Things fall apart?

Yeah, another one of those “Cycle of Funk” articles, to quote davesgonechina…but here goes…

British writer Will Hutton began research for his upcoming book on China’s astounding economic and political rise believing that “China was so different that it could carry on adapting its model, living without democracy or European enlightenment values.” In the course of his research, he changed his mind. After detailing the staggering growth of China’s economy, the global reach of its political power, the abandonment of anything resembling Maoist doctrine, Hutton concludes:

But for all that, it remains communist. The maxims of Marxist-Leninst-Maoist thought have to stand, however much the party tries to stretch the boundaries, because they are the basis for one-party rule. Yet the system so spawned is reaching its limits. For example, China’s state-owned and directed banks cannot carry on channelling hundreds of billions of pounds of peasant savings into the financing of a frenzy of infrastructure and heavy industrial investment. The borrowers habitually pay interest only fitfully, and rarely repay the debt, even as the debt mountain explodes. The financial system is vulnerable to any economic setback.

Equally, China is reaching the limits of the capacity to increase its exports, which, in 2007, will surpass $1 trillion, by 25 per cent a year. At this rate of growth, they will reach $5 trillion by 2020 or sooner, representing more than half of today’s world trade. Is that likely? Are there ships and ports on sufficient scale to move such volumes – and will Western markets stay uncomplainingly open? Every year, it is also acquiring $200bn of foreign exchange reserves as it rigs its currency to keep its exports competitive. Can even China insulate its domestic financial system from such fantastic growth in its reserves and stop inflation rising? Already, there are ominous signs that inflationary pressures are increasing.

Hutton goes on to discuss China’s environmental crisis, which has been covered here on so many occasions that I don’t think it’s necessary to restate it now. His basic argument is that “it is the lack of independent scrutiny and accountability that lie behind the massive waste of investment and China’s destruction of its environment alike.”

Enterprises are accountable to no one but the Communist party for their actions; there is no network of civil society, plural public institutions and independent media to create pressure for enterprises to become more environmentally efficient. Watchdogs, whistleblowers, independent judges and accountable government are not just good in themselves as custodians of justice; they also keep capitalism honest and efficient and would curb environmental costs that reach an amazing 12 per cent of GDP. As importantly, they are part of the institutional network that constitutes an independent public realm that includes free intellectual inquiry, free trade unions and independent audit. It is this ‘enlightenment infrastructure’ that I regard in both the West and East as the essential underpinning of a healthy society. The individual detained for years without a fair trial is part of the same malign system that prevents a company from expecting to be able to correct a commercial wrong in a court, or have a judgment in its favour implemented, if it were against the party interest.

The impact is pernicious. The reason why so few Britons can name a great Chinese brand or company, despite China’s export success, is that there aren’t any. China needs to build them, but doing that in a one-party authoritarian state, where the party second-guesses business strategy for ideological and political ends, is impossible. In any case, nearly three-fifths of its exports and nearly all its hi-tech exports are made by non-Chinese, foreign firms, another expression of China’s weakness. The state still owns the lion’s share of China’s business and what it does not own, it reserves the right to direct politically.

Hutton believes that the world cannot afford a China that dominates the globe without achieving some form of democratic transformation. From what I can suss out about him, he’s no neocon; he’s also no cultural relativist and makes a strong case for the superiority – and universality – of Western enlightenment values, which he believes China desperately needs to achieve its stated “peaceful rise”:

Britain and the West take our enlightenment inheritance too easily for granted, and do not see how central it is to everything we are, whether technological advance, trust or well-being. We neither cherish it sufficiently nor live by its exacting standards. We share too quickly the criticism of non-Western societies that we are hypocrites. What China has taught me, paradoxically, is the value of the West, and how crucial it is that we practise what we preach. If we don’t, the writing is on the wall – for us and China.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. Nowhere in Hutton’s piece does he make a case that certain traditional Chinese values might be advantageous or even virtuous in the modern world (in fact, quite the opposite). I can’t help it – I’m a good liberal, and this makes me uncomfortable. I’d venture, a little tentatively, since this is only a small excerpt from a much longer work, that this lack and even downright dismissal of 5,000 years of cultural traditions somewhat undercuts Hutton’s larger argument.

