Liang Qichao, Mao Zedong, and political tutelage: Are we ready?

I thought you all might get a kick out of a passage from a longer reading I (Jeremiah) assigned to my history class this week. It was written by Liang Qichao in 1903 after a trip to the United States.

Now, freedom, constitutionalism and republicanism mean government by the majority, but the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people are like those in San Francisco [the behavior of the Chinese workers in Chinatown horrified Liang]. If we were to adopt a democratic system of government now, it would be nothing less than committing national suicide. Freedom and constitutionalism and republicanism would be like hempen clothes in winter or furs in the summer; it is not that they are not beautiful, they are just not suitable for us. We should not be bedazzled by empty glitter now; we should not yearn for beautiful dreams. To put it in a word, the Chinese of today can only be governed autocratically; they cannot enjoy freedom. I pray and yearn, I pray only that our country can have a Guanzi, a Shang Yang, a Lyucurgus, a Cromwell alive today to carry out harsh rule, and with iron and fire to forge and temper our countrymen for twenty, thirty, even fifty years. After that we can give them the books of Rousseau and tell them about the deeds of Washington…”

A few thoughts:

1) It’s now been almost 60 years of authoritarian rule, clearly Liang’s timetable was a bit off in terms of seeing the benefits of a strong state. So, what’s the new schedule? CCP ideology also called for a period of ‘tutelage,’ part of which was a stage of democratic centralization.* At this point should we completely forget about it: the CCP can scrub the whole ‘political tutelage’ part of its ideology and simply admit that it wants to rule unchallenged forever? Or is Liang’s optimism shared by others and progressive liberalization of the political system is a desirable course for both state and party? Will there be a day when Rousseau takes the place of Lenin as a political model?

2) Along those lines, I hear sentiments similar to Liang’s, both in today’s China and on this very site, to the effect of ‘most Chinese couldn’t handle western-style freedoms/political systems’ it would be ‘unsuitable because it might lead to chaos.’ And I’ve heard this in many places: from people in villages all the way up to professors at universities and businesspeople in Beijing. Here’s the kicker: No matter whom I talk to it’s always other people ‘who aren’t ready.’ Nobody says, “I’m the problem.” The professor blames the businessman, the businessman blames the peasants, the peasant blames his neighbor, the mingong blames her old uneducated uncle, the uncle blames his less-educated wife. But I’ve never heard anybody say, “Yeah, I’m an idiot and I can’t handle freedom. Please keep the Party ruling in perpetuity lest I pull a nutty.” Everybody’s afraid of chaos, but nobody thinks they would be the cause of the chaos.

3) If, as so many commenters here suggest, the CCP is doing such a fine job these days, better than the US government even, why not relax controls on speech, media, unblock the internet, etc. in China? What’s the downside? And I mean this as a sincere question: If CCP support is so widespread among Chinese (and Tibetans and Uighurs) inside and outside China, as some here have maintained, then the Party shouldn’t have anything to worry about, right? Some might argue, “well, they don’t want the debate because it would be divisive.” How would it be divisive if the Party is so universally acclaimed?

These are questions that I think about a lot. I’m not throwing any bombs here, I’m simply interested in learning the rationalization behind some of the rhetoric that I’ve heard and read, and hope to understand better the thought process. Finally, I am not advocating any one position, all I’m doing is looking for some perspective.


———————-
*A good example is from another class reading, this one by Mao Zedong, The Dictatorship of the People’s Democracy, published July 1, 1949: “The democratic system is to be carried out within the ranks of the people, giving them the freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The right to vote is given only to the people and not to the reactionaries….Q: ‘Don’t you want to eliminate state authority?’ Yes, but we do not want it at present, we cannot want it at present. Why? Because imperialism still exists, the domestic reactionaries still exist, and classes in the country still exist.”

Liang Qichao from Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, Patricia Ebrey, ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993)
Mao Zedong from Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume II, Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, eds. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2000)

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 123 Comments

Who says China is not ready for democracy?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89VdDDIvihM
:-)

February 17, 2008 @ 10:08 am | Comment

Now seriously, why is China not ready?

Fact #1:
We haven’t had a single successful example of democracy in poor countries.

Fact #2:
All successful democracies became genuine democracies only AFTER they became rich.

ÊÂʵʤÓÚÐ۱磡

February 17, 2008 @ 10:24 am | Comment

AC,

Leaving aside for the moment that the fact (“facts” are also often expressed as “words” BTW and can be subject to some of the same liabilities) something hasn’t happened before isn’t definitive proof of impossibility, whatever it might say for improbability…

Why do you think this is/has been the case? What’s the mechanism here? Break it down for me.

February 17, 2008 @ 10:40 am | Comment

Jeremiah,

I love to read your blog granite studio. You apparently know more about China than most of us.

I have found many discussion on democracy have ignored an inconvenient fact, i.e., democracy works best as a way of power sharing among people with certain amount of Wealth or properties.

If you have democracy among dirty poor people, you will experice cycles seen in Latin America. Whoever pledges more free things, from house to food, will get elected. The end result is to enormous amount deficit and eventually economy collapse.

Only people with certain wealth and properties will realize, conservative fiscal policy is best for the long run. Poor people often fail to realize this basic fact.

The future of democracy looks good to me as more and more people get wealth accumulated.

February 17, 2008 @ 10:46 am | Comment

Jeremiah, can you not accept a concept that a people deserves its government? Of course, the radical corollary would be that the Americans can blame the Bush administration all they can, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was popularly elected and supported for a while! The same concept applies to China and its people. For most of the people do not and do not want to modernize and be fighting for their own humanity, rights, freedom and liberty, how should/could their government? That is, if the majority of American people do not care for the rest of the world’s welfare, to what extend and effectiveness the diplomacy of the U.S. could really flex its positive influences?
AC is only half right (hence wrong). All rich and democratic countries started having the WILL to strive for BOTH rich and democratic. They didn’t only pursue wealth at first and then democracy landed upon them. Because personal wealth (monetary and beyond) is protected and reinforced by the struggle for liberty and political freedom.

February 17, 2008 @ 10:49 am | Comment

jason,

There are many democracies amongst developing countries, obviously people in these countries have the will and have the right to vote, but why are they not successful?

February 17, 2008 @ 11:20 am | Comment

I Believe Democracy Is Just Bullshit

When fans of “democracy” discuss how Chinese society needs “democracy”, they often cite rampant corruption, prostitution, high crimes, unemployment as the major reasons. Their conclusion is that China must have “democracy” today, otherwise everything will go down in flames.

Now, I can’t help but be reminded of an infamous quack in ancient China named “Hu Wanlin”. This Doctor Hu gave only one kind of medicine to all his patients, and that is sulfuricum. If a patient went to visit Doctor Hu, he’d invariably tell him/her, “You have sclerosis of the liver, over-acceleration of the heartbeat, accumulation of gas in the lungs, and ulcer on the stomach, therefore you must take sulfuricum!

Are there are lot of problems in Chinese society today, a lot of ills? Of course there are, and some of them are rather serious. But can this drug called “democracy” cure all those ills?

To determine whether a certain drug can cure one or more than one type of disease, there is at least one way to find out. And that is to look at those patients that have taken that drug, and see whether their symptoms have subsided after taking the drug. If out of all those who have taken the drug, half of them see their symptoms subside, I will concede that that particular type of drug is effective. Ok, fine, even if 1/10 of the takers see their symptoms subside, I’ll say that the drug is potentially effective.

Therefore, I want to see which countries or regions of the world had certain types of social ills and saw the symptoms of the ills reduced after taking “democracy”. Even if I can only find one such country, that at least gives SOME credence to the drug.

Let’s first look at corruption. The countries that took “democracy” in recent decades include: Russia, East European countries, Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro), the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, and some African countries, plus Taiwan. Now, did corruption in Russia subside after taking the drug? Did it subside in Serbia and Montenegro? How about in South Korea? Indonesia?. I believe it did not subside in any of those countries. Is corruption not rampant in Russia today? Of course it is. And recently cases of human smuggling have been on the rise in Eastern Europe.

Now, onto unemployment. Russia, Eastern Europe, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, did they solve unemployment? No, not only did they not, unemployment is more severe in those countries. I’m someone who places great emphasis on practical results. If there’s such an example of a country that saw its corruption greatly curbed, and unemployment rate greatly reduced after taking the “democracy” drug, then I’ll clap my hands and sing praise for “demoracy” everyday. To those gentlemen who are already singing praise for “democracy”, please give me a such example. Some people use Taiwan as a classic model of how democracy leads to wealth, and visit different Internet forums carrying the question-and-answer: “Do you know why Taiwan is so wealthy? Because it practices democracy!”. Did Taiwan really grow wealthy under democracy? Or did it grow wealthy under the reigns of the Jiang (Kiang) family, and only start to squander the wealth after the introduction of democracy?

There’s this illusion that as soon as China opens up its press and starts general elections, the officials will suddenly become very clean, all the prostitutes will go home, the employment problem will be solved, crime rates will go down. Haha, I of course do not believe that. Those who disagree with me, let us hold a simulated election here on the forum for those fans of democracy, and let those who want to run for the president of China give us a policy outline on how he/she plans to tackle corruption, unemployment, prostitution, crimes. And let us compare his/her proposed policies to that of the current Communist Party of China, and see which side’s policies are better!

Not only can they not solve any social problems, they’ll create new ones. Then why are they still singing praise for that “miracle drug”? I think, they deliberately want to weaken and destroy China.

To conclude, Democracy is just bullshit.

February 17, 2008 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Jeremiah,

Steve pretty much answered your question for me.

Democracy protects people’s rights, lets people speak out, that’s why people yearn for it. However, democracy is the worst form of government, it’s the most inefficient form of government. In order to be a successful democracy, a country must have rule of law. To maintain rule of law, you must have wealth, infrastructures, knowledge, experience and a large well-educated middleclass. All these conditions are obviously lacking in developing countries, on top of that, if you have an inefficient form of government, you have a recipe for failure.

Here is another fact, all democratic movements are pushed by the middleclass rather than the poor. If you want a stable democracy, you must build a large middleclass first.

February 17, 2008 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

AC, I am not sure you should call them unsuccessful already. And hence, by the way, are you saying that you don’t have the will to achieve democracy for China?

February 17, 2008 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

Let’s also not forget that arguably, Western Europe was in some sort of “developing nations” phase in 17th and 18th century, when the Enlightenment occurred and an ever larger vocal and non-feudal and so-called middle class population appeared. This shall become the demographic base for Western democracy for the ages to come, and surely, China is finally ready to grow a larger presence of them.

February 17, 2008 @ 12:22 pm | Comment

The US congress has a lower incumbent turnover than the National People’s Congress. So which is more democratic? Hard to say.

In the areas that matter (government confiscating half your income in taxes, ability of the president to throw you in prison without habeas corpus, various agencies controlling every aspect of your life, etc.) the US is not any more free than China.

Oh, wait. In the US I can put an ad in the paper promoting crackpot opinions that everyone will ignore. Whoop de doo! The only difference there is that the US government is much more sophisticated at public relations and manipulating public opinion than China.

February 17, 2008 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

jason,

Please read what Math just wrote. I wouldn’t say democracy is bullshit, but I agree with his logic.

are you saying that you don’t have the will to achieve democracy for China?

I am not convinced that Western style democracy is good for China. I believe that there must be a better form of government than Western style multi-party democracy.

February 17, 2008 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

To Math:

I am amazed at your inability to understand the very essence of the word “democracy” and the fact that China is already the world’s largest democracy. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, democracy means “government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

How dare you say that China, with its name containing “People” (even US doesn’t dare to put “People” in her national title), is not a country governed by its people, and how dare you say that democracy is bullshit when the National Congress of China regularly practice democracy by way of free election every 5 year? To say democracy is shit reflects the very shit in yourself! I will report to you to our Ministry of Propaganda because you shameless claim that China is not a democratic country and democracy is shit when our great leaders of 4 generations have expressed explicitly or implicitly on various occassions that “democracy is a good thing”! I will report you, and I must report you, as a good citizen of my democratic motherland that a scam and a lunatic like you dare to compare her current political system to shit! I will suggest my brethren and sisthren within the Ministry of Public security to let you have a taste of democracy-feed you with shit every day because that’s how you view it!

February 17, 2008 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

Mainlander, there is no democracy in China. Do you know the CCP’s history of terrorizing people into following the party line. The fact that they dare put people in the name of their regime is a sheer defiance of truthfulness and slapping the Chinese people with utter poop. I guess you only know the feeling of being slapped with poop and feel it is normal.. I dont want to sound mean but, its just my way of saying that the party is using you as a tool under lies and you are eating them up and spitting them back out here, as they have intended you to do to try and inverse good and evil and pretend they are legitimate. Well, they are pretty ‘good’ at erasing history and conscience thats for sure.

