admin’s note. The following is a blog post from 多维博客(h/t to Snow). Besides re-posting an article originally published on the Study Times (a weekly publication of the CCP’s Central Party School) in 2008, it drew a vigorous debate among Chinese with nearly 300 comments (I hope that someone could translate them too), many of them are interesting. Although we posted the Chinese version last year and A-gu commented on that, it was until recently that btbr403 volunteered to translate it. DeWang and Allen helped with the translation.
Following is the translation of the original post:
The Study Times of The Central Party School published an article by Zhang Weiwei (he was Deng XiaoPing’s interpreter, and he wrote an opinion piece The allure of the Chinese model ), a senior research fellow at the Modern Asia Research Centre, University of Geneva, Switzerland. He showed his excellent eloquence in the invitation only Marshall Forum on Transatlantic Affairs, saying that he had visited more than 100 countries, but couldn’t find one that achieved modernization via democratization. The European and American scholars present couldn’t find any examples to refute him.
When I saw this proposition, “the Four Dragons of Asia” first occurred to me, but after a second thought, I realized that these countries went on democratization with a certain level of modernization. So I’m afraid it’s not appropriate to take them as examples.
Dimensional Blog(多维博客) is full of wits, so I ask everyone there – are there examples (even one) to illustrate that democratization comes first and modernization comes later, or at least they just go hand in hand at the same time.
Reflecting on Western Democratization
In a beautiful summer resort at the outskirts of Munich in late June, 2007, the well-known Marshall Forum held a seminar on China issues. I was the speaker on the rise of China and its international influences. The discussion after the talk was really interesting.
An European scholar asked me, “when do you think China will start democratization?”
“What is your definition of democracy?” I replied.
He was quite annoyed, and abruptly said, “simple: one person, one vote, general elections, power alternation.” Then he added, “at least, this is how we Europeans see it.”
I expressed my appreciation and respect for the European values. I followed up with the question, “did it ever occur to you that China has its own values too? And one of them is to seek truth from facts.” I continued, “we’ve been researching facts for a long time, but we have never found an example of a developing country realized its modernization through democratization that you talked about. I have visited more than 100 countries, but couldn’t find any.”
Then I politely asked him to offer an example. He couldn’t come up with one right away. I suggested, ”you may think about it and tell me later.”
At this time, an American scholar raised his hand, and shouted, “India!” I asked the scholar whether he had been to India or not. He said “no.” I said, “I’ve been there twice and canvassed the country thoroughly. My impression is that India is 20 or even 30 years behind China economically. The poverty I saw in Mumbai and Calcutta is worse than anything I’ve seen in China in the last 20 years.”
He did not counter.
Then the first scholar came up with Botswana as an answer. I asked him, ”have you ever been there?” He said “no.” I explained, ”I have been there, and I had a meeting with the president of Botswana. It’s a small country with a population of only 1,700,000. Indeed, Botswana has carried out western democratic system, and there have been no big turmoil. This country is rich in resources and has relatively simple ehtnic composition. In spite of these advantages, Botswana is still a poor, developing country, average life expectancy is less than 40.”
“What about Costa Rica? ” another scholar asked. I asked again, ”have you ever been there?” Another “no.” I elaborated, ”I visited this country in 2002. It’s a small country too, with a population of 4,000,000. Compared with other Middle American countries, Costa Rica is politically stable and economically prosperous. More than 90% of its population is descendent from the Europeans. They had a head start in many aspects. However, Costa Rica is still a rather less developed country, and the gap between the rich and the poor is tremondous, with 20% of its population living in poverty. The capital San Jose leaves people an impression of a big village with a lot of houses made of sheet iron and slums.”
I figured that the audience might not come up with other examples, so I just asked, ”should I give examples of western democratic models that didn’t work out for developing countries? 10? 20? 30? even more?”
I talked briefly about democratic Philippines that Americans founded, democratic Liberia that African Americans created, Haiti next to the US, and the unfortunate Iraq.
Some people in the audience nodded but others shook their heads. Still, none stood up to provide a counter argument. Then I asked another question, ”all of you come from developed countries, so can you give me an example – one is enough – to illustrate that the today’s developed countries put forth general election before or during their modernization?”
I continued, ”African Americans didn’t truly get the right to vote until 1965. In Switzerland, not until all women got their right to vote in 1971, has the country truly realized general election. If you want to put forth western democratic systems, the west should firstly explain why the approaches to democratization are exclusively gradual and are all after modernization. If we sort this out, then I think we have a common ground.”
I talked about my personal proposition at the same time. ”What will it be if China carries out the general election? Provided that fortunately China doesn’t have a civil war and disintegrate, we may elect a peasantry government since the peasants have the largest population. I don’t discriminate against the peasants. If we go back 3 or 4 generations, everyone was a peasant. I will never forget that I come from a peasant, and I don’t discriminate against the peasants and people come from the countryside. However, Chairman Mao, who himself have led times of peasant movement, once said, ‘the serious problem is to educate the peasants. A peasantry government can’t lead the cause of great modernization. You know this better than I do.’ ”
A scholar was not so satisfied and objected, ”democracy is sacred and noble. It’s the universal value which should be accepted by China.”
I replied, ”democracy is universal value indeed, but the western forms of democracy are not. They are still controversial. Why can’t you be a little more confident? If your systems are perfect enough, others will adopt them, but if you try to implement your systems-even with force- in the name of universal values, that’s out of the line. Take a look at Iraq, according to the latest BBC reports, the citizens of Baghdad started to use the word ‘hell’ to describe their city. Still, the naïve Americans thought that the Iraqi would come to give them a warm welcome with flowers in hand.”
The democratization topic didn’t go on further because of some other interesting topics. In fact, if you look at all the premier western democracy theories, you will find most of the masters of the western democracy theories-from Montesquieu to Schumpeter -don’t advocate democracy for the sake of it. They all think it is a procedure, an institutional arrangement, or some kind of game rules. It is “limited participation” but not “unlimited participation.”
Of course, there are idealists like Rousseau calling for human rights and revolution all the time, but France have paid an extremely heavy price for this, and the democracy achieved in the end is not the independent democracy that Rousseau called for, but tools of democracy.
I wrote an opinion piece (The allure of the Chinese model) in the International Herald Tribune in 2006, talking about the problems the western countries brought to developing countries by exporting their values. ”The west set their own ideology as the best, implementing radical democratization. They ignore the specific situation of the local places. Implementing democracy before liberal political cultural and legal system is formed often make the results frustrating and disastrous. ”
Professor Edward Mansfield from University of Pennsylvania and Professor Jack Schneider Columbia University have published a book, “Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War.” The conclusion of the book is when adopting western democracy models, internal conflicts and external wars are easily provoked, because the politician will get votes if they advocate populism. Many countries fell into wars after liberal election in the 90’s: Armenia and Azerbaijan started a war, Ecuador and Peru started a war, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Burundi – Rwanda Massacre, leading more than 1,000,000 people to death.
So is the hearting-breaking secession and wars in Yugoslavia. I visited all the countries of Former Yugoslavia, the conservative estimate shows more than 100,000 people died in Bosnian war, making it the war which lost most lives since the European Second World War. How much evil has been done under the name of promoting universal values!
And so is the issue of democracy, the west haven’t gotten rid of the “I am the center of the universise” mindset yet. This mindset has led to numerous wars throughout history, almost ruined the western civilization. The west should have learned a lot from it, however, it seems like not the case, especially for the USA. If the west really wants to implement democracy in developing countries, they should take a look at their history of the democracy development and summarize, one of the key issues is the order of democracy.
The evolution of the original ecological civil society can be summarized like this approximately: firstly, the development of economic and education; secondly, the development of civil culture and legal system; lastly, the democracy. If we mess up the order, a society will pay a heavy price. But the west is asking the countries of the third world to be perfectly democratic, making the last step to be the first, or making a leap within the 3 steps, what would you expect to happen?
The world is developing; democracy means more than the monopoly or privilege of the west. The new technology revolution has provided all kinds of new means for democracy. The countries of non-western traditional culture totally have the access of exploring their own unique ways of democratic development and they should.
As a follower, China should learn from the experience of both the developed countries and the countries of third world in the process of democracy development. We should get rid of the narrow and rigid view of democracy and put forth the reform of political system which is suitable for China and also to gradually deepen the reforms at the same time. We will try to catch up with the first runners and build a new civil democratic society of prosperity and harmony.
(The author of this article is a a senior research fellow at the Modern Asia Research Center, University of Geneva, Switzerland. It was published on The Study Time on January 14th, 2008)
Good post, thanks for this translation effort. I read the original article sometimes ago and was indeed quite impressed by it.
Democratization is a fundamental development trend in modern political history, as the mass population of common people increase their level of education, become productive incomer and consumer and be more aware of their daily political rights.
It is also a perilous path if started prematurely, not managed well on implementation or lack a proper political/ethical culture to sustain it.
Its huge impact on a country’s foreign and internal ethnic relations can also be ignored. You can definitely added countries like Mongolia and India to that long list of broken countries
“Professor Edward Mansfield from University of Pennsylvania and Professor Jack Schneider Columbia University have published a book, “Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War.” The conclusion of the book is when adopting western democracy models, internal conflicts and external wars are easily provoked, because the politician will get votes if they advocate populism. Many countries fell into wars after liberal election in the 90’s: Armenia and Azerbaijan started a war, Ecuador and Peru started a war, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Burundi – Rwanda Massacre, leading more than 1,000,000 people to death.
So is the hearting-breaking secession and wars in Yugoslavia. I visited all the countries of Former Yugoslavia, the conservative estimate shows more than 100,000 people died in Bosnian war, making it the war which lost most lives since the European Second World War. How much evil has been done under the name of promoting universal values!”
Correction: “Its huge impact on a country’s foreign and internal ethnic relations can also be ignored” ==> ” … can also NOT be ignored”
Very thought-provoking post. Thanks for the translation.
There is one thing I often ponder about: Who makes the better decisions: the public lumped together in a one-vote, one-person system? Or the elaboration of a group of elites in something such as an electorate college? Or a dictator or group of dictators somehow checked and balanced with a constitution? In other words, where does wisdom reside? In Zhugeliang the mastermind, or three cobblers combind? One has to wonder.
S.K. Cheung says
Nice post. Thanks for the translation.
This topic seems to harken back to the very early days of this blog. Yes, China should one day become more “democratic”, though probably in a form unique to her own circumstances, and not a cookie-cutter version of a “western” model. When will that day come? Don’t know. When that day comes (and hopefully most people can at least agree to dispense with the “if”), what will such a model look like? Don’t know.
So when Mr. Zhang decries an absence of precedence for democratization without modernization, it seems that he hasn’t (at least in this article) defined modernization. For surely, some parts of China are as modern as any place on earth. So how modern does a nation have to be to possess readiness for democratization, assuming that that is in fact an indispensable prerequisite? And when some parts of China are as modern as they come, and others are as backward as they come, what metric is to be used? Do we take an average “modern-ness” (and who knows how we would measure that)? Is there a minimal level of modernization that every last PRC citizen must enjoy before a collective readiness for democratization is declared (and again what would such a minimum level look like)? In the past, per capita GDP has been offered as one such metric, with various estimates of the “magic number”.
I agree that a society needs the basics (the dress/eat/live/mobility aspects, if you will) and a certain level of education and sophistication to progress. And democracy doesn’t work without civility and law and order. But I have been surprised by the allergic reactions evoked in the past at any mention of a vision of where a “Chinese democracy” might end up. As I’ve asked before (and have yet to see any reasonable response), how on earth do people plan to get there if they don’t know where they’re going? So while I can agree with the author that there are prerequisites (in some form or other than still remain nebulous) on China’s path toward democratization, I certainly disagree with the insinuation that it’s not a topic that merits discussion today, even if China’s model is not ready for roll-out.
The further irony is that, while the implication is that China is not yet sufficiently modern to embark on a road towards democracy, there’s a “glorious China” thread on this very blog that’s littered with laundry lists of very modern Chinese accomplishments.
In the last paragraph, the author does suggest that CHina should do a lot of things. I wonder how she’s doing on that to-do list.
ifeng.com (凤凰网） is publishing a serial discussion on development paths of various countries (both current and history). The second part is dedicated to China. It is a good read from a single concentrated source (in Chinese)
>>> Below is a short translation:
“Explaining China’s development path, people in different positions have different views. This is not surprising, and even can be seen as a sign of progress. After all, active and deep thinking is much better than a pool of stagnant water.
But it is like seeing flowers through thick fogs, if we only look at things from individuals or small groups from the standpoint, from a prior established theories, or even a quotation from certain great man in the history. Our thinking can be obscured by bias even before we started to identify the edge of flowers. Then, when and where we can begin to talk about China’s future development and destiny?
Actually there is an even more basic question presented in front of everyone: If we can not even correctly see where China came from, how can we expect ourselves to know where this road will lead to ?. That is the exact the modest effort we put forth through this series “
A simple and short answer to your question is that China has been generally managed its process of modernization (including democratization) quite well, in comparison to various other countries. China has been making tremendous contribution to the world even at its current developing stage. No other country in the world has achieve such result or even have a genuine willingness to do so when they are at developing stage. Period !
Sure, I have given similar answer to many China doubters (Yes, they are somewhat better than those impolite, arrogant and discriminative China haters and bashers 🙂 )
I pretty much agree with the article. But my biggest worry when china have some sort of a democratic system their biggest issue is much harder to solve is the current autonomous region, like Tibet, Xinjiang, outer mongolia and taiwan. Unresolve ethnic issue always make or break a newly found democratic country. I always myself this type of question and never comeup with a satisfy answer. All my question assume even china become a democractic country it will never grant those region i mention above to become an independant country unless china collapse.
How can a democratic china intergrate Xinjiang, Tibet and maybe Taiwan into its system if they are willing to become part of the process?
What role can those area play in a democratic China.?
Will han chinese trust a ughirs or tibetans as their president?
Will independent emotion flair up in Tibet and Xinjing once china become a democratic country like what is currently happen or has happen in other part of asia, east timor, sir lanka and Phillipines.
S.K. Cheung says
“China has been generally managed its process of modernization (including democratization) quite well, in comparison to various other countries.”
—as a statement, that works well. As an answer to my questions, much less so. Do you agree with the author, or disagree? If you feel that China is well on her way to modernization, then golly gee she should be good to go for engaging democratization. And if you agree with the author that democratization can only come after modernization, and if you think China has already done a bang up job with democratization, then in fact you’d be suggesting that China is already as modern as she needs to be to foster any necessary democratization. We can then discuss what more she needs to do in terms of democratization, for, even if you think she’s done well so far, surely she’s got some ways to go yet.
“Sure, I have given similar answer to many China doubters ”
—you’ve given statements, yes. But I’m not sure how much you’ve answered.
“Will han chinese trust a ughirs or tibetans as their president?”
—if Han Chinese truly love all minorities as brothers, why would this be a concern? If China’s president is a PRC citizen, does/should their ethnicity matter?
I’m happy you’re asking yourself what a democratic China might look like. Many seemingly prefer not to bother.
Do you consider minority issues as a significant challenge for a democratic China, or as a reason for China not be become democratic?
Good and thoughtful post. Many people nowadays come to China with a big question “When do you …?”
In my own humble opinion, it will be a very slow process and the West has not been that helpful in this process…
Time wise, I think it will take another two generations to become more systemic …
Samuel P. Huntington, a past great American political scientist, wrote in his book “Political Order in Changing Societies” that “the development of political institutions always lags behind social and economic change”. In his view,
“The order itself was an important goal of developing societies, independent of the question of whether that order was democratic, authoritarian, socialist, or free-market.”
My interpretation of “the order” includes aspects on political, social (rule of law) and cultural (self willingness to engage orderly activities).
Given China’s past history and current domestic status, China has a long way down this road. This is number one.
Number two is that a favorable external condition for China’s further democratization does not exist and China has to foster such condition all by its own effort — this is the reason I said the West is not that helpful.
The list of problems are quite long, it includes ideological difference, political mistrust, a policy of security containment …
The last one is that China has an unsettled political territory issues such as Taiwan, as well as proper ethnic integration issues at Tibet and Xinjiang.
So until stars got lined up properly — either through China’s own hard efforts or unforeseen external events, China will continue and pursue a slow and careful political path …
On this topic, you can be surely educated yourself much better after reading through the series on ifeng.com 🙂 (see my links)
S.K. Cheung says
I can’t read simplified, but I read your short translation. It seems to suggest that where CHina is going is predicated on where she came from. The idea that one’s future is enslaved to one’s past was never really in my mode of thinking anyhow.
Understood your frustration, but when you select a stock to buy, did you take a look its past history even though it would not guarantee future return?
S.K. Cheung says
I hardly ever read the prospectus, but the line I always love is “past performance does not guarantee future returns” or something like that.
My philosophy has always been that you learn from history so as not to repeat past mistakes. But one needn’t be bound by history, because the old way may not be the best or only way.
This is off-topic thing, but please educate yourself more on stock trading as well as Chinese wisdom. I am sure both can serve your life better 🙂
@S.K. Cheung #13, @shane9219 #14
Shane, I find SK to be well-educated. I read many publications like the Motley Fool, Forbes, Marketwatch and WSJ. There is quite a disparity in opinions on stock trading. “Chinese wisdom”? I am not sure. Maybe wisdom is wisdom no matter the nationality, race or creed. If the wisdom is culturally-bound, maybe it is just information or opinions. I am not sure.
It seems, Shane, that if someone disagrees with your opinion, they need to become better educated, in your humble opinion. Perhaps this is just polite cover for your previous insults which contained the word, “stink”. It seems to me that you are insinuating that you are the “arbiter of education”, which sounds awfully condescending and arrogant to me.
I happen to be in accord with SK, here. Maybe we are wrong. But maybe not. And perhaps we will learn as we see fit.
“I am sure both can serve your life better.” Personally, I am not sure of anything.
Not to disparage both you and SKC, your guys, like most western people who want to get involved on a piece of China — even those so-called China expert, are probably well-educated on the West, but certainly on the subject of China, but they show no sense of humbleness on a host of complicated issues. This is a bare truth, let’s just face it. So what a pity for these people to engage in such intellectual game.
I think these people need to get serious and be respectful. Why? To those kind of people, the China topic is their causal and favorite topics after a full stomach. To Chinese people who struggle to rise families day-in-day-out, it is life-and-death for their families and the well-being of future China.
S.K. Cheung says
1. Financial planners and brokers are there for a reason. That’s why I have them. Now, if I need more “education” to correct my apparent misunderstanding of the relationship between past performance and future returns, well, thanks, but I’m perfectly happy with my understanding in that arena.
2. As for wisdom, Chinese or otherwise, I’ve never been inclined to take someone else’s word for it. If it makes sense for me, fantastic; if not, then it’s as useful as yesterday’s paper.
3. On the subject of humility, you should be the last person to talk. BTW, you have demonstrated no justification for being lacking in that arena, but it’s seemingly never stopped you before.
4. Respect is earned. Some people forget some very basic things. And on the one hand, the sky is falling, while on the other, China is glorious. That’s quite a contradiction.
@S.K. Cheung #17, @shane9219 #16
SK, you’re right on the money with comments #1 and #2. You wrote, “On the subject of humility, you should be the last person to talk.” All I can say is, “Amen!!” I was going to comment back immediately to Shane’s response, but bike riding comes first. Good points on respect and the contradiction in #4.
Shane, I agree that the Chinese have a vested interest in China; a huge vested interest. And I have never lived in da lu nor have I ever visited (and have no desire to live or visit there). I take that into account when I make comments or have opinions. In fact, I have lived here in Taiwan for nearly 2 years; hence I can’t comment precisely on how things are in the US, my native country. I am not a Western, American, Jewish, Taiwanese or Russian Jewish spokesman. Hell, I am not even a spokesman for my own family or kids.
All that said, Shane, I have opinions about China and will occasionally state my opinions, regardless of whether or not you think I have the right. Same goes for the US and other countries. Furthermore, you are free to state your opinions about China, the US, the West, and about whatever/whomever you wish. I hope that you express your opinions in a respectful manner, since it seems that it is good to practice what you preach. Same goes for humility.
I was going to make a minipost about an article from Xinhua, translated by ChinaNewsWrap.com. Looks like the Chinese article may be giving citizens a heads up on forthcoming reforms within the CCP.
“Chinese Communist Party expands exploration of “Chinese-style democracy”
Hi S.K. Cheung, #4,
Regarding the “magic number”, my view is that it is more of a “magic feeling.” I believe China is going to reform and at a pace they “feel” right – not by some criteria set outside of China. I think China is probably way more proactive than a lot of people think.
I know they are consulting with experts outside of China too. I knew of a visiting scholar from one of China’s government departments, responsible for instituting rural/village elections in China, at my university (back when I was doing my undergrad). His job was to get the best practices from the U.S. and bring it back with him to China.
I doubt he was the first of such scholars to be sent abroad (this was about 15 years ago), nor is U.S. the first country China tries to learn this kind of things from.
One would think Zhang Weiwei’s experience and research have a voice too in China.
Charles Liu says
Isn’t China’s village democracy experiment, with help from Carter Center, a form of democratization? How about the subsquent expansion of village democracy to county and district level People’s Congress? District PC deputies elect NPC, that is indirect election. UK’s Prime Minister is indirectly elected.
real name says
@ we have never found an example of a developing country realized its modernization through democratization
– than why china ‘introduced democracy’ in Tibet?
was this fatal mistake main reason why Tibet is still behind in modernization?
@ Botswana .. average life expectancy is less than 40
@ Costa Rica … and the gap between the rich and the poor is tremondous, with 20% of its population living in poverty
does it mean Chinese model failed too?
@ Many countries fell into wars after liberal election
china felt into conflict with Vietnam after reforms were introduced – reforms = mistake?
-> anyway i can agree with something here f.e. following steps of various reforms
(even i think steps order is up to discussion)
@ Who makes the better decisions
– strongly depends on conditions (and people), see f.e.
diverse collection of independently-deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts
and it’s not only decision – also control is required
@ ‘China should one day become more “democratic”’ via ‘internal party democracy’
– see Six Why’s with it’s recent Never (how many Nevers i already heard)
(btw. why selected interest-group democracy is OK, general already not?)
From time to time I read articles about democracy in China. I read about some law or another being passed. One thing I remember is the “Protest Park” for the Olympics. The people who tried to use the park were arrested. So the laws seem to be passed, sometimes with fanfare, then subverted or ignored.
I also remember a study done by some scientists from MIT; I submitted it to Allen last year. The scientists were puzzled by the continuing pollution from coal-fired electrical generation plants. It seems that China was installing the latest, most technologically-advanced plants, yet they were not making a dent in the levels of pollution caused by the plants.
They studied and investigated 85 plants. It seems that the subversion was occurring on a local or provincial level. The plants were state-of-the-art and should have been able to significantly reduce emissions. They should have been, except for the local operators and authorities who chose to subvert the emissions control. First of all, they bought the cheapest coal possible, very dirty and loaded with sulfur. Secondly, because of higher plant operations costs, they shut down the scrubbers or totally dismantled the scrubbers. Voila, pollution is the same.
It seems to me the Mr. Zhang asked the wrong question:
I would ask, “Why is this so?”
Perhaps a big reason is that existing authoritarian groups, e.g., the military and plutocrats, do not have the desire, trust or patience to make democracy work. Thus, the authoritarians work hard to subvert the budding democracies.
Mr. Zhang further said, “If your systems are perfect enough, others will adopt them, …” Perfection? Gook luck! Furthermore, autocrats, authoritarians, plutocrats and tyrants will fight “tooth and nail” to maintain control, especially absolute control. Perhaps that is an even bigger source of subversion than lack of perfection in Western democracies.
I still agree with Churchill’s assessment.
I quite agree, Winston.
@Real Name: in 2007, when the article was written it was true the average life in Botswana was less than 40 years..
real name says
wow, wonder of democracy?
(one comunist party member in my country names longer life expentancy in tibet ‘communist wonder’ never commenting why situation is similar also f.e. in nepal)
“A new World Bank report calls China’s progress in reducing poverty “enviable” and shows that the percent of the Chinese population living below the poverty line declined from 65 percent in 1981 to 4 percent in 2007.”
