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Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirms political and economic reforms

Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirms political and economic reforms

Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirms political and economic reforms (China Daily)

China Daily has just reported Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirming political and economic reforms. On the table are government transparency, creating conditions allowing people to criticize and supervise the government, and media being a watch-dog.

Given how Wu Bangguo’s speech was skewed by the BBC (see my prior post, “Wu Bangguo on ‘multi party rule’ ruffles some feathers in the West“), my gut feeling is that BBC will continue this narrative of Wen and Wu disagreeing. (If so, someone remind me to buy a copy of the paper so I can use it to wipe my butt.)

Okay, this is pretty funny. I decided to head over to the BBC web site, and behold, it reports:

That seems to put him (Wen) at odds with another senior leader, Wu Bangguo, who only last week ruled out the possibility of major political changes.

Hilarious! Why wouldn’t the Brits simply bypass their BBC and head over to CCTV and watch the speeches for themselves. Or read China Daily. At least they get a correct understanding of China. How about that?

The BBC report left an “escape” clause near the end:

With little known publicly about how Chinese leaders reach decisions – or what their real opinions might be – it is difficult to assess the importance of Mr Wen’s words, or where they might lead.

Well, our thoughts are probably the same. How about simply asking the Chinese leaders on how they reach those decisions? How about asking their real opinions? Why on earth would BBC have reporters stationed in China?

Wait a minute, never mind, they are busy lurking around Wangfujing (see my prior post, towards the second half about Damian Grammaticas) trying to sniff out “jasmine revolutionaries” amongst McDonald goers (or getting dragged into a police van yet again).

Below is the full text of the Wen Jiabao coverage from China Daily. Decide for yourself if the Chinese leaders are aligned (or not).

BEIJING – Highlighting reform as the “eternal theme” through history, Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged that China will forge ahead with political and economic restructuring to fill the country with vitality.

“Political and economic restructuring should be advanced in a coordinated way,” the premier said at a press conference following the conclusion of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Monday morning.

“Political reform provides a guarantee for economic restructuring,” he said.

“Without it, economic restructuring would not succeed and its achievements could be lost.”

But it is by no means easy to press ahead with political restructuring in a large country that has a population of 1.3 billion people, he added.

Political restructuring needs a stable and harmonious social environment and should be pushed forward in an orderly way under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, he said.

The premier cited several issues to which political and economic reform would offer solutions. At present, he said, corruption poses the biggest threat to the country and, to wipe out the root cause of graft, the nation should pursue institutional reform.

“The fate of a country lies with the heart of its people,” Wen said. “If we are to address the people’s grievances and meet their wishes, we must create conditions for the people to criticize and supervise the government.”

Wen made similar remarks in his government work report delivered at the annual NPC parliamentary session last year, when he said: “We will promote transparency of administrative affairs, … let the news media fully play their oversight role, and exercise power openly.”

Wen said fairness and justice are the basis of social stability and fairness must be realized in income distribution and promoted in the access to educational and healthcare resources.

“If we are to achieve the aforementioned goals, we must go forward with economic and political restructuring,” Wen said.

He also pointed out that everyone should have the opportunity to receive an education, so all people can reach their potential and think independently and creatively.

Li Yining, a leading Chinese economist, said political reform in China should move forward with Chinese characteristics.

Li, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body, said the people’s congresses should supervise the governments at various levels and he stressed that government officials should perform their duties according to the law.

In addition, transparency should be enhanced in the promotion and demotion of government officials, Li said during an online talk on a website run by People’s Daily on Thursday.

Fang Ning, deputy director of the Political Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a major government think tank, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying that he believed there could be no “timetable” for political reform in China because it would proceed, based on conditions, in an active but steady way.

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  1. silentvoice
    March 16th, 2011 at 09:13 | #1

    The thing is, Wen has been talking about ‘reform’ for a few years now. It’s 雷声大,雨点小, there’s not alot to show for all that talk.