And mainlander,

“”"”"” I will suggest my brethren and sisthren within the Ministry of Public security to let you have a taste of democracy-feed you with shit every day because that’s how you view it!”"”"”"

Math is very patriotic in his own totally brainwashed way. How can you claim to be a democracy and then suggest torturing him for voicing a different opinion? IT DOESNT MAKE ANY SENSE, and you accuse him of not understanding democracy!! Dont get me wrong, I dont read his posts cause he acts like a total sociopath, but I will tell you that in a democracy, people dont torture eachother for having different states of mind understandings and opinions, that what democracy stands up for.

February 17, 2008 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

cool post,

Actually, you mentioned chaos, but actually I think the chaos is not a normal fear. I’m pretty sure it is spawned from the CCP indoctrinating this idea (also, they create chaos and blame it on ‘anti China’ this or that in order to stir up peoples feeling of need for the party) So at the same time the CCP is causing the chaos and terror and destitution and killing, they will balme it on a false factor and use it as a reason they are needed, totally f@*$#d. They do that recently with Fal Gon, they blame the group for some false fearful stuff and then persecute them and hence try to seem useful, thats why they play the Taiwan issue up etc…..

Dynasties are always replaced in China and it is sheer terrorising/brainwashing that has the people settling for this despotic lying weasle regime.

February 17, 2008 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

oh and one more thing,

I dont think the absolute logical solution to despotic totalitarian rule is ‘democracy’ I’m no political scientist but I think you can have a system where the government actually cares about the land and the people and the world without it taking the form of democracy.

Personally I would love to entrust some good person/people to take care of state affairs if it could work.

I dont think the problem in China is that people can’t vote, I think the problem is that the current regime is evil and hates the land and the people and laughs at their suffering and uses them as tools for their own reign. Thats how I see it. Democracy doenst equal great country, great people equals great country, a great leader is a great leader and if China could have ANY style of government that was cool and not evil, that would be great, enough messin around with this bull of chaos and not being ready. What could be worse than this? I guess they all have propaganda lie glasses on so they dont even know whats going on…..

Thanks,
Good bye.

February 17, 2008 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

Erm…I never thought Math could be outdone.

Well…

As Jeremiah said above: “that something hasn’t happened before isn’t definitive proof of impossibility, whatever it might say for improbability…”

February 17, 2008 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

Boo,

“Oh, wait. In the US I can put an ad in the paper promoting crackpot opinions that everyone will ignore. Whoop de doo!”

If it’s just a ‘whoop de doo,’ you would see no downside to relaxing controls on the media, speech, and assembly, then?

February 17, 2008 @ 1:26 pm | Comment

To snow:

Please have a sense of humor when you deal with scams and sociopaths like Math. I can’t help laughing loudly when you read my post by its words and I am flattered to be titled by you as a tool of the party:)

Long live our great democratic motherland!

February 17, 2008 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

AC,

What is western style democracy? Every democratic country I’ve heard of has different systems for election of governments and administration of the country. I don’t think the argument is being made here that if a country wants to become democratic it must import wholly any one particular model. A country could and should pick and choose from other models and design it’s own unique style.

I read what Math wrote. Something like democracy is a drug and drugs are bad? Seriously, he is trying to equate democracy with a complete deviation/change of policy in a country. At best his argument is if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Jeremiah, great post, very interesting. I’ve got no real insight to offer except to say that the mindset that claims others are incapable or illequipped seems to be universal.

February 17, 2008 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

Definiton of Irony (by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia):

1.
a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit1.
2.
a. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: “Hyde noted the irony of Ireland’s copying the nation she most hated” Richard Kain.
b. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity. See Usage Note at ironic.
3. Dramatic irony.
4. Socratic irony.

February 17, 2008 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

Jeremiah said:

If it’s just a ‘whoop de doo,’ you would see no downside to relaxing controls on the media, speech, and assembly, then?

You are correct: there would be no downside for the CCP to relax controls, because it is possible to manipulate public opinion to achieve the same results.
This is where China can learn much from the US.

February 17, 2008 @ 2:30 pm | Comment

Boo,

Okay, then why don’t they do it?

February 17, 2008 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

Oh, and by the by,

As my wife is a journalist, could you let me know the nature of this manipulation of public opinion by western governments? I want to be sure I can spot the signs when they appear: odd behavior, changes in physical appearance, wires protruding from the back of the skull, that sort of thing.

Can’t be too careful.

February 17, 2008 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

Jeremiah, thanks for a splendid and thought-provoking post.

Boo, I really think you are wrong. The abandonment of habeas corpus has happened only a small handful of times in America’s history, and we do have the freedom to vote the scoundrels out of office.

Democracy may well be the worst of all forms of government – but only after all the other forms.

Nevertheless, most Chinese people I know don’t seem to care one way or another about it. There’s the handful of brave souls who speak out about it (many of whom are in prison now) and then there’s the middle class, which doesn’t wanted to be bothered thinking about democracy or anything else that distracts them from what really matters, making money.

February 17, 2008 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

It is refreshing to see our irony master “Mainlander” lecturing snow on the art of caricaturing. Actually I do believe snow will be more of a fun guy if he learns a few tidbits from “Mainlander”. Good job.

But with all due respect, Mainlander, I have to say your joke is kinda corny, something akin to imitating Bill Clinton’s I-did-not-have-sex-with-Monica sort of things. It is still a joke, but just too old. People may or may not laugh, and even when they laugh, the person who tries to titillate his audience would probably do better next time if he knew many of his laughing audience just wanted to be polite.

As much as I believe, China is not a democracy the way defined by Western developed countries, AND Chinese people know it. Their attitude towards slogans such as “building a prosperous, democratic and socialist new China” is not different than Westerners reading from the Holy Bible how God created the world within a week. Some diehard religious fanatics may want to duke it out with evolutionary biologists, but most people just do not care, showing no interest, not bothering to honor the stupid argument with any emotions.

February 17, 2008 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

LoL, I made the mistake of taking Mainlander seriously once before. Anyway, the observation about everyone blaming everyone else is pretty apt. I’ll have to ask some party members I know for their thoughts just for kicks.

February 17, 2008 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

It is not just the lack of democracy int the system. The problems are also

No transparency: people with power can cover up uncomfortable things or twist the information

No accountability: they can be not held responsible about them. Even if the are known to be guilty
(only in the case that what has been done is so blatant that could put in question the system or be too embarrassing for the system. But that is done only to preserve the system not to improve it)

No democracy: they can not be replaced by alternative option.

Beyond moral and ethical issues is a question of efficiency in managing any complex system, like a human society ( a big one in this case ;-)

Suppose you are the manager of a 10 Gwatts nuclear power plant. Using plutonium as fisible material.
No transparency: your sensors give you bad readings or you do not have any reading at all in some cases. You have no clear idea what is going on in the nuclear reactor.

No accountability: you have been said that the personnel. or control systems perfect and do not commit errors. The best for the task. If there is a problem, is always somewhere else usually external to the system.

No democracy: you can not replace anything even if you are complete sure it is not properly working or positively damaging the nuclear reactor to the point of a nuclear core meltdown

I would keep a good distance from such nuclear power plant.
Change now Nuclear Power Plant for China and I you see my point.

Most disasters in totalitarian systems of 20th century did not happen because someone in power decide suddenly after breakfast “lets make the life of X Million people miserable”
Decision were taken, sometime with the best intentions, but…. no sensors to know what really was going on, no accountability (how could they be we were the ones who were going to get heaven on earth!)
And yes, the poor sovereign people could not say Hey! Wait a moment!… What the hell are you doing?

Less dramatically. It is just a question of efficiency in managing a complex system. The efficient use of material, environmental and human resources.
Without accountability, transparency nor democracy. you end with a wasteful system not only in material resources but also …. in human resources. And by human resources I do not mean just getting people killed, but also making people literally “waste” their life, sometimes it is worst than death.

Yes a system complying, more or less, with those principles can be far from optimal, but much better than any other lacking any of them.

And China, given its mismatch between population and material resources, needs the most efficient system it can get.
If not, they risk to hit the wall, sooner or later, or just stagnate like in the past ( until new ·Ocean People· appear and create a big havoc again?)

Moral and ethical within in the society? Yes.. that is a deep problem too. But that is stuff for another post.

February 17, 2008 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

AC et al:

“However, democracy is the worst form of government, it’s the most inefficient form of government. In order to be a successful democracy, a country must have rule of law. To maintain rule of law, you must have wealth, infrastructures, knowledge, experience and a large well-educated middleclass. All these conditions are obviously lacking in developing countries, on top of that, if you have an inefficient form of government, you have a recipe for failure.”

So please explain to me New Zealand’s experience? From 70% forest with scattered, small settlements of Maori and even more scattered, smaller Pakeha settlements in 1840, through a rather difficult phase of colonialism and then developement, to a state that I would say (and this ain’t no brainless patriotic chest-thumping neither) is one of the most democratic on the face of this earth… and yet NZ still isn’t rich. And it was a democracy right from the word “go” (or very, very soon afterwards, at least). And Australia’s experience was very similar, the big difference is that Australia is actually rich- now, but certainly not at its founding or through most of its development. Yeah, sure, NZ and Aus imported much of their legal and government systems from Mother Bloody England, but the simple fact is our own democracies, distinct from England’s, were built from the ground up just as we were building our countries from (in NZ’s case) the forest up.

“I am not convinced that Western style democracy is good for China.”

Of course not. As has already been pointed out, Western-style democracy does not exist. There is Canadian democracy, New Zealand democracy, French democracy, etc, etc…. but anyway, only Chinese democracy could possibly be good for China. Such a form of democracy has yet to be developed, unless you count the still very immature experiment underway on Taiwan.

February 17, 2008 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

but the simple fact is our own democracies, distinct from England’s, were built from the ground up just as we were building our countries from (in NZ’s case) the forest up. – chriswaugh_bj

How much I wish China could have been a virgin land like NZ! If I was given the choice to either operate an authoritarian government in China as it is or build a fresh democracy from scratch in the land of kiwis, that would be truly a no-brainer for me. I will choose the latter, and I will choose it no matter how “hard” it is!

Of course not. As has already been pointed out, Western-style democracy does not exist. There is Canadian democracy, New Zealand democracy, French democracy, etc, etc…. but anyway, only Chinese democracy could possibly be good for China. Such a form of democracy has yet to be developed, unless you count the still very immature experiment underway on Taiwan.

Last time I checked, the Chinese government did say they want to build their kind of democracy, but the West just did not buy it. So the West must have certain criteria, I believe.

February 17, 2008 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

@Jeremiah

“If, as so many commenters here suggest, the CCP is doing such a fine job these days, better than the US government even, why not relax controls on speech, media, unblock the internet, etc. in China? What’s the downside? And I mean this as a sincere question: If CCP support is so widespread among Chinese (and Tibetans and Uighurs) inside and outside China, as some here have maintained, then the Party shouldn’t have anything to worry about, right? Some might argue, “well, they don’t want the debate because it would be divisive.” How would it be divisive if the Party is so universally acclaimed?”

I guess the problem is that the CCP is not so sure how strong the support among the population really is. It is quite strong (although certainly not universal) among those who benefit from the economic boom and those who have the feeling that sooner or later they will benefit. Even those who have a lot to complain might still support CCP rule as the lesser of two evils. But how much of that support would be left, if a more relaxed media and unblocked internet showed more of the other, ugly side of China and political opposition was allowed to organize itself? Maybe the CCP wouldn’t have to fear that much from relaxing controls and censorship, but they themselves certainly do not seem to feel that way. They seem to be very nervous, to say the least.

February 17, 2008 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

@Brgyags

Mainlander’s “joke” is spot on. Many CCP supporters argue that China is “not ready for democracy” or that “(Western style) democracy is not suitable for China”, while the CCP all the time has been claiming that they “represent the people”, that China is a “People’s Republic” and they even have a “National People’s Congress” in which they practice what is supposed to look like democratic procedure.
I haven’t studied Ancient Greek, but as far as I know “democracy” originally means “government by the people”. With their own choice or words, the CCP is actually saying that China is a democracy in the very sense of the word.

February 17, 2008 @ 6:16 pm | Comment

“Last time I checked, the Chinese government did say they want to build their kind of democracy, but the West just did not buy it. So the West must have certain criteria, I believe.”

Yeah, “the West” (whoever that mysterious being is) might have certain criteria like not locking people up and putting their families under house arrest, because they dared to say what they think.

February 17, 2008 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

I believe that there must be a better form of government than Western style multi-party democracy.