@Real Name: Life expectancy in Tibet is around 70 years….Population in the last 60 years (ethnic tibetans) has almost doubled.
real name says
Population under <1.25 < $2 %:
Costa Rica 2.4 8.6
China 15.9 36.3
Population living below national poverty line %:
People's Republic of China 2.8
Costa Rica 23.9
Definitions of poverty vary considerably among nations.
real name says
compare Population living under 1.25 and 2 dollar (PPP) a day (%) Population living below national poverty line (%)
Costa Rica 2.4 8.6 23.9
China 15.9 36.3 2,8
real name says
27. Life expectancy
yes, i know but
(according to your link) in botwana +16years/2years
in tibet (or nepal) aproximately +35years/60years (sorry if +30 or +40)
that’s wonder of selective statistics article shows
btbr, thank you for translating this. But I think it’s too big a matter to address in a single post here. I will look into writing a blog entry as a response to what he said after a few days (to give this thread more time to run).
After reading the translation, I wanted to get a better feel for what was discussed at this conference and while searching the net (only found the agenda), I ran across another conference where a transcript was published about what was discussed. The topic Zhang Weiwei discusses here is also discussed at the Glasshouse Forum and Zhang Weiwei was also a participant. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Glasshouse Forum wanted to delve deeper into the issue of whether there is reason to speak of a Chinese model and how if so it should be classified. The idea was to organize an intellectual summit between Chinese intellectuals and representatives for the West. The aim was to obtain a clearer picture of developments in China and the different way in which they are interpreted, and from that to go on to a constructive dialogue. The continuity from the previous round table talks was provided by Azar Gat, Gideon Rachman and Feng Zhang. Other participants from the West were Vivienne Shue, Timothy Garton Ash and Simon Long. The representatives from China were Zhiyuan Cui and Shaoguang Wang, both renowned representatives for the Chinese “New Left”, Wei-Wei Zhang, Daniel A. Bell, and Yongnian Zheng from Singapore.
Yongnian Zheng was undecided on whether China should be classified as socialistic or capitalistic. It is primarily a Chinese state. The party is not a political party in the Western sense, but a latterday imperial state with traditional elements. It learns from the West as well as from its own tradition. Confucianism has undergone a renaissance, and with it the perception of meritocracy: those best suited run the nation’s affairs. The political system is thus based more on selection than election.
Daniel A. Bell too pointed out the importance of Confucianism in today’s China. Its meritocracy and paternalism complement the socialist ideal. In the future, China will be a mix of meritocracy and democracy. This polarity, not the polarity between democratic and authoritarian, is central. The attempts to present this as something specifically Chinese brought disagreement from the participants from the West.
Azar Gat reminded the meeting that the vision of government by the wisest is formulated as early as Plato’s Republic, certainly not an insignificant text. And was the socialist market economy not fairly similar to the European social market economy? It is in addition difficult to put Western individualism alongside Asian collectivism. As Timothy Garton Ash noted, it is not difficult to find examples of anti-individualism in Western tradition. Wang countered that by replying that one can find every value in every culture, but there is a difference in how the values are ranked.
All in all, an interesting discussion that fits nicely with this topic.
Great find! There is also a video documentation of this China-West Intellectual Summit.
Chapter 1: Is there a China model? – an intellectual summit
Chapter 2: China and the economic crisis – comparison between the crises of 1997 and 2008
Chapter 3: China and the economic crisis – will China become less dependent on Western demand?
Chapter 4: The nature of the system – capitalism and socialism
Chapter 5: The nature of the system – the question of legitimacy
Chapter 6: The nature of the system – fragility or resilience?
Chapter 7: The future of the system – ideology or pragmatism?
Quotes from the film
“I think that China may be the first major economy that emerges from this crisis.” Wei-Wei Zhang, Fudan University in Shanghai
“It does seem to me that the Chinese government faces a particular problem in a way most developed countries’ governments don’t so acutely in that its success has been measured so much in terms of economic growth.” Simon Long, The Economist
“China is a one party system. A one party system needs a crisis.” Yongnian Zheng, National University of Singapore
“I’m surprised how much socialist values have been incorporated into people’s value system.”Shaoguang Wang, Chinese University of Hong Kong
“The government is looking to Confucianism partly as a way of making sense of what it’s doing, partly as a way of inspiring people.” Daniel A. Bell, Tsinghua University in Beijing
“Certainly from our Chinese participants, there seems to be quite a lot of confidence in the Chinese economic model’s ability to withstand the shock coming from the United States. Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
“I think corruption could be the fatal flaw in the Chinese case.” Vivienne Shue, Oxford University
“The system is everything from Confucianism to punk and therefore cannot possibly be summarised in any single ism.” Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford University
“China is still a developing country and it has a long way to go.” Azar Gat, Tel Aviv University
This paper from Glasshouse Forum is a good read. The conference also produced a documentary, which I posted on another thread on this forum.
The profound difference between China and the West on democracy is at philosophical level — China views democratization as the long term result of human development, while the popular political opinion in the West uses democratization as a tool to spread their so-called “universal values”.
Politically, China assess itself as a preliminary stage of socialism and will remain so for a fairly long time. So China is quite patiently doing internal work (the foundation), and the same time, fostering a favorable external environment. But, we have recognize the external political environment, though it is better than some years ago, is still quite hostile, demonstrated by West’s underhanded support of 14th DL and UWC/Kadear etc.
On the other hand, readers of this forum should pay more attention to China’s assessment on the limitation of democracy, as clearly demonstrated by various MATURE western democracy. This is the reason China put forth the so-called “scientific development” approach, which is the core underpinning of China’s political philosophy. As I mentioned in another thread, China has made a choice to favor a politically neutral and performing government. How to achieve a detachment of ideology with a political government is something has to be explored. But that is the direction, China is advancing …
Meanwhile, US is struggle with a form of so-called centralist government …
Hi Jerry, #23,
I remember much was said about the “Protest Park” by “Western” media. But I have always wondered what the true story is inside China about it. My point here is don’t let something so small paint the whole picture about Chinese laws for you.
I remember reading something similar (perhaps the same article) in the MIT Technology Review when it cited some plant managers not using cleaner equipment to save cost (what an irony!). I’d think to believe the Chinese government condone this kind of stuff is just weird thinking – even at a very local level. Btw, I don’t remember the article saying something crazy like that was done at a provincial level.
“perfect enough” – I think Zhang might have meant “appealing enough.” I guess some things don’t translate well. Attacking him on this supposedly “perfection” idea is not fair.
Zhang does make an extremely good point about that though. People are naturally going to adopt ideas if they are that good or appealing. They may even have the same ideas or agree in the benefits, yet they may still have different priorities.
Btw, have a read at the link Steve #32 dug up. I noticed a mentioning of many developing countries going to China to try to find out how China does it. China does not have to go around the world to push her ideas around. To me, that’s something.
But, don’t get Zhang wrong – I think he sees China inventing her version of democracy over time.
Hi Steve, #32, admin, #33,
Great read and it’ll be cool to review this film. 🙂
Do you think you can help search within the Chinese language blogspheres to see what the reaction is to the original article (translated by in comment #19 by ChinaNewsWrap)?
>> WSJ opinion — Portugal’s Forgotten Colony
“Will Lisbon ever stand up for Macau’s courageous democrats?”
This is a typical western hypocrisy, while the author only noted soberly at the end “Portugal may have never formally guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the Macanese, unlike the British in Hong Kong. But by staying silent on democracy, Portugal is sending a signal to China that freedoms in Macau aren’t all that important. It’s an ironic message from the Portuguese, who spoke so strongly for democracy and freedom in their own Carnation Revolution, not so many years ago.”
He forgot UK launched their so-called “democracy” drive only when they have to hand over HK.
Both HK and Macau are in a transition period (or probation period). During this time, China puts more focus on sovereignty and political stability above all.
I can’t believe it that someone actually created a so-called “universal” value system and promote it vigorously as if it’s some God-given truth, as someone works In science the only things “universal” makes sense to me are those empirically proven to be true, and I suspect that the technocrat ruling class of China has got somehow the same kind of bent of mind like me. In fact, ther’re so many ways to disprove the so-called “universal” theory that it may be hardly applicable without a certain set of prerequisite conditions.
Let’s imagine an asteroid hits the Earth and creates a horrible nuclear winter which kills most of the living beings on Earth. There’s is only enough food left for 10000 human beings before agriculture can be redeveloped., while the surviving human beings reached a number of more than 100000. A leader in this case will have to make a decision to either supply all of the food to just 10000 most capable people for or distribute it among 100000 people in which case the whole human race will just extinguish due to lack of food for everyone. To put it simply: someone has to be more “equal” than others to make the human race survive, and someone has to give up their right of living to survive the human race. And to put it in scientific theorem rhetoric:
The “universal” value system will achieve a sustainable model if and only if the required resource for economic development is assumed to be unlimited, doesn’t seem to me like such a universal system. And since China is already facing resource depletion when it comes to oil and a large number of things, whether a western democracy system is desirable is debatable.
Public reaction so far seems to be cautious, as usual, people want to see actions at grass-root level before making their judgment. But I think the reaction from academic circles is quite hot .. I got a couple of link here.
@ YinYang #35: “Protest Park” might have been a small matter in terms of overall Chinese laws, but it was a big deal because the Olympics were a big deal and world attention was focused on the Games. So by denying the right to protest that had been granted by the government and arresting the people who legally applied, China guaranteed that this story would be seen worldwide and created the impression that this was the way Chinese laws were upheld. In this case, perception was perceived to portray reality.
@ Shane #38: Though I don’t agree with this article’s point of view at all (what happens in Macao is no longer Portugal’s concern), to say it is ‘western hypocrisy’ isn’t accurate. This is an editorial, and so is the opinion of one individual, not the opinion of a newspaper, society or amorphous ‘west’.
@ justkeeper #39: I have a feeling the 10,000 survivors would be the ones with the biggest guns.
Hi Steve, #41,
On “Protest Park” – I read on another of our threads, a reader commented Athens 2004 also had designated protest areas.
You said: “…denying the right to protest that had been granted by the government and arresting the people who legally applied..” – Are there facts or data you can share, Steve? I mean it sincerely. I did some searches, btw, and the only two credible places where I find something about “protest parks” were:
NPR reported 77 applications were submitted, but not one legal protest made – meaning probably all applications were turned down. It was only couple of sentences on Npr.org regarding this park.
Obviously, HRW, VOA, and the usual people who always have negative things to say have a different narrative. From the bits I read coming from them, it appeared they were bitter not seeing the protests.
Neon Rabbit says
Examples of countries that were democratic before they modernized: United States, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Australia. There are probably others. Western style democracy might not be the answer for China, but if China is to keep modernizing, it will have to lower inequalities. After initial stages of modernization, all of the present day rich countries have had a reduction in inequality. there have been many examples of countries having 10-20 years of boom and then they were dragged down because of political turmoil.
Democracy is a good way of resolving conflicts when there is a mature society. One of the problems in China is that civil society is repressed. If China were to declare elections tomorrow, the Communist Party would still rule for 50 years because it is the only political organization in country. First build civil society, then build democracy.
Hi yinyang #42: I’m not sure what examples you’re looking for. As NPR said, no protest groups were allowed to protest. If China had just said no protests would have been allowed, I”m sure it might have received some press but not much. By allowing protests in theory and later not allowing protests in reality, their projected image was much worse than if they had simply not had any protest parks.
At the time, this received a lot of press coverage, which is understandable since there were a lot of foreign press in Beijing both before and during the Olympics.
Hi Steve, #44,
I know both you and I don’t want to be hung up on this “protest park” thing. I wasn’t clear. My point is that the Chinese government got a bad wrap for this thing in some “Western” media, but I have not read much facts about it, besides the fact that there weren’t any protests.
If there is a Western media who read the 77 applications and find evidence that at least some of them had legitimate concerns which were grounds to getting permission to protest per Chinese law, then I think it’s fair to conclude what you did. Otherwise to me, it’s just simply coming up with whatever reason for the fact there is no protest.
Sure, I agree with the situation of lots of foreign press and a lot of stuff are going to get scrutinized. I am just really suprised with so little facts out there there’s this conclusion.
Hi justkeeper, #39,
Excellent excellent point.
Select 10,000 as the cream of the crop to move forward with and let the rest perish.
Ration the food for the 100,000 people to eck out 10 more days of survival for all, hoping that with the creativity of 100,000 people over 10 days, they’d come up with a solution to the food shortage problem.
Ration the food fo 50,000 people to eck out maybe 15 more days of survival, or use some formula to ensure survival of 1,000 at a bare minimum while rationing to keep as many as possible alive for as long as possible.
The point? Different societies will elect different scenarios.
Actually, I think the CCP made a mistake to say they’d allow protests in the first place. I noticed they’re not doing the same for the 60th anniversary celebration. I didn’t understand why protests need to be carried out during the Olympics, since it was a special time for the country to celebrate its new status and no one would have any sympathy for the protesters anyway.
It’s been awhile, but I remember reading about old women who were arrested, etc. after applying for permits. I did a quick look up and found this article from the BBC, here’s one from an Australian paper, here’s one from The Star during their Olympic coverage.
This article from the NY Times was right after they set up the protest zones but before everyone found out that no protesters would be sanctioned. And finally, one from The Australian talking about protest zones being empty but applicants being arrested.
Are these the kind of articles you were looking for?
yinyang, I personally thought the Olympics got a bum rap with all the protests around the world and that the Chinese people were truly upset (with good reason) about the way things were handled. I think the Chinese government was somewhat naive to think that this wouldn’t happen and should have just kept the torch relay in China and friendlier countries. Bringing it to countries where these kinds of protests are legal and not hard to organize was a mistake on their part. Having said that, I do believe that whoever set up the protest parks wasn’t talking to others in the government that were not going to allow any protests, so there was an internal battle and the “no protest” faction won.
@YinYang and Steve
We has a thread dedicated to this topic last year.
S.K. Cheung says
To yinyang #19-20:
a metric using a “magic number” derived literally from thin air would be, I suppose, no more or less nebulous than a “magic feeling” for which presumably there is no metric at all. Too bad “modernization” isn’t like pornography.
I’ve never disagreed with the assertion that, whatever China’s democracy model ultimately looks like, it should bear Chinese characteristics. What I was hoping for, however, is that such characteristics would be determined by the people. As far as I’m concerned, if the people want a one-party state, that’s as democratic a choice as any other. However, that white-paper style article seems to suggest that the move to “democracy” will remain a top-down CCP/father-knows-best model, not necessarily because the people think that best, but because the CCP thinks so.
At this point, that is likely as much as we can expect to get. It would give democracy to the lucky 70-some odd million CCP members. Someday, when Chinese in general get the feeling that they’ve adequately modernized, and have further put into place the law/order prerequisites, and further educated themselves on the possible options, maybe they’ll deem it fit to tell the CCP that it’s time to change the tune.
real name says
47. “old women who were arrested”
i remember directly this women were “only” warned not stopping their effort they will be reeducated though the labor
Okay, I am going to continue that discussion with Steve over milk tea with pearl and not side-track here any more. 😛
Hi S.K. Cheung,
In the Steve #32 link, one of the experts in the panel pointed out the fact that China did not have the Enlightenment experience like some European countries. I think that in conjunction with failed policies like CR, GLP, fresh memories of WW2 and not too distant past destruction of China wrougth by European colonialism are what’s shaping the priorities for modern day China.
I personally think what you said in your last paragraph is likely or China continues to evolve and it “just happens.” In my mind, it could be like what happened in the last 30 years going from communism to capitalism. It just happened.
I don’t see westerners pushing China towards democracy so much as encouraging basic human rights such as freedom of speech and religion, as well as the rule of law. There are many undemocratic countries with freedom, good government and respect for individual rights. There are also many countries as the writer points out, that ae ostensibly democratic, but which are poorly governed or which have terrible human rights records. Democracy is not a once size fits all model, and it also applies at local levels as well as nationally. I would say China has some good government at a national level, but provincial and village government is often as bad as it was in the days of the KMT.
@Michael: It would be difficult to define which human rights are basic, and which ones are not. What about basic medical care, access to clean water, primary education? It all sounds really basic, but in reality it takes a huge effort to get them to everyone. I have a feeling that CCP’s fear of freedom of speech is due to historic lesson that China being a country full of demagogues, whom can really cause huge chaos and disasters, by deception of milions of peasants by making empty promises ike “I will do what CCP won’t do for you”, in fact CCP itself rised to its position by using such tactics. You need to look no further than 50 years to see the greatest demagogue in modern Chinese history, Chairman Mao, who is really disliked by CCP leaders today, but still have a huge number of loyal followers even today.
See how none of his arguements have anything to do with democracy? He’s only pointing out problems in other countries and somehow linking them to democracy by proxy.
I firmly believe Chinese values and democracy can exist side by side like in other countries. It might surprise western readers, but a LOT of Chinese favor democracy – just not Western democracy (it’s foreign!). What it boils down to is that people feel that it’s something forced upon them from outside. I guarantee if democracy was seen as a “Chinese” thing, there wouldn’t be any of this.
Fascinating ideas, thanks a lot.
But I have a feeling that the distribution of food will eventually be decided by the law of jungle, as Steve # 41 has pointed out.
@ real name #50: Here’s an article about the women being arrested and sentenced. The ruling might have been overturned later?
@ Michael #52: Could you list those countries? At first I thought of Singapore but they only fit your criteria to a point, and failed to think of any others off the top of my head.
@ justkeeper #53: I agree with you. Until a society has basic levels of education and has reduced poverty to a small percentage, it is difficult for a democracy to be successful since the society will tend to elect populist demagogues. However, these demagogues usually rise to power because of poor government, as happened in the Taiping Rebellion with Hong Xiuquan. The demagogues are usually far worse than the original inept government.
The CCP started off well and there was great improvement in China for the first few years, but convulsions instituted by Mao wracked the country and set back progress by decades. China has been playing a “catch up” game since then, and playing it very well. I just wonder sometimes what would have been if Deng rather than Mao had run the country since 1950. After what they went through, most of the Chinese people don’t care about politics, just about having a decent life. When I lived there, I heard this over and over, “I don’t care about politics as long as I can earn a good living”. Many young, bright minds refuse to join the CCP because they want nothing to do with politics, while others only join for guanxi and economic opportunities.
Getting back to the original topic, I believe there is a basic contradiction between increased Chinese style democracy and the secretive ways of the upper levels of government. If a system is put in place where local elections are democratic while upper level elections are autocratic, then those autocratic decisions need to be made open to the public in order to have legitimacy.
Just last weekend, the Central Committee was expected to appoint Xi Jinping as Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, all but insuring his accession to the Party Chairman post after Hu retires, yet no appointment was made. What does this mean? No one can say or it’d be “revealing state secrets” and that person would be arrested and jailed. Those meetings, though not democratic, should still be in the open so the people can see how their leaders are actually elected. Too much in China currently takes place behind closed doors. That’s where corruption does its best work, as shown in this article in today’s NY Times.
real name says
OK, Steve, they got real paper about (RTL = paper not from law court after law process) and mentioned ‘neighborhood group’ could decide if they will spent year (generally RTL = up to 4 years possible) in labor camp really, anyway not arrested (‘still at home’) – i never heard it finally happened
@ Neon Rabbit #43
According to the author, the US does not meet the criteria as it only allowed blacks to effectively vote from 1965 on.
Olympic protest grannies escape punishment as order revoked
I won’t debate on the good or bad of western democracy, but I want to point out that Zhang Weiwei invoked the false dilemma fallacy in his argument.
By reading his points, it looks like Zhang swapped from one extreme to another. Democracy before development is bad, I agree. But is development before democracy any better? I think Zheng need to think this through before jumping into conclusions.
The common sense to the matter is that both development and democracy needs to go hand in hand, none tires to over take another in the grand scheme of things. The point Zheng ignored is that without advances in a fair judicial system, economic developments cannot be sustained because property rights are not guaranteed. There is no sequence like economic development first, judicial system second and democracy third, etc. It’s either all advance together or risk implosion.
China needs to find its own mode of democracy, but using development to suppress democracy while excuse the whole thing as western idea doesn’t work is plain BS.
@ admin: I thought I had read that somewhere but couldn’t find it, thanks!
@ Neon Rabbit #43: The author is using revisionist history to make his point. Democracy has been an evolving process and the meaning of democracy today is nothing like the meaning of democracy in the past. In ancient Athens, only citizens had the right to vote and there were very few of them as compared to the non-citizen slave labor there. Yet, they are considered to be the originators of democracy. When the United States instituted its constitution, only white male property holders could vote, yet it was far ahead of its time in terms of democratic development. Gradually white non-property holders, then African Americans in the non-south, then women, then all minorities could vote. Yet even today, it is not a “one man, one vote” system because typically 40+% of the eligible population does not exercise its right to vote. Does that make it any less of a democracy? Of course not, because democracy evolves over time as all systems evolve.
I question some of his examples. Didn’t Deng Xiaoping come from a farming family? Wasn’t he qualified to hold office? Didn’t Bill Clinton come from a poor family? What does that have to do with the ability to run a country successfully? Isn’t that an elitist attitude?
“A scholar was not so satisfied and objected, ”democracy is sacred and noble. It’s the universal value which should be accepted by China.””
What kind of scholar would say something like that? Democracy isn’t sacred and it isn’t noble. It also isn’t a universal value. What it is, is a system of government that has strengths and weaknesses, just like any other. Over time, democracies have done very well as compared to other systems of government when the democracy’s populace was educated, possessed a large middle class, had an independent judiciary and checks & balances between each branch of government.
Some of his arguments against democracy have nothing to do with democracy. For instance, the breakup and subsequent wars in Yugoslavia came about because Yugoslavia was never a real country to begin with, but an artificial construct that could never withstand the historical and centrifugal forces that would eventually pull it apart. Unfortunately, Serbia would not accept this outcome (Serbia was an autocratic government run by a despot, BTW) and instigated those wars. Wars are just as likely, if not more so, under despotic and autocratic governments.
Having said that, I agree with all the author’s final conclusions. China does not have an educated population, does not have a large middle class, does not have an independent judiciary nor does it have checks & balances between different.branches of government. It is not ready for democracy, though it is certainly closer to it than it was in 1989. Education is improving and being offered to more of the people, the middle class is growing though still rather small as an overall percentage of the population, the judiciary isn’t independent at all so far more reform is needed there, and there are no checks & balances in government.
Once the vast majority of people are educated and are middle class or better, at that time China can decide exactly what form of democracy she should choose. It’s at that time when party reform will be most critical for if it doesn’t fit the aspirations of the Chinese people, a violent reaction to its policies could take place. There will always be reactionaries and radicals in any society, but in the end its what the majority of the people choose that will decide the style of government implemented.
A first comment on the repeated questions: “have you been there” from Zhang: I don’t think that a short visit to a place gives a better background than studying facts and reports. But for us as readers, Zhang’s rhetoric might help to think out of the box, and with that, is a constructive remark.
When correlating democracy and modernization one could also study the opposites and immediately finds that a dictator regime, like Burma or North Korea does not improve modernization at all! But apart of this cruel examples: what about China itself: a little bit longer ago? Would the “great leap” have been avoided if China would have been democratic? Or the cultural revolution? Of course both periods, under a democratic regime or under Deng (Steve’s comment), could have had also worse results, but I would see it as less likely.
I agree with Steve final remarks (#60) but want to add that seeing China this days,- not only the economic improvements but also the big support of the Chinese people to their government, might blind that this is not necessarily a result of the system. – a top-down system which was reasonable criticized by S.K. Cheung.
S.K. Cheung says
To yinyang #51:
“In my mind, it could be like what happened in the last 30 years going from communism to capitalism. It just happened.”
—what? You’re not going to give Deng his props? 🙂
To Jimmy #59:
To Steve #60:
I really hope it’s not a violent reaction but a “glorious revolution” or some sort of progressive process. Anything that could lead to a potential civil war in China will cause horrible disaster to the whole human race. I am more inclined to see the democratic process as a series of reconciliation rather an one-step thing. It takes all of the major western countries several hundred years to sort out all the issues of the democratic system and the decisive events are always peaceful, civilian ones.Not so much so in the U.S perhaps, but I’m always horrified to think what could happen in a civil war of modern, sophisticated human-slaughtering weapons. And I believe that’s why we need a strong middle class-to glue the society together, to stop the whole China from sliping towards the abyss of war.