  2. March 16th, 2011 at 11:26 | #2

    What do you think of the “rights to know” and “government transparency” laws passed in 2008? If you take a look at this summary, I’d say tons of reforms occurred. raventhorn2000 had a quick summary in a comment – not sure you saw those. Look for a chart in the link below – a summary from China Daily on its report on Wu Bangguo’s speech:

    http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-03/11/content_12154288.htm

  3. silentvoice
    March 16th, 2011 at 21:01 | #3

    Improving the law system is not the same as political reform. Power is still concentrated in the hands of the few. There’s still no free press. In fact, censorship has gone up. Yes, we’ve been reading about “test elections” at the village level but these tests are not reproduced at the city level. Yes, there’s some improvement if reports of a ‘secret ballot’ picking Xi Junping is true. Atleast China’s next leader is picked by consensus of a few hundred delegates rather than appointed by the sitting leader. But overall the political system is little different from 10 years ago.

    Sure, I understand China needs to move slowly and carefully, but there is also a danger if they moved TOO slowly. If the leaders are not in step with the masses, events like Egypt *could* happen. Not in 10 years, but maybe in a generation. At some point, people will get sick of inaction. The longer the wait the greater the risk.

  4. Wukailong
    March 16th, 2011 at 22:01 | #4

    @silentvoice:

    There is a local debate on whether political reforms have really been “substantial” or not. Most seem to agree that up to 1989, there was considerable reform of every aspect of the country. Whether it actually continued after 1991 is a question on what you consider “political reform” (the book 攻坚, for example, argues that political reform came to a halt in 1989, and it represents the ideas of part of the leadership). Of course, many other parts of the system has been considerably changed, like the banking system and the SOE:s, and nobody in their right mind can deny that these are hugely successful reforms.

    I also think there’s a possibility for something like Egypt happening in China, but first of all, the amount of popular resentment towards the government as a whole is much lower (at least that’s my impression) and people’s livelihood is still improving at a fast rate. This whole question depends on how the CCP handles the more complex social relations that occur as the people gets richer as a whole. I think this is going to be more important in the long run than issues like inflation and house prices.

  5. March 17th, 2011 at 00:00 | #5

    Out of curiosity, what do you guys think constitute political reform?

  6. March 17th, 2011 at 06:30 | #6

    “my gut feeling is that BBC will continue this narrative of Wen and Wu disagreeing. (If so, someone remind me to buy a copy of the paper so I can use it to wipe my butt.)”

    @YinYang – I suspect that the BBC will not be too worried about criticism from someone who apparently believes that they publish a newspaper. Unless, of course, you are refering to the China Daily, which, as I can tell you from experience earned in the Jiangsu countryside, is a publication both strong and absorbent.

    Finally, forgive me if I am being a bit slow here, but how exactly does a article from the China Daily in which neither Wu Bangguo nor his speech is mentioned disprove the idea that there is a rift between Wu and Wen? Especially given the apparently divergent nature of their speeches (i.e., one saying that reform is an eternal theme, the other that further political reform was not necessary)?

    We are often reminded on these pages that neither China nor the CCP is a monolith, and that the state-controlled media is not merely a party mouthpiece. It is strange to see you putting forward an argument (China Daily speaks for everyone, no rifts at the top) which is seemingly completely at odds with this.

  7. March 17th, 2011 at 08:04 | #7

    FOARP,

    You are making wild leaps in logic.

    CCP not being a monolith, does NOT imply that there must be some kind of rift.

    Nor do we imply that having multi-party democracies imply a RIFT.

    “Divergent nature” of speeches do not necessarily imply a RIFT.

    Wen said “reform”, not “multi-party system”.

    What Wu said, ie. no “multi-party system”, was entirely consistent with that, not “divergent”.

    I don’t know what logic you are using to imply “divergent nature” in this case. (Are you suggesting that “reform” always require a “multi-party” system?? That would be your assumption.)

