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Godfree Roberts is the author of Why China Leads The World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom.
Godfree Roberts contacted me and suggested I interview him about his book. I thought, ‘okay, why not.’

Well, I’ve never offered up an evaluation of a guest at the outset of the podcast, but I must tell you, I came to the conclusion as the conversation went on that Mr. Roberts might be a troll, since he sounded increasingly like a paid publicist for the CCP.  I may be wrong about that. But, for instance, his insistence that Mao’s cultural revolution of the 1960s was a mere education campaign and didn’t hurt anybody seemed like utter nonsense to me.

You decide for yourselves.

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Direct Download: KunstlerCast 387 — Godfree Roberts on China Rising

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

31 Responses to “KunstlerCast 387 — Godfree Roberts on China Rising”

  1. happiface October 27, 2023 at 11:14 am #

    Mao was one of the great monsters of the last century when gooooovermints around the world killed 240 million people–but that will pale in this century when 7 billion die in the next nuke war at the hands of gooooovermints…MaO you suck

    • Godfree Roberts October 28, 2023 at 2:27 am #

      I feel your pain.

      Alas, there is no evidence for your claims, any more than there is for thousands of similar Big Lies, of which the Iraqi WMDs yarn is a minor example.

      Did you swallow the WMD story as eagerly as you swallowed ‘Mao killed millions’?

      Or do you abandon your discriminative faculties just for China?

      • KitIngold October 30, 2023 at 12:43 pm #

        I just want to check, are you denying the existence of the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-62? Are you suggesting that there is ‘no evidence’ of millions dying from the effects of that famine? I’m trying to understand your position and want to be sure that I am not misunderstanding you.

        • Godfree Roberts November 4, 2023 at 5:40 pm #

          I am and I am.
          You understand me correctly.

  2. tbran10 October 27, 2023 at 11:30 am #

    Mao gathered 100 million followers to level the hierarchy of China. He sent the scholars and government officials into the countryside to harvest rice and put peasants in charge and destroyed the economy. Food became scarce and the country was dying until Nixon and Kissinger encourage them to send their best and brightest to the US to learn about capitalism. China has skipped ahead of the US in so many ways. They don’t want war, because they are just buying up key resources in the US and around the world. They are not wasting their resources on building lots of weapons which is keeping the US economy from crashing.! We have two borders to control, and China has 17 and you can’t travel between provinces without permission. The clown college in DC is destroying the US economy! China just has to sit back and buy up the cheap resources when US economy crashes to keep moving to world dominance without firing a shot!

  3. mrjlc38 October 27, 2023 at 11:55 am #

    Chinese Simon Parkes

  4. talcatcha October 27, 2023 at 1:00 pm #

    Well. That was interesting. Try getting Tom Cruise on next week to talk about Scientology.

  5. shabbaranks October 27, 2023 at 2:00 pm #

    “Godfree Roberts” is a crank. Hopefully this isn’t some straw man trick by Jim on his readers. If that is so, we deserve better. I don’t think it is, but it needs to be said.

    “Godfree Roberts” is deeply out of touch with China, the USA, world politics, political and cultural history, technological developments, any number of contemporary issues, etc. Little of what he says in this interview has any basis in fact. He is a sort of creator of unreality.


    If you want to learn about the real world of China, begin with the following:

    – David Shambaugh. China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation

    -Richard Baum. China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom

    -John King Fairbank & Merle Goldman. China: A New History, Second Enlarged Edition (The standard. Fairbank built the field of Chinese studies in the US).

    -Richard Baum. Fall and Rise of China (one of the Great Courses, checks in at 24 hours total audio).

    -Frank Dikotter. The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962?1976 (Dikotter has written a number of books about Chinese history. All are valuable).

    -June Teufel Dreyer. China’s Political System (This book is in its 11th edition. It’s the real article).

    -Bruce Gilley. China’s Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead

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    • Godfree Roberts October 28, 2023 at 2:34 am #

      Frank Dikotter.. has written a number of books about Chinese history. All are valuable.

      The cover image of Dikotter’s “Mao’s Great Famine” is heartbreaking: a starving Chinese child begging passersby for food.