AC, sorry but Churchill said it best when he said it was the least worst system. For democracy you MUST ALWAYS have:

1. Rule of law
2. Separation of powers (e.g. officials can’t just tell the judiciary to convict someone because they’re “troublemakers”)
3. Freedom of speech
4. Freedom of assembly
5. Multi-party rule
6. Free elections
etc

Democracy is not a pix n’ mix sweet stall – you take the whole lot, or you don’t have democracy. That’s one reason why Singapore isn’t actually a democracy, because the ruling party stiffles freedom of speech by alleging critical comments on its record are “defamation”, drags political opponents off to court where the judges always decide in its favour, make them pay a massive settlement they can’t afford such that they’re bankrupted, which means they then can’t run in elections.

If the Labour Party tried that in the UK the judge would throw the case out at the earliest opportunity and the press would lampoon the government for such dirty tricks.

When people talk about finding a “non-Western style of democracy” what they usually mean is finding a way to change things on the surface whilst still ensuring the ruling elite can stack the system such that they’ll still win anyway. That isn’t democracy, it’s autocracy – end of story.

Maybe you weren’t thinking that way, just hoping something else could exist in desperation. But there is no perfect system. Democracy means people who you think are stupid have an equal say to you. Which is fair because, as Jeremiah says, no one ever says they’re the problem. So a fixed group of people should never be allowed to decide who is “suitable” to make decisions and who is not.

February 17, 2008 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

@Raj
“But there is no perfect system. Democracy means people who you think are stupid have an equal say to you. ”

The question is… are they really stupid or it is you who is really stupid? ;-)

That two groups of people think that they are mutually stupid and still can accept the the other side has inviolable rights, is one of the foundations of democracy.

And that the system works, more or less, even when both sides are really stupid, is one of the marvels of the system. :-)

February 17, 2008 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

The question is… are they really stupid or it is you who is really stupid?

That’s another point I was trying to make. Who is “stupid”? There is no “independent and impartial national committee of common-sense” to make that judgment. Which is why, as I said, no group should have the ability to silence the views/rights of others.

February 18, 2008 @ 12:07 am | Comment

I’d like to hear an argument that authoritarian regimes are necessarily more efficient than democracies. I can see the logic, I suppose: dictatorships don’t have to deal with pesky obstructionist efforts from opposing parties or worry too much about public outcry. Yet would you seriously call the Chinese government “efficient”? I wouldn’t.

Secondly, no successful democracies in poor countries? If by successful, you mean “consolidated” (sorry for the dorky poli-sci term), then doesn’t India qualify? The post-Soviet Eastern European countries transitioned to democratic regimes fairly smoothly despite being beset with major economic problems due to decades of socialist mass planning. Several South American countries are by no means rich yet manage to hold democratic elections in rather free societies (though admittedly this is a rather recent development).

Showing why certain countries become democratic while others don’t is extremely difficult due to the sheer number of variables involved. There is certainly a correlation between wealthy countries and democracies, but not causation- Singapore is an obvious example.

What happens to China is anyone’s guess, really, but I’m personally of the view that China would benefit from a free press, independent judiciary, de-centralization, competitive elections, and better human and property rights. Would the outcome be much different? Perhaps not- but it would certainly be a welcome change.

February 18, 2008 @ 12:51 am | Comment

@Raj
“There is no “independent and impartial national committee of common-sense” to make that judgment. ”

You reminds me of the ministries of Oceania in Orwell’s 1984

@Matt Schiavenza.

I hope it does not come so far at this in China.
” The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake . . . We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

1984 George Orwell.

North Korea is sure much closer to that nightmare.

February 18, 2008 @ 12:59 am | Comment

Lessons from Hong Kong and Taiwan

The most obvious lessons for mainland China to learn come from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The first has a democratic government while the second has a authoritarian government. However Hong Kong government is far more effective. Its economy is freer and living standard higher. People observe traffic rules in Hong Kong. It has a clean and fast subway system that reaches almost everywhere in the city. On the other hand, Taipei, the most developed city in Taiwan, has only two subway lines. Even Shanghai and Beijing have more.

A mainland tourist usually comes back impressed by Hong Kong, and disappointed by Taiwan.

Singapore and Macao are similar to Hong Kong in terms of the structure of government. Both are now doing better economically than Taiwan.

February 18, 2008 @ 1:26 am | Comment

However Hong Kong government is far more effective. Its economy is freer and living standard higher.

Thanks to over a century of wise British rule. Little has happened since 1997 to change things – the current system of government is mostly irrelevant in regards to the city’s economy.

On the other hand, Taipei, the most developed city in Taiwan, has only two subway lines.

Taipei has an extensive mass-transit system, with more work being carried out as we speak. I don’t know where you got your “data” from.

http://www.urbanrail.net/as/taip/taipei.htm

A mainland tourist usually comes back impressed by Hong Kong, and disappointed by Taiwan.

Utter nonsense.

Both are now doing better economically than Taiwan.

Both are city-states, which are a lot easier to manage and have far smaller populations. Compare Taiwan with another nation of 23 million people that has rural and urban areas, not cities a fraction of that size.

February 18, 2008 @ 1:41 am | Comment

@serve the people
One must be careful with those comparisons. Nazi Germany was a very nice place to live, if you had the right genetic configuration and political mindset.

Clean and organized country, technologically advanced, people followed the rules, fantastic infrastructure. Life was good even during the first years of war. And for some the war an adventure.

Afterwards…..

A little of topic maybe
By the way I agree with Raj comment. What about comparing today Hong Kong and Singapore.

February 18, 2008 @ 2:12 am | Comment

Both are city-states, which are a lot easier to manage and have far smaller populations. Compare Taiwan with another nation of 23 million people that has rural and urban areas, not cities a fraction of that size. – Raj

Jeremiah intended to start a thread so intelligent exchange of opinions can take place, but so far we saw citations of George Orwell and Churchill. Not that they are invalid, but I am not terribly inspired either. Upon seeing your comment above, I was almost on the brink of raising the example of Ind…

Sigh. I refrain.

Anyway, your delineation of the criteria for democracy was good, so at least “Western democracy” is not such a mysterious concept as some in this thread have been suspicious about.

China is big. It’s so big that whatever foreign ideologists or democracy activists or sympathizers say here really does not matter. The Chinese people generally are not buying into the ideology, as Jeremiah observes. Maybe they will under tremendous economic distress, but please do not hope for or dream about such a situation just to envision a triumph of your ideology in China. The Chinese live their lives; they do not live just to achieve your ideological expectations. While you see atrocity in locking up dissidents, they care more about the patronizing/alarmist/self-righteous/hostile/moral high ground-seeking attitude of Western journalists. The Chinese are pragmatic, so you have to show them the benefits of your political proposals along the way, one small step a time. They may choose to learn part of it, modify it, flip it upside down, create something new, take a complete new direction… so let it be, folks.

I know I said nothing knew, but I just spoke for myself to make a small contribution in following up Jeremiah’s questions.

February 18, 2008 @ 3:23 am | Comment

AC, I really enjoyed the video. Thanks. The Chinese seem to really know all the tricks, pomps, good and bad, associated with electoral democracy. Naturally, they should also be wary right now about the consequences if it is played out in a larger scale.

February 18, 2008 @ 3:35 am | Comment

Public transportation in Taipei, etc

Some people questioned my observations about the public transportation system in Taipei.

I visited Taipei for one semester in 2007, so my observations are quite recent. There are only two subway lines in Taipei, one going east-west and one going north-south. There is a third light rail, also going north-south, but it is quite short and above ground. Of course there are buses just like in every city.

I was quite surprised by the large number of scooters in Taipei. You don’t see so many of them elsewhere in East Asia, not even in mainland China. The Taiwanese I talked to all hated the scooter. Almost every scooter rider told me how he/she got injured in a scooter accident.

Other people questioned my comparisons between Taiwan and Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore because of the population differences between these places. This is a more valid point. But Hong Kong has 7 million people
and Taiwan has 23 million, so the difference is not astronomical.

My point is that we ought to judge a government in a developing country based on whether it can deliver economic development to its people. Whether it is democratic or authoritarian is secondary.

February 18, 2008 @ 3:53 am | Comment

Brgyags,

I think you’re right. But can I call you ‘Bryrags’ so I can pronounce it?

The Chinese are not the only pragmatic people. A good friend of mine once said something to the effect of “government is only 2% of a person’s life but it’s an important 2%”

February 18, 2008 @ 4:04 am | Comment

@AC

Interesting documentary. When I see the first scene, I cannot help thinking of the prototype for that kind of events.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58N73cAF97Y

February 18, 2008 @ 4:35 am | Comment

Rich,

Brgyags is a Tibetan word meaning “food supply”. I love it exactly because of the seemingly impossible pronunciation. (However, in Modern Tibetan its pronunciation is remarkably simplified.) But believe it or not, the ancestral form of the Chinese language might also have such awkward syllables. Seemingly impossible changes can happen over time.

But I don’t mind if you move letters around in the word. This is not my real name anyway.

February 18, 2008 @ 4:40 am | Comment

Brgyags,

You are welcome.

What strikes me the most after watching the documentary is that the similarity between the US election and the election of these 8-year-olds – the lies, the negative campaign, the back stabbing, the sabotage… And the result is the same too, the one who has the money to spend always wins, even if he is a little dictator!

February 18, 2008 @ 6:41 am | Comment

AC,

When I was a pupil of a primary school in China, the teacher would choose the student s/he likes most and ask the class to endorse his/her decision by votes. What I believe is happening in Chinese schools right now is something of a hybrid system. The teacher promtes a few good students and lets the class to choose. By “good”, I mean students with best academic performance, which is almost always the case within the context of China’s traditional value system.

Now I am probably releasing all the genies from a full case of bottles. Before anybody wants to extrapolate, I think I am only talking about selecting class monitors in primary schools, who have quite limited power and duties.

February 18, 2008 @ 7:09 am | Comment

@AC

Before we draw rash parallels between US elections and the election of class representatives, you may want to consider the fact there are many different ways of running a democracy. The discussion about demoracy would benefit a lot if we could get rid of our obession with the failures of the US variant of elections.

February 18, 2008 @ 7:15 am | Comment

Amban,

What kind of election do you think can avoid the mud-slinging, vote-buying, pork barrel and moralistic high ground seeking? I think they are built-in in any kind of electoral democratic systems. The only question is whether the benefits outweigh the cost.

February 18, 2008 @ 7:25 am | Comment

@Brgyags

There are quite few democracies that work pretty well without characteristics, and you would find those countries if you were actually interested in finding them. I doubt that you are.

If want to build a democracy, it is important not to let the perfect being the enemy of the good.

February 18, 2008 @ 8:44 am | Comment

@Brgyags
“When I was a pupil of a primary school in China, the teacher would choose the student s/he likes most and ask the class to endorse his/her decision by votes.”

That sounds quite interesting. Glad to know about that practice in Chinese school. Will that end in a sort of hybrid system? That will be interesting to see.

About elections
Do not limit yourself to elections procedures in USA. Check also in Germany, Switzerland or Scandinavian countries. There are many “local characteristics” with its pluses and minuses.
Yes mud slinging, and pork barrel can be disgusting, but that is in human nature. One should be able to live with it, and keep it at acceptable levels.

Vote buying in most development countries is just marginal or next to impossible to directly bought votes. More sophisticated vote buying will not prevent a bad politician to be ousted.

I have no problem with high moralistic high grounds. As long as it not imposed upon me by force or coercion.
Also those who use it usually find it result counterproductive in an election campaign.

Yes. Elections can be a dirty business. But it is a way to launder dirty things.
What do you prefer? To clean garbage out or just keep it under the carpet?

And yes. All the insults, fights and conflicts may be disgusting, but from a psychological point it is a good escape valve it. After so much shouting and discussions one get relaxed and be able to invite you hardest opponent to drink something.

I am experience all of this right now. We are in the middle of a very hard and tight national elections (not US)

February 18, 2008 @ 8:53 am | Comment

Let’s look at how well democracies function in less developed nations (it’s only fair to look at the less developed nations since China is not a developed nation, yet)

Iraq
Afghanistan
Haiti
India
South Africa

The record is pretty dismal, won’t you say?

February 18, 2008 @ 9:25 am | Comment

Bad example, then what about authoritarian states like:

Myanmar
North Korea
Iran
Pakistan
and and and

they re also quite a mess.

I think authoritarian rule is a good mean to push your country out of poverty, but then after a certain point the middle class will want to be part of the decicion what to do with their tax money, see Xiamen protest. Western style democracy is not a panacea for every country, after all Taiwan and South Korea�s economic success roots in generalisimo rule. But democratic reforms in China are in bad need. Hongkong and Singapore are really special cases, because they dont have rural population. The big problem now in China is that there where now major reforms of the political system (only economical reforms) and there isnt even a blueprit for it. They merely try to save the status quo. Why no talks about inner party democracy? Reform of the rubberstamp congress, etc.
Right now they are just riding on the wave of economic progress, that is mostly incited by just taking the lid of the natural chinese entepreneur drive, but they dont have a concept where to go politicaly. Marxism is dead, but still they have to hang on to it, all a big farce hold together by history patching. The momentun for political change is now, the danger lies in officials being to cozy with the power they have now, to neglect further POLITICAL reforms.

