China's communists really, really want the iPhone 4S
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel: "Where have you gone, Chairman Mao, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."
They rioted in the streets of Beijing on Friday. It was just the like the old days of the Cultural Revolution. Except this time the rioters weren't waving Mao's "Little Red Book."
No, they were shouting insults -- and chunking eggs -- at an Apple store. Which wouldn't open its doors because it had run out of new iPhone 4S's to sell.
In the United States, we don't make much anymore, and certainly not iPhones, but we buy lots of them.
Meanwhile, in China, they make almost everything these days, and especially iPhones, and they buy lots of them.
Call it "free-market communism."
To be fair, many of the rioters, er, upset customers, weren't mad because they couldn't buy a phone. In another example of that free-market communist system, they were angry because it cost them money. As The Times story explains:
One member of the crowd, a film extra from Beijing, said he was offered about $20 to wait overnight for the phone. He said scalpers picked up hundreds like him in buses outside film studios where extras commonly work.
"After Apple said they were not selling the iPhones today, no organizers paid their temporary workers," said the man, who declined to give his name….
Buyers were reportedly recruited to line up at the Shanghai store Friday as well, with promises of a free breakfast and $15.
And I thought farmworkers in America had it tough!
What does it mean? Well, one office wag said that the failure to meet the demands of the clamoring horde showed that the Marxist dictate "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" had totally broken down in China.
Another co-worker saw parallels with the Opium Wars of the 19th century.
Personally, I think my colleagues were simply dredging up the few things they remembered from their long-ago college history and political science classes to try and show off.
Well, I can play that game too. I think Mao's dream of a communist utopia in China has been done in by one of his great rivals, Deng Xiaoping, who once famously defended economic reforms by declaring “It does not matter if a cat is black or white; as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat."
Well, Deng, there are a bunch of your cats in China now, and they all want to catch iPhones.
It truly is an "Alice Through the Looking Glass" world these days. As paid workers in a communist country riot trying to buy iPhones, here at home Republicans are actually denouncing presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a "vulture capitalist" who practiced "crony capitalism" as an executive at the private-equity firm Bain Capital.
Somewhere, Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan are weeping.
Meanwhile, our Democratic president went on television Friday morning to unveil his plan to actually shrink the government.
Somewhere, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson are shaking their heads in disbelief.
For the final word, though, let's return to Beijing. She was only talking about the iPhone, but this lady sums it all up:
A 60-year-old woman who gave only her surname, Chen, said the melee ruined her plans to give her son the latest iPhone for his birthday.
"There are so many people, and it's so cold, and now they say they won't sell us the phone," she said. "This is just so, so wrong."
-- Paul Whitefield
Photo: Police try to seal off the area as thousands of customers line up outside an Apple store in Beijing. Credit: AFP / Getty Images