Weekend Thread, 2

The earlier one filled up in record time.

The Discussion: 58 Comments

I Believe A Country is Strong if It Can Build Stuff

Ever since the Opium War, Chinese have been looking for ways to make China strong. There has been many suggestion, some say democracy is the path to greatness, others say education, or culture, etc. et.

Well I think all the above suggestions are mistaken. I believe in “Saving a country through knowing to to make stuff”. That is, if there are things other countries can build, we should also learn to how to build them, and should start building them. If others know how to build jetliners, we should also know how to build jetliners. If others know how to build computers, we should also know how to build computers.

Why did the Japanese become so strong? Mainly because the Japanese paid attention to building things. They didn’t really pay attention to science, or democracy. THey only cared about how to build things. Of course Science is the foundation for building things, but scientific principles are differnet from technological know-hows. The first are open to the world, the latter is protected in secrecy.

When the Nationalists came to power in China in 1927, they had a relatively stable period, and tried to develop the economy. But they did not pay attention to building things. But when the Communists took over in 1949, in 20 years time, they figured out how to bulilt cars, airplanes, tanks, atomic bomb, satellites, freight ships, partical accelerators, And they were able to build all of those under economic sanctions by the world. And that’s a critical reason why the US decided to pay more attention to China. Unlike the Communists, the Nationalists in the 20’s did not want to spend time to figure out how to build stuff, instead, they bought those stuff from countries who already know how to build them. This is like someone who copies others homework instead of trying to understand the material on his/her own.

But today, the Chinese government lost its drive to build things. Instead, it wants to promote globalization. Basically, it’s saying, “others already know how to build those advanced stuff, let’s just buy the stuff they already built , while we make cheap clothes…”. What they fail to understand is that while making cheap clothes and toys and selling them to walmart may be very very profitable, they won’t contribute to the strength of a nation. This is like two people, who studies theoretical physics and knows how to design DVD Players or Laser Projectors, the other thinks it’s too much waste of time to try to do that, since you can already buy them at stores, so he decides to become a waiter, since a waiter can earn more than an engineer through tips.

In conclusion, my view is that the criteria for a country’s strength is not democracy, not science, not education. The only criterion is whether the country has the ability to build stuff that others can build, and can also build stuff others cannot build. If one day China can also land on the moon, or have a space station, or explore the mars, or have world-class cancer detection technology,etc. If that days comes, I can guarantee you no one would open his/her mouth and accuse China about this and that. Even if China is backward in all other aspects of society, but leading in building things, then China will be respected, and the entire world would be talking about how to learn from the “China Experience”, or the “China Model”, and China will be looked up to just like the US is.

So my advice to the Chinese government today is: “spend less time making clothes and toys, spend more time making passenger jetlines and computer chips”. The profits may not be as easy and as immediate, but it’s worth it, trust me.

September 10, 2005 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

Math, interesting comment, although I disagree with the basic thrust. Japan was able to withstand Western imperialism by adopting Western methods, not merely by learning how to “build stuff.” Japan sent thousands to the West to study, learn, and eventually adapt Western methods to Japanese society, not merely in engineering, but in politics, economics, military organization, and other fields. China is attempting something similar right now. In any case, Japan was the first non-Western power to defeat a Western power (Russia), which it did by adopting Western methods across the board. It is overly reductionist to focus only on comparative advantage.

China has also been busy adopting Western methods over the past century; however, unfortunately, China ended up adopting Marxism from the West, rather than capitalism. Well, that error is currently being rectified. I am not suggesting that this is a one-way street: the West adopted gunpowder and other Chinese technologies and put them to novel uses, as well.

If China succeeds in offering an alternative development model to the Third World — i.e., autocracy coupled with piracy and rudimentary free markets, we may find ourselves in the middle of another Cold War. That would be bad for everyone. In any case, I think that is unlikely, mainly because China lacks an ideology these days that anyone actually believes in.

September 10, 2005 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

Math, you need to learn something about economy, seriously.
USSR built many more advanced products than Japan did. Look at them today…
One major reason that communist China could make that many modern products as you mentioned in your post is the technology transfer of USSR. The same for Japan on the technology transfer from USA.
You have to focus on economy. That’s what’s made western countries and that’s what’s made China today. CCP learned it hard way. Our generation or a new CCP like you just have no reason to repeat the tragedy again…

September 10, 2005 @ 3:49 pm | Comment


You are wrong with your comments. Countries engage in activities that they have comparative advantages in. So China’s advantage is low labour costs and therefore they engage in manufacturing of low costs goods.

US’s strengths is in technology, at least as of now, and so they engage in chips design or airplane manufacturing.

If anything, US is the country that is in trouble according to your definition of “building stuff”. The US is not manufacturing much. They are consuming more than building stuff – importing more than exporting – and hence the giantic trade deficit.

2001 is the year when the total number of real estate sector jobs exceeded and displaced the total number of manufacturing jobs in the US. So the quote “America’s business is Americans selling houses to each other with money borrowed from China” best described America’s situation.

See this.

