Xinjingbao, People's Republic of China
Is Bill Gates, a man who made his fortune "by means of monopoly and unfair competition" serious when he argues for equality and public service? According to this op-ed article from China's state-controlled Xinjingbao [Beijing News], while one might suspect Mr Gates of hypocrisy; "As far as the public is concerned, hypocrisy in the public interest is at least better than blatant exploitation."
By Liu Qing [??], Associate Professor at East China Normal University
Translated By How Xian Neng [???]
July 29, 2007
People's Republic of China - Xinjingbao - Original Article (Chinese)
On July 7, Bill Gates spoke at Harvard University 356th commencement ceremony. In a moment of glory, the old Harvard dropout was awarded an honorary LL.D. (Doctor of Law) and invited to deliver a 25-minute speech. Gates' opening remark was triumphant: "I've been waiting more than 30 years to say this: Dad, I always told you I'd come back and get my degree."
But after a number of short, humorous remarks, "Harvard's most successful dropout" turned serious. He said, recalling that the greatest regret of his Harvard years was leaving without, "real awareness of the awful inequities in the world - the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair."
From that point onward, the whole speech read like a declaration on human equality. When discussing the disease and inequality in the world and the needless deaths of countless children, Gates asked bitterly, "How could the world let these children die?"
He immediately gave the standard radical left-wing answer: "The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system." And then, calling out to the Harvard's graduates of the year, he said: "But you and I have both."
At the end of his speech, Gates implored the Harvard elite to shoulder social more responsibility. He asked: "Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems? Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world's worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty ... the prevalence of world hunger ... the scarcity of clean water ...the girls kept out of school ... the children who die from diseases we can cure?"
At the end, he closed his speech with a moving "I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest inequities ... on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity."
Gates' speech left me confused, even skeptical. Isn't he the richest capitalist in the world? Or is he an angry advocate of Rawls' Justice ?
Can these two things be compatible?
Of course, "skeptical intellects" like me wouldn't be fooled. The critical nerves immediately went into overdrive: This was nothing but a show speech with fine words. Isn't it true that Bill Gates has become the richest man on earth by means of monopoly and unfair competition? Hasn't the global hegemony of Microsoft depressed and crushed the domestic IT industry in many third world countries, thereby aggravating the inequality that he now denounces so passionately?
And in this way, isn't his generous "charitable" foundation merely a form of hypocrisy? All these allegations bear discussion and questioning.
On the other hand, critical thinking can be applied in the other direction. The world's richest man with a net worth of about $56 billion, is only leaving behind about a tenth of one percent of that to his children. Almost none of his property is used for extravagant pleasures and he never invests in arms. Instead, most of his invests are in areas related to global social service. If there were more "shows" like this, our world would be a better place.
If China's rich tycoons would follow the same course, we would all be fortunate. In the end, it might not be so important whether his psychological motive is purely "charitable" or "hypocritical." We don't need to judge. As far as the public is concerned, "hypocrisy" in the public interest is at least better than blatant exploitation. After all, we've all heard the famous expression: "If you live a life of pretend long enough, you start to become what you pretended."
from on August 7, 2007, 6:54pm