The unintended consequence of the “China-as-meritocracy” debates

The estimable Kaiser Kuo, who needs no introduction here, put up a post on Facebook yesterday that caught my eye, and lots of other readers’ eyes as well. (It was perhaps written in a moment of pique, but that’s when all of my own best posts are written.) It discusses the unintended harm apologists like Daniel Bell and Jiang Qing (go here for background) do when their preposterous drum-beating for China’s allegedly “meritocratic system” drowns out a part of their message that may be valid, in particular their criticisms of the shortfalls of American democracy. And I don’t disagree with Kaiser. Their nonsense on a “Confucian Constitution” and the outspoken critical reaction to it as BS only serve to make readers view the differences between the systems as starkly black and white, with the American democratic system obviously being superior. In other words, the writings of the Daniel Bells and Jiang Qings of the world backfire and do the opposite of what they intend, making China’s system appear inferior to that of the US, and misrepresenting what democracy here is really like. But Kaiser makes this argument more clearly than I can. The Facebook post in full:

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By now many of us who follow news about China are familiar with the op-eds penned of late by the likes of the Canadian Tsinghua University professor Daniel Bell, Shanghai-based American-Chinese venture capitalist Eric X. Li, and Chunqiu Institute fellow Zhang Weiwei. Arguing that China’s one-party system is essentially a meritocratic form of enlightened authoritarianism that is somehow appropriate to China’s political culture and the realities of Chinese developmental stage and social conditions, these essays (appearing in the New York Times and in the Financial Times just in the last week or so) have had derision heaped on them. Many journalists and scholars have skewered them for their naïveté, citing numerous reasons why the Chinese system is far from meritocratic in practice: the disproportionate “merit” evidently to be found in scions of the CCP aristocracy and in the very wealthy, the apparent absence of this “merit” in women and so forth. I agree emphatically with all of these criticisms, and for the record, I’m convinced that these writers are badly deluded.

As an American, though, I’m troubled that these misplaced encomia for the CCP have completely obscured the few valid criticisms of failures in the American democratic system contained in their essays. As we pick apart their arguments in praise of China’s “meritocracy,” we should be careful not to dismiss out of hand–however vindicated we might feel about American democracy’s proper function after last week’s election–the shortcomings they point out. Taking their statements about the problems with American democracy out of their comparative context, I can only read them and nod in agreement. But the polemical approach they’ve chosen isn’t going to encourage any much-needed introspection. (For that, I’d highly recommend Christopher Hayes, “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy”)

The other thing that worries me that is in the eagerness by so many people who influence ideas about Chinese politics to repudiate this half-baked apologia, some nuance gets tossed out. I’m not ready to reject, for instance, the notion that what constitutes an appropriate form of government is culturally conditioned. Nor, to be sure, do I accept (as Eric Li and others seem to) that culture is immutable: what’s appropriate changes as culture does. My concern then is that in reading these take-downs of the largely execrable positions staked out by Bell, Li and Zhang people conclude that the alternative must be political pluralism along American lines.

These apologists, then, are doing a disservice at more than one level. While they purport to be rejecting a false dichotomy between diametrically opposed systems, they are I suspect only making it, in the minds of readers, more starkly binary.

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As a reminder, let me first give an example of how Bell-Jiang describe Western-style democracy:

The political future of China is far likelier to be determined by the longstanding Confucian tradition of “humane authority” than by Western-style multiparty elections. After all, democracy is flawed as an ideal. Political legitimacy is based solely on the sovereignty of the people — more specifically, a government that grants power to democratically elected representatives. But there is no compelling reason for a government to have only one source of legitimacy.

Democracy is also flawed in practice. Political choices come down to the desires and interests of the electorate. This leads to two problems. First, the will of the majority may not be moral: it may favor racism, imperialism or fascism. Second, when there is a clash between the short-term interests of the populace and the long-term interests of mankind, as is the case with global warming, the people’s short-term interests become the political priority. As a result, democratically elected governments in America and elsewhere are finding it nearly impossible to implement policies that curb energy usage in the interests of humanity and of future generations.

Like Kaiser (I suspect), I see a lot of truth in this. Our democratic system is deeply flawed, and these flaws have become uglier in the past few years, with more and more wedge issues blocking out serious debate, and some in the government brazenly using the power vested in them to subvert the democratic process (think “voter fraud” legislation), often with a good deal of success. What can be messier, sleazier and more dysfunctional than democracy (aside from any other form of government)? On the other hand, what Kaiser is saying can also be interpreted as the equivalency argument we see so often in the comments; critics denounce an aspect of China and the other side argues, “Yeah, but it’s bad in America, too.” But I’m a big believer in taking the flaws of the US government into account, and the issue is a legitimate one, if the argument is made correctly, as I believe Kaiser’s is.

So do those who repudiate the apologists’ arguments really drown out the nuance of these arguments and unintentionally influence the public to view the differences between the two systems in black and white, and to conclude that the best thing that could happen to China would be the imposition somehow of Western-style democracy? I believe they might. But on the other hand, I’m even more glad they speak out; as Kaiser notes, such high-brow journals as The New York Times and Financial Times are lavishing the Meritocracy Gang with precious space on their opinion pages. They have to be counteracted. But I agree, they should be counteracted with nuance. The argument needs to be made that democracy is not one-size-fits-all, and that it comes with a great many flaws and pitfalls. I have always made the case that those advocating Western-style democracy for China are barking up the wrong tree. China will have to find its own path to a more representative government, it cannot be imposed on them. My own hope is for continuing reforms that make China more democratic which in turn leads to greater rule of law and checks and balances. We keep seeing glimmers of hope, but these are frequently dashed as the CCP appears more determined than ever to hold on to what they’ve got. I see no significant changes happening anytime soon.

You can find a spirited Peking Duck thread on the meritocracy argument here.

Finally, today in the NY Times we find an excellent response to the Meritocracy vs. Democracy debates that pretty well smashes the myth of China’s being a meritocratic system, now or in the past. Its author has impeccable credentials.

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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: 171 Comments

This is a great post, Richard (and Kaiser), and pretty much nails the core condition facing China and America.

A form a government is not a normative good, in and of itself–a form of government is merely a means to achieve what society holds as “good”.

Meritocracy/technocracy, democracy, autocracy, theocracy–all of these are morally neutral; it is how well they can achieve the legitimate aspirations of their constituents (no matter what they might be) that makes them good or bad.

This is why some Chinese officials I know get frustrated with Chinese dissidents–it is not because they seek to destabilize the Chinese state, but because they don’t offer methods of fulfilling the aspirations of the Chinese people around them. The disconnect between what the Chinese people want and what the Chinese people currently have will not magically go away if they can suddenly cast votes every four years or utilize a knockoff of the American judicial system. But the people I’ve spoken to also know that this disconnect can’t be bridged by a technocrat-Leninist hybrid Party, either.

One thing we’ve talked at length about is how the actual solution is a non-solution: for the government to finally say to the people “here’s what we can’t do.” Such a move, no doubt, would be the greatest risk any Chinese politician has ever taken, but in China’s current fiscal and social situation, it is by far the best move China can make on its domestic chessboard. Only by setting expectations in an honest manner, can the government seek to rebuild its legitimacy; this would be true no matter what form a potential Chinese government ends up taking.

November 15, 2012 @ 6:52 am | Comment

“One thing we’ve talked at length about is how the actual solution is a non-solution: for the government to finally say to the people “here’s what we can’t do.””

Is this related to the concept of the party “relinquishing power” (让权) as described in the Gongjian (攻坚) proposal? (Sorry for the name-dropping but I felt it was necessary here to get to the concepts discussed)

November 15, 2012 @ 8:55 am | Comment

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November 15, 2012 @ 9:21 am | Pingback

Kuo’s complaints sound logically peculiar to say the least (though not uncommon in the context of Sino-commentary), and once again they appear to nest themselves on one a side one can only regard as slightly favorable to the PRC. If the primary concern is that political comments promoted in the PRC, for Jiang and Bell have received ample media attention in China, in support of the PRC’s political apparatus (or a future governing arrangement more richly pervaded by traditional Chinese culture not opposed to PRC designs) only serve to make the differences “more starkly binary”, that is merely an unfortunate state of affairs. The political equivalence of shooting oneself in the foot. It is almost entirely irrelevant to everyone else. Is there a sudden rash of people who “in reading these take-downs of the largely execrable positions staked out by Bell, Li and Zhang people conclude that the alternative must be political pluralism along American lines”? Are there those who base their general support for democracy on the flaws inherent to Bell, Li, and Zhang’s work? Please. This comes across as an elaborate conceit.

Critiques of US-style democracy abound in publications throughout the world. It’s remarkably difficult to believe we’ll simply forget about such criticisms due to the mindless ramblings of a few political hacks. The idea that it should play a role in our assessment of China’s political system may be unavoidable, but it will always lack conviction, particularly when so many other democratic governments do not display features and results present in the US.

t_co

‘A form a government is not a normative good, in and of itself–a form of government is merely a means to achieve what society holds as “good”.’

This has perhaps too easily become a common refrain. I’m going to disagree for the sake of argument.

A form of government is a practice (discursive and somatic), with conventional restrictions in place which often appear akin to ritual. A practice can be a good in itself insofar as it is normative, but to understand this you must leave aside the unnecessary distinction between “being a good” and being “a means to achieve a good”. A practice is normative insofar as it provides stability non-coercive in origin and application, expressed in the framework of channels for the reconciliation of differences, the transmission of information, and the lawful redress of grievances. This is a good in itself and will contribute to further goods provided for its society.

November 15, 2012 @ 10:35 am | Comment

Just to be first: Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli. Xi is chairman of military commission.

November 15, 2012 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Thanks WKL.

At first glance, the big difference here is how many of them are slated for retirement in 2017. That’ll reduce their clout vis a vis Xi/Li. Not going to comment on how this will impact the reform project.

Also, now that the names are out, I’ll be finishing that guest post I promised Richard a while back. Sorry for the delay there.

November 15, 2012 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

The straw flew thick-and-fast in that Kaiser Kuo piece – a piece which was, put simply, far from excellent and more a very transparent attempt at triangulation. None of the counters to Bell/Jiang that I read were self-congratulatory, instead their target was Bell/Jiang’s hapless suggested model and febrile analysis of China’s current system.

Richard, what exactly is “Western style” democracy and how does it differ from the common-or-garden variety? Is Taiwan’s system of government a “Western style democracy”? Japan’s? Korea’s? India’s? If it is, are you really saying that China is incapable of achieving the same thing that these countries have achieved? This would be odd if it was the case, particularly given the fact that Taiwan’s present system of government is a heavily modified version of the system in place in mainland China pre-1949.

Triangulation (“Bell/Jiang are idiots but I can’t agree too much with their critics so let’s find a middle position that appeals to both sides”), equivocation, and message ‘tweaking’ are depressingly common in the Beijing commentariat, who seem incapable of calling a spade a spade.

In case you missed the news today: China is a dictatorship. If you believe this is a problem, then a process of democratic reform is the answer. No amount of ‘nuance’ will change this.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

In case you missed the news today: China is a dictatorship. If you believe this is a problem, then a process of democratic reform is the answer. No amount of ‘nuance’ will change this.

To quote Reagan… there you go again.

What, in your mind, constitutes democratic reform? Singing platitudes like this can win internet debates, FOARP, but it’s not helpful in terms of creating actionable policy. I know you’d like to avoid the details–who doesn’t–but the problem with a pure “democratic reform = panacea” position is that the details are especially deadly to it, far more so than to any position which allows a bit of flexibility and nuance.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:13 pm | Comment

The other thing, FOARP, is that no, Taiwan is not “western-style democracy”, nor is Japan, nor is India, nor is Korea. Nor is the United States, in fact; the United States is a Presidential/bicameral system as opposed to an English parliamentary system as opposed to Germany’s federal system as opposed to France’s…

Western-style democracy is a phantom, a figment of the punditocratic imagination, invoked by both sides of this sorry war of platitudes. What China really needs is a model unique to its own set of developmental challenges instead of a government that looks good to other people.

If you look at the examples, indeed, you cited of democracy, you’ll find that the only common denominator is that the people of each country were able to adapt the ideology to fit their country.

Japan, for example, turned what was supposed to be a very democratic post-war constitution into a construction-industrial-bureaucratic state with a single-party tenure matched only by Mexico’s PRI and the Chinese and Soviet Communist Parties. And for the most part, it accomplished Japan’s mission of emerging from the ashes of World War 2 into becoming an economic superpower.

Korea did the same, and even massacred their own students to keep the export-oriented single-party chaebol-state going. In the end, they didn’t really loosen that system up until the entire country went bankrupt in 1997.

India, on the other hand, took a stupid approach to democracy, seeking to pursue a purity of means over a purity of ends, and winding up with a state that most Indians themselves admit is as dysfunctional as their brethren to the northeast.

Even the United States adapted what was originally a very loosely federalist, agriculture (and slavery) focused constitution into a strongly centralized government that encouraged industrial development with sky-high tariffs and mandatory non-slave labor (as well as state policy giving land away to industrial and railroad companies). The US paid out 620,000 lives in a Civil War to get from point A to B.

My point is, China will not get rich and powerful chasing the mirage of a “Western democratic model”. China will only maximize its national potential by adopting a model with that sole aim. Pursuing any other model because it “sounds nice” is an approach doomed to failure. Only by remaining focused on selecting the best model to win China’s place in the sun, can China really get where it needs to be.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:32 pm | Comment

Here’s an idea: criticize the American system, without ever mentioning the CCP; criticize the CCP system, without ever mentioning the words “American-style”. Both can be done, and rather easily. Why? Because the CCP and “American-style” could not be more different. And disgust for one does not require affinity for the other. This should be lesson number one for apologists like Bell and Li. What they offer is no more than an elaborate tu quoque, and no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig, it’s still a logical fallacy.

If we accept that government is a means to an end, at some point there still needs to be a judgment as to what would constitute a desirable end. And who makes that judgment? To me, the answer is clear. And once there is clarity as to who is best suited to determine the desirable ends, it becomes equally clear as to who should determine the means.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:37 pm | Comment

Put more bluntly, everything is a “means” to an end, and for China, the only end that matters is creating a unified bloc of 1.5 billion souls with a $20,000+ GDP per capita, ensconced in a safe, pliant Chinese sphere of influence, clearly ascendant over the rest of the world in technology and military prowess.

Every governance tool that can get China there is legitimate. Every tool that hinders China from getting there is to be discarded.

This, overwhelmingly, is the consensus within China’s elites today.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:39 pm | Comment

Ultimately, this is my argument with Mao, as well… Mao had it backwards: a nation is not a blank canvas for an ideology; an ideology is a lump of steel, to be shaped, forged, and hammered into the best of tools for a nation to utilize.

November 15, 2012 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

What, in your mind, constitutes democratic reform?

How about starting by making the courts independent and centrally funded?

November 15, 2012 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

To T-Co,
“the only end that matters is creating a unified bloc of 1.5 billion souls with a $20,000+ GDP per capita, ensconced in a safe, pliant Chinese sphere of influence, clearly ascendant over the rest of the world in technology and military prowess.”
—who says this is “the only end that matters”? This is precisely why I phrased it the way I did. Sure, this might be ONE of the ends that SOME people desire. But are you seriously trying to tell me that this is the ONLY end that EVERYONE IN CHINA desires? The point is that, in a country of 1.5 billion (or more to the point, precisely because there are 1.5 billion), there will be competing priorities. “democratic reform” is something that creates a landscape whereby those priorities actually get to compete, as opposed to the status quo where the CCP’s priorities carry the day, every day.

November 15, 2012 @ 4:30 pm | Comment

Cheung, that’s what nationalism is about – it’s greatness for the sake of greatness. Of course, most people aren’t nationalists (either not in the first place, or not at all). Most people want a good life, and have varying definitions of what that is. People who want to shape, forge, and hammer an ideology into the best of tools for a nation to utilize haven’t succeeded to date. I think the desire to do that kind of thing indicates a lot of existing misery, and has lots of potential to lead to further misery.

November 15, 2012 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

“the only end that matters is creating a unified bloc of 1.5 billion souls with a $20,000+ GDP per capita, ensconced in a safe, pliant Chinese sphere of influence, clearly ascendant over the rest of the world in technology and military prowess.”

Won’t happen. Sounds too much like 1930s Japan (just add “Co-prosperity”) for my taste…not to mention the preferences of the hundreds of millions of people who don’t want to be that “pliant sphere”.

November 15, 2012 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

On the OP, I’m with FOARP here. For any soul-searching the US/West needs right now (certainly plenty) there is simply no need to turn to the compromised hack scholars (Bell), pining Marxists (Jacques) and outright PRC shills (Eric X Li) for inspiration. This thread only exists because these guys failed at their mission and were widely called on it.

November 15, 2012 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

Going along with Foarp and slim. The idea that “we” (whoever that is) need to improve because there’s China, is stupid in itself, because China is the contrary of a model, and basically just an emotion driver.

When something is broken, it needs to be fixed. The “China dimension” in such a debate may create the hot air media articles fly on, and create short-term attention, but it has nothing to do with the actual business of repairing things.

Besides, you’ll unnecessarily scare people when linking reforms with arguments about a dictatorship.

November 15, 2012 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

I’m not sure about the few opinion pieces mentioned above but the last two decades, as long as I remember, a lot of pundits in Western countries have been of the opinion that democracy itself leads to better economy and performance. There’s very little evidence of that. There’s also no evidence that a Leninist state can perform very well over a certain threshold.

So, those who claimed that China has to change the political system to perform as well as Western countries now have a lot of explaining to do as to why the financial crisis happened in the US and Europe, and China is still doing fine in that area (albeit with a lot of structural issues and slowing growth). And it’s for this reason that many pro-CCP people are now talking about the superiority of the China modal. This doesn’t mean I agree with Eric X. Li or any of his ideological brethren, just that some people are now getting their own medicine.

I agree with most of the things t_co is saying, but I should add a few things. Traditionally, elites in any country did changes to existing political system because they weren’t performing well in a number of areas. Liberalization came about as a result of politicians being pushed by social forces outside of their control, not because of idealism on their own part. In the same way, China is slowly changing to a future where the level of control that was previously possible no longer exists. Political reform is not going to be the result of someone thinking “hmm, multi-party system sounds like a good idea” or “we really have to let the people decide” but by someone who thinks that the current system is inhibiting performance.

