China makes it incredibly hard for foreign businesses to operate – but they stay because the money is just too good

·8 min read
<span class="caption">A shipping container passes the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco bound for Oakland, Calif. </span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:AP Images/Eric Risberg">AP Images/Eric Risberg</a></span>
A shipping container passes the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco bound for Oakland, Calif. AP Images/Eric Risberg

Doing business in China can be a difficult and contentious proposition for companies in many countries. Yet even with charges of intellectual property theft, forced partnerships and tight restrictions on doing business, China continues to attract foreign capital. Why do businesses want to invest in China when there are so many other “business-friendly” countries and financial markets that support foreign investment?

The United States has accused China of stealing the intellectual property of American firms, theft that is estimated at US0 billion annually. As a precondition for doing business in China, American and other firms may be subjected to the forced transfer of their technology. In addition, regulations can require foreign investors to partner and set up a joint venture with a Chinese firm before they can do business in China.

The Great Hall of the People in Beijing where China&#39;s national Congress gathered.
The Great Hall of the People in Beijing where China's national Congress gathered.

In 2001, after becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, China promised to open up its banking, telecommunications and electronic payment processing sectors. But action in these areas has been nonexistent or, at best, half-hearted. The Chinese telecommunications industry, for example, remains under government control, and the government has barred Facebook and Google from offering their services in China.

What’s in it for investors

Doing Business 2020, a publication of the World Bank, ranks China – in terms of the availability of credit and the ease and magnitude of tax payments – 80th and 105th, respectively, out of 190 nations in the world. Using 10 other indicators, such as protection offered to minority investors, registering property and enforcing contracts, China ranks 31st out of 190 nations in the world for the overall ease of doing business. By contrast, the U.S. ranks 6th out of 190, according to the same report.

In addition, doing business in China can be politically risky. Negotiations with the Communist-led government can be difficult; it has a political system with a reputation for a lack of transparency and intolerance for dissent. The nation has significant rules about the inflows and outflows of capital that can change without public notice. Corruption is pervasive in China, which hurts foreign investors like the United States.

Ford, Nissan and BMW unveiled new electric cars and SUVs at the Auto China 2020 show in Beijing.
Ford, Nissan and BMW unveiled new electric cars and SUVs at the Auto China 2020 show in Beijing.

Despite these negative business conditions, according to the 2020 World Investment Report, in 2018 and 2019 China attracted a staggering 8 billion and 1 billion in foreign investment, respectively. Focusing on just 2019, this massive foreign investment into China exceeds the GDPs of entire nations such as Kuwait – 7 billion; Kenya – billion; and Venezuela – billion. In 2019, China was the world’s second largest recipient of foreign investment, second only to the United States.

Countries that play by the rules

Despite being relatively business-unfriendly, if the world’s 31st ranked nation can attract such large amounts of foreign investment, surely the world’s first ranked nation must be doing as well as China, if not better. But New Zealand, ranked first in the world for its business-friendly climate, doesn’t come close to China in terms of foreign investment.

On the two metrics – credit availability, which measures how easy it is to obtain credit; and tax payments, which measure the straightforwardness and the magnitude of tax payments made to the country where business is being done – New Zealand ranks 1st and 9th in the world. And for overall ease of doing business, by contrast to China’s 31st rank, New Zealand ranks first in the world.

Despite that honor, in 2018 and 2019 New Zealand

attracted only Brazilian mystics say they're sent by aliens to 'jump-start human evolution' – but their vision for a more just society is not totally crazy Sun, 14 Nov 2021 20:56:45 +0000,2011:article/132730 Brazil's Valley of the Dawn faith is often dismissed as a cult. But many of the group's fantastical rituals are a recognizable reaction to this harsh world of inequality, loneliness and pandemics. Kelly E. Hayes, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, IUPUI

Valley of the Dawn members celebrate 'Day of the Indoctrinator' at their temple complex in Brazil on May 1. This year's event is postponed due to coronavirus. Márcia Alves, CC BY-SA

Every May 1, before sunrise, several thousand members of the religion known as the Valley of the Dawn gather in silence at a temple outside the Brazilian capital of Brasília. They come from around the world to “synchronize their spiritual energies.”

As the Sun’s first rays appear over the horizon, the members, in fairy-tale-like garments, chant their personal “emissions” – a ritual invocation of cosmic forces that fills the air with a collective drone.

Valley of the Dawn adherents “manipulate” cosmic energies to heal themselves and others. They describe themselves as members of a spiritual tribe called the Jaguars, who are the reincarnated descendants of highly advanced extraterrestrials sent by God some 32,000 years ago to jump-start human evolution.

Normally, the May 1 Day of the Indoctrinator ceremony attracts Jaguars from across the globe, as well as spectators and journalists.

In 2020, the ceremony was postponed because of the coronavirus – dismaying Valley of the Dawn members, who believe their spiritual force field could really help in this global crisis.

The Valley of the Dawn’s beliefs are fantastical, but their practices may be less otherworldly than bemused journalists have often suggested. My scholarship on Brazilian religions and research at the Valley of the Dawn finds that some of the group’s rituals speak directly to the harsh realities of the modern world.

