(Below is an editorial by blogger 龙信明 countering an article published in the New York Times by Minxin Pei, who is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California. Indeed, why would Americans subject their college-age child to such aptitude? Or, rather, ineptitude. DeWang)
Great Party, but Where’s the Communism?
Minxin Pei Proves that Freedom of Opinion is a Bad Thing
It is puzzling that apparently well-staffed Western media with an otherwise high standard of reporting, will seemingly ignore those same standards for the sake of what appears to be cheap propaganda.
Many articles on China contain no little or no news value but appear intended primarily to criticise, mock, ridicule, demonise and disparage, a country that hasn’t actually done anything to anybody.
This editorial was prompted by an article published in the New York Times by Minxin Pei, who is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.
For background, Pei has been affiliated with the Carnegie Endowment and other Right-Wing tanks connected to the NED (financed by the CIA).
He has had articles published by various Right-Wing media and journals, such as CNN and the NYT, and has achieved some notoriety in recent years for his strident (and, I would say, immature) wishful thinking about China’s demise.
This particular article is typical of so much published Western “wisdom” on China which appears to be driven more by ideology and resentment than reason or fact.
It is once again predicting chaos and dissolution in China, the collapse of The Middle Kingdom, unemployment, riots, starvation, brutality and, of course, “democracy”.
Let’s have a look at a typical tooth-fairy article on China. (Mr. Pei’s article in Red)
There is little question that the Chinese Communist Party has come a long way since it was founded 90 years ago by 12 delegates representing roughly 50 members.
Yet however insignificant it may have seemed back then, there was no question about its ideology, identity and mission. Inspired by utopian Marxism, the party represented China’s idealist leftists, nationalists and the downtrodden. Its mission was to end social injustice and Western colonialism.
There is some truth in his last statement here. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, communism was never in opposition to democracy, but rather was seen as a way to combat capitalism – which was seen as an eventually brutal and unfair system meant to benefit only the elites. With experience, that conclusion does seem to have been a correct one.
Today the party is a political behemoth, with 80 million members and control of the world’s second-largest economy. At home its grip on power faces no organized challenge; abroad its leaders are accorded a respect Mao and Zhou Enlai could not have dreamed of.
Indeed, we should give the party its due for having abandoned the Maoist madness of its first three decades in power – the mass terror, famine, brutal political campaigns and vicious power struggles – and for radically improving the material lives of China’s 1.3 billion people.
A “political behemoth” with 80 million members and “control of the world’s second-largest economy”. Sounds threatening and dangerous until you realise this is about the same number of Republicans or Democrats in the US, alternating control of “the world’slargest economy”. If the first is a felony indictment, why isn’t the second? Why is something ok if you do it, but evil if I do it?
There was no “Maoist madness” in the first three decades. Mao read very well the position of the country, having a corrupt and dysfunctional government swayed by the West, with a nation and population having just endured many decades of oppression, brutality, looting and destruction by the Western Powers. There is little question that Mao’s ascendance saved China.
It is true that the Cultural Revolution was a disaster, and it ended thankfully quickly. But while there were indeed power struggles, the “mass terror” and “brutal political campaigns” are a figment of Pei’s imagination. Mao cannot be blamed for droughts; there was indeed a famine caused by short-sighted food allocation, but to attribute that to deliberate brutality is obscene. Bad decisions are not evil. They are simply bad decisions.
And there is no reason to tarnish Mao’s great accomplishments by baseless accusations, and to then state that , “oh, by the way”, Mao greatly improved the living standards of 1.3 billion people – as an afterthought.
Yet if asked, “What does the Communist Party stand for,” few Chinese leaders today could give a coherent or honest answer.
Well, that’s cute. The leaders of China today have no idea what they or their party stand for (and if they did know, they would lie about it) – but Mr. Pei, luckily for us, apparently does know – and, happily, will tell us the truth.
This much we know: It no longer stands for a utopian ideology. If there is one ideology that the party represents, it is the ideology of power. The sole justification for the party’s rule is the imperative to stay in power.
And there we have it. The only purpose of China’s government today is to “stay in power”.
I’m curious. How would Mr. Pei (or you, in fact) describe “the sole justification” for the ideology or the imperative represented by the Republican Party in the US, or the Conservative Parties in Canada, the UK, Australia . . ?
In the entire world, fairy-tales notwithstanding, every government’s main imperative is to maintain power. To argue otherwise is to be terminally naive.
But we don’t like to say these things about our own Western governments. We cloak their “imperative” in tooth-fairy expressions like “the good of the nation” or “the welfare of the people” while the elites and the military-industrial complexes loot our nations blind. Sadly, this is the source of the real ideology.
Nor does the party stand for China’s masses. Despite efforts to broaden its social base and make it more connected with China’s dynamic and diverse society, the party today has evolved into a self-serving, bureaucratized political patronage machine.