September 10, 2005 @ 5:39 pm | Comment

“mainly because China lacks an ideology these days that anyone actually believes in”

Actually, this is not true. Also, there are more ways to development. There are more ways leading to Rome, as some say. Why do some persist there is only One Way: the American Way? It doesn’t help Africa, Asia or even South-America. China’s way is engaging the world with free trade and exchanges. With mutual respect and a win-win situation. Not dividing the world in good people, bad people. Or as Barack Obama once said: there are no Republicans or Democrats, there are only Americans. The same can be applied on the world. We are all citizen of the world who want to have good lifes. Peace and development. That’s China’s so called ideology and many support it.

September 10, 2005 @ 6:19 pm | Comment

Wen-Zheng Hi, a reporter with the government-owned People’s Daily in Beijing, said rich western democracies cannot impose their human rights standards on a developing country like China.

In a preamble to a question, Hi said Chinese society is in “transition” and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

He likened the situation to that of two families – one rich with one child, one poor with 10 children.

“Do you think we should apply the same rules to manage the two families?” Hi asked. “According to the understanding of the Chinese (populace), it’s not possible to use a rich man’s standard to manage the poor man’s house.

“The food, the living conditions, the discipline all must be very severe.”

It’s not appropriate for the rich man to stand aloof from the poor man’s situation and criticize him for the way he runs his house, Hi said.

Westerners should look at what China has accomplished in the last 60 years, he said before a Parliamentary Press Gallery official cut him off.

“You should allow different societies to have different priorities,” he said. “The priorities should be different for the Chinese, who have suffered from starvation, from famine, from war.

“Most important, you should allow them opportunities . . . to have the basics. I just ask you whether you have put all these things into your consideration while you (criticize) Chinese human rights?”

September 10, 2005 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

Sounds good. But there are many instances that are pretty black and white and we can and should demand improvement, just as we do with other trading partners. China does not have to meet those demands, but when a journalist like Shi Tao is thrown in jail for ten years for leaking non-sensitive information we have a right to speak out for more openness and less tyranny. That old chestnut that no one has the right to press China on human rights is laughable.

September 10, 2005 @ 6:44 pm | Comment

Peace and development. That’s China’s so called ideology and many support it.

I hope so. I support it myself. But I have to wonder, why have they been spending billions arming themselves to the teeth?

September 10, 2005 @ 6:46 pm | Comment


I didn’t say there was only one way to develop — although you can easily argue that China is in fact taking the American route. Compare the US economy in 1890 to the Chinese economy today. Also, America didn’t invent capitalism and free markets, so it is a misnomer to call the transition from a command economy to a market economy the “American” way.

About “peace and development,” is that really an ideology? Or merely a mythology? Every country claims to be a champion of peace and development. There are only more or less powerful countries; the rest is just window dressing and self-justification. China has sought friendly relations with the US and other countries over the past 20 years out of economic necessity, not out of altruism. China hasn’t had the means to seek conflict — don’t attribute this to an ideology of “peace.” It is the result of simply having no other alternative. Now that China is starting to have the means, we’ll see how long this “altruism” towards other countries lasts.

China does what is in its perceived self-interest, just as the US does. Well, it would be more accurate to say that competing factions, governments, and individuals within China and the US do what is in their own interest.

About “mutual respect,” ask Japan, Viet Nam, and two other places that start with “T” about that. The US doesn’t act with “mutual respect” towards other countries, either. That is obvious. That is politics.

September 10, 2005 @ 7:30 pm | Comment

Hu Jintao’s news conference in Canada

September 10, 2005 @ 8:52 pm | Comment


The Soviet Union made many products, but a lot of them were rubbish. One of Gorbachev’s predecessors, Yuri Andropov, lamented that Russia could send men into space but couldn’t build reliable refrigerators. By the fall of the Berlin Wall, Communism had completely demotivated the workforce and removed any incentive to work harder than the majority.

Russia also failed to show any real innovation, such that its products were not desirable (unless someone was very poor). I don’t include military hardware, as that’s not useful to the common man or woman.

Conversely, what Japan did was improve on exisiting designs of goods and make them better. They concentrated on perhaps a smaller range of products, but they sold so much better across the world that any Soviet rubbish. And Japanese workers were so much more efficient than their Russian counterparts (one would probably be able to argue that they stil are).

September 11, 2005 @ 3:44 am | Comment

A little known point about Japan’s post-war rise (I think) was their excellent education system. Japan reaped huge rewards in the 70s/80s for having the world’s highest literacy rate and high education standards. This was a major reason why Japan achieved a technologically advanced economy. Japanese schools also taught discipline and lot’s of it, another benefit for an effective work force.

During 50s/60s Japan also enjoyed 9% annual growth and also saw rural-urban migration and a move away from an agricultural economy. Many similarities with China.

However, I don’t think China’s education system now is as excellent at Japan’s was post-WWII. I’m prepared to stand corrected but I think that many children, especially rural children do not receive an education comparable to Japan. In addition, many rural girls don’t complete even elementary school (technically illegal) and some parents can’t afford the US$50 per year fees for some or all of their children.

September 11, 2005 @ 4:18 am | Comment


You’re right about Russia. During the 1980s a joke was circulating around Russia, about how the Communist Party boasted that: “The Soviet Union makes the BIGGEST computers in the world!”