  8. March 17th, 2011 at 17:26 | #8

    FOARP,

    Damn, I guess I am disappointed not having a BBC branded paper to wipe my butt with.

    Btw, feel free to respond to raventhorn2000 #7 above. I am really curious how you crawl out of it. Now, don’t charge me with being disingenuous, because, to me, your comment #6 was nothing but.

  9. Wukailong
    March 17th, 2011 at 18:17 | #9

    @YinYang (#5): Good question. I like the Chinese term 政治体制改革 because it probably is what most people have in mind when they discuss the issue – some sort of change of the administrative structure. Since political reform doesn’t happen as often as other kinds of reform, reforms I can think of around the world include:

    * Removing, merging or adding governmental departments in general
    * Countries joining the EU agreeing to cede certain areas of sovereignty and law-making capability to the central authorities
    * Changing the role of the government, for example dismantling/creating various kinds of government monopolies

    Now, in China, political reforms I would mention include:

    * Fixed terms for leaders
    * Giving central authorities a larger role in tax collection
    * Local elections
    * Streamlining government departments, and changing responsibilities either to central or provincial governments

    There’s been a lot of other things going on as well, of course, but it’s hard to say with this definition whether they would be “political” reforms. The reform of the banking system under Zhu Rongji? The momentous change of course under Deng Xiaoping? The latter obviously trumps everything above, but ideological change doesn’t necessarily count as reform.

    In the book I mentioned above there are other reforms discussed, including:

    * Changing the way the party controls the news (to more indirect ways)
    * Changing the role of the CCP to become a “constitutional party” under the inspection of the NPC
    * Adding more channels for popular participation in the political process

    I’ll stop here, but this could be an interesting start of a discussion of what really constitutes “political reform.” 🙂

  10. Wukailong
    March 17th, 2011 at 18:18 | #10

    I should add that joining the WTO was also a change that straddles the line of political and economic reforms.

  11. March 18th, 2011 at 02:03 | #11

    @Wukailong

    Thanks for sharing that. I think the mature “Western” look at “political reform” is about sharing of power between various segments of society. In China, it is understood to mean the same.

    Hence, I would add legal reforms requiring government to provide information is very much a “political reform” too. This tips the power towards the population and the media more than before.

    To me, “one party” or “multi-party” definitely changes the characteristics and dynamics of politics within a country, but I am not so sure they mean so much beyond that.

    One could argue two Presidents might work better. Who knows? How about three parties and they rotate power every 10 years? It’s all so arbitrary.

    To me, “multi-party” infatuation is more about anti-“one party.”

  12. Wukailong
    March 18th, 2011 at 02:17 | #12

    @YinYang: I forgot to add that but I agree about the new transparency laws being political reform. I should have included it above.

  13. March 18th, 2011 at 14:31 | #13

    @YinYang #11 and Wukailong in general,

    I am not exactly sure if in China political reform is more about sharing power or ensuring better governance (e.g. reduction of corruption). Sure media and people power can be co-opted to help ensure better governance, but they are there to serve better governance, not necessarily to empower an alternative channel of power. I think the core of reform in China is directed toward government structure reform to promote better governance (which is why I think WKL in #9 mentioning of 政治体制改革 is very apt.)

  14. March 18th, 2011 at 14:48 | #14

    @Allen

    I completely agree – the ultimate goal is better governance.

  15. tc
    March 19th, 2011 at 07:41 | #15

    One party, two parties …. what’s the difference? If the mouse does not catch mice, how good is multi-parties?
    I was born and grew up in Taiwan. I have not had a chance to “enjoy” the two-party system there, but I don’t miss it at all. It looks like both parties are hard working every second, every minute to be elected to power. That’s their “ultimate” goal. DiaoYuTai island is currently occupied by the Japanese. Can either party do anything about it? Or do they even care?

  16. D858
    March 19th, 2011 at 12:04 | #16

    On the same topic as the previous commenter:

    In every multi-party democracy, all parties have the same ideology: To get elected and stay elected.