November 16, 2012 @ 1:55 am | Comment

I’m glad this generated a spirited discussion. I actually tend to agree with T_co and Wukailong here, but appreciate the other viewpoints. I think this thread shows that when it comes to the Chinese government some of us really do see it only in terms of black and white; I’ve been in that camp myself but now I always strive for balance. As I said, China has to find its own path.

November 16, 2012 @ 2:28 am | Comment

So, those who claimed that China has to change the political system to perform as well as Western countries now have a lot of explaining to do as to why the financial crisis happened in the US and Europe, and China is still doing fine in that area

I’m sorry, that’s a stupid comment.

The service industry is a lot more important in the US and Europe than it is in China, so it’s not surprising that a financial crisis would hit those areas harder than China.

There is also no link between democracy and bad economic policy. North Korea and Cuba are not democracies, but they have idiots running their countries into the ground.

Also, you should ask yourself why democratic (fully or partially) countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea and Canada are doing well at the moment.

November 16, 2012 @ 2:57 am | Comment

Maybe somebody can help me out with these about Elliot’s piece “The Real China Model” in NYT.

With “princelings” — sons of China’s revolutionary heroes — likely to make up a big part of the Communist Party’s new Standing Committee, the case for meritocracy in China’s current political system is tough to make, but I will leave this question to students of modern Chinese politics.

Out of the top 7 in PSC, other than Xi, who else is a princeling? Yu Zhengsheng? Sure, his revolutionary father who had an interesting life including being Jiang Qing’s boyfriend, but his father died 1958, many “purges”, revolutions, movements, and reforms ago. You may just well point at him also being the great great grandson of Zeng Guofan, or having family link to Chiang Ching-Kuo.

This is certainly a whole lot more comfortable as far as the narrative goes compared to say the 2000 US presidential election, i.e. the son of a former president against the son of a former Congressman. Actually there was nothing wrong with that… but you can see how fact-free this silly “princelings taking over China” narrative is.

We know that in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), for instance, merchants’ sons were not allowed to take the examinations at all

Actually no. For the most part, merchants’ sons were allowed if the merchants acquired properties and settled their permanent residencies (huji).

Benjamin Elman, a scholar from Princeton University, has decisively shown, “the content of the civil service competition clearly excluded over 90 percent of China’s people from even the first step on the ladder to success.”

Elman wrote that in 1991, and quite frankly I am very unimpressed by how he came up with that conclusion. It probably deserves a long discussion… The problem with the narratives of 10% vs 90%, or 1% vs 99%, or 53% vs 47%, is that they don’t tell you how socially mobile between the advantageous groups, and the disadvantageous ones. For anything older than a few generations, it’s near impossible to conduct a scientifically sound research on the social mobility aspect, so you end up having historical researches to prove whatever viewpoints the researchers want to convey.

In China permanent urban families are fairly new — almost everybody has a rural hometown to go back to and find his/her root. Most families have their genealogical books that go back hundreds of years, and some even thousands of years. One remarkable thing is all of these genealogical books I know of record some former glories, some fairly recent and some going further back. My take is that despite all the “princeling party” talk, it’s far more deeply ingrained in the Chinese psyche that if one does all the right things and teaches his/her children so, s/he and his/her progeny can rise to the top.

November 16, 2012 @ 3:01 am | Comment

just that some people are now getting their own medicine

That’s the hot air I was referring to. Raj pointed to the dictatorships which don’t do fine at all. Let me point to a democracy which is doing “fine”, for example – that would be Germany, my country. According to conventional wisdom, anyway, and in the light of what is being discussed here. Our position vis-a-vis southern Europe is not so different from China’s vis-a-vis America or the EU as a whole. I recommend this post by Michael Pettis from last year. It shows that the “strengths and weaknesses” aren’t as easy to attribute as some feuilletons like to suggest, and certainly not along the lines of democracy and dictatorship.

Some aspects in addition: China’s provincial investment companies reportedly went deeply into the red for the “stimulus programs” in 2008/09 (between 4 and 11 billion Yuan, probably), and the banks continue to misallocate funding to cover, rather than to address structural issues. That’s something that Germany didn’t need to do to avoid calamities. In a country with high individual savings and a generally high living standard, there’s room for adjustments without too much pain. But I attribute that comparatively bearable situation to strongly-organized collective bargaining partners, not to our democracy (and I cherish democracy for completely different reasons.) And our advantages won’t spare us further fitness programs: as we will need to do our share to rebuild southern Europe (as we also did our share in flattening them during the previous decade), we’ll have to live with still lower real incomes, probably with stimulus programs of our own, and to make sure that we succeed even more than now on markets outside Euroland (there won’t be growing export opportunities within).

With every twist and turn in this saga (and I’m sure it’s far from over), either Weltanschauung faction can applaud their champion, Gordon Chang, Eric Li, Shaun Rein, you name them. You may even have opportunities to switch from gloom to glee and vice versa within weeks. May those to whom it means so much enjoy the turns – there will be little else to enjoy.

But I prefer to address issues. That would be my advice to my own country, and to everyone’s.

November 16, 2012 @ 5:06 am | Comment

I agree with JXie that any accusation of nepotism needs to be supported by a more proximate link than a couple of generations or 50+ years removed.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with a competent person climbing the ladder who happens to have relatives in high places. Problems arise when a numb-nut climbs the ladder only by virtue of having relatives in high places.

The problem with CCP meritocracy isn’t borne out of who is being deemed of merit; it’s with how those determinations are made, and who makes them.

November 16, 2012 @ 5:22 am | Comment

“Most families have their genealogical books that go back hundreds of years, and some even thousands of years”.

Are you sure after the disasters of the 20th century?

Anyway, it is this sick obsession with reproducing the family line which has given rise to the male-female imbalance and the bare twig syndrome.

http://www.prolife.ie/prolife/163-million-missing-girls

Apol. Couldn’t find the exact link, but it is a lively debate.

A second Taiping Rebellion anyone?

November 16, 2012 @ 5:27 am | Comment

“Western-style democracy is a phantom, a figment of the punditocratic imagination…”
If you read these pundits, western style democracy means, in general, US style. The “West” is generally held to be America. Even “America” is the 50 states that form the US – Canada et al are America too but the US is America, if you get my drift. Ergo, according to pundits, in black and white terms, democracy is the US system and that is the mental visualisation of the concept. The fact that there are other forms is neither here nor there. There are other cuisines but ask someone for a western food (especially, it seems, in China) and it’s not coquilles St Jacques, Cornish pasties or goulasch with spatzle which get mentioned, is it? Heck, even pizza isn’t.

November 16, 2012 @ 5:43 am | Comment

@Raj: “Also, you should ask yourself why democratic (fully or partially) countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea and Canada are doing well at the moment.”

You have to separate what I think from what I mention as being a common argument (maybe I wasn’t making that clear?). I personally don’t believe the financial crisis was caused by democracy, but ultimately, each system is going to have a certain amount of “capital” and whatever the US does influences the capital of democracy as a system.

Personally, too, I don’t think the US system is in any way synonymous with democracy as such, but a lot of people do see it as the model. That’s why we’re seeing all these comparisons between China and the US.

November 16, 2012 @ 6:14 am | Comment

@justrecently: “Our position vis-a-vis southern Europe is not so different from China’s vis-a-vis America or the EU as a whole. I recommend this post by Michael Pettis from last year. It shows that the “strengths and weaknesses” aren’t as easy to attribute as some feuilletons like to suggest, and certainly not along the lines of democracy and dictatorship.”

Sounds similar to my country, Sweden, which is doing fine.

I agree about this not having much to do with democracy/dictatorship. Each country’s problems should be addressed “as is” rather than looking specifically at whether it’s a democracy or not. But that’s exactly what hasn’t been happening with China – I don’t know how many times I’ve heard (in the past, not now) that China’s economic and social problems are due to it not being a democracy.

The argument works both ways – you can find dysfunctional dictatorships just as you can find dysfunctional democracies. I usually would point to Burma and North Korea when people say that a one-party system in general is better.

November 16, 2012 @ 6:19 am | Comment

(maybe I wasn’t making that clear?)

No, you weren’t making that clear – in any respect.

November 16, 2012 @ 6:51 am | Comment

OK, looking over what I wrote, it looks indeed fairly hazy as to what is my own opinion. Sorry about that.

November 16, 2012 @ 7:42 am | Comment

@KT,

Are you sure after the disasters of the 20th century?

Yes. Typically a ZuPu is maintained by several leading families, which serves a sort of Disaster Recovery purpose. I have yet to run across a case that a Zupu is broken by the recent wars or the Cultural Revolution (simultaneously destroyed in all Zupu-maintaining families).

What made you think I wouldn’t be sure? Unlike say slim or Raj, at times you actually have interesting and intelligent though mostly quirky things to say. Your problem is that you don’t seem to understand we’re all limited by our previous experience and knowledge. Why wouldn’t your reaction be, “hmm that SOB is a Chinese so he probably knows better than I do on this since his name would probably show up 2 to even 4 ZuPu.”

Or, “why Chinese even invented paper if they didn’t have the urge to write a lot? Even I don’t know much about Chinese literary, the others should know better than I do…”

[163 million missing girls in the world]

If using the zeal of number inflation when discuss how many Chinese Mao was supposed to have killed, the number of missing girls should’ve been at quadrillions by now. But I digress.

For your reading pleasure: Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women.

November 16, 2012 @ 8:04 am | Comment

@Handler “A form of government is a practice (discursive and somatic), with conventional restrictions in place which often appear akin to ritual. A practice can be a good in itself insofar as it is normative, but to understand this you must leave aside the unnecessary distinction between “being a good” and being “a means to achieve a good”. A practice is normative insofar as it provides stability non-coercive in origin and application, expressed in the framework of channels for the reconciliation of differences, the transmission of information, and the lawful redress of grievances. This is a good in itself and will contribute to further goods provided for its society.”

But isn’t this the same as saying that those practices that engender “goods” are good in themselves? Is there any “practice that is good in itself” but fails to contribute to further goods? If there is, doesn’t the real normative judgment become “What is more important”–the inherent aesthetic or philosophical appeal (I’m thinking Communist ideology in certain aspects) or its actual implementation (Leninist incarnations)? Also, as the practice of states, what government is “non-coercive” in application? Doesn’t the monopolization of coercion define state authority?

November 16, 2012 @ 10:09 am | Comment

@jxie. As I actually worked in the transmissible diseases area for many years I enjoyed the recommended read, but experienced a brain meltdown when I came to the covariant math-type thingies.

Now if a Chinese Family Book is similar to that maintained by South Korean families, there will be numerous instances of faked entries when calamitous events left a generational gap to be filled.

What if one belongs to the great unwashed or a non-leading family?

This is all about maintaining the rotten Confucian model of the family: a notion should be destroyed with prejudice.

Re: the term SOB. When I think of SOB individuals or races, Poland with its cloying catholicism always comes to mind rather than China.

November 16, 2012 @ 11:41 am | Comment

xsc

“But isn’t this the same as saying that those practices that engender “goods” are good in themselves? Is there any “practice that is good in itself” but fails to contribute to further goods?”

To answer your first question: clearly not. The genocide of an ethnic population may lead to lasting peace inside a nation, but that does not mean the practice is a good. Likewise, the violent overthrow of an elected official may lead to improved living conditions for the surviving populace, but that would not make the practice of violent revolution a good in itself. To answer your second question: no. Kaka can come from good people but not from good practices, which is a primary justification for the importance of ritual. It gets a little more complicated when we ask if a good practice done poorly can lead to bad practices, and I’d rather not wade into that depth.

“Also, as the practice of states, what government is “non-coercive” in application?”

I might glibly recommend the “large red banner test”, but of course we must acknowledge degrees and departments, delays and distractions. Generally speaking, if force or the threat of force is needed to keep statutes in place, that government may be said to be demonstrably coercive. If the repeal of a statute might be accomplished by civil means, even with a delay for the voting out of an official responsible for that policy, little coercion if any is practiced. Are you asking me to name a state government or simply a form of government?

Doesn’t the monopolization of coercion define state authority?

State authority? Largely. Government? No.

Richard

“I think this thread shows that when it comes to the Chinese government some of us really do see it only in terms of black and white; I’ve been in that camp myself but now I always strive for balance.”

Actually, I think this is another instance of the conceit I cited above in reference to Kuo, and like a conceit it amounts to little more than mannerism today. There is a long and rather tawdry lineage of bloggers who assume the mantle of being more balanced (simply an abused word) and treating China more “fairly” after claiming to have initially been reactionary. Perhaps the apex of this perversion was the now defunct “China/Divide”, where puerile glee in picking apart dull and ignorant journalists deftly accompanied convenient accusations of bias and its trailing twin racism, all in the service of balance. I believe you’ve always been far more honest than that, Richard, but that nebulous “balance” still somehow appeals.

To comment on how China unapologetically defines itself, through practice or officially acceptable ideals, does not mean to see China in black and white. If the PRC government allows for the promotion of certain political ideas while suppressing a multitude of others, it defines what is acceptable to its worldview. The difference between Charter 08 and Jiang et al. is that the party regards the latter set as a compatible peripheral to its current form, a buffer conceptualization of their rule. I fail to see what this has to do with America or democracy other than Jiang and friends’ use of them as a foil.

t_co’s argument is clearly inadequate for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is impossible to imagine a democracy that isn’t adapted to local conditions, given that it requires the participation of a specific populace, in all of its peculiarities and previous disposition. The adaptability of the concept has never been an indication that it is merely a tissue of that nation’s peculiarities and previous disposition. In each and every case, components of democratic empowerment are readily recognizable to those operating in other forms, i.e. the practice of democracy is translatable. Where are the translatable components in Chinese governance now? How are such components bolstered by state intervention in the media and courts?

Also, democracy doesn’t just “sound nice”. It is a form of governance which encourages participation in decision-making as a definition of responsibilities. It is the only form of governance currently in existence which has *built-in* as well as statutory protections for individuals, which offers through mere existence as a citizen a modicum of protection against the presumptions and abuses of one’s neighbors and superiors. It is also the only form of governance that can be legitimately said to encourage the establishment of statutes, and enjoin support for them, through rational persuasion, though unfortunately it has correctly been argued this is not a necessary component of democracy.

Where t_co says China should get where it needs to be, he of course means where he would like it to be, disregarding trade-offs the population will simply have to accept (though t_co won’t, apparently). Because ultimately with this perspective, people too are simply a means to an end. Somebody really should investigate the psychological creator effect, otherwise known as the Marvin Gaye Piece of Clay effect, the rise of China has had on certain overseas Chinese.

jxie

“Elman wrote that in 1991, and quite frankly I am very unimpressed by how he came up with that conclusion. It probably deserves a long discussion… The problem with the narratives of 10% vs 90%, or 1% vs 99%, or 53% vs 47%, is that they don’t tell you how socially mobile between the advantageous groups, and the disadvantageous ones”

I haven’t read Elman’s account, but it must take into account rates of literacy in Chinese dynasties. Most of those are still based on Evelyn Rawski’s work (on the Qing) dating all the way back to 1979, which has been criticized repeatedly for being too optimistic. In her account roughly 16-27% of the populace was “literate”. Of course literacy in China has always been excessively optimistic: even the capacity for an individual to write his name was not long ago taken as proof of literacy. So the question is how much of this “literate” set could read and write sufficiently well, and also have sufficient depth of reading in key texts, to give them any chance at passing the civil service exams. Elman’s number seems conservative to me.

November 16, 2012 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

FYI, if you read Xi’s recent remarks, you’ll see that it is refreshingly clear of ideology and focused on pursuing the same Chinese renaissance we spoke about earlier.

This is going to be the path of China for the next 10 years–a non-ideological, anything-goes hunt for the model that can propel China into assuming its logical place in the world, and giving the Chinese people the prosperity and stability they deserve.

November 16, 2012 @ 4:20 pm | Comment

@Handler, thanks.

I think I agree. Still, I can’t think of a single major world institution/government that was not brought about by a “not-so-good” practice or process.

BTW, what’s the psychological creator effect, if you feel like explaining? Cheers

November 16, 2012 @ 4:56 pm | Comment

@Handler. Re: your characterization of China/Divide. Don’t recall seeing your commenting presence there, and I inflicted a regular dose of my drivel in the comments section soon after it was launched. It was a far more off the wall site than this could ever hope to be.

Kai Pan, Custer and Stan ran a pretty interesting ship and a lot of folk had great commenting fun….fun rather than duty being the key word. CD was also far less US-China bipolar than this site. You’re probably bitter about CD because you got voted down whenever you had the (occasional) courage to offer an opinion.

November 16, 2012 @ 5:55 pm | Comment

Tubby

No, I stumbled onto the website after a hiatus from all things China. I recall being at least a few months removed from the final comment posted for every article I found noteworthy. Not that it would matter considering how terrified I was.

Interesting may very well be the death rattle of graduate programs, but I’ll admit that my sample size for C/D was restricted and those guys have apparently moved on to decent things. Still, the discussion I came across there seemed unduly colored by insinuations that XXX is a racist, fallacy hunting, and preset umbrage mechanisms kicking in. All in the name of balance, of course. Certainly more lively than the Duck if that’s your thing or you have many things.

November 16, 2012 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

A gang of thieves and their army are in your house.

Now we are going to trust those thieves (with supporting army) to make sure that none of their members steal any of your stuff.

Am I missing something?

Greed and abuse of power. They’re human nature. And, in this case, also entrenched political culture.

Of course the next logical step is that those same men are going to put into place effective checks and balances and an independent rule of law.

LMAO! Wave that flag baby!

It’s communism….Gangnam style!

November 17, 2012 @ 12:33 am | Comment

Hu Jintao did good in stepping down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Read and heard in a few places that it was a matter of principle for him too. Xi Jinping starts with a clean slate, and those men of Jiang’s on the PSC will not be able to curtail him as easily as they previously did to Hu Jintao. Ultimately, this is a big message to Jiang Zemin (bloody old scoundrel) and other elders – lay off future political meddling.

Hu Yaobang chose right.

November 17, 2012 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Richard, I think this is your blog’s finest hour (at 5:13 am). Tears of emotion streamed across my face when reading how the noble meritocrats in Zhongnanhai sent a big message to Jiang Zemin, and were all of one mind (with Hu Yaobang somehow on their mind).

