Monday, July 05, 2021

China And Political Reforms

The Chinese state has been designed thinking capital has to be subdued by people. And so the people organization, the Chinese Communist Party, sits atop pretty much everything. But capital is not that evil. Adam Smith's insight was that large masses of people all driven by self-interest end up taking care of the public good. So movement of capital can be seen as an expression of the people's will.

Be that as it may, and with concerns mounting in the American and European political and economic conversations (Piketty's insight that if capital grows at 10% per year, and wages go up by 3%, then the gap will just keep widening until society collapses), even if the Chinese thought is taken at face value, I believe that still creates a lot of room for political reform inside China.

It can be argued the Chinese Communist Party has deviated from its origins and is today just an organization with political monopoly. Ordinary members of the party are not the people that the party derives its power from, let alone the Chinese masses. The party members, large in number, merely provide legitimacy to the people higher up who hold the real power. The organization is well-funded, well-organized, arguably the best organized and best funded political organization on the planet.

The CCP currently provides two candidates for each office at the most local level, and then ordinary voters pick between the two. That is still something. But what if those two had to run in some kind of a primary election inside the party. All party members at that level would vote for candidates. The top two winners of such a primary election would then go face the voters. Would that take away from the original promise of keeping people above the forces of capital? I think not.

What if that is also made true for elections higher up? For the governor of a state? For the president of the country? So all party members inside Tibet would vote for candidates for Governor. The top two would go on to face the voters. Similarly all party members across the country would vote for all presidential candidates, and the two top candidates would then go face the ordinary voters. Would that take away from the original promise of keeping people above the forces of capital? I think not.

They say in China, economic rights over political rights. As in, feed the hungry before you talk about free speech. But that was a long time ago. The people have been fed. Now shall we talk?

If people could talk freely, and if the internet that an ordinary person can access in the US were also the internet that the people inside China could access, would that lead to a collapse of the current system? The system today perhaps. But if China were still a one party state where ordinary people could vote directly for their mayor, governor and president, I don't see how free speech could topple that system. I think China could end up with a system superior to the one in the US. Freely speaking Chinese would simply brag about their political system, them belly full.

The concluding argument of the Trump-Xi trade war from the Trump side was, China can't make chips. China has ambitions to do well in all sorts of cutting edge technologies. I don't see how you can deliver on that unless you have a culture of robust free speech.

The American political system has huge deficiencies. They can't do gun control! They go round and round in circles talking about abortion! They seem incapable of universal health care, or lifelong education. I think China undertaking political reforms would give the country a huge leverage globally. It would put pressure on America to do things like universal health care, and campaign finance reform.

The CCP needs to fight the forces of political monopoly within its ranks and should truly seek to reprsent the people. Minus that it will not be able to lead China to great economic heights on the way to 2030, 2040 and beyond. The political monopoly is moral corruption. With these political reforms most of China's border tensions will cease. There will no longer be any need for external enemies.

Economic rights have been achieved. Poverty has been eradicated (hardly the case in America!). Now it is time for political reforms in China.

China's Xi throws down gauntlet to US Xi warned that China will not be “bullied, oppressed, or subjugated,” and that anyone who dares to try “will find their heads bashed bloody against a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” The speech has been characterized as “defiant” and “fiery.” ........ in a speech of approximately 7,200 characters (where each character or ideogram is in effect a word), only about 770 characters were devoted to the military and the warnings about China not being bullied. ........... Above all, the speech focused on China’s (and not just the People’s Republic of China’s) efforts to modernize and advance from being one of the most backwards nations to reassuming its place as a global leader. ........ Xi placed the CCP’s development and programs alongside such events as the Taiping Rebellion (the Chinese civil war that was the bloodiest conflict of the 19th century), the Tung-Chih Restoration and the Boxer Rebellion. All of these were characterized as efforts at reforming China in order to modernize and progress. The salient difference, according to Xi, is that these previous efforts all failed, whereas the CCP’s efforts have succeeded. .......... the “Century of Humiliation” and the fall of China from economic and political preeminence in Asia (and arguably the world) to becoming the “sick man of Asia.” Xi noted that while China was exploited by foreign powers (in particular the United Kingdom during the Opium Wars), it was also internally weak and backwards. Xi describes it as semi-feudal, and that’s arguably accurate, certainly in the Chinese countryside of 1921. This domestic weakness, in turn, made China vulnerable to foreign depredation. ............ It is the CCP, Xi emphasized, that broke China out of this backwardness. In essence, the CCP has earned the support of the Chinese people through its demonstrated effectiveness. ...........

the CCP represents the pinnacle of 5,000 years of Chinese history and civilization