I will say, however, that my first time in China, back in the beginning days of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, gave me an appreciation for the American Constitution, Bill of Rights and the rule of law that I’d never had before. And also, as Hutton states, the absolute necessity of following our own values.

As for China’s future, Hutton concludes:

My belief is that what is unsustainable is not sustained. Change came in the Soviet Union with the fifth generation of leaders after the revolution; the fifth generation of China’s leaders succeed today’s President Hu Jintao in 2012. No political change will happen until after then, but my guess is that sometime in the mid to late 2010s, the growing Chinese middle class will want to hold Chinese officials and politicians to account for how they spend their taxes and for their political choices. What nobody can predict is whether that will produce another Tiananmen, repression and maybe war if China’s communists pick a fight to sustain legitimacy at home or an Eastern European velvet revolution and political freedoms.

So what do you think?

UPDATE – okay, I’m a little embarrassed – Jeremiah posted about this guy before, which I only discovered because the Monster of Blogging Productivity that is China Law Blog just posted about this article too..

The Discussion: 35 Comments

I’ve also posted about this guy: Don’t take him seriously.

He’s an opportunistic new China hand, desperate to make a few waves and cash in before the people who know China have a chance to start talking some sense and taking the arguments forward.

Good writer for sure, and not stupid, but he writes from a position of zero knowledge – any of us who regularly read about China and live or have lived here could do exactly what he is doing.


January 7, 2007 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Seems like we’ve all been driven by some mysterious force to the same article at the +/- same time. I threw in my five cents two days ago, with about exactly the same update note as here.
Btw, Lisa, there is still an open invitation for you at my blog (“I got tagged”).

January 7, 2007 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

If China waits until the late 2010s for starting political reform, I think it could be too late in as far as making the transition as smooth as possible. Waiting too long will require far speedier change, which could prove dangerous. The problem is that the current breed of leaders – for I think the same attitudes will be prevalent in the next generation – do not foresee any requirement to give up total control, so they will not put China on a road to political reform. They think cosmetic changes and PR stunts will sort everything out.

I am concerned that the CCP will base its reaction to domestic trouble with its singular arrogance and self-belief, choosing to maintain one-party rule by cooking up a “small war” – not unlike the Argentine junta invading the Falklands in 1982. I hope that never happens, but if China continues to be ruled by selfish old men it could happen. God forgive me, but if that day comes China will have to be slapped back down for its own good – the worse thing than a military confrontation would be appeasement a la Chamberlain & Nazi Germany.

January 8, 2007 @ 12:51 am | Comment

First, relative to the lower class, the middle class has a certain guarantee of living quality, and believes that through its own efforts it can achieve a better and more abundant life under the current system.

Second, relative to the ruling class, the middle class, despite its living comfort, has neither the ability to influence political policy in its favor nor the ablity to massively transfer its wealth.

Given the above two conditions, the Chinese middle class, in effect, very much desires a stable and orderly system. A stable and orderly system is to their benefit. In this sense, middle has the least amount of interest in challenging the status quo. It is the middle class that truly wants to “maintain stability”.

Of course the middle class, in theory, also wants the CCP to build a truly just and law-based social system. But, it does not have the courage to fight for this goal by giving up its current material comfort. This is the unfortunate duality of the
middle class. Therefore, even if the Chinese middle class one day decides to challenge the currrent system, without the backing of the lower class, and without the backing of any power group, any such attempt will amount to absolutely nothing.

January 8, 2007 @ 2:41 am | Comment

Also, this Will Hutton is not a serious scholar, for no serious sociologist or historian can predict what happens in “late 2010”. In the study of sociology, one thing is certain, and that is, everything is constantly changing and nothing is certain. The world is a dynamic world where everything is in constant motion, making a set of assumptions at a point in time, T1, and deriving a conclusion at point T2 based on assumptions at T1, while the distance between T1 and T2 are non-trivial will only result in totally senseless outpout.

January 8, 2007 @ 2:47 am | Comment

Lao Lu, I blogged it because it was such a long article, so I wondered how high a profile his book would have. And it’s in the Observer (which is connected to the Guardian), which is a paper I like. As I hope I made clear in the post, I have mixed feelings about Hutton’s case.

