Brainwashing in two countries


Some look like high-tech firms, promising young college graduates a fast track to riches. Others pose as charitable groups on a membership drive, or companies building a sales network for a new product. Tens of millions across China are signing up — and learning that all is not as advertised.

Behind these groups is a looming challenge for the ruling Communist Party: A proliferation of pyramid schemes that have attracted enormous followings and huge sums of money, exploiting — and exacerbating — widespread anxiety over a slowing economy.

More than 40 million people are now ensnared, perhaps many more, according to the China Anti-Pyramid Selling Association, a nongovernmental group. One scheme shut down this summer was reported to have registered more than five million people alone, while another in southern China took in at least $54 million. Last year, the authorities investigated more than 2,800 cases, a 19 percent increase from 2015.

New recruits are asked to hand over cash and persuade others to do the same. The more people they bring in, the more they and their bosses earn. But if too many people quit or the schemes run out of new members willing to pay, the pyramids collapse, bankrupting families in a chain reaction and adding to the strains on the Chinese financial system.

The schemes take many forms, but China’s news media has labeled the worst of them “business cults” because they masquerade as elite companies or start-ups hiring college graduates, use high-pressure indoctrination tactics and demand cultlike loyalty. Sometimes, they resort to kidnapping and violence to keep the money coming in.

“They promise the dream of making a fortune,” said Liu Libing, a former victim who runs a business helping families find missing relatives. “In reality, they brainwash you and hold you against your will.”

So they’re tricked into thinking they’re in a fancy start-up and it’s a giant Ponzi scheme where “they brainwash you and hold you against your will.” Hmmm. The US has a version of that except that the geniuses with graduate degrees don’t know they’ve been brainwashed into hilarious stupidity and aren’t being held against their wills. (More higher education news here and here.)

One Response to “Brainwashing in two countries”

  1. Bob Risko Says:

    As to the recent kerfuffle about Betsy DeVos changing how colleges and universities investigate claims of sexual assault, there are three points to make. First, some women tell the truth about sexual assault. Second, others lie about it. And third, still others — I suspect this is the majority — allow themselves to be talked into things they later regret. But something that is later regretted isn’t a crime; it’s just famously bad judgment. Live and learn, especially to say “NO!” next time with a capital “N” and a capital “O.”

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