Btw. generally speaking, we always talk about how developed and rich places like hongkong and singapore are, but who would actually like to live there? Do you want to feel like a working bee , working for the hive? Its more about being a human than that, what about dignity, freedom, etc.

February 18, 2008 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Few motorscooters in East Asia? I haven’t been to Taiwan, but I have been to Vietnam and can assure you that unless things have drastically changed in the past eighteen months just about everyone in Saigon and Hanoi zips around the city on little vespas. In addition, Italy is a developed Western European democracy with….lots of motorscooters. This is a very silly metric upon which to judge economic development.

Is the record of India’s democracy really that dismal? Iraq and Afghanistan and Haiti perhaps, but it would be difficult to blame democracy itself for their problems.

Democratic elections are not a panacea, to be sure, and as Raj said upthread there are plenty of other necessary and sufficient conditions that must apply for a country to be a “democracy”. But many counter-examples exist: Spain and Greece were not wealthy when they transitioned to democratic regimes in the 1970s, nor were the ex-Soviet Baltic countries when they did the same fifteen or so years later. And as pointed out many of the world’s poorest and most backward countries are ruled by strongmen.

Also- good observation by those citing the range of different democratic structures across the world. Speaking as an American, our system is hardly the most democratic or efficient at all, and emerging democracies have many other models to consider when formulating their government.

February 18, 2008 @ 11:55 am | Comment

AC said, “I believe that there must be a better form of government than Western style multi-party democracy.”

Good start. At least you believe that the better form is other than the current one in China.

February 18, 2008 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

I Believe The Chinese Government Is Already a World Class Government

This post wants to claim that the Chinese government is of course a world-class government.

The Chinese Universities are not world-class, the Chinese intellectuals are not world-class, in fact, many things in China are not world-class and need to learn from their world-class counterparts. But the Chinese government is already world-class. You may be very very angry to hear this and think I am ridiculous, but I’m sorry, that is the exact truth.

First, it needs to be said that a world-class government is by no means a perfect government. In fact, a world-class government also have many many deficiencies and problems, and need to improve many aspects. So I very much agree that there are many dark sides to the Chinese government, yet that does not mean it is not a world-class government.

For example, we know that Team Brazil is a world-class soccer team, yet of course Team Brazil also has many many weaknesses and deficiencies, the team has committed many fouls during matches, there may be a lot of internal disunity and corruption within the team, and there exist many other “dark” aspects within Team Brazil. But all those things do not change the fact that Team Brazil is a world-class soccer team. Team-brazil would never put out a slogan that says “Let’s strive for world-class”, because they are already world-class.

Now you may ask, what defines “world-class”, if you don’t have any definition, then how can you talk about who is “world-class” ? Then, let me satisfy you right now.

If you use America as the standard, then China’s political system is different from America’s. If China does not exist, then America’s political system could be world-class. But unfortunately, there exists a People’s Republic of China, and that naturally makes China’s political system and China’s government world-class. If that’s the case, then it is ridiculous for Chinese government to pursue world-class status, because it already is world-class.

So can we use productivity as a standard to measure world-classness? Of course not. Why? The productivity of a country is formed by history. When China was first established in 1949, its productivity lags behind most nations by decades. That’s like two athletes on a race track, and one starts 1km behind others.

Then, I believe the best measure is the derivative of productivity, that is the speed of increase in productivity. I believe if a government has the ability to sustain productivity growth at a fast speed for long periods of time, and always in a posture of “going up quickly”, then that government is a world-class government. I do not believe there are other measures.

When we talk about the “dark” aspects of a government, many democracy-lovers and Rightists here will talk incessantly. But if we go back 100 years and look at the world-class governments back then, what are the world-class governments 100 years ago? America, Britain, France? Did those countries have a lot of “darkness” in their societies. Authors like Victor Hugo, Balzak, spent their lifetimes exposing the darkness of their societies. But how come historians still called those governments’ world-class governments back then? Clearly, how much “darkness”in society is not a good measure for whether a government is world-class.

In fact, when we compare the “darkness” of China’s society to other societies, it is like picking the “least short” guy amongst a group of midgets: everyone is pretty much the same. If some of you democarcy-lovers or Rightists dare, we can have a game. The game is: you name me a “dark” aspect of Chinese society, I’ll name you ten countries with the exact same darkness in their societies.

For example, is the Russian government a world-class government? Of course not. The recent Chechen Hostage situation in a local school has never happened in China. How about Philipines, when a Philipino worker was taken hostage in Iraq, the Philipino government had no way to resovle it, and failed to save the workers. But recently, 6 Chinese workers were taken Hostage in Iraq, and after 3 days of negotiations by the Chinese government, they were all released safely, and the hostage takers even said sorry to them. And this was the second time Chinese hostages were held and then released safely. What other country can boast such record? For those Chinese hostages, they probably were thankful that they were citizens of China, and not Russia or Philipinos, or they would’ve been killed.

The final conclusion is that: if you want to improve the “dark” aspects of Chinese society, I’ll support you. But if you say “the Chinese government should strive to be a world-class government”, then it is quite ridiculous, because the Chinese government is already a world-class government.

February 18, 2008 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

Serve the people,

So by your logic, you ought to change your name to ‘buy the people’

My point is that we ought to judge a government in a developing country based on whether it can deliver economic development to its people. Whether it is democratic or authoritarian is secondary.

Would you say that if your sister had seen the party do one thing and lie about it in the state media and had spoken about it to tell people and the party came and murdered her…But if the party brought some cash to some more obedient people, you would say this is satisfactory, that a government who is a gangster and lawless and self serving is okay as long as they pay you off? This is just an example, there are TONS of scenarios like this under CP regimes. I know it is a joke that the CCP is running China well, but the people are fooled and some really believe China is successful, not only Chinese people. So if they think the CCP is good at running China economically, do you think it is okay that they just accept that the party is murderous and lying?

Peace

February 18, 2008 @ 2:00 pm | Comment

OOPs,
forgot to use “”" serve the people (not me) said:
“My point is that we ought to judge a government in a developing country based on whether it can deliver economic development to its people. Whether it is democratic or authoritarian is secondary.”

February 18, 2008 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

I think authoritarian rule is a good mean to push your country out of poverty, but then after a certain point the middle class will want to be part of the decicion what to do with their tax money, – Sebastian

This is true, but China’s urban middle class also have gut feelings about what situation they will face if everybody is given a vote in this still largely agrarian country. They are not stupid. So empty talks about country-wide democracy is just that, empty.

The big problem now in China is that there where now major reforms of the political system (only economical reforms) and there isnt even a blueprit for it. They merely try to save the status quo.

Actually political systems change not as slowly as you imagine, and hardly any “blueprint” was necessary or really worked in political changes of last century. When the moment arrives, the speed of political change almost always defies what people would expect. The reason why I am still optimistic about China’s future is that it is moving in the right direction to the point that the eventual relaxation of government control will not cause too much chaos and harm. Two things seem to be of paramount importance to me:

Urbanization and industrialization. The only way to deal with China’s rural problems is to reduce the rural population. Subsidizing poor agricultural areas without fundamentally restructuring their economy, which democracies, such as India, South Korea and Taiwan, are prone to do, will stall or significantly impede the process. For S Korea and Taiwan, they can shoulder the cost because they are already rich. For India or China, the status quo in rural areas is just unbearable, and unfortunately, democratic practices tend to maintain such a status quo. In the past several decades, we saw the benefits of the economic reform reach coastal provinces of China and industrialization has become self-organizing in those areas, but many corners in inland provinces are yet to be instilled with capital, technology and entrepreneurial spirit. The Chinese government is aware of this problem and their recent policies are exactly aimed at it. I sincerely hope they will have enough time to do so.

Economic and political integration. China is a vast country, and if the Chinese government has done only one thing right, I would say it is its true unification of the country under one economic and political system, upon which the economy eventually could take off. There is a reason why Abraham Lincoln is Americans’ most admired president. A potential counter-argument is that smaller countries can be more efficient and therefore can be successful as well. China’s historical baggages have made China as it is now and we have to deal with it as it is. Unfortunately, any attempt to change it will certainly entail unnecessary human sufferings. In addition, the “small and happy” model can only apply to some areas when a large country breaks up. The Baltic states are small and happy, but that is hardly the case for people in Central Asia. Jeremiah threw in Tibetans and Uighurs, which will certainly complicate the question here. But for now, let us deal with the regionalism in provinces populated by Han Chinese first. The way the Chinese government deals with the regionalism problem is rotation of provincial cadres, which is actually an aged practice since imperial times. For democracy to work and China to have a functional federal government, a new, soft, economic and personal bondage must be in place and ready to replace such an old practice. It is encouraging to see that, through natural economic mechanisms, cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have been turned into centers of the whole country, not merely regional centers. China also has a unified elite thanks to its unified tertiary educational system. The massive development of transportation networks will also assist the economic integration. The work is still ongoing, since regionalism and ethnic separatism (Well, I don’t want to get into this ethnic thing right now. I just state it here matter-of-factly) still linger, which could be a grave concern if you want to be honest about the experience in East Europe.

Of course, all this means nothing to people who insist that democratic values should be pursued for their own sake, disregarding the circumstances and consequences. If that is what you believe, I don’t see the point to have an argument with you.

February 18, 2008 @ 2:25 pm | Comment

@Brgyags

I find your argumentations quite interesting and challenging.

Yes. China is a vast an complex country, trying to change. Any attempt of change is fraught with perils. A failure in small country may mean hundreds of thousands live affected. In China that would could mean hundred thousands to million lives affected. One reason to be careful

The question is not pursuing democratic values by their own sake.
The question is to find a way to make the authorities accountable for their behavior. Rule of law and not rule by law.
Actually you do not need a democracy for that, some authoritarian regimes where quite good at rule of law, like Willhems II Germany.

About democracy. Just read a good article in Spiegel magazine about the differences between mindset of a Chinese investor and a German town major. Chinese investor want to build the greatest Chinatown in Europe. I give you some excerpts. Direct translation as good as I can get it.

Chinese Investor “In China a project or 1,7 hundred millions Euros is ins 3 months approved” “our project has taken now three years!”
Spiegel: That is the problem between a developing dictatorship and a Democracy. In China it is not necessary a central binding certificate. In a democracy things take longer and more work. One must speak with too many. One must take into account local inhabitants, local retailers, sceptics and… even the frogs!! (i.e environmental issues) Democracy requires patience but the results are usually solid.
Speaking to many may take to one nerves but it protects against the arbitrarinesses of a few.

Local Major: They (chinese investor) have complete wrong expectations about a local major. I am not a CCP cadre,
Spiegel: He (Chinese investor) has now to really know the hidden Germany, until now what he knows is that Germany is a country of good workers, open spaces and good reputation. Now he must know the land regulations and juristic articles. He finds out that he needs: Central binding certifications, Noise protection certifications, Environmental protection certifications and of course.. he must as soon as possible select and hire (official) Planing agencies for preparation of construction plans
But he better ignores all this and prefer to invite the major to a authentic Chinese restaurant. Perhaps does he thing that the discussion of construction regulations with a good Chinese duck, can be easier done.

Something about culture differences:
“The hard thing with Chinese is, you cannot see what is behind. They speak always very friendly, everything is OK. But afterwards when you ask yourself. What have we solved/decided? Absolute nothing.”

The article ends with a statement, not sure if it is pessimistic or not about the project.
“Perhaps” says the major “the Chinese are too different”

February 18, 2008 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

@Brgyags

One last thing about elections and democracy.

You seem to take too much attention the the democracy fireworks (i.e the election circus) than to what is really behind a democratic system.

Maybe there is a culture clash here. Always had the feeling than in Asian culture in general more importance is given to appearance than to substance.

In the west is the other way around. Sometimes I find an Asian culture persons is shocked after a very nice presentation when he/she is asked hard questions.

I can almost see what is running in his/her mind.
“Why are they asking me that? If the presentation not good enough?”

Maybe that was also the problem with the Chinese investor in Germany.

February 18, 2008 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

Some people questioned my observations about the public transportation system in Taipei.

So you’re saying the website I linked to is lying? The quality of a mass transit system isn’t how many metro lines it has, rather what the total sum of its links are, underground rail, overground rail, buses, etc. And you were very much misrepresenting Taipei’s transport network.

But Hong Kong has 7 million people
and Taiwan has 23 million, so the difference is not astronomical.

Again, you miss the point. Hong Kong is a dense city-state – Taipei is an island nation with both rural and urban areas. If you don’t understand why that is important then you shouldn’t be here.

And a population difference of more than 3 times is a very big difference.