And sorry, I totally missed your tag! I’m not sure what I do now. Just post a response?

January 8, 2007 @ 3:01 am | Comment

Lisa, any invitation remains open until withdrawn. Mine is still open but beyond that it’s your call.

As for China, the word that describes the current situation best, I think, is “leapfrog”. It is trying to catch up a century and more of lost time, or to say it somewhat more poetic: China is “à la recherche du temps perdu” (that’s merely something that came up because I was celebrating my birthday yesterday evening in a restaurant with that name, but it fits my opinion here). Under those circumstances, as I mentioned in my post, a country can not be burdened too much with history and principles or it will fail the jump. The thing is, these are put in quarantine during the big jump, but they can not be contained forever. So for me the question is: will China successfully have managed to reach the other shore when these powers again become unleashed (as they no doubt will)

January 8, 2007 @ 4:34 am | Comment

Hi, this is my first time. My english is too poor.

Soviet Union spent most of the time on the export of ideology, it consumed a lot of strength. He also failed to benefit the common people, I hope that mess in its small industry is the best proof. If China maintains state in the Cultural Revolution (perhaps the current state of North Korea) that maybe you might have. I do not think the present arrays of things wrong. Most of the problems we faced early in Western capitalist society is an inevitable stage in the development of society. Some even rely on to solve problems.

January 8, 2007 @ 8:22 am | Comment

Sorry. This is what I want to say:

Babel Fish Translation Help

In English:

Soviet Union used the majority of energy in the foreign output ideology, has consumed too many national strengths, his common people have not obtained certainly any advantage, the light industry in a complete mess are the best proofs. (Perhaps if China also maintains at Great Cultural Revolution’s condition at present North Korea’s condition, perhaps you are then right). Ccp at present does the matter I thought has not been wrong, the majority of present question all has met in the west capitalist society earlier period, is inevitable stage which the society develops, even some questions only can depend upon the time to solve.

January 8, 2007 @ 8:27 am | Comment

I think the CCP is hoping that it can hold off a long list of very serious problems until the more open minded and more “exposed” 20 somethings of today are 40 something and in power to steer the country down the correct road.

But, it is a very risky gamble. China is full of institutions and beliefs that just cannot be changed by mere law and lofty words (in fact you could say “China” is just such an institution unto itself). It is these old, archaic, inflexible institutions and beliefs that lead to the the abuse of migrant workers (imagine being an illegal immigrant in your own country), total lack of environmental protection, theft and abuse of power that is a daily part of life for gov’t officials and the party being so obsessed with its face that it cannot admit that the one child policy has gone horribly off track (the official bachelor count is 40 million…and probably much more).

On CLB’s blog, he disagrees with my assessment that China is in an “either/or” situation with regards to reform or destruction, but if the CCP is waiting for the baby boomers to have a foot in the grave for real change to happen, that is exactly the situation China is putting itself in.

As for not liking what Will Hutton says and hurling insults, he is just saying things that many expats still having a hard time admitting to themselves. So many of you have put all your eggs in the China basket and so your fate is very much tied to China’s. You must continually convince yourselves of a future of roads paved with gold, green grass and blue skies because the alternative sees the expat community experiencing the “Boxer Rebellion” again.

January 8, 2007 @ 11:27 am | Comment

I’m with Charlie. He’s cashing in, yet not providing any original thought.

The giveaway is this: “What China has taught me, paradoxically, is the value of the West, and how crucial it is that we practise what we preach.”

So he writes about China, but only to make a point about “the West”. Yawn.

January 8, 2007 @ 4:20 pm | Comment

Like I said, mixed feelings on my end – but as this is only an excerpt from a book, I’ll reserve final judgment till it comes out.

I do agree it’s problematic to use China as an argument for “Western” values, particularly when there’s no case made for the worth of Chinese values as well. Where’s Useless Tree when you need him?!

Okay, that came out funny…

January 8, 2007 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

Will Hutton is the editor of the Observer newspaper in Britain, a trained economist and author of well several received and respected books. Whilst he does not have the in depth knowledge of China hands, I don’t think ad hominem attacks on him are appropriate and I particularly feel that the accusation that he is “just trying to cash in” given who he is, is laughable. As a trained economist and the editor of a national newspaper, he would naturally be interested in the rise of China.

