One China, One Party The

One China, One Party

The 16th Party Congress of China’s Communist Party has begun, and the airwaves are jammed with coverage of the ritual. The newspapers and other media have assigned the bulk of their staffs to cover this annual circus. I watch bemused as hundreds of reporters sit there listening studiously, taking notes and asking questions, as though the whole thing meant something.

This is one of the great “bizarreries” of life here in China. Everyone hates their government. Everyone. They laugh at it, curse it, sigh about it and work fiendishly to get around it. It is simply a necessary evil. (This is not to say that they hate their country. They do not. The Chinese are fervently patriotic and love their country.)

Because The Government is monolithic, the corruption is everywhere. Anytime something needs to be done that involves a government agency, “special fees” need to be handed over. It is just a fact of life. There is no one to complain to. And this is exactly why the Congress is little more than farce: For all the talk of the Party following “the will of the people” (an oft-repeated phrase) there is no real or meaningful representation.

To give the current leaders credit, there are signs that it is loosening the reigns, and allowing a slight modicum of criticism to be heard in the media — very slight. It is also slowly changing its educational system, moving away from learning by rote to the more inquisitive, problem-solving method employed in the West. But this is a matter of necessity, not Liberalism — if China is going to compete on a global scale, it requires an army of employees who can think for themselves and manage and create, and not simply do as they are told. (At the moment, nearly every enterprise hires foreigners and Hong Kong Chinese for mid- and upper-management positions, and if that’s ever going to change the Mainlanders simply must learn to approach problems and challenges in a new way, instead of simply asking the person above to decide for them. This is not to imply they aren’t smart — they may well be the smartest people on the planet.) The government is well aware of the inherent dangers of encouraging people to think, and it will be interesting to see how far this actually goes.

Have to keep it short, but I’ll try to give periodic updates on the glorious Party Congress.

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