    Parties that call themselves “liberal” or “conservative” often shift their political platform to cater to voters at election time, which explains why some parties that call themselves “liberal” often have “conservative” viewpoints, and so on.

    Often political parties in power do what appears to be “good for the country”, but only up to the point where they’re guaranteed reelection. Of course, what’s popular among the people is not always what’s sustainable for the country as a whole (think about the theoretical popularity and sustainability of zero taxes).

  17. Wukailong
    March 19th, 2011 at 19:20 | #17

    I’m also on the same topic as the previous commenter: all of the things written above are true of the CCP as well. Think about it – the “Communist Party”, or 共产党, public-ownership-party. It has changed itself completely in order to be able to stay in power, just like the liberals and conservatives mentioned above. Or do you think it did it just for the good of the country, with no second thoughts?

    I’ll have to run now but I’ll comment about this “one party, many parties” discussion later.

  18. D858
    March 20th, 2011 at 14:04 | #18

    @Wukailong
    In that case I don’t see a difference between a single-party system and a multi-party system. All the parties have the same ideologies anyway, so the choice in a multi-party system is completely arbitrary. Explains why (for example) Obama seems like he’s just continuing Bush’s policies, despite his calls for change and his belonging to a different party.

  19. Wukailong
    March 21st, 2011 at 02:51 | #19

    In most individual policies, ideologies, etc, I don’t see any difference between the CCP and parties in other countries. So in that sense, there is no difference between having one party or a bunch. However, the nature of single-party and multi-party systems are quite different, and it’s important to grasp the difference.

    In a one-party system, the governing party has a very extensive control over every aspect of society, which is why the concept of “party-state” came into being. This control can be executed in different ways (which is what creates the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian, China being the latter) but here in China it works by the party being above the law and controlling the courts, by having party cells in every major non-governmental organization and company, and having an extensive “double system” where the party has a sort of shadow officials on all levels corresponding to the official leader. The latter is the reason for the confusion with who’s in charge in any particular province (the governor or the party secretary?) and this happen in all state institutions as well.

    Sometimes Singapore is mentioned as a one-party state, but that’s not entirely correct since it doesn’t have the characteristics described above. It retains a multi-party constitution and this is one of the reasons it can have an independent organization against corruption. The CCP doesn’t have anything of the sort and has to rely on checking itself, which is unreliable.

    Now, any system exists in a historical context and there are, at any given point, reasons for having or abolishing it. Despite the issues described above the CCP has turned out to be resilient and flexible enough to adjust to many of the problems confronting Chinese society. Whether it will continue to be so in the future is an open question.

  20. Wukailong
    March 21st, 2011 at 02:55 | #20

    Another thing I should add is that I don’t believe the existence of any party is “arbitrary.” I think all successful parties (with successful meaning that you have some voice in your society) represent a class interest or some sort of conflict in society. This is actually what leading ideologues in CCP say as well, but they interpret it differently. If a multi-party system is like a jigsaw puzzle where each party covers some interest, then the CCP has to widen the interests it cares for and try to get more people into their ranks and become a “party for the whole people” (全民党).

    Now, whether they will be successful in that, only time will tell. I’m certainly following the developments here with great interest.

  21. March 21st, 2011 at 08:31 | #21

    I should add to my earlier commentaries:

    (1) Parties are organizations that have no defined interest lines, if the parties are willing to set to pragmatic policies/interests, and not slogans.

    In that aspect, one party could be more flexible, as it feels no need to distinguish its philosophical core interests from that of its oppositions.

    More later on Chinese “pragmatism”.

  22. March 21st, 2011 at 11:54 | #22

    @Wukailong

    The reason I said “arbitrary” is because I believe with a one party system, you can find a way to have really good governance. With a two party system, you can find a way to have really good governance.