Furthermore, I don’t feel he dismisses Chinese culture, he just dismisses Chinese political culture and rightly so. I felt his comments, if read at length in the two articles in the Guardian, are perceptive and spot on. Maybe he does retread old ground, but it is thoughtful, necessary and timely, given most of the “coming collapse” literature tends to be polemical.

January 8, 2007 @ 6:58 pm | Comment


Fair enough, perhaps he’s not cynically “cashing in” as I put it, or being as terribly alarmist as others (Coming Collapse, as you mentioned). But he certainly frames it as a West vs. East approach – either China does it the way we know, or it does it the way it currently does things and fails. Forget pointing out the darker side of the Western model (as Desai does, I think too much) or the obvious gaping flaws in China’s current system. I still think he sets up a false choice. I agree with nanheyangrouchuan that there’s a reform or die choice to be made eventually, though I don’t think its arrived yet. But as far as reform is concerned, defining it as Western is not only too narrow, but I think ultimately damaging. China is not going to respond well to any message of “you’ve got to do it our way”. And I think its condescending, self-congratulating, inaccurate and counterproductive to declare a Western patent on pluralism, capabilities or justification. Likewise I find it unconvincing to call these “Enlightenment” traditions, which is all the rage, and quite questionable as a reading of Western history of philosophy. It’s all terribly reductionist.

But part of my point is that Hutton doesn’t seem at all interested in discussing the possibilities of reform in China. His ultimate message is “our way is great”, aimed at a Western audience. So, yawn. The take on reform I’d like to see is a demonstration of how a great deal of Chinese philosophy and social institutions from its pre-Communist past could be interpreted to form an indigeneous basis for Hutton’s “trinity”, instead of saying it can only arise from the importation of an alien political model. It was importing an alien political model, after all, that gave us the CCP in the first place. And it’s the CCP that has the idea that all those older ideas are “backward” and “feudal”.

January 8, 2007 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

Dave, I agree with you that Hutton is a bit overly perceiving the Western way of capitalism and democracy as the one and only, but I for myself wonder in how far the Chinese themselves are alienated after more than half a century of CCP-rule from those philosophies and institutions you mention and whether they still could be a viable base to build upon on the road on which China has embarked.

January 8, 2007 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

as a chinese american, i dont think the modern tone of discussion puts things on the right course for either China or Europe and America.

anyone with a brain or a proper education will have realized, that the CCP’s leaders do not react well to condescension. they will not budge on their policies as a result of any number of denouncements or morally relativistic criticisms.

all the PR stunts and various other half-assed responses showcase this.

they follow money only; and do it poorly, but it’s the one big thing and the only thing that matters to them. they don’t care about the various species they are driving extinct (nor should they) but they do care that smog costs them billions in deaths, otherwise lost wages and medical bills.

they don’t care about arbitrary executions and organ harvesting but they would care about abraded standing in the world-stage (where it applies economically).

they won’t care so much that certain aspects of “asian culture” are a monstrous, paternalistic meatgrinder that begins the killing at birth and only pays off 50 years after you’re dead; but they should care about how it impacts innovation and sustainable growth (particularly of the monetary kind)

meaning, the leaders of europe and america should be placing the reconciliation of the CCP around the top of their lists. private investors have done their job and have profited; chinese and americans/europeans have both benefited. i can’t see why our own leaders haven’t followed suit.

they should begin speaking china’s language and leave the ignorant rhetoric at home, for god’s sake. our leaders have played the moral disdain and patronization vs. utter utilitarian consequentialism game for all too long, and everyone has suffered for it.

January 8, 2007 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

@Lao Lu:

“wonder in how far the Chinese themselves are alienated after more than half a century of CCP-rule from those philosophies and institutions you mention and whether they still could be a viable base to build upon on the road on which China has embarked.”