September 11, 2005 @ 5:08 am | Comment

zhj quoted:

It’s not appropriate for the rich man to stand aloof from the poor man’s situation and criticize him for the way he runs his house, Hi said.

zhj, what if the poor man drags one of his children out into the yard, and beats him to death with an iron bar?

Should the rich man remain silent because he knows his neighbor is poor?

I guess what I really want to know is, if YOU saw a poor neighbor with many children beat one of them to death, would YOU remain silent?

September 11, 2005 @ 7:36 am | Comment

Hu Yaobang to have his status restored

September 11, 2005 @ 7:57 am | Comment

Building (novel) stuff is a decent indicator because it reflects innovation. Innovation is important because it is the mechanism by which organizations of many types (including a system of rules in the form of a nation) deal with discontinuous change in the environment. I am a business school professor and conduct research on entrepreneurs in different countries. When giving lectures on entrepreneurial discovery or managing innovation, I always ask groups of students how many intend to be entrepreneurs (or are already). In the US, it is will be about 80% of the audience. In the UK, it is about 10%. In China, it is about 5%.

Innovation and the viability an entrepreneurial career track can be more or less a part of the dominant logic of any culture. Innovation involves daring to be different, shaking up the system, usurping the existing order, and failure (lots of failure, over 90% of ventures). I believe the degree to which these (and other) aspects of innovation are embraced by a culture says much about the long-term viability of the organization (or nation) subsuming that culture (especially as global markets become more turbulent).

September 11, 2005 @ 9:54 am | Comment

We really may be on the way to civil war in Iraq. This is an alarming trend, and it’s getting worse fast.

September 11, 2005 @ 6:44 pm | Comment

Good news! Have you seen the death tolls for the month of August? Those are real numbers, real American lives, real blood, not some fantasy “statistics” from a Kuwaiti propaganda site.

September 11, 2005 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

Patrick, I’m really surprised that you say 5% of Chinese students wish to be entrepreneurs, considering that overseas Chinese are among the most entrepreneurial ethnic groups around.

Especially surprising is this answer in a class on entrepreurship.

Is there possibly some kind of cultural miscommunication here, like a stricter definition of entrepreneurship (perhaps family-run businesses wouldn’t count in their minds)?
How do you account for the difference between your research and the reality of the Chinese diaspora?

September 11, 2005 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

Yes Richard, 74 lives are a lot to lose. Hell, a single life is too much to lose, but this is a war, not a damn girl scout convention.

Compared with previous conflicts, 74 lifes in one month (2.3/day) is pretty damn good in terms of minimizing the loss of life. I can accept those figures, but of course if you want to run around flailing your arms to support the anti-war crowd, I guess 74 works for your agenda, eh?

September 11, 2005 @ 9:19 pm | Comment


When I read Patrick’s comments that only 5% of his Chinese students wanted to be entrepreneurs, I intially shared your confusion. In my classes, when I ask students to talk about their “dream jobs” usually at least half of the class say they want to be “a boss”.

However, after thinking about it a moment, I suspect the two observations may not be incompatible. Students who want to become a “boss” may not necessariy want to be an “entrepreneur” who takes great risks and dares to innovate. I think what my students have in mind with “boss” is running a nice, safe, stable organization that is a copy of someone else’s success.

September 11, 2005 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

To Gordon:

Please read this carefully:

U.S. military deaths in the
Iraq war rose in August to the highest monthly total since January, and American officials predict escalating insurgent violence ahead of a planned October constitutional referendum.

At least 84 U.S. troops were killed in August, according to a count of deaths announced by the military. Since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, there have been 1,879 American military deaths in Iraq, the
Pentagon said on Wednesday, with another 14,265 troops wounded.

The August toll, which followed two months of declining U.S. military deaths, comes at a time when opinion polls show a slight majority of Americans believe the war was not worth fighting.

Last week,
President George W. Bush, who faced anti-war protests near his Texas ranch while on vacation this month, referred to the death toll and said the United States should honor the dead by completing the mission in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a military spokesman in Baghdad, attributed the rise in U.S. deaths to aggressive operations against insurgents.

The only higher monthly U.S. death toll this year came in January, when 107 troops died during a period of heightened violence in the run-up to the January 30 parliamentary elections.

I want you to tell me, honestly, how you see the record August death toll as a positive sign, as a sign of progress. I am baffled. You were a soldier yourself. Do other soldiers look at August’s record level of carnage and feel inspired and victorious? Do they see it as backing up your assertion that attacks are down and thus we are succeeding? (After all, if the number of attacks is down 55% but the number of US dead is actually rising precipitously, that’s hardly a claim to victory or progress.) I am so confused by your comment. Really.

September 11, 2005 @ 9:48 pm | Comment


We all know that when humans do things, we always try to anticipate what will happen under different scenarios. For example, when I am playing chess, I would think “If I move my rook, he will move the pawn, then my knight will be under attack, but if I move my pawn, he may move his bishop. and then I might attack his pawn, etc etc.” In Infomatics, this is called “simulation”, or “virtual experiment”. For example, before you launch a missile, you need to simulate the entire course of the launch on a supercomputer, and see if there will be any errors.

Now, there are a lot of democracy-lovers on the internet calling for democracy in China. They claim it will clean up the politics, drive the economy, and other benefits. Well, fine. Then I will start a simulation of democracy in China. Of course you are welcome to point out where I am wrong in the simulation. And I’ll run the simulation without deliberately demonizing any side.