Jaguars past and present

Valley of the Dawn, called Vale do Amanhecer in Portuguese, is a recognized religion in Brazil. It has over 700 affiliated temples worldwide and nearly 139,000 registered members.

Aunt Neiva. Vale Do Amanhecer Archive, CC BY

According to Valley of the Dawn doctrine, the Jaguars inspired some of humanity’s greatest achievements, including the great pyramids of ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica, before eventually straying from their mission.

Their spiritual tribe was reunited in Brazil in 1964 by a woman called Aunt Neiva, who foresaw the world as we know it ending within decades.

My research indicates that Valley of the Dawn members are mostly middle- and working-class Brazilians, of all races. Many live in the town that has grown up around the Mother Temple; others travel there for ceremonies.

To redeem the bad karma they believe they have accrued over the millennia, Valley of the Dawn members perform spirit-healing rituals called “trabalhos,” or works. These are offered to the public at the Mother Temple nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In Brazil, which has hundreds of spirit-based religions, such healing is widely accepted.

According to anthropologist Emily Pierini, who has studied spirit healing at the Valley of the Dawn, thousands of Brazilians suffering from health problems, mental illness, grief or addiction visit the Valley of the Dawn each month to remove negative spiritual influences and channel healing forces. Most patients have had unsuccessful experiences with both Western medicine and other religions.

A healing ritual at the Valley of the Dawn. Márcia Alves, CC BY

Meaningful work and education

The Valley of the Dawn has grown steadily since the founder’s death in 1985, spreading from Brazil to Portugal, the United States and England.

Outsiders often dismiss the Valley as a cult. A BBC journalist who visited the community in 2012 called it a “refuge for lost souls.”

But my research offers an alternative explanation of why some people might find the Valley of the Dawn appealing: It offers a more progressive, egalitarian version of modernity.

Brazil, with its corruption scandals and savage social inequalities, has not always lived up to the motto “order and progress” as inscribed on its national flag. It is not alone. Across much of the West, the promise that modernity would bring higher living standards, greater personal freedoms and a more just society remains largely unfulfilled.

Instead, the 21st century has created low-wage jobs with little security and government institutions that too frequently benefit the richest and most powerful. Individualism has supplanted community, leaving people increasingly isolated and lonely – and that was before coronavirus and social distancing.

The Valley of the Dawn, in contrast, offers a collective life that members find gratifying.

“By living out the doctrine, you see what you can improve in your life and how you can repair the errors of the past,” a member named Ilza told me. “You see the results of your dedication.”

Prayer at Mother Temple. Márcia Alves, CC BY

Rejecting capitalist values, Valley of the Dawn members refuse to work for money. Healing “trabalhos” are offered freely as an expression of unconditional love.

In Brazil, where poverty prevents many from completing their education, the Valley of the Dawn has its own education system premised on merit, not privilege.

It offers free “courses” on personal development, moral conduct and mediumship taught by trained instructors. Educational advancement earns members a title, like “Master” or “Commander,” and the right to wear specific clothing, participate in new rituals and take on leadership duties.

Restorative justice

Justice in the Valley of the Dawn likewise offers a progressive alternative to contemporary criminal justice systems that emphasize punishment and incarceration. In the Valley of the Dawn, justice means reconciliation for past harms – not retribution.

According to Valley of the Dawn doctrine, much human suffering and wrongdoing is the work of spirits called “cobradores,” or debt collectors. A cobrador is the spirit of a person – usually a family member or friend – who was harmed by a Jaguar in a past life.

When the spirit attaches itself to its living “debtor” – causing depression, for example, or aggression – the afflicted Jaguar spend a week gathering signatures from fellow Valley members who wish them positive energy to pay off their spiritual debt.

A prisoner collecting signatures. Márcia Alves, CC BY-SA

The week-long prison ritual – conducted in a colorful dress or, for men, black shirt with a leather sash – culminates in a courtroom “trial.” There the cobrador, channeled by a fellow Jaguar, explains the wrongdoing that caused the karmic debt. After the prisoner expresses regret, balance is restored.

“He forgives me, I forgive him, he leaves and I am released,” as a Jaguar named Master Itamir explained.

Fantastical solutions to real problems

I find no evidence, by the way, that this New Age group has an unsavory underbelly, or that its leaders are exploiting members. People are free to join or leave the Valley of the Dawn at any time. For Jaguars who cannot afford training, the community provides food and housing.

Jaguars celebrate the Day of the Indoctrinator, May 1, 2012. Marcia Alves, CC BY

My research indicates members find real meaning in the Valley of the Dawn’s egalitarian work, education and legal systems, all structured on the principles of equality and justice.

In that sense, despite their mystical nature, the social practices of the Valley of the Dawn aren’t alien at all: They are a reaction to the very real deficiencies of modern secular society – with some flamboyant costuming on the side.

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This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Kelly E. Hayes, IUPUI.

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<span class="caption">Day of the Indoctrinator, 2012.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Márcia Alves</span>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CC BY-SA">CC BY-SA</a></span>
Day of the Indoctrinator, 2012. Márcia Alves, CC BY-SA

Kelly E Hayes received funding from the Fulbright U.S. Scholars Program in 2012.

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