November 17, 2012 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

It seems that a lot of the criticism of Western (US) style democracy has to do more with its being so messy and chaotic rather than being in disagreement with it’s ideals. The pro-China writers seem wedded to the idea of a government that runs smoothly and efficiently without protests or dissension. Everyone goes about their lives and work confident that those in power are acting in their best interests and the best interests of the country. The turmoil and raw emotion they see in US politics scares the hell out of them. What critics of the US fail to understand in that this is actually a feature, not a flaw. And, yes, Americans do take an overwheening, stubborn pride – even arrogance – it this.

The debates on the merits of the various forms of government are interesting on an intellectual level, in the real world that all have serious flaws. Least of which is all depend to varying degrees on the character of the people in power. From time to time, the people on each side line up for a good old fashioned throwing of brickbats – and both sides go away assuring themselves of having the moral high ground.

I have a cynical view of any form of governance, and an even deeper cynical view of those in power in those systems. And that applies to my own country and especially it’s political class.

November 18, 2012 @ 12:42 am | Comment

Yes, JR, that was a heckuva a comment. T. Low is a certified troll.

What goju said is quite right. And that is why this blog may seem, as KT said above, “bipolar.” It is bipolar. I a equivocal and ambivalent and I apologize to readers like FOARP and Handler, who make valid points, for my vacillations. I’ve been caught in this equivocal pattern for five years now. That’s because in so many ways the CCP has been an effective government, at least along certain lines, and that can’t be left out of the equation. And there’s so much about various forms of democracy that I find execrable. Every time the US government process fucks up, as it’s fucked up so spectacularly throughout the gridlock of the current administration, it diminishes the argument I make about how bad China’s system is. At least they aren’t sending out unmanned drones to police the world. I remember just two weeks ago when Iran fired at a drone and the GOP went into a tizzy, banging the drums for war ever louder. And I imagined how we would react to an unmanned Iranian drone flying 100 miles off the coast of New York City. And I do think much of the discussion over China’s government is one-sided, on both sides.

The CCP is capable of incredible badness and there is so much about it I detest. But there is much more to the story, and I believe the public, as our infamous Pew survey claims, trust their government more than any other institution. That makes total sense, seeing the improvement the government has made in boosting GDP and elevating so many from poverty. Of course there is also the very dark side of that, especially corruption and repression and gross miscarriages of justice. This is why I so often preface my negative posts with disclaimers about the good the CCP has done, or how the US is often guilty of similar injustices. My biggest beef is with the absence of rule of law in China, and checks and balances. Therein lies the yawning difference between the two systems, and while China is improving, especially in more developed geographies, the transition is much too slow and far too many people are victims of an inefficient, unjust and unfair system. I wish the story could be told in a way that reflects these flaws while acknowledging the fact that the imposition of democracy, while being a wonderful step, is not a panacea, as we see in India and Russia. I think Kaiser makes a valid point about the dangers of the argument being framed in a way that China has only two choices, both sides failing to take into account the badness and the goodness of the current system. I realize I leave myself open to attack for referring to the good of the CCP (and as I always argue, there is more than one CCP, and many in the party want only what they see as the best for its people) as well as the bad, but there are many nuances to what the party is and what it does, just as there are lots of holes in the American system, the main saving grace of which is freedom of speech and a generally effective rule of law, which are closely intertwined with one another. Sorry if that’s a messy argument, but it’s a messy topic.

November 18, 2012 @ 1:08 am | Comment

If Iran were flying drones 100 miles off New York, the US would send interceptors and shadow the plane. As we did with Soviet Bearcat bombers, subs and surface ships – some of which carried nuclear weapons. Shooting at that plane was an act of war. The GOP was not calling for war, it was asking why the hell the President had not even proffered a stern verbal response. The US is entirely within its rights to fly its planes in international airspace unmolested.

One of the things I have learned from this site is that any acknowledgement that one side or the other is not completely wrong and/or evil results in name calling and outrage. Being in the middle just means being a convenient target for all sides.

Richard, it is to your credit that you question your own beliefs. Only fools and fanatics are always sure of their beliefs.

November 18, 2012 @ 2:46 am | Comment

Thanks Goju. There were some Republican nuts who did see Iran shooting at the drone as an act of war; I heard at least one on Fox News. I’ve learned to block them out. I do wonder how we would react if there were an unarmed drone flying in international airspace 100 miles off the coast of Manhattan (let alone assassinating US leaders on the ground who the Iranians claimed were a life-endangering threat). I think we would apply the Monroe doctrine; we wouldn’t stand for it. But that discussion will take us way, way off topic. It was simply an example of America doing questionable things , and I think our use of drones is questionable — not necessarily totally wrong, but at least questionable.

November 18, 2012 @ 3:02 am | Comment

“Being in the middle just means being a convenient target for all sides.”

The story of my life!

November 18, 2012 @ 5:14 am | Comment

Seeing the good and the bad, and recognizing them as such and accordingly, is not a problem at all. The problem arises when the good is used to justify the bad. It’s a variant of tu-quoque that’s used with nauseating frequency. Richard acknowledges the good while calling out the bad, which is no problem at all. But people at times can drift towards being less particular about the particulars.

November 18, 2012 @ 9:18 am | Comment

Seeing the good and the bad, and recognizing them as such and accordingly, is not a problem at all. The problem arises when the good is used to justify the bad. It’s a variant of tu-quoque that’s used with nauseating frequency. Richard acknowledges the good while calling out the bad, which is no problem at all. But people at times can drift towards being less particular about the particulars.

This. Some people seem to think that maintaining the holistic status quo of China is the only way China could have accomplished what it did; these people then go on to think that maintaining a majority of the Chinese system is the only way China can go on to achieve what it can. This is a fallacy…

November 18, 2012 @ 9:30 am | Comment

“It seems that a lot of the criticism of Western (US) style democracy has to do more with its being so messy and chaotic rather than being in disagreement with it’s ideals. The pro-China writers seem wedded to the idea of a government that runs smoothly and efficiently without protests or dissension. Everyone goes about their lives and work confident that those in power are acting in their best interests and the best interests of the country. The turmoil and raw emotion they see in US politics scares the hell out of them. What critics of the US fail to understand in that this is actually a feature, not a flaw. And, yes, Americans do take an overwheening, stubborn pride – even arrogance – it this.”

True. And this attitude toward things unkept buttresses the PRC’s obsession with “stability” as a requirement for development, whether economic or cultural. Yet every day wrecking crews have to demolish large communities in the PRC, whose cities sure seem chaotic today; while individual cities of cultural lodestar Renaissance Italy, with few populations in excess of 60000, witnessed 4 to 5 murders every 24 hours (in addition to the wars which were continuously being waged between states).

Actually, though, I observe a great deal of animosity toward the ideals of democracy among the pro-China set, and I don’t think it’s just a matter of propaganda or strictly directed at democracy’s messiness. The source, as I see it, is a strong anti-populist streak, cured (like bacon) variously in Leninist strongman ideals, earnest republicanism, and insistent cultural distinction, the last of which is often expressed through the thoroughly misguided belief of a greater Asian stress on “competency”. Straight-up arrogance could, of course, conceivably be a part of all of these.

Richard

Let me get this out of the way first:

“I think Kaiser makes a valid point about the dangers of the argument being framed in a way that China has only two choices, both sides failing to take into account the badness and the goodness of the current system.”

I still don’t see any proof of this. I don’t think Kaiser has a valid reason for his expressed concern; I think it is an affectation. Stepping into a field characterized by a diverse distribution of opinion and claiming “the middle ground” is generally asinine, indicative of 2 dimensional thought. However, a special part of the donkey is reserved for those who actually step into an adjacent field and say the same thing.

That said, you certainly owe me no apology. I think I understand the perspective you have, and I hope you don’t mind me appropriating the terms of your self-reflection from time to time. As I said, it is my impression that you are a very honest person. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to abuse the privilege. Especially since that is Tubby’s job.

November 18, 2012 @ 9:41 am | Comment

If the 5.13 am comment elicited tears of emotion, the 4.02 pm comment certainly aroused hearty laughter and cemented the opinion why there are some folks in the world who will just “never get it”, and will live their entire lives under that frustration. Of course, the only way people like these get relief is to come to a blog to get soothed and comforted by several birds of the same feather.

At least the person making the 1.08 am comment is slowly becoming more realistic and sensible (albeit in a teeny weeny way, but then, better then no improvement).

November 18, 2012 @ 10:45 am | Comment

Richard, the whole drone thing is a post in itself. If you’re interested in the law about it I would suggest the Volokh.com site. Several of the writers had quite a long and intense discussion. Just search the archives

Oh yeah, bring a legal distionary cuz these are some high level legal players.

November 18, 2012 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

Basically, there’s something called ‘form superstition’, that is, a unthinking and rigid adherence to form without attempting to understand the content or the reason behind the form.

A lot people say ‘If your fridge has a door, then it’s not a fridge, it’s a fake fridge, I won’t buy it!’

Um, why?

Does that thing do the job of preserve and freeze food? If it does, then why is it so important to have a door? Does it offer you a way to retrieve the food inside? Like a lid? A conveyer belt. Teleportation? If it does, and it works for you, why do you care if it has a door or not? The only reason you care so much is cause you never spent a minute actually understanding the purpose of a fridge, you just rote memorized someone’s dogma of ‘a fridge must have a door!’. I could sell you something without any ability to preserve or freeze food, and as long as I make it look like a fridge and have a door, an unthinking idiot like you probably would think it’s a fridge and buy it.

Use your brain, don’t use dogma.

November 19, 2012 @ 2:08 am | Comment

Correction,

A lot people say ‘If your fridge has a door, then it’s not a fridge, it’s a fake fridge, I won’t buy it!’

has a door = DOES NOT have a door.

November 19, 2012 @ 2:09 am | Comment

Basically, there’s something called ‘content subluxation’, that is unthinking and convoluted content that lacks reason and form.

I have a washing machine without a flux capacitor.

November 19, 2012 @ 3:50 am | Comment

Correction,

My washing machine just took me to the Council of Trent.

My mistake, sorry.

November 19, 2012 @ 3:52 am | Comment

To 52:
that is absolutely the dumbest analogy I’ve ever heard. And you’ve said some pretty stupid stuff in your time here, so well done for actually outdoing yourself.

And if you like the CCP’s fridge so much, then why aren’t you using one?

November 19, 2012 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

@ SK

The Clock is a troll

That aside, I have a simple question: if you had to give the Xi/Li teams some concrete goals to shoot for by, say, 2017, what would you do? How would you prioritize?

They could be anything, short of direct multiparty elections at the national level.

I was thinking genuine judicial and legal independence in any court cases not involving a very specific sub-set of criminal acts (mainly because to totally do away with it would run into too much institutional friction from the current set of bureaucracy.)

I was also thinking a further relaxation on press controls, but a tightening on who can own and operate media channels in China. (Don’t control the content; control the pursestrings instead.)

An idea which is immediately actionable, and which is getting plenty of traction in China, is creating “public input forums” into the promotion review process for local officials. Basically, prior to the promotion of a local official, there would be a sort of public hearing, like an upward feedback mechanism in a company, with officials from the next higher level of CCDI and Organization Department present. They are also floating the idea of getting residents a bit of time to “meet and greet” officials about to get parachuted into local executive positions, so as to smooth the learning process on both ends.

November 19, 2012 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

Baiting the Clock is a waste of time, so lets think about Bo Xilai’s attempt to fight the power. Apparently, he is refusing to eat or shave and won’t produce the required confession, so the narrative can be bought to a conclusion. He is being a bad boy and also shouting at his interrogators.

(Expect IRA-type excrement throwing next).

At least according to the HK paper Ming Pao.

November 19, 2012 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

Baiting the Clock is a waste of time, so lets think about Bo Xilai’s attempt to fight the power. Apparently, he is refusing to eat or shave and won’t produce the required confession, so the narrative can be bought to a conclusion. He is being a bad boy and also shouting at his interrogators.

Doubt it. He knows they can always just get at his son

November 19, 2012 @ 6:31 pm | Comment

if you read Xi’s recent remarks, you’ll see that it is refreshingly clear of ideology and focused on pursuing the same Chinese renaissance we spoke about earlier

The “Chinese renaissance” in itself is a dogma. It’s what makes many people shut their face and save on a “great” future, rather than demanding happiness here and now. That’s how it is useful to a ruling class.

Can’t tell if China’s leaders themselves really believe in that renaissance, or if they are rather cynical about the concept and its use, but while most things are up in the air, I see one general rule: the more urgently and consciously people strive for something like “greatness”, the less they will be able to achieve it. If there are parallels between the life of a nation and the life of an individual person, it’s probably here. Just as people usually become loveable or respectable when they aren’t hurrying love or respect, nations become respectable when they mind real issues. That’s true at work, after hours – and for the arts. Few poets, if any, sat down and said “This year, I’ll write something that will shake the world.”

Ask anyone in China, and with likelihood, people will say that they want their country to be “great”. But that’s usually not the concern they get up with, and go to bed with. “Greatness” comes by the way, or not at all.

November 20, 2012 @ 12:22 am | Comment

To T-co,
if Xi can manage to relax media control/censorship, and allow some semblance of rule of law to percolate into the Chinese system, all within the span of five years, then his legacy will already have been unparalleled.

Here’s something else. Everyone knows people have no input in who ends up on top, or who ends up in the top 7 of the PSC. So input aside, why all the secrecy. Why not let people know who these people are, and exactly why they won the prize. And how they were more deserving of that prize compared to the schmucks who didn’t make it, based on “merit” as they say in China? Just because people have no input doesn’t mean they can’t have any knowledge of the process, however screwed up that process may be. If they’re going to sell it as a “merit”-based system, shouldn’t there be at least some justification of that perceived “merit”?

And if we’re going on transparency, then how about some financial transparency and declarations among the top dogs. So that in 10 years, we don’t have another comrade Wen story.

November 20, 2012 @ 2:19 am | Comment

[...] by Victor Shih, Christopher Adolph, and Mingxing Liu in American Political Science Review (PDF) – The unintended consequence of the “China-as-meritocracy” debates, from Peking Duck – Economic Observer podcast: China: A Meritocracy? with Daniel Bell – The Real [...]

November 20, 2012 @ 5:44 am | Pingback

[...] by Victor Shih, Christopher Adolph, and Mingxing Liu in American Political Science Review (PDF)- The unintended consequence of the “China-as-meritocracy” debates, from Peking Duck- Economic Observer podcast: China: A Meritocracy? with Daniel Bell- The Real [...]

November 20, 2012 @ 6:05 am | Pingback

That CDT link is a good read, as is the NYT link therein. “merit” in CCP parlance is just another word for guanxi. And “guanxi” is just another means and form of corruption. So if “merit”= “guanxi”, and “guanxi” = “corruption”,…then that’s one fantastic system that the CCP has going on. But really, that should surprise no one.

November 20, 2012 @ 7:25 am | Comment

Goju
It seems that a lot of the criticism of Western (US) style democracy has to do more with its being so messy and chaotic rather than being in disagreement with it’s ideals. The pro-China writers seem wedded to the idea of a government that runs smoothly and efficiently without protests or dissension.

A far stronger critique can be made based on the fact that the US is pretty much the only nation that asserts its ideology is holy and unassailable, so much that they have the right to bomb other nations (killing hundreds of thousands if not millions) in pursuit of that goal.

The reality is that democracy is an ideology with a long history of failure just like autocratic states. It certainly does not deserve the witless praise it currently ‘earns’. The problem I have is that democracy as an ideology and political system has never been proven to be a good thing. People have the tendency to mistake accidents and ongoing historical anomalies as being far more permanent than they actually are.

The bumbling nonsense about Confucian constitutions nonetheless serves to show that democracy is starting to come under more scrutiny as more and more people wake up to the fact that the whole thing is a sham that never seems to accomplish any of its childish ideals.

November 23, 2012 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

You’re once again simply arguing against the US. There is more to life (and democracy) than simply the US of A.

No one I know of has ever said that China should emulate/copy/incorporate/institute the US system.

November 23, 2012 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

Two points.

First, would you, Richard, have concluded that American democracy was defective if Gov. Romney had won? Would a 1% swing in votes change your mind about the strength and durability of the American project? Really? I think President Obama is a lousy president who will preside over another four years of recession and stagnation, but I have no doubt that he was democratically elected in a free election, and the same would have been true if Gov. Romney had won.

Two, the NYT piece certainly demonstrated that there is an extreme shortage of quality primary and secondary schools in China and that parents of means will pay up to secure their children a place in the few schools that exist.

What the NYT piece neglected to mention is that admission to college is purely meritocratic. You can’t buy your way in to Beida or Tsinghua. You can’t use connections to get into Beida or Tsinghua. You can’t bullshit your way into Beida or Tsinghua with a heart-tugging pathetic essay about all the problems you’ve overcome. The only way into Beida or Tsinghua is to score highly on the exact same test that all the other applicants are taking. Whatever its flaws, I can’t think of a more purely meritocratic college admissions sytem.

November 23, 2012 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Obama beat Romney by about 1% in the total vote count, but absolutely ate his lunch in the electoral college which is the thing that counts. It would’ve taken an incredibly strategic reversal of that 1% of the vote to have made a difference. But it does look better that he won both, as opposed to, say, GWB when he beat Gore in the college but lost the total vote count.

Whoever wins the electoral college vote wins the presidency. It would’ve been legitimate either way, had it been Obama or Romney.

Chinese college admissions is certainly based on merit…as determined on the basis of one (1) test. So Chinese colleges can certainly say that they get the students who had the best test-taking mojo on those gaokao days. That may or may not be the same as getting the best students. That’s not to say that colleges should cater to sob stories, but I think a well-rounded individual serves as a better student of higher learning than simply a test-taker.

November 24, 2012 @ 3:48 am | Comment

The problem is that any well-rounded admissions process would instantly turn into a cesspit of corruption. The gaokao is not fair or objective, but it is (relatively) bribe-proof

November 24, 2012 @ 4:44 am | Comment

That’s true. Anything holistic by nature introduces subjective elements, which can then be manipulated by nefarious means, and the corruption angle in China is of course a very real one. I agree that’s the one thing the gaokao has going for it.