@ justkeeper #63: I’m with you on this one and actually very optimistic about China’s chances for a gradual progressive movement towards a form of government that is uniquely Chinese yet incorporates aspects of other democratic systems. The tricky part is that the current system is a very autocratic, top down government and those systems tend to strongly resist change since autocrats like being autocrats. The western countries sorted out issues with their democracies but it’s a lot easier to do so when you already have the basic structure in place, as did the UK and the States. For countries like France and Germany, the process was more difficult because the people and politicians were used to something different. African nations are tribal and it’s tribal issues that are usually involved when violent upheavals occur.
I’ve noticed the Chinese, along with other Asian countries, tend to have a very paternalistic attitude towards government (the people work for the government), quite different from the western democracies who feel the government should work for the people. Leaders tend to speak to their citizens as if speaking to children; something that always bothered me when I was living there. But I’ve also noticed that this attitude has been slowly changing, for instance, in Japan where today’s Japanese don’t have that attitude towards their government anymore and expect change or they’ll just elect another political party. Once the party in power gets dumped (DPP over KMT, DPJ over LDP), the people’s attitude towards all political parties changes to one that is far more critical of poor performance. China is still in the earlier stage in terms of people’s attitudes, but that will change over time; it always does.
One key aspect of any style of government is the ability to change with changing circumstances. The Chinese government has shown it is able to change economic policies with great success, but has had a more difficult time changing government civil policies, though they should be given credit for incorporating some changes that have led to a more open society. I think too often, critics of China ignore those progressive changes while focusing on the more onerous ones that are easy to write about and criticize, which shows a poor perspective on their part. It’s sort of a glass half empty or half full attitude. After the CR, China’s glass was empty so personally I’d rather talk about the glass being half full than worrying about the empty part of the glass. But it’s just as poor a perspective to think the glass is completely full, which is the attitude of many Chinese government defenders.
One thing I’ve never really understood is the whole Great Firewall issue. To use a computer, you have to be literate and have a reasonable income. Why is the government afraid that its literate citizens can’t make the same choices that everyone else in the world can make by having access to all internet sites? Why would a government fear its own citizens?
China has certain fundamental problems it has to deal with. The land mass cannot support 1.3 billion+ people without widespread destruction of the environment, which will lower the capacity to support its population even further. In the relatively near future, they’ll also have to worry about an aging population that will need some sort of social security in order to survive. They’ll need to find work for hundreds of millions of unemployed and underemployed people. They’ll have to deal with an enormous male surplus who won’t be able to find wives and raise families. The chickens of the early CCP years are coming home to roost, and none of these major problems have easy solutions. The current government didn’t create this situation but they’re the ones that must solve it. If they don’t handle it well, any one of these problems could cause an upheaval.
@steve #64: Very well written piece, thanks.
To deal with the tricky part of the system, I think an important goal to achieve is the nationalization of the army, so that PLA will remain neutral in times of conflict between the ruling class and the people pushing democracy, which I firmly believe will become a reality once the vast majority of soldiers are educated. Ever wonder why coup d’etat never happened in the U.S? Soldiers and officers simply know too well to overthrow an elected government is not going to do themselves any good, and will disobey in case they’re ordered by their superiors to do so. In fact, even in China, I’m optimistic if things like Tiananmen Incident were to happen again, no soldier in the army will be willing to join the massacre of people simply because they have learned a lesson from others: soldiers participated in the June 4th Massacre find out that no one is willing to employ them after their discharge, due to their records of slaughtering innocent people.
The Great Firewall issue is rather complicated: I personally think it could be viewed as a Chinese sort of Conservative vs Liberal thing. If I go about and ask 10 parents whether they believe the government should install some sort of filters to stop naughty kids(well, culture shock, the definition of kid in China includes those adult, impulsive young men!) from viewing harmful contents. I believe 8 out of 10 will agree. And if I go one step further and ask them:”But maybe government will also filter out political dissents which are not actually harmful?” They’ll look at me with bewildered stare, believing I’m crazy. So I’m quite confident that the proposal of the implementation of the GFW will go largely unopposed if it had ever being discussed in the national congress. And since China’s leaders are mostly people in their sixties, it’s probably impossible for them to understand things like neutrality of the websites hosting the contents, etc. And I believe it will eventually go away when the generation of information grow old enough to become national leaders.
Of course, many things go hand-in-hand together, including both INTERNAL development and EXTERNAL conditions. However certain things do inherently have higher priority than others. The path of democratization littered with failed and struggling states, combustive and devastating internal and external conflicts. That fact alone is enough to invalid your simplistic view — perhaps better said in your own word “your simplistic BS” 🙂
China has been doing its best on many front beside economical development, such as improving the level of education and literacy of population mass, beefing up its judiciary system and foster the concept of civil society and rule of law. For those who have been in China long enough, you can still see two popular extremes — either taking-matters-into-their-own-hands (as an individual or group) or standing-idle-doing-nothing. it will take long years to become an orderly society of self conscience.
The above is merely internal development. As I stated several times, the external situation is still quite hostile to China. President Hu has to raise a key point to President Obama that US should not allow itself to become a base for Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang independent, otherwise ties with China will suffer.
I believe you have mistakenly link the power of the government with the democratization of the government.
Yes, I know that a lot of countries after the Cold War collapsed after experiencing “Shock Therapy” from western democracies. But the problem is not a swap of government, it is the drastic reduction of government’s power. Because the government lose the power to be the provider/protector/arbiter in a society, the people are forced to fend for themselves. You can imagine the result, a country turned from being restrictive to a wild jungle, with people busy screwing over each other or becoming independent.
But does this mean that a government must be authoritarian in order to maintian the power it needs to make the society intact and functional? I don’t see anyone exploring this problem.
On one hand, I blame western media and right wing propaganda for fooling people to think that a democratic government must also have no power to govern a country. On the other hand, did China tried to come up with a framework that creates a democratic government, but with the same governing power as the CCP?
As I said, China needs to find its own form of democracy, but it will still be a democracy that is incorporating big government, centralized control and less personal freedom. But is this a justification for shutting people out of the political process? I don’t think so.
Uh, can someone define just what “modernization” exactly entails and what metrics we can use to determine whether a nation has been “modernized”? Does this mean infrastructure, building of roads, etc. Does it mean standards of living? Access to the internet? Life expectancy?
Democracy is a process which allows the people to decide who to make the rules. It doesn’t necessarily mean the greatest leader for a country will be elected, nor does it mean that the rules made by elected officials are always wise. It does add in a notion of accountability which then only can be achieved through free press (Russia is an example of Democracy without free press).
The best argument against democracy is that it’s too slow to get policies implemented. Looking at the global crisis, the major reasons why so many nations put more faith in China is because it does not have democracy, hence it’s stimulus package can be implemented without going through the political process which can sometimes take forever. When I was in India the roads are completely congested as farm animals are allowed to wander onto the major streets. Democracy certainly isn’t helping the issue because majority of the population apparently think this is okay. Popular leaders and public opinion doesn’t necessarily mean good leaders (W is a good example) or good policies.
The best argument for democracy is that if the government cannot do its basic duties, then the people have a choice to remove the heads of the government without going through the chaotic process of violent coups and revolts.
But what does this have to do with modernization? If a democratically elected leader decides on questionable policies which are popular to the average citizen but ultimately bad for the nation as a whole (Hugo Chaves comes to mind) are we going to say that Democracy is destroying the nation just as we in the West like to say that Communism killed millions although it was really Mao’s bad policy choice? Ultimately it’s the leader in power who determines whether a nation gets to move forward or not, not the process of how the leader got to be the leader in the first place.
IMO it’s capitalism and free flow of information which modernize nations. There are plenty of examples.
@ hzzz #68: Excellent comment.
Charles Liu says
Not only is “modernization” in this (let’s face it, ideological) debate suffer from lack of univerality, the original “democratization” question does too.
Some would argue China’s democratization started the day PRC’s proletariot revolution succeeded. Some would argue resting the nation’s power with the workers, farmers, as well as the educated elilte, is more representative and democratic then the fake “separation of power” where the powers that be are all represented and controlled by the few (you know, the “capitalist class struggle” stuff.)
Sure, what nation hasn’t suffered setbacks in their history – but what is undeniable is China has made progress in its political system over the decades. Take the “one man one vote” goal, hasn’t China worked towards that in the last 30 years? (never mind Zhang correctly pointed out it took American 100 year after emancipation to realize.)
1) village democracy and self-government in 1982
2) election of village and township head starting 1998
3) district level People’s Congress elections in the cities as result of further voting expansion in 2004
Competitive election by the advisory parties are now permitted. Even within the CCP itself direct elections of party leadership has taken place since the 90’s.
@Steve #64, @yinyang #35
Steve, I always appreciate your optimism. But I seem to possess a certain amount of Russian Jewish cynicism and paranoia. Plus, I live in Taiwan. You wrote in #64:
I sure hope there is a progressive movement in China. It is the “tricky part” and paternalism (as you mention later) which give me pause.
Even in the US, when the Constitution was written in the later 1700s, 53, or so, rich, newly American white guys saw what they had just done to King George and decided that they did not want others to turn around and do it to them (Howard Zinn, “The Peoples’ History of the United States”). The last thing they wanted was to be dispossessed of their land, slaves and uber-rights of the landed gentry. Thus, they put impediments into the Constitution to protect their interests. Thus, slaves were still slaves, only property-owning white men could vote, women and African-Americans could not vote, etc. While the Declaration of Independence (DOI) sure sounded good and was a great concept, the implementation in the Constitution was flawed, intentionally. What’s a plutocrat or an elitist supposed to do? ::LOL::
Those who have the power in China, including the new plutocrats (the bourgeoisie) and “old money” have huge vested interests which will motivate them to protect those interests. The love of money and power seem to be some the strongest narcotics around. Even to the point that they will believe any rationalization or euphemism they create, now matter how absurd or lethal. 😀
yinyang, you wrote in #35
On the surface, this sounds wonderful. But on closer examination, I suspect that we will find it more troubling, maybe even insidious. The questions I would ask are, “Which people are doing the adopting?” and “Why are they going to China?”
Here is what I suspect:
Who are the people going to China from various developing, third-world countries? I would guess that they are representatives of the governments of these countries. These countries are usually governed by dictatorships. The governments are usually tyrannical, authoritarian, autocratic or some combination of those three. Hmmm, are you starting to see a connection here?
Why are they going to China? Is it because China is the birthplace of philanthropy and benevolence? Hardly! As I usually say, “Follow the money!” And these visitors do. They see China’s apparent (I believe illusory) economic development (which is unfortunately the product of possibly the largest Faustian bargain of all times, the trade-off between economic development and the environment/ecosystems; “robbing Peter to pay Paul”; I will go into this subject later). And they also see that China has an authoritarian, autocratic government with a headlock on power. Bingo! For a dictator, China is Mecca! “Hey, I get the economic development and still keep the power. Such a deal!! Sure it may be illusory, but we will work out the details, later! Much later!”
So, yinyang, you wrote, “To me, that’s something.” To which, I will say, “Hmmmm!” And continue pondering and contemplating. Methinks that Zhang is naïve.
Hi Jerry, #71,
Just fyi, Zhang Wei Wei was Deng’s interpreter and he’s traveled the world and met countless number of leaders. I think its naive to think he is naive. I can only imagine the amount of Deng mojo he’s got! 🙂
“But on on closer examination..”
Haha, you sure you are examining close enough?
Have you talked to the leaders visiting China to see how things done? Zhang Wei Wei has.
Do you understand the priorities of these so called “dictators?”
“Why are they going to China? Is it because China is the birthplace of philanthropy and benevolence? Hardly!”
I agree they are not going there to learn benevolence. But – hey, can you elaborate on this? To me, China is actually helping Africa develop that the “West” never matched. Or are you talking about domestically? The Sichuan earthquake – China is very philanthropic.
““Hey, I get the economic development and still keep the power. Such a deal!!””
Is this necessarily that bad?
Hi hzzz, #68,
>> “IMO it’s capitalism and free flow of information which modernize nations.”
The in-flows of capital and information are only two necessary EXTERNAL conditions. Mass education and possession of self-renewal spirit is the TRUE INTERNAL DRIVER to modernize nations.
It happened to Japan many years ago. But it took China over a century to put these elements together and achieve it in a hard way. From this perspective, this 60-year anniversary should be a proud moment for all Chinese.
A few small steps but concrete examples of China’s effort to build a civil society …
“Recent hot spots in China’s local legislative initiatives : prohibition of discrimination on outside wives, fine on drunk cycling driving …
Woman rights protection, road safety, commercial housing quality problems, control of smoking in public places, charity, promotion of employment … … recently, these subjects involving civil and political, economic and social rights are the focal points of local legislation in China”
real name says
– China is actually helping Africa
“China’s aid comes with a major catch: It must be used to buy goods or services from companies, many of them state-controlled”
– Sichuan earthquake
to be more concrete “more than 80% of the 76.7 billion yuan total went to the government’s budgets”
As I have said so many times before, I am both irreverent and cynical. And not impressed by people in power.
Here are some comments.
yinyang, you wrote:
I am not impressed by Zhang or Deng, and to be honest, I don’t understand why you are. Maybe naïve is a bad choice of words. Maybe he has been hoodwinked or deluded by his own rationalizations. Kind of like Feynman says, “… The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Feynman’s quote covers a lot more than science and theoretical physics.
Here is my take. Zhang is a member of a “Good Ole Boys'” club. I bet you he likes the position which has been afforded by being part of the inner power structure. It is a life he could only dream of earlier in his life. He loves the traveling to many places and loves meeting numerous so-called leaders and luminaries. He loves the perks. This is fun. Man, it is easy to fall into this game.
Here is where the rationalizations come in. He starts to revise parts of history to make it easier to reconcile the club with his conscience. Don’t ask the tough questions. Try to ignore the obvious. He rationalizes the brutality and tyranny of some members of the club, who really aren’t such nice people. But he really likes this club. And, after all, he is a nice guy, so these other people must be nice, too. Of course! Otherwise he wouldn’t associate with them. And who wants to rock the boat? Certainly not him.
Consciences can be prickly. He loves the perks, but part of him is feeling a little queasy. So, a normal person, in this situation, will nicely drown his conscience in a sea of rationalizations. I have seen this up close and personal. It is not pretty.
GOB clubs can be like “velvet prisons”. A person can find that they have trapped themselves into a corner. This is a hard situation to resolve, straight up. Very few people have the guts to walk away from it all. Rationalizations are much easier remedies to swallow.
At least, this is my take and my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Still a work in progress, as usual.
No, I have not talked to these people. Do you believe everything you read and everything Zhang says? How do you know that he is telling you the truth? Have you thought this through?
What I do know is that people who have lots of power and money, and the love thereof, tend to do anything necessary to hold on to that wealth and power. It is one nasty addiction. As Lord Acton warned, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I tend not to trust those in power, whether they are from the left or right, China or the West or wherever. Color me skeptical.
The Chinese people were very philanthropic to their countrymen who were suffering in Sichuan. The same can be sad for Americans’ philanthropy towards the victims of Katrina and the Taiwanese towards Morakot’s victims. I don’t confuse the people of a country with its government.
“Is this necessarily that bad?” Just to whom does that money or economic development belong? Who owns the country? The people? Or the plutocrats, “old money” and the government? From whence came that money? From whom comes the power to govern? Age-old questions.
Feel free to believe what you will about Zhang. I will continue to question and examine. And be my old, skeptical, cynical self.
Hi Jerry, #77,
It’s okay to be cynical, and I leave some room open just in case there is wisdom in what you “older” generation has to say. For us slightly “younger” folks, this world can be confusing at times. Perhaps your expectation for the ideal world is supposed to be lot less messy.
Trusting power – I guess that’s an entire topic on its own. If that’s the lens which you use to view the world, then I have not much to add there – except that we all have our own opinions.
“No, I have not talked to these people. Do you believe everything you read and everything Zhang says? How do you know that he is telling you the truth? Have you thought this through?”
I agree with a lot of what Zhang has to say. I don’t believe in everything I read. Did you automatically label the leaders seeking how China modernizes from poor developing countries as “dictators” and immediately assume they are up to no good for their citizens? This sounds like how the human rights campaigners tend to view this phenomenon. Do you believe everything such campaigners write?
I have thought a lot about what Zhang said. Look at his 3rd from the last paragraph. I have to draw from what I can ascertain from my own personal experiences and look at facts:
1. According to a recent European Council on Foreign Relations paper:
“Voting Coincidence” on Human Rights (which means how the world in general votes in line with that country/entity)
E.U. dropped from 75% to 55% in the last 10 years
China grew from 50% to 74% in the last 10 years
U.S.A. Under the Bush administration was at a meager 23%
The U.S.’s voting coincidence trend is similar to that of the E.U. but likely substantially worse. (I read elsewhere about this fact, but this was not part of the EC report.)
This means that the world increasingly do not agree with the U.S., E.U. (generally the “West”) on priorities on Human Rights.
2. There is no denying for the hundreds of millions of people raised out of proverty and the impact of capitalism in China. I can physically see this when I visit China.
I feel what Zhang said in his third to the last paragraph indeed describes what is happening in China.
Hzzz says in 68 that a main disadvantage of democracy is its slowness – is it?
Would a slow, democratic government avoided the Great Leap Forward or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
(to be more accurate than in my previous posting) –
I regard them both as an attempt to speed up modernization by a non-democratic system.
Anyway, collecting examples from history or other countries is one approach to study democracy versus modernization.
From my profession, however, I would rather analyze cause and effect: what made the current success of China?
I would say it was the opening and probably also the democratization steps mentioned by Charles Liu (#70)?
While in the past the above mentioned non-democratic steps lead to disasters.
Hzzz suggest that it is the leader in power,- probably all must go together: a system change into the direction of freedom and democracy and the leader.
Like yinyang in 78 I agree to many of the ideas of Zhang, – please note that Zhang’s article is not a rejection of the democratic system-
but only a narrow interpretation is challenged.
A final comment on Yugoslavia, and what Zhang called “hearting-breaking secession”:
This might serve as the best example of a non-democratic and non-modern system before the secession
and a democratic and modern system, especially for Slovenia and Croatia, after the secession.
The autocratic system before the secession is to blame for the causalities, see also the comments Steve made in #60.
I would argue that the cause of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution is the cult of personality established around a single person, rather than the authoritarian system itself. Democratic system can produce cult of presonality also, Hitler is one example, Hugo Chavez being another.
Why should China become a democracy? 50-state US is not a democracy but a federal republic that their rich ass politician gets lobbied by Jewish lobbyists and health and housing insurances.
“Uh, can someone define just what “modernization” exactly entails , ..what does this have to do with modernization? …it’s capitalism and free flow of information which modernize nations.”
“modernization” refers to the transformation of a society from a less developed state to the state-of-art state relative to its current era in economic, political, social, military, scientific aspects.
A governing system has everything to do with the transformation of a society in all aspects. Empirically authoritarian government are more efficient than Democracies. For example: China vs. India.
Do not confuse an “economical and social system” from the “government construction system”. Capitalism is the former; democracy, the later.
Capitalism and free flow of information are not sufficient to modernize nations. For example, China is communism or socialism, and is one of the most information-blocked country. Yet, china modernizes herself faster than anyone.
For me, the leadership of the government, the policies, and the efficiency of the government is the key here. I think government system is very relevant to modernization.
Hi Brad, #82
I generally agree with what you say. But I’d like to challenge this notion that:
“China is communism or socialism, and is one of the most information-blocked country.”
1. Most people would argue that China is very capitalistic – some argue more so than that U.S.A. today. Curious what you would say to that.
2. The notion that China is the most information-blocked country needs to be examined more closely in my opinion.
Out of the 300 million Chinese Internet users, would you say that at least 25% of them are capable of reading English language material and are doing so? Fine, politically sensitive web sites are blocked inside China. I’d say the politically sensitive materials on the Internet probably comprise of 0.00001% of the information that’s out there.
Now if you look at the “West.” What percentage of the population can read Chinese and reads science journals, life magazines and what not inside China? We are talking about 0.01% of the population.
(Btw, I pulled out these 0.00001% and 0.01% just to express my “feeling” on where things stand and is not data.)
Which side do you think is most “information-blocked”?
Also, look at the ratio of number Chinese students studying in the “West.” This is tremendous flow of information into China.
I’d say, capitalism, free flow of information, and government and leadership all play critical roles in transforming China towards “modernization.”
real name says
“Empirically authoritarian government are more efficient than Democracies. For example: China vs. India.”
or east vs west germany, or soviet union vs usa, or former tibet vs ?
You may be interested what motivated me in going down the road of the GOBC. Then again, maybe not.
It occurred when I read this in the OP:
Now, either Zhang is trés naïf, or he is just interested in preserving his standing in some GOBC. He is trying to creatively repaint history here. Why? I can only guess.
Several problems I see in the above quote.
• “So is the hearting-breaking secession and wars in Yugoslavia.” Holy Cow! Is Zhang trying to write a subtle paean to that wonderful fellow, Slobodan Milošević and his band of thugs and mass murderers? He is blaming the murders of innocent Serbs, Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians and Kosovars on the “promotion of universal values”
The Balkan States have been a collection a collection of feudal states (often feuding amongst themselves) for many centuries. The word “Balkanization” was created to describe the phenomena. I still can’t believe that Marshall Tito was able to hold this area together in such a benevolent fashion (benevolent at least for an East European Communist leader).
BTW, it is very difficult for me to write harshly about the Serbs. Many Serbs (God bless them) saved many Jewish people from concentration camps during WWII. Nonetheless, Milošević is a villain and a thug.
• “more than 100,000 people died in Bosnian war, making it the war which lost most lives since the European Second World War.” Maybe in Europe. But the Indonesian invasion of Timor l’Este killed over a half-million people and the Vietnam War (American War to the Vietnamese) killed over 3 million people. And speaking of Europe and the USSR, God knows how many millions of people Papa Joe Stalin killed after the war. But we can’t speak ill of Mao or Stalin because they are communists. 😀
• “Armenia and Azerbaijan” Another holy cow! They have been fighting each other since the Russian Revolution, which was a little bit before 1990. Like 1918.
• “Ethiopia and Eritrea.” Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia have been volatile for 100’s of years. Emperor Haile Selassie (the Lion of Judah) led Ethiopia under Italian occupation during WWII. He fought against Eritreans in the 1950’s when they declared independence. The Soviets backed a coup which deposed him in 1974. Somalia captured parts of Ethiopia, but again, Soviets, with the help of Cuban troops, defeated Somalia. The area is still a hotbed of problems.
• “the Burundi – Rwanda Massacre.” The Hutus and Tutsis have been at each others throats for well over 100 years. It is a very volatile area. Much like the Congo, Zaire or whatever you wish to call that region this week.
• “Ecuador and Peru started a war.” Which one: 1829 against Gran Colombia, 1859 border disputes, the 1941 Ecuadorian–Peruvian War, the 1981 Paquisha War or the 1995 Cenepa War?
• I think it disingenuous and dishonest to blame “liberal elections” for causing wars in areas which are already extremely volatile. The tail hardly wags the dog! More like exploiting an ongoing situation!
• “How much evil has been done under the name of promoting universal values!” Spoken like a true Chinese Communist who wishes to preserve and enhance his standing in his GOBC. Gotta hold on to that Deng mojo.
• There is a glaring, but not surprising, omission from his list of wars. Now, let’s forget the years of Chinese conquest and occupation of Vietnam over the past 2 millennia. And let’s not worry about Chinese bullying of Vietnam and the major oil companies regarding the issue of oil exploration off the central coast of Vietnam. And let’s forget what most of my Vietnamese friends (I lived in Hanoi in 2007) posited in their opinions of the Chinese.
But what about the Chinese support of the murderous thug, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. After conquering his own country, Cambodia, the Chinese supported his attacks in western Vietnam in 1978? What about the subsequent invasion by the Chinese into Northern Vietnam in 1979? Both fronts were repulsed by a war-fatigued Vietnamese Army. All of this occurred under Deng Xiaoping. More of that Deng mojo. Good riddance.