      The image was featured in Life Magazine, in 1942, while China was still under Chiang’s rule and two years before the USAF firebombed Wuhan, killed 44,000 civilians and left the city burning for six days and nights.

      But of course, you knew all about that.

      • shabbaranks October 29, 2023 at 3:27 pm #

        Nice non sequitur.

  6. aka_ces October 27, 2023 at 2:50 pm #

    Fascinating exposition of a guest’s delusion to which James Howard Kunstler brought exactly the right level of skepticism — just enough to make it clear to any audience member paying attention that JHK was on to Godfree Roberts, and light enough to encourage Roberts to continue spinning his yarns, thereby revealing the mind of a propagandist, or of someone who has on their own become deluded. Which of these is not at all clear to me, I wish JHK had provided the listener with a little more background on the guest.

    But I’m glad that JHK completed the interview, posted it, and prefaced it with appropriate remarks.

    • Godfree Roberts October 28, 2023 at 2:36 am #

      What did I say anything that was false or misleading?

      One quote. Just one.

      • eugyppius November 3, 2023 at 3:35 pm #

        the attempt to recast the cultural revolution as a literacy initiative stands out to me.

        • Godfree Roberts November 4, 2023 at 5:42 pm #

          That’s how it was cast to the Politburo and the people of China, and that’s what it did.

          Do you have more to add?

  7. tom clark October 27, 2023 at 3:59 pm #

    I’ve listened to a lot of Jimbo’s podcasts over the years and regardless of the guest, he IS a good interviewer who knows how to play to the music. Never has this been more apparent than his interview with Godfree Roberts. And Roberts contacted him, no less. That kinda says it all. The prefatory remarks were interesting but unnecessary. This interview speaks for itself.

    • Godfree Roberts October 28, 2023 at 2:37 am #

      Yes, I pioneered the whole idea of authors trying to arouse public interest in their books.

  8. talcatcha October 27, 2023 at 4:44 pm #

    Just to be clear my previous post wasn’t criticism of Mr. Kunstler but just my smart-ass attempt to be funny about a strange interview. Kind of entertaining though.

  9. tom clark October 27, 2023 at 8:49 pm #

    Talcatcha…no need to apologize…yours was a spot-on comment. The interview was strange, especially for a Kunstlercast.

  10. Godfree Roberts October 28, 2023 at 2:54 am #

    I sent you my bio, the background to the book’s creation (including George Tenet’s advice to me), a complete outline of every chapter and its 478 footnoted claims.
    You said not a word, and set up the interview.
    We did the interview.
    You said you’d let me know when it aired.
    You didn’t.
    I learned of it from a friend who told me that – with zero evidence or skepticism about our hallucinatory media and its thousands of equally Big Lies – you had publicly labelled me a troll, without warning or opportunity to defend my work.
    I guess that’s the American Way now.

    Interested readers may wish to meditate on these very checkable facts:

    There are more hungry children, drug addicts, suicides, executions, and illiterate, incarcerated, poor, homeless people in America than in China.

    US life expectancy fell from 79 years in 2019 to 76 in 2021 – something last seen in Russia in the 1990s – while Beijing babies will live seven years longer than than ours. For those living on Indigenous reservations, life expectancy is 52 years for women and 48 years for men while Uyghur life expectancy is 75.2.

    China’s urban household net worth is $363,536 PPP. Our is $97,300.
    Says Carl Icahn: “Net worth of median households is basically nothing. We have major problems in our economy.”

    But your mind is made up, so facts are irrelevant, I guess.

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    • eugyppius November 3, 2023 at 3:41 pm #

      you should be grateful (as i am) that he published the piece at all. what is the chinese fertility rate, by the way?

  11. U R IntheVillage October 28, 2023 at 11:40 am #

    If Mr Roberts is not a paid PR person for China, he does an excellent job of impersonating one.

    I’m suspicious when any question that goes to some problem that may exist in China is met with an amused chuckle and a wave of the hand, followed by an explanation that China not only does not have that problem, but China has no problems whatsoever!

    If Mr Roberts is to be believed, there is no need to wait until 2049; Utopia has already been achieved.