November 24, 2012 @ 6:05 am | Comment

?You’re once again simply arguing against the US. There is more to life (and democracy) than simply the US of A.

No one I know of has ever said that China should emulate/copy/incorporate/institute the US system.

Nope. Almost all other democratic nations have the same fanatic delusions (India, Germany, Britain, Canada, Australia) about their systems, and the US is not the only aggressor, just the main culprit of violent political evangelism.

And there are plenty of democracies that have utterly failed, like India, the Weimar Republic, etc. The latter is particularly notable for it’s total collapse into something horrible.

November 24, 2012 @ 6:24 am | Comment

LOL. What are these “fanatic delusions”? This I would love to hear, from the deluded one himself.

If you’re claiming to not focus solely on the US, then you need to stop dredging up examples that only apply to the US. Capiche? The logic is not complicated…at least it shouldn’t be.

Indeed, there are failed democracies. Would you like a list of failed autocracies? So that argument for you goes nowhere, as usual. The point is NOT what others couldn’t do; it’s what Chinese people can do.

November 24, 2012 @ 7:17 am | Comment

Indeed, there are failed democracies. Would you like a list of failed autocracies? So that argument for you goes nowhere, as usual. The point is NOT what others couldn’t do; it’s what Chinese people can do.

Nice try, but I never said there were not failed autocracies. My point, of course, is that no one is delusional enough to claim that autocracies are stable by default. Lots of evangelists like yourself believe democracy is infallible and the “best government” that can exist. It’s not.

And yes, the point IS what others couldn’t do, because it undermines your argument that democracy is objectively better than what China has right now. You need a good reason to risk losing the gains China has made in recent decades, and so far you have exactly 0.

It’s not what 51% of Chinese people want that matters, it’s what the vast majority of Chinese people need that matters (security and economic freedom). The CCP in the last 30 years has outperformed all other governments in history.

November 24, 2012 @ 7:41 am | Comment

OK, since you’re predictably silent on it, we can hopefully dispense with your juvenile fixation with all things US when it comes to democracy.

No examples of “fanatic delusions”? That’s okay too. Although I fully expected a certifiable dude like you to be able to come up with some, since delusions should be right in your wheelhouse. You’re slipping, m’boy.

Now, when have I said “democracy is infallible”? Please, do knock yourself out and try to find even one (1) such instance. I’ll wait…

I’ve also never said “democracy is objectively better than what China has right now”. You do have an incurable penchant to argue against what someone didn’t say. But given the position you’re left to defend, I can understand that you need to do what you gotta do. What I have said is that the economic “benefit” the CCP tries to claim it provides, can be had just as easily without the CCP. So if economic performance is what is important for Chinese people, why garnish it with the albatross of authoritarianism? Again, it’s 2012, so do spare us the recap of what’s happened in the last 30 years. The point is what is the ongoing relevance of the CCP moving forward. Based on recent events, the CCP is good for some secrecy in its succession transition, and for making CCP officials and their families stinking rich…the higher the official, the stinkier. Is that something CHinese people want or need? I’d sure like to find out. As usual, you would like to return to the training offered you by the mother ship, and would like nothing to do with learning about the actual wishes of actual Chinese people, of which you are not one.

“It’s not what 51% of Chinese people want that matters, it’s what the vast majority of Chinese people need that matters (security and economic freedom).”
—LOL. Do you and your handlers listen to the garbage coming out of your mouth? I think I’d let Chinese people decide what they need for themselves. But that’s just me.

November 24, 2012 @ 10:15 am | Comment

the CCP is good for some secrecy in its succession transition, and for making CCP officials and their families stinking rich…the higher the official, the stinkier

Your definition of “stinking rich” probably needs a revision. China has relatively few billionaires per capita who own relatively little of China’s total wealth. I’ll believe the NYT’s report on Wen once they release their sources – not that it’s implausible that it’s true. 2.7 billion is not much considering the scale of graft and corruption in several democratic states.

You’ll have to explain how democracy would actually improve the situation – you can’t.

I think I’d let Chinese people decide what they need for themselves.

LOL. Do your masters have their hands that far up your gaping prolapsed rectum? I’d think I’d rather Chinese people not starve and the nation not collapse, but that’s just me.

November 24, 2012 @ 11:07 am | Comment

CM – Aristocracy is not a terrible system of government, especially when it is an aristocracy that permits some movement into it, as the current Chinese aristocracy does. The problem is whether the peasants and the middle class will accept the aristocracy as legitimate. Right now the Party is struggling to find a message, a raison d’etre, that it can sell. No one, outside of a few academics, believes in Marxist-Leninism any more, no matter what they say publicly. No one believes that the Party is the “vanguard of the Revolution.” No one believes that the Party is filled with selfless, devoted servants of the people.

In short, the aristocracy is coasting on the tremendous reservoir of goodwill built up as a result of the economic development of the past 30 years. The threats to that goodwill are twofold: one is corruption. Say what you like, no politician in the US, no matter how corrupt (and corruption is far, far, far less common in the US), can hold a candle to the Wen or Bo clans. I don’t think corruption alone will lead to a fundamental challenge to the aristocracy but I could be wrong.

The second is that the fate of the economy is not entirely in the leadership’s hands. Exogenous events matter. Even with wise leadership, black swans happen. Add to that the fact that the recent turn away from capitalism towards state controlled enterprises is throttling economic development in China. Add to that the fact that state controlled enterprises have made hundreds of billions in bad investments in the past few years (e.g., all the empty office towers and apartment blocks) and the losses on those loans and investments have yet to be realized. All it would take is one sharp recession to shake the foundations of the aristocracy. If you think that a recession can’t possibly happen in China, I have a really nice bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll give you a good price on.

November 24, 2012 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

“You’ll have to explain how democracy would actually improve the situation”
—once again, you’ve missed the point. It’s habit-forming for you. Sure, there can be corruption in a democracy. But to have it on the scale of the CCP, both in breadth and depth, is something unique to the CCP. And here’s the point: even if Chinese people had to live with corruption up to their eyeballs in a democracy as they currently do with the CCP, they at least wouldn’t have to put up with the authoritarianism. If you were going to have corruption, who in their right mind would you want authoritarianism at the same time? You would, apparently, but then you and “right mind” don’t really co-exist, do they?

“I’d think I’d rather Chinese people not starve and the nation not collapse”
—sure, sounds good. What does CCP authoritarianism have to do with either of those things? It’s true true and unrelated, dude. All this time away, and your logic is as crappy as always. Don’t they teach you anything at CCP ass-kissing school? Guess not.

November 24, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

I’d go one step further than Doug and state that for a while, the Party could use economic growth to behave like a Santa Claus, dispensing largesse to every segment of society; now it has to be the Grinch and rebalance China’s economy.

I had a feeling Xi wasn’t just reciting platitudes when he said that now was a really tough time for the Chinese people. That fundamental disconnect is probably why.

November 24, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

A system is not a goal. Democracy is not a human right. The most important human right a government can guarantee is the right of the largest portion of the citizenry to improve their lives continually, year in and year out.

The last 34 years has been one big political experiment. The only ideology was “amplify what works, and discard what does not.” As overseas Chinese, we rejoice in seeing great strides made in improving the lot of the Chinese. We lament the lack of an ICAC like structure.

Look, all crows are black. ALL those in power are corrupt – that is just a given. America is the most successful democracy on Earth, the beacon on the hill. America had long legitimized bribing of the governing elite – today it is called “campaign contributions” and absolutely legitimate. So is America any less corrupt? After the 2008 debacle, instead of throwing the banksters who caused the demise in jail and confiscating their illgotten wealth, the corrupt to the core Washington instead forked over yet another US$10 Trillion in low and no cost loans to the banksters, as a direct result of which the criminals handed themselves record bonuses 3 years in a row (’08, ’09, and ’10), even as the rest of society crumbles. In that same period, China continued to grow its economy at 8 or 9% a year, created 20 million new jobs a year, and people’s living standards IMPROVED.

At the end of the day, whether a government is good or bad, has to be measured by whether or not the people’s living standards continue to improve year after year. For 34 years, the Chicoms have delivered on that duty to the Chinese people. Has Washington discharged its duty to the American people??

In a one party system, such as Singapore, or Hong Kong (both ran by Chinese BTW), the way to do it is to set up the system (such as ICAC in Hong Kong), and leave it to the experts. Corruption will never be 100% stamped out. But at least if the perception is that things are done about it, the people will feel good and life goes on. Both cities enjoy high rankings on anti-corruption results. So there is no reason the same system cannot work in China either.

Don’t be silly – democracy simply is systemically incapable of rooting out corruption. Look at America, the richest democracy, and India, the largest, are both 10 times more corrupt than China.

November 25, 2012 @ 11:36 am | Comment

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/1119/1224326785025.html

seems like an olive branch from Ai. I think Xi would be wise to pick up on this opportunity, much as Deng and Hu Yaobang did with artists that suffered opprobrium under Mao

November 25, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Comment

CM: “I’ll believe the NYT’s report on Wen once they release their sources – not that it’s implausible that it’s true.”

Go here. The sources are mainly corporate and public records.

And yes Zhuu (a newcomer), the US is indeed “10 times more corrupt than China” — make it a million times more corrupt. Right.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

{Sorta tongue in cheek, but someone has to point out the obvious.]

What’s there to compare? There’s no comparison. One works, one is a hopeless gridlocked mess. One generates 7.5% growth in a deep recession, the other caused and is still in the deep recession. One system breeds capable, dedicated leaders, the other produces perfectly coiffed demagogues who revel in once every 4 year national liars’ contests in public media (“campaign promises” being such an oxymoron, NOBODY is supposed to believe in them), with the grand spectacle costing over $10 Billion this time around, and with NOTHING produced but more girdlock.

One represents hope and progress and results for the last 34 years going on to 74. And the other? You be the judge.

I take it as a given that there is no true direct democracy anywhere today, and that all nations are ruled by elites – who we HOPE are wiser and better and more virtuous than the plebeians. The difference is in the SYSTEM. The Chicoms make sure that whomever gets to the top, are CAPABLE. Look seriously at the HOW the top leaders are picked in each country – and WHY IN THE WORLD would you expect different results?

(a) Look at the system of choosing leaders in America, as perhaps an off-planet alien first arriving on Earth: Every few years, perfectly coiffed politician¬s get into open TV contests to see who can best carry soundbites¬, and who can best tell lies (campaign promises being such a well recognized oxymoron, NOBODY expects actual delivery of these promises). Based SOLELY on such performanc¬e and pageantry, “aided” by billions of dollars in dirty, demagogic attack ads (based mostly on fear and prejudices like the racist ads against Chinese) for months on end, society decides on who gets to assume power and lead. The current run rate it that it costs $25 Billion or more to do one of these spectacles – out of which NOTHING is produced except more gridlock. After they take office, the “leaders” take care of their real constituen¬ts – those who paid. Moreover, even after being elected (or perhaps because they have been elected), these “leaders” continue to spend 140% of their waking moments on their raison d’etre – 70% of time in raising money, 50% of time talking to the real constituen¬ts (see above) and address their issues, and the rest of the time on leading. And this is the system that everyone in the world should end up with? Must end up with? WHERE is the superiority? Is representation evident? WHO do the American leaders represent?

(b) Now contrast that with what the Chicoms have. China’s success and prosperity shows that the quality of the leaders do matter. How they are chosen also matter. All of China’s politburo members (about 360?) rise up through the ranks, and are vetted through decades of on the job training, for both effectiven¬ess and dedication¬. Moreover, most of these leaders-in-training, unlike in the U.S. where most candidates are lawyers, in China they are engineers and other technical experts. Each elevation required multiple critiques and ranking by contempora¬ries. Those who end up on this “bench” are likely qualified to be top leaders of the 1.3 billion population nation. Then every 10 years, 9 persons (including the president and the premier) are selected out of this very deep bench of proven talent, to serve on the central committee. It is expected that the 9 would be qualified, and are dedicated, and can work well together. Nobody has a top job for life – in fact most of them have that only for 10 years max. The results show that to be the case in the decades since Deng’s lead. Mistakes are made in this one-party meritocrac¬y, but are quickly corrected. Since there is no need to beg for money or run dirty election campaigns, these leaders actually spend most of their waking moments working on affairs of State. Even in hardship the quality of the leadership shows. Compare the Sichuan quake vs. Katrina.

Looking at what the Chicoms did in the last 34 years, it was clear that the guiding principle was “Bian Min” (making life easier for the folks), and the operative guidance is to seek truth through facts – thereby amplifying what works, and discarding what does not. In the last 34 years, the entire Chinese ruling party had been one big reform project, and beneficial changes are still ongoing. IDEOLOGY is not important anymore, results are. The results are there for all to see. Beijing was (and is) the only form of government capable of, has a plan for, and actually did, double the living standards of the great majority of citizens every 7 or 8 years, for the past 34. Now this capable government is even implementing direct democracy, by having 250,000,000 microbloggers provide direct input, and having government act on that input. Contrast that with Washington ignoring Occupy Whatever.

How long does it take for YOU to double your living standard? There are lots that other government¬s can learn from Beijing. The willingnes¬s to try new things, to REFORM REGARDLESS OF IDEOLOGY, is one such important thing.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

Those in the West ask, “Would you trade your ability to freely express your political ideas in exchange for a stable job, health care, and the ability to participate freely in the political process.”

I posit that it is relative. A government system is not a goal in itself. Democracy is not nirvana (or the Indians would be in heaven for decades now). A political system is only the means to the ultimate end. What is that end? That goes back to a value question. Most Chinese would argue that the most important human right, and one that the ruling elite can actually do something about, is to better the lives of the greatest numbers of citizens, year after year. By that measure, the Chinese system was the BEST in the world in the last few decades.

To the Chinese, it is rather irrelevant that the Americans have lived, and are living richer, more fulfilling lives. America is not going to sharing that prosperity with the Chinese any day soon – the Chinese have to earn it, through their own efforts. So the practical question is one of how to get from here to there.

Again, the answer has to be – WHICH SYSTEM brings about the best improvements in the lives of the largest number of citizens in any country in the last 34 years? SWCC (Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, or whatever other name you wish to call it) won hands down.

Apologists for the Western system point about the supposed ability to change the system when it is not working. They are largely mistaken about the most basic of the assumptions:

1. The elites indeed know better. They are in a better position to make the necessary changes. To leave the fate of the nation and the welfare of the citizenry to the vagary and iniquities of “voting” (with the inbuilt advantages for the incumbent, with voter suppression running rampant, with corruption long since legitimized and now called campaign contrinbution), it is just plain silly.

2. IN FACT, Beijing has been the most adaptable and responsive form of government, out of all major nations, in the last few decades. A collective leadership at the top means that when there are bad apples (and there are), and even slackers (and there are), they will simply be removed expeditiously. No fuss, no muss, no need to wait till the next election. Zhao, Zhi Yang, and more recently Bo, Xilai, are good examples. No turmoil, and the economy keeps growing.

3. Beijing has been the least ideological, and the most adaptable. WHAT OTHER major government in the world actually FUNDED and BUILT the largest suggestion box in human history, featuring over 300,000,000 users? The suggestions in the blogs are actually worked on and ideas adopted, and reforms made. “Amplify what works, and discard what does not.” Done. Improved. A “democractic” system like the U.S. would instead have to spend year arguing about the hypothetical, in the time it took China to go through 3 or 4 iterations of changes already. It literally is night and day.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

Is SWCC without fault? Hardly. But no matter how you slice and dice it, A one party system is demonstrably more efficient than any other form of government. China’s economy grew at 7 times the speed of the American one. Even more telling, is that China’s economy grew at a rate far faster than that in india (the largest democracy in the world). When Deng picked up the reins in 1978, India’s GDP was actually a bit higher than China. 34 years later, China’s is 3 times as large. The ONLY difference is that China has one party efficiceny, and India had democracy. As a direct result, the vast majority of the Chinese citizenry enjoy much more personal freedom wrought from improved financial circumstances.

If you want Beijing to bicker incessantly like Washington and fall apart, and China to become a 2nd rate power, there is nothing more effective than “democracy.”

Yes it is frustrating to watch the Chicoms hesitate on issues of corruption, and the fact that China still does not have a Hong Kong style ICAC. But China is continuing her reforms at a speed that far exceeds anything any other nation has tried in the last 34 years. So there is genuine hope.

One party efficiency, led by a dedicated and capable cadre of world class leaders, proven in decades of on the job training. That formula proves hard to beat (NOBODY has beaten that in the last 34 years).

November 25, 2012 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

I’m thinking we may have a new troll in our midst.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

Beijing, compared to Washington, actually has a much easier job. With globalization, just as water seeks its own level, jobs requiring a certain level of skills will eventually equalize in pay. Other than geographic location, there really is no reason that a doctor in America makes a quarter of a million dollars a year, and one in China makes one-tenth of that.

So the CPC only has to not screw up, and lives will improve. It is more complicated than that, of course, but the law of nature is in Beijing’s favor.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

@Richard:

Is every new voice a troll? What makes a troll? I post facts and analysis. If you disagree with my facts, post your own. If you think my analysis is flawed, tell us why. Maybe we can all learn a little something.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

Six comments in just a short while, interacting with no one, is a form of spamming. I am pretty sure I know a troll when I see one. The fact that it took you just seconds to respond to my comment tells me you’re hovering, waiting to stir things up. But maybe I’m wrong; you have a chance to prove it.

Cookie Monster up above shares some of your views but he is not (usually) a troll, as he at least tries to engage. You, on the other hand, seem to want to simply spout the usual CCP propaganda, interacting with no one and sounding fanatical and also smug. I’ll give you a chance to prove me wrong before I officially declare you a troll, but after nearly 11 years running this blog I have pretty good radar for trolls, especially when they show up out of nowhere and put up comment after comment, each one the envy of the wumao army.

November 25, 2012 @ 1:56 pm | Comment

One of the biggest difference between the two forms of governments, is that the American system mistakenly relies on the alleged “wisdom” of the voters to bring about changes (albeit in a tortured manner even the system is working at its best). The American system totally crumbles when (not if) it is hijacked by special interest, when BOTH of the major parties are taken over.

Take the issue of industrial policy, where powerful banksters hijacked the entire American political process.

Most nations have industrial policies. Beijing has be rather conservative on this count, and has been successful in planning and executing plans to propel many of the nation’s industries to No. 1 in the world.