Amazing, when history won’t quite support the points you wish to make, just do some creative repainting of the past. Or some creative omissions. This is why I wrote about GOBCs, and the rationalizations/euphemisms of their members.
A hefty post with a very broad territory! 🙂
1. Regarding the Bosnian War, I think Zhang’s point was that NATO bombing was illegel per U.N. charter. NATO went in on the reason of human rights. We all know that 100,000 people died with the region torn apart. Isn’t this further proof that the ordering is wrong?
I wouldn’t lump communism (Mao, Stalin, etc) in here.
2. “I think it disingenuous and dishonest to blame “liberal elections” for causing wars in areas which are already extremely volatile.
I think you might have misunderstood Zhang. I think he meant if the region is already so messed up, liberal elections are not going to help it – they in fact make it worse. Again, my read is his point is that the region should be stabilized first, then economic development and education, and then democracy. (Obviously I am simplifying here.)
3. On your interpretation of history of Vietnam with China – do you have Chinese friends? 🙂 If you do, I encourage you to hear the story as taught from the China perspective. Anyways, I don’t quite see the connection here with Zhang’s points though.
@yinyang #86, @Steve
Regarding the Bosnian War, it was preceded by the Serb-conducted genocide in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and other Balkan states. Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic were the ringleaders of the genocide. They are vicious mass murderers. Yes, war is ugly. So is genocide. Ugly decisions.
What is Zhang’s point in bringing up liberal elections? There were wars and violence before the elections. And how do you precisely stabilize these areas? How do you stabilize the Balkans? Zhang is just waving his hands here. To me, it is all talk.
Zhang is talking about messes around the world, but not close to home. Deng was involved in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War. He was involved in the Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot “killing fields” and attacks against Vietnam in 1978-1979 (Mao had originally supported Pol Pot). It is so easy for Zhang to talk about messes elsewhere, but very inconvenient to talk about messes in which he was involved or at least observing. How convenient! All I can say is, GOBC.
I always enjoy bringing up Mao’s and Stalin’s murderous ways. I think it adds a sense of reality to discussions about China, Russia and communism.
SCIENCE AS DEMOCRATIZER
By Robert Lawrence Kuhn
“A fully democratic political system gives all its
citizens the right to choose their leaders and representatives;
the reciprocal responsibility, implicit
in the social contract, is that citizens exercise
their franchise with dedication and discernment.
Democracy works successfully only when participants
are informed and able to make independent
judgments. The degree to which they
can be swayed by demagogues, influenced by
parochial interests, incited by jingoism, or inflamed
by ethnic or religious chauvinism is the
degree to which democracy does not work.”
“Consider China, conflicted by the tension between
promoting science and restraining Western-
style democracy. Even given the nation’s remarkable
development since the advent of reform
25 years ago, education is still limited, and therefore,
Chinese leaders believe, so must be competitive
elections. China’s governing elite, which at
the top consists almost entirely of science-trained
engineers, do not want uneducated, scientifically
naive peasants determining national policies, including
the allocation of resources. (One senior
advisor asked, rhetorically, Would illiterate farmers
vote for the information superhighway?) Measures
that would be unquestionably beneficial to
China in the long run might not be especially
popular in the short run. It is commonly held in
China that democracy, a stated goal, can develop
only to the extent that education, primarily scientific
education, increases. “Revitalizing China
through science and education” is a favorite slogan
of former President Jiang Zemin, who was
equally adamant in promoting science and opposing
Western-style democracy, and his policy
is being pursued by his successors. It will be fascinating
to see whether and how democracy
grows with scientific literacy.”
It is a common opinion in China, like Deng said, Chairman Mao has done 70 per cent good for the nation and people along with 30 percent bad.
There were many disasters struggles after the founding of PRC, either by nature, man-made or forced up by outside world. China, as a nation and people, of course suffered much during the whole period of time. But no one should let their own sight of history hinder by a few events of a short period time without proper historic context, let alone overlooking the evils of colonialism, militarism and imperialism inflicted on billions of first nation people by a few so-called “advanced civilized” nations in recent decades.
Today, Chinese people are humbled by their own history, but remain optimistic about the future, providing their share of contribution to the world even still being a developing country.
BTW: Sino-vietnam politic of the past was part of Sino-USSR politic 🙂
Hi Jerry, #87,
The Internation Court of Justice concluded during the Bosnian War, there was no genocide. There were crimes against humanity committed by all parties in the war.
I think what the Jews suffered in WW2 was true genocide, and I personally think its worthwile to not let this term get cheapened.
NATO cannot be the judge (calling it genocide) and the at the same time the executioner (took unilateral action violating the U.N. charter).
You keep bringing up Mao – but Zhang is not proposing that other countries try China’s GLF and CR policies in order to modernize.
“There were wars and violence before the elections. And how do you precisely stabilize these areas? How do you stabilize the Balkans?”
Did NATO countries seriously consider proposals from Russia and China? Did NATO work within the framework of the U.N. to stabilize the Balkan region?
Shane9219, I think your quotation is key to the discussion. The question is: how long can it stay “clean”? If you look at the counterpart in Taiwan, where KMT had a one party dictatorship,
very soon sons and daughters of prime ministers became law makers (some even with american passports). In China, it might not so soon happen, at least not with this extend, but a recipe against it is democracy (certainly not 100%, but in the right direction). And as I wrote before: Zhang did not out-rule democracy in some future and, China certainly wants to develop its peasants.
yinyang, I very appreciated your second paragraph, but to your first paragraph, where you quote crimes against humanity, you might be aware that this crimes were sourced from an inhuman system before the secession. Russia’s influence in the last century to this region was mainly nationalistic, not socialistic, and led to a small “Apartheid system” within Yugoslavia. But I admit that I do not know the Chinese proposal.
S.K. Cheung says
To yinyang #83:
“What percentage of the population can read Chinese and reads science journals, life magazines and what not inside China? We are talking about 0.01% of the population…Which side do you think is most “information-blocked”?”
—having the capacity to comprehend, then choosing further to pursue, information within China has nothing to do with the blockade of information. With your 0.01% example, if every last one of them can access what they want within China, there is no blockade. That not more people would engage in such pursuits is not due to a blockade. But when someone within China can’t get a site, even if it’s a very small portion of the time, it represents a very real blockade of information.
well then, maybe what should be sought is the rapid, thorough, and effective education of the Chinese masses. For at that point, based on the well-known altruism of the CCP, surely they’d get out of the way and let “democracy” as defined by Mr. Kuhn take shape.
Hi S.K. Cheung, #92,
What you said is logically correct – from censorship perspective
My point is from practicality standpoint, the Chinese population is currently engaging in much broader access to perspectives simply because they can and are willing to vast majority of the content outside China, whereas the “West” access to Chinese perspectives are poultry in comparison.
Which side is most “information blocked?” I’d say the “West.”
real name says
from your perspective is probable english speaking population is more blocked comparing to any other because others reading english sources more than they do
one way to bring more freedom to world should be force all read something they not interested to – do you really believe to this?
Hi Shane, #88,
Btw, thx for sharing that.
Hi real name, #94,
That’s an interesting question. I always believed great civilizations eventually fell throughout human history because they got cocky and became “not interested” in others perspectives.
Hi Josef, #91,
I read a bit about the history of that region. After the NATO bombing and the war, the wound is definitely widened. So, my personal feel is that whatever external actions taken in a place of conflict, it ought to minimize widening the wound.
I think if a solution was allowed to develop through U.N. mandate, it would be a much more lasting solution than one that was done unilaterally by an outsider.
Btw, we are off topic a bit now.
I think Zhang’s issue was with things in the name of universal values.
@ yinyang: It’s not about interest in other countries, it’s about talking BS about something one have completely no clue will make him/her look like a brainwashed idiot. In China or in the West(maybe all parts of the world), people all have a tendency to talk big about something they didn’t even spend any serious amount of time to study. If someone on one side of the cultural and geopolitical gap tries to communicate, they should do their homework first or just shut up, otherwise what they say will simply make no sense to people on the other end, and will make them look ignorant, and the more ignorant people are, the more they believe they know. That’s why I believe cultural communication and confrontation between the street protesters during the Olympic torch passing time are completely meaningless, no meaningful exchange of information happened, just a random bunch of idiots wasting thier precious body fluid.
yinyang, I don’t like dry, academic, judicial discussions about genocide. I think the IC spent so much time on deciding what constitutes genocide that they missed the suffering and death visited on innocent Serbs, Croatians, Kosovars, Bosnians, Albanians, Herzegovinians, Slovenians, et al. Tens of thousands of innocents died since Marshall Tito, the great Croatian statesmen and leader of Yugoslavia, died in 1980. Milosevic was the architect of the changes (via his Serbian power grab) which caused the destabilization and subsequent internecine war, nay “Holy War”. All sides of the conflict have “dirty hands; the Serbs probably have the “dirtiest” hands in the conflict because they wanted to rule over all of the other nations, like before.
As a Russian-Jewish American, I know much about the Holocaust and the overwhelming oppression and mistreatment of my people and my family at the hands of the Russian Tsars and their minions. You, yinyang, probably know the terms, genocide and oppression, more as academic, intellectual concepts. Other Jews and I know the visceral side. Regarding genocide and the Holocaust, please do not go “Elie Wiesel” on me and go overboard on the Jews, their mistreatment and the Holocaust. We were horribly mistreated for much longer than most, if not all peoples. It was despicable and left terrible scars on our souls and psyches. It will take many generations to work through these issues, and maybe we will never get there. Nonetheless, other peoples have suffered greatly, too. Fie on horrible mistreatment, no matter who the victims.
Regarding the actions of NATO, let’s step back to the 1930’s and early 1940’s. News filtered back to Western Europe and to North America about the increasing mistreatment of the Jews (and others) and the rise of Hitler. The predominant reactions were “sitting on hands” and appeasement (think Neville Chamberlain). The results of that inaction and appeasement caused many deaths. So it is easy to understand a heightened sense of concern on the part of the US and Europe. They were not going to downplay talk about genocide on European soil again.
“NATO cannot be the judge (calling it genocide) and the at the same time the executioner (took unilateral action violating the U.N. charter).”
As I have said before life, war and the events leading up to war are ugly and messy. There was already war taking place along with the wanton murder of innocents. The whole place had been coming apart since the mid-1980s.
“Did NATO countries seriously consider proposals from Russia and China? Did NATO work within the framework of the U.N. to stabilize the Balkan region?”
A) There was a lot of pressure to take action.
B) The Russians? Hell, they can’t even stabilize their own country.
C) The Chinese? I am not aware of Chinese proposals.
D) Stabilize the Balkans? Good freaking luck! This is what makes B and C moot issues. The only man who accomplished that for any length of time was Marshall Tito. His death marked the end of stability, once more. The Balkans have been volatile and unstable for centuries. My East European friends and my Yugoslavian friends (who jokingly call themselves Bohunks) laugh at the notion of stability in the Balkans.
“So, my personal feel is that whatever external actions taken in a place of conflict, it ought to minimize widening the wound.”
That is an example of “Monday morning quarterbacking”, IMHO. That seems such a clinical remark. It has been a mess for centuries. It was nearly Camelot for a while. And then it descended into hell, again. That said, I am sure that denizens of the Baltic countries which seceded since 1991 (Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo, et al) will tell you that their lives are better. Serbians, probably not, as they suffer under a corrupt, Mafia-like government to this day.
“I think Zhang’s issue was with things in the name of universal values.” Do the Chinese ever push universal values, or their own brand of values, or have they in the past? Maybe on their own people? Maybe, they do it more subtly than the Westerners. Hmmmm.
@ yinyang #83
Thank you for commenting. I did not make myself clear in #82. My point is, “Capitalism” or “free flow of information” are phenomenon, or only among many ways of conducting activities. They are not necessarily the reasons for the modernization.
Give you a counter example, it was Capitalism that lead to the ” Great Depression”. The “Tree flow of information” from a rumour from Guangdong factory incident lead to the recent Xinjiang riots. The free flow of mis-information about Tibet and China fuelled the recent violence in Tibet during the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
There is no silver bullet to modernization. Use democracy or dictatorship when/where necessary; use information control or let information freely flow where applicable; use capitalism or government intervention when/where that best suit the society and its objective. All these need a good and effective governing system: the government.
@ #44 real_name
east vs west germany:
non of them modernized under democracy. They all come from the Hitler dictatorship unless you call that a democracy.
soviet union vs usa:
Soviet: [under communism] they were the first to send a human into space Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on the 12th April 1961.
[under democracy] the Soviet union crashed from a first world super power into a 2nd world dismantled war- torn country.
US: us was developed not under democracy rather under imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy. Without the genocide of local Indians, the US would not have existed. Martin luther king was killed in 1968, that was not even a distant history.
Some people in the West like to point out Chairman Mao’s past mistakes. But, they really don’t know China and Chinese people. For these people who likes to do finger-pointing and tell Chinese what to do, China has long used to refuting these people with her own action and achievement, not to engage a useless and endless ideological 1-2-3 with empty words.
Sure, Chairman Mao made a ton of mistakes with over-driven ideology movements and economic development policy, like many great people who made mistakes. Chinese people are mostly forgiving of his mistakes, if you have ever been in China and talk to people. They are not too bitter about the past yet very optimistic about the future. Plus, Mao’s China never engaged any evil act of invading and rooting from any weak people and nations, but defended the nation’s interest against much stronger US and USSR, and punished smaller aggressors (you know them).
Chairman Mao’s world vision and strategy laid a solid foundation for modern multipole world. It will continue benefit China and the world’s disadvantaged people for years to come.
A good example to focus on this thread is Iraq. Irag was once a pretty stable and rich state among Mid-East nations. Iraq population first suffered greatly from years of international sanction imposed by the West and rubber stamped by UN, then US-led invasion killed hundreds and thousands of average people and the country is now totally shattered, while no one in the West seems to talk much about it.
Glad to you and other find the article engaging. Unfortunately, I was told shane9219 was censored and silent by “steve” 🙂
@ Ichen: When I delete or collapse a comment, I leave a reason for so. I do not have the ability to “silent” anyone from this blog. Moderation or banning falls within the province of Admin, so whoever told you so doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Since you know China and Chinese people so well, where exactly in China do you live?
Hi justkeeper, #97,
Per what you said, this is the reason why I thought it was so admirable of admin to have set up FM as a platform.
I have started reading many of the earlier articles on FM, and even now, many people on both sides are debating with genuine efforts to share their perspectives.
The thing I observe is that some people come here with their initial set of views. After a while, I can tell from their comments they are lot more nuanced. Peoples minds are not going to change completely, but it is worthwhile for all to be more nuanced about our world.
Hi Jerry, #98,
The Jews indeed sufferred tremendously.
“Stabilize the Balkans? Good freaking luck!”
To me, that particular perspective is both too lazy and lacking goodwill to want to solve the problem in a meaningful way.
Jerry, are you serious? What if some powerful state in the Middle East, who sympathizes with the Palestinians, decides to bomb Israel because they hold the view that region is never going to stabilize as long as Israel is intact? That line of thinking is nonsense.
On the China pushing for her values – I don’t think its much, except within the framework of the U.N.. See my comment #78:
Increasingly, the world is agreeing with China how it sees “human rights,” and the “West” are increasingly on its own.
Hi Brad, #99,
Thx for clarification. Okay, I understand what you are saying.
Hi Ichen, #100,
Steve is very fair, and I agree with his actions. Shane has so much information to share with us, and so I just hope he heeds some suggestions from Steve and admin.
While what Shane posted was immediately relevant, and we all can see that. Other materials he share with us is not readily apparent. So as a rule, we encourage everyone to say the relevance when pasting something or a link from elsewhere.
real name says
– east vs west germany – non of them modernized under democracy.
did you even seen any picture of germany after the war? and east and west parts 40-60 years later?
or compare austria and czechoslovakia in similar perionds
– Soviet: [under communism] they were the first…
also first in steel production in time millions were hungry, did you ever visit any shop there? i did in 80’s
@real name: Did you even know a little bit history about pre-World War II Germany? Germany was modernized long time before the country was splited up, under German Empire(1871-1918), which WAS a dictatorship. Russia was also modernized under a dictatorship, the Russian Tsar government, Russians got chance to go democratic in 1917 and failed but that’s not what Zhang’s talking about, he did not say modernized country will inevitably go democratic, his point is democratic countries today all finished their modernization before their democratization. Ever heard about the difference between necessary and sufficient condition?
real name says
you compared russia under democracy and under communism
so i gave you examples of countries developed more and others lost their former position
soviet union crashed ago it officially happened
i see no final state of modernization in any country
@ justkeeper #106: The German Empire was a limited democracy with an authoritarian executive branch. It was not a dictatorship. The legislative body was the Reichstag which was chosen democratically. The Bundesrat members were appointed by state governments. So now should I ask you, “Did you even know a little bit history about pre-World War II Germany?”???
The Russian czars were overthrown precisely because they did NOT modernize. Alexander II tried to but was assassinated. Alexander III was a reactionary. Nicholas II tried to reform, but it was too late as the defeats the nation suffered in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I led to a loss of confidence in the government and eventual revolution. If you take a look at the size and population of Russia during the empire and compare the Russian economy with democratic states, it was not modern at all and well behind countries of equal size and many that were much smaller.
@ Brad #99: By the time Germany reunified, East Germany’s economy was in shambles. West Germany had advanced well beyond East Germany since shortly after the war.
In the USSR, sending someone into space did not signify a modern economy. By the time the USSR fell, it was hopelessly behind the democracies in terms of industrial output, technology, GDP and per capita income. The country is in significantly better shape today than it was under the Soviets in all four of those categories.
“US: us was developed not under democracy rather under imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy. Without the genocide of local Indians, the US would not have existed. Martin luther king was killed in 1968, that was not even a distant history.”
Wow! I won’t even bother with this one. You certainly have some very peculiar ideas when it comes to American history. If you actually believe what you wrote, I doubt anything I could say would make a difference.
You wrote, “Use democracy or dictatorship when/where necessary; use information control or let information freely flow where applicable; use capitalism or government intervention when/where that best suit the society and its objective. All these need a good and effective governing system: the government.”
Could you explain how a country could have both a democracy and a dictatorship at the same time and switch from one to the other when/where necessary? Who decides when it is necessary, the democracy or the dictator?
I believe you are saying the government is the key factor in modernization, and good and effective governments allow it to happen. But isn’t the structure of the government the key factor in creating an effective government? How can you separate one from the other?
@steve #108: Good point, although the Reichstag was only chosen by males, by the standard defined in the original article “One person, one vote”, it’s not a democracy. Besides, the more important point is that the German Emperor Wilhhem II also gained absolute power after Bismarck resigned in 1890. I don’t know about you, but I would emphasize democracy in substance more than democracy in form. Theoretically the British Crown possesses huge power, but UK is a democracy because the Crown is effectively restrained by the system.
About the level of modernization of Russia at the end of Tsar Era, I think it’s a topic worth debating, but I believe it’s at least much better than China at the end of Cultural Revolution, heck, I would really be very happy if we had such a huge bunch of brilliant scientists and engineers like Russia back then!
@real name: You still haven’t understood the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions, Zhang’s point was modernization is inevitably required for a country’s democratization. He didn’t say you can still be happy with your authoritarian system once a certain level of modernization is achieved without causing widespreading miseries. Besides, I saw the “Economy of Shortage” in Eastern Europe then more a problem of planned economy than that of authoritarian system. China doesn’t have a food shortage problem today thanks to the help of a market economy, but Eastern Europe then is still far more modernized than China today.
yinyang, I doubt that we will ever agree on the issues we discuss. And that is very ok with me.
“To me, that particular perspective is both too lazy and lacking goodwill to want to solve the problem in a meaningful way.”
I deal with issues on a realistic basis. What you call lazy and lacking goodwill is not so. The Balkans have been one of the most, if not the most unstable area(s) in the world, for a very long time. Ethnic tensions, hatred and desire for power have been the main issues at the core.
Currently, the Balkan area is more stable than any time since Marshall Tito’s death. Except maybe for Serbia (or Yugoslavia, if you would like). I am happy for them.
In case you have not noticed, some of Israel’s neighbors have tried to conquer/destroy Israel since the inception of Israel. Not to mention the suicide bombers.
Israel is not Yugoslavia or the Balkans. Despite the myriad problems and the Palestinian issues (Gaza, the West Bank, settlements, Hezbollah, Hamas), Israel is far more stable than the Balkans. In fact, the whole Middle East region (Except for Iraq, which the US destabilized) is much more stable than the Balkans. And, yes, there are issues between the countries.
Your hypothesis is nonsensical and preposterous to me and does not deem a discussion. The comparison is absurd. You could insert France, England, the US, China, whatever for Israel. It would still be ridiculous to me.
I still believe that Israel will someday work out a solution with our Palestinian (Semitic) brothers. It is in the mutual interests of all Semites.
The Balkans were once again disintegrating/disassembling, right before our very eyes, after Marshall Tito died. The Russians chose to ignore it. Yugoslavia gained independence in 1991. The Europeans and US chose not to ignore it. You seem to think that death and destruction by aerial bombing is far worse than death by machine guns, rifles, artillery shells, land mines, DU shells, or tank missiles. You are still dead. IMHO, Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic, if left unchecked, would have destabilized far more than the Balkans. And with disastrous, murderous effect.
When I hear you talk, I hear the voices of Neville Chamberlain and those Brits who thought that Hitler was good for Germany and a “good chap”. Thus, I doubt we will ever agree on this issue.
Regarding bombing, I remember hearing a number of Germans talk of the Allied bombing of Germany in WWII, they acknowledge that it was horrible, but necessary to rid their country of a group of madmen. I wonder how many Balkanites would think similarly of ridding themselves of madmen like Milosevic? Hmmmm?
We will never know the answers to what could have been or would have been. At best we guess and speculate. And deal with problems as best we can and live with the consequences. As I said before, life can be ugly and messy.
Hi Jerry, #110,
“yinyang, I doubt that we will ever agree on the issues we discuss. And that is very ok with me.”
That’s fair. We are here to exchange perspectives foremost, and we both are shaped by our lifelong experiences. The world is already vastly better when people are willing to hear each other out.
On my hypothesis about the Middle East and Israel, I think it is valid. Consider some time in the future when both you and I are long gone and a state in the Middle East is relatively powerful like that the U.S. is today. We cannot conclude that Middle East cannot produce super powerful states in the future, because they have in the past.
I do too hope Israel and Palestine work out a deal peacefully and that the world support them achieving it through peaceful means – not through a “halt” achieved through something like the NATO bombings in the Bosnian War.
@ justkeeper #109: You’re correct in that the Reichstag was only chosen by males but back then, that was the meaning of democracy. It didn’t become “one person, one vote” until later in history. I don’t like to judge the past on present standards. I also don’t like to judge one culture as compared to another, as many want to judge China by comparing her all the time to other countries. Every country has a path it takes and every path is different. The only comparisons should be with where the country is at the present time and where the country needs to go to bring happiness to her citizens.
Wilhelm III wasn’t supposed to have absolute power and that’s where the democracy broke down. In a way, it shows that it’s difficult to have a partial democracy as was Germany’s at that time. I agree with you that it was more democracy in form than in substance.
World War I was started by the actions of Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Kaiser Wilhelm III of Germany. They were both autocrats. The democracies responded but I think it’s safe to say that the autocratic governments were responsible for that war. Many scholars have written that Germany’s war machine was so strong that the Kaiser wanted to use it while he still had an advantage.
I don’t disagree that autocratic governments can achieve economic progress, but they tend to be inconsistent over time. Monarchies would do well under a good king and poorly under a bad one, China included. One party governments tend towards massive corruption; in fact, there has never been a one party government that hasn’t become corrupt, especially as it becomes more successful. That’s also been China’s biggest problem and one that seems hardest to solve.
I also agree with your comparison of Russia and post-CR China. Let’s face it; China was in a terrible position until after Mao died and Deng took over. But that was also after 25 years of authoritarian rule. Today’s China is much less authoritarian than that time, so you could say that the further China gets from authoritarian rule, the more successful she is economically. That kind of blows the authoritarian paradigm that Zhang believes is the better system, doesn’t it?