    I don’t think there is anything inherently “good” about one case or another. The thing that allowed the ‘West’ to have won the Cold War was due primarily to capitalism.

    I think all successful parties (with successful meaning that you have some voice in your society) represent a class interest or some sort of conflict in society.

    This is certainly a way to look at it, but not the only way. This assumes that all class interests have “equal” power and that they are distributed in a way that is most fair.

    Well, you have heard of the military industrial complex and Wall Street corporate interests too, right? Do you believe their influence are disproportionately large?

    Now, whether they will be successful in that, only time will tell. I’m certainly following the developments here with great interest.

    Some may argue with the 8-10% GDP growth in the last 3 decades means the one-party system is now successful. With the hundreds of millions of people lifted out of abject poverty, that’s another form of success.

    But of course, they could screw up. Things stagnate or decline. Actually, I would argue environmental degradation in China is a failure.

    Not sure how you define “will be successful.” Could you elaborate?

    Some crazy people actually think this ‘success’ is achieved when the one party is evolved into a multi-party system. (I think we all know China has multiple parties. Wu Bangguo said China’s current conditions won’t tolerate a rotating power arrangement.)

    Across all aspects such as standards of living, environment, national strength, a ‘just’ society, and etc., as long as China is moving forward reasonably, I think that’d be ‘success’ enough for me.

    Some would argue the two party system in the U.S. has been consistently screwing up in recent years.

    Also @raventhorn2000,
    On “pragmatism” – check out William Hooper’s essay (in our Featured Posts area):
    William Hooper: “The Scientific Development Concept”
    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2010/09/william-hooper-the-scientific-development-concept/

  23. March 21st, 2011 at 12:21 | #23

    I would agree with William Hooper’s theories, with an addition:

    Modern Western Demcracies are also heavily influenced by the notion of “Objective Rationalism”, championed by Ayn Rand, which actually corrupts Weber’s version of “objective rationalism”.

    Rand’s premise is that fundamental truths can be objectively reasoned out, as applied to even notions of “moral good”, which then can be used to set as “objective standards” of good policies.

    This notion received some popular support in the West, and became an informal core of the Western “valued based” democratic institutions.

    *But this is a fundamentally flawed theory. Objective Rationalism of Morality is nothing more than rationalization of moral value systems.

    A true scientific governnance system requires complete utilitarian and subjective rationalism, ie. we do not know what is good policy, except for what works for the greater good of our society, for now.

    The problem with the West, currently, is not lack of “reasoning”. It is too much “rationalization” of Morality.

    Talk of “fundamental rights” is indicative of abstract morality rationalization. Hence, West has political debates boiled down to “rights” of some pitted against the “rights” of others, all sides arguing theirs is a “more fundamental right”, usually, choice, speech, life, etc.

    But rationally, subjectively, EVERYONE’s rights are infringed/sacrificed for the greater good of the society, and it is rarely by “choice”. MOSTLY by habit.

    Thus, scientificly, LOSS of privilege should be rationally gauged by potential and actual benefits to the society. And it is all relative and subjective, because the same policies may derive more or less benefits to the society, depending on the situation of the time. No policy is always correct or always incorrect.

    *Thus, “Pragmatism” is ultimately SUBJECTIVE, and at the same time RATIONAL and Scientific.

    A scientist must cast out his assumptions of the universe and his assumptions of what constitutes the “MORAL good” for a society, and derive his theories/policies ONLY through repeated tests against data/results.

    The Western Morality VAlue system is indeed very Judeo-Christian, and hence, they find it troubling to the core to the notion that Chinese “pragmatism” may actually work better.

    But they are fighting a losing battle. “Pragmatism” is rational, and it is subjective, which actually means inherently, it is PEACEFUL, as it does not impose any notion of an OBJECTIVE morality standards on those who adopt it.