America, in contrast, with bipartisan political support, already chose ultra-highly leveraged FINANCIAL ENGINEERING as a post-industrial era “industrial policy”, and in the last 20 years has staked the policy with the full faith and credit of the nation, and the best minds the country can offer. Today the best of the best American college grads do not go into science or engineering – almost to a man (less so for women) they aspire to become Masters of the Universe on Wall Street. The work product of all that brain power is more convoluted “financial engineering” that really are just sophisticated and well packaged fraud. There are consequences that flowed and will flow from that decision.

Derivatives are rigged gambling. The “contracts” are typically crafted by the best Wall Street prospectus writers, and not even the salesmen can really explain them. The suspicion is unavoidable that if they are truthfully explained, nobody would buy them. The products are typically sold on the age old “confidence” basis – “Hey, this is a sophisticated business instrument coming from one of the world’s largest financial institutions, what can possibly go wrong? Just trust me.”

Thus risk spreading (hedging) turned into sheer gambling. The derivatives gambling grew to over $600 Trillion by 2008, then a couple of big players keeled over or almost did (e.g., Lehman Bros., AIG), and the failure of the big counterparties threatened the continued existence of the large banks and Wall Street itself. The rest, as they say, was history. More recently we saw MF Global (died) and JP Morgan Chase (stumbled, billions).

Some would argue that since gambling is a zero sum game (not like War, which is destructive of value) – some win, some lose, so at the end it does not matter from the macro point of view. NO SO. The risks are several fold:

1. You never know who is going to fold next – it may well be one or more of the too big to fail’s, thus implicating public resources to bail them out.

2. Too much (95%?) resources are sucked from Main Street to support this habit, and as we observe, the real economy suffers painfully.

3. It is fraud, no matter how prettily you dress it up.

“Democracy” is completely hapless at getting rid of such complete take over of the political process. Multiple sets of elites vying for power will always end up, through competition, to be ALL BOUGHT OUT by the special interests in order to survive in the process.

November 25, 2012 @ 2:07 pm | Comment

What do you think, ladies and gentleman: Troll or serious commenter interested in engaging in a thoughtful dialog? Just askin’.

November 25, 2012 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

Is there a threaded mode that can be invoked on this site? My apologies for being a newbie here. Sorta hard to respond to specific posts. But the pigheaded (moi) shall try my darndest.

@ The original post: “We keep seeing glimmers of hope, but these are frequently dashed as the CCP appears more determined than ever to hold on to what they’ve got. I see no significant changes happening anytime soon.”

From the Chinese’s perspective, WHY IN THE WORLD would or should there be changes, if the current system has wrought the BEST PERFORMANCE of any major governments in the world? Even in this deep recession, when the mighty U.S. barely eeks out 1-2% growth, Chicoms proudly leads with 7.5%. Explain why 7.5% is so bad.

November 25, 2012 @ 2:38 pm | Comment

Rich, I’ve seen ZBJ post on the WSJ and HuffPo websites before (in 09 or 10 I think). I don’t think he’s a troll in the same vein as Jing is.

November 25, 2012 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

@Handler Comment 4.

“A practice is normative insofar as it provides stability non-coercive in origin and application, expressed in the framework of channels for the reconciliation of differences, the transmission of information, and the lawful redress of grievances. This is a good in itself and will contribute to further goods provided for its society.”

Sorry guy, not so if the cost is as high as that demonstrated in America. Coercion can be good if the end is good. If there is no coercion, anarchy takes over. Guns should only be in the hands of the government. Put it in the hands of the civilians like America does, it is inevitable and irreversible that gunshot deaths alone exceeds 30,000 a year – putting that in perspective, that is over 2,500% of the alleged 5,000 executions by the Chicoms each year (coercion at its natural conclusion). Which is better? I posit that having 1/25th the death is. Life is the ultimate human right.

Most of the arguments here are from the Western perspective. Value is culturally based, and there really is very little that is “universal”. There are still many Americans who actually truly believe that there is a God, whilst most Chinese sincerely believe that religion is for the lame-brained. If folks cannot even agree on something as fundamental as whether there is an almighty, it is silly to argue that your system is better than mine despite 34 years of proven results to the contrary. Where’s the beef?

November 25, 2012 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

@t_co Comment 9

” Only by remaining focused on selecting the best model to win China’s place in the sun, can China really get where it needs to be.”

It took me a decade after TAM to figure it out. Mr. Deng already achieved that model. It is the only guiding ideology of the Chicoms today: “Amplify what works, and discard what does not.” This is NOT an ideology that can be pursued by a “democratic” system like that in the U.S. Inter-party competition prevents it. Amongst all major governments today, only Beijing is equipped to be as adaptable.

Look at health care. It took America over 3 decades to come up with a national healthcare policy, and Obama Care will take at least another 10 more years to implement. During that time it is likely that the Republicans will retake the White House by 2016, and put roadblocks in the implementation. Compare that to China – Beijing decided 2 years ago to start implementing national healthcare. Today over 95% of the population already has coverage, albeit a slim (but improving) one.

The only major piece missing is an ICAC to keep the players honest.

November 25, 2012 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 14

““the only end that matters is creating a unified bloc of 1.5 billion souls with a $20,000+ GDP per capita, ensconced in a safe, pliant Chinese sphere of influence, clearly ascendant over the rest of the world in technology and military prowess.”
—who says this is “the only end that matters”? This is precisely why I phrased it the way I did. Sure, this might be ONE of the ends that SOME people desire.”

BTW, it does irk to see the Chicoms being called CCP. If you are going to bad mouth them, at least get the name correct – it is CPC.

The CPC has “earned” the trust and the support of the Chinese people (Pew Research consistently show over 85% in favor of the nation’s direction) through the continued improvement of the vast majority of the people’s lives, year after year for 34, despite working with very limited resources. It is not for anyone outside the CPC to gainsay, if only because you are NOT part of the ruling elite in China, and you do not know better than President Xi and his team.

November 25, 2012 @ 3:11 pm | Comment

@Handler Comment 34

“Also, democracy doesn’t just “sound nice”. It is a form of governance which encourages participation in decision-making as a definition of responsibilities. It is the only form of governance currently in existence which has *built-in* as well as statutory protections for individuals, which offers through mere existence as a citizen a modicum of protection against the presumptions and abuses of one’s neighbors and superiors. It is also the only form of governance that can be legitimately said to encourage the establishment of statutes, and enjoin support for them, through rational persuasion, though unfortunately it has correctly been argued this is not a necessary component of democracy.”

Again, from the Chinese’s point of view, looking in from the outside, this sounds like so much B.S. Democracy protects individuals? It is a known and proven objective fact that America, at the pinnacle of such democracy, allows more than 30,000 of its own citizens to be killed by gunshot deaths alone – almost all of these are killed without the benefit of trials or due process. It is hard not to be shocked and awed by such protection of individuals.

And how about those drones? The head of this richest democracy has to resort to disrupting his daily coffee and newspaper routine, to work on the death list for the day (playing judge, jury, and head executioner). Where are those “presumptions and abuses of one’s neighbors and superiors”??

November 25, 2012 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

It took me a decade after TAM to figure it out. Mr. Deng already achieved that model. It is the only guiding ideology of the Chicoms today: “Amplify what works, and discard what does not.” This is NOT an ideology that can be pursued by a “democratic” system like that in the U.S. Inter-party competition prevents it. Amongst all major governments today, only Beijing is equipped to be as adaptable.

Actually, while Deng’s model was “amplify what works and discard what doesn’t”, it isn’t the guiding ideology of the Party today. The Party today goes by the Dengist model, which is the specific implicit rules set in place when Deng (and to a lesser extent Hu Yaobang) stopped contributing new ideas to China’s political discourse.

The model basically is: advance Party careers by channeling state capital into GDP-boosting, NPV-positive projects. Oh, and the “wink wink nod nod” was that you could skim a bit off the top too, so long as the overall project did good for society. For a while, this has worked for China, but now China is well past the point of decreasing marginal ROI and needs to go back to the true Deng model of actually being flexible from the ground up.

November 25, 2012 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

@Richard Comment 43

“My biggest beef is with the absence of rule of law in China, and checks and balances. Therein lies the yawning difference between the two systems, and while China is improving, especially in more developed geographies, the transition is much too slow and far too many people are victims of an inefficient, unjust and unfair system.”

The other side of the coin is that this is definitely NOT A FLAW, but a part of the system by design.

There is no question that Chinese laws are still rather primitive compared to the 250 years of American drafting and lawyering. A level of arbitrariness is NECESSARY to level the playing field, to allow the Chinese businesses to compete fairly. Just look at the issue of IP. No one will dispute that America had much more IP and much bigger companies who have “better” (sneakier) lawyers than Chinese businesses in 1980. These bigger (much bigger) American behemoths abuse their privileges, and (even today) demand “unequal treaties” (contracts of adhesion), no better than those during the Opium War decades. Have you seen the American auto companies licenses? For a Chinese toy manufacturer to make toys cars that look like real cars, they have to sign away all rights to the new designs to the Americans. At that rate, Chinese businesses would NEVER catch up. That is the real world.

The Chicoms’d be amiss in their duty to guide the nation, if they acted otherwise in the last 3 and half decades.

November 25, 2012 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

@ t_co Comment 97

“The model basically is: advance Party careers by channeling state capital into GDP-boosting, NPV-positive projects. Oh, and the “wink wink nod nod” was that you could skim a bit off the top too, so long as the overall project did good for society. For a while, this has worked for China, but now China is well past the point of decreasing marginal ROI and needs to go back to the true Deng model of actually being flexible from the ground up.”

Even if we accept the motivation to be true, it is still the results that matter. The next 20 years are actually quite critical, and it behooves the leaders in Beijing not to miss the right turns. It is clear that America has lost its way, and is still insisting on “leading” its follower lapdog nations down the garden path through TPP, which makes it likely that within a decade China’s would remain the only robust economy in Asia, if not the world. This is not the time to change systems (I think you agree on that point), but of course I agree with you that fine tuning would be necessary.

Several generations of capable leadership has lain the groundwork – China graduates the largest number of engineers and scientists, and it is Xi’s job to put them to work, driving China’s true competitive advantage – the wisdom and hard work of the Chinese people.

Yes, I think $20,000 per capita GDP is reachable in our lifetimes. Export slowdown is temporary. China is on the cusp of a huge increase in export of goods and services, the latter in infrastructure projects around the globe. The $3.2 Trillion in foreign currency reserves will be augmented by unlimited ability to print RMB, once the Yuan becomes freely exchanged. In two weeks BSB will begin building the world’s tallest high rise, all in 90 days, at a cost of less than US$1,000 per sq. m. The future looks bright.

November 25, 2012 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

zhuubaajie isn’t commenting, he’s blogging here, Richard. If I were you, I’d delete his comments, and offer him an opportunity to write a guest post instead.

November 25, 2012 @ 4:39 pm | Comment

@Richard

I’ve run across Zhu’s rambling attempts at pamphleteering on several websites before as well, and I can’t understand why t_co would claim he is significantly different than Jing other than the fact that even Jing’s comments on Japan might not be as deranged as Zhu’s.

https://www.economist.com/user/3522513/comments

He is superficial, unable to process information honestly, incapable of acknowledging evidence counter to his delusional version of autochthonous myths (note his invocation of what most “Chinese” believe and what things look like to “Chinese”, despite the fact that he is overseas Chinese through and through), and prone to sporadic and irrelevant allusions to unequal treaties etc. He also seems to think an argument for democracy must rest on guns, and that 30000 gun caused deaths per year ought to act as a powerful argument against democracy.

One wonders if it matters to him that the number of homicides by gun per year in the US is actually around 10000, and the number of *suicides* by gun 20000. I only wonder, of course, because I think that might be more relevant to his concern over comparing deaths and his claim that “Life is the ultimate human right.” After all, with more than 8 million people who die in China each year due to unnatural causes,

(excluding natural disasters)
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/7378350.html

including 300000 due to suicide–remarkable for people whose lives just keep getting better and better, I should think his selection of 5000 deaths as a point of comparison quite off the mark.

November 25, 2012 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

@Handler:

Nobody honest argues that China is “better” than America. Chinese per capita income is still just 1/8th or 1/10th that of Americans. From the Chinese perspective, the issue is whether the American system or the current Chinese system is “better” at improving the lives of the largest number of Chinese, year after year.

No comparison, that is the truth.

I am proud of my comments about Japan. Way too little has been done about the contempt that the Japanese folks of TODAY (I am not talking about the Rape of Nanking here) have for the Chinese people.

I am actually watching the 5 episode miniseries on Zhang, Bo Ling. The famous teacher famously said that China’s hope starts with teaching the young the right mentality. China needs many more who think like Zhuubaajie.

November 25, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Comment

If it cannot be imagined, it cannot be achieved.

I can certainly imagine another 50 years of 7 or 8% growth, under the leadership of an elite that checks human nature (greed) with law. The recent international cooperation on repatriation of Tan Guan is a start, and a good start at that, as it includes repatriation of the loot. China does need more laws to stamp out corruption. Any company, foreign or domestic, involved in bribery should be fined treble damages based on the nominal value of the transaction, with mandatory jail sentences for the CEO and CFO of the entity.

None of that would happen if China is a “democracy”. Just look at India if you need any proof.

November 25, 2012 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

@justrecently Comment 60

“The “Chinese renaissance” in itself is a dogma. It’s what makes many people shut their face and save on a “great” future, rather than demanding happiness here and now. That’s how it is useful to a ruling class.”

It is more than a dogma. It is a social contract, in which the CPC has asked that the Chinese folks “bear the burden of 3 generations, and do the work of 2.” Much had been accomplished under the arrangement, and the Chinese people trust the CPC because they can see results. They continue to save hard (51% savings rate) and work hard, HAPPILY.

“I see one general rule: the more urgently and consciously people strive for something like “greatness”, the less they will be able to achieve it.”

That is simply not true, as far as the New China experience is concerned. In the early ’60′s, Beijing faced existential crises. Washington not only planned, but actually carried out war games simulating a full on nuclear strike of most Chinese cities on the East Coast of China, to be followed with full scale invasion. Then the USSR followed suit and told the U.S. that they were going to exercise “surgical strikes” against Chinese targets. China needed a deterrent fast.

The Chinese worked hard, and despite having little in terms of technological background (total info blockade by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.), did the uranium based nuke in about 7 years, and the hydrogen bomb in another two.

If you know what you want and work hard at it, you can achieve pretty much anything. That used to be a U.S. motto. The Chinese were simply recyling good ideas.

November 25, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Yeah, India, the democracy that is also experiencing high growth ever since its reform and opening in the 90′s. And no, very few analysts believe that another decade of 8-10% growth is likely.

November 25, 2012 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 74

“What I have said is that the economic “benefit” the CCP tries to claim it provides, can be had just as easily without the CCP.”

There is NO objective factual basis for your claim. NO other government, NONE, achieved what the Chicoms did in the last 34 years. All you have is conjecture.

“The point is what is the ongoing relevance of the CCP moving forward.”

Whether or not the elites make their family rich is rather irrelevant to the Chinese people, IF the Chinese people themselves experience definite improvement of their lives year after year. The common folks could care less who the emperor is.

To the hoi polloi, the questions of food and housing are the bottom line, and education and a better living standard each and every year next.

On food, the Chicoms truly try. I was at a 3rd tier city (Huzhou, China) last year, and as usual I made it a point to visit the food markets. Live seafood (in Huzhou I counted 50 kinds of live seafood), live (fresh) poultry, lots of choices on fresh fruits and vegggies and meats. This is clearly a government that cares about the citizenry.

Housing is an issue, especially for the lower 30% of society. Beijing, as part of stoking the economic fire, DID NOT forget to budget in 30,000,000 units of low income housing.

The Chinese people are counting on the CPC to perform just as well going forward, as in the past 34 years.

November 25, 2012 @ 7:15 pm | Comment

It is more than a dogma. It is a social contract, …

zhuubaajie, among the latest 28 comments (#79 – #106), 18 are from you. I won’t have a discussion with you before Richard has make a decision – I don’t want my comments to be deleted along with yours.

But if I was him, I’d delete your comments and invite you to write a guest post.

Advantages: it would be your opportunity – and responsibility – to make an organized, clear case with a post of your own, in reaction to this post, or to anything else. And above all, it might also be more in your own interest then to keep the thread readable, rather than messing it up.

November 25, 2012 @ 8:20 pm | Comment

It is entertaining to read such a enthusiastic advocate for aristocracy, which is what China has today. I kind of thought that aristocracy went out of style, oh, say about a century ago.

November 25, 2012 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

JR, I’m not going to delete the comments but I am going to consider carefully whether to ban our new friend. That is always the very last resort so I am hesitant. But if he keeps this up I’ll have no choice.

November 26, 2012 @ 2:00 am | Comment

FOARP
Yeah, India, the democracy that is also experiencing high growth ever since its reform and opening in the 90′s. And no, very few analysts believe that another decade of 8-10% growth is likely.

You mean the India where 47% of children are malnourished despite this “high growth”? Where the “high growth” is in significant part underwritten by a booming working population (unlike China, which is growing DESPITE a very slow growth in the workforce). That same India which has much less vital, life-sustaining infrastructure than China did under Mao’s time? That India which took decades to see mortality rates fall below that of the Great Leap Forward?

You seem to think very lightly of hundreds of millions of Indian deaths.

November 26, 2012 @ 2:52 am | Comment

I think every choice is legitimate, Richard. It’s for a blogger to decide. But my point is this: zhuubaajie wrote several “blogposts” in this thread. (Apparently, some stuff was also pasted into the commenting box.) He addressed lots of commenters’ arguments later, and his comments outweighed those of everyone else combined. That’s corybantic – and it’s an easy way of screwing up discussions.

But if you offer him to write a guest post, he has to be more coherent. If he’s not, the post itself will suck. To state a case in a post or an article requires more discipline, and allows less indulgence, than commenting.

As you can imagine, I like to discuss issues. The problem with this post-zhuubaajie thread, however, is that I’d have to copy from the thread, and turn it into a document for my reference, before I could start discussing things with zhuubaajie. That’s why I find his behavior unacceptable. But I do believe that you can give him an opportunity to do better, than to ban them right away.