Say in 2010, Chinese leaders gave in to the calls of the fans of democracy and decide to open a “testing point” where multi-party elections can be held. Let’s call the testing city “XXX”. Now, let’s say that I am running against a member of the Communist party for the mayor of “XXX”.

Well what should I do first? I first need to form my party. So let’s say I formed the “Chinese Democratic Party”.

What next? Well I need to get money, I cannot run a campaign without money. So I need political donors.

So I meet the CEO of a furniture company, I promise him that if he donates to my campaign. I’ll not forget his company when I get elected. So he says he supports the “democratic process” and writes me a check for a million. And in 3 days, I also got 3 more checks from a Tofu company and a TV company. Perhaps I can also get some money from individual citizens, but these contributions are so small that I won’t able to visit and thank them door to door. In fact, I’ll think they are idiots for giving me money because I’ll never remember them. But of course I can only keep that thought to myself.

Now, with enough money I’m ready to launch my campaign. I hire some expert media consultants. And they make some ads, some banners like “Math 2010, a People’s Choice”, with blue and white as the theme color. And they start to post those banners everywhere, and buy TV slots for those ads, and our “media offensive” is well under way.

Now what should be my platform? Well of course I cannot just say what I think. Instead, I will hire a team of political “operatives and strategists”, they go out and do a lot of polling. When they come back, they’ll tell me what citizens want to hear and they’ll lock themselves in a room and devise a position on major issues, each position is electorally advantageous to me. If people want a tax cut, I’ll be a pro-tax-cutter. If people want better education, I’ll come out and denounce the poor quality of today’s education, etc. Sometimes the strategists tell me to make a choice between two groups of voters, and we may decide to abandon one group because their voting turnouts is low. Of course I don’t have to attend all of the meetings of my strategists when they plot out my platform, but I will sit in on some of the meetings just to show that I’m not a complete idiot. Now, what I wear, my posture of walking, how I wave my hands to citizens, my volume of speaking, are all designed by senior media experts, I will just do what they tell me.

Now, indulge me and let’s say that on election night, I won the city of “XXX” by 58% of the votes, unseating the Communist incumbent.

Now I’m in office, what do I do? Well my day-to-day activities are all taken care of by my political team. And they tell me one day that it’s best if I launch some sort of an economic revival program that puts poor inner city children to internships to pay for their education. And so they design the name of the program to be “Economic Rebirth 2010.”, and the theme color of that banner is blue and black. Now they’ll get a few kids, some don’t even have to be poor inner city, and the kids will stand behind me as I give a speech at a local high school. We will pay the kids 20 yuan for their time and I’ll shake hands with them. While the backdrop are these kids and a huge plaster with “Economic Rebirth 2010” written all across it. The speech, finding the kids, designing the backdrop, finding people to applaud to my speech, are all taken care of by my team. All I need to do is show up and give the speech. After that, my team designs smaller pamphlets that have my picture, picture of these kids, the logo of the program “Economic Rebirth 2010”, and some bulletin points on how good the program is, and of course a website for more information. And the interns of my team will distribute those pamphlets across the city. The actual program consists of 20 kids and 2 companies taking them as interns, and will have no actual impact on anything. But of course my speech writers will write with very complex and dramatic words to describe the program. At the end, the speech at the highschool, the design of the banner, the pamphlets, the website, my shaking hands with those kids, all make me look like I have done something for the city and my approval point goes up by 5% as a result. Now, my advisors plot out my next move…

Oh of course I can’t forget about the furniture company, the Tofu company, and the TV company. So once in a while I’ll give some projects to them or create some “program” that gives them some favors. But of course my political strategists will make sure that there’s no appearance of impropriety whatsoever and that my public image is always clean.

Would I be corrupt and embezzle money? I will not be so stupid. Instead, I will get a law to pass that increases the salaries of public servants, including myself of course. But the biggest increase will come at the executive level. Of course I’ll be immune to attacks because ostensibly the increase applies to every public servant, even though in reality I will benefit the most from it. That is the art of “packaging”. This way I achieve the effects of embezzlement without being illegal.

And of course whenever there’s a tornado or disaster in the city, my advisors will make sure that I go to the disaster site ASAP and make sure the media has pictures of me in dirty shirt (not clean suits),hugging children, helping locals give food to residents, etc. After all, it’s very easy to do those.

And half way through my term, I start to devote time to my re-election.

Ok, my simulation ends here.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the simulation that makes me think it’s better that way, that corruption is reduced, or that people have become real masters of their society. In reality, I feel I fooled my voters just like monkeys. Those who moan and cry everyday for democracy, is that the kind of result you want?

September 11, 2005 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

Hi Gordon

You don’t have any figures for Iraqi deaths in August by any chance? Are they down 55% as well?

September 11, 2005 @ 10:17 pm | Comment

Is this Math guy for real or is he just taking the piss?

September 11, 2005 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

Math, Your simulation is pretty weak, mainly because you ignore one basic concept: relative value. You cannot examine democracy in a vacuum — or any political or economic choice for that matter. The point isn’t that democracy isn’t a flawed system. Of course it is. You need to examine the alternative in a similarly “unbiased” (haa) fashion. Compare the results of having a free press, elections, and a multi-party system to the results of having an autocratic system. Ok, now that we are out of your vacuum, what do we get when we compare the two systems?

