By on May 17, 2011

Pop quiz: when does an eight-month-old story generate a huge amount of interest? When it’s got political overtones, of course. And what better way to milk the last dregs of bailout resentment than by telling a story that seems too bizarre to be true: Cadillac is a “proud” chief sponsor of a Chinese Communist Party-produced film entitled “The Birth of a Party” (or “The Great Achievement of Founding the Party” depending on the quality of your translator). The story started last September, at ChinaAutoWeb.com, and was recently revivified by the Washington Times, Commentary Magazine, and Big Hollywood. Our main interest in the story has to do with its lessons about the rise of China, that country’s tortured relationship with luxury goods, its foreign (from the American perspective) political economy and Cadillac’s continued need for better momentum in China… but clearly others are more interested in it for different reasons.

The political point seems to be that government money is being funneled to the Chinese Communist Party via General Motors, an accusation that, though shocking, doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny. After all, nearly anyone doing business of any kind in China ultimately supports the political and economic structure created by the Chinese Communist Party, legitimizing it and lining its pockets. And surely nobody is suggesting GM abandon China altogether, thus eliminating its greatest opportunity for growth. Meanwhile, as the Freep helpfully points out, Caddy needs all the help it can get in China: without a single vehicle in the luxury car top-ten, Cadillac needs to be aggressive in marketing to China. Still, from a PR perspective, Cadillac clearly has a line to walk here… perhaps it should look for less visible (and risible) ways of building up guanxi (connections) with the powers that be in the world’s largest market for cars.

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43 Comments on “Cadillac: The Standard Of… The Chinese Communist Party?...”


  • avatar

    Oddly enough,I just wrote about the evolution of Caddy after I watched a Speed program on the new performance models. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/editorials/1134-the-evolution-of-the-cadillac-as-a-born-again-street-monster.html

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    OK can’t get past the captcha in your regular contact.

    You have got to do something about the audio ads. I’ll never buy anything Lysol again.

    I get that you need to monetize the site but this will drive people away.

    been a fan since the early Farago days.

    Best car site ever.

    Sorry to be off topic, but can’t get through any other way.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Money is fungible, and so (in effect) in order to provide tens of billions of dollars to bailout GM and Chrysler (really bailing out the UAW with GM and Chrysler serving as corporate middlemen), the Obama administration borrows tens of billions of dollars from Communist China, so that future U.S. taxpayers can pay the Communist Chinese principal and interest.

    And as thanks, GM is devoting some of those funds to sponsor a movie celebrating the rise of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Lenin quipped that “the capitalists will sell us the rope which we’ll use to hang them.”

    Indeed.

    Somewhere in hell Karl Marx is laughing his a** off.

    • 0 avatar

      And yet, how many gullible souls in the US went out today and bought a Daewoo Cruze, or an Opel Regal, etc… thinking that purchase was actually helping our country, rather than contributing directly to the coffers of an entity that was once (and may very well be again) one of our most feared and hated enemies?

      This is absolutely pitiful, and we should all be a lot angrier about this news… if only we weren’t resigned to the inevitable.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ Rob…..So your saying, we shouln’t buy cars from those that were once our enemies?

      • 0 avatar

        I’m saying we shouldn’t be paying for ChiCom propaganda, mikey. You know that.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        If I recall, the US version of the Daewoo Cruze is assembled in Lordstown, Ohio. So, some of those dollars spent are making it to the paychecks of UAW workers.

        The Regal on the other hand brings up an interesting point. Currently, GM has two compact platforms in production. At what point does GM follow Ford and choose to use one C-class platform?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        So, I’ll bet your saving your hard-earned money to buy that shiny, new Zenith color TV, your GE vacuum-tube AM clock radio, your Curtis-Mathis console stereo and every other formerly-made-in-USA product that its modern counterpart is now made in China?

        Tell me what the alternative is and whether it any longer makes a scad of difference?

        I always remember a line from the movie “The Sand Pebbles”, where, near the end, regarding the conflict then going on in China with America sticking their nose into it, one of the actors says: “(condemn) your flag; (condemn) all flags.”

      • 0 avatar

        OldandSlow – Yeah, I’m not wild about giving money to the UAW either. mikey can speak to that.

        Zackman – You really don’t see the difference, do you? As I type this on a Chinese-made computer and watch my Taiwanese-built TV, I can still see the distinction that you fail to note.

        The story here isn’t that GM is trying to sway Chinese dignitaries to buy its cars. It’s that GM paid a direct bribe to the Chinese government, in support of a propaganda film glorifying China’s history of Communism. Gee, I wonder if that history includes anything about China’s involvement in the Korean War, and killing those evil marauding American soldiers?

        Did an American business pay a dime to glorify the Nazis after World War II? The Emperor? Of course not… yet such behavior is just fine for GM now, because China owns our country and we’ve opted as a society to sell out our morals and principles. VanillaDude nailed this in his post further down the page.