This is a fun discussion, thanks!
China believes in a balanced solution suitable for her conditions, not those radical ones advocated by the West.
Corruption exists in every form of economy, has no specific connection with a political system. There has been several waves of it since the early days of PRC founding. Each time, it was eradicated using different methods.
Steve, I am LOL. You have cited a classic example of the Balkans. The assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand of Austria, in Sarajevo, started a chain of events that led to WWI. The assassination was carried out by the Black Hand allegedly under order by the Serbian military. The Serbs wanted to unite the neighboring Balkan Slavic areas which had been annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the assassination, Austrian Emperor Franz Josef was actually happy to be rid of Ferdinand. However, Wilhelm and the militants in Vienna wanted to attack Serbia; they used the assassination for their own purposes. What you end up with is royal intrigue and militaries itching for a fight. Voila, WWI! God bless those royals, all over Europe.
Why is it that all roads in the Balkans inevitably lead back to Serbia? Hmmmm.
Hi Steve, #112,
“Today’s China is much less authoritarian than that time, so you could say that the further China gets from authoritarian rule, the more successful she is economically. That kind of blows the authoritarian paradigm that Zhang believes is the better system, doesn’t it?”
I agree China today is lot less authoritarian than Mao’s time. For example, China’s top leaders now have age and term limitations. What do you think of the scenario if Mao had underwent the economic reforms Deng presided over?
Economic progress necessitates laws to protect commercial interests. The more ordinary people have in terms of property (the more they have to loose), the more they wish to keep society stable.
I think what Zhang suggests is correct – the more economically successful a country is, the more of the rest are to follow.
Also, Zhang is not peddling an authoritarian form of government, is he?
@ Ichen #113: The “west”, whatever that means, isn’t advocating radical solutions in China because there is no entity called “the west” that can advocate anything. Could you be more specific in your comments? Exactly who is advocating what radical solution?
You wrote, “China believes in a balanced solution suitable for her conditions…”. I’m sorry, but that says nothing. What is a “balanced solution”? How is this solution (which you never elaborated on) suitable for her conditions? What particular conditions is it suitable for? The statement is too vague to draw any conclusions.
Corruption definitely has a connection with political systems. The connection has been outlined, documented and commented upon for centuries. I majored in political science and specialized in political structure, which to me was far more interesting than what I felt to be the mundane study of how to win elections and plot campaigns, etc.
People in China are basically the same as people from anywhere else. The culture might be different but human nature never changes. They are affected politically by the same phenomena that affects other countries. There are numerous books that get into this in detail but it’s far to complex to hash out over a blog site.
Have you ever done business in China? I mean, really do business? I have. The orders I dealt with ranged anywhere from $10,000 to a million US. I worked in the semiconductor industry over there. I have an intimate knowledge of exactly how the corruption worked and how to deal with it legally. I am also pretty knowledgeable on how it works in real estate, license acquisition, etc. I have friends who currently own businesses in China. I’ve done business in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines. Each has their own business idiosyncrasies, but none are as corrupt as China. Could you explain why?
You wrote about corruption in the PRC, “Each time, it was eradicated using different methods.” Could you go into more detail on how exactly it was eradicated and when was the last time that it was eradicated? Could you explain why it came back after it was eradicated and how long it took from the time it was eradicated to the time it came back? I’d be interested to hear about it.
steve #116 — simplistic and condescending remarks not worth a serious refute ! Let alone try to tell people how much experience you got doing this and that …
Here are corruption examples:
> Taiwan past leader was just sentenced to life-in-jail
> US got mafia and corrupted so many politicians years ago
> US congressman in Louisiana (?) was found to stuff loads of greenback in frigier
> A well-known US lobbyist was jailed after years of bribing politicians
many many examples … all driven by commercial greed and private interests
China’s system has shown its ability to fight off various corruption with seriousness, that is a long process, not a simple 1-2-3. The difference is that China like to discuss problems so it can forward, while things are typically hidden or covered up in other places until …
real name says
– mao: Chinese people are mostly forgiving his mistakes
could you imagine today will leader of russian communists start to war fight with putin,
continuing even during new foreign invasion,
getting power will capture the most of former soviet emporium,
after long years of his leadership leaving x-percent of population dead and economy in collapse?
i have no doubt he will replace stalin in russian popularity chart
btw. i remember tv document where authors visited siberian city and met women get there
to labor camp without real reason: today (say ten years ago) she is celebrating stalin thinking it was right put her there because
in that time she really thought some wrong things about him, years in camp helped her to find reality and his greatness
real name says
– modernization is inevitably required for a country’s democratization
i think all kinds of improvements are integral parts of modernization
– certain level of modernization is achieved
without concurrence at any field you will loose your level after time
– problem of planned economy
right, it was also removing of concurrence
– China was in a terrible position until after Mao died
thanks steve for this, i wanted mention what happens now is opposite to mao
– China’s system has shown its ability to fight off various corruption with seriousness, that is a long process
without fighting with roots it’s even longer process,
anyway also here is no final vistory – can just move to lowest possible level
@Ichen #117, @Steve #116
Ichen, you wrote:
IMHO, Steve’s remarks are not simplistic and condescending. Furthermore, Steve is relating his experience doing business in China. I would tell you that I have no experience doing business in China. We are both relating our experience or lack thereof.
You then start down the “tu quoque” path:
• Yes, the mafia had a reputation for buying politicians. Yes, William Jefferson put money into his freezer. Yes, lobbyist Jack Abramoff was convicted of defrauding his clients and bribing politicians. Yes, ex-prez Chen got a life sentence.
• You missed the corruption investigation and indictment of Rod Blagojevich, Illinois governor, who allegedly even tried to sell Obama’s senate seat after OB won the presidency. You missed the trials of George Ryan, Illinois governor and Dan Rostenkowski, congressman from Chicago.
• You also missed the beauty of the American judicial system. These people were caught. Their deeds were exposed. They were given a fair trial. They were convicted. If they weren’t guilty, they were acquitted. All out in the open.
You then finish up by stating, “many many examples … all driven by commercial greed and private interests”. IMHO, greed is greed, whether governmental, judicial, private, or whatever!
Before you declare QED and grant yourself imprimatur, would you mind demonstrating this assertion with some credible examples? Waving your arms about and declaring it so does not make it so.
Now let me go back to your opening statement, “simplistic and condescending remarks not worth a serious refute!” That sounds to me like an evasive dodge if there ever was one. Since you do not want to answer Steve’s questions, I assume you are evading the questions because you a) have no answer, b) have an unsatisfactory/uncomfortable answer, c) your answer would concur with Steve’s experience or d) want to save face.
Steve simply asked,
I would like to know if China’s seemingly systemic corruption ever has been challenged publicly in court. How is China dealing with its corruption? Is it public? Does the ordinary Chinese citizen have the right to comment and discuss the corruption? Does Chinese corruption ever see the light of day, like it does in the US? Is there an independent judiciary in China, independent from the CCP and politicians? Just curious.
Please feel free to enlighten us Westerners with your insight.
I’ll give my two cents on the corruption issue. China’s persuasive corruption is nearly inevitable for an economy in which government is the biggest player and its influence is everywhere. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the authoritarian system, India is a democracy, but due to heavy government involvement in their economy, their corruption problem is as bad as, if not more than China. That being said, decentralize the economy may not bring about any actual positive change. The U.S government is much less corrupted than China, but its economic model merely shifts the role of embezzler from government officials to the financial speculators and manipulators. Especially after the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which allowed access to capital market for commercial banks, which is equivalent to a permission of playing fire with savers’ money. And in the end the taxpayers face a dilemma during the financial crisis, either the banks bankrupt and they lose their savings, or the tax they paid must be used to save those banks. The total outcome is about the same. In fact, I tend to view this as a problem without a solution, to make the money effective, you have to concentrate it somewhere, either it’s in the form of a state-owned enterprise or investment bank controlled investment.Huge amount of money must be passing through someone’s hands, and those “inside” can make use of their expertise to produce “implicit rules” which can make their embezzlement legitimate.
@Steve #112: “Today’s China is much less authoritarian than that time, so you could say that the further China gets from authoritarian rule, the more successful she is economically. That kind of blows the authoritarian paradigm that Zhang believes is the better system, doesn’t it?”
Once again, is this the magic of a market economy or democratic political system? Of course I agree that people should have at least some degree of freedom for whatever reason(human value, economic efficiency), but you know, as a Chinese, I always prefer the middle path. So my question is: is there an equilibrium somewhere between economic freedom and political restriction where both people’s happiness and efficiency are maximized without going to neither extremes? Thanks.
I’ve put my response up to Zhang here. I’m not fussed whether people continue the discussion here, on my post or between the two.
@ Ichen #117: Your reply to my questions was a classic fallacy called Appeal to Ridicule. Now would you mind answering my legitimate questions instead of hiding behind a logical fallacy? You were the one who made the claims. If you can’t back up what you said, then what you said is meaningless. However, from your answer it certainly seems like you have never done business in China, have no idea how business is done in China, can’t give any examples of how business is done in China yet claim to be knowledgeable in how business is done in China. By the way, I”m not the only regular contributor who has done business there, so be aware that others will be reading your answers and examples that also know how things work.
I didn’t ask you for corruption examples, I asked you to illustrate your claims with examples. You didn’t answer even one of my questions. Nothing about the “radical solutions” the ‘west’ is advocating, nothing about a “balanced solution”, nothing about “conditions”, nothing about how business is done in China, nothing about eradication of corruption, nothing about when this happened, nothing about how it happened and nothing about how it came back.
To sum it up, you said nothing about everything.
Charles Liu says
Agree with Justkeeper. Being the beacon of democracy, land of the free, home of the brave, etc., did not prevent us Americans from having some of the worst corruption in the world:
– The 1st gulf war was started because GHW Bush’s friends were helping Kuwait slant drilling (capital offense in Texas) and stealing oil from Iraq. When Kuwait was about to settle the issue with Iraq, senior Bush had April Glasby give Saddam the green light to invade, while the CIA secretely gave assurance to the Kuwaitis:
Where has all the illegal drilling profit go? Where has all the tax payer funded corporate military action been paid back?
– The 2nd Iraq invasion was based on false WMD pretext (where’s the WMD?) and that war continues to cost American tax payer billions every month. Add it up, I challange anyone to come up with a corruption case in China that exceeds the false wars by the Bush regimes.
As the depleted uranium dirty bombs, white phosphor incindiary bombs outlawed by UN, rained down on innocent Iraqi children, both Chevron and BP oil tankers were alredy on their way to Basra:
With Saddam regime gone, the US/UK Big Oil is again back in Iraq profiting from somebody else’s oil, leaving the American tax payer again holding the bag for yet another corporate military action. Compare oil stocks before the invasion and post invasion, it is evident where the corruption is.
Has China ever invaded anyone for oil?
Charles Liu says
Steve @ 124, perhaps you should not take the position that Ichen’s claim has no merit, expecially given the fact some have appeared on FM, such as corruption hotline and execution of official. I did an English search and found some more examples:
– official conduct rules were ratified requiring officials to declare their assets
– emphasis on official collusion in organized crime probles. For example in Chongching senior officials were arrested over mafia collusion
If you want to talk about corruption in China and the US, we should see what the World Bank has to say.
Just run country comparisons for China and the US on the above link. If you look at China’s results (most recent years are at the top of each indicator bracket), control of corruption has got worse since the 1990s, not better. From what I can see it’s about 40%.
Whereas the USA’s rating has pretty much stayed the same – around 90%.
So I’m not sure how you can pretend China deals with corruption better than the US.
>> “To sum it up, you said nothing about everything”
No, I pointed out a few simple things to cover everything it was intended to cover, so not falling into the trap of details …
No sure why someone so pro Super-Ego-Americanism can admin a forum about “For China”.
Sure, US is a land of Super Man and Super League. Now what, it can not even make Iran move.
Obama is over-hyped, he is better as a comedian than a president 🙂
@ Ichen: Your comment was collapsed because it was an ad hominum attack and nothing else. It also makes you appear to be very immature.
We have rules for this blog. Those rules are here. Please read and respect them.
@Ichen #128, #117, @Steve #124
Wow, Ichen, I am underwhelmed and not surprised at all. These are grade-school-level responses, Ichen.
Steve, in #124, discusses how your initial response in #117 was “an appeal to ridicule”. You then graciously demonstrate your talent for ridicule even further in #128. Thanks for “driving the nails into your own coffin”. You must be some distant relative of Joe McCarthy. Again, thanks for proving the point. You accomplished what we never could. 😀
“No, I pointed out a few simple things to cover everything it was intended to cover, so not falling into the trap of details …” QED. Imprimatur. In essence, “if Ichen claims/asserts something, it is true; he is speaking ‘ex cathedra'”. Wow. Be gone damned details in which the devil resides. I bow to your wisdom. ::LMAO:: 😀 ::ROFL::
Regarding my statement, “You accomplished what we never could”, you may wonder what I meant. Let me quote the illustrious Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), “It is better to have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Only you could have removed all doubt. Thank you, again, for removing all doubt.
Or maybe I can leave you with a similar quote from Will Rogers (which Steve so generously provided us a while ago), “There are three kinds of men: The ones who learn by reading and the few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.”
I followed Raj’s link and took a look at the Governance & Anti-Corruption Chart over at Worldbank. I configured it for the countries with the top ten GDP. This was the result:
1- Germany – 93.2 %
2- UK – 92.8%
3- USA – 91.8%
4- France – 91.3%
5- Japan – 85.5%
6- Italy – 62.3%
7- Brazil – 58.5%
8- India – 44.4%
9- China – 41.1%
10- Russia – 15.5%
@ Charles Liu #125: Charles, I noticed you mentioned slant drilling. Iraq used slant drilling as an excuse to invade Kuwait, not as a reason. At the time, slant drilling was in its infancy and the horizontal projection from the well head was pretty minimal. Today they can go much further but back then it was just used as a convenient excuse.
Japan was also concerned that China would use slant drilling to tap into the East China Sea oilfields but they later came to an agreement where they would explore the fields jointly and share the profits.
The Google search you linked to contains no credible sources or references. It’s the same with your second link. Very few people consider http://www.antiwar.com to be a credible source and the article provided no references. Do you have any links that contain actual references?
Justkeeper 121 and 122 and Charles Liu 125 on Corruption:
I think in general, democracy vs modernization, corruption vs autocratic systems, is not: yes or no, you have here only supporting or non-supporting influence.
There are always examples and counter examples and even counting them might be misleading without weighting.
So extracting “truth from facts” as Zhang said, is not that straight forward.
I think academic arguments (kind of common sense, but not “truth from facts”) should not be ignored, like: the fact that in any democracy the people in power can be switched helps suppressing corruption etc.
I criticize Zhangs article in that sense, that he misuse unclear definitions and counter examples to justify the Chinese system.i.e. he says “democracy is universal value indeed” but then “western forms are not” to abandon any democracy now.
Shane9219 reference to “China’s governing elite, which at the top consists almost entirely of science-trained engineers,” and that China is currently doing mostly well is kind of truth from fact.
Now Steve wrote very different about current corruption in China and just yesterday China Daily announced that Mao’s grandson become some kind of youngest general…probably not a good example.
I am not such an insider to judge that, and continue to believe that currently most of the Chinese people are satisfied with their government.
And with that, I am a little bit on Zhang’s side – i.e. democracy would probably not improve so much, at least now
Also, finally I read with satisfaction that he sees democracy as a final goal in the evolution.
But the counter example to this approach to evolution, he claims China is following, is Hong Kong:
Modern Hong Kong is mature enough to have a democratic system which is rejected by China.
Can he be trusted?
Charles Liu says
Steve, can you substantiate your “Very few people consider http://www.antiwar.com to be a credible source”? Where’s your citation, or any credible citation that antiwar isn’t credible?
AFAIK, it is a very prominent and credible war critic in the peace/progressive circle, and I presented it in conjunction to “where’s the WMD” and second iraq invasion – do you know where the WMD is? The article cited the book “blood and oil” – do you have any evidence this book is not credible? It is well known fact oil tankers arrived at Basra shortly after the invasion.
As to the 1st citation of how the 1st gulf war came about – Ambassador April Glasby’s “greenlight” to Saddam is a well know fact:
I suggest you do some independent research on what really went down, and the scale of our own corruption, their consquences.
Charles, those aren’t news sources, they’re advocacy groups with agendas. Maybe you agree with their POV, maybe you don’t but they are not references, they’re opinion pieces. Nothing wrong with it, BTW.
You brought up slant drilling, not me. I sold in the oil patch for the first ten years of my career and because I dealt with instrumentation, I was involved with drilling, production and refining. The whole slant drilling thing just isn’t credible unless you know nothing about the oil patch, which applies to the great majority of people. Gasoline is just stuff they put in their cars. I’d know nothing about it either if I hadn’t worked in the industry.
Having oil tankers arrive shortly after an invasion proves exactly what? Charles, just because find information on the internet doesn’t make it true. You’re always telling us that media sources aren’t credible, but aren’t you ready to believe no name sources when they support your case? Clicking on various sites on the net isn’t research. You need to know where to click and what you can trust.
And it goes both ways; just because a site may say bad things about China doesn’t make it true. Just because a site says good things about China doesn’t make it true. There needs to be some justification for what they write. You’re an IT professional. I’m sure you’ve seen all sorts of garbage on the net concerning your field, and also a lot of really good, accurate information. Because you know the field, you know which is which. Meanwhile, I have a decent knowledge of computers but I’m no professional. I could easily be fooled by what I read. Doesn’t that apply in a lot of these cases? Isn’t there a limit to what we can learn on the net based on our background and understanding?
Try to keep this civil.
Jerry, #130 – that’s not very nice either. Imagine if Ichen is your Chinese nephew, what do you think the right tone ought to be?
Ichen, #113 – Steve is very fair in my opinion. I think if you can answer Steve #116 questions seriously – not necessarily just for the benefits of Steve – I suspect many FM readers will side with you.
Hi Josef #133, Folks,
Continuing on the corruption discussion:
Few things I thought worth pointing out:
1. In the U.S., lobbying politicians as a category is how many $billions? That is open corruption which the American public has come to accept as “legit.” In China, it is not.
2. World Bank judging other countries “governance” is kind of ridiculous in my opinion. To me, corruption is inversely proportional to how advanced the legal and justice systems are in a country. China is late to the game in these areas in her modern history.
World Bank’s ranking on “governance” is divisive, because it has been trying to use that sort of issues in its lending practices. As World Bank and IMF expands to better accomodate developing countries, I think these political rankings are going to disappear.
Asia has formed its own regional fund too.
3. I generally agree “corruption” is more rampant in China, say, compared to the U.S.. But, in the U.S. it has a very bad stigma associated with it. However, in Chinese society, it is common for people to build their own personal network through whatever benefit they can confer to family and friends. Confucism plays a big part in running society. Whereas in the U.S. if there is no law prohibiting a bad behavior, that bad behavior happens. The downside is you have to have tons of law to have coverage for every single human conduct.
Don’t get me wrong – in my opinion – I think err on the side of having more law is better generally.
4. I have seen sales guys taking out prospective customers out to strip clubs, buying them gifts, and taking them onto trips as tour guides – all trying to win deals – in the U.S.A.. I’d say 99% of the sales professionals in the U.S. have done at least one of these.
The corruption in the U.S.A. is rampant, just that Americans are not used to describing corruption with the term “corruption.”
For the human rights and democracy campaigners, keep labeling a government “corrupt” helps their cause, so I have no doubt that’s what they do.
Corruption is just one representation of vested interest groups prevailing in human society, the legal system can surely crack down on them, but with the interest gone, people just won’t work in this trade anymore.
Corrupted officials (mostly in China)
Corrupted doctors (Both in China and U.S, why the healthcare reform so difficult?)
Corrupted management of financial investment corporations (mostly in U.S)
@yinyang #136, 137
No, that was not very nice. It was not meant to be. It wasn’t elementary-school-level, either. It was firm and cynical in my own Russian-Jewish style. And it was parental and meant to be. And I think the tone was just right for the place, person and occasion.
If my own grown children, nieces or nephews had behaved in a manner similar to Ichen, I would have been chagrined and much rougher on them. Fortunately, I have not had to speak to them about their behavior for a while. I can only hope that Ichen’s parents, aunts and uncles would be chagrined at such behavior.
There will be no retraction(s) or apology(ies). End of discussion.
yinyang, some comments on #137.
• Campaign contributions and lobbying are out of control. The only reason they are not out of control in China, is that there is no need for a system. But, IMHO, their corruption is out of control.
• I congratulate the World Bank, who I have disparaged much at times, for their noble attempt at looking at governance of various countries. Is it perfect? No. But the discussion is good and steps on toes all over the world. And that is good.
• To me, corruption in China is corruption, no matter what one wants to call it. I think that the US is passing way too many laws.
• Your 99% remark beggars belief; I have no idea where you came up with that. It is truly an amazing number. I agree that some of this goes on in the US. But I would hesitate to put a number to it. And I certainly would not allow myself to postulate such a number without significant evidence.
• “The corruption in the U.S.A. is rampant, just that Americans are not used to describing corruption with the term ‘corruption.'” IMHO, give me the USA any day over China. In the US, we daylight issues and there are opportunities to correct issues. I don’t believe that the same is true in China.
• Access to information and free speech allow us to deal with issues that displease us in the US. We tend to uncover issues and make them public. I don’t see China as having the same rights of free speech, access to information and willingness to make people in power look bad by exposing their actions and deeds. China seems too covert and corrupt for my taste.
• And why is it that when the attention turns to China, “tu quoque” rears its ugly head?
Hi Jerry, #139,
Hmm, I guess the additional comment I’ll add is that FM has a large readership with Chinese as their primary language and English as probably their second or third language. Many are not accustomed to cynacism – and I have seen many Asians in general misinterpret it. Please keep that in mind. You are an intelligent guy and have many interesting things to say.
“Campaign contributions and lobbying are out of control. The only reason they are not out of control in China, is that there is no need for a system. But, IMHO, their corruption is out of control.”
Is this “tu quoque”?
Don’t you come across sounding like you are rationalizing this corruption is ok? If so, that was my point about U.S. public not viewing a lot of corruption in their backyard as corruption.
On World Bank and IMF – I’d say that’s why China is lot more successful in Africa these days. All these stepping on peoples toes has made IMF and World Bank lot less effective in the developing countries in my opinion.
About my claim that the U.S. (I should say just about any country on this planet) is rampantly corrupt – sure I should cite more evidence.
I noticed “tu quoque” being used to characterize arguments people make. That’s a bit silly in my opinion, because, again, remember, the readership is lot more than U.S. citizens. For the readers from China or with Chinese as their primary language, seeing how the world really IS is important in how they make up their mind about China.
@ YinYang #137: I think without realizing it, you expanded the definition of “corruption” well beyond its true meaning. In this case, corruption is using illegal methods to achieve your goals.
1- Lobbying politicians is legal; it is not corruption. I agree with both you and Jerry that it is completely out of control but it doesn’t break any laws. The Chinese government engages in lobbying American politicians. Does this make the Chinese government corrupt? I certainly don’t think so since they are operating within the legal code.
2- China has had legal codes for thousands of years. Civilization is built around legal codes and a functional society. China has been completely independent since 1949. That’s 60 years for the CCP to develop modern legal codes. As an example, sixty years after the USA had their first Constitutional election was 1848. By that time, the US legal code was firmly established. This sounds more like an excuse than a reason. Your argument shows disagreement with World Bank lending practices, but does not address any error in the World Bank chart that Raj referenced.
3- The CCP has addressed the problem with corruption many times, especially in recent year, because they realize it is a threat to their continued rule. I have to completely disagree with you about the acceptance of corruption among Chinese. When I lived there, most people were satisfied with the progress the country had made since Deng’s opening up policy but were disgusted with local corruption. It was by far the single most common complaint I heard about the government. Because I heard about this so often, I can’t believe that it doesn’t have just as bad a stigma there as it does in the States. I also disagree with you about this being influenced by Confucius. It’s been awhile since I read the Analects but I can’t ever remember him condoning corruption. In fact, I seem to remember him doing just the opposite and talking about virtue.