China’s governing party doesn’t “stand for China’s masses”.
This would seem to indicate that Mao, Deng, Hu and others, brought more than 400 million Chinese out of poverty only by accident.
Somehow, in their brutal political campaigns to viciously maintain power, they accidentally made all the peasants rich.
Let this be a cautionary lesson to all democracies everywhere. If you put the elites into power and “crack down” on the citizenry, you run a real risk of enriching everybody. Clearly, democracy needs to be rethought.
And I’m sorry to say this, but self-serving political patronage machines were created and refined in the US, not in China. It is the US where lobbying is the major growth industry, where the military and industry, and Israel, have achieved virtually total control of the government.
In 2008, the bankers, in conjunction with the FED, almost destroyed the US financial system, taking much of the world along with them, and as punishment they received more than 6 trillion dollars in total bailouts. If that isn’t a “self-serving political patronage machine”, I can’t imagine what would be.
Why would a presumably intelligent man engage in such hypocrisy and be subject to such amnesia and blindness? Why does Right-Wing Christianity so easily adopt this self-worship that seems inevitably to lead to the worst kind of imperialism?
It is undeniably an elitist party, with more than 70 percent of its members recruited from government officials, the military, college graduates, businessmen and professionals.
On this subject of “elitist parties”, I have a question. If it is such a bad thing to have government members selected from such clearly undesirable categories as “government officials, the military, college graduates, businessmen and professionals”, then where, exactly does Mr. Pei believe we should recruit them?
The homeless, the uneducated, perhaps? The mental hospitals? Or maybe the Moonies or Scientologists? Maybe the local zoo.
It seems we don’t want any (elitist and snotty) college graduates or other professionals, and the businessmen are surely a curse. And you don’t want anyone with military training, because that could seriously hinder any future colonisation by the West.
Wherever we get these party members, it would seem that being above average in intelligence or ability should justify immediate disqualification.
This man seems to believe we should draw our national leaders from “the common people”, where ignorance and simple-mindedness are treasured virtues. That would explain Sarah Palin’s good chance to become the next “Leader of the Free World” – and commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military. By the way, Sarah, Africa is a continent, not a country.
Mr. Pei is surely correct in his modestly veiled suggestion that a George Bush would be a perfect party member, not only in his not being “elitist” but also quite unencumbered by education or intelligence. Truly in touch with the common man. And oil, especially someone else’s.
Although now that I think about it, the West, in particular the US, might have been better served by having had a few college graduates in its government, especially economists. Maybe even someone who could avoid being “misunderestimated” while trying to pass an IQ test.
Here is an interesting article you may care to read, titled, “The Most Mysterious School in China“. It describes part of the extensive and arduous educational process necessary for those in China who show promise as national leaders. You can read the article Here.
You might care to ask yourself how our Western democracies would fare under such requirements.
So for all its apparent power, the party is in fact facing an existential crisis and an uncertain future. Apart from staying in power, it has no public purpose. The crisis is not only ideological, but also political; it explains much of the cynicism, corruption and insecurity of the party and its elites.
China’s governing party is facing an existential crisis and an uncertain future in this man’s dreams. There is no evidence of an existential or any other kind of crisis brewing in China’s government. The reins of power come and go, passed peacefully and through negotiation to new generations.
We see nothing to suggest anguish in examination of purpose or direction in China’s government. In fact, China’s five-year plans are chock-full of purpose and direction, focusing primarily on economic and social issues.
And then we are told that “apart from staying in power, it has no public purpose”. As pointed out above, every government’s wish is to retain power, but to suggest it has no other purpose is to be ridiculous. The purpose of China’s government, apparent to anyone who looks, is to help the country recover from 75 years of semi-colonial devastation and evisceration, and for China to take its rightful place in the world.
I can scarcely imagine a comment more vacuous than to suggest China’s government (or indeed, any government) has no purpose.
We’re then told this imaginary crisis is not only ideological but political, and of course that explains the “cynicism, corruption and insecurity”. Indeed.
Nobody, least of all China’s government, denies that corruption does exist at the lower levels, but one must look long and hard to see any evidence of cynicism or insecurity in the government of China. And it is rather easy to find many examples of precisely the opposite.
As the party has firmly rejected democratization, its only strategy for survival is to maintain the course it has embarked on since the Tiananmen crackdown in June 1989: drawing political legitimacy from economic growth but relying on repression to crush challenges to its monopoly of power. Although this strategy has worked well since Tiananmen, its effectiveness and sustainability are increasingly in doubt.
Mr. Pei makes yet another absurd claim in telling us that China’s government “has firmly rejected democratization”. We would be interested to learn how he explains that same government’s approval of elections at county and local levels.