I wonder too – I completely agree the 20th century (not just the CCP, but the before that as well) did quite a number on those ideas and institutions. It’d be a helluva project to rejuvenate them – but I think it’s necessary. If China simply switches to a new brand of “imitate the West”, all the same problems will continue – lack of indigeneous innovation, confusion and insecurity over Chinese identity, aggrieved nationalism and cynicism in general. The way to true reform lies in that direction, not aping somebody else, again.

January 8, 2007 @ 8:42 pm | Comment

I would agree with both Dave and Ferins to a point. However to ferins I’d like to point out that being condescending to foreigners is hardly only a white man trait – see Wu Yi’s recent rant at the american economic delegation:,,1974757,00.html

I also agree with dave in that Hutton’s phrasing is deeply unfortunate. nevertheless hutton is correct to assert that china has progressed as far as it has by following developed countries. (I think the use of the term “western values” is as stupid as discussing “asian values” – but I will return to this later) I also feel that Chinese progress towards democracy needs to be from the Chinese themselves (as I think Dave does). I feel as Chris Patton does in his book East and West where he says ““in order to use Confucianism to justify unswerving obedience to the state, you have to turn a blind eye to many passages in the Analects that endorse personal liberty”(p.194). I feel democracy could come from Chinese confucian tradition of the right to rebel against rulers and the duty of the elite/people to point out the rulers’ shortcomings. however it should be pointed out that it was the ccp that destroyed confucian tradition in china, so the difficulty of using that model is entirely their own fault – by destroying their heritage they are only left with foreign models.

I feel, as Hutton does, that the notions of liberalism are universal values. I don’t think anyone enjoys being pushed around and bullied. I also don’t see how Chinese culture is incompatible with democracy and liberal values. Chinese people may put the family first, but what has that to do with freedom of speech and one person one vote? Surely if the Chinese put a premium on harmony as they say, there would not be a collapse of social order if the communists left power and surely these values would be reflected in their democracy.

However I agree with Dave that Hutton’s banging on about the enlightenment is not helpful. His approach is narrow in that in talking about a western model he denigrates the west as well as the east. democracy and capitalism are not applied in the same way across the west. the uk and the us are very different as are germany and france. people also always mysteriously leave out japan and korea when discussing “western values”. They have adopted these so-called “western values”, whilst maintaining their own culture. I’d much rather hear talk of “liberal values” rather than “western ones”

The key is to show that these values are universal and universally applicable, not simply “western”.

January 8, 2007 @ 10:13 pm | Comment


“I feel democracy could come from Chinese confucian tradition of the right to rebel against rulers and the duty of the elite/people to point out the rulers’ shortcomings.”

Not just Confucianism; I think you’d have to have a full scale consideration of all the various societal structures found in China for inspiration. How about the Shaolin, or their offspring the Triads? How about Daoism and its anarchist spirit? How about Buddhism? How about myriad of forms of organization found in ethnic minority groups, or the various different societies of the various Han groups (Minnan, Hakka, etc.)? Including the ideas and histories of these groups in the discussion would also be a necessary starting point for China to become a truly integrated multiethnic state, instead one in which minorities are condescendingly protected as social evolutionary throwbacks.

January 8, 2007 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

“anyone with a brain or a proper education will have realized, that the CCP’s leaders do not react well to condescension. they will not budge on their policies as a result of any number of denouncements or morally relativistic criticisms.”

Most people don’t, especially those who are used to having the power of life and death over those who might speak out. The CCP is not beyond criticism and has more than its share coming. Bad, rotten CCP.

“but they do care that smog costs them billions in deaths, otherwise lost wages and medical bills.”

Oh, really? Then where is all of the law enforcement needed to deter pollution. Remediation technology alone is not nearly enough.

As for the rest of your jibberish, doing anything to appease the CCP is morally wrong and akin to appeasing the Nazis. China doesn’t respect weakness but it expects it from its barbarian neighbors, so going along with the CCP is a huge mistake and only plays into their hands to regain their “center of the world” status.

Again, utter jibberish.

January 9, 2007 @ 8:52 am | Comment

I’m not talking about appeasements, I’m talking about steering the CCP from political and economic foolishness and that 1,000 myopic criticisms from supremacists isn’t going to change anything.

The CCP monstrosity won’t even acknowledge his work at best, and it will mildly annoy a few people at worst.