My point is that we ought to judge a government in a developing country based on whether it can deliver economic development to its people.

I disagree. Whether it can bring rule of law and preserve freedoms is just as important. Money can’t buy happiness, nor justice.

February 18, 2008 @ 5:05 pm | Comment

In China the very word democracy (like its friend, human rights) has become a sort of cipher to trigger off the usual arguments, a bit like the way the words “Britney Spears” or “Paris Hilton” triggers a certain response in paparazzi/google-bashers etc. There seems to be no middle way between auto-response and navel-gazing analysis over what we mean by democracy.
I find it helps to go back a stage and think in terms of ethical universals such as justice. It seems to me a priori true that a political system ought to strive to treat its subjects/citizens justly: the question is how to discover what that means. It seems to me that in modern, pluralistic societies (as China has become) that cannot be done without people being openly and without prejudice allowed to express their demands, preferences, fears etc, so that the government can weigh them “justly” against each other. How can a government assess claims by a citizen against local officials, for example, if it cannot guarantee the citizens protection from retribution? How can it ensure accountable decision-making if citizens cannot challenge or have access to the decision-makers?
Electoral democracy combined with guaranteed freedoms, on the western model, is clearly one way to try to bring this about, however imperfectly. There doesn’t seem any a priori reason why other models couldn’t be developed, but it would be nice to see what they were. As for contemporary China, it’s hard to see how a Leninist Party system could ever practically conform to any ideal of justice in a modern society (a) if there can be no law that is higher than (ie which fails to prioritise) the Party, even though it is very active as an agent at all levels of society and (b) since there is no mechanism to replace it or oppose it if it were to behave in ways that were intrinsically unjust (which of course many would say it has done on numerous occasions, if not permanently). It’s all very well to say that China is doing very well now because it is an authoritarian state, but it was also an authoritarian state when it got into the mess it is currently getting out of (we hope).
So the question I would ask those who oppose democracy and even Jeremiah’s more limited suggestions, is how would you develop a just system of governance in China without them?
The point about democracy failing in Iraq etc, which I keep coming across, is very odd by the way. The place was a colony of Istanbul for a few centuries, then of Britain for a few decades, then a monarchy until it had a succession of bloody coups, then was a particularly vicious single party (socialist-state capitalist) autocracy under Saddam for a few more decades, with a couple of major wars thrown in, then it was invaded and now it’s been in a state of effective civil war for another four or five years. In none of these states was it remotely comparable to China or, I would venture to suggest, anywhere else. What are we supposed to learn from it about the potential for political reform in China?
Spain, on the other hand – now that’s an interesting comparison, I always think. Russia? Russia, remember, was a deeply corrupt oligarchy before it tried democracy – that just brought the extraordinary racketeering out into the open.
Hong Kong is fascinating of course being a rare example of an undemocratic colony run by a democracy. This had certain advantages – it had an independent judiciary, without putting its citizens through the divisive process of going to the ballot box. Whether Britain’s rule was just in the wider sense, on the other hand, is another matter.

February 18, 2008 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

Authoritarianism has historically been used to amass power. This is what infrastructure, electronic warfare units, nuclear warheads, cultural nationalism and GDP is.

Asking China to liberalize quickly is asking China to sacrifice its geopolitical position to the benefit of other stronger entities with absolutely no return for the effort.

Democratic elections will not quell unrest or ethnic separatism, it will only embolden extremists since groups of people naturally will do everything in their power to forward their interests at the expense of others.

What China needs as a first step is improvement of their legal system and an increase in government transparency. Educational reform and secular, objective thinking will also help. Overseas Chinese and anyone else who truly wants to see China reform to a point where it can have a positive impact on the world should form a cohesive pressure group ensuring that the CCP cannot reneg on its promises. Ideally, the CCP itself will eventually be split in half along the lines of reformist or Maoist. The international community and Chinese people would hopefully side with the former and the latter can preferably die of old age and disease.

Ultimately though, I see democratic elections as being inefficient, divisive, and just stupid. If it wouldn’t work on a global scale it’s not a perfect government. I’m sure India and China would support a world-democracy where everyone gets one vote though.

February 18, 2008 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

By the way, the “Richard” a couple of comments up isn’t this site owner, but Richard Spencer of the Telegraph – one of my favorite bloggers/reporters and the newest edition to my blogroll.

February 18, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Comment

@Richards (both)
“but Richard Spencer of the Telegraph”

Wow. We are honored!

@ferin
Interesting reply. My though also is that the CCP could eventually led to a sort of two parties government divided across the two main political currents in it.
What sort of accountability and eligibility system could be implemented, and at which levels is the main issue.

Always though that the central governement could use some sort of election at local levels to better rein the excesses of local authorities.
Better give control to people for local issues than trying to govern by FIAT from Beijing.
(local snake stronger than foreign dragon)

I can also work as a good filtering/selection system for identifying which cadres to promote to higher levels of government.
A sort of bottom up promotianal system.

When and how to implement greater representation from the top, that is another big question.
There was a plan from Zho Ziyang in which, among other things, was to convert the people congress in some sort of people representation and given more functions than a simple rubber stamping.
Maybe that plan could be eventually implemented.

If anyone interested in the Spanish transition form dictatorship to democracy, I have first hand live experience with it.

February 19, 2008 @ 12:25 am | Comment

Could all “other richards” please post with their surname or other initial to show they’re not the blog-host.

Furthermore please note that using allegations of people working for various governments to undermine their points will not be tolerated.

Stay on topic, please.

Thanks.

February 19, 2008 @ 2:32 am | Comment

“I find it helps to go back a stage and think in terms of ethical universals such as justice…” – Mr. Spencer

If democracy is such a “just” system, then why did India (which has all the bells and whistles of a Western democracy) perform so poorly in the areas of human rights and fighting corruption? And on the other hand, why did authoritarian Singapore perform so much better in these areas? I think it has more to do with resources, knowledge and experience etc. than the system itself.

“What China needs as a first step is improvement of their legal system and an increase in government transparency. Educational reform and secular, objective thinking will also help.” – ferin

I totally agree.

February 19, 2008 @ 5:07 am | Comment

I’m interested in the course you teach, Jeremiah. In my class today I’ll be revisiting the idea of self-determination with Kosovo as a model, asking the same question being asked post-Great War: should self-determination be granted to a society of values, or of “blood, belonging and biology?”

February 19, 2008 @ 6:51 am | Comment

@ferin
“If democracy is such a “just” system, then why did India (which has all the bells and whistles of a Western democracy) perform so poorly in the areas of human rights and fighting corruption?”

Not so poorly.
Did they have a great jump forward? Did they have a cultural revolution? Did they destroy their own culture? Did they chained their own poor people in the not distant paht to the countryside by a system of internal passport, travel restrictions and ?

India did not so bad and they are not doing neither so bad. China maybe the Hare, but India is the turtle in this race. Who will win in the end?

Have a look at this
http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/jul/26rajeev.htm

“Why did authoritarian Singapore perform so much better in these areas?”
Not so authoritarian…. Definitely not so when compared with mainland China. They are closer to a parlamentary republic.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore

February 19, 2008 @ 8:44 am | Comment

Ooops

That should be @AC

February 19, 2008 @ 8:46 am | Comment

ecodelta,

That is a 2002 article. I think you should be able to find a newer one without too much effort. This India vs China thing actually is almost a genre in (especially Indian) journalism now, with copious amount of ink, paper, bits and anxiety spent on it.

This hare and turtle parody is sad. I mean it is sad for Indians if they take comfort in it. To say they are turtles suggests that they are intrinsically, physically slower than hares and they cannot win unless the hare takes a nap, has a heart attack, gets drunk, or something else. Pinning your hope on your rival’s misstep is not exactly good sportsmanship.

February 19, 2008 @ 9:41 am | Comment

Not to wade too deeply into this interesting exchange but…

As I seem to recall, in the original story the hare’s downfall was its overconfidence. Pinning one’s hope on a rival’s misstep isn’t good sportsmanship, but speaking as a New England Patriots fan, waiting for hubris to come home to roost isn’t a bad strategy. (Ask the NY Giants.)

February 19, 2008 @ 9:53 am | Comment

ecodelta,

China under Mao was a dictatorship, today’s China is authoritarian.

I guess after 6 years, the hare is still alive and kicking. Who is this Rajeev guy anyway? I was going to finish the article until I saw the name Gordon Chang. You could have quoted Thomas Friedman if you want to be more convincing. He had a similar theory a while ago, but I haven’t heard him mention it ever again.

February 19, 2008 @ 10:04 am | Comment

Jeremiah,

I think the hare is in a race with other animals ahead of him, and for that the hare is far from being confident. The hare does not really look back very often at the turtle just to feel good. The hare talks about the turtle only when somebody tries to enlighten him that the turtle actually has a better way of running.

February 19, 2008 @ 10:21 am | Comment

sorry, bad choice of word. The last sentence should read:

The hare talks about the turtle only when somebody tries to enlighten him that the turtle actually has a better way of crawling.

February 19, 2008 @ 10:24 am | Comment

Some random thoughts…

Was a college student back in the spring of 1989. It was a confusing period of time, not just for my generation, but also for my parents’ generation and my grandparents’ generation. Nobody knew what the turmoil would lead China to, and what exactly “democracy” in China would mean. In this type of transition, the wisdom among the older people simply became obsolete.

Your history is a collection of past experience from which your values & your moral codes have been distilled. Injecting a brand new foreign concept into a nation, would inevitably lead to the loss of its history, or more precisely the history having to be rewritten. For instance, when Marxism was brought to China, the traditional Confucianism version of the history had to be revised.

Some here claim to the effect that “thank gods we have our democracy that we only have to endure Bush for 8 years.” Forget the fact that term limit is actually quite undemocratic, what’s to stop Bush become another Putin who will likely become the next Russian Premier, or another Deng who was a title-less leader, or even another Hitler? The US history started from its first president George Washington. Not just the constitution, but more important, the wealth in its history, makes the US what it is today. Whoever (maybe Iraq?) copies the system won’t be able to copy the history, and what the history has embedded in the people’s collective memory and soul.

Jiang/Zhu’s era was often compared to the Zhenguan period (贞观之治) in the Tang dynasty as a period of the nation building its infrastructure, wealth and national strength. That’s probably a very tall order. During the Zhenguan period, once the emperor allowed the some 300 death row prisoners to go home to spend the New Year with their families. Despite the obvious opportunity to escape, ALL prisoners returned to the death rows next year to await their final executions.

I just hope whatever China becomes in the future, can identify more with them — the emperor, the prisoners, the system, and whatever made them to be the way they were.

February 19, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Comment

http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/jul/26rajeev.htm

Utter garbage by one of the few with too much “Indian pride”. He relies on hearsay and circumstantial evidence to support an argument that’s not really there. Not only that, but he attacks Overseas Chinese.

Here is a better source documenting India’s advantages over China:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=x3-eFUTsyTo

They definitely have a better sense of humor, haha.

February 19, 2008 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Serve simplifies Taipei’s subway just a bit too much.

1) He forgot about the original line. The Muzha one. That makes three main lines for the city, not including the southern line that heads to Nanshijiao.

2) He looks at Taipei’s subway as an end result rather than a process. The subway will be around twice the size in just a few years. Extended maps are easily available online.

3) He does not take into account that Taipei is a condensed city, nestled between mountains and contained within rivers. Why do you think scooters have been so successful there? The city is dense enough that cars would simply be impractical. There has never been the luxury to spread out. Currently, most of the city itself, even before the expansions, which will see another major line or two bisect the city and several new lines go to the suburbs in Taipei county, is already within a 10-minutes’ walking distance or a 5-minutes’ bus ride from a metro line. It is one of the easiest cities to get around in that I have ever lived in.

The new expansions have taken a long time to be built. However, there is some logic in the fact that you take more time doing tasks that are not as urgent. The current system has been a big success and not a lot more has been dearly needed, unless you take into account the need to expand to the suburbs.

Yes, good governments should provide good infrastructure. On this count, I would say that the government of Taiwan and of Taipei City have done quite well.

February 19, 2008 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

International Herald Tribune
Elite China think-tank issues political reform blueprint
By Chris Buckley
Reuters
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BEIJING: China risks dangerous instability unless it embraces democratic reforms to limit the power of the ruling Communist Party, foster competitive voting and rein in censors, the Party’s top think-tank has warned in a new report.

The “comprehensive political system reform plan” by scholars at the Central Party School in Beijing argues for steady liberalisation that its authors say can build a “modern civil society” by 2020 and “mature democracy and rule of law” in later decades.

The cost of delaying this course could be economic disarray and worsening corruption and public discontent, they write in “Storming the Fortress: A Research Report on China’s Political System Reform after the 17th Party Congress”.