Your choice, of course. But if I should find a guest post by zhuubaajie here on Wednesday night – that’s when I’ll be back to the internet -, I’d be glad to join a discussion there. You might consider establishing something like a 50-50 rule between him and the rest of us commenters – in terms of word numbers, and comment numbers. (That could make sense in general, btw.)

That way, you don’t have to throw opportunities for debate away.

November 26, 2012 @ 2:52 am | Comment

Also, the India with 1/4th of China’s aggregate net worth (and that share is shrinking)? The India that has half as many billionaires with twice as much wealth as China despite that fact?

November 26, 2012 @ 2:53 am | Comment

Richard
Go here. The sources are mainly corporate and public records.

These same sources say that China has one of the lowest wealth Gini’s in the world. You have to pick your poison here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_distribution_of_wealth

And that’s not the only place where you’ll find something similar. Credit Suisse and UNU-Wider also report similar findings.

SK Cheung
But to have it on the scale of the CCP, both in breadth and depth

Wrong. Pretty much every single developing democracy is more corrupt than China, and even developed democracies are horribly corrupt in the way that they allow outside money to influence elections and state doctrine. Iraq is nothing sort of massive graft and collusion that cost trillions and hundreds of thousands of lives.

And here’s the point: even if Chinese people had to live with corruption up to their eyeballs in a democracy as they currently do with the CCP, they at least wouldn’t have to put up with the authoritarianism.

Again, you need to prove that democracy is better than authoritarianism. Some people would prefer not to have other people voting on how their tax dollars should be spent.

What does CCP authoritarianism have to do with either of those things?

Oh I don’t know, maybe the fact that the CCP has a track record of keeping the nation stable despite US and then Soviet pressure while generating the fastest growth in human history?

Doug
Aristocracy aristocracy aristocracy aristocracy

Saying something repeatedly in spite of all evidence does not make it true.

Say what you like, no politician in the US, no matter how corrupt (and corruption is far, far, far less common in the US), can hold a candle to the Wen or Bo clans.

That’s because American billionaires are too rich to micromanage a relatively powerless puppet office. They install people to do that for them. You could argue that individual members of the legislature in China are far more corrupt, but the fact remains is that their interests conflict. In the US, entire parties (all two of them) work together to systematically screw the nation over. Just look at what a shithole Detroit and other cities are being turned into by democrats, and look at how republicans plunder the treasury to fund illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands.

November 26, 2012 @ 3:05 am | Comment

See you all on Wednesday. But before I’m going, I’d like to write a few words about India. It’s obviously pretty different from China. But British colonial rule didn’t better there, than that of the Congress Party. British rule did do better in Hong Kong. Dictatorship and democracy did/do better in Taiwan than any recent form of rule did in India. To focus on the issue of dictatorship or democracy alone doesn’t cut it.

But neither concept can justify human rights violations. Neither forced sterilizations in India, nor forced abortions in China, nor any other violation is justified. Neither tolerating starvation of people under ones jurisdiction, nor administrative punishment are acceptable. Nothing of that should be taken “lightly”.

But when it comes to performance, I would suggest that people should wait and see if China or India will do better in the long run. Both Chinese propaganda outlets and CCP supporters like to point out China’s achievements. But when it comes to domestic debate in China – outside fenqing circles -, people aren’t quite that smug. Which is wise, because it wouldn’t serve the country. It may serve China to build an image to outsiders that nothing can go wrong there – propaganda may become reality when a sufficient number of people believe in it. But people should never fall for their own propaganda.

Statistics aren’t easy to come by in this field, but here is a glimpse on stuff off the beaten track. Huang Yasheng (MIT) commented on some numbers in 2009. Investment in India only amounted to 50 percent of investment in China at the time, but India’s growth was about 80 percent of China’s around that time. Misallocation of capital was the core problem in China, according to Huang.

It probably still is: state-owned enterprises in China don’t find it hard to get loans. Small and medium-sized enterprises on the other hand find it hard to get loans, because they aren’t within the political-industrial network. That’s bad news for innovation. And it’s hard to reform the state-owned sector, exactly because the industrial and political leaders are so close.

Another point is demographics. China needs to grow, because people need to save now.

So, there are two perspectives. One is about ethics, and there are no excuses for neglecting citizens, or for violating their rights.

But the – sometimes opportunistic – question about what “works” and what doesn’t comes from another perspective. And in that field, I see more long-term potential in India, than in China.

November 26, 2012 @ 3:21 am | Comment

Investment in India only amounted to 50 percent of investment in China at the time, but India’s growth was about 80 percent of China’s around that time. Misallocation of capital was the core problem in China, according to Huang.

Rather than cautioning “fenqing circles” about braggadocio, I would remind you that Huang is just like many of the other 1 billion Chinese chicken littles always screaming about how the nation is going to collapse tomorrow. His Indian equivalent would be beating his chest in front of Western dignitaries about how great Superpower India is, while his countrymen starve.

That said …
Investment in India only amounted to 50 percent of investment in China at the time, but India’s growth was about 80 percent of China’s around that time.

This is utter nonsense. Investment does not translate neatly into GDP especially when it’s real estate and physical infrastructure you’re talking about. China’s net worth has grown 15% a year to nearly $20 trillion now, while India’s muddles along at around $5. This represents the very REAL value that roads, sewers, and power lines generate. Having running water does not yield anything in terms of GDP but it sure as hell raises the inherent value of property.

That’s bad news for innovation. And it’s hard to reform the state-owned sector, exactly because the industrial and political leaders are so close.

Then why is China posting 15% growth in patent and scientific paper output every year? Why are highly-cited patents growing at an even faster rate? I don’t disagree with you completely but I find this “China can’t innovate” BS to be tiresome. China out-innovates the vast majority of the Western world when you take into account R&D spending, and this is something you’re forced to address as someone who just went off about how China yields relatively little for her investments compared to India.

And in that field, I see more long-term potential in India, than in China.

You’re someone who simply doesn’t understand just how bad India is run then. I would not lecture about propaganda in the future, as blustering Brahmins apparently have you swindled.

November 26, 2012 @ 3:36 am | Comment

JR, the last thing I want to do is turn my blog over to zhuubaajie, any more than I’d like to turn it over to Mongol Warrior.

November 26, 2012 @ 3:46 am | Comment

So Richard, do you finally accept that China doesn’t actually have as unequal a distribution in wealth as people wish it did?

November 26, 2012 @ 3:49 am | Comment

My apologies for not knowing the protocol. But this is a weighty subject, and there is so much to say. I will now consider Zhuubaajie properly shut up on the topic, and will look for other vocabulary word challenges on other posts here.

autochthonous
corybantic

?? My word!! I can see that this is not the usual bunch that I find on most forums. Don’t know whether that is good or bad, since the propensity to censor instead of debate still prevail.

November 26, 2012 @ 4:10 am | Comment

This is utter nonsense. Investment does not translate neatly into GDP especially when it’s real estate and physical infrastructure you’re talking about. China’s net worth has grown 15% a year to nearly $20 trillion now, while India’s muddles along at around $5. This represents the very REAL value that roads, sewers, and power lines generate. Having running water does not yield anything in terms of GDP but it sure as hell raises the inherent value of property.

I think there’s significant over-inflation in the book value of Chinese physical infrastructure, because the every player who is involved in the bean-counting (local officials, banks, domestic and international rating agencies) also has an incentive to inflate the value of said assets/collateral. In addition, the market for such physical infrastructure is even less liquid than the market for subprime real estate, which means that the best method for getting inflated prices back to reality (a liquid market of lots of independently motivated buyers and sellers) does not exist.

Refusing to acknowledge this problem will lead to a point where the Chinese capital system freezes and stops dispensing capital, making China miss the boat on any future global tech/economic innovation growth spurts. China can’t afford to do that, as it would imperil the legitimacy of the current Chinese sociopolitical order and unleash the centrifugal forces of instability that cause severe economic damage.

November 26, 2012 @ 4:55 am | Comment

The thing is, I don’t even believe the CCP makes an effort to keep track of property values. It’s all NGOs and foreign firms doing the estimation. It’s true that Chinese property values are inflated in the short-term, but the long-run trend is definitely upward unless 700 million Chinese choose to remain underhoused in perpetuity.

November 26, 2012 @ 5:01 am | Comment

To CM,
“Pretty much every single developing democracy is more corrupt than China”
—they’re corrupt to some varying degree, sure. “more corrupt”? Hardly. BUt that’s again not the point. If you had to have corruption, why couple it with the crap of the CCP authoritarianism?

“you need to prove that democracy is better than authoritarianism. Some people would prefer not to have other people voting on how their tax dollars should be spent.”
—you again miss the point. It’s not for me to “prove”. It’s for people to decide for themselves, of their own free will. That’s right, the same free will that spineless CCP weasels like yourself try to deny them. The wishes of people who don’t want others to be voting don’t supercede the rights of those people who do want to be voting. It’s that democracy concept again, one that you have clearly, repeatedly, and genetically failed to grasp.

“CCP has a track record of keeping the nation stable”
—oh brother, more of the same drivel. Yes, capitalism has done well under the CCP. No reason to think it can’t do well without the CCP.

And like I always said, if the CCP thought it brought such a good game, it would put its money where its mouth was, and put it to the test. It’s always revealing to see what tests people are not willing to take.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

To Captain Zulu with the verbal diarrhea,
gosh, that a good summation in a short period of time of the usual CCP talking points. You’re like a Coles Notes for the CCP propaganda manual. Well done.

You seem to like to focus on the last 30 years…and forget about the first 30. Here’s a lesson for you: CCP + communism gives you 30 years of crap; CCP + capitalism gives you 30 years of improvement. So what do you think is more important, CCP or capitalism? Take your time.

And please spare me the Pew nonsense. Why is it that CCP apologists can only regurgitate the top-line results, and none of them seem capable of reading the methodology, and grasping the profound flaws and limitations therein? Something to do with the education or indoctrination perhaps?

You are correct that people outside China should have no say in what goes on within. How do you justify, however, that Chinese people within CHina similarly are precluded from the conversation? WHat’s so special about “Xi and his team”, apart from the fact that a bunch of old CCP fogeys picked them? I’ll say this, though: you toe the line with authoritarian precision (and non-thinking).

“The common folks could care less who the emperor is.”
—I don’t know, Sherlock. I think I’d let common folks decide and indicate for themselves what they did or did not care about, rather than hearing from some overseas schmuck like you.

You seem to like ICAC in HK. Probably the smartest thing you’ve said so far. You should go familiarize yourself with who started that.

November 26, 2012 @ 5:01 am | Comment

Well, the other blogs are harder to respond to, and older.

@S.K. Cheung:

“CCP + communism gives you 30 years of crap; CCP + capitalism gives you 30 years of improvement. So what do you think is more important, CCP or capitalism? Take your time.”

It is actually 34 years (since Deng took the reins in 1978). SWCC is whatever the ruling elites say it is – and that is the proper way to define it. Deng’s black+white ideology is INCLUSIVE. A name (capitalism, socialism, etc.) does not make the methodology any more attractive or repulsive, if it makes sense, the CPC did (and will) try it, monitor the results, and “amplify what works, and discard what does not.” So what is more important? Definitely the CPC (which you can’t even name right), as it represents a system for choosing the best leaders in the world today. The Chinese leaders collectively made the most momentous decisions in human history for the last three and half decades. Nobody else comes even close.

November 26, 2012 @ 5:14 am | Comment

@ZBJ
“Definitely the CPC (which you can’t even name right)…”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_China
“The Communist Party of China (CPC), also known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),…”

If you are going to correct, make sure you are correct in your correction.

“as it represents a system for choosing the best leaders in the world today”
???

November 26, 2012 @ 8:37 am | Comment

” SWCC is whatever the ruling elites say it is ”
—looks like captain zhuu-keeper here has a serious case of elite-worship. Interesting stuff. I guess the true believers are simply too indoctrinated to even to conceive of the notion of independent thought.

Of course, like any card-carrying CCP apologist, he also fails to address the question. CCP + communism gives crap; CCP + capitalism gives progress. Methinks CCP is not the vital component of the equation here. Zoo man didn’t understand the concept, I guess. Or maybe he’s accepted my invite and is simply taking his time.

Names may not be important in and of themselves. But unless we use names to describe concepts, how do we have a discussion? I wonder if he prefers ‘free market economy’. Since he has trouble with names, maybe he can cope with concepts, though I am not particularly hopeful. The point is that free market economy/capitalism engendered China’s progress, and the CCP has nothing to do with it.

There’s nothing wrong with the philosophy of going with what works. But it again begs the question of what the CCP is good for. Chinese people can see what works, for themselves. They don’t need all of the CCP’s other nauseating accoutrements.

” a system for choosing the best leaders in the world today”
—”best” in the eyes of whom, exactly? Oh, right, the other creaking members of the old fogey club. Now who wouldn’t want that, eh? BTW, are you in China enjoying all the spoils wrought upon you by the old fogeys? I sure hope so…but I doubt it.

November 26, 2012 @ 9:29 am | Comment

Thank you, CM, for conceding that China is far more corrupt than the US.

Corruption is inherent in a one-party system. There is no natural counterweight. The voters can’t “throw the bums out.” The campaigns against corruption go nowhere and mean nothing: everyone knows that the rules are only enforced against those who have lost political support for other reasons. Whether public disgust with ever-increasing corruption will threaten the Party’s rule, I don’t know.

I often tell visitors to China that the Party can be seen as comprising three elements. One aspect is its role as the Chinese Skull & Bones (the secret Yale honor society). The Party invites high-achieving college students with leadership potential to join. Many do because Party membership opens doors.

A second side of the Party is its role as Tammany Hall, that is, its role in providing patronage to Party members and Party supporters. This is the most important source of the Party’s power.

A third aspect to the Party is its willingness to act like the Mafia in protecting its power and profits. Party officials use the instruments of state security to beat up, torture, blackmail, imprison and kill dissidents and those who oppose the Party.

IMHO, this is all very primitive. My own dream for China is that it outgrows the Party as soon as possible.

November 26, 2012 @ 9:55 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 124

—”best” in the eyes of whom, exactly?”

Er, objectively as the BEST in the world, in bringing about prosperity and economic growth, peace, all without having to use force? Since 2008, the Chinese economy grew at 6 or 7 times that of America. After dropping to 7.5% in 3rd qtr. 2012, the Chinese economy is picking up to 8.4% for the 4th qtr.

IN YOUR FACE. While other governments have clowns masquerading for leaders, China has REAL leaders.

Tom Velk’s recent comments is most poignant:

http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1090627/china-subtle-superpower

“What defines a superpower? It is a matter of spirit, confidence, influence, patience, determination and sophistication − all in pursuit of well-understood, long-term national interests.

A superpower stands on its own, without the need of allies (although those may be helpful at times). It influences other states, sometimes at a cost to these states’ national interests. It possesses enormous reserves of strength, sufficient enough to carry it through the most severe trials of real combat or devastating diplomatic reversals. It steers events to serve its interests, by subtle, sometimes invisible means, even in distant places. It prevents others from harming its national interests, or altering its existing spheres of influence. Its culture is dominant, and it modifies other cultures. Finally, it constrains the behaviour of enemies. If talking fails, diplomacy is backed up by the threat to use overwhelming force.

China currently meets all of these traditional characteristics of a superpower.”

Each and every generation of CPC leaders since the founding of China was effective and far-seeing. To take a nation with 15% literacy and poorer than dirt in 1949, to having hydrogen bombs (“only” 3 Megatons by 1971), and today one of the very few superpowers on Earth, these were not extraordinary people. To the Chinese they are all national heroes.

November 26, 2012 @ 11:42 am | Comment

“Er, objectively as the BEST in the world”
—then you’ll no doubt have no reservations in joining me to suggest that the CCP leadership put their track record to the test in the eyes of Chinese people in China, right? Hello…..anybody there….the silence is deafening. Nothing like putting your money where your mouth is. Or in your case (just like with any CCP apologist), not doing that.

“To the Chinese they are all national heroes.”
—you must be fresh off the boat or something cuz you sound like you’ve got a bad case of the indoctrinations.

I do agree that CCP leaders have a long-view…they have a laser focus when it comes to trying to ensure that they keep their own corrupt butts in power.

November 26, 2012 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 127

“—then you’ll no doubt have no reservations in joining me to suggest that the CCP leadership put their track record to the test in the eyes of Chinese people in China, right?”

WRONG. Such exercise would be nothing more than like the national entertainment programs of the Roman Empire, or the the silly national liars’ contest (campaign promises being such a big oxymoron NOBODY, not even the promising pols, believe them) held every so often in America. Not only is it money wasting, it actually PROMOTES corruption, and keeps the nation divided.

The Chinese leaders have a job to do – to improve the lot of the Chinese population. They are too busy doing that to worry about liars’
contests, or about begging for money every waken moment to run for the next liars’ contest. The fate of the Chinese people is much more important, and requires 100% devotion. In a democracy, by definition the ruling elites are INCAPABLE of devoting all their energy and talents to ruling the country, as they have to worry about the next election.

November 27, 2012 @ 3:08 am | Comment

Like I said, “Hello…..anybody there….the silence is deafening. Nothing like putting your money where your mouth is. Or in your case (just like with any CCP apologist), not doing that.”. You lot are as predictable as the sun rising from the east in the morning.

CCP leaders are the cat’s meow because shills like captain Zoo-keeper here say they are, but they’re not about to be judged by the very people they purport to govern. Nice. And CCP leaders are only there to selflessly serve Chinese people, and would never line their pockets, unless you’re comrade Wen; or maybe comrade Hu who can somehow send his daughter to Harvard; or maybe comrade Bo. Yeah, I’m sure all the rest of them are pure as the driven snow. Say, captain zoo-keeper, I’ve got a couple of bridges that you may be interested in buying…

November 27, 2012 @ 3:51 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung:

This is as silly as it gets. Just because you believe in God, doesn’t mean I have to. Your insistence that the Chinese leaders should, no, MUST, hop on one leg around the water cooler, in single file, while chanting Das Capital, even though quaint, sounds stupid (because it is).

The objective measures are that Chinese leaders deliver 6 or 7 times the economic growth compared to the top democratic leaders of the free world since the 2008 debacle (CAUSED by the democratic American government’s policy of feeding the Derivatives casino). The rest, as is proverbial, is just B.S. The Chinese people saw the living standards double every 7 to 8 years for the last 34, and it could not have happened without the CPC.

