Back in December we noticed a speech by General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt in which Mr. Immelt praised the Chinese Communist leadership in the same breath as he did Ronald Reagan: "There is no 'one style of leadership' that you should emulate. But great leaders always match vision with execution. And leadership in general must welcome both purpose and process. Let me give you studies in contrast. One of my heroes was President Reagan. President Reagan was very charismatic. He could give speeches all day long and you would never be bored. At the same time, he was responsible for an aggressive reform agenda that forever changed our country. On the other side is the Chinese government. Talk about boring! But they are executing their eleventh 'five year plan.' They do exactly what they say they will do. They will likely be the biggest economy in the world someday. Man, these guys are good! "
Now comes news, via Bloomberg, that, "Every summer since 2000, General Electric Co. has worked with the world's largest communist party to pick about 25 Chinese executives for the company's leadership program in Crotonville on New York's Hudson River. The training creates potential Chinese allies for GE to help ensure its continued expansion in the world's fastest- growing major economy, company officials say. It is part of an emphasis on government relations that has paid off with contracts to supply jet engines and build wind turbines."
The same observation applies here as to Goldman Sachs's big role in China:
The case for American banks to do these deals in Communist China is at least in part that American values — capitalism, rule of law — are imparted to the Chinese. Better the Chinese absorb Goldman Sachs values than those of the Swiss or German or French bankers who would be doing the deals if America stayed away, this argument goes. Reasonable enough. But there's a risk — not a certainty, but at least a risk — that some of the values flow back in the other direction and that instead of Goldman exporting capitalism and the rule of law to China, China ends up exporting Communist-style state ownership, arbitrary government decision-making, and cronyism back to America, using Goldman as the "culture carrier," to use a popular Goldman phrase.