“Citizens’ steadily rising democratic consciousness and the grave corruption among Party and government officials make it increasing urgent to press ahead with demands for political system reform,” the report states. “The backwardness of the political system is affecting economic development.”

The report was finished in October, just after the Party’s twice-a-decade congress ended and gave President Hu Jintao five more years as party chief. But it is only now appearing in some Beijing bookstores.

This is no manifesto for outright democracy. The authors say the Party must keep overall control and “elite” decision-making will help China achieve lasting economic prosperity by pushing past obstacles to economic reform.

But the 366-page report give a strikingly detailed blueprint of how some elite advisers see political relaxation unfolding, with three phases of reform in the next 12 years, including restricting the Party’s powers and expanding the rights of citizens, reporters, religious believers and lawmakers.

“Until now political reform has been scattered and inconsequential,” Wang Guixiu, a professor at the Party School not involved in the study, told Reuters. “Real political reform needs a substantive plan of action, and there are some scholars and officials who believe that’s what is needed now.”

The authors include Zhou Tianyong and Wang Changjiang, senior reform-minded scholars at the School, which trains officials for higher office. The report also has a preface by Li Junru, a government adviser and vice president of the Party School.

Several authors contacted for comment declined to comment.

UNSETTLING SOCIAL CHANGES

The authors argue that government regulation of news is needed as China navigates unsettling social changes. But the present system of secretive and often arbitrary censorship is stoking corruption and public distrust of government, they said.

“Freedom of the press is an inevitable trend,” they said, calling for a law to protect reporters and “effectively halt unconstitutional and unlawful interference in media activities”.

They also urge greater official respect for religion — a sensitive topic in China, where the atheist Party is wary of growing numbers of Christians, and unrest in Buddhist Tibet and the largely Muslim region of Xinjiang in the country’s far west.

“Political faith and religious faith are not in contradiction,” the scholars said.

They propose that China’s nearly 3,000-delegate national parliament be slimmed down and given direct powers to set the budget and audit government spending.

Candidates for legislatures should be allowed to actively compete for votes, which is now banned, the authors said. And the Communist Party itself must bind itself under rule of law.

Communist Party chief Hu has promoted limited “inner-Party democracy” to expose officials to more checks, but has shown no appetite for broad political liberalisation.

In a speech on Monday, Hu said the Party had to be a “staunch leadership core” that maintained “flesh-and-blood bonds” with the people, Xinhua news agency reported.

But the Party School report, with its detailed arguments for change, and other books and essays from reformist advisers in the past year, suggest that some senior advisers have been thinking closely about much more ambitious reforms.

A recent survey of mid-ranking officials studying at the Party School indicated that growing numbers believe deeper political reform is needed.

In the survey of 154 officials conducted in late 2007, 55.5 percent nominated the “political system” as one of three areas of reform that most “concerned” them, according to a study recently published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In late 2005, 40 percent of officials surveyed listed political reform as one of the areas.

(Editing by Brian Rhoads and David Fox)
Notes:
International Herald Tribune Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

February 19, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

AC

If democracy is such a “just” system, then why did India (which has all the bells and whistles of a Western democracy) perform so poorly in the areas of human rights and fighting corruption?

Could you clarify “so poorly” with some facts and definitions? I would say it does better than China.

Democracy isn’t an Ikea furniture kit you can buy off the shelf. It is a concept/system countries work towards.

And on the other hand, why did authoritarian Singapore perform so much better in these areas?

It doesn’t outperform India in areas such as media freedom and freedom of speech. And although the Indian civil legal system can be slower at times, it can also be considered fairer as the government doesn’t regularly win whenever it’s trying to bankrupt a political opponent.

Also there is just a teeny population difference of about 1 billion+ people, land-mass, etc.

February 19, 2008 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

@ferin

“Utter garbage ”

Could you elaborate?

Yes. It is Indian nationalist, but he has some good points.

On the other hand. Interesting to compare Chinese versus Indian nationalism

@brygads
“That is a 2002 article. ”

Hhhmmm.. So what? Time does not make some of its arguments valid. Could you reply to some of the arguments in the link?

February 19, 2008 @ 3:16 pm | Comment

Speaking of the Hare and the Turtle.

Why do you think the Hare can win the race this time?

The point is not only that a hare could lost the race because of overconfidence. The danger is also that the Hare could be running in circles, “i.e going nowhere fast”

While an slower turtle, using a straighter route could eventually reach the goal before a the hare.

Worst case scenario for the hare.. By that running in circles he will never reach the goal, and even collapse of exhaustions.

And that is my impression of China, their history seems to be running in circles. Dysnaty take powerk, dynasty collapse, dynasty takes problem , dynasty collapse…. Without substantial change in political structure of the country.

Why could it be different this time? Can the circle be broken?

February 19, 2008 @ 3:26 pm | Comment

Using the argument “If democracy is soo good..” around.

If democracy is so bad….. How come that a country barely more than 200 years old, raised as one of the greatest world power from absolute 0, developed revolutionary technologies that changed the world, that not even our ancestors could dream of, and leaving in the dust older and mightier cultures (not speakin only of China)

Internet, Space exploration (first men of moon, mars, mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, neptune etc), transistors, semiconductor, personal computer, aviation, mass production, etc.

Yes. With some help from Chinese inventions and even more with some European inventions and brains ;-)

February 19, 2008 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

Sebastian,

The countries you cited

Myanmar
North Korea
Iran
Pakistan
and and and

are also quite a mess. But let us not forget, Myanmar is facing international sanctions. North Korea has not privatized like other nations, such as China. Iran is also internationally isolated, and is held back by a theocratic culture. These factors, culture, and international isolation, and the unwillingness to privatize and open to the rest of the world keep these nations from developing, not because they have a authoritarian government.

On the other hand, countries governed by authoritarian governments in the present and in the past have done very well in terms of feeding its population and creating a middle class that would become essential to democracy, if they do open to the international community, are willing to adopt a more capitalist-oriented economy, and are secular.
Examples are:

China
Taiwan (in the past)
South Korea (in the past)
Hong Kong
Singapore

Nations that have instead chosen a democratic system outright without first becoming developed or secularized are:

Iraq
Afghanistan
Haiti
India
South Africa

And btw, Pakistan is a democracy with elections, and look at the mess it is in now…

The record is indeed dismal for democracy purists.

Lens of Reason

February 19, 2008 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

ecodelta,

About overconfidence: I think nanheyangrouchuan just posted something that shows the Chinese leadership is not as confident as you think. But I don’t think they are as confident as Gorbachev was, either.

About “circles”: for now, I am more concerned about the coming recession. The Western-type of circle turns faster than the Chinese ones. The Chinese government is only about 60 years old, so if it is damned in a circle, the Chinese experience says it may have another couple of hundred years to be circled out. It may happen faster though, which brings me to the Indian-type of circles, which means you could be reborn as a Chinese, I could transmigrate to be an Indian, so why compete? All is empty. All is suffering.

Sabbam Dukkham

Peace.

February 19, 2008 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

A word about the distinction between a dictatorship and authoritarian-style government. Typically, there are three types of authoritarian regimes: personal, military, and party. During the Cultural Revolution China was governed by a personal dictatorship: i.e., Mao and his allies called all the shots. Currently China’s system can be described as a Party dictatorship, in that one political party holds a monopoly of power but within the Party itself there is room for consensus and power-sharing.

Of course, despite this consensus and power-sharing, China remains authoritarian for reasons laid out by Richard Spencer in his brilliant comment above. The fact that the Chinese government appears to know what it’s doing in terms of development does not preclude the possibility that at some point, the government may veer off course and propose a disastrous set of policies (such as China’s between 58 and 76). In democracies, even imperfect ones like in the US, there exist certain checks against such excesses of power.

February 19, 2008 @ 4:13 pm | Comment

Matt,

Any suggestion that China will veer off course, like that of the late 50s to the mid 1970s, is not likely. Keep in mind that was the period when one man held absolute power, and society was closed to the outside world. That is no longer the case. Now will there be mistakes in government policies in an authoritarian country? Certainly. But to put the cart before the horse now, for China, a developing country, is to only invite a bigger disaster.

Lens of Reason

February 19, 2008 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

Ecodelta,

You used America as an example of a democracy which did work, in terms of inventions, technology, super power, etc. etc.

But your assumption that America was a democracy from start to finish is not correct at all. Keep in mind the first 50 years of after 1776, the average American could not even vote for a president. It was the electoral college whose members were voted by a select group of conventions that had the real power. And even then, when the vote was given to the average citizen, more than half of the population could not vote, including women, minorities, Blacks. Indians were still being hunted down by cowboys like animals. Women didn’t gain the right to vote until the 20th century, and blacks not until the later half of the 20th century.

Lens of Reason

February 19, 2008 @ 5:07 pm | Comment

Hey guys it seems that some people at the top in China era ready for further reform, even see it as nesecary (as some of us have argued for some time) for China to prosper in the future. Scholars at the Central Party School in Beijing argue that the party has to loosen its grip if the country does not want to end in a corruption mess.
There seems to be hope.
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSPEK20590720080219

What concerns the argument that China is not ready and Chinese people to stupid for demoracy. Well that was exactly the argument of the Aristocrats in Europe.

February 19, 2008 @ 5:20 pm | Comment

ecodelta,

Before the Qing dynasty(Manchurian) there was the Ming dynasty(the golden age of China) and the Jin, Xia, Shang, Zhou, Xin Han, Qin, Sui etc… These dynasties(Qing/ Ming) were two completely different rulers of ancestry. policy and blood. Now we have Ma Zedong and his russian backed communist party . America was most ruled by two so call opposite but same policy party- The Ruplican and the Democrates(back and forth).

America’s wealth and politics is not just 200 years old and started from absolute 0

J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, Operheimer (The black nobles)etc… are some of the wealthiest 5% of Americans citizen. They own all the media, most Dow Jones stock company and prime real estate in America …These families made their wealth from banking in Europe/ England. They used their wealth to start the railroad revolution, steel industry, automobile industry, and oil industry which modernize and industralize America. They have heavy influence on goverment policies to benefit their companies. They also decides who to be president of the United State of America.

Socialist, communist, capitalist or whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same. Funny how almost all at the same time President Roosevelt make The Great Deal with America, Ma Zedong have a similar deal, the Great leap forward. Stalin have the same deal also.

They all need the banking system to work. Money is just papers that been taught to the people it’s worth more than food, cloths, family and friends. Ask a farmer or Ghengis Khan in their time and guess which most important.
Good economy is all depends on how it’s ability to control interest rate and inflation. The USA keep buying with money they don’t have but on credit. How can a nation with 9 trillion dollars in debt still have money to spend is beyond me. China is keeping their inflation rate low to export more goods at a unfair price and competition. How is forcing me to buy more quantity instead of quality is good for me?
I remember before the hand over of HK of 1997, China promise one country two system rule and free election for the people of HK for 50 years. We all guess it was too good to be true. The first they kept. But for the election, all five canindates were pre-selected by China.

China is not design to be a democratic nation because the people in power are not going to change. And I don’t see and revolutionaries doing a coup d��tat against these Imperalist/ Monarchy any time soon, they will always be in power

My citation/ Bibliography:

youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dmPchuXIXQ

February 19, 2008 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

@Lens of Reason

“But your assumption that America was a democracy from start to finish is not correct at all”

Agreed. But not a full democracy. A system of check and balances was in place, and also system for accountability and power rotation. Not even clasical Athens was a full democracy!
And the components to extend representativeness were in place.

Agreed that just democracy is not a miracle solution. Just compare occupation of Germany after WWII (or japan) and occupation of Iraq. A basis and right conditions are needed.. and the right time too.

I do not favor big bang solutions either. You usually get just that…. a big bang!

@shulan
All Chinese I know are not stupid at all, I assure you.
Many European/western would live very much to have a more democratic (and prosperous) China.
I am not afraid of the “yellow menace”. I consider the potential benefits too great to be afraid.
Those who consider China a menace would like to have it again bottled up like in Mao times.

February 19, 2008 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

@nanhe

that’s good news

@ecodelta Could you elaborate?

I read about the prostitutes in Southeast Asia, that Overseas Chinese just exploit China for cheap labor, and that the Mumbai slums don’t display India’s overall poverty and ridiculous income disparity (in absolute terms relative to price) but rather China’s ability to setup “Potemkin villages”. He conveniently fails to mention that India simply has more poor, measured by several indices, like number under 1$ a day and children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

raised as one of the greatest world power from absolute 0

Would you really call it a democracy if only Central Han Chinese men could vote for 200-300 years and the other ethnic groups were made into slaves? It would not be very different from what China has today. Modern democracies are far from ideal and could use further reform still. America is primarily strong because it was expansionist, funded by slavery (like the Islamic world) and built on exploiting immigrant populations.