........... a full-throated reaffirmation of the socialist credentials and nature of the CCP and the PRC ........

there is an ideological component to the challenge posed by Xi and the CCP, one rooted in socialist thought

........ the PRC won’t tolerate being lectured, nor will it evolve in directions set by others. China has its own “core interests,” which it will not make concessions on — an important point when considering developments ranging from the South China Sea to human rights to cyberspace and outer space to expectations of a more liberal CCP. ...........

the United States was not qualified to criticize China

........... trying to get China to liberalize, whether with regards to the Uighurs or Hong Kong, was portrayed as “bullying” and “subjugation.” ......... Insofar as the West wants China to conform to the rules of a rules-based international order, Xi and the CCP are indicating that those rules must be ones that China has forged. ........... Napoleon is said to have warned, “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Xi Jinping’s speech suggests that China is, indeed, roused and ready to start that shaking.

To understand Xi Jinping's China, we must look back to Liang Qichao — the 'godfather of Chinese nationalism' Liang Qichao may not be as familiar to most of us as Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping or Xi himself, but Liang has been called the "godfather of Chinese nationalism" and is the voice that has whispered in the ears of China's leaders for the past century. ........... It is impossible to understand China today without going back to the fall of the Qing Empire in the early years of the 20th century, and a man whose writings triggered a dark night of the soul for the Chinese people. ........ When Xi Jinping talked about "national rejuvenation", "sovereignty and territorial integrity", he was channelling Liang Qichao. When he warned that no foreign force "will bully, oppress or subjugate us", he was echoing the words of Liang. It was Liang Qichao who helped popularise the idea of "humiliation" that Xi now uses as a mantra to bind Chinese people to a militant identity that pits China against the world. ................ He was a writer and activist, one of the most significant thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in China. He campaigned for reform of the Qing Empire, making him a target, and fled overseas, living in Japan and Canada. He visited Australia, meeting our first prime minister, Edmund Barton. ............ Liang embraced the West, soaking up new ideas. But it only reinforced

his view that China was morally corrupt

. Liang looked at his nation, and saw defeat, humiliation and weakness. .............. He coined the phrase "the sick man of Asia" to describe China's fallen state. ....... Being defeated in war by Japan in 1895, Liang said "awoke our nation from its four thousand year old dream". ........

Liang set about inventing a new nation. He advocated the unity of the "yellow race".

He coined a term "minzu" to describe the people of the nation. He began to talk of what he called "hsin min"' — a "new people". ............ a new "definition of the Chinese people as a nation ... based upon common ties of place, blood, custom and culture". In today's terms, we might call it "make China great again". .............. But Liang's vision for this new China did not include democracy. .......... Liang preferred what he called "enlightened despotism." ........ "from 1842 to 1942, China had been treated by the West with distrust, ridicule, and disdain, mingled from time to time with pity and charity, only occasionally sympathy and friendliness". .........

In 1949, Mao crowned victory in the Communist Revolution with the words "the Chinese people have stood up".

......... He grew disillusioned with politics in China and retreated to study and writing. But

he was perhaps the greatest influence on a young emerging revolutionary, Mao Zedong

. .......... It isn't a show of strength but a reminder of humiliation. It reveals

the paradox of China: at once powerful yet fragile.

........... for all of its undoubted success, the Party does not believe in its people. .......... Like Liang Qichao, Xi believes the people need to be re-made.

‘Keep your eyes on the sun’ the Chinese Communist Party that leads it will today celebrate 100 years since its founding and nearly 72 years in power. .........

The authoritarian regime transformed China so rapidly that today the nation identifies as both an emerging superpower, and a developing nation, at the same time.

......... when we see “China” in a headline, it’s often talking about the CCP, not the country’s 1.4 billion people. ........... Mr Xi oversees the party and its 92 million members — ..... less than 7 per cent of China’s 1.4 billion people. ......... the party and the government are inseparable. ........ The structure of the CCP is highly opaque and complex .......... Mr Xi sits atop what’s known as the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), a circle of seven men who effectively run China. ........ the National People’s Congress — China’s parliamentary equivalent — some 3,000 delegates who meet annually to “rubber stamp” laws. .......... Every five years, thousands of CCP representatives convene to elect the party’s central leadership bodies. ......... the intra-party mechanics of the CCP get complex and bureaucratic ........ these ranks — who make up a tiny fraction of China’s population. ........ China does hold elections for local representatives. But all candidates must be CCP-approved. No photos or candidate information are provided — only a name. ......... in a nation with more than 680 million females, there are no women in the top rank ........ raising controversial issues is effectively prohibited ......... Single-party rule allows for significant policy changes and difficult decisions to be made without much political fallout from the Chinese people. It also means that long-term targets can be set and political decisions made without concern or worry that an opposition party will gain popular support or unwind policy every few years. ............... the idea for a population control policy had been ruminating within the Politburo Standing Committee for nearly a decade through the 1970s under Mao Zedong, before being formally enacted as the one-child policy in 1980 by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping — it would stay in place for the next 35 years. ............. Deng’s economic reforms transformed the country from being one of the world’s poorest to the second-largest economy on earth within a generation. ......... “My parents explained to me that I was a second child, that it was forbidden, and if it was disclosed, they would lose everything” ............ “[CCP] leaders have nothing to do with the ones below them, just like the whole mechanism of the Communist Party — it