  24. Wukailong
    March 21st, 2011 at 20:02 | #24

    @YinYang: Alright, in that case I misunderstood what you meant with “arbitrary.” So the discussion about why political parties exist might not be as necessary; however, you said the following:

    “This is certainly a way to look at it, but not the only way. This assumes that all class interests have “equal” power and that they are distributed in a way that is most fair.”

    No, that’s not my assumption. There is nothing in the existence of a party or a class interest that determines it has to be as powerful as the rest. Most labor movements in Europe were very disproportionate to the large popular base they represented, and disproportionality exists today as well. What I described was the reason they exist.

    I guess I didn’t take the special political system of the US into account when I wrote the former comment. Given that there are only two major political parties there, and it’s very difficult for any new party to get substantial power (due to the nature that the winner takes all in a certain area), they might not be as representative as a system which makes it easier for small parties to thrive. So in a sense, the two major parties in the US needs to do the same as CCP to stay in power, which is to actively find out potential new interest groups and support them.

    “Some may argue with the 8-10% GDP growth in the last 3 decades means the one-party system is now successful. With the hundreds of millions of people lifted out of abject poverty, that’s another form of success.”

    I’m not saying that the Chinese government hasn’t been successful in many ways. What I’m saying is that as the class strata and interest groups of Chinese society becomes more diverse, it’s going to be more difficult to govern. This is most obvious in the rich, developed countries but will get more obvious in China as well, as time goes on.

    Whether a CCP is “successful” or not in this case is whether they’re able to stay in power while achieving higher standards of living, a better environment etc. I certainly believe they can do it in the short run but I have no idea what it will be like in the 2020. I don’t believe China will collapse or fall into chaos, though – it might just be very different.

    I can recommend Zheng Yongnian’s blog, http://zyn.caogen.com/ ,and the books I’ve read by him. Here is one about the “period of opportunity” for social reform:

    http://www.caogen.com/blog/Infor_detail.aspx?ID=66&articleId=25666

    Zheng is currently the directory of the East Asian Institute at the University of Singapore and has been specializing in social and political questions, especially with regards to China.

  25. Wukailong
    March 21st, 2011 at 20:06 | #25

    You’ll probably like this one as well:

    http://www.caogen.com/blog/Infor_detail.aspx?ID=66&articleId=25813

    “中国解决了精英阶层更替问题。在很大程度上说,西方民主的本质是通过定期的选举,解决政治精英的变更。在民主政治产生之前,暴力往往在政权更替过程中扮演最重要的角色。这种情形也在中国传统社会存在数千年,所谓的“革命”就是“改朝换代”的意思。改革开放以来,尽管中国拒绝走西方式的民主道路,但已经发展出非常有效的精英更替制度。”

  26. March 21st, 2011 at 23:49 | #26

    @Wukailong

    What I’m saying is that as the class strata and interest groups of Chinese society becomes more diverse, it’s going to be more difficult to govern. This is most obvious in the rich, developed countries but will get more obvious in China as well, as time goes on.

    This is where I think the media has a huge impact on the nature of the class struggles. Government policy also has a huge impact. If you look at Japan, I think their middle class is a huge bulge. Remember, Japan has been ruled effectively as a one party state from WW2 until recently.

    I think the Japanese population is nevertheless still discontent, just on different things and not wealth distribution.

    China won’t necessarily need to repeat the path of some developed countries. As you say, the country will “might just be very different.”

    At the recent Goverment Work Report, Wen Jiabao outlined some key problems:

    Corruption, housing and food costs, income disparity, (and I’d add environmental degradation).

    I think it simply makes more sense to see China’s stability through the lens of the Chinese government. Likely, nobody has thought more about her stability than the ruling party. Nobody else is more at stake than they are. China is too strong today for any outsiders to foment revolutions.

    And thanks for sharing that passage. I actually think China’s formal political transition process is very practical. Thanks to Deng Xiaoping, this was written into the Constitution in 1982.

    Look at Obama. He went from a Senator to the President. The biggest budget he has ever had to manage in his life was probably his election campaign. He has no experience running something so big as a country, but is thrust into such a position overnight.