In fact, what the Chinese government rejects is not democracy but rather the multi-party system, which it sees as leading only to conflict and dysfunctional government. You needn’t look farther than the US for proof of this.
We can’t help but note that it’s charming of Mr. Pei to try to debase China’s progress by yet another cheap reference to Tiananmen Square.
(This is an aside, but if you don’t know that Tiananmen Square was in the end a completely peaceful student protest in which nobody died, here is an article you must read. The full truth didn’t emerge until Wikileaks published all the cables from the US Embassy in Beijing that day, confirming China’s version of events.)
In any case, based on a transparently false assumption, Mr. Pei then proceeds to a false conclusion – draw legitimacy from growth, and “crush” challenges. All governments draw a measure of legitimacy from a nation’s economic well-being. All Western nations have seen governments rejected due to poor economic management; we need only look at the US today.
And make no mistake. If the US Republicans could maintain power indefiinitely by “crushing opposition”, they would surely do so even if it took a different form.
Moreover, there is already much discussion in some US circles about the possible need for the military or other body to “take control” of the US government in the event of yet another manufactured “public threat”. After all, when the country is in danger, that is clearly no time for niceties like “democracy”; it’s a time to take charge and get things done.
There is reason to believe that will happen. And then what will we have? An “authoritarian” government, a “dictatorship”. Welcome to the club, Mr. Pei.
So the government of China, according to Mr. Pei, draws political legitimacy from economic growth but relies on brutal repression to crush challenges. At least he’s being true to his neo-conservative ideology, but as a Westerner living in China I would like to suggest that you come to see for yourself. The only brutal repression I’ve seen so far was when a woman spotted a cockroach in a vegetable market.
And, drawing on our false premise and false conclusion, Mr. Pei informs us that the policies of China’s government are “increasingly in doubt” as to their effectiveness and sustainability.
Well, maybe, but the government’s policies have brought China from one of the poorest nations to become the second-largest economy in the world, becoming the world’s factory in the process, while rescuing hundreds of millions from poverty. And all accomplished in only 30 years.
Here is a link to an article that outlines some of China’s accomplishments during the past (only) ten years. Mr. Pei should read this, and then re-explain to us his juvenile and jingoistic observation that China’s government “has no purpose”. Whoever you are, wherever you live, when you read this list you should wish your government has as little purpose as China’s.
China’s Accomplishments: A Short List of Recent Developments.
However, let’s give Mr. Pei his due. The doubts, or at least his doubts, are indeed constant and increasing. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from his recent articles:
Because of the global economic crisis, however, Beijing is in trouble. The problems are numerous: China’s exports are plummeting, tens of millions of migrant laborers have lost their jobs, millions of college graduates cannot find employment, industrial overcapacity is threatening deflation, and the once red-hot real estate sector has nose-dived. The country’s faltering growth is posing the hardest test yet to the CCP’s resilience.
But a reduced annual growth rate – now down to about seven percent from over 11 percent a couple of years ago – will bring enough trouble. The conventional wisdom is that low growth will erode the party’s political legitimacy and fuel social unrest as jobless migrants and college graduates vent their frustrations through riots and protests.
Editor’s Note: Here’s a Summary:
- Beijing is in trouble
- The problems are numerous
- China’s exports are plummeting
- Tens of millions have lost their jobs
- Millions of college graduates cannot find employment
- Industrial overcapacity is threatening deflation
- The real estate sector has “nose-dived”
- The country’s growth is faltering
- The party’s political legitimacy is being eroded
- Social unrest is being fueled
- (Everybody) is venting frustrations by riots and protests
Maybe I’m imagining things, but that description sounds eerily like the US, doesn’t it? None of it seems remotely descriptive of China.
It’s a shame Mr. Pei didn’t apply his far-sighted genius to the US economy before it cratered. They needed him desperately and might have valued his opinion. China doesn’t, and wouldn’t. However, he continues:
China’s economic revolution is also unleashing powerful social forces that will make maintaining a one-party state more tenuous. The party’s governing philosophy and organizational structure make it difficult to incorporate China’s growing middle-class politically. The convergence of an economic slowdown and rising political activism will challenge the party’s rule from several directions.
The greatest “powerful social force” that has been “unleashed” so far is that of retail consumption. China is the largest retail market in the world today. It is the largest market for luxury goods of every description, from cosmetics to Rolls-Royces to Chateau Rothschild.
Government of the Ignorant by the Incompetent, for the Stupid
There is something else that Mr. Pei’s immature ideology appears to miss altogether. China’s people are not stupid. That may not seem startling to you, but the Chinese have one enormous intellectual difference from the US and the West, a difference attributable to their culture (and intelligence, I would say).
And that difference is that when Chinese people get some money and an improved living standard their first thought, unlike Americans and Westerners, IS NOT, “Gee, now that I’m smart, I want to “try my hand” at meddliing in the government of my country”.