only looks at the faces above, not the people’s feelings below.”

......... “the CCP doesn’t use the ordinary people’s perspective, it uses a comparative sociological perspective” that prioritises societal progress over individual struggle. ......... “There is so-called ‘intra-party’ and ‘extra-party’ democracy. But if you can’t discuss the Central Committee’s policies, what kind of ‘democracy’ do you have?” .......... Despite its socio-capitalist wealth, the CCP is still guided by communist principles like

democratic centralism and collective leadership

. .............. These ideas strive for leadership through consensus and unity. ........ This “collective” order is also maintained under an extrajudicial process known as ‘Shuanggui’ – overseen by the PSC’s Disciplinary Commission – to punish disloyal party members who cross the line. ...........

what constitutes “the line” is fluid, and up to the discretion of senior ranking CCP members.

........ “The party guides rather than instructs: it saves giving direct orders for when something is really important.” ........ “Normally, the goal is to get everyone to read the leader’s mind, and so there are lots of [iterations of] what the party thinks.” .........

while issues like human rights do get raised, it’s not in a way liberal democracies would expect: the discussion is framed in terms of extreme rationality, with emphasis placed on the socioeconomic advancement of the society, not on the suffering of individuals, which is seen as counterproductive when governing so many people

. ............ “No Communist Party member — including Mao Zedong — sincerely believes in communism, and no Communist Party member would say that openly” .......... “The legitimacy of ideology is actually a very contradictory thing for the Communist Party of China —

it plays the Marxist-Leninist card, but it actually follows the Chinese emperor system.”

............ People like Yin maintain some policies seen by many as “cruel” would not be allowed to exist if the Chinese people could voice their opinions. ......... as a ruling party it is very much supported, but

I wouldn’t dare to say it’s supported by the majority of the people because it wouldn’t dare to announce a general election in China

............ policy in China does not attract much public consultation. If [the public had a chance to speak], these millions of tragedies wouldn’t happen.” ........ when a group of leftist-inspired students took over Tiananmen Square in 1919 to protest against foreign powers who were violating China’s sovereignty after World War I. .........

In July 1921, the CCP held its first National Congress, attended by a dozen members including a 27-year-old Mao Zedong.

By the end of the civil war in 1949, former student-turned-CCP leader Chairman Mao would declare the People’s Republic of China, and the party as its sole governing authority. .............. Some say this history informed the CCP’s own handling of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square some 70 years later, which were sparked in the same spirit as those of 1919. .......... In 2020, the CCP claimed it had achieved its centenary target of eradicating absolute poverty across the country. .......... The party also has a goal for the centenary of the founding of China in 2049. It hopes that by then the country will be “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong,


, culturally advanced and harmonious”. .............. Prioritising pragmatism over strict ideology — for example, inviting foreign investment into its communist tradition — has been integral to the CCP’s success and domestic popularity. ............ “By guiding more than directing, they can take the praise for things that go right — and many things have in the past 30 years — while blaming problems or failures on subordinates not acting the way top leaders want them to.” ......... “Politically, the West’s theory that capitalism is the ultimate has been shaken, and socialist development has experienced a miracle,” Mr Xi said in a speech after first coming to power. ............. “Western capitalism has suffered reversals, a financial crisis, a credit crisis, a crisis of confidence, and their self-conviction has wavered.

“Western countries have begun to reflect, and openly or secretively compare themselves against China’s politics, economy, and path.”

................ Foreign relations are regularly strained by an inability to see eye to eye on issues around human rights —

China’s frustration stems from alleged “hypocrisy” and “double standards”.

......... lifting “850 million people” out of poverty, a feat small Western countries have no experience with ..........

“As one African diplomat famously put it: ‘You cannot eat democracy.’”

........ 2022′s National People’s Congress might see a reshuffling of power, as the CCP seeks to project a more tame image in the future. .............. “Keep your eyes on the sun, and you will not see the shadows.” ....... look at the positives, and stop focusing on the dark sides.

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