    Mr Roberts would be more believable if he acknowledged that at least some problems exist in China. Their PR strategy needs some fine tuning.

  12. mumbai October 29, 2023 at 6:05 am #

    Roberts is what is called in OZ a ratbag but being crazy does preclude having some good points, broken clock an’ all that.

  13. Peter Starr October 29, 2023 at 5:10 pm #

    I found Mr. Roberts fascinating, a very different take on America’s arch enemy China. HIs patience is lovely, as is Kunstler’s restraint. Given America’s history of lies and evil deeds in the world (America is an inclusive entity these day; government, media, public discourse, education institutions etc. etc), I have no doubt that our conventional wisdom re China is a big skewed. That and simple jealousy is always at play

  14. docmartin October 30, 2023 at 9:11 am #

    For Christ sakes Mr K, anyone who requests an interview is a troll. Are you that desperate for podcast guests???

  15. RD3 October 30, 2023 at 1:25 pm #

    I find it amazing that this guy wrote a book about China and appears to know nothing of the subject or the history. Jim has to fill him in with nearly every date and event.

    I’m sure there is a good deal of fuckery when it comes to the way that Mao and that era of Chinese history is portrayed in the Western media. We know they lie about everything, but I guess the thousands of first hand stories about Mao’s reign of terror are simply lies.

    Progressives love to worship at the altar of “IQ” and “education.” I’m old enough to remember the media fawning over the intelligence of every liberal running for president. Mondale was brilliant. Dukakis was even smarter. Clinton and Gore were fucking geniuses. There is absolutely no basis to his claim that intelligence tracks with honesty. That is a load of bullshit. Only a college professor or a community organizer would believe his load of shit. I had an uncle, unironically, a college professor, who fashioned himself a genius. All he talked about was how intelligent, educated people should centrally manage everyone else’s life. If you pointed out that this reign of terror had been tried several times and always failed, he pulled out the old saw about how it just had never been implemented correctly. He would talk about his communist father’s books and writings, which consisted of charts and graphs about how everything should be organized.

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  16. RD3 October 30, 2023 at 1:31 pm #

    Also, his preposterous name is along the lines of the guy who commissioned the Georgia Guidestones: “God-Free” Repent and accept Jesus Christ as your savior, or to hell with you.

  17. HabeamVinum October 30, 2023 at 3:21 pm #

    I must commend you for sharing this interview. I don’t agree with your guest but you let him speak for himself which is more that can be said for most people nowadays.

    I still remember when the left supported free speech. That went away with Trumpgate. Then the right took over bragging about their credentials. Of course it turns out it was a lie – the moment their sacred cow was attacked they jumped to cancel all who disagrees.

    I wish at least some people on the fringes would hold on to their principles but most of the old guard became what it hated. Dmitry is a full on Putin apologist that changes his mind the moment the Russian govt changes their policy – he was pro-Germany when Russia was friendly to Germany, now of course he is not.

    And I don’t even want to remember the famous archdruid (Greer) and his “moderateness”. He consistently censored anybody that did not follow the party line on diet (can you believe he removed my one line comment “humans are omnivorous”?), politics (according to him Biden is a moderate) or even Covid (he censored anyone suggesting a lab origin). Three years later and he refuses to even accept his mistakes – instead preferring to go on fake “spiritualist” podcasts where people never ask any questions – after all they are just salesmen to dupes.

    So I have to thank you again for keeping an open mind and let me repeat the suggestion I made on a previous post: ask questions! And why not bring some of these sellouts and at least ask them about their hypocrisy?

  18. Ronald W. November 1, 2023 at 1:03 am #

    About 20 or so years ago, this interview would have lasted about one minute and 30 second flat. As Jim has aged, he has mellowed into a very patient man …. almost tolerant to a fault.

    I recall attending one of his speaking engagements back then when he was completing a presentation finishing up with a question-and-answer session. The Q&A was deteriorating into stupidity and ridiculousness as some folks were participating only to hear themselves talk so Jim abruptly let it be known that it was enough and ended the encounter.