4- In 30 years in sales, I haven’t done any of the things you mentioned. Do they happen? Yeah, but mostly in Hollywood movies and TV shows. However, taking someone to a strip club is an “entertainment” expense, no different from taking someone to a special KTV in Asia. Most companies do not allow buyers to accept gifts. The typical policy is to share food gifts with all the employees, and to take physical gifts and give them away in a company lottery. The only trips I’ve taken with customers were factory visits so they could audit the manufacturing process. I would not call that corruption.
Neither would I label special KTV in Asia as corruption, though the cost can exorbitant. (I had never even heard of Johnny Walker Blue Label before) It’s just a part of the sales cycle and the culture.
You wrote, “The corruption in the U.S.A. is rampant, just that Americans are not used to describing corruption with the term “corruption.” If you subtract the examples I just referenced, do you still think corruption in the USA is rampant? If so, where is it? Corruption in the States is easier to expose and it gets a lot of publicity, but I would not say it is pervasive. It seems neither would the World Bank. Based on my experience in China, corruption there is far more rampant, as in REALLY far.
@ YinYang #140: Jerry wrote, “Campaign contributions and lobbying are out of control.” and you responded, “Don’t you come across sounding like you are rationalizing this corruption is ok?” These are not examples of corruption but Jerry wasn’t saying they were OK either. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here.
You wrote, “On World Bank and IMF – I’d say that’s why China is lot more successful in Africa these days. All these stepping on peoples toes has made IMF and World Bank lot less effective in the developing countries in my opinion.”
I agree with you that China is more successful in Africa these days, but it’s precisely because they overlook corruption that brings them success. As an example, right now in Namibia, Hu Jintao’s son Hu Haifeng is involved in a major bribery case. He was the former president of Nuctech when it allegedly engaged in bribing a government consultant in order to secure a scanner contract where their profit margin is far higher than the industry average. Many of the leaders are happy but the citizens are not. Will that bode well for China in the future when those dictators die or are eventually overthrown? It didn’t work out very well for the USA when they did the same thing during the cold war.
Comparing China to other countries is fine and not “tu quoque” but when foreign examples are used to avoid answering questions, discussing the situation in China or making it sound like it’s OK to do, then it becomes “tu quoque”. I think at times your argument went a little into the “tu quoque” area but not enough to bother me. 🙂
Hi Steve, #141,
According to Webster:
“corruption: 1 a : impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle : depravity b : decay, decomposition c : inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery) d : a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct”
Perhaps your definition too narrow? 🙂
Yeah, I guess this definition of “corruption” ought to be visited. This is why you see arguments like how can a less corrupt government still go lie to the world about WMD and invade another country on a lie? So I am glad you brought it up as that’s clearly a disconnect here.
If at the end of the day we want to argue the U.S. has more legal codes curbing corruption, and that multi-party systems (as of today) tend to have less abuse of power within context of “corruption” – then I agree. I’d also say that because you have many more corporations in the U.S. with codes of conduct relating to bribery, that helps the U.S. society a lot. So I see the situation in China becoming more like that of the U.S. as more corporations sprung up.
But why not debate on the definition of “corruption” to not strictly be within the confines of law, because every country have different laws, and is a moving target. I think the better comparison ought to be what’s the end result.
On your point #3 – I guess I wasn’t very clear in saying what I want. It is a very common (accepted) practice in every day life (in ordinary citizens) to give red envelope to make personal gains in China. I have no doubt you hear about corruption as a big problem in China from people you talk to. I hear it too from by friends and relatives living in China. The fact is ordinary Chinese citizens practice this stuffing of envelope. You don’t see this happening in the U.S.. So, I meant this practice is lot more accepted in Chinese society compared to the U.S..
Of course Confucius taught virtues and obviously never pushed corruption. My point was this substituted for governing behavior within China, so there weren’t as many laws to regular human conduct as does the U.S.. I am not trying to make an excuse – I am trying to explain the situation here.
In another comment of yours, you said China is more corrupt than Taiwan and a list of other regions. Can you elaborate for me then how?
4 – Steve – you are a good guy. Again, this goes to the definition issue. Do you think passing envelopes under the table can be taken out as “corruption” in Chinese society? How about trying to buddy with a local government official by taking him out to golf and entertain him to dinner? Yes, this “entertainment” category you used was for me corruption in my previous post.
Regarding Hu Haifeng – thx for sharing that link. Are you saying he is guilty of bribery? That’s not decided yet. But I have no doubt someone like him has a lot of power simply he is the son of Hu Jintao. I’d say the same thing about GWB before he was president. Who corrupts more, Hu Haifeng or GWB? The answer is probably we don’t know.
Accusing China of “overlooking corruption” in Africa is probably not fair in my opinion. Rest of the world do not need to accept this narrative or have the same priority. This goes along the lines of “voting coincidence” on human rights which I talked about previously. The world votes China’s way. So, I understand many in the West have this view about “overlooking corruption.”
@ Steve (131)
It’s very interesting, isn’t it?
@ yinyang (137)
I don’t think it’s wrong for the World Bank to try to conduct research on the matter of governance. Good governance is important and the World Bank shouldn’t be lending money willy-nilly to countries that are just going to waste it. If the World Bank is going to differ in what terms it offers money on it’s helpful to have some sort of research to support the grounds it bases those decisions on.
Do you have, for example, specific complaints that its figures/data is wrong?
I think when people talk about corruption in politics they’re talking about the abuse of political posts for personal/party gain. Whilst you’re right that moral corruption exists, you have to be careful because most factual/scientific measures of corruption don’t go into that. What is regarded as moral is subjective, after all. For example, it might not be moral to go to war on a lie, but if you were going to war for an important reason but felt you had to dress it up in a more believable lie is that still so “corrupt”?
In think when you talk about corruption in the US, you’re actually talking about decadence.
Hi Raj, #143,
“Do you have, for example, specific complaints that its figures/data is wrong?”
For starters, does the World Bank ranking account for results like the fact that the Chinese government has raised hundreds of millions of people out of abject property? Does it account for the fact it averted a economic meltdown in the recent Asian financial crisis? Does it reflect the consistent GDP growth enjoyed by the Chinese citizens? Does it reflect the fact that China hasn’t invaded Iraq? Does it reflect the amount of pollution China has put into the atmosphere?
Did China and other developing countries have a say in that ranking or formulating the criteria for such ranking?
So, my accusation is that that ranking disagrees with priorities of developing countries. We all know who runs the World Bank.
Regarding corruption in politics – but why should the Chinese people be concerned with such a narrow definition? Why not encompass a more complete definition for everything the matters?
Eight Ideas Behind China’s Success
By ZHANG WEI-WE
1. Seeking truth from facts.
2. Primacy of people’s livelihood.
3. The importance of holistic thinking.
4. Government as a necessary virtue.
5. Good governance matters more than democratization.
6. Performance legitimacy.
7. Selective learning and adaptation.
8. Harmony in diversity.
lchen #128 — haha, right on target. 🙂
American society and foreign relations are rooted on a super-ego-Americanism since Truman after WW II
It’s always fun to see Super Man and Justice League flying high and change the world in seconds, but it is real American public who bear consequence.
American, it’s time to stop dreaming, complaining and start more critical thinking out yourselves and your soceity.
Thx for the heads-up, jpan on Zhang Weiwei’s op-ed in NYT. I’ve highlighted your comment.
Hi YinYang #142: I was using the legal definition (c) since the others didn’t have any application to the topic. For instance, if a man takes the rent money and uses it to gamble in Vegas, he is morally corrupt but he is not doing anything illegal. If a woman is cheating on her fiance, she is morally corrupt but not doing anything illegal. Neither would enter into what we have been discussing.
You talked about lies but lies are deception. Deception is not corruption. It is deception. It’s definitely not a good thing, but it isn’t the subject of these posts.
You wrote, “So I see the situation in China becoming more like that of the U.S. as more corporations sprung up.” Corporations will take advantage of whatever they can get away with no matter where they are located. If Chinese corporations can bribe officials to further their business interests, they will do so. Corruption laws need to be enforced uniformly throughout the country and opportunities for corruption need to be reduced. Think back to the Gilded Age in America and how the corporations acted before Teddy Roosevelt began to get them under control.
You wrote, “But why not debate on the definition of “corruption” to not strictly be within the confines of law, because every country have different laws, and is a moving target.”
China has its own corruption laws. Are those laws enforced consistently? Or is the enforcement arbitrary? Is it possible to do business without corruption? The measure of corruption is how well those laws are enforced, and how much bribery is necessary to engage in normal business.
China has said that they will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. But when their corporation pays a bribe which is against Namibia’s laws, they have interfered in the internal affairs of that country. By not allowing Namibia to call Hu’s son to testify, they are interfering in the case, even though Namibia just wants him as a witness and not to try him.
Hong bao is the most common transfer mechanism but it isn’t the only one. For instance, it can be paying a finder’s fee commission to the buyer’s relative or hiring the buyer as a consultant. Both those methods allow the bribe to occur while hiding the payment inside the account books as a legitimate expense. Paying cash in an envelope is hard to cover from an accounting point of view. Typically when foreigners are prosecuted for bribery in China, it is from one of those two methods being exposed. Hong bao, finder’s fees and retainers are all forms of bribery and corruption.
It is also quite common to pay that commission to an account in HSBC in Hong Kong. That way the money is outside China’s control, since China still has strict limits as to how much can leave the country.
I have a Chinese friend whose uncle is a local CCP official in her hometown. His wife has a business whose sole purpose is to launder the bribe money he receives to make it look legitimate. This is a very common practice there. My friend loves her uncle, but on the other hand she is furious that he uses his position in government to take bribes. She blames it not on him but on the government structure. She said all the officials in her hometown do the same thing.
You asked about Taiwan. I can’t give you information about government officials (they DO seem pretty intent on prosecuting certain politicians) but I can tell you that in the same industry, we didn’t have to do any of that stuff to get orders. Most of the companies we dealt with were world class and very professionally run. In fact, TSMC is one of the most well run companies I’ve ever worked with; just exceptional. The special KTV culture in Taiwan is more prevalent than in China but money didn’t exchange hands.
Is giving out hong bao to obtain business legal in China? From what I knew, it was definitely illegal. Therefore, it was corruption when practiced. Executives at Rio Tinto are trying to fight off these charges right now.
Golf and dinner is not corruption, it is entertainment and perfectly legal, both in the States and in China. You might be surprised how much business golf is played these days.
I have no idea if Hu Haitung is personally involved in this bribery case, but was using the article about his company as an example of bribery being pervasive in Chinese companies, even when doing business overseas. I’d also point out that after paying the bribe, the final contract they signed with Namibia gave them a far higher profit margin and a much higher price to Namibia than if they had gone to competitive bid. China gave Namibia a loan and then specified that it had to be a Chinese manufacturer, so the loan came with strings attached. Then the bid China selected was far higher than the going rate. So in the end, the bribe was just written into the overhead with the net profit margin still being much higher than it would have been under competitive conditions. Right now, Namibia isn’t quite as happy with China’s loan as they were before these facts were discovered.
GWB was, in my opinion, a very, very bad president but I haven’t seen any evidence of corruption on his part. Are you saying he enriched himself illegally while serving as president?
You wrote, “Accusing China of “overlooking corruption” in Africa is probably not fair in my opinion.” The Chinese government, because they specified the vendor to be used and the conditions of the loan, didn’t “overlook corruption” but was actively involved in corruption in this particular case. They steered the contract to a company whose president was the Chairman’s son, then this company bribed a local official, then they would not extradite the key figures involved in the bribe. How is that not overlooking corruption?
Look YinYang, I’m not trying to jump on China here, I’m just stating how business is currently done. The Chinese people hate this stuff. The CCP has vowed to get it under control. Rio Tinto executives are being prosecuted for it at this time. To say it doesn’t exist or can be compared to doing business in the developed democracies is simply not accurate. To be honest, the only corruption number on that World Bank list that surprised me was Russia’s. I didn’t realize it was that bad, but I haven’t done business there so that’s my excuse.
@ YinYang #144: You never addressed Raj’s question. He asked you why you disputed the corruption figures. Nothing in your answer addressed that issue. You wrote, “Regarding corruption in politics – but why should the Chinese people be concerned with such a narrow definition? ” Trust me, the people there ARE concerned with corruption, the CCP is concerned with corruption and the business interests that want to sell in the country are concerned with corruption. The people who pay hate paying while the people who receive love receiving. Corruption creates inefficient economies and businesses. In the long run, corruption will definitely affect economic growth. I loved doing business in China with the exception of the corruption.
Charles Liu says
Steve, about the Africa thing – strings with aid isn’t uncommon, both Japan and US put strings like that on their aid. Japanese aid to China must be used to purchase certain Japanese goods/services; in exchange for US aid Iraqi government oil concession is limited to US oil company, etc.
By all accounts China has treated Africa far better than any of the old/contemporary colonial powers.
@ Charles #149: I’ll use Japan as an example and tell you what I’ve seen. Japan grants foreign aid to Chile to build a power plant. The contract is awarded to Mitsubishi Construction Company who designs and constructs the plant using Japanese products, many Japanese managers but mostly Chilean laborers. The Japanese companies then teach the Chilean operators how to run the plant and when finished, hand the plant over to Chile, paid for in full.
So Chile is happy since they now have a brand spankin’ new power plant that cost them nothing. What’s in it for Japan? Well, most of what they spent went to Japanese companies except for most of the labor. However, because the equipment is Japanese, all the future spare parts will be bought in Japan and over the life of the plant, should bring in about 5X the original cost. If the plant decides to expand, they will most likely hire Mitsubishi to do the work since they are familiar with the plant design and did the initial construction. So everyone is happy since Japan basically created business for their own companies and Chile ended up with a paid for, state of the art power plant. Win/win, right? Incidentally, this example actually happened.
The situation in Africa was decidedly different. It would have been fine if the price of the equipment was in line with the going rate, but it was not. It would have been fine if bribes weren’t handed out by the Chinese company.
I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about Iraqi oil contracts. Wasn’t the huge Rumaila oil field recently awarded to BP and China’s CNPC to develop jointly?
@jpan #145 #146, @Ichen, @Steve
Fair warning to Chinese who are not used to Jewish humor, sarcasm and cynicism, e.g., Jon Stewart and myself: What follows is probably humorous, sarcastic and cynical. Oh, and I almost forgot, egotistical! I am far more egotistical than Steve. He is a nice guy, I am not. 😀 ::ROFL::
Jpan (#146), thanks for your lecture, wisdom and caring. One suggestion, courtesy of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You do know who Mahatma Gandhi was, don’t you? 😉 😛
Jpan (#145), do you care to provide some credible examples of Zhang’s assertions?
Patient East Asians and egotistical Jewish are both outstanding businessmen, what a world.
@Steve #141, @yinyang #137 #144
Steve, my grandfather was the businessman and salesman of his immediate family. He came to the US from Russia in the early 1900’s. He had 50 cents in his pocket. Through hard work, good fortune and skill, he eventually owned his own grocery store in Cincinnati, where my father was born.
Jews were not allowed by the German-American-dominated society to have stores in “white WASP” areas. That did not stop my grandfather. He opened a store in an African-American ghetto and was very successful, even during the depression. He worked hard and honestly; my dad worked hard and honestly in the store as a teenager and young adult. My grandfather would not dream of doing what yinyang so carelessly, incredulously accuses 99% of salesman of doing. My grandfather would laugh at yinyang’s ignorance and say to him, “A bi gezunt!” And then some!
My grandfather earned enough money to pay cash for his 400 acre farm, outside of Cincinnati, and give the store to my father after WWII.
My father, who is a master salesman, made enough money in the store to start a refrigeration business. That business was his stepping stone to owning his own shopping center development and management company. And he managed to keep the ownership of more than 40 shopping centers. Quite a feat and one reason I consider him a master businessman, let alone master salesman. My father would have never done any of that horse manure which yinyang mentioned in his 99% remark.
I worked for my father in my early 20’s, before venturing off to msft. My dad had some very good salespeople working for him, and they never would have dreamed of doing that, either.
My dad, when talking about salesmanship would say that anyone could give anything away. But it took a good salesman to sell something for a profit. And my dad was and is a great salesman. And too cheap to give away money to his customers! 😀 Take them out to lunch, sure thing. But give away anything, it is against the Talmud. 😀
yinyang, I am proud of my dad. And if you’re going to make remarks like that, you might have the guts to say it to someone like my dad, in person, face-to-face.
yinyang, you wrote in #144, “For starters, does the World Bank ranking account for results like the fact that the Chinese government has raised hundreds of millions of people out of abject property?” Boy is that a loaded statement.
yinyang, I think poverty sucks. So many Russian Jews had poverty pushed on them for centuries. The Tsars and their minions were relentless and ruthless. So I don’t have a problem with Chinese trying to better their lives. The problem lies with what I consider the Faustian bargain of all times. China destroyed much of its environment in order to solve its poverty issues. It destroyed its environment in a mass destruction over such a short period of time that it beggars belief.
Jacques Leslie wrote a very lengthy article in Mother Jones last year, titled “The Last Empire: China’s Pollution Problem Goes Global”. What an amazing treatise. In that article, he wrote,
If that is so, then China’s “economic miracle” is nothing more than a sham. A giant pyramid scheme.
Why is this damage so important? If you destroy ecosystems or the whole biosystem, you have to replace its life-sustaining functions or you die. The cost of replacing the biosystem’s functions is currently placed at $40 trillion, or $40,000,000,000,000 per year. Let me repeat, $40,000,000,000,000 PER YEAR. That’s a staggering amount of money.
Currently, Global Footprint estimates that, as of 2003, all of us on earth are exceeding the biocapacity of the biosystem by 25% annually. As GF puts it, Ecological Footprint exceeds Biocapacity by over 25% annually, and that figure is increasing annually since 2003.
Here is a short explanation of these terms.
Can you say, “Unsustainable?”
Granted, the West has done their fair share of biosystem destruction, starting principally with the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. But China caught up very quickly in the last 60 years, creating unbelievable environmental destruction in such a short period of time. So nobody is without blame. The issue is what we do about it. Do nothing or not enough, goodbye biosystem.
How long do we have left? Good question. GF estimates possibly 50 years, possibly less. But, who knows?
Charles Liu says
Steve, “The situation in Africa was decidedly different.”
After I showed you the Japanese example you seem to have changed your “specified the vendor to be used”, to something else.
Can you provide some citation on the price thing?
Charles Liu says
Jerry @ 153, “China caught up very quickly in the last 60 years”
Perhaps you can enlighten us on China’s per-capata coal/oil consumption, and how does it compare to average Americans?
Don’t forget to divide China’s consumption by 4, since China has about 4 times as many people as US.
Hi Steve, #148,
Btw, thx for the lengthy post. I thought I let you know I appreciate it. You are a reasonable guy, so in reading your lengthy post, my feeling is my prior posts on this corruption topic were horrible – certainly so in trying to convey my perspectives.
So, I thought I start off with our common ground and then focus on what other nuance I’d like to add. On corruption in the legal sense:
1. We both agree laws need to be enforced consistently. Arbitrary enforcement might actually breed more corruption.
2. Corruption is rampant in China – yes, both according to the Chinese population and the Chinese government at the same time. They have highlighted this as a national priority.
Regarding the World Bank Survey on Governance:
It is interesting in that it shows the people who did the ranking how they thought governance ought to be. My point is given China’s condition, the Chinese government had accomplished all that were achieved in the last few decades, China’s ranking should be at the very top.
Isn’t it totally dependent on how you view priority?
I think my questions to Raj were valid, because he posted the original link. In asking those questions, I thought I was clear in highlighting what I think are the problems with the World Bank Governance ranking. To be more specific, here is one take on governance:
– raising 400 million people out of adject poverty in one generation
– maintained GDP growth of 8-10% in couple of decades
– not much debt
– do not invade other countries
– helped Asia averted a collapse of the regional economy
Are these kind of dimensions taken into account in the World Bank governance rankings?
Reasons I think China’s situation on corruption will improve
1. As more corporations spring up, they will ultimately implement “standards of business conduct.” All employees are bound by such contracts – they spell out exactly what is allowed during business transactions. They are the country’s laws translated in a way that a worker knows what do to in order to avoid breaking corruption laws – for all industries.
To me, this is a huge help in the U.S. to reduce corruption. They bring immediacy in terms of consequences to the worker (ie. loosing a job) in addition to fines and jail time by the justice system.
2. China is transforming into a law based society. I see this transformation continuing. There’s dramatic shortage of legal professionals today. In order for a justice system to function, there has to be enough legal professionals. This will have a dramatic impact on enforcing corruption and other laws.
On the (a) definition of corruption per Webster
There are tons of corruption in the U.S. and other Western countries that is technically legal. My assertion here is its rampant in China, its rampant in the U.S., Europe, and everywhere on this planet – simply because we are humans.
“You talked about lies but lies are deception. Deception is not corruption. It is deception. It’s definitely not a good thing, but it isn’t the subject of these posts.”
I guess I see it differently, Steve. Do you think the World Bank Governance ranking takes lying into account? The “deception” if you will about WMD had a huge impact. For the many Iraqi’s died from the invasion. If not for the lie about WMD, Americans may not have supported the invasion.
One experiment I highly suggest, Steve. Next time you speak with friends or colleagues in China, ask them if paying an expensive dinner to entertain a local government official in hopes he will help expedite a realestate development permit is corruption or not. My guess would be most Chinese in China would consider this corruption.
If indeed the case, then my point about Americans don’t see many things the Chinese view as corruption is correct. Furthermore, your conclusion that corruption in China is rampant because you hear the public complains a lot about it – well, they see this (a) definition also.
If indeed the case, would you agree then this (a) definition is relevant?
Hi Jerry, #53,
Thx for that lenghty post too. It’s getting late for me here, but I did get a chance to read through it just now. I’ll try to respond tomorrow.
Good question Charles. And thanks for the enlightenment. Yes, per capita figures are higher for the West. And, yes, China is the largest emitter of CO2. And, yes, the 10 worst polluted cities on Earth are in China, according to Forbes in 2006. And, no, I did not bother to go to your links.
Let me answer your questions with information from Global Footprint Network.
Last year, I reprinted parts of the 2006 Living Planet report from WWF and Global Footprint Network. Here are portions.
In 1961, Earth’s population was 3.08 billion people. Ecological Footprint (EF) was 4.5 billion global hectares (gha) versus Biocapacity (BC) of 9 billion gha. A 50% surplus of BC. By 2003, the population was 6.3 billion people. Ecological Footprint (EF) was 14.1 billion gha versus Biocapacity (BC) of 11.2 billion gha. EF has overshot BC by 25%. Essentially, what we have is “deficit spending.” On a global basis. (for a short explanation on EF and BC, please see my explanation in #153)
In 2003, here are selected countries and continents
• US, with a population of 294 million, had an EF of 9.6 gha per person and BC of 4.7 gha per person.
• Japan, with 127 million, had an EF of 4.4 gha per person and BC of 0.7 gha per person.
• China, with 1.311 billion, had an EF of 1.6 gha per person and BC of 0.8 gha per person.
• EU, with a population of 454 million people, had an EF of 4.8 gha per person, and BC of 2.2 gha per person.
• Africa, with a population of 847 million people, had an EF of 1.1 gha per person, and BC of 1.3 gha per person (surplus BC).
• Latin America, with a population of 535 million people, had an EF of 2.0 gha per person, and BC of 5.4 gha per person (50+% surplus of BC).
Here are the Biocapacity (BC) surplus/deficit totals per country/area. The measure is in total BC global hectare (gha) surplus (deficit), worst to best. For instance, the US’s deficit is calculated by taking the per capita BC deficit and multiplying by the US Population. EF is 9.6 gha, BC is 4.7 gha leading to a per capita deficit of 4.9 gha. Multiply (4.9) gha times the population of 294 million and you get a deficit, (1,440,600,000) gha. I am using “()” to indicate deficit. No “()” indicates a surplus.