Present them 3,000 pages of complaints on their human rights issues and they’ll feed a few thousand peasants into the meatgrinder to produce a costly PR stunt.

I know you think you are some kind of revolutionary, but authors should be presenting China with convincing socio-economic strategies with results.

It stands to say that the bulk of literature regarding US-Chinese relations should be without fringe reactionary or idealist revolutionary flatulence; and that’s in the interest of the Chinese people.

“Oh, really? Then where is all of the law enforcement needed to deter pollution. Remediation technology alone is not nearly enough.”

There’s something to write about then.

“However to ferins I’d like to point out that being condescending to foreigners is hardly only a white man trait – see Wu Yi’s recent rant at the american economic delegation:”

It’s a Hutton/Wu Yi trait, I suppose. I made sure it was clear I was talking about the leadership (and writers) on both sides. It’s a dumb game that’s being played.

I don’t think I need to convince anyone that the CCP is heartless. Writings like Hutton’s are like cursing at a machine.

January 9, 2007 @ 10:33 am | Comment

The CCP knows what needs to be done and doesn’t need anymore plans. It lacks the courage and conviction to do anything and it is glowing hot with a fever caused by greed.

January 9, 2007 @ 11:43 am | Comment

No one needs Hutton either.

January 9, 2007 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

@Dave – I agree absolutely. As I said my support for so called “western” liberal values is because adhering to them is the real best hope for a harmonious society

@everyone else here is hutton part 3:,,1985889,00.html

January 9, 2007 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

I recommend the follow-up article that Si has provided the link for. Hutton mostly looks at what he considers the false assumptions about how China’s “rise” has come at the cost of jobs in the West and Western hysteria about the China economic “threat,” which he considers unwarranted.

Higher inequality is not caused by low-wage competition driving wages to the bottom or ever higher rewards for the skilled. What has changed is the new super-rich. Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, of Northwestern University, show that in the US, incomes of the 99.99th percentile have grown outlandishly, rising 497% between 1979 and 2002. This is the principal cause of American inequality. It is the same in Britain; 20 years ago the average CEO of a FTSE 100 company earned 25 times the average worker’s wage; today the multiple is close to 120 times.

China is not to blame. In Britain and America a business culture has developed where the share price is the be-all and end-all. Under desperately weak and unreformed corporate governance arrangements, CEOs have in effect written their own pay deals.

January 9, 2007 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

If the west wants to promote democracy in China, all it needs to do is to start telling China that it isn’t ready for democracy. The west, as foreigners, don’t want China to have democracy. Keep your ass-backwards system for as long as possible, because it will just keep the west on top even longer. Start another Cultural Revolution or two. Yes, study those Three Represents! And so forth.

This human rights blah blah blah is entirely counterproductive. The Bush admin. should issue a report stating that Chinese don’t deserve human rights. They’d have them within a week.

Ok, I’m joking. But reverse psychology would probably work better than the constant lecturing.

January 9, 2007 @ 3:46 pm | Comment

@88: God, I wish somebody would actually try that. Just imagine the confusion at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

January 10, 2007 @ 1:01 am | Comment

All Westerners on this forum seem to have one, and only one opinion, that is China is going to collapse on its own weight. How pathetic.

January 10, 2007 @ 2:56 am | Comment

T, that is not true. I posted the article, and as I said repeatedly, I have issues with Hutton’s argument. CLB was also not convinced. Davesgonechina made an even stronger denunciation.

Please be accurate when you are casting dispersions on others. You weaken your argument when you make blatant misrepresentations of fact.

January 10, 2007 @ 3:42 am | Comment


Yet another ‘chip on shoulder’ fresh off the production line.

January 10, 2007 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

@T – I love an ad homienem attack so early in the morning. (morning here anyway) Why don’t you enlighten us all about how China isn’t going to collapse and why the collapse literature is wrong.

By the way, it isn’t just “Westerners” who support the collapse argument. See this recent debate about the Chinese economy at the Carnegie Endowment and notice how it is the Chinese economist Wing Thye Woo is arguing the collapse argument.

Also see “China’s Trapped Transition” by Minxin Pei.