    In China’s case, there are a handful of potential candidates identified by the NPC. The Vice President essentially gets mentored by the existing President for 5 years. If he is really good, then he will likely be voted into the President’s office. After he is President, he is likely to be voted to stay for another 5 years if competent. During the second 5 years, he mentors the next. And the cycle repeats.

  27. Rhan
    March 22nd, 2011 at 00:58 | #27

    WKL,

    Thanks for the link. Is high living standard the “end of history”? I think not. If Singapore and China is an indication, I see more and more “Chinese” that made it to the high living standard group prefer to live in country that are with more freedom. Is there a reverse of this trend in the very near future, I doubt it.

    An interesting review of the new book from the writer of “end of history”.

    In a parallel universe with no feudalism, European rulers might have been absolute, just like those of China. But through the accident of democracy, England and then the United States created a powerful system that many others wish to emulate. The question for China, in Dr. Fukuyama’s view, is whether a modern society can continue to be run through a top-down bureaucratic system with no solution to the bad emperor problem. “If I had to bet on these two systems, I’d bet on ours,” he said.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/08fukuyama.html?pagewanted=1

  28. Wukailong
    March 22nd, 2011 at 03:15 | #28

    @YinYang: Actually, most of the developed countries have “bulging” middle classes. The US is an unusual case with its large income disparities. This list shows the countries of the world sorted by Gini coefficient (with the most unequal on top, and more equal as the list proceeds):

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html

    (It’s CIA but I’m sure we can trust this particular list 🙂 )

    I grew up in a country that was a “dominant party-state” (similar to Japan) and had been since the 1920s, except for a brief period in the 1970s. In the late 1980s it turned into the modern situation where you switch ruling parties every two mandate periods or so. I would say it was successful during the since the model is studied by others and the quality of life is high. The ruling party for all these years, the Social Democrats, managed to stay in power because they were able to reinvent themselves and govern well. Of course, in the end they became bloated and perhaps too far-reaching, which led them to lose.

    @Rhan: I agree with your concerns. I believe the current system in China is pretty good at doing what it does now – build an economy and carry through important reforms, but perhaps not as good when it reaches more developed levels. Many other countries have followed the same pattern. The reason China is viewed differently, I believe, is because of its sheer size.

  29. March 22nd, 2011 at 06:19 | #29

    Rhan,

    Re “the Bad Emperor problem” is no worse than the “Bad Congress Problem”, as apparent in the rotation without effect of many multi-party democracies.

    The narrative behind the “throw the bums out” system is highly overrated. You can’t throw the bum out, if all the replacement candidates work for the same special interest lobbyists. (Competing special interests are merely fighting for their own interests, not for the public).

    The solution to the “Bad Emperor problem” is (1) scientific governance system, and (2) removal of inheritance of privileges.

    China managed to achieve (2) relatively well, by adopting a system of political mentoring promotion system within the CCP.

    I would say that the CCP is still working on (1).

    But Fukuyama is oversimplifying his conception of China again. China is working well, as he admits, but it’s working well precisely because of factors that he does not yet understand, when he oversimplifies China.

    Mao might be considered a “bad emperor” by some people’s standards, but people forget that Mao achieved a great deal, and only made most of his severe mistakes near the end of his life. (By all calculation, Mao should be said to be a leader with mixed records, no worse than Andrew Jackson who committed open genocide against Native Americans, and probably had more beneficial achievements than Bush Jr.).

    Mao lived in a difficult time in Chinese history, and in a fair assessment, I doubt anyone could have really done much better than him in his situation. He had the vision to energize the vast majority of rural Chinese farmers, that’s not something that could have been done easily, or again.

    It’s easy to overemphasize Mao’s later mistakes, and dismiss Mao. But there is a reason why his philosophy is still very appealing to rural people in Third World countries, and why many Elites still fear the possibility of peasant uprisings.

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