Likewise, China stagnated as a result of being too centralized, and then faced hundreds of years of the world’s then 8 strongest powers taking concessions, bankrupting, funding warlords and uncontrollable revolutions and finally in 1937 the beginning of the destruction of the Republican state by the IJA. That, and China’s beginnings of industrial revolution was interrupted during the Song by the Mongols. It really has little to do with being, as someone has said, a “democracy purist”.

February 19, 2008 @ 7:10 pm | Comment

morning grammar

February 19, 2008 @ 7:13 pm | Comment

@Michicali

“They have heavy influence on goverment policies to benefit their companies”

heavy influence is not absolute power

“Socialist, communist, capitalist or whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same. Funny how almost all at the same time President Roosevelt make The Great Deal with America, Ma Zedong have a similar deal, the Great leap forward. Stalin have the same deal also.”

With somewhat different results…..

“China is not design to be a democratic nation because the people in power are not going to change.”
I hope you are mistaken…

“Money is just papers that been taught to the people it’s worth more than food, cloths, family and friends”
Money is like a contract, a written agreement. The value is not in the paper itself but on those who stay behind that agreement and their ability to fulfill it.

February 19, 2008 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Democracy usually means an elected government through fair elections. And most of us clamour for democracy because it promises freedoms, equality and transparency. But one has to be realistic. Observe those democractic nations around the world and one will find such benefits to be limited.

I live in a democractic country where we have elections. But the leaders are so corrupted and our freedom of speech is so limited. And us minority are racially and religiously discriminated. So tell me what’s so great about having a democracy?

Do not blindly imitate those western forms of democacy. They cant handle many of their social ills. Their idea of democracy can be destructive too: it may bring strifes and conflicts when powerful political parties vye for powers. And it can sow chaos, weaken a government and bring the downfall of a nation. (Like the Opium era when opium was introduced to weaken China?)

A good government (called it whatever political system), to me, is one which is sufficiently transparent and allows essential freedoms, upholds a rule of law, encourages charitable bodies and maintains a market economy. And such a country will be an envy of many.

February 19, 2008 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

ecodelta

J. P Morgan told Wilson to establish his banking system in return for campaign contribution. Without that money, he can’t win office(Ron Paul). He controls the president and the nation. That is awesome power.

Before Nixon abolish the gold standard, the Federal reserve can only print the amount of money they have in gold. Now when you want a loan from a bank, they just type in numbers in a computer with printing or make anything and you own interest on it right away. Without gold behind it, money is just a I.O.U. pieces of paper. When the stock market crashes, those papers are worthless.

For example, between me and you, say friends, I have 100 dollars, I can only lend you 100 dollars. I can’t lend you 1 million dollars because I don’t have it and if I do, we end up in jail. But that’s exactly what banks are doing and no one is in jail.

China is a system of master and slaver just like most of the civilize world. You work long hours for $4 dollars a day to make products for us and in return for I.O.U. papers.

The definition of slavery varies depends on which part of the world you live in. Many are slaves and don’t even know it.

http://tinyurl.com/2acck3

February 19, 2008 @ 8:36 pm | Comment

I think China’s not ready for democracy at the national level, because China’s continued growth desperately needs developments like this:

http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=10697210&fsrc=nwlbtwfree

From a philosophical point of view, I do believe the Communist Party needs to implement true, transparent democracy internally.

But from a priority point of view, I hope first China makes greater progress on the establishment of an independent judiciary, and releases the reins on an independent media. (And on both of the latter accounts, there has been progress over the past 5-10 years.)

No one asked me, but here’s what I’d do:

- permit the open collection and reporting of news by all registered journalists; arrest and prosecute local officials that obstruct the process.

- setup a legal mechanism for monitoring newspaper articles for accuracy. (I wonder if we can out-source these cases to the Hong Kong judiciary.) Journalists found to report inaccurately must face legal sanction.

I’m torn on the issue of editorial control. I’m not sure believe newspapers are necessarily the right forum for constructive debate of controversial issues.

February 20, 2008 @ 1:25 am | Comment

@Jeremiah,

Why do you think this is/has been the case? What’s the mechanism here? Break it down for me.

I’ll take a shot at this.

I think typically in any democratic developing nation, there are two primary contradictory forces in society. The wealthy elite who’ve already benefited from economic development, and the impoverished poor who’re stuck in the same cycle of poverty they’ve been in for generations.

And often, you end up with one of two extremes:

- a populist society in which forces for wealth creation are torn down to provide for populist measures. (Venezuela comes to mind, as does Marxist provinces in India and Mexico.)

- an elite-dominated society, in which only superficial measures are implemented on “behalf of the poor” (during campaign season), while both parties continue to maintain the money-making opportunities for the elite. (Brazil and Mexico come to mind.)

And even more often, you end up with a country that alternates between the two with little improvement.

Now, the authoritarian government in China has managed to offend both sides simultaneously:

… on behalf of the elite:
- it denies rural Chinese the right to migrate freely to urban cities, preserving a higher standard of living for the wealthy.

- for much of the previous two decades, it invested heavily in urban/coastal areas. (Better infrastructure, targeted tax incentives for foreign investment.)

… on behalf of the poor,
- it taxes the rich, while eliminating all taxes from the poor (no agricultural taxes, or income tax on anyone earning

I’ll take a shot at this.

I think typically in any democratic developing nation, there are two primary contradictory forces in society. The wealthy elite who’ve already benefited from economic development, and the impoverished poor who’re stuck in the same cycle of poverty they’ve been in for generations.

And often, you end up with one of two extremes:

- a populist society in which forces for wealth creation are torn down to provide for populist measures. (Venezuela comes to mind, as does Marxist provinces in India and Mexico.)

- an elite-dominated society, in which only superficial measures are implemented on “behalf of the poor” (during campaign season), while both parties continue to maintain the money-making opportunities for the elite. (Brazil and Mexico come to mind.)

And even more often, you end up with a country that alternates between the two with little improvement.

Now, the authoritarian government in China has managed to offend both sides simultaneously:

… on behalf of the elite:
- it denies rural Chinese the right to migrate freely to urban cities, preserving a higher standard of living for the wealthy.

- for much of the previous two decades, it invested heavily in urban/coastal areas. (Better infrastructure, targeted tax incentives for foreign investment.)

… on behalf of the poor,
- it taxes the rich, while eliminating all taxes from the poor (no agricultural taxes, or income tax on anyone earning < 1600 RMB per month).

- it redistributes wealth from the coastal provinces to the central provinces. Infrastructure investments in Sichuan, Guangxi, Hunan, etc… have no hope of paying off from economic point of view for decades. But the campaign to “go West” was critical from the point of view of freeing the Western economy.

There are other sink-holes that *democratic* developing nations tend to fall into. Racial and religious tension, for example, is a common issue. How many have died in India due to race/religion/caste-based violence over the past 10 years? This sort of nationalism is another form of populism that political parties in developing nations often find easy to appeal to.

The same hasn’t happened in China. Of course, some would point out that China is 91%+ Han Chinese, and suggest that therefore it’s immune to such violence. On the ground, however, China isn’t nearly as homogeneous. Minorities are often concentrated in specific regions. The Hui Muslims of western China fought brutally against the Qing empire for decades. Yet today, there are no Muslim nationalist parties, in part because there are no *Han* nationalist parties.

February 20, 2008 @ 1:38 am | Comment

@CCT:

I think you have come up with a few interesting things here. I think everybody would agree that a gradual opening of Chinese society is the way to go, rather than free elections tomorrow (which almost no one is asking for anyway). But let me respond to a point you made.

permit the open collection and reporting of news by all registered journalists; arrest and prosecute local officials that obstruct the process.

I couldn’t agree more.

Journalists found to report inaccurately must face legal sanction.

There is not a chance that a relatively free press would develop under such a threat, especially if you imagine a criminal process for such a sanction. Libel is one thing, the idea of “inaccurate reporting” opens the door for all kinds of arbitrary controls.

Also: Do we know for a fact that there is little or no bloody ethnic violence in China? Or does the lack of reporting especially from Xinjiang give the impression that things are peaceful?

February 20, 2008 @ 4:28 am | Comment

@Amban,

Unfortunately, I can’t agree with you by any means that “everybody” agrees a gradual opening of Chinese society is the way to go. There’s a long list of people who feel otherwise.

And even those who agree on the term “gradual” may have very different definitions of what that term means.

As far as racial tensions… I was referring to the Hui Muslims of areas like Ningxia and Gansu, not Xinjiang. The largest uprisings of the 19th century were from the Hui in those areas. There are far more Hui in China than Turkic-Uighurs in Xinjiang.

As far as the existence of ethnic violence in the area, I’d never state that there is “no” ethnic violence. But I do believe what violence there is very limited in scope, compared to the possibilities. Despite what you insinuate, there isn’t a lack of reporting from Xinjiang by any means in both the domestic and international press.

As far as definitions of “inaccurate reporting”, obviously the term has to be defined legally. I’d expect Chinese definitions of the term to be broader than the American legal standard, however.

The United States only allows criminal sanctions for defamation targeted at an identifiable person or entity; I personally think there should be criminal sanctions for false reporting that hurts the public interest, regardless of whether any identifiable individual was identified.

If a journalist in the United States manufacturers a story about being assaulted by government officials, there are no legal sanctions possible. At worst, he may be fired by his employer. In China, I’m of the opinion the journalist should still face legal prosecution: if they knowingly publish false facts that potentially damages the interests of “the people”, they have to pay a price.

I further believe journalists should be prosecuted for being criminally *negligent* in their reporting. That is, not making an attempt to confirm the stories presented by individual sources. (The AP requires all of their stories to be double-sourced, I believe.)

February 20, 2008 @ 6:20 am | Comment

@CCT

Your ideas about restraining journalists for negligence look nice on paper, but would be wide open for government abuse. You seem to think that there is an objective standard of truth against which we can decide whether journalists have been “criminally negligent” or not, but that is very difficult to establish in practice. The very point of having a constitution is to protect the people against their government, not to charge the people with coming up with real or perceived falsehoods against the government.

February 20, 2008 @ 6:33 am | Comment

CCT,

You are a stitch. We have great fun with your stuff at work here in Beijing. (BTW: You should come back to live in China some time, you’d love it here.)

1. You argued: “Yet today, there are no Muslim nationalist parties, in part because there are no *Han* nationalist parties.” Do you really think that’s the reason why Muslims are not allowed to organize independent political parties? I Is it possible that on this point you’re being either naive or disingenuous?

2. But we do agree that a truly independent juduiciary and allowing the media the freedom to reporters (though by giving the government the right to ‘register’ journalists, that would certainly be a two steps forward, two steps back sort of measure, but I like the spirit.) Why not institute these things? What’s the downside for the CCP? Surely such a beloved and effective party would have nothing to worry about. Or do they take the indefensible position of denying liberalization ‘just because they can’?

3. China’s not ready for democracy, but are you? Or do you still need some more time and education before you could be entrusted with the franchise? If the CCP were to allow greater political freedoms, could you handle it? Are you ready to tell one of your fellow citizens, to their face, that you are ready, but they’re not?

February 20, 2008 @ 6:35 am | Comment

“Of course, some would point out that China is 91%+ Han Chinese, and suggest that therefore it’s immune to such violence. On the ground, however, China isn’t nearly as homogeneous.” CCT

This is not a challenge but rather a question to CCT, Jeremiah and Amban. I came across this article last week and CCT’s comment above reminded me of it.

Former Governor of Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm in his “8 steps to destroy America” says:
“The historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way: ‘The histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy.’ Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that ‘An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.’”

“Here is how they do it,” Lamm said: (First step) ;”Turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bi-cultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual.

Steps 2-8:
http://www.rense.com/general62/destroy.htm

What do you all think?

February 20, 2008 @ 8:10 am | Comment

@ferin:

Let’s see what happens to those cadres who wrote that letter. Remember, the PLA is the absolute power behind the CCP and they don’t like reform. Neither does much of the CCP. If the “netizen” party can survive past the Olympics, there might be hope.

@youguys:

Bilingual countries can’t be successful? Germany, France, Hong Kong, Canada.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:36 am | Comment

@Jeremiah,

Glad I could be entertaining.

I spend a significant amount of time in China every year, even though my work keeps me from doing so more regularly. I own a home in Shenzhen, although most of my family remains in Nanjing as I stated previously.

When I spoke of Muslim nationalist parties, I was thinking more of parties with a lower-case P, not an upper-case political Party. There’s no NAACP advocating for affirmative action; the Chinese government already grants it. There’s also no equivalent white supremacist group calling for the end of action that discriminates against the Han.

But we do agree that a truly independent juduiciary and allowing the media the freedom to reporters (though by giving the government the right to ‘register’ journalists, that would certainly be a two steps forward, two steps back sort of measure, but I like the spirit.) Why not institute these things?