By the way, how do you know we are westerners? Perhaps we are overseas Chinese who speak excellent English……

January 10, 2007 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

The article is fundamentally flawed to see any relationship between cultural enlightenment and capitalism and success therein.

In almost all cases, any enlightenment/democracy came about despite/not because of the degree of capitalism.

Given that any sort of capitalist control in most countries couldn’t really be considered until the mid 19th century (ie urbanised, manual labour on large scale) I fail to see what he’s getting at. ie China can easily be productive without being western enlightened or vice verse indeed.

So capitalism made people vote?? Nope, I think you’ll find people wanted that in 16th century. And I’ll think you’ll find most ruling class in 19th and 20th century resisted universal sufferage. (hell, HK still is).

And what do we have now in the west anyhow? People who don’t care about voting; Governments that ignore the wishes of the populace on many issues; a media that will be almost 95% complicit etc. The sad fact is now that most people in west are either comfortably off that so long as they have their mortgage paid and holidays etc they are happy…or they are on breadline where day to day struggle in an environment of no viable alternative saps their will to complain to large degree. This divide in China is same…and you’ll probably get same result – apathy.

Funnily the same issue of paper also article over how the far right now has enough seats in EU parliament to be a bloody menace. So much for “western” values…

It’s most interesting points were on the west building up the threat to protect its own agenda.

(T – it wasn’t that critical of China beyond what is already common knowledge eg banks, government companies)

ps I got hard copy when I was returning on monday. It seemed longer than version I read online same day in europe.

January 10, 2007 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

It is very interesting to follow the comments on this topic. The way I see it, Mr. Will Hutton has a British Colonial mentality. I was born, educated, and worked in the Hong Kong Government before I immigrated to Canada. In the late 60’s, the Scretary who reported to the Hong Kong Governor was called Colonial Secretary, it was later changed to Chief Secretary. There was no democracy in Hong Kong then. Hong Kong was a dumping ground for the UK unemployed professionals with high pay and never worked. The last Hong Kong Governor, Chris Patten, was never a career diplomat like all previous Governors, but a politician. The British Government was trying to extend the 99 years lease to govern Hong Kong further into the future, but China refused to extend the lease beyond the original term of 99 years. Chris Patten tried to foster democracy in Hong Kong, but failed at the end.

The question we should ask is what is democracy. In Canada, we called it you choose the lesser of 2 or 3 evils. In the US, you choose either Repulican or Democrat. Is this real democracy? In Singapore, there is always one party rule. Opposition politicians can never survive even they leave Singapore and live somewhere else. One certain thing is that these people will eventually go bankcrupted financially. That is what I call pseudo democracy!

China is reviving the Confucianism. The CCP is working towards a Singaporean polictical model, one party rule. What is capitalism? It only exists in textbook. A market is at quilibrium only if the buyers and sellers can not influence the market price. WalMart dictates the price, for it has the leverage (i.e. volumes) to bargain with the suppliers. Would you call this market economy? Milton Friedman, neo-classical economist touted that Kong Kong had been the only true capitalist market in the world, and nowhere esle, not even US or UK!

What happened to Soviet Union when it embraced the next day market driven economy. The Russian Mafia (ex-KGB officers) rules. IMF & World Bank have been promoting market economy to developing countries. Every case, it ends up to be a total failure. China took a cautious approach, moving to a market economy gradually. China did not want a repeat of the 1930’s when Shanghai was divided into many districts: US, UK, French, Belgian, Japan, German, etc. Each district had its own rules and the ambassador was the governor of the district. Chinese people were second class citizens! If China open its economy too fast, it would end up like the 1930’s era.

It seems that Mr. Hutton has no sense of history and blindly made invalid assumptions and predictions based on faulty logic!

Francis Ip

January 13, 2007 @ 4:54 pm | Comment

Hey! The NY Times has quoted a comment from above! Congrats, TPD:

“On the China-focused blog Peking Duck, “Lisa” wrote that Mr. Hutton, at least in the Guardian excerpts, ignores the fact that “certain traditional Chinese values might be advantageous or even virtuous in the modern world” (”

January 14, 2007 @ 2:40 am | Comment

Whoah – did I say that?!

January 15, 2007 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

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