Do I even have to bother to run a similar “simulation” with the current undemocratic system in China? Well, let’s see:

I am the CCP. I starve millions of my own countrymen in state-controlled disasters like the GLF. I persecute millions and destroy traditional Chinese culture in the Cultural Revolution. I imprison and routinely torture people who try to expose my corruption. I run students over with tanks and label them “revolutionaries” for trying to improve their Motherland. I try to cover up SARS and other diseases and keep the people in the dark while they suffer. And while I’m doing all of these wonderful things, I show wonderfully positive and completely false propaganda on TV 24 hours a day, praising my wonderful efforts.

Of course you are welcome to point out where I am wrong in the simulation. And I’ll run the simulation without deliberately demonizing any side.

For the record, China isn’t ready for democracy in my view. It is ready for freedom of the press, however. But that will probably never happen, because only one thing is certain in Chinese politics: the CCP will NEVER reform itself out of power. It would choke China to death before it does that. Unfortunately.

September 11, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

I think the real problems of China are in its society. There is no rule of law. Even if there is a rule of law, it also requires people to ahear to certain values (forget religion) – I mean fairness, taking care of the social weak, ethics, respect for each other. Only on those points you can build a read long lasting future society. Everything else will sooner or later collaps.

Just because somthing is not illegal, does not mean that you can do it.

September 11, 2005 @ 10:59 pm | Comment

“Not ready for Democracy” what does that mean/ Is there a course that has to be taken? A test that must be passed? Maybe a UN resolution?

If the ancient Greeks were ready for it and The US had it over 200 years ago… Heck, even the Canadians have it…

September 11, 2005 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

hmmmm(the user, not the expression), the simulation you ran is not accurate, because GLF and CR were instances by past administrations of the Chinese gov’t. And everyone agrees that today’s gov’t is totally different from the past. Today’s gov’t did not make disasters like GLF or CR, in fact, most people in today’s Chinese Communist Party are direct victims of GLR or CR. So using past data for present simulations is a big faulty operation in any engineering field.

And also I think you and many people often write in very broad ambiguous language whenever it suits you. For example, you say “today the Chinese gov’t starves millions of citizens and kill anyone who express negative news.” Clearly, you are being very dramatic and “humanity-major”-like, and talk things to increase people’s emotion. If you say the Chinese gov’t is starving citizens, please give proof and specific incidents, and tell me how you reach the number “millions”.

September 11, 2005 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

And if you say “the gov’t is starving citizens.” Please define clearly what you mean by “starving”. Do you mean that when a citizen goes to the gov’t’s office and begs for rice, the gov’t sends an official out and says “No, you don’t get rice, cause we want to starve you to death.” If so, please cite specific incident or people who have been told that.

Or do you mean that the gov’t steals people’s food from their homes so they can starve to death? If so, please provide eye-witness accounts of those whose food has been stolen by the gov’t.

September 11, 2005 @ 11:13 pm | Comment

Politics grows out of civil society and culture. A political system is not an artificial structure that can be imposed willy-nilly anywhere at anytime. Look how long Russia’s “democracy” lasted. It only took 10 years for the Czar to reappear, and by popular demand. This doesn’t mean political systems can never change; however, the people have to actually want a democracy in the first place. Do Chinese want a democracy? If you say “yes,” you know nothing about China or Chinese culture. China won’t have a democracy anytime soon for the same reason Iraq won’t: culture. You can get rid of the CCP tomorrow and hold elections tomorrow and then call me in 10 years and we’ll discuss how the next emperor is getting along.

The CCP uses this as an excuse, of course. However, in this case, it is both an excuse for them to resist reform and it is true. Some people have trouble holding those two things in their minds at the same time; they get stuck on the first point.

As happy mo rightly pointed out, China’s main problem is the utter destruction of Chinese civil society (during the Cultural Revolution for starters) which China has not recovered from. The society is cynical, apathetic, and corrupt. This is a much deeper problem than the CCP (which caused this problem). The CCP today is a symptom as much as a cause.

Japan and Taiwan as counter-examples will only make me laugh, but use them if you want.

September 11, 2005 @ 11:25 pm | Comment


We are comparing systems. Which system produced the GLF and the CR and why? Of course, different people are at the helm now. That is not the point. Autocratic and undemocratic systems produce things like the CR, Stalin’s purges, world wars, and famines with ironic names like the “Great Leap Forward.” Throw in North Korea and Cuba, too.

Limited government, freedom, capitalism, elections and multi-party systems produce things like the British Empire and a century of American economic, political, and cultural dominance. You can throw in a better standard of living and human rights if those float your boat, too.

Anyway, as I just wrote in my last comment, these systems aren’t easily transferable in any case. Elements of them are transferable over time and in the right conditions.

September 11, 2005 @ 11:36 pm | Comment

I feel that there’s a wrong focus on issues. Let us go back to the fundamental question, why do we care if a system is democracy, dictatorship, monarchy, feudalism, etc etc etc.