In 2008, WWF did a follow-up report on Asia and China. From 1961 to 2003, China, Japan, the EU, and USA showed significant growth in the overshoot of biocapacity.
Reports and information are out at Global Footprint Network.
Since the late 1980s, we have been in overshoot – the Ecological Footprint has exceeded the Earth’s biocapacity – as of 2003 by about 25 per cent. Effectively, the Earth’s regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand – people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.
People can argue with each other about which is more important: global statistics, per capita statistics, the West is causing the problem, China is causing the problem, country statistics, provincial statistics, yada, yada, yada!
These arguments will pale in comparison to the wars over the remaining resources as we near collapse of individual ecosystems or the whole biosystem (If I were in Latin America, I might start investing in a strong military. 😉 ). As the ecosystems and biosystem near collapse, your body will start screaming at you. Your progeny will be screaming at you because you failed to solve the problems which they will be inheriting. Pretty ugly. I just hope, as I near 60, that I will not be around then. I don’t know?
Charles Liu says
Jerry, what you said is is precisely what others have taked about regarding “propaganda”:
– You are faulting China simply because it has more people. All those people should hold their breath so they don’t put out more CO2 collectively? You continue to cite figures without diving by 4 – why not be honest and see the true effect of 5% of the world’s population consuming 25% of the world’s resources? There’s our “overshoot”, not China/India finally usig its fair share of the world’s resouces.
– The develpoed world is largely responsible for the world’s pollution for the last 100 years. So now we’ve had ours they can’t have theirs? As the Kyoto Protocol stated, more burden should be on developed nations out of fairness.
– Your “60 years” don’t jive with “Since the late 1980s”, as 60 years ago China barely emerged from civil war and was not industrialized. Only the last 20-30 years has China started consuming energy, largely to manufacture goods for the rest of the world. China’s trade pattern proves this fact. Again if you want to talk about who is consuming the energy, and responsible for the pollution as result, it not China.
– What China’s cities are going thru, as part of their modernization, is no worse than what our own polluted cites in the past have experienced. Again, now that we’ve become developed, cleaned up our messes, we feel we can point finger at China?
If you find faulting China is emotionally satisfying, go ahead. Just realize you are perpetuating the propaganda that’s crammed down your throat.
@Jerry: No one knows whether it’s technically possible to modernize a country with 1.3 billion population without total destruction of its(or that of the whole earth’s) environment. There is no precedence here. The rise to power of US of A, a country with about 300 million population, has cost nearly all of earth’s oil reserves. And yes, besides Chinese, there’re still billions of people living in poverty in Africa, India, etc.
Hi Jerry, #153,
Your grandfather should be a poster child for those feeling disenfranchised in this world on how success can be achieved starting out with nothing.
“My grandfather would not dream of doing what yinyang so carelessly, incredulously accuses 99% of salesman of doing. My grandfather would laugh at yinyang’s ignorance and say to him, “A bi gezunt!” And then some!”
Taking this personally isn’t it? Please see my post regarding the (a) Webster definition – comment #156.
“yinyang, I am proud of my dad. And if you’re going to make remarks like that, you might have the guts to say it to someone like my dad, in person, face-to-face.”
Personally, I simply have more respect for older people, so I am not going to collapse this nonsense.
Regarding the World Bank Governance ranking
Don’t you think that’s a loaded ranking? You don’t see how ridiculous it is to begin with?
Regarding Jacques Leslie – China’s GDP growth a “sham”
Do you think China’s GDP growth is a sham?
Was U.S.’s GDP growth a sham all along due to the amount of environmental destruction it laid in the last 100 years?
If you read China’s position on Climate Change – they agree it is a top priority. They do not deny the fact that China is contributing a great deal towards environmental destruction today. But lets take a look at actions:
1. China is spending $600 billion on green tech
2. U.S. is spending $50 billion on green tech
For the developed countries who did the majority of damage to planet earth so far, are they stepping up to deal with that fact?
So, again, which country has better governance?
@ YinYang #156: Thanks for your reply. Since we typically agree on most things, I figured there was some kind of disconnect here and I might have figured it out.
World Bank Survey on Governance: I wasn’t referring to this at all, I was only referring to the World Bank figures on corruption, which seemed pretty accurate as compared to my personal experience. Personally, I think the China government did a horrible job for the first 30 years and an excellent one for the next 30. Since Deng was involved in the government from the very beginning, I don’t think anyone can blame him for the first 30 years. You wrote:
– raising 400 million people out of abject poverty in one generation – This is where I disagree not only about China but about USA and every other nation. The CCP didn’t raise 400 million out of poverty, the Chinese people themselves did so. All a government can do is create conditions for the people to be successful. This is that old “we’re parents and you’re children” nonsense. The government should be given great credit for creating those conditions, but not credit for the actual growth.
– maintained GDP growth of 8-10% in couple of decades – Regardless of what the actual numbers are (they’re probably inflated a bit), the growth has been fantastic, terrific, unbelievable and to use that ubiquitous American word, AWESOME!! 😉
– not much debt – True. The key figure for debt is how it relates to savings. The savings rate in China is so high that debit can be absorbed without borrowing, similar to the situation in Japan. However, that high savings rate means that people aren’t spending money and growing the domestic economy.
– do not invade other countries – True, not since Vietnam.
– helped Asia avert a collapse of the regional economy – This one is iffy. China was concerned about averting a collapse of its own economy. That’s all the government was concerned about. If it helped avert a pan-Asian meltdown, that was a bonus. Actually, the countries least affected by the current economic slowdown are the ones with the most undervalued currencies.
Reasons I think China’s situation on corruption will improve
1- I disagree with you on this one. Corporations have one abiding interest, to maximize profits to their shareholders. If they can get away with corruption, they’ll engage in corruption. There are all kinds of historical precedents for this. “Standards of business conduct” are instituted to protect the corporation from litigation and to protect the shareholders. If a corporation engages in corruption and is caught, it can seriously affect profits and stock value in American society. Unless those conditions exist in China, there is no reason to do the same. In fact, corporations that don’t engage in corruption can lose business and lower profits, thereby losing money for the stockholders. Until the penalty exceeds the reward, this won’t change.
2- I don’t see this all that much. Right now law enforcement is arbitrary over there. The only protection against arbitrary law enforcement is the traditional one, guanxi. There’s been talk but from what I’ve seen, little action concerning this. I think they still have a long way to go. But because of this, it would be premature to have too much political reform until, as Raj has said, the institutions of law are functioning properly. That’s why I believe the slow, steady route of reform is the best for China. Sudden changes would bring chaos.
Corruption: You want to also include Webster’s (a) definition – impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle : depravity.
I still see this definition as applying to personal conduct. As to your point per Bush’s lying about WMD’s, that illustrates the value of elections, open government and democracy. What transpired to the Republican party after all that came out? First they lost the House, then the Senate and then the Presidency. Right now the Democrats have veto proof majorities, which is very rare in American history.
Now what happens if a one party autocratic government lies about WMD’s? They don’t allow any press coverage for their citizens, a few lower officials get fired for it, none of the major figures get sacked and life goes on as usual, regardless of what the people think. There is no outlet for their anger because officials want to protect their position.
You wrote, “Next time you speak with friends or colleagues in China, ask them if paying an expensive dinner to entertain a local government official in hopes he will help expedite a realestate development permit is corruption or not. My guess would be most Chinese in China would consider this corruption.”
I agree with you, and would also say that if the individual I was talking with suddenly needed to expedite a real estate development permit, they’d hold their noses and do the same thing. They would say that they had to do it since it was the only way possible to expedite their permit. They would be victims of the system. They would also say the government official was corrupt but be far more lenient with the person wanting the permit.
I’ll give you an example. Say I wanted to get a chemical storage permit in Pudong because I was a high purity chemical manufacturer wanting to sell in China. I would not be competitive without that permit. Chemical storage permits are some of the most difficult to obtain in China, typically taking three years or longer. I don’t want to wait three years in order to get business, so what do I do?
I hire a Chinese consultant to help me expedite the permit. I pay him directly into his Hong Kong bank account. He takes local RMB and uses it to entertain the appropriate government officials with whom he has guanxi and handles all the “gifts”. By so doing, he has successfully laundered money out of the country. My books show that I paid the Chinese guy a consultant fee. At some point in this process, I’ll probably give a banquet arranged by my consultant that will be extremely elaborate, and then we all go to a special KTV to spend the night creating trust. My permit is approved in six months.
Is this corruption or is this the way to do business there? From a corporate point of view, I spent a pretty penny to pay for the consultant but my return was 2.5 years of chemical business that I would not have had. That’s a pretty good return, isn’t it?
YinYang, what I’m trying to illustrate with real world examples is that until those government officials are reined in, there’s not much hope for cleaning up the corruption. If I read classic Chinese literature such as Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢,红楼梦), Water Margin (水滸傳, 水浒传) and The Golden Lotus (金瓶梅), these same corruption themes appear again and again. There is an historic and cultural component to this that will be hard to flush out. I’m not blaming the CCP for this behavior, I think it goes back well beyond their time in office. But I can’t see how a one party government can successfully control corruption without having checks and balances, an open press to expose it, and an independent judiciary to pass judgment. Maybe it can be done. If it can, more power to whoever figures out how to do so.
Charles Liu says
Just to be clear on the numbers Jerry cited in 158, here’s the true comparison between one Chinese and one American:
Ecolongical Footprint: US – 9.6 gha per person, China – 4.4 gha per person
(An American consums, and pollutes twice as much as a Chinese)
Over-consumption in relations to Bio Capacity: US – 4.9 gha per person, China – 0.8 gha per person
(An American over-consums, and over-polluts SIX TIMES more than a Chinese)
This is the current states. Another figure people should take a honest look – who is responsible for all the pollution in the last 100 years?
We indeed agree typically. Looking back, I think that was it – the figure you showed were on corruption component with respect to governance. Honestly, I tried accessing the site, but I haven’t gotten Java installed so I couldn’t see any of the stats.
Fair enough on everything you say. Also, you have expanded my view on this topic. So the energy we’ve spent on this topic has been fruitful – for me at least.
I think the main difference is on how we see the situation improving in China. Linking back to the original topic – Zhang Weiwei’s point about economic development first. I still see “standards of business of conduct” having a huge impact. I agree with you the officials need to be reigned in somehow by the system – that’d be the top down approach in my mind. With the growth of economics and springing up of corporations, it will necessitate continued legal reforms and enforcement.
My feeling is the U.S. and other developed countries all went through a similar phase.
On Bush’s lying about WMD – I agree with you it had a big impact domestically within the U.S.. But I also think you are not denying the fact that insane destruction was brought on to the Iraqi’s. There is not much reflection on the destruction angle in the U.S., and I am not certain this is a lesson learned by the American public.
Finally, on a one party system – I am hopeful of the vision put forth by China as explained in Zhang Weiwei NYT Op-ed(per link from jpan, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/01/opinion/01iht-edzhang.html?hpw).
Hi Charles Liu, #163,
Thx for that analysis. Even for the Chinese government – I heard on NPR yesterday – their stance has shifted away from blaming the developed countries. While that is an important consideration for future climate change reduction treaties, China is trying to take a responsible approach to addressing this problem.
I also sensed on the NPR program – many U.S. experts are taking a much more nuanced view on this topic. The other U.S. media is annoying as usual. But if them thinking preaching ignorance helps them with their business, so be it.
Charles Liu says
yinyang @ 154, “There is not much reflection on the destruction angle in the U.S”
What’s even less reflected on is the corruption that went on. All those contract irregularities, “sweetheart deal” bid fixing, overpayment, they were pretty much all Cheney and Bush friends in the oil and logistics business.
And corruption of this magnitude unmatched in China, is not mere “anomoly” as some say. Collusion and arbritary transfer of private wealth by US government is also something that occured during the banking meltdown and now swept under the rug.
For example the FDIC seisure of Washington Mutual and liquidation of WAMU to JP Morgan litterally pennies on the dollar is one the biggest bank robbery that occured in US, yet there’s no media scrutiny.
Dawang, you quoted again Zhang Weiwei’s NYT article. And also in your and Charles Liu’s contributions you brought many examples, which I read with great interest.
Now, in the first point, “seeking truth from facts” is quoted as “rather than ideological dogmas ” but that is not the whole story. The 17th century “enlightenment” success story of Europe was not only accepting the facts but also explaining them. This is the most efficient method for future decisions. Listing and counting examples alone will not help you to find the truth. So naming nations which have democracy before modernization is not necessarily a proof. But analyzing the benefits is (and that is not an ideology) and rather the way a”science-trained engineers” would do (I wrote similar in 132). “don’t trust any statistics which you did not tweak by yourself” (this is a cynical statement which I can explain on demand)
Second point “Primacy of people’s livelihood”. Lets limit to the poor within a country. Again, not the complete picture. Zhang quotes the West and means America. Some people argue that the poor there are a result of the challenging economic system, which makes the U.S. number 1 in the world. Or in simplified arguments: there are less poor in European countries, as the poor can rely on the social nets, which, on the other hand makes them lazy.
“The importance of holistic thinking”. It would be unfair to call non-Chinese governments non-holistic, like “in contrast to the populist, short-term politics “.
“Government as a necessary virtue”. Again mainly compare to America, actually more the republican’s point of view. Some regards Switzerland as an ideal country, but there the government is also seen as a necessary evil. And a similar argument like in point 2 could be made. Also, Taiwan’s success, for example, is accounted for its entrepreneurship, which is usually flourished with a “government light” approach. He does not really bring a good argument for a strong government, but just support its one-party rule.
“Good governance matters more than democratization”: it is the topic of this discussion, but the argument Zhangs brings are questionable as China also had big room for improvement. In other words The number one can not get better than the number one.
“Performance legitimacy”. And “China’s leaders are competent, sophisticated and well-tested at different levels of responsibility”. And in the future? Who guards the guardians? See Corruption discussion above, but also Zhang’s remark about concerns.
“Selective learning and adaptation” unfair if you would call that China specific. I read a translation of Yi Ying too, just joking.
“Harmony in diversity”. and “Western-style adversary politics”. In China Daily someone argued it is more the Buddhism than the “Confucian ideal”, which sound to me more reasonable too. Although I am still afraid of the tiny chance, China attacking Taiwan, I would agree that China is seeking ” Harmony in diversity”
He ends writing “Deng’s famous phrase, to “emancipate the mind” and learn a bit more about or even from China’s big ideas”
To close, you wrote “I am hopeful of the vision put forth by China as explained in Zhang Weiwei NYT ” which I share, but add, that they should not reject an “analysis approach” and with that exploit the advantages of a democratic system.
@Charles Liu #159
“Jerry, what you said is is precisely what others have taked about regarding “propaganda”:”
Charles, I am a scientist. As such, I look at the data. I report the data. Coming from a Russian Jewish family, I tend to look at this data with cold, hard eyes. It may be egotistical on my part, but Russian Jews have had to deal with more cold, hard facts than most of the goyim can ever imagine. And I am not faulting China for having a large population; I am reporting data. If the mere publishing of data is “faulting” then I plead guilty. I will leave the propaganda in more capable hands like yours. You wish to twist the publishing of data into the promulgation of propaganda. Wake up, Charles, it is just data. The increase in population since 1961 has played a major role in stressing our ecosystems and the entire biosystem to a point of potential or near failure.
As I stated earlier, “Yes, per capita figures are higher for the West. And, yes, China is the largest emitter of CO2. And, yes, the 10 worst polluted cities on Earth are in China, according to Forbes in 2006. And, no, I did not bother to go to your links.” All true.
Here is the data on annual per capita Biocapacity surplus/deficit (as measured in gha) for each country/area.
While we are at it, here is the data on raw Biocapacity per capita for each country/area.
I am not trying to hide American or Western data. As a scientist, I look at the big picture, not just the part which delights me, like some people here at FM.
Regarding environmental destruction in China, it started long before the industrialization. Quoting from University of Michigan report titled “The Increasing Costs of Development: Threat’s to China’s Biodiversity”:
We can play the blame game here, ad infinitum, which is intrinsically boring to me. There is so much blame and culpability for the current condition of today’s ecosystems and the entire biosystem. Everybody, pretty much, has had a hand in this.
As I said before, “Effectively, the Earth’s regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand – people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.” Ignore this, we all die, regardless of who is to blame. Or maybe we will get lucky.
I also said:
@ Charles #159 & 163: I think you’re being unfair to Jerry. He never said he was faulting China, he just gave specific numbers on ecological damage for different countries, unions and continents. China’s numbers are China’s numbers, and in the key statistic they are #3 while the US is #1. So Jerry has rightly pointed out that at this time, the United States is most at fault per these statistics.
I want to look at the numbers that were given in a more realistic way. What I mean by that is rather than manipulate statistics to “prove” or “disprove” a point, let’s try to find what the numbers really mean and which ones are significant.
The earth is a closed loop system, as we say in the engineering world. That means it is self contained with finite resources. Those resources can replenish themselves at a given rate. The key is not to use them faster than they can replenish themselves. If you do so, the earth runs a deficit. As Jerry more aptly put it, “Effectively, the Earth’s regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand – people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.”
So what are the controlling factors? There are three:
2- Ecological footprint per capita
A combination of those three factors created the charts Jerry referenced.
Now let’s take a look at each one individually.
Biocapacity – This is a finite resource with a relatively stable number. New resources can be discovered to increase this number, but aspects such as desertification can also lower it. Each nation or region has a defined biocapacity. For the purposes of this discussion, and because Charles has already done a comparison, let’s just look at the United States and China. Both nations have approximately the same land area and are both rich in natural resources. The US has a biocapacity per Jerry’s figures of 1,381,800,000. China’s biocapacity is 1,048,800,000, a lower number so in this case the US has a reasonable advantage.
Ecological Footprint per capita – USA at 9.6 gha while China is at 1.6 gha, big difference per capita!
Population: USA at 294 million while China is at 1.311 billion, big difference!
Since we already know that biocapacity is a relatively stable number, for the sake of argument we’ll call it a mathematical constant.
Ecological footprints can be increased or reduced. CO2 reduction is all about reducing the ecological footprint. Using less energy, less resources, less material, all can lead to a lower ecological footprint. The US number is far too high so we can say that the US is guilty of ecological footprint abuse. Here I completely agree with Charles (and Jerry).
Population: This is another controllable number. Population per land area has a direct bearing on pollution and ecological footprint. People pollute; it’s as simple as that. Poor people pollute less than rich ones, but all people pollute to some degree and all leave an ecological footprint. To simply ignore this factor or do what Charles did, which was to consider it to be irrelevant to the ecological footprint, is inaccurate and misleading.
With both countries having a land mass of approximately the same size but with the USA having an additional 333,000,000 in biocapacity, the US has the ability to absorb more pollution per total population than China does. However, the US has an EF that is SIX TIMES LARGER than China!
Looking at our third factor, China has a population that is approximately 4.46 TIMES LARGER than the US!
The numbers that actually matter are the biocapacity deficits:
1 – USA = (1,440,600,000) gha
3 – China = (1,048,800,000) gha
The US biocapacity deficit is 27.2% higher than China. That’s the bottom line. The US is responsible for its ecological footprint and China is responsible for its population. Both contribute directly the the total EC and because the BC is a constant, the only way to achieve ecological balance is to lower one or both. At this point in time, the US would need to lower it’s EC by 27.2% just to get to a level playing field with China, so I can understand China’s point in this regard. However, China is industrializing at a rapid rate with its EC increase at an enormous rate. China must figure out how to slow it’s EC growth while the US must figure out how to lower its number.
However, to say that population should not be a factor is absurd! It IS a factor and a mighty big one. To say Jerry was faulting China is ridiculous. He was faulting everyone who was running a deficit. Jerry is and has always been an equal opportunity critic. Charles, you owe him an apology for what you wrote which misrepresented his position.
Comparing today’s pollution to what happened a hundred years ago is a red herring. The world could absorb EC back then so it didn’t affect the ecological balance to any great degree. Technology back then was limited and unsophisticated, and the means to control pollution didn’t exist. Total world population was much, much lower. So the choice is, do you want to win the argument and kill yourself in the process? That’s the classical definition of a Pyrrhic victory.
Charles, let me ask you a few rhetorical questions. Do you own a car? Do you fill it with gas? Is your house heated? Is it air conditioned? Do you own any electronic devices? How many? Do you own a refrigerator? A TV? A microwave? A DVD player? A computer or three? How many other electrical devices do you own? How big is your house? Do you really need a house that large to live? What is YOUR ecological footprint????
Do you think if given the chance, every Chinese family would choose to own all the things you do? If they had the money, would they own more? How about wealthy people in China? Do they live in big houses? Drive big cars with low mileage? Have lots of electronic gadgets that use power? What is THEIR ecological footprint?
What Jerry is trying to get at here is that this isn’t a win/lose argument. This is a lose/lose argument. The earth is a closed loop system. Nothing can be added or subtracted. What one country does affects all countries. The US should be conserving energy at a MUCH greater rate! China should have a MUCH lower population. If the US continues to waste resources, the world is in trouble. If China doesn’t lower its population dramatically, the world is in trouble. Same for India and its population. Pollution and world resource depletion cross borders. Pollution and resource depletion don’t care about politics or treaties. They are equal opportunity killers.
P.S. I should note that though I made biocapacity a constant, in China that number is actually decreasing because of a number of factors, most obviously deforestation, desertification and pollution. So actually all three areas are being affected and can be changed by human endeavor.
S.K. Cheung says
To yinyang #93:
“Which side is most “information blocked?” I’d say the “West.”” — information – “deprived”, perhaps. But certainly not blocked, unless you are using a very different definition of “blocked” than I am.
if someone isn’t familiar with how Stewart/Colbert roll, IMO that’s their loss.
Recently I believe it was a UN panel that gave props to China for her environmental efforts. Canada was figuratively taken out back and beaten with a spoon…not a proud moment for this Canadian…thanks a lot Mr. Harper.
But I don’t understand the fixation of what this or that developed country did in the last 100 years in terms of environmental footprint as some justification for what a developing country should or should not be allowed to do now. We live in the now (hopefully) with a view to the future. Whining about who did what in 1909 is akin to crying over spilled milk, and likely similarly productive. The reality of 2009 is much different from the reality of 1909. That notwithstanding, people still like the “well, the US did it, so China should get to do it too” philosophy. Perhaps it’s not a hundred years old, but it certainly harkens back to the last year and a half when I’ve asked whether such a sharing of philosophies would apply to such nuisances as democratization and rule of law.
Charles Liu says
Jerry, please read what you wrote in 153, which clearly blamed China:
– “But China caught up very quickly in the last 60 years, creating unbelievable environmental destruction in such a short period of time.”
Your insinuation that China has been increasing it’s pollution for 60 years is simply false. While the fact is developed world is responsible for vast majority of pollution in the last 100 years. China’s increased consumption in the last 20-30 years is to manufacture goods we ultimately consume.
– “China’s “economic miracle” is nothing more than a sham.”
Then you go ahead and placed 40 trillion a year on China – while the fact is we are the ones responsible for what is happening. We, the 5% of that’s consuming 25% of the world’s resource.
– You cite deforestation, something we have recovered from ourselves, as if the Chiese is incable of reforestation? Here’re some references in China’s reforestation effort:
– “Everybody, pretty much, has had a hand in this.”
Again, you choose to blame China and ignore the fact our industrialized hands played a far larger role in destruction of our environment than China or India.
@ Charles: I don’t understand what you’re talking about:
“But China caught up very quickly in the last 60 years, creating unbelievable environmental destruction in such a short period of time.” That’s true.
“China’s “economic miracle” is nothing more than a sham.” Per his numbers, this is a valid argument. I personally have a different viewpoint than he does but this is consistent with everything he previously said.
You wrote, “Your insinuation that China has been increasing it’s pollution for 60 years is simply false.” It’s not false; it’s true. Not only is it true, but the Chinese government doesn’t deny it. Why do you?
What Jerry “put on China” he also put on the US and the EU. Look at the numbers. You’re trying to make this into a “China vs. USA” game while no one else is doing so. What Jerry said was “a pox on both your houses”. He wasn’t making a political argument, he was making a scientific argument. You’re the one that keeps trying to make this political. You’re way off base here.