A typical Chinese would no more have foolish fairy-tale ambitions to be a member of the Chinese cabinet and try to direct the economy of the largest country in the world than he would think maybe he’d like to go to the nearest hospital and “try his hand” at a brain transplant.
The Chinese do not see government, as the West does, as a kind of team sport where everybody can play. They think it is a damned serious thing and is best left to those who have studied and worked their whole lives to be in those positions. Tell me they’re wrong.
So the entire thrust of Mr. Pei’s dissertation, that the government “cannot incorporate the middle class” is a stupidity. The last thing China’s middle class wants is to be “incorporated” into the government – into something for which they have no education, training or experience.
But according to Mr. Pei, that’s a fault. And he probably believes with all his heart (like Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei) that the US should invade China and cure it.
Propaganda, Brainwashing, Jingoism
There is something here that should be pointed out as an exercise in the propaganda process. A basic tenet of propaganda is that one never states the proposition openly but instead buries it in a context where this tenet is simply assumed as part of something else that is too true or desirable to question. The reason is that stating the tenet openly will subject it to analysis and criticism, and very often open ridicule.
And that’s what we have here; two false propaganda premises, neither of which can survive easily in the open light.
The first is that a multi-party government system is the apex of political development – the result of natural universal law – to which all nations and peoples will helplessly gravitate when they become as enlightened as Americans.
The second is that natural social development makes a one-party state effectively impossible to maintain. But in fact, there is no relation whatever between these two items. There is nothing in our world’s history to suggest that rising incomes will result in social changes that will naturally force a nation to a multi-party government system.
This is complete nonsense, a foolish conjunction of baseless ideological premises to reach conclusions that escape logic altogether. It is only in the individualistic, Right-Wing countries where citizens, as soon as they have some money and freedom, become pathologically eager to “try their hand” at running the country. Either mass hypnosis or mass insanity.
Mr. Pei seems strangely unable to recognise the US political system as being the most self-serving and dysfunctional in the world today. The recent budget debates exposed the US as a poor caricature of government, more closely resembling a third-world failed state than a superpower.
Mr. Pei further tells us that China’s government and structure cannot politically accommodate the country’s middle class, but there is no basis whatever for such a statement and in fact he offers none. It appears to be wishful thinking alone that drives this man’s imagination. He sees “a convergence” of (imaginary) economic slowdown and (hoped-for) political activism that will result in a multi-party government.
And for what? What is the source of this pathological conviction that every nation must aspire to the US-style of multi-party government? And what is the source of the Christian charity that compels Americans to use military force to inflict this government system on the unwilling?
Here is a link to an excellent article that examines the differences between China’s government and that of the Western countries, and that also examines the flaws in Western multi-party democracies. It’s worth a read.
Now that the Chinese Communist Party has been in power for 62 years, its leaders might also want to note that the record for one-party rule is 74 years, held by the Soviet party, followed by the 71-year rein of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. So when Chinese leaders toast their party’s 90th birthday, they should harbor no illusions that the party can beat history’s odds forever.
And leading to his conclusion, Mr. Pei tells us that China’s one-party system is doomed because others have not lasted much longer. But Mr. Pei might note that China is neither Russia nor Mexico, that the Chinese culture and tradition have maintained essentially a one-party government for perhaps most of its 5,000 years, and that isn’t likely to change because he believes his system is somehow better.
And then we have this:
Rising social discontent may not be enough to force the party out of power, but it might be sufficient to tempt some members of the elite to exploit the situation to their own political advantage. Such political entrepreneurs could use populist appeals to weaken their rivals and, in the process, open up divisions within the party’s seemingly unified upper ranks.
Incredible. China is rising, and overall conditions improving almost by the day, but all Mr. Pei sees is “rising discontent”. And of all the harebrained conclusions that have ever been published about China, this last one wins the prize.
Hu Jintao cannot be forced out of power, but he might be tempted to exploit that imaginary rising discontent for his own advantage as a “political entrepreneur” and “appeal to the public” to force a multi-party system – presumably one which he would lead.
And this man is a professor at an (admittedly low-class) American college. But would you want him teaching such rubbish to your children? Is it a surprise to learn that even the incurably neocon think-tanks like Carnegie tell us “Mr. Pei is no longer associated with this organisation”?
As an aside, did you know that in numerous surveys done since the mid-1960s, between 50% and 75% of Americans cannot find their own country on a map of the world? And consistently, 75% cannot find Canada. Minxin Pei is a graduate of one of the finer US universities and therefore represents some of the best thinking in America. Do you still have doubts about the crumbling of the US educational system?
Part 2 of this Editorial is a brief and very well-written riposte by Eric Li. It is intelligent, factual, and informative.
Part 2: Debunking Myths About China By ERIC X. LI