First off, while I understand and appreciate the government’s role on many of these issues, it doesn’t mean we agree on every single point. On the order of speed of implementation, we have drastically different views of what’s “safe speed” for reform.

But that shouldn’t be surprising… my greatest responsibility is making sure I put a diaper on my baby daughter the right way forward, while the Communist Party has *one chance* to run a country of 1.3 billion mostly poor Chinese.

Now, to answer your question… It’s not a question of downside. It’s purely because these things can’t be implemented by the wave of a magical wand.

The government has been railing on the concept of rule by law for years; how do you implement this more effectively when half of the judges in China don’t have university degrees? Do you announce universally tomorrow that county-level judge Chen now has precedence over county-level party secretary Zhang? Does that effectively end corruption, or just increase it?

You can at least detain party secretary Zhang and keep him in a hotel room indefinitely until he talks about his involvement with corruption, because the Party charter allows for it. What can you do with judge Chen? Allow a higher level judge to sit through an exhaustive examination of his corruption? Under what legal statutes? What’s the procedure for the judge’s removal from office, and how do you keep *that* procedure from becoming corrupt?

The legal system is an ecosystem, and all pieces have to remain in place. China has bits and pieces of it, but it takes decades to clean up the corrupt filth that sits in place.

Now, onto journalism. I’m sure you’re aware of the case of Lan Chengzhang. Here’s the case of a reporter that basically bought a badge (with absolutely no intention of actually writing any articles), with the sole purpose of blackmailing coal miners. And don’t get me started on the huge volumes of manufactured stories out there.

How do you combine the existence of that in society that with a free and unfettered press?

Note that governments have added information offices at a furious rate; none of even the national ministries held press conferences 4-5 years ago… and now even local districts have multiple information offices ready to respond to the media immediately. The media has greater latitude than ever in covering the vast majority of social issues, ranging from the South China Tiger to local corruption. I see this as a huge step in the right direction.

On these two issues, I hold two different opinions. On the legal issue, I believe the Communist Party is headed in the right direction, and with time will implement the necessary reforms. On the journalism issue, I’m less optimistic on the short-term. I think the Communist Party doesn’t have enough trust yet in the institution of a free press, but I do agree with the statement that a free press is the only antidote to institutionalized corruption.

Fundamentally though, I don’t believe deep social and political reforms *can* happen overnight. Checks and balances can’t be legislated; they must grow in slow, gradual steps. The United States didn’t free the slaves for 90+ years after independence, and didn’t protect the right to vote for black citizens for another 100 years after that. Why? Was every president or government until the Kennedy administration secretly racist and intent on oppressing the minorities?

> 3. China’s not ready for democracy, but are you?

No, to be perfectly candid, I don’t think I’m ready for democracy. I don’t know enough about the Chinese who aren’t me. I don’t know enough about rural needs to know what the proper priorities are for spending. I don’t trust the papers to give me full details about the platforms, nor do I have the time to invest in properly studying and balancing all of these issues.

I don’t trust candidates to tell me the truth behind their campaign platforms. I simply can’t distinguish between a well-paid actor pretending to a politician, and a true statesman.

I want a government that’s transparent, accountable, responsible, and good. I want a judicial system that’s independent and has teeth. I don’t see a way towards achieving any of those things, beyond continuing the slow march forward we’re currently on.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:47 am | Comment

Decision making in China

One way to understand the Chinese government is to figure out the decision making process there. Who propose policies? Where do they learn their lessons? And how are policies enforced?

In China intellectuals are lobbyists. They study economic and political policies of other countries and make proposals to the government. The universities and think tanks in Beijing and Shanghai dominate the decision making process.

Once government policies are formulated, the authoritarian government with deep popular support is able to put them in practice.

The Chinese academics regularly visit Hong Kong and Taiwan and learn lessens from these places.
The consensus among these people is that Hong Kong has an effective government while Taiwan has a dysfunctional one. Hong Kong government officials practice free market economy faithfully, while the Taiwanese politicians, particularly the ones from DPP, are only interested in identity politics for their self interest .

They do see good things in Taiwan, such as its IT industry. But the government is not one of them.
They see the weaker infrastructure in Taiwan compared
to Hong Kong, witnessed by the large number of noisy, dangerous and polluting scooters.

With their personal experience in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the intellectuals see no reason to introduce full democracy in China.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:55 am | Comment

@youguys,

I think having different cultures in contact is definitely a constant source of friction. But I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that multi-cultural nations are destined to fail.

Note that I see a similarity here to the Marxist theory that different economic classes were destined to be political enemies. To a certain degree, this is true, but it should be obvious by this point in human history that conflicts between different economic classes can be moderated and softened. Various socialist policies in Europe prove this point.

I think multi-cultural states have to be treated with the same degree of care. You have to stay away from forced assimilation, but you do need to mandate *some* form of shared identity.

In the United States, as long as people still take pride in calling themselves hyphenated Americans, the balance is probably doing fine. But missteps in American domestic and foreign policy *can* change this quickly.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:57 am | Comment

@Amban,

The very point of having a constitution is to protect the people against their government, not to charge the people with coming up with real or perceived falsehoods against the government.

Which, in and of itself, is a very European concept (see Rousseau, Locke). And by this concept, a failed Haitian government is superior to a functioning (but oppressive) Chinese government.

I don’t think by any means that the average Chinese will understand your point of view here. Not because the Chinese are brain-washed, but because we fundamentally have different views on the role of government, and its social contract with society.

February 20, 2008 @ 9:01 am | Comment

CCT

A number of flawed arguments here.

Which, in and of itself, is a very European concept (see Rousseau, Locke). And by this concept, a failed Haitian government is superior to a functioning (but oppressive) Chinese government.

Two logical fallacies here: First, you discredit my argument by calling it a “European concept,” as if that was something wrong by itself. That is called “begging the question.”

Second, your comparison between the failed, but constitutional, Haitian government and the functional but oppressive Chinese government is what we would call a “false dilemma”, another logical fallacy.

I don’t think by any means that the average Chinese will understand your point of view here. Not because the Chinese are brain-washed, but because we fundamentally have different views on the role of government, and its social contract with society.

And here we have a tautology, which is based on an unprovable assumption. “We Chinese are different, because we are different”.

February 20, 2008 @ 9:45 am | Comment

@amban

A friend of logic like me.

@CCT
I find his/her(?) propositions interesting. But I found more interesting the difference in thinking and opinion. With respect western mindset. Help better to understand each other side.

@everybody
That was one of the reason of my barrage of posts.
Try to engage to exchange ideas, instead of throwing them to each other.
And by the post I have read so far I am satisfied.
It have been interesting. Thanks to everybody

February 20, 2008 @ 3:47 pm | Comment

@Jeremiah

“CCT,

You are a stitch. We have great fun with your stuff at work here in Beijing. (BTW: You should come back to live in China some time, you’d love it here.) ”

Let me guess: like certain other commenters, CCT is actually residing in the evil US of A, enjoying all the rights and freedoms, he argues Chinese people (excluding himself) are not ready for.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:02 pm | Comment

@nanheyangrouchuan

“Bilingual countries can’t be successful? Germany, France, Hong Kong, Canada.”

And, above all, Switzerland.

February 20, 2008 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

What do you all think?

It depends on how it’s done. Working classes do not like multiculturalism and yes it is a constant source of friction.

February 20, 2008 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

Amban, you continue to approach this like a debate team exercise. You would benefit from ceasing your exercise of categorizing what I say, and instead try to digest it as one person speaking to another.

You earlier made a comment which speaks clearly to your mindset, that constitutions are meant to constrain government from violating the rights of man, and that you take this as a self-evident truth. The fact is, this perspective isn’t necessarily universal.

Don’t you realize that this perspective, crystallized by the actions of the Founding Fathers, is inspired primarily by the philosophies of 16th-18th century philosophers (including Hobbes, Locke) exclusively from Europe? (And if we trace back even further, all of the intellectual traditions you take for granted about the nature of man are descended from the Old + New Testament, as well as the work of Plato and Socrates?)

My intent isn’t to suggest these philosophies are false simply because they’re European. (Nationalism, Marxism, Leninism all originate from Europe as well.) My intent is to broaden your horizons and point out that there’s a 2500+ year intellectual heritage in east Asia which stands totally independent of these European thoughts.

It is NOT at all a self-evident truth in this intellectual tradition that “all man are created equal”, that man is “endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights”, that the best government is a limited government, and that there exists a social contract between government and society.

@mor, I do indeed reside at least part of every year in the United States, as my work demands it of me. I see cross-border residence as one of the inevitable side-effects of a globalized economy.

Are you also confused by the fact that Jeremiah (and certain other commentators), while defending democracy, still chooses to live in authoritarian China?

[Note - I deleted the first paragraph of this comment, as it makes a personal reference that I respectfully ask CCT not to make again. This is not negotiable or open to discussion - simply desist from this type of reference altogether. You know what I mean and I appreciate your understanding. Thanks a lot. Richard]

February 21, 2008 @ 12:21 am | Comment

You would benefit from ceasing your exercise of categorizing what I say, and instead try to digest it as one person speaking to another.

The same to you. As the debates have been going back and forth, you have refused to comment or respond to parts of my posts that seem to make you uncomfortable. I’m thinking of how we should deal with the huge political luggage of the CCP and what that means for the the future of China. You have dismissed most of these questions as mere history (while using 2500 years of Chinese history as a cudgel in another context), but these are serious issues that will have to be dealt with somehow. The failure of the PRC government to deal with these issues undermine the credibility of the regime both domestically and internationally, which will have consequences for the political stability of China in the long term. You ignore this at your own peril.

You keep arguing as if there was only one constitution in the world that mattered, the US constitution, and that any statement about the viability that constitutional tradition either validates or invalidates ideas like human rights and constitutional government. You are the one who is bringing up the US constitution, not me. Reformers like Liang Qichao, Hu Shi or Chen Duxiu knew better than that.

Constitutional thought is and has always been a global discourse, and the intellectual traditions of both Western and non-Western countries have had a tremendous influence on each other. China is part of that history and Chinese people have made important contributions to that history. If we limit ourselves to the US for the sake of argument, when US born Chinese like Kim Wong Ark were discriminated against in the US in the nineteenth century, they invoked the US constitution to argue for equal treatment. Every Chinese constitution since 1912 has talked about rights and liberties. Two of the drafters of the declaration of human rights in 1940 were Chinese, and they did not raise any substantive objections to the idea of human rights.

China has 2 500 years of political thought that does matter, but the Chinese intellectual tradition is not unchanging and it is a gross simplification to say that it has developed in isolation to the rest of the world. And if you had any knowledge about Confucianism, you would know that it is a doctrine that promotes a limited government, not the opposite. Not that Confucianism is identical with liberal constitutional thought, but if you want to identify progressive ideas in the Chinese intellectual traditions you can find them. The question is why educated young Chinese like you are less interested in that than your predecessors in the 1920s and 1930s.

February 21, 2008 @ 2:09 am | Comment

@CCT

“Are you also confused by the fact that Jeremiah (and certain other commentators), while defending democracy, still chooses to live in authoritarian China?”

I’m not confused at all, neither by people like Jeremiah who decide to live in a country they like IN SPITE OF the authoritarian regime which belongs to those things they hope will change eventually, nor am I confused by people like you who live a privileged life and enjoy rights and freedoms they think other people are not ready for. It’s just human.

February 21, 2008 @ 3:49 am | Comment

@mor,

Well, glad you already have the answers. ÖÇÕß¼ûÖÇ£¬ÈÊÕß¼ûÈÊ.

February 21, 2008 @ 3:57 am | Comment

@CCT

“Well, glad you already have the answers. ���߼��ǣ����߼���.”

What’s that supposed to mean?

February 21, 2008 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

China has 2 500 years of political thought that does matter, but the Chinese intellectual tradition is not unchanging and it is a gross simplification to say that it has developed in isolation to the rest of the world. And if you had any knowledge about Confucianism, you would know that it is a doctrine that promotes a limited government, not the opposite. Not that Confucianism is identical with liberal constitutional thought, but if you want to identify progressive ideas in the Chinese intellectual traditions you can find them. The question is why educated young Chinese like you are less interested in that than your predecessors in the 1920s and 1930s.

Great comment.

February 22, 2008 @ 7:07 am | Comment

Nausicaa,

I second you: Amban, very good point.

I might suggest going a little further back, though. Perhaps the most notable example of mining the Confucian tradition in support of constitutional reforms was Kang Youwei in the 1890s who was, to bring this thread close to full circle, the teacher and mentor of our friend Liang Qichao, who kicked off this discussion. Both are well worth reading about in depth if you’re interested in these sorts of arguments.

And on that note, it’s probably time to close this thread and move on to other topics.

Thanks everybody for your contributions to this discussion.

February 22, 2008 @ 8:44 am | Comment

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