        Many of the responses in this forum speak droves about the problem in our country. We are beyond hope when we’re no longer enraged by this. I’m just glad I haven’t brought any children into this world to inherit the mess we’ve left for them.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @Rob:

        I see perfectly what’s happening. Whether it is right or wrong appears to be immaterial to those holding the purse strings, as business is no longer hampered by national borders, or ideology for that matter. Does the American government care? It doesn’t seem so, or this wouldn’t be allowed to happen in the first place.

        Perhaps this topic is better discussed on a political forum or in the Heritage Foundation or something.

        So, all this being said and done, now what? Avoid GM cars? Maybe. Then what? Ford until they do something similar? If so, what then? European? Japanese? Eventually Chinese?

        I do not see an answer to your concerns based on politics/policy.

      • 0 avatar

        I think it’s safe to say I’ll never buy another GM product in my life, yes. Ditto Fiasler. Ford’s chances will depend on how firmly it stands up to the UAW going forward, and whether it can get a handle on its technological and outsourcing issues.

        I do see your point though. Pretty much the only choice for me is to buy an Asian car, assembled in the US, by non-union labor. Which is precisely what I plan to do when it comes time to part ways with my beloved (but shamefully UAW-built) Mazda.

        I somehow doubt either Japan or South Korea will be caught blatantly kowtowing to the ChiComs any time soon, unlike the US. Yes, something like that is important to me. It should be more important to all of us.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        How about Chinese-owned Volvo? And Volkswagen? China’s largest automaker.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    The Soviet communists were communists. Even our poorly educated state department political “science” trolls could outmaneuver them. (It takes really dumb folks to be outmaneuvered by a political “science” degree.)

    The Chinese “communists” are capitalists. They’re far, far smarter than the State Dept trolls, and quantum levels above the septic tank dwellers in the West Wing.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The Soviet Communists were ideologues, wedded to the idea at any cost, as they generally didn’t personally pay it.

      The Chinese “communists” got smart and became progressive pragmatists, and doing whatever they think makes sense to advance China (and themselves) over the next several years.

      Of course, they still brook no foolishness with respect to political elections…

      • 0 avatar
        Amendment X

        Exactly. China is more along the lines of a well-oiled capitalist dictatorship than a communist one. And that’s becoming increasingly clear. The mere fact that you can INVEST in a country’s auto/home/energy/etc. market is an indicator that it is as capitalist as American pie.

        Certain countries, like Cuba, remain hostile to foreign corporations (hence the continued embargo). Those are the real commies. Everyone else is a poser.

      • 0 avatar
        theo78-96

        Bit confused there, Amendment X. It is the USA which embargoes Cuba, not the other way around. There are plenty of non-US investors in Cuba.

        You can only invest in China in a partnership, in this case with SAIC, the most “well-connected” of the Chinese car companies (others like “Chery”, “FAW” and “Great Wall” are strictly provincial).

        The state still retains effective ownership of all but the tiniest businesses.

      • 0 avatar
        gimmeamanual

        FAW is certainly not provincial, they’re JVed with VW and Toyota. Also, you only “need” a JV if you’re making full vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        @theo What you claim about partnership requirements is simply not true. It apples to the auto industry but in many sectors you’re free to outright buy or start an entirely foreign owned business. For example, Yum brands (KFC/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell, etc.) is currently in the midst of buying a 94% stake in Little (fat) Sheep, a popular chain of Chinese hotpot restaurants. No partnership or 50% rules apply there at all.

        On top of that, while you say that most big businesses remain government owned you also have to remember that there isn’t just one singular “government”. Lots of enterprises are subsidiaries of say, the post office of a particular province. They essentially have no connection to the central government. SAIC is government owned but it’s owned by the government of Shanghai (duh), while BAIC is owned obviously by the local government of Beijing. Of course there are party ties involved between the local and national level for bigger cities like this but most companies in China are not huge car companies, and while they may technically be government owned in one way or another it’s usually almost a technicaloty. These government officies are essentially run as pure capitalost enterprises. Why? Because when they first decided to try capitalism nobody had any damned capital since they had been communist for so long. Nobody had credit records, and since there were no private enterprises there were essentially no private sector entrepeneurs to start businesses. So they more or less ordered all the governmental offices to start businesses with their budgets to try and make money. Outside capital was usually raised from the ranks of the people who worked at these officea. For example, a post office that wanted to get into entertainment venues like bowling alleys and movie theaters would ask postal carriers if they wanted to chip in for a stake in the business, etc. You really couldn’t jump from zero capitalism to market style capitalism overnight since there was no market to speak of. And unless everything is IPO’ed and every last government funded share sells off to a private stakeholder(very unlikely), many companies will stay “government” owned. Don’t mistake this for them being run as government bureaus though, other than the original funding source decades ago there is no difference between these and any other capitalist busness.

  • avatar
    charly

    Or they could leave the US market? Would be a PR problem but would be economically sound

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Okay, is it just me, or has TTAC turned into TTACC*?

    * The Truth About Chinese Cars

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Given that China is *the* future of the car, TTAC should follow Cars in China.

    • 0 avatar
      vento97

      > Okay, is it just me, or has TTAC turned into TTACC*?

      Nope. It’s still TTAC (The Truth About China)…

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        @ Verbal – the sad truth is new cars for the US market will more and more follow what sells in China in their design stage. This story is about how GM has taken the lead amongst US brands in whoring themselves to the Dragon Lady. TTAC is just the messenger.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Here we go again…!

