Why Steve Wynn should—and shouldn’t—fear China
By STEVE FRIESS
The Las Vegas media lately have spent a whole bunch of ink and digital space attacking and analyzing Steve Wynn’s suggestion that he might move his corporate headquarters to China. Much of that has been appropriate, but again and again writers go for the cheap shot—claiming irony in the notion that a capitalist like Wynn believes he can find safe harbor among “communists”—without understanding how geopolitically incorrect they’re being.
I know a thing or two about this. I lived and covered the Middle Kingdom for two years, I went back to cover the SARS outbreak, the opening of Sands Macau and the opening of Wynn Macau. I even attended a rave on the Great Wall in 2001 the night before then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin celebrated the 80th anniversary of “communism.”
So here’s the deal: Yes, the ruling group in China is known as the Communist Party. But no, China has not been a little-C communist nation for decades now. There is no wealth distribution to the masses, the state has increasingly ceded control over major industries to private or publicly traded interests and, best of all, not everyone is a comrade. In fact, only about 5.6 percent of the nation’s population are members of the Communist Party.
China today is more akin to a gigantic corporation I’ve for 10 years been calling PRC Inc. The CPC is the board of this, the world’s largest company, setting the rules and, no doubt, reaping an untold and unaccounted-for fortune from its operations. As would be the case in the U.S. if Wall Street and major manufacturers really had their way, China today offers unrestrained capitalism of the sort we saw in late-1800s America, before the existence of labor unions, antitrust laws and other restrictions on the free market. There’s little in the way of environmental law, work-safety legislation, even proper jurisprudence to adjudicate civil disputes or protect the rights of crime suspects the way we understand it. It’s the Wild, Wild East.
Wynn should certainly be wary of placing too much faith in the Chinese government, but not because it’s communist in the sense that one day PRC Inc. will seize his land and run his casinos. No, he should worry because ...
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