Is the Xi'An run CTR good for the UEE?
(Citizen Star/News) - 2944-03-06 - Editors Note: The following is a guest editorial that does not represent the views of the Citizen Star/NEWS or it's staff. It does however bring up salient issues that do deserve to be addressed, and so we present here in the pursuance of an informed populous and intellectual debate.
Salvete. I’m UltraMaud, Grand Alcator of the Moose Legion, and your lecturer for this evening. I’m going to try and discuss some of the various issues that we face in such a diverse verse, and what that means for the broader community of sentient folk out there. This is a fascinating, almost overwhelming time to live in, and sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at the broader context. I hope I can help you do that.
Tonight we’ll discuss the opening of CTR, a franchise store owned and run by Xi'An from the Jysho Corporation, and whether it’s a step forward or backward for the UEE.
Now, obviously, the first question we need to ask is this:
What is CTR?
CTR is a franchise owned by the Jysho Corporation, which recently opened their first branch inside UEE borders, specifically in Aydo, on Green, in the Ellis System. CTR is slated to offer repair and refueling services at affordable prices, something that has earned it a great deal of goodwill from its Xi’An customers. It was also one of the few franchises to offer its services to human customers as well, making it a real go-to for human traders within their borders.
So far, CTR seems to have received considerably more success than the last crack at a Xi’An run franchise in human space. The 2931 attempt, Terrestrial Marketplace, never made it past focus groups, which were at the time integral in aquiring a Trade License. Experts have chalked the failure up to an advertisement campaign that was simply too cold and remote to reach most humans.
The reaction to CTR has been mixed, to say the least. Most of its defenders have praised CTR for its “no bullshit” style of working with customers. You go to them to get something fixed, and they fix it, no asking how it got broken or trying to sell you accessories. The affordable rates have also been a major attractor, bringing in those who struggle to pay the expenses usually associated with ship ownership.
Others are upset that human jobs will be lost to this new UEE based branch. The prevailing fear in this camp is that CTR will quickly spiral into the form of a mega-franchise, pushing out smaller businesses and stifling innovation and entrepreneurship. And, seeing as Jysho is based deep within Xi’An borders, any money earned there would travel over the borders and stay there, rather than circulating within the human economy.
Now, before we go any further, we have another question we really should be answering:
Who are the Xi’An?
We don’t know as much about the Xi’An as we’d like, but we’re far from flying blind on this. With a very humanoid body structure and a resemblance to certain reptilian species of Earth’s history, the Xi’An have always been a people that we humans more easily recognize and identify with, as opposed to the strange, chromatiphoric Osoians, or the mysterious and hostile Vanduul.
While they do have a very different culture than us, it is not so bizarre that we cannot understand it. The Xi’An are less comfortable with public displays of emotion. They’re more formal and ritualized than we are. They dislike chaos and idealize good planning and forethought.
They also rule an enormous empire directly opposite Vanduul space, in the galactic “east.”
Interestingly, the Xi’An seem to be one of the only modern societies to have retained an actual empire as their primary political structure.
For those of you who weren’t paying attention in Equivalency, an empire, aside from being one of the oldest and most enduring political structures in history, is by definition diverse, multi-ethnic, and highly militaristic. In our own ancient history, where people were already spread pretty much all over the face of Earth by the time that stable agricultural political units could form, empires were able to establish themselves through conquest, leaving the various peoples they had conquered relatively unaltered minus a few new taxes. Unlike a confederation, where many different political elements loosely join together out of self-interest, empires are always categorized by their reliance on an extremely powerful executive center, and military dominance of their various provinces.
Obviously, the Xi’An use a slightly different approach, as military conquest isn’t a really viable option when expanding to lifeless worlds. Their individual provinces are ruled by advisory councils, which each in turn report back to their counterparts in a high advisory council that serves their emperor. Their worlds all tend to be highly specialized, leading to distinctive cultural flavors as their populations deal with different work and challenges on a daily basis. The Xi’An, as an empire, requires systems to deal with cultural difference right out of the gate.
What does this have to do with CTR?
Everything, really. Many of the fears regarding CTR’s establishment have to do with Xi’An influence taking too much precedence in human affairs. The Xi’An are powerful, efficient, and truly dominate much of the “eastern” portions of the galaxy. Many people are afraid that if we give the Xi’An a cookie, they’ll want a glass of milk to go with it. We don’t dominate them and their society, and that lack of control can be frightening.
But there is another element that we seem to be forgetting. The Xi’An who will be working in CTR are, well, people. They’ve (we believe) volunteered to do this willingly, to go deep into the space of a strange alien race and work at something as mundane as a repair shop. That takes a kind of courage I find commendable. It’s frightening living in a place where the customs and culture are foreign to you, let alone the species of the people living there. But the Xi’An already deal with at the very least minor cultural variety within their own society. They need to be able to maintain a degree of respect and willingness to accept difference in order to maintain political stability, so interacting with humans, while likely a nerve-wracking ordeal, isn’t the complete impossibility it could be.
And, lest we forget, CTR is opening in Ellis. In Aydo, no less. Now, presumably this choice of location is related to the amount of traffic the system gets. Even in the off season, all sorts of amateur racers will be passing through, practicing their skills and likely wearing out a fair few ship components. It looks like Jysho is trying to get in on the potential profit there. But Ellis really is one of the UEEs most influential culture centers, and no less than five jumps from Xi’An space in any direction. That’s a minimum latency of 2-3 SED for even the highest-end Spectrum connections. These Xi’An are going to have to be either open-minded, or lonely.
The loss of human jobs to a Xi’An megacorporation is frustrating at best, tragic at worst. There will certainly be people who will struggle to compete with CTR, especially after all the publicity they’ve gotten. But I think this might be more of an opportunity than we give it credit for. Human money will be going back over the border, but so too will human ideas, art, and culture. And when Xi’An come to UEE space, they will be bringing with them not just skills and a change of clothes, but history and music and ideas we’ve never considered. CTR could well result in the most reliable human-Xi’An cultural exchange yet.
So is it good for the UEE? Maybe. It's hard to say without harder evidence as to what Jysho hopes to do with CTR further down the line. But is it good for the broader sentient community? Absolutely.
 That should probably strike a few bells in your head. After all, UEE stand for "United Empire of Earth." But most political theorists will tell you that no, the UEE is not really an Empire. It lacks the strong central government, internal diversity, and upwardly directional government traditionally accociated with empires. The name "Empire" was chosen by Ivar Messer I in 2546 likely as an allusion to the power and awe we associate with the structure.