From an engineering point of view, all those different gov’t systems are just different methods and styles to manage a nation, right? And the way to judge which system is good/bad is to see if it maintains good economic development, makes people’s living standards high (food, transportation, housing, infrastructure, health care, clothing, etc etc), and make people feel happy and live long and make the country “well-off” as a whole, right?

What if a dictatorship delivers those things well, and overall delivers them better than a democracy? Would you say “I don’t care! I want a democracy, even if that means people starve to death and live miserably! Why? Because it’s democracy, and it’s the most glorious thing in the world!”. If you say that, then you are adopting the mind-set of “form over substance”, “slogan over policy”.

Now you say, but CCP produced GLF and CR! Clearly they are bad for the people! Well, yes, that’s why the current CCP is careful not to repeat those things and has drastically changed their style. And if you look at the results, clearly the CCP has delivered better than many democracies in the world in the past few decades. At the end of the day, we don’t care what “form” something takes, as long as it delivers it goods, right? So if CCP delivers the goods, then what’s the problem?

Now you may say, “The problem is that people don’t have free press! they cannot criticize the govt! They cannot march on the streets!, etc etc!”. Well again, back to the fundamental question, why do we need to give people the rights to do that? Is it because God told us we have to (God-given rights)? Well I don’t believe in God, so clearly that argument is false. So why? Is there some biological proof that people MUST be able to march on the streets and have an open press? If not, then why? Well clearly it MAY be beneficial to give people those things as to better achieve the goals of “making people’s lives better”. Well what if you can achieve “making people’ lives” better without being able to march on the streets or having a free press? Hmm?

Go back to the fundamentals please, and do not get into a “Logic Trap” of “Egg and Chicken”

September 11, 2005 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Math, You accidentally raise an important point: humans aren’t ants. You don’t need to believe in God to acknowledge this, either. So, yes, if you want to engineer an imaginary system that is based on child rape and murder (for example) that “delivers the goods” for the majority of the population, no, I won’t support it. You can go support that system if your only criterion is economic, I won’t. Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor posed a similar scenario to yours long ago. In any case, not being a communist, I do not believe that the end justifies the means. So, yes, this is where culture is tied to politics.

Your comment on the freedom of the press shows a real ignorance of the very purpose of that freedom. It isn’t an end in itself: a free press acts to keep the government honest and limit corruption. Not to mention that if politics is a rational endeavor, free and open debate on the issues is the only way to proceed “scientifically.” You should appreciate this with the engineering fetish you have.

>>So if CCP delivers the goods, then what’s the problem?

Economic growth in China over the past 15 years is the result of what? It is the result of the CCP adopting the very thing it claims to be against: captialism. So we currently have a system in China that claims to be something it is not. This is one point you are confused on. The point is that the more China moves away from all the CCP stands for (and has stood for in the past), the more likely China will grow and prosper. If China adopts a captialist system and still calls it “socialist,” and then declares the triumph of socialism over capitalism because of its amazing economic growth (due to capitalism)….well, you can only laugh at that farce.

Finally, ask Chinese who live in polluted squalor who are constantly bilked by the CCP if the “dictatorship is delivering the goods.” Of course, the CCP is delivering the goods to the coastal elites — but on whose backs?

September 12, 2005 @ 12:32 am | Comment

The free press that is supposed to keep the gov’t honest has failed at that task miserably over the last five years, at least in the US

September 12, 2005 @ 12:52 am | Comment

GWBH, and your point is?? We should eliminate the free press because it fails at various times? In any case, I reject your argument. Blaming the press is a convenient excuse for something that is much more complex.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:57 am | Comment

Wow, that was an amazing leap in logic. I’m impressed.

my sole point was that the free press failed in its role to keep the gov’t honest. No more, no less.

September 12, 2005 @ 1:00 am | Comment

It’s impossible to keep any government entirely honest. Ever.

But just imagine how much MORE arrogant and lawless the Bush administration could have become if there were NO free press?

September 12, 2005 @ 1:09 am | Comment

You’re absolutely right, they may have invaded a country that was posing absolutely no threat to them. Oh… wait, that happened.

September 12, 2005 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Math, you should keep your engineering point of view to yourself because if your reasoning is a product of your engineering training, then I have to say that it is rather crappy. All good engineers will know the limitation of their discipline. They will not even attempt to make statement like: โ€œdifferent govโ€™t systems are just different methods and styles to manage a nationโ€ because they will realise that their training will not allow them to give a fair judgement of government systems. Only people who are indoctrinated by communist ideology will believe that (1) Marxism is science and (2) that it will provide a one-stop answer to all social, political and cultural problems.

September 12, 2005 @ 1:34 am | Comment

I don’t mind Communists believing Marxism is a “Science”, as long as they are consistent and follow their premises to the logical conclusion:

The CCP traces its ideological authority back to Lenin and to the Russian Revolution, who embodied the will of the Proletariat and the “correct” line of history. And the CCP was a direct extension of the Russian (later USSR) Communist Party. The CCP’s claim to represent a correct scientific line of history, took its original authority from Lenin and then from Stalin.

So, I just wish the CCP would be consistent, and follow the path of the Russian Communist Party….to acknowledgement of obsolescence….

September 12, 2005 @ 2:27 am | Comment

Ivan, it’s a good one. Cheers.