S.K. Cheung says
sometimes I wonder how you cope with the fact that you’re waking up in the morning in the SF bay area, when clearly you would seem more at peace on the other side of the pond.
Charles Liu says
Steve, Jerry stated China “caught up very quickly”, while the fact is China is far from catching up to the developed nations on pollution, both in terms of current states, as well as cumulative effect of pollution over the last 100 years.
BYW, are you going to moderate SKC’s off-topic, ad hominon comment direct at me personally?
@Charles Liu #171, @Steve, @S.K. Cheung
Steve and SK, thanks for your kind comments.
Charles, you said:
“Then you go ahead and placed 40 trillion a year on China – while the fact is we are the ones responsible for what is happening. We, the 5% of that’s consuming 25% of the world’s resource.”
I am sorry if I created a misimpression here; I did not intend to. I am merely talking about the current estimated cost of replacing the life-sustaining functions of the biosystem, should it ever collapse. The actual number may be $30 trillion or $50 trillion. I am not saying that China has to foot the bill, in the event of biosystem collapse. Hopefully, it will never come to pass. If it does come to pass, somebody else, or rather, a whole lot of somebodies will have to figure out who pays what.
The point is very important; please allow me to reiterate what I said earlier.
And I will repeat this until hell freezes over. The blame game is both boring and immaterial. I don’t care.
As I keep saying:
Please note, Charles, I said “people”, not “Chinese people”. The devil is in the details.
Again, Steve and SK, thanks for your kind comments.
S.K. Cheung says
you should check out the last paragraph of #170 as well…written specifically with folks like you in mind.
As for #173:
a. it’s not an attack; just a question.
b. it’s a natural extension of your general thrust today on this thread and others, which seems to be “US bad; China good”. I seem to recall elsewhere that you were all for natural extensions of discussions. That seems to be your general thrust everyday, so if you’re wondering why I ask this question today and not some other day…well, you got me.
real name says
“Regarding environmental destruction in China, it started long before the industrialization.”
i can recommend Mark Elvin The Retreat of the Elephants. An Environmental History of China
Hi Steve, Jerry, S.K. Cheung, Charles,
Guys – this discussion about biocap, eco footprint/capita, and population is actually very interesting.
I urge restraint. S.K. Cheung – #173 is an attack.
Steve #169 – (minus the Charles comments) – a lot of very interesting points in there! Makes me wonder – will all the countries with less than 1 million in population band together and say, hey, you overpopulated countries, cut back! Or esle! lol.
I think there is wide acceptance within the diplomatic community (U.S., E.U., Asia, etc) that the developed countries have done way more cumulative damage to this planet than the developing countries. There is consensus that developed countries need to do more relative to developing countries. That’s already partly reflected in the existing climate change treaties.
So, Charles, I think your observations are indeed being accounted for on the global stage. Based on what I heard on NPR couple of days ago on climate change – my feeling is a good portion of the West understand this.
During Steve and my interview with Robert Compton, he told us that China in last year invested $600billion on green tech, whereas the Obama budget was only $50billion or something close to it for green tech. This is a clear indication on priorities between the two countries in this area. Also, Compton mentioned that China’s pollution is still accelerating, which I think is also true. (In China’s case, I think its viewed more as survival.)
Regardless of what, I think patents related to fighting pollution are going to become more and more valuable. Like the energy, transport, etc industries, anti-pollution could be just as big within our life times. Within our lifetime, we might see the West getting upset at Chinese citizens thinking they are green tech IP pirates! 🙂
Hi real name, #177,
Thx for the heads up on that book. I just read Amazon’s description – sounds really interesting. Would you recommend us adding it to the store?
real name says
you can get overview at google books – but paper(back) is paper(back)
(i found yalepress book was out of print, author’s note from may 2009: still in print in the paperback edition. I bought one yesterday for a friend at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford)
btw. it contains also many non-environmental parts like chapter 8
Charles Liu says
yinyang, “I urge restraint. S.K. Cheung – #173 is an attack.”
Thank you. What SKC wrote is the same old “hate America? get out” line bigots have been using for a long time, except here it’s been spouted by a person that is not white. Quite amusing actually.
Just for the record, my “thrust” has always being introspection and self-criticism, something I find absent with some folks.
If nothing else, introspection is something the Chinese should learn from us. For example, when they look at our free media and see baised reporting, finger pointing, demonization – of course they have no impetus to change their media – it’s already that.
And Steve, I don’t want to pick on you, but ignoring our own transgression by calling cumulative effect of pollution “red herring” is not honest discusstion. This is a fact that’s spelled out in Kyoto Protocol – why do you think Bush didn’t sign Kyoto?
This is my first time on the blog since last night.
@ SKC: I’d also classify that as an ad hominem attack on Charles, especially since you added nothing to the blog discussion. Charles would not be more at peace on the other side of the pond or I’m sure he’d be living there already.
@ Charles #174: I think you’re playing semantics here. China has caught and surpassed everyone in CO2 emissions, has many of the most polluted cities in the world, has the most polluted drinking water in the world and the fastest EF growth in the world. On overall pollution, you’re correct. Cumulative pollution from 100 years ago is irrelevant to present biocapacity degradation.
You wrote, “And Steve, I don’t want to pick on you, but ignoring our own transgression by calling cumulative effect of pollution “red herring” is not honest discussion.”
Jerry’s post is not about the Kyoto Protocols so it actually IS a red herring. The cumulative effect of pollution only matters from the time it passed equilibrium. Per Jerry’s numbers, it must have passed equilibrium before 2003 but I’m not sure of the exact year. From that year to now is when the numbers start counting.
Charles, this is a scientific discussion, not a political one. The Kyoto Protocols were a political discussion about scientific matters. There’s a big difference. As far as reining in pollution and keeping their ecological footprint under control, the only country that has done a good job is Japan but because they have such a large population compared to biocapacity, even they are running a deficit. The USA has done a terrible job, especially during the Bush years. The EU has done a terrible job. China has done a terrible job. The numbers are pretty clear.
@ real name #177: I also read the Amazon description and will look for it in my local bookstores. Sounds very interesting, thanks!
@ YinYang #178: Those were rhetorical questions. I’m just as guilty as everyone else, except that I don’t have air conditioning in my house but that’s only because I live close to the ocean. I’m sure when my TV goers kaput, I’ll buy a flat panel HD one, though I don’t watch much TV as it is.
I’m not asking the Chinese people to go without while developed countries buy whatever they want. I think it is impractical to force people to give up certain conveniences but we can certainly conserve more, increase average mileage ratings, insulate our houses better, use cleaner technologies, conserve water and keep our air and water from being polluted. In the USA, why are cars that get horrible mileage even allowed on the road? Rather than MPG ratings, why not have mandatory horsepower to weight ratios? Today’s family Taurus has more horsepower and can go from 0-60 MPH faster than a 1960 Corvette. Why is that necessary? All it does is lower gas mileage and encourage road rage.
In China, what good is pollution control equipment if it isn’t turned on after being installed because it uses power which lowers profit margins? What good are environmental regulations if all it takes is bribing a few local officials to avoid enforcement? Why aren’t new coal fired plants using the latest technology to lower SO2 emissions?
You’ll never hear me criticize the one child policy in China. I think it was absolutely necessary to fix the problem. Imagine if today’s population was 2 billion rather than 1.3 billion? I just hope it continues for a few more decades so the population continues to lower. China can never be a truly developed country until the population can live within the limits of its biocapacity. The US can never be considered responsible until it can create a reasonable EF.
Hi Steve, Charles – re “red herring,”
I think Steve does make a point in that comment #169. 100 years ago, the planet probably could have absorbed the pollution human beings were putting out and with the then population. China, North America, and everywhere around the world, when the gas chain saw was invented, deforestation went nuts. So, if you lump environmental damage to include deforestation (which I agree), it was done by everyone. But if you look at CO2 emissions and consumption, the developed countries are pathetically bad – which is agreed by all of us.
I also agree with Steve that there was no technology to “fix” pollution back then. We didn’t have the science to understand what was happening from pollution. Now we do.
So, I think the common ground we all would agree is that pollution is a pressing problem and that the world needs to work its best they can to combat it.
Whether it was 2003 or 1950 as the “breaking” point, the fact is those contributing towards the breaking point need to take responsibility. On this, I think there is general consensus.
Charles – I’ll say that Steve is one of the most fairest guys you can find. I’ll attest personally too. So, I simply say that please tolerate differing perspectives. You know too that in the U.S. the anti-abortion camp vs. the abortion camp exist. The best solution is to tolerate the fact that people have different views. I am often guilty of not being tolerant. So it is indeed hard.
Charles Liu says
yinyang, “the world needs to work its best they can to combat it”
Agree, China should do it’s part, but I disagree with the statement “China has caught and surpassed everyone in CO2 emissions” – each Chinese person deserves as much as anyone else, to not view the number in per-capata term basically discount them as something less than a human. And large part of their energy use is even to make goods us, the ultimate consumer and polluter.
If China’s total CO2 output is divided by 4 when compared to ourselves, China’s per-capata CO2 output is less than 1/3 (27%) of US. Yet all I hear in our media is how China has surpassed US, they’re tipping the scale, killing us all, blah, blah, blah.
The scientific numbers show China has not caught up at all. The simple fact 5% of the world’s population is conuming 25% of the world’s resource shows we are the problem, not them.
Hi Charles, #186
For less populated countries, they’d argue you shouldn’t produce as many children. There is some validity in that – but not fully valid.
Like you, I am really annoyed at popular media that is so blatantly ignorant. To me, that’s more to the detriment to the public they influence.
The fact that China has committed $600billion is very encouraging. The more “teamwork” we can help cultivate around addressing this problem, the better. The more we highlight each countries faults, the less likely we solve the problem.
U.S. and China have to step up and help lead us out of this problem. There will be detractors in U.S. and in China, but I would say there are lot more wanting to see these two countries step up and tackle the problem together. I’d like to support this idea.
S.K. Cheung says
To Steve #182:
the only thing I can be sure of is that I’m happier on this side of the pond than I would be on the other, given current circumstances. In x number of years, if/when China has hit the various nebulous modernization/democratization triggers and enacted upon her oft-mentioned but seldom-defined model of democracy…well, I’ll cross that bridge when it’s built. As for others, to each their own, I suppose. I’ll leave the navel-gazing (or inward gazing) to those in more dire need of such pursuits.
Speaking of which….
To Charles #186:
“And large part of their energy use is even to make goods us, the ultimate consumer and polluter.” — first of all, did someone force China to take on this altruistic stance? Or do you think there’s something in it for her too? Energy used is energy used. If China chooses to use energy purportedly for someone else’s benefit…well, that’s her choice too. But it’s better to own up to it, and do something about it as she seems to be doing, rather than hiding behind long division with the 1.3b denominator.
“If China’s total CO2 output is divided by 4 when compared to ourselves,…” — too bad the earth’s carrying capacity for pollutants doesn’t go by “per-capita”. If China’s putting out more CO2, then she’s putting out more CO2. That’s about as open and shut as they come, with or without the wistful gazes at one’s own midsection. It’s funny, and ironic, that when you go on and on about variations of “carbon-intensity”, you sound like you’re taking a page right out of the Bush playbook.
“we are the problem, not them.” —ummm, last I checked, it’s everybody’s problem. You seem to not have taken Jerry’s advice of avoiding the blame game to heart.
@S.K.Cheung # 188: That’ all well said, except that a little bit technical assistance in carbon-reduction and environmental technology form the West without charging billions for the patent will be so much more helpful, as you have said, it’s everybody’s problem, so everyone should do what he/she can to share some burden. And yes, China still should reduce its emission even when millions of Americans still leave their office without turning off the light everyday and still heat their offices during the winter to the extent that it feels even warmer than in summer to stay in them. (That’s our American way of life! You can’t deprive us of our freedom to wear T-shirt and mini-skirt during the winter!) But it’s definitely a little bit discouraging for Chinese to see this, isn’t it?
real name says
“I just hope it continues for a few more decades so the population continues to lower.”
do you know any significant decline is planned?
Hi real name~ not sure if I understand your question. Decline in population or decline in adherence to the one child policy?
real name says
hi steve, i understood you are clearly speaking about future population decline
all i know is about 2035 chinese population should reach planned maximum, next is unclear for me
Hi real name~ Yes, I think it’s unclear to everyone because right now the one child policy is in flux. It’s been modified to some extent already and we all know it’s not popular with ordinary Chinese. It’s been complained about on the blog in the past that minorities are not held to the same limitations and I believe that now if the first child is a girl, the couple is allowed to have a second child. When I talked with my female colleagues in China, most of them expressed a desire to have two children so at least the policy has lowered expectations for large families and I think that’s important. There are also something like 40 million more boys than girls so that’s eventually 40 million men who can’t reproduce because they can’t find a wife.
The most important factor is that the rate of growth has been slowed and will peak in 2035. That means between now and 2035 the actual problem for the government will increase but only for a relatively short duration. Personally, I’d think both China and India would eventually like to get their population somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 million, as I believe they could support this number and maintain a developed world lifestyle within acceptable poverty levels. I don’t see how they can have a high quality of life with higher numbers but maybe technology will enable them to do so. Regardless of what happens, I can’t see a population over one billion as being sustainable in the long run.
Charles Liu says
justkeeper, “And yes, China still should reduce its emission even when millions of Americans still leave their office without turning off the light everyday and still heat their offices during the winter to the extent that it feels even warmer than in summer to stay in them.”
Completely agree. Those continue to harp on China’s total output basically subscribe to the belief Chinese are subhuman therefore deserve to pollute less than us full human beings.
Even without considering the fact China’s energy use includes manufacturing good for others, average Chinese person still pollute only 27% of an average American.
Simple fairness would dictate we in the developed countries should shoulder more burden in reducing consumption and pollution, in light of our history of polluting the world and continued disregard for over-consumption.
real name says
unclear -> thanks
I believe that now if the first child is a girl -> it’s much more complicated, see f.e. policy is now enforced at the provincial level … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy#Current_status
large families -> For comparison, both India and China had total fertility rates (TFR) of about six children per woman in 1950. India’s TFR dropped much more slowly than China’s before 1990, to about 4.0, and is now 2.76. (china now 1.7-1.8, also wiki)
more boys than girls -> also indian problem, also case for chinese living outside china
real name says
“most of them expressed a desire to have two children”
in opposite this summer shanghai started to encourage people can have more children to have more really
btw. very low fertility rate is in HK and macao where are no limits
S.K. Cheung says
To justkeeper #189:
those are fair points.
I don’t know the details about carbon-capture, and who holds patents to what. The altruistic thing to do would be to share such technology for free for the benefit of mankind. You and I both know that’s not going to happen. I don’t know the business case for actually acquiring the rights to such patents for use in China then applying it from within, vs contracting the companies that own these technologies to provide that service within China. Would either scenario cost billions? I don’t know. But the symmetry that should please some people is that China consumes energy, releases carbon, and makes money by making products for Americans, then pays Americans for the ability to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with making said products. There, one big happy global family.
“so everyone should do what he/she can to share some burden.” — agreed.
“China still should reduce its emission even when millions of Americans still leave their office without turning off the light everyday” — first of all, do Americans still do that? Second, if you propose the first statement, then is it contingent upon others doing it too? Do you do the right thing only if others do the right thing…or do you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do? China should reduce emissions. Americans should reduce emissions. To link those statements with “if and only if” is akin to a grade-schooler saying they will eat their vegetables only if little Billy eats his. Which, btw, is why I think it’s asinine for the previous US admin (and the current Canadian one) to wait for others to commit to hard target carbon reductions before they do so themselves.
“still heat their offices during the winter to the extent that it feels even warmer than in summer to stay in them.” — I agree there’s nothing stopping them. But in this era when any dolt understands that any additional unnecessary business expense detracts directly from one’s bottom line, I don’t think it’s as pervasive as you seem to suggest.
“Those continue to harp on China’s total output basically subscribe to the belief Chinese are subhuman therefore deserve to pollute less than us full human beings.” — feet firmly placed atop soap-box once again, I see. By your reasoning, a full human being is defined by their per capita carbon footprint. And it seems to reduce the average Chinese person’s hopes and dreams to the single-minded pursuit of spewing out more carbon. That’s mighty interesting stuff.
“Even without considering the fact China’s energy use includes manufacturing good for others” — yes, let’s not consider that, since she’s doing so by choice. Energy used is energy used.
“average Chinese person still pollute only 27% of an average American.” — that’s fantastic news. Do you think that impresses mother earth?
“Simple fairness would dictate we in the developed countries should shoulder more burden” …if only we had a time machine and this was 1909 yada yada. Simple logic would suggest (since many of us around here probably aren’t used to dictating, given the system in which we live and all of that) that everyone has to cut back starting yesterday, and whoever is making more carbon today has more work to do.
I dont see why crictic are pointing finger at china for neglecting GB. Infact China is one of the few developing nation that is taking the responsibility at leading the fight against GB. They have invest in wind farm, hdyro dam, planning nuclear station for electricity. They are doing reforestation, one of the biggest market for electrical bicycle, in the 2010 Shnghai expo i heard they are providing 1000 hybrid cars all made in n by Chinese car company.
And than when you reading article like this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/6077374/China-powers-ahead-as-it-seizes-the-green-energy-crown-from-Europe.html
S.K. Cheung says
I don’t think anyone here is pointing the finger at China (in this regard). In fact, as I suggested earlier, I think the UN has singled out China for praise for her efforts to stem global warming thus far. But for some to suggest that CHina doesn’t need to do her bit is ludicrous, just as it would be for someone to suggest that the US doesn’t need to do her bit, etc.
SK Cheung- If i read correctly, those people are just saying that if the developed world is not as committed on GB than why should poorer developing nation need to take the burden onto themselve. you can count over 1 billion of those people in developing nation, dont even own the standard luxury that the developed nation has, Cars, air conditioning, electricity, TV, computers ect. Than you read article like this http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/04/india-slums-children-death-rate , what is more important to them GB or spending more money saving children?
I went out to the Global Footprint Network to find some additional reports and information. Lo and behold, I found the WWF-GFN 2008 Living Planet Report. This updates the 2006 report, which has analysis through 2003, with analysis through 2005.
And wouldn’t you know? Total Biocapacity (BC) overshoot has worsened 37% in just two years time. The Per Capita BC overshoot increased 33.3%. While population increased 2.8%.
Which is why I say:
Well, were currently headed in the “unlucky” direction faster. Yes, we are digging our grave faster.
Here are the details for the blue ball on which we all live. I am using the accounting indicator, “()” to indicate a deficit, a negative number. If there is no “()”, that indicates a surplus, a positive number.
In essence, population increased 2.8%, while Total Biocapacity overshoot increased 37% In just 2 years. Ouch.
Later, I will be posting country/continent data for 2005 along with the deltas. I will be adding India to the results. From 2003 to 2005, the US the EU have lowered their Biocapacity (BC) deficits. During that period, China, Japan and India worsened their BC deficits. China now has the largest deficit of any country or region on my short list. For regions with surpluses, Africa has enhanced their surplus; Latin America has diminished theirs.
real name says
@ sids #200: You wrote, “If i read correctly, those people are just saying that if the developed world is not as committed on GB than why should poorer developing nation need to take the burden onto themselves.”
I think that one sentence captures the political argument perfectly, from both the developed and developing leadership. The developed world says, “We won’t sign any agreement until the developing nations like China and India agree to lower their BC overshoot.” Then the developing nations say, “Developed nations created the problem and have the highest per capita EF, so they should be the ones to clean up the problem, not us. And they should pay for us to clean up our problem.”
What Jerry is saying is that nations had better not wait until someone else takes the lead, but ought to take the lead themselves. If the USA was actively leading the way in reducing its BC overshoot, they would have standing to speak out to others and their words would be listened to more carefully. If China was actively taking the lead in reducing the increase in its EF (they have already taken the lead in trying to reduce population), other nations would not be able to use them as an excuse not to lower theirs. But politicians being politicians, each takes the easy political way out by blaming a foreign entity as the reason they don’t tackle the problem within their own country. Meanwhile, the earth (and all her inhabitants) continue to suffer.
Charles Liu says
sids @ 200, ‘those people are just saying that if the developed world is not as committed”
Thank you, that is exactely what I’m saying. Nobody ever said China doesn’t need to do her part, or doesn’t need to do more. My point is the scientific facts and figures clearly show we Americans need to do a lot more than the Chinese.
We Americans, 5% of the world’s population, is consuming 25% of the world’s resources. For Jerry to accuse the Chinese of having caught up to us in 153, or deemphasizing our own impact in 201, is simply dishonest.
Jerry @ 201, I hope when you trumpet developed nation’s lowering of biocapacity deficit, you will not discount the Chinese as full human being, and show our “accomplishment” honestly in terms of how much more damage each of us do than old Mr. and Mrs. Wang.
Please do own up the fact your number shows we Americans, even with reduction, have six times more biocapacity deficit than average Chinese.
S.K. Cheung says
you certainly have “per capita” on the brain in a big way.
Just to use your statement from #194 (average Chinese person still pollute only 27% of an average American), but considering that there are 4X as many “average” Chinese as there are “average” Americans, any guesses on which nation is cranking out more in total? And do you think the planet is more affected by the “intensity” number, or the “net” number?
Besides, this should in fact be fantastic news for you. The “average” Chinese would need to make a much smaller reduction than the “average” American in order for China to match “net” reductions with America. And if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, net reductions is where it’s at.
I see you’re still on the equating-full-human-being-with-carbon-footprint kick.
agreed. What Jerry is saying is where the scientific rubber meets the political road.
@Charles Liu #181 #194 #204
Here are some of your utterances:
LOL. Besides being self-critical and introspective, you are also the omniscient arbiter. In my book, your utterances above and elsewhere constitute a giant disconnect. You seem to only want to acknowledge the scientific data which supports your beliefs and conclusions. Then, you ignore or discredit the data which does not support your beliefs and conclusions. Charles, therein lies the disconnect. That is not science. It is teleology. I wish I was as smart as you think you are! 😉
Keep playing the “blame game”, the “twist the facts game” and the “insult game”, Charles. Keep accusing me of whatever you want; admittedly, I am a Russian Jewish barbarian, and a dishonest one at that. I hope it makes you happy. ::LMAO::
And I will keep reporting data and positing my opinions, in the manner I see fit. So sorry! 😀
@Steve #203, @S.K. Cheung #205
Steve, very well said.
I have a few additional comments. The Earth may suffer for a while, but nature seems to have some self-correcting processes to address anthropogenic maladies like Global Climate Change, excessive EF and humans. 😀 Nature has given us BC, for which we humans are supposed to be good stewards. If we misuse or abuse the BC, she does not pat us on the head and does not tell us, “That’s ok! You are soooo speciallllll! Here’s some more BC.” Nope, she does not give us more BC. It is ours to nurture or abuse.
So keep it up, humans. Because we humans are making the Earth uninhabitable for us humans. And the Earth and nature will shake us humans off like a bad case of fleas. And the Earth will heal. And several million years from now, she will shake her head and say, “What was the name of that stupid species?” And she will smile!
SK, nice comments. I especially like 2 of them.
I love it, “scientific rubber” and “political road”. Unfortunately, your statement also applies to the political realities surrounding Global Climate Change and environmentalism. Talk is so cheap.
BTW, SK, I have enjoyed your comments to Charles, even those that are collapsed.
If CCP and Chinese listen and act on all this so-called opinion and universal values, we will forever remain as peasants and live a life of non stop revolt. Argue for the sake of fun is okay, don’t take it too seriously.
This debate about per capita consumption/pollution vs. country total consumption/pollution is getting pretty lame.
Both are important – and can we agree and put this behind us?
Now, onto what countries are doing about it – Jerry – I am really curious what your take is on how the developed world and the developing world are doing their parts. Looks like you follow these things pretty close.
So, there are a few problems still. To tackle the trade deficit between U.S. and China, during the last SED, China agreed to encouraged domestic consumption. Always kind of strange in my mind why doesn’t the U.S. have program to slow down consumption in the U.S.. I hope the equillibrium is to not encourage the Chinese to consumer like the Westerners.
Bulk of the U.S. national debt is from over spending / consumption. Mind boggling why this isn’t a priority.