    In the warped world we live in, the traveling merchants exploit whoever has the lowest labor costs to maximize profits. Bad? I can’t judge, but it certainly turns anything into a commodity which is what autos appear to be turning into, hence the increasing similarity across all lines and models regardless of who builds a particular make.

    Feel better now?

    • 0 avatar

      In the warped world we live in, the traveling merchants exploit whoever has the lowest labor costs to maximize profits.

      There is a profound difference between utilizing cheaper labor, which (arguably) should help those workers to rise above their state-imposed station in life… and actively engaging in the very propaganda of the police state that beat them down in the first place!

  • avatar
    segfault

    In Soviet America, car company owns YOU!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Please God, don’t let them get a Fleetwood before us. Amen.

  • avatar
    eldard

    Once the Big 3 of Germany gets more popular the CCP will soon realize how crappy Cadillacs are.

  • avatar
    vento97

    It all makes sense now:

    Cadillac CTS-V (Communist Transport and Support Vehicle)

  • avatar
    vento97

    Difference between capitalism and communism:

    Communism – The Government owns the businesses
    Capitalism – The businesses own the Government

    Democrats and Republicans – first-world prosperity for themselves, third-world prosperity for the taxpayer

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    China is actually a good challenge to those who equate capitalism with democracy and hence is a good reminder of the differences between the two, namely, that capitalism is an economic philosophy aimed primarily at maximizing profit while democracy is a political philosophy aimed primarily at protecting and preserving the freedom, dignity, and moral equality of all citizens, and one need not entail the other (as some market advocates sometimes suggest). Put simply, capitalism does not entail democracy, and I would actually argue that some capitalist strategies (e.g., the capitalist’s tendency to favor monopolies, to control markets, and to dislike real competition) actually encourage authoritarian-styled political structures that are a threat to genuine democracy. In fact, I’ve actually noticed a lot of anti-democratic tendencies in this very thread, which is a little disturbing to say the least.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Don’t be silly. Democracy is alive in well in Russia.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Nah, it’s just easier to say they’re Communists and avoid the cognitive dissonance altogether.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Democracy works best when the original model is respected. Ancient Greace gave us democracy, but at some point we forgot that the Greeks only let land owning male citizens vote. They were the most informed with the greatest interest in the state, so they didn’t end up with referendums on idiocy like CAFE standards. Redistributionism is NOT a democratic idea.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        So what you’re proposing isn’t democracy at all, but (ta-dah!) a representational republic, whereby a limited subset get to actually vote on behalf of everyone.

        Amusingly, in both cases, it’s wealthy old guys who actually get to vote.

        Direct democracy doesn’t work well at the nation/state scale (re: California) because populism can be stupid and ugly; you need some abstraction of representation to avoid the “two wolves and one sheep voting on dinner” problem.

        In this sense I agree with you, though I don’t think we come at this situation from the same angle. :)

  • avatar
    sching

    Ed, small point, but the transliteration for the Chinese word for “connections” or “relationships” is guanxi, not guangxi. Guangxi could be a number of different things, depending on the tones of the two syllables, including the name of a Chinese province.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    We pay a billion dollars a day to China in interest. That is more than what we pay out for both wars in the Middle East each year. We are winding down the wars, while our national debt is escalating and our debt doubling within two years, so we could be paying two billion a day to China within a couple of years.

    That said, there comes a point where we must do what the Chinese want us to do in order to keep our economy upright.

    If you are offended by what Cadillac has done here, then you better start growing thicker skin when you see how we will be pimped out due to our massive debt in the future.

    The Chinese government isn’t just communist, it is not a place where the freedoms we know even exist. The idea that our economic security is held hostage by this country’s government is a concern. The economic boom they are experiencing, we have paid for by moving our manufacturing there. The knowledge they have in bringing 21st Century goods and services to market arrived there in US briefcases. So not only do we owe them trillions, we gave them our ability to earn the funds to pay them back.

    So why should we be surprised to see Cadillac kissing Communist ass? When you prostitute your future, the paying John wants a kiss now and then.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      VanillaDude: Good points. But I wonder if the rising middle class in China will somehow terminate the “State Capitalism” when they decide they want a say in how things are run. China will turn inward I pray and address their totalitarian system. Failing that, I see the Middle Kingdom a thermonuclear slag by 2020.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        It is very fair to say that the average (that is, across all 1+ BILLION) Chinese enjoys a higher standard of living, broader self-autonomy and greater day-to-day freedom than any other point in recorded Chinese history.

        The CCP has basically given the Chinese people continuous, unbroken economic growth and progress for the past 30 years.

        Plus, there are a *lot* of people who remember the bad old days of peasantry, poverty, foreign dominion / occupation, etc.

        So all else being equal, the CCP has earned a certain amount of slack and the benefit of doubt before things turn against them. They’re acutely aware of this, and have reacted and planned accordingly.

        Plus, they take things pretty seriously. Screw up big enough, and they *will* take you out back and shoot you, no matter who you are and how powerful you were.


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