September 12, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

GWBH, no, Math is not for real. Lisa and I and others have pointed out the futility of engaging with him. He obviously displays sweeping ignorance (feigned ignorance, I suspect) of the Great Leap Forward, and is constanty changing the argument to slipaway when he’s caught fibbing.

September 12, 2005 @ 2:44 am | Comment

Math’s superstitiously materialistic (thus, typically Communist) attempts to reduce the Human Condition to “engineering”, remind me of what the Hungarian-Amercian historian John Lukacs said. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but basically he said:

“In these times, the division is no longer between “liberals” and “conservatives”. No. Now, the great conflict is between those who see Humans as CREATURES, and those who see Humans as THINGS!”

And then I’m also reminded of the final episode of Dr Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series (and book) of the 1970s,
“The Ascent of Man”. In the final episode, Bronowski visited Auschwitz, and he di[pped his hands into the dirt there, and he said (again this is from memory, so my quotation is not perfect, but from memory I can tell you, he said):

“Some say that science will turn us into numbers. That is false, tragically false. This is Auschwitz, where people were turned into numbers. And this was not done by science. This was done by ARROGANCE! This was done by DOGMA! When people (like the Communist) aspire to the knowledge of gods, with no test in reality, THIS is how they behave!”

Technocracy and “social engineering” leads to Auschwitz. And so does a superstitious belief in “Economic Man.”

September 12, 2005 @ 4:17 am | Comment


>You’re absolutely right, they may have invaded a country that was posing absolutely no threat to them. Oh… wait, that happened.

I would call that an “amazing leap in logic.” The invasion of Iraq was not caused by a failure of the free press. You might as well say that it was caused by democracy. It would be just as convincing. The press did fail to challenge the government sufficiently, which is usually the case in the US. However, this is a problem of attitude and money, not “free” vs. “unfree.”

With a government-controlled ideological mouthpiece for the press (no, not FOX ;), the press fails the people 100% of the time. Its only goal is population control for the benefit of the ruling party.

September 12, 2005 @ 7:35 am | Comment

So many comments, so many views. It seems that I was being accused of an “Economic Man” and with “no heart”. So the argument boils to the fact that freedom of press, being able to march on the streets, elections, etc are simply good because it “has heart”. Well that may be a valid argument, but still not concrete enough.

Anyway, the fundamental question that I think no one can avoid is that “Does a democratic system (freedom of press, multiparty elections, marching on the streets etc) work better in securing better welfare for the people and the nation as a whole?”. If you say “yes, it does, and that’s the only reason I support it.”, then we can continue this discussion. If you say “I don’t care if it’s a better system, I only care that it’s democracy!”. Then we cannot continue this discussion.

I believe that anyone with logic and rationality would say the first statement, that, democracy is better at securing better welfare for the people. And I’ll admit that in the cases of US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Singapore, HK, Taiwan, yes you do have a pretty strong case for that. But how many years did those country stay prosperous? Well no more than 30-50 years right? Is that enough time to make a conclusion about anything? Of course it is not.

It’s like when you are doing a Chemistry experiment, and you look at the test tube for 5 mins, and then concludes this and that, and then go write your report and leaves the lab. But maybe in 1 hour, the results have totally changed, and in 24 hours, the experiment has exploded the entire lab! Another example is that if you look at a graph, you see a upward trend in the graph, so you say “Ha! yes! the graph is upward! it’s clear!” But if you “zoom out” the graph, you realize that the entire graph was actually a downward graph, and that little portion you zoomed in on was only an aberration.

To conclude something based on 30-50 years of history is rather “too simple, sometimes naive”. I know that many of you have this “conviction” that you are on the right side of history, that democracy and freedom is the correct path, and one day all nations should be that way. But even from a statistics and biological perspective, it is rather ridiculous that there should only be one mode of development for all nations in the world, right? If US is very advanced due to democracy, then nice! But why is it absolutely necessary that China must follow the same path? You always encourage being innovative and original, then why can’t China explore its own unique path of development? What makes you so sure that China’s path of development is wrong? I feel that I’m actually on the right side of history, democracy is not “the end of history”, and only an “aberation” in the long rivers of history.

In the 80’s, when some journalist asked Deng Xiaoping “Do you think the French Revolution has been a success”, he said It’s too soon to tell.” So, perhaps we should all take a step back and adopt a longer and higher view of history and development.

September 12, 2005 @ 9:03 am | Comment

Something interesting:

Asian Values:

September 12, 2005 @ 9:07 am | Comment

Math: I think it was Zhou Enlai who made that remark about the French Revolution.

Richard: I hope you read this, because I haven’t officially congratulated you on your new job yet. Or your new country.



(I hope that was loud enough to be heard)

September 12, 2005 @ 9:34 am | Comment


>Then we cannot continue this discussion.

That is obvious, since you are simply ignoring the points others have made against your argument. Freedom of the press keeps the government in check and reduces corruption (I will say for the 10th time). I don’t know where you are getting this “heart” canard.

Funny, though, you seem to disagree with Wen Jia Bao, who says that democracy is the goal of the CCP and that they are already conducting “experiments” in democracy across the country. According to your own “engineering model,” you should be put in prison and tortured and have your comments censored for expousing counter-revolutionary propaganda against the CCP.