    In this interview however, he allowed the guest to simply walk into one wall after another while interjecting precious morsels of knowledge and truth and it occurred to me that in the past 20 years or so, Jim has developed another complete skill set. Aside from his ingenious, engaging writing style and research skills, I do believe he now qualifies (in practice at least) as very competent psychiatric therapist. As his guest, Godfree very competently played the part of mental patient. The only thing Jim was missing was a white coat and a couch.

    For anyone devoid of a historical knowledge of China, Godfree would have come off as sincere and full of conviction, but those condescending bits of laughter directed in Jim’s direction give him away as he overplayed his hand at convincing him about the validity of his parlor trick. Just know that noone believes Chairman Mao was the beneficent grandfatherly figure Godfree seems to suggest he was. The body count begs otherwise. (Okay, let’s see Godfree chuckle at that).

    Well done Jim. Schemesters like this will have to awaken much earlier in the morning to give you a run for your money. May I suggest Godfree consider attending clown school to get into a more appropriate line of work. You would have been a huge attraction when Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus was operating.

  19. VeldesX November 4, 2023 at 11:36 pm #

    I also have to thank Jim for providing us with this interview. I did not care for it too much, insofar as Godfree Roberts seemed the overboard champion of the Peoples’ Republic of China, to the point that it seems like they can do no wrong.

    His takes on Mao’s rule is not entirely unusual, however. A wonderful textbook on Chinese history “The Ageless Chinese” by professor Dun J. Li, for example, asserts that the Great Leap Forward did not result in deaths. Lengthy and widespread hunger, yes, but not mass starvation. Nor does Li assert that the Cultural Revolution leave mass death in its wake. This is strikingly different from other sources that put deaths in the tens of millions.

    Yet neither did Li paint glowing portraits of Mao or the CCP, and documented the torments of their undertaking and utter backwardness the two events had on the progress China could have experienced otherwise. Li’s book had a different take on these things than I read in other sources, but left me with the feeling he was being objective.

    The theme of Li’s book was that China’s history was cyclical through repeating dynasties but that each successive dynasty was more centralized and tyrannical in its exertion of power. The Communist Revolution was merely the latest dynasty and the most authoritarian yet. We see that in the behavior of the CCP today, utilizing all available technologies to exert and expand its power.

    Roberts is enamored of China’s success in this regard, and the rise of China’s economy since Deng’s time is nothing short of astonishing, as he states. Whether it is beneficial to the future Chinese people and culture remains to be seen.

    I find myself on Roberts’ side regarding things like the so-called Uyghur genocide — I am no expert on what’s happened in Xinjiang province, but I do know that shortly after Senator John McCain entered Idlib Syria in 2013 and gave his blessings to the Free Syrian Army, some 30,000 Uyghur fighters appeared in the ranks to “train”. By 2017, they had left Syria and gone home. This was the moment the so-called “genocide” began in Xinjiang. It is no stretch of the imagination to understand what was really happening: the Chinese state was taking care of a potentially hostile terrorist element that had made its way from the bloodiest civil war in the world to a place that had known repeated uprisings against Chinese rule over the past 150 years.

    I think the strength of the “genocide” may be gauged by the strange coincidence that the first real uprising in China since 1949 happened in Xinjiang’s capital Urumchi, a city of Uyghurs, when a tragic apartment fire during a brutally long covid lockdown finally pushed people to their absolute limits. If everyone was interned in death camps, such an uprising could not have happened, much less spread to hundreds of other cities and lead the CCP to drop the stupid lockdowns once and for all.

    Ultimately, the very behavior of the CCP during the extensive covid panic showed the world just what sort of regime China was capable of being: a highly technocratic micromanagerial police apparatus of the most irritating sort. It rubs harshly against the infrastructural progress that otherwise makes one swoon.

    Anyway, thanks again to Jim for being a patient host and letting us partake some different kinds of food for thought. Its never dull here!

  20. Mick Domingo November 6, 2023 at 8:24 am #

    The Maoists fell for Lysenkoism. One of the most idiotic and destructive Pseudoscientific theories ever.

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  1. KunstlerCast 387 - Godfree Roberts on China Rising - Kunstler - Inergency - October 28, 2023

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