment, “But I don’t see anybody local or in the United States that’s doing anything. They talk about it, but then they’ve got to go borrow the money to get the project going. The one thing about the Chinese: when they do a project, it’s paid for. There’s no borrowing money.”
Most of our local news media have maintained strict “radio silence” on the subject of these Chinese investments. As many Myrtle Beach media outlets are paid in the millions with 1% ad tax dollars, inherent issues come up when they attempt reporting on or questioning the Chamber of Commerce, large Chamber of Commerce corporate related concerns, or the city of Myrtle Beach itself. As to Mayor Rhodes’ last trip to China, local media stated that because the communist central government set the agenda and itinerary for the trip — it was suggested that there be minimal media coverage about it until the Mayor could return and give us all a full report. Most of the news outlets, apparently, interpreted this to mean that they were to report nothing at all about it nor ask any questions concerning details on the matter.
Some select media outlets ignore these stories entirely because they’ve seen some terrifying examples of the “marketing” (lobbying) arm of the MBACC, and how it has sought to control the media here. Our local Chamber of Commerce has used methods to force local media outlets to defer to their agenda in all reporting and commentary. One example that stands out to locals was the targeting of award-winning investigative reporter David Wren, formerly of The Sun News, for simply doing his job. In like manner, Ted Fortenberry, former Vice President and General Manager of WMBF News, grossly misused his dual role as a marketing chairman for the chamber and a local media executive to do “hit pieces” on individuals who were not completely toeing the party line for the city of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Another troubling aspect of all this is the way that The People’s Republic of China deals with dissidents and critics within their own nation. While there is free speech technically in that nation, in reality it is only granted to a certain degree, and to certain segments of the population. Political protests are ostensibly allowed, but as recent events have shown, that doesn’t mean protesters are not arrested and detained — sometimes indefinitely — for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
How much influence, then, might these Chinese investors (working with the local Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce) have, going forward, in keeping local media in line with their own agenda?
CHINESE NATIONAL INVESTMENTS
Reports now come in daily like this about a Chinese resort community they are seeking to develop in The Catskill Mountains of New York — a region that traditionally featured resorts that catered largely to Jewish clientele. Now “on hold” indefinitely because of concerns over exclusionary policies and possible misuse of the controversial EB5 Visa program, the resort community would allow only Chinese nationals with the special visa to live there as resident students and employees. Non-Chinese, it has been stated, would be “allowed” to be guests in the hotels and recreational facilities.
Similarly, in areas where they have begun what some critics call “colonization” in the US and elsewhere, a preponderance of Chinese nationals, only, are given jobs in their facilities and a steady stream of them are assured by EB-5. In a way, locally, this might seem similar to the “student exchange” program which gives jobs to foreign students that were traditionally held by Americans in decades past. However, the residency could be much longer than a Summer season. Extensive “dormitory” facilities are maintained at or near such facilities for housing these Chinese workers. Several reliable sources in the area, in real estate and hospitality, have informed us that similar dormitories are already in the planning stages for Myrtle Beach.
Some local merchants worry that these patterns could spell the end of local autonomy in determining our own destiny.
One problem local merchants and residents complain most often about is that those who have facilitated the new Chinese investments, often won’t answer these concerns honestly and directly. Rather, patterns of deflection or the ad hominem attack of labeling those who ask the questions as “xenophobes” or “racists” have been ongoing through local back channels. Returning for a moment to the subject of the controversial Catskills resort complex, here is a quote from China City immigration lawyer Larry Behar, who the Washington Post reports as lashing back at critics in a news release, stating that that they were “spreading xenophobia that smacks of classic McCarthy-era behavior.”
That appears to be an almost programmed response that is parroted by American stakeholders and apologists concerning these kind of Chinese investments. It’s an example of poisoning the well, to effectively demonize and marginalize even legitimate critics of such deals. Can our local elected officials, who are so deeply involved now, rise above such blatant statist propaganda, look us straight in the eye, and tell us the God’s honest truth? Or do they actually believe that nonsense themselves?
Myrtle Beach and Chicago are now at the epicenter of Chinese acquisitions in America. From golf courses to resort properties, and now to the Chicago Stock Exchange, elite investors with close ties to the central Chinese government have acquired greater and greater holdings, which has made them locally, according to Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brad Dean, persons with increasing influence on how Myrtle Beach is marketed.
It is also clear that close alliances between these investors, city government and county government now exist. Residents are questioning if such alliances will erode our free market, our free speech, and the basic American freedoms that we have come to count on.