November 27, 2012 @ 4:00 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung:

The CPC cadres NEED NOT be pure as snow. They need not be monks either (neither was Patreus nor B. Clinton). But they need to deliver, and they did. China’s economy close to quadrupled under the 10 years of relatively “mundane” rule of Hu+Wen – the Chinese people can afford to buy 4 times as much in a short 10 years. That is the decisive issue. The entire Chinese population, no matter where they reside, hope and pray (for those few who believe there is a God) that the CPC delivers such mundane results again for the next 10 years.

November 27, 2012 @ 4:05 am | Comment

Comparing giving Chinese citizens basic rights to stupid human tricks is curious. But then you seem like a curious dude, so I guess you’re at least internally consistent. It appears, though, that relevant comparisons is yet another thing of which you are not capable. Jeez, what are they teaching in CCP shill school these days?

“The Chinese people saw the living standards double every 7 to 8 years for the last 34, and it could not have happened without the CPC.”
—I think what you meant to say was that it could not have happened without a switch to a free market/capitalist economy, which is what happened 30 some odd (or as you seem to prefer, “34″) years ago. These days, i think the CCP is more in the business of enriching themselves.

Indeed, the economy is important. And for that, the free market system is what is key. The CCP is merely a coincidental correlation. And moving forward, with all the CCP’s wonderful accoutrements we’ve already discussed, that may be a correlation that Chinese people can do without. Of course, I’d leave that up to them, but I wouldn’t leave it up to the CCP, cuz they’ve got their snouts in the trough and it’d be clear what they would want.

November 27, 2012 @ 4:16 am | Comment

“The Chinese people saw the living standards double every 7 to 8 years for the last 34, and it could not have happened without the CPC.”

I thought it did happen without the CCP – when said party controlled every aspect of people’s lives, as in their first 30 years of power, living standards dropped dramatically. When the CCP relaxed the rules a bit and moved away from ultra management, things got really good.
If only the apologists were as enthusiastic about the CCP when they micromanaged the country as they are about the CCP when they are more laissez faire, maybe the rest of us bemused onlookers would less sceptical. As it is, it sounds all the more like some people would have us believe the Chinese would be lost without their CCP, as they were from 1948-1976….

November 27, 2012 @ 5:14 am | Comment

@Goldthorpe and Cheung:

If China had adopted “free market” without the CPC, China would have been sucked into the Derivatives casino, the equivalent of financial AIDS.

After the big Chinese banks got defrauded by the American banksters to the tune of over $100 Million in the late 90′s, Beijing wisely informed the heads of Chinese financials, that heads would literally roll if they continue to gamble with the Americans. Hence China largely escaped the 2008 debacle.

Under democracy, multiple party interest groups made sure that no reforms can be had, even after the financial meltdown due to excessive gambling almost killed the American economy. With bipartisan support (since both parties were bought and owned by the banksters by now), those Dodd Frank provisions that would have put a stop to the Derivatives casino were deferred over 30 times from implementation. Today they still remain unimplemented and nothing has changed. Since 2008, the oh so brilliant “check and balances” system (which totally fails when BOTH parties are bought) totally failed, and Washington continued to plow money into the banksters wallets (close to $10 TRILLION in low and no cost loans).

China’s economy grows at 8.4% this 4th Qtr., America’s (the ultimate democratic pinnacle) at what, 1.5%? Beijing created 20 million jobs this year under the CPC. America?

The Chinese people duly note the differences, and wonder why the caveman continues to brag about the efficacies of basking in the sun to deal with the lice problem; the Chinese have better remedies already, and don’t need the advice.

There is nothing laissez faire about business in China. Even the large multinationals (actually especially the large multinationals) are required to have a Communist Party Committees.

November 27, 2012 @ 5:36 am | Comment

@Goldthrope Comment 133

The first 30 years of the republic was an exceptional case, one of facing insurmountable odds.

Within a couple years of ending the protracted civil war by 1949, in which tens of millions were killed, New China already faced an existential threat – America with its world No. 1 military might, amassed on China’s border with 16 (or was it 20) other military forces, and McArthur refused to stop approaching the Yalu when requested by Beijing. The rest, was history.

By 1961, America planned and trained to nuke all of New China’s big cities, to be followed with full scale invasion.

The Soviets dittoed, and by the late ’60s informed America that it would execute surgical nuclear strikes against thousands of Chinese targets.

In between, there was more than one famine.

Those were indeed very difficult years. Yet under the capable leadership of the CPC, China survived intact, and only grew stronger. Mao had made some mistakes, but his contribution in wiping out the concept of China as the bullyable nation, means that he would always remain a national hero.

November 27, 2012 @ 5:53 am | Comment

The derivatives/meltdown was certainly a failure of regulation. A failure of regulation is not unique to the US, or democracy. Surely you need no reminders of the various regulatory failures of the CCP. Let’s start with milk and coal miners, just as a couple of low-lying fruit. There’s more where that came from.

Yes, Chinese people can duly note the differences. So the choice should be clear, shouldn’t it? Except the CCP shills and the CCP themselves still can’t put their money where their mouth is. Wonder why? You realize that every time you talk up the CCP, it’s one less reason they should fear putting their mouse-trap up for public scrutiny. Yet fear that they most certainly do. It’s a piece of logic that CCP apologists are genetically incapable of grasping.

It’s also true that Chinese people don’t need outside advice. Which is why all I’ve ever suggested is to give them the choice, and let them make it. It’s hypocrites like you who insist upon the system that Chinese people must live under, while not living under it yourself.

November 27, 2012 @ 6:01 am | Comment

To 135:
truly LOL. Yeah, let’s just write off an inconvenient 30 years of CCP fuck-up. Oh, and the imaginary invasions. And as the cherry to top it all off, the shameless Mao worship. You are a freak show…but please do continue cuz you amuse me.

November 27, 2012 @ 6:05 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung:

Regulatory failure anyone can handle – China handles problems quickly and efficaciously. The political process being hijacked so completely by banksters, on the other hand, apparently can only happen under a multi-party system. This hubristic confidence in “checks and balances” means that there is actually no way to get rid of the hijack when both dominant parties are bought and owned.

Under the Chinese one party meritocratic system, only the most capable can rise to the top. Under the American democratic system, only the best liars (who made the best campaign promises) can, irrespective of capability. The results stare you in the face every day.

8.4% is greater than 2.3%, no matter how you hype it.

November 27, 2012 @ 6:19 am | Comment

“China handles problems quickly and efficaciously”
—like SARS, no doubt. Man, you really drink the kool-aid in industrial doses, don’t you? On the other hand, you really have encyclopedic knowledge of the usual CCP talking points. “congratulations?” (should be spoken with Jon Stewart sarcastic inflection for maximal effect).

“the most capable can rise to the top”
—most capable in the eyes of whom? Most capable at doing what? Oh right, corruption and lining of their own pockets. Yes, those guys are certainly cream of the crop when it comes to that sort of thing.

“8.4% is greater than 2.3%, no matter how you hype it.”
—and even if you believe the 8.4%, and even if you believe that it represents real growth and not just building of empty buidings and paving of unused roads…still, not good enough for the CCP to go to Chinese people and seek a real mandate. That should tell you something…but in your case, guess not.

November 27, 2012 @ 6:35 am | Comment

“The first 30 years of the republic was an exceptional case, one of facing insurmountable odds.”

And the answer to these existential threats was the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution….and the instigators of these events left their children to carry on running the country and amass vast wealth. Excellent.

November 27, 2012 @ 7:30 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 139

SARS, of course. When SARS broke, Americans were projecting that 100,000,000 Chinese could die. They figured that Chinese medicine, which is “50 years behind that of America”, simply cannot handle an epidemic (the jury is still out whether it was biological warfare instigated by the West) like SARS.

What was the end result?? Fewer Chinese died of SARS than of West Niles mosquito bites in America.

Facts, man, facts.

HOW were and are the Chinese leaders the best in the world? Again we turn to FACTS. (BTW, the production numbers below did not come from the CPC – they were tallied by a neocon blogger in the U.S., writing about China as threat – failures cannot be threats):

At the end of WW II, China not only was war ravished, China had a illiteracy rate exceeding 85% when Mao took power, and life expectancy was around 50. Slightly better than America at time of establishment, but not by much. Yet today, after a short 6 decades, China has a literacy rate of over 95%. Today, China has a life expectancy at birth only a few years behind that of America (despite the fact that the per capita health spending is less than 1/20th that in America). Doing more with less is a Chinese specialty, and that takes capable leaders.

Through hard work and discipline (which Westerners obviously lack), over the past three decades, China has been able to accumulate over 3 trillion dollars in foreign currency reserves.

For innovation, China has BSB – the system and technology to build the 30 storey hotel in 15 days. By year end BSB will likely start work on the world’s tallest building, to be completed in 90 days. China builds infrastructure with a 30% cost advantage over the West. Its construction machine industry is growing from strength to strength. By 2050, it is likely that Caterpillar and Komatsu will just be memories. And it is poignant to note that infrastructure is meat and potatos (or seafood and rice in Chinese terms) job creators, unlike flighty high tech, sustaining huge number of good, solid paying jobs by Chinese standards (engineering jobs around $1,000 a month).

The Chinese economy has grown 6 or 7 times faster than the U.S. economy has over the past decade.

In 2010, China produced more than twice as many automobiles as the United States did.

In 2010, the production of certain commodities:
Steel: China 627 million tons. USA 80 million.
Cotton: China 7.3 million tons. USA 3.4 million.

15 years ago, China was 14th in the world in published scientific research articles. Today China is expected to pass the United States and become number one very shortly. China now awards more doctoral degrees in engineering each year than the United States does.

China now has several of the fastest supercomputers in the top 20 in the world. Lenovo is No. 1 in the world in PCs. By 2020, China makes more computers than the rest of the world combined. Even for a “national pride” tablet computer project, India cannot avoid coming to China to have the Aakash tablet made.

China now has the world’s fastest train and the world’s most extensive high-speed rail network.

China is now the number one producer of wind and solar power on the entire globe.

China controls over 90 percent of the total global supply of rare earth elements, not because the ores are rare, but because China has the technology and the know how to produce these safely and cost effectively.

China is now the number one supplier of even a number of components that are critical to the operation of U.S. defense systems.

In China, the average household debt load is 17% of average household income; that compares with 136% in the USA.

China today graduates 6 million college grads a year, with half of them in the sciences and engineering. Doing R&D in China costs only 1/5th of that in the West.

____________________

Most of these items did not come about through “open market capitalism” – they require long term planning and expert execution of the plans, in which the Chinese leaders excel.

The best, objectively speaking.

November 27, 2012 @ 7:47 am | Comment

@SKC and MG:

Put in that perspective, to even suggest that China MUST get rid of the existing, highly efficacious political system, and adopt the interminable dead end gridlock that is “democracy,” simply won’t sell. Come back when America accumulates 30 years of just say 6% growth, then it might be more convincing.

November 27, 2012 @ 7:55 am | Comment

“SARS, of course.”
—It’s still mind boggling how incapable and incompetent CCP apologists can be when tasked with following the gist of an argument. It’s as though they’re completely and utterly lost unless you draw out the intestines for them, each and every single time. The point isn’t that fewer Chinese people died from SARS (which is of course a good thing) than expected. The point was about how CCP authorities tried to sweep SARS under the rug, and even deny the event until they had exhausted all plausible deniability, as a counterpoint to your ridiculous and delusional claim that the CCP handles regulatory shortcomings “quickly and efficaciously”. Seriously, are all CCP apologists really that stupid, or do you guys just pretend to be on China blogs?

It’s also amusing when you guys speak of “facts”. Now, forgetting the “facts” of the first 30 years which you seem to want to just forget about (and who can blame you?), which of those latter “facts” requires CCP authoritarianism?

Yes, China has cheap labour. That’s obvious. How does that require the CCP? China has improving tech capacity. How does that require the CCP? Chinese have a history of being savers rather than spenders. How does that require the CCP? China has high-speed rail…when it’s not crashing…yeah that part we should credit the CCP with…or at least the part about burying trains and trying to cover it up.

Chinese can do lots of things, no doubt. And they can do all of them without the CCP. Well, at least I think they can. Of course, I’d simply let them decide that for themselves. You, on the other hand, like every CCP apologist before you, insists on telling Chinese people what to do. Comical, really.

November 27, 2012 @ 8:14 am | Comment

Ok, let’s do a bit more of a detailed parsing of your “facts”, shall we?

Mao did improve literacy with his decision to dumb down written Chinese. On the balance, probably a good move even if it bastardized the language. But what has the CCP done for language lately?

Life expectancy has improved (apart from the dips during GLF with Mao…oh right, that’s the part of history you’d rather ignore), as you would expect with an improved GDP. What has the CCP actually done for life expectancy, besides melamine, gutter oil, and poisoned drinking water?

The CCP’s infrastructure spending has been impressive. And at times, useful for the average Zhao. Is that unique to the CCP, or simply a byproduct of something financed by economic growth?

China has made more cars, and steel, and grown more cotton, probably because the market has demanded it. There’s that free market economy we’re talking about again.

China is doing better research, even if people first need to go to western institutions to learn how to do it. But is the CCP doing that research? And is the CCP now making supercomputers?

See, here’s what folks like you need to learn. There’s correlation, which is all you’ve provided. And there’s causality, which you don’t have a prayer with when it comes to the CCP and what Chinese have accomplished in recent years.

Chinese people have done some great things, and the CCP has ridden on their coattails. No doubt, the CCP needs Chinese people (cuz I mean, who else would put up with those corrupt bastards). But I highly doubt that Chinese people need the CCP. Now, I may well be wrong, which is why I’d leave it up to Chinese people themselves. Yet another cerebral concept about which you have much to learn.

November 27, 2012 @ 8:57 am | Comment

“Come back when America accumulates 30 years of just say 6% growth, then it might be more convincing.”

Ummm, China has “5000 year history” according the starry eyed. America has just under 240 years as an independent nation. Which is richer? Which has the sons of leaders flocking to it’s educational establishments? Which has the reserve currency, which has the largest economy with about a billion less people? Then, of course, there’s the world’s second largest GDP bloc, the EU. Again, democracies, less people and in financial turmoil. And still richer and larger than China.

China has a large grown because the CCP stood back and let the Chinese people do their thing. It’s called rebound. Watch it slow year on year under the CCP. Now, if the Chinese could chose their own destiny as opposed to have it chosen for them by kleptocrats, whither China?

November 27, 2012 @ 9:01 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung Comment 143

Without the CPC, there would not be New China. That is much more than slogan.

Your SAR gripe is hard to follow. What were the Chicoms supposed to do? Rebroadcast American allegations that 100,000,000 Chinese were going to die, that their fate were preordained according to the laws and wishes of the foreign God, and they should overthrow the CPC? Well, if they did that, they would certainly deserve to be thrown out. Instead, the Chinese government acted swiftly and effectively, and controlled the spread of the epidemic. More than 150 patents grew out of that short period of a minor national crisis. A new national epidemic task force was formed and still functions today.

Screaming fire in a crowded theater is much less helpful than putting out the fire, and the CPC chose to do the latter and the better.

Without the CPC, most of the achievements of New China simply could not have happened – just look at India and compare item by item.

As further example, Japan has the No. 2 foreign currency reserves in the world (actually a distant second, with only $1.27 Trillion) but Japan had to borrow up to the gills (national debt being close to 250% of the national GDP) to fund that. The CPC leaders figured out how to accumulate the $3.28 Trillion (if you include Hong Kong and Macus, it would be $3.65 Trillion) without having to borrow.

Without the CPC, there would not be the No. 1 high speed train network and the fastest high speed trains. No. 1 is by definition unique. You cannot “buy” No. 1 – it has to be planned and the plans have to be carried out.

Without the CPC, there would not be New China. The Chicom leaders earned their keep by telling the nation how China can become better, and how the lives of the Chinese will (and did) improve year after year. Plebeians, by definition, are incapable of great things. Great leaders bring great vision and the capability to making the visions real.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:07 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung:

“There’s correlation, which is all you’ve provided. And there’s causality, . . .”

But there is also the itsy bitsy detail of the contrapositive. If China is No. 1, and there is no other No. 1, then it could not possibly have been democracy that led to the success, since China does not have democracy.

China is No. 1 today in a very large number of human endeavors, and the list grows every year.

The Chinese people have chosen, by living their useful lives being productive, happy citizens under the leadership of the CPC, just like American citizens vote everyday with their wallets, to buy Made in China and support the CPC’s leadership.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:18 am | Comment

“New China” didn’t happen because of the CCP. It was Deng realizing that the one thing China had that others didn’t, was massive people power. And subsequently getting the hell out of the way, as Mike says. All those things China accomplished where the CCP happened to be in charge, could only have occurred because economic growth allowed it. And the economic growth in question was predicated on a change in economic guidance, not political guidance. If you want to heap praise on Deng for seeing the need to open up the economy, and following through on it, I’m all for that. But by getting the hell out of the way, it’s also not the CCP that’s driving things; it’s Chinese people themselves.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:21 am | Comment

“If China is No. 1, and there is no other No. 1, then it could not possibly have been democracy that led to the success, since China does not have democracy.”
—logic, thy name is not the zoo-keeper. True, democracy didn’t cause China to be number 1. I never said it did. But you’ve tried to suggest quite laughably that the CCP caused China to be number 1, which is where you’re confusing correlation with causality (and obviously your confusion is more profound than even I had anticipated). It’s really high time for the CCP to teach you shills some logic, cuz I find you folks categorically profoundly lacking in that arena.

“The Chinese people have chosen” to “support the CPC’s leadership.”
—man, that is some fierce kool-aid indeed.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:28 am | Comment

@MG Comment 145

The topic of this forum concerns whether democracy or one-party meritocracy is better for China.

One party-meritocracy was the best performing political system for the bulk (over 90%) of the last 5,000 years. China was, for just about all of known human history (save for the last couple of years) the No. 1 nation and culture amongst humans. One party meritocracy works.