September 12, 2005 @ 11:12 am | Comment

Freedom of the press keeps the government in check and reduces corruption (I will say for the 10th time). I don’t know where you are getting this “heart” canard.

Ok, so now we are getting somewhere. But that statement is not appropriate. You can say freedom of press is “one way” to keep the gov’t in check, and gov’t in check is a way to reduce corruption. But can you prove it me that that’s the “only way”? What if I have non-freedom of press, that does NOT keep gov’t in check, but I manage to reduce corruption as well, and my new method is better? Why is that not possible?

About what Wen Jiabao said, do you agree with Wen Jiabo and applaud him, if you do, then are you not clearly now support the CCP? Well for me, I think he’s just saying that as a political theater, and has no real intention of doing “real” democracy, it’s just all for show.

September 12, 2005 @ 11:40 am | Comment

And all my points in that previous post were also not addressed, but that’s ok, I won’t accuse you of “not engaging me”.

September 12, 2005 @ 11:46 am | Comment

hmmmm, I am really enjoying your comments. Thanks for participating. Of course, you won’t get anywhere with Math, but it’s fun watching him squirm when you nail him.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

vaara, I meant to thank you for your earlier post. Hope all’s well with you and that you get back to blogging soon.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

>>Ok, so now we are getting somewhere.

He means he actually decided to read people’s comments.

>>then are you not clearly now support the CCP?

I’m not dogmatic and ideological like you, so I do support some of the things the CCP does, although its main problems are structural and won’t be overcome with tinkering and theater.

On the freedom of the press and expression: what are you doing right now? You are advancing arguments in a public forum that are not approved by your government. Whether the CCP is lying about its goals or not is beside the point (and how would you know if they are lying, since all information you get under that system is controlled by the government?) You yourself are living outside of the system you are advocating. You are taking advantage of the liberty provided to you by a democratic system, which you oppose. If you had any logical coherence, you would stop publishing your views without CCP approval.

Since you want to put things on a “scientific” basis… You are assulting the basic premise of science: emperical observation. Your data is corrupt — and data in dictatorships is always corrupt. You are left to chase after shadows and illusions created by your dear leaders. Without freedom of the press and the freedom of expression, you are fed a warped view of reality, which encourages you to make warped arguments in favor of dictatorship.

We do agree on one point: there is no point in continuing this discussion.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

you see you see, you accuse me of “not reading my comments”, yet what you just wrote seem to be total personal attacks against me, and not address points made in my post. So perhaps I can accuse you of “never reading my post”. ?

September 12, 2005 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

Math, I am the first t o admit I do not read your comments. I usually skip over them because they are irritating and insincere, designed to generate phony arguments. Readers are asking questions, like whether you are for real, and whether you are just here to stir people up, and what your real motives are. You and I know ther answers to these questions, and for me to take the time required to read all your scary comments blaming a free media and democracy for America’s problems would be a total waste of my time. I strongly suggest other readers skip your comments as well, though that’s their choice. You’ve made a couple of good points and are obviously intelligent. Too bad you have to play the troll game.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:28 pm | Comment

Sorry it took so long to get back to this regarding my observations of students. I believe there is a confound in what I observed because start-up entrepreneurship involving something utterly novel is quite different from being a boss. Both could be entrepreneurs but the former one is much more risky. I believe all Chinese would report that they aspire to be a “boss” but much fewer would strike out as a start-up entrepreneur. In the US the Chinese are very entrepreneurial (a recent dissertation showed they are second only to Koreans) but I think there is a selection bias in that the ones who emigrate the the US, for whatever reason, tend to be much more “entrepreneurial” in nature. The relevance to the discussion is that, from a macro-perspective, the constant churning of start-up ventures is a market system’s “fire” of innovation. From this, one can say that public policy or cultural values supporting entrepreneurship and all that it entails is an important part of a system that is adaptable (should the broader environment change unpredictably). As for my own experience, there is an incubator for entrepreneurial high-tech ventures near Peking University that I visited. And I have a colleague who is an e’ship faculty member at Tsinghua. Just my take, but it is not clear to me that the ventures receiving funding or support are the most obviously viable ones. Inefficient ventures appear to take a long time to be deposed and something like personal relationships may figure into the equation when seeking funding (rather than highly promising newcomers who really deserve support because they offer a novel way to address an inefficiency). Contracts and agreements around venture capital are also tricky when they dictate spending resources in a certain way, i.e., they tend not to mean very much (even if they are signed). It’s a very interesting domain for one who studies e’ship. From an anthropological perspective, how Chinese e’neurs handle uncertainty in e’neurial contexts (where challenging the unknown is the norm) is vastly different from the west. I had a conversation once with a very sharp graduate student in Guanghua Management School once, and we talked a lot about how Chinese v. Westerners more or less are able to separate (a) ideas from (b) people themselves. I.e., Chinese closely mingle the two. It makes it tricky in an e’neurial context where e’neurs must be prepared to fail much and let so many start-up ventures and ideas die in their stead. Just my thoughts sorry for the long post.

As an aside, I am new here but have been amazed at some of the posts. Brilliant and rich stuff.

September 12, 2005 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.