In the last 300 years, the Qing’s system clearly was no match for Western imperialism, and China suffered. It is exactly for that fact that the Chinese people revolted, and replaced the ineffective Qing, and then the ineffective KMT, with the effective one party meritocracy of the CPC – and what a glorious 63 years those had been!! The odds are on that China will be No. 1 again, across the board, because of this system – because one-party meritocracy WORKS. That is exactly why there is such Western urgency in trying to deprive China and the Chinese of this proven advantage.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:36 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung 148 and 149

If democracy did not cause China to be No. 1 in the large no. of endeavors (since China is not democratic), and the CPC did not cause it according to SKC, then it must be “people power” of the Chinese people.

Again, contrapositive – China during the Qing Dynasty was also the largest population on Earth, and yet it had none of the accomplishments.

Clearly, large population size and low labor cost do not equate with success. Success requires leadership, smart and dedicated leadership.

November 27, 2012 @ 9:43 am | Comment

ZBJ
Part of that one party state relied on institutions such as slavery – does that mean we should return to that too? And odd how the one party state did not survive the onslaught of multiparty states (I can’t call them full democracies as they weren’t).
One party meritocracy does work – if there is meritocracy only. Humanity being what it is, corruption and nepotism will cloud the waters. Look at the people ruling China now – how many are princelings? You really expect me to believe that the cream of China is picked to rule? Or that those in power are consolidating their rule and money?

“…and what a glorious 63 years those had been!!”
Yeah, glorious….

November 27, 2012 @ 9:55 am | Comment

@MG 152

A white horse is a horse, but it not “horse”.

“Part of that one party state relied on institutions such as slavery – does that mean we should return to that too?”

What is that supposed to mean? The Chicoms never had slavery as institution – in contrast democracies like the Brits, Canada, and of course AMERICA did. So what are you trying to say. It is confusing.

Corruption and nepotism is not confined to single party states, they exist in ALL systems and all nations. If W was not the son of an American president, could he have gotten into Harvard and later successfully lie (campaign promises being such a big oxymoron not even W believed in them) his way into the top job.

Yes, whomever rises to the top in China IS the cream of the crop, who has excelled in a long process of vetting by peers. Each and every one of the top Chinese leaders has to prove himself (sorry, no females yet) on the job over decades, on capability, ability to work with peers, dedication, devotion to the job, etc. It is not true that only princelings can get the top jobs. Neither Hu nor Wen was a princeling. It so happens that this “crop” has a number of them. With two Bushes being presidents, and Jeb Bush most likely to run in 2016, do we conclude that the American presidency is hereditary? Or maybe we should.

November 27, 2012 @ 10:10 am | Comment

Don’t say I didn’t warn you guys. People like Zhu live in their own shrink-wrapped margin of insanity, a fact perfectly captured by his understanding of the SARS crisis and his strangely evidence-free claim that “the jury is still out whether it was biological warfare instigated by the West”. I should think evidence would have to be submitted to at least be brought to trial, but not in his world. Further dialogue with him will just yield more of his quaint admixture of supreme confidence and disturbed paranoia.

As I said, his understanding is always superficial to the point of gross stupidity (quadrupled GDP=”the Chinese people can afford to buy 4 times as much”) and shows a complete inability to consider evidence counter to his arguments, despite the fact that such evidence is legion. China’s 20% unemployment rate, for example. Or the debacle currently underway in China with the sale of “low-rent housing equities” to alleviate capital pressure. Or the fact that the difference between the US’s GDP in 1978 and 2012 (34 years) is larger than the entire GDP of China today.

“In China, the average household debt load is 17% of average household income; that compares with 136% in the USA.”

Well, no, Zhu needs to look more closely at the stuff he is copying and pasting again.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2010/06/24/one-big-difference-between-chinese-and-american-households-debt/

Then he’d see that this survey was done exclusively in 15 first and second tier cities in China, which skews the data considerably.

What I find rather remarkable about this issue, apart from acknowledging how in debt Americans are today, is that most Chinese assets don’t come from accumulated income, but actually from initial government largess (real-estate based windfalls, including the “original windfall” of granting temporary property ownership to citizens). This ties into CM’s insistence on wealth as a measure of inequality rather than income, which of course is quite different than what the PRC government believes is important. This largess is essentially something the PRC has yet to pay for, but it is a debt, a government debt, and it severely distorts the property market in China in a multitude of ways.

“What were the Chicoms supposed to do? Rebroadcast American allegations that 100,000,000 Chinese were going to die, that their fate were preordained according to the laws and wishes of the foreign God, and they should overthrow the CPC?”

Oh my…

November 27, 2012 @ 10:14 am | Comment

@Handler 154

That SARS was suspected to be more than just a natural phenomenon is so well established, I had figured that everyone knows. I do not expect to have to put up evidence that 1+1=2.

Google even has multiple search words. When you type in “SARS biol”, up comes suggestions of:

SARS biological weapon
SARS biological warfare

It is so well known that there is even an Wikipedia entry for it. There are 165,000 entries under “SARS biological warfare” on Google.

The evidence is there, you just refuse to see, just as your lot refuse to see that the CPC has been and continues to be the best government for the Chinese in the last 1,000 years, and today stands as the best performing form of government on Earth.

November 27, 2012 @ 10:38 am | Comment

Looks like ZBJ needs a foil hat too…..

“The Chicoms never had slavery as institution…” So the CCP has been in charge of China for the last 5000 years? Hmmm, no wonder that phrase has become some sort of rote learnt line… Yes, they had slavery in the west – wasn’t illegal then (had to wait for Britain to abolish it in the Empire in the early 1800s.). And yes AMERICA (so great one needs to SHOUT it’s name) had slavery, though Vermont abolished it in 1777, a full 129 years before the same happened in China. But that’s a red herring…

“sorry, no females yet” Ergo not a meritocracy. I know that not only princelings get the top jobs…but they get an inordinately good chance at the top spots – and yes, just like the US presidential candidates (although I can’t think which Obama relative preceded him…or Clinton, though I dare say being married to him didn’t hurt Ma Clinton) have come from certain political families. Only thing is, though, is that they are not appointed. Yes, the elections are probably stacked in their favour, but they don’t know if they’re in until they’re in. Jeb can run all he likes but he’s not a dead cert. I hear they’re already picking the next set of Chinese leaders now… http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/27/world/asia/new-generation-of-communist-party-leaders-prepare-for-next-round.html?ref=global-home At least one of them doesn’t seem to have this pathetic need to dye his hair :-)

November 27, 2012 @ 11:12 am | Comment

@zhu

You mean evidence that someone had the idea that SARS was “not just a natural phenomenon”. Impressive. Now let’s see the evidence that obviously needs to be considered in the trial you say currently exists to determine “whether it was biological warfare instigated by the West”.

“It is so well known that there is even an Wikipedia entry for it. There are 165,000 entries under “SARS biological warfare” on Google”

Yes, I note that the article “SARS Conspiracy Theory” moves from two Russian scientists to Chinese netizens, and from that to the fact that Chinese scientists confirm the transmission from civet cats and further speculation that it might have been a PRC’S bio weapon. But of course the prize is Tong Zeng, who bases his paranoid speculation on blood samples taken in medical programs and, of course, finds a way to blame it on the Japanese. That’s quite a lot of substance to base your trial on.

“The evidence is there, you just refuse to see”

Did I miss something? Kindly point it out to me. What evidence is there that “The West” had anything to do with creating SARS? If you do not take the responsibility of backing up your own words, I’m afraid you come off as nothing more than an overseas Chinese with a persecution complex thoroughly ingratiating yourself to a foreign government (a criminal act if you receive payment for the services you provide across a range of websites) based on a nebulous feeling of elevated stature and a belief in ethnic loyalty and superiority.

You don’t want to be that person, do you? That’s Jing.

November 27, 2012 @ 11:21 am | Comment

Attacking my persona is simply silly, as the pigheaded (moi) is very thick-skinned.

The facts are the facts. You argue that the goods things (there are A LOT of them that happened under the CPC) did not happen because of the CPC. But the Chinese people clearly do not agree with you – Pew Research over an entire decade found that the vast majority (over 85% consistently) of the Chinese people are most enthusiastic about the direction the nation is going. Can’t say the same for DEMOCRATIC America, where half of the nation hates Obama, and the other half detests the Republicans. When a nation is not even united on what needs to be done and on how to do it, what can you expect? Gridlock, lack of improvements, lost of hope, decline – all of these you can observe on a daily basis.

There is adrenaline high (artificially induced by tens of billions of dollars in attack ads), but the exhilaration for half of the country does not last, while the extreme dissatisfaction by the other half does. That’s the part where it gets confusing – WHAT is this superiority alleged for the use of liars’ contests (national voting) to choose leaders, when it is proven again and again that you choose clowns (much scarier than any of the malevolent ones that Stephen King can sketch) using this system, and cannot get rid of the chosen once they are in (because of the incumbent advantage).

Yet you insist that China, which has a demonstrably better performing system, should, no, MUST, adopt this same silliness, at the pain of being nuked if Beijing does not comply.

WHO is the scary rogue in this picture?

November 27, 2012 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

There is no attack on your persona. You have consistently called yourself “an American” on other websites, and your obsession with Japan and the dangers of “the West” is clearly indicative of a type. You also claimed to have been living in China for the last 10 years. These are your testimonies.

Pause the apologist’s loop and answer my question, please.

What evidence is there that “The West” had anything to do with creating SARS? Think of this question as a simple ecological logic “tag” to see if you are prone to mental excursions you cannot explain.

November 27, 2012 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

To the zoo-lander #151:
” China during the Qing Dynasty was also the largest population on Earth, and yet it had none of the accomplishments.”
—huh? Ok, I haven’t quite ascertained the absolute extent of your stupidity. Are you asking why Chinese in the 1700s and 1800s didn’t have big HSR networks or the fastest supercomputers? (“the accomplishments”, as you say). If you are (and I can’t completely dismiss the possibility that you are actually that stupid), then you belong in a psychiatric facility.

If you are asking why Chinese people in the 1700s and 1800s weren’t vying for world-leading positions at the time, then at least it isn’t a retarded question. But you selectively forget about the free-market economy aspect that converted China from merely the largest population in the world (the “people power”) to one capable of tremendous economic growth. All those other “accomplishments” are predicated on, and made possible by, said economic growth. So no, it’s not just the population; it’s also the economic system. And Chinese people have Deng to thank, obviously not for inventing capitalism, but at least for recognizing its importance, and for allowing it into China, after all those years of nonsense with Mao.

And yes, success does benefit from leadership. But your deluded contention is that such leadership can only come from the CCP, which is simply baseless and logically unfounded.

Why is it that you CCP apologists are so devoid of even the capacity for logic? Just mindless toeing of the party line, all the time. But I guess you people have to do whatever it is that you people have to do.

Then to take it to the next level, we go from one CCP apologist brain-fart (logic) to another (Pew surveys). Please, can even one CCP apologist please read the methodology section of even one Pew survey, then spend some time learning about survey methodology, then try to explain to his fellow group of CCP apologist numb-skulls just what the problem is with these surveys? That way, we don’t get apologist after apologist frothing at the mouth trotting out these surveys which are scientifically useless. Here’s the bullet: a survey roughly 4000 folks that only samples roughly 40% of CHina’s population is NOT RANDOM, NOT generalizable, and basically fairly useless, except for inducing the truly uneducated to constantly refer to its top line results. You people really need to get yourselves edu-ma-cated.

November 27, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

I must say though, that being pig-headed and thick-skinned is a job prerequisite for a CCP apologist. I mean, look at the position you’re trying to defend. And look at the arguments you’re reduced to making in defense of it. Certainly not a task for the faint-of-heart.

November 27, 2012 @ 2:20 pm | Comment

@S.K. Cheung:

My positions are well documented and well reasoned. I do not call you an apologist or a numb skull. Your posts speak for themselves.

As we speak, China rises, all thanks to the CPC’s leadership. To suggest that adopting the useless deadlock of democracy can improve upon China’s successes, is:

1. Not supported by evidence;
2. Done with illwill against the Chinese people.

Yes, I fully understand that the West is totally paranoid that there is a BETTER system than democracy when what you want is economic prosperity and peace. But don’t be desperate, pulling is always better than pushing. If you think or assert that democracy is so hot, DEMONSTRATE its superiority by delivering the goods – by improving the lives and living standards of your own citizens, by creating the millions of new jobs, by making wealth distribution more fair so that your Gini’s index is not so embarrassing, and show the world that there is actually substance behind all that bragging. Y’see China is doing exactly that – demonstrating the superiority of the system and reforms, and never being so self-satisfied that Beijing would deem it necessary to push others to adopt the one party meritocracy system (even though it is objectively the best performing in the world today).

November 27, 2012 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

@Handler 159

Why are you dwelling on such triviality that is irrelevant to the argument here: whether democracy or one-party meritocracy is better for China?

My prior statement was that “the jury is still out whether it (SARS) was biological warfare instigated by the West”. You said there is no evidence. I pointed out that there are 165,000 links in response to a Google Search of the term “SARS Biological Warfare”. That is all the evidence I need (or anyone would need) for the assertion that “the jury is still out” on the issue – meaning that there is dispute over whether the assertion is true or can be proved.

I can respect fellow debaters who comes back with facts and figures and alternative interpretations of data. I do not appreciate the need to waste time with nitpickers.

November 27, 2012 @ 2:44 pm | Comment

“I pointed out that there are 165,000 links in response to a Google Search of the term “SARS Biological Warfare”. That is all the evidence I need (or anyone would need) for the assertion that “the jury is still out” on the issue – meaning that there is dispute over whether the assertion is true or can be proved.”

Well, at least the tag works. You clearly do need more and are too deranged to reign yourself in. Your final argument is that we cannot be sure “The West” didn’t do it because you can find links on google pertaining to any number of crackpot theories. Spare us your idiocy. The fact is there is no jury, not even a metaphorical one, because there are not even suffcient scraps of evidence for a metaphorical trial. There are only a small number of quacks whispering among themselves.

What would be made of your argument in China in light of the CCP’s war on rumors?

November 27, 2012 @ 4:56 pm | Comment

Rein, obviously. Crackpot authoritarianism appears to taint all things.

November 27, 2012 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

@zhuubaajie,

I’ve been reading a few of your comments until I got entirely too bored to follow any more.

But let me ask you just one question: If the CCP is so great, surely they can allow opposition political parties at any time, and everyone will still love them, right? Surely they can end censorship of the media at any time, because they are so great, and the truth will just shine through and everyone will still love them, right? And while they’re at it, since the ‘Chicoms’, as you like to call them, are the world’s greatest, they could also have multi-party elections, since they are so perfect, that hardly anyone at all would ever vote for anyone else, isn’t it? Liu Xiaobo has no need to be in jail because no one would ever listen to him anyway.

So I suggest you march on over to the Party HQ and tell them about how great they are, and that there’s no need to censor, suppress, arrest! I suspect they will wholeheartedly agree.

November 28, 2012 @ 1:05 am | Comment

Zhuubaajie,

The Chicoms are so great, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. They can handle all of these things. People will still be kissing their feet. No one would ever want anything else!

November 28, 2012 @ 1:08 am | Comment

To zoo-meister,
I call them as I see them. And I had you pegged from the get-go. If the shoe fits, buddy, wear them proud and sing it loud. What, are you an apologist in denial or something? I also love it when you people feel the need to proclaim your posts as “reasoned” and such. Why do you guys grovel so much? And it’s genetic, cuz all of you people do it. It’s like all apologists are related by stupidity or something.

Yes, China is rising. In spite of the CCP, perhaps, but certainly not because of it. Rules of logic dictate that if you make the argument asserting the CCP as the causal element of China’s rise, then the burden is on you to prove it. And you can’t. You are either too stupid to recognize that basic logic progression, or are too indoctrinated to be able to accept it. Either way, not my problem. You could groan on all day, and it won’t change that logic hole in which you find yourself. Wise men say that when you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging. We shall see how much wisdom you have, but I’m not hopeful.

Since you can’t offer proof of your position, all you’ve got is regurgitation of what you’ve been told. We’ve already established earlier that free-will and independent thought were also beyond your grasp. So what we get is a visual of all the kool-aid you’ve been drinking…in reverse. Not a pretty sight, but you do what you gotta do.

You seem forever focused solely on the US. Yes, the US version of democracy is currently in deadlock. But there are many other iterations of democracy that are not…as we speak. And there is no stipulation that Chinese people utilize the US system. It’s not as though democracy is attained IFF (logic terminology, do you know it?) you have the US system. Yet that is constantly the straw-man you guys fixate upon. My position is that Chinese people should determine their political future for themselves. Not sure how that bodes ill-will for Chinese people. Your position is CCP forever, which is just juvenile ass-kissing writ large.

November 28, 2012 @ 2:40 am | Comment

Wow, Zhuzhu really is bad news. This totally takes the cake:

My prior statement was that “the jury is still out whether it (SARS) was biological warfare instigated by the West”. You said there is no evidence. I pointed out that there are 165,000 links in response to a Google Search of the term “SARS Biological Warfare”. That is all the evidence I need (or anyone would need) for the assertion that “the jury is still out” on the issue – meaning that there is dispute over whether the assertion is true or can be proved.

Darling, there are nearly nine MILLION google searches for whether there really are unicorns. Does that mean “the jury is still out on whether unicorns exist”? Come on, 9 million searches — people still haven’t made up their minds, so the jury is still out? Shitheaded google searches meet the criteria for “evidence”? Brilliant. A very scientific way to measure whether something is true or not, or whether people are whacky.

Guys, is there really any point arguing with an idiot who would charge SARS was some Western-concocted biological weapon or whatever? Really, zhuzhu has shown us quite clearly what he is all about. How many neurons do we want to burn arguing with someone who is irrational, deluded, brainwashed and clearly out to take over the threads, drive everyone crazy and scare away legitimate traffic?

November 28, 2012 @ 2:44 am | Comment

To Richard,
he’s deranged, no doubt. But to his credit, with comments in the 160s, he’s still on topic trying in vain to prop up the dead horse that is meritocracy. So he hasn’t tried to jack it the way some of your other trolls do. Small brownie point for him.

I was going to leave it to Handler to deal with the Google search bit, since that was his discussion. But yeah, resorting to google hits as “proof” is pretty low-rent and intellectually-challenged. Next he’ll tell us that wikipedia is the world authority on …well…everything.

November 28, 2012 @ 3:02 am | Comment

I am ending this thread and putting up an open thread. You can continue there.

November 28, 2012 @ 3:17 am | Comment

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