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Helmut Schmidt: won’t sell Democracy to China

The following link is an interview of Helmut Schmidt. It’s rare and refreshing to see a Western politician speaking so freely and honestly about Democracy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/01/china-democracy_n_5067120.html
Based on the above interview, Bill, a thoughtful friend of mine, pretends to be an interlocutor shadowing Herr Helmut Schmidt with his own comments, excerpted from the interview. The result is well worth sharing:

I think it is astonishing and encouraging that you are required to change the leadership every 10 years and that you replace the elder leaders by younger ones. Nobody stays in power any more as long as Mao of Deng.
On the other hand as a foreigner, as the European as I am, I really have no in depth knowledge of Xi Jinping, and I don’t know what kind of people he has surrounded himself with.

One can compare China leadership selection and term limits with the world largest democracy India and world’s most powerful, the US. Even when a leader is voted out of power, the political dynasties of Ghandis, Longs, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Harrimans, Bushes, etc. continue to exercise power. Family dynasties dominating established democracies morph into ossified institutions as enterprises, foundations and think tanks. They never have to share power with voters or pay attention to their grievances of social inequality. Someone like Sheldon Adelson and Koch brothers give hundreds of millions every two years to hire and fire politicians to consolidate their personal and family influence.  One-man-one-vote is often just environmental noise in democratic politics.
China tries hard not falling into this trap. But her chance of success is also in doubt. Xi Jinping’s chooses his own advisors. However, all leaders, democratic or authoritarian, are beholden to kingmakers and the most powerful stakeholders. They could make or break Xi, though to a large extent he is less vulnerable than Western politicians. The 10-year term limit is meant to give Chinese leaders a longer leash to experiment. However well intended and altruistic, Mr. Xi must move the country forward in the next 10 years. That means he is still constrained by many rules of the perpetual power game. History may glorify leaders’ selflessness. Yet human condition and initial conditions of nations to a large extent define all leadership and social agendas.
Getting real on my end is not the same as being cynical. Mr. Xi’s leadership effectiveness should be determined by a 10-year report card, not by the propaganda of Western media.
Deng was not clear enough when he said “yes we want a democratic nation, but with Chinese characteristics.” … I think you have to find your own way, and you are already an important factor of the world’s economy whether you like it or not.
…you cannot stop your reform and opening up which relies for now by growing through exporting. If you try, you will create tens of millions of unemployed people. What you are doing wrong to the world’s economy with your trade surplus is only a little less wrong than the Germans. We have a greater surplus in our balance of trade than you. It’s ridiculous.

Well put, Chancellor. Economic reform you talk about here should be largely confined to a set of sound economic principles. It takes generations to change a nation’s behavior, but every country must still make efforts to redress its own imbalances in a world of more or less open economies.
China, Germany and Japan are saver nations. Their exchange reserves accumulations are results of national savings, not the English mercantile policy of old. Total free market economy is a myth, governments are the reality. WTO rules are limited in their power to promote global commerce. Many Western governments are doing their best to prevent China from meaningful investments in their countries. For example, government interventions forbid their companies from buying Huawei communications equipment and Chinese technology companies’ solar panels and wind turbines, etc. These are efforts to undermine China’s advance up the value chain. Without brand values in Chinese goods and services, Western nations should not complain about terms of trade and a low yuan when the global imbalance status quo is one of their policy making.
Macroeconomic marauders could easily wreak havoc on China’s nascent financial industry. If you allow China to own only your paper assets and fiat money, you can wipe out their savings by printing more money or by one stroke of executive order, freeze all their assets in your banking system. That’s hardly fair. Isn’t it? Now Xi Jinping knows his country’s weakness. But at present he has little choice. The West has full control of the global financial system architecture.
Back to your first point. Unlike Deutsch sprechende Menschen, Anglos are good at using language to divide and conquer, propagandize, intimidate and to tyrannize. If Deng Xiaoping talked about democratizing with Chinese characteristics, the meaning is quite clear to me. Deng conceded to global speak in this instance. Democracy in this context means good governance. Chinese government is far from being considered exemplary, let alone ideal. Therefore, Chinese must strive for good governance through experiments. China’s pace of reform must develop in lock step with the empirical results of her economic advance, repeat past domestic successes and avoid known failures of OECD countries. Just as importantly, all new policies must not violate China’s existing culture, which also evolves with time, though at almost a glacial pace compared to social changes.
Implicit but not stated in Deng’s lifelong belief is discourage personality cult in China’s leadership. We must respect the wisdom both in his words and deeds. To date, there are no airports, highways, museums named after him. He did not want China stand still by blindly adopting stale, dysfunctional democracies of the West. The best tribute to him is to take his examples at face value. His words are not meant to be the last ones – like “End of history” of the Democracy Cult – for China’s future generations.

Democracy is not the end point of mankind. There may be developments in many different directions in the coming centuries. Democracy has only existed for about 200 years. It started out with the American Declaration of Independence. The Americans got their ideas from the Europeans, in the main from the French, the Dutch and the British.
But democracy has a number of serious failures. For instance, you have to be elected every four years and you have to be re-elected after the next four years. So you try to tell the people what they would like to hear. The multi-party system is not the crown of progress, but it is the best we have right now. I would fight for maintaining it, but I would not sell it to the Chinese.
The British have sold it to the Indians and to the Pakistanis and the Dutch tried to sell it to the Indonesians. Democracy is not really working in India. I would not tell the Egyptians to introduce democracy; nor would I pitch it to the other Muslim countries like Malaysia, Iran and Pakistan. It is a Western invention. It was not invented by Confucius. It was invented by Montesquieu and by other Frenchmen. It was invented by John Locke and by the Dutch people.
Herr Schmidt, your wisdom exceeds mine. I can add no more to it except to speak from the perch of a humble Hong Konger.
Authoritarianism may be good for the yellow goose but not the white gander. Hong Kongers and Chinese pseudo intellectuals till live in the backwaters of history – aping Western successes even as they are turning into sour failures. Many mindless Chinese imitators of democracy don’t have a clue the philosophical foundations of democracy, especially in the governance of the great, or should I say the once great, America Republic.
If Hong Kong rabble rousers were given the free hand, in no time we would descend into Kiev, Tahrir Square mobs or the yellow shirts in Bangkok, Thailand. One of the reasons that democracy has stopped working in many Western countries is a complex brew of paranoia and resentment of social injustices fueled by the runaway rumor mongering on the Internet.
Anglo leaders like Julia Gillard, George W. Bush, Tony Blair and David Cameron all took cover under their Christian values. Of course, “Thou must kill for national security,” a spin-off of the Sixth Commandment, is a non-starter. Worse, they all take marching orders from the non-elected powers of the entrenched political dynasties and moneyed institutions. Despite political leaders’ sanctimoniousness about their God of Abraham, each and every politician in democracies must kowtow to the Fourth Estate. Ironically, Tony Blair, one of the lapdogs of Rupert Murdoch, finally got his personal revenge by cuckolding his former master.
I know Germans frown on my kind of Schadenfreude and I admit my own petty gratification. This joke of Mr. Blair falls on missionary minded Democracy Cultists, on whose proselytizing you agreed earlier is not kosher.
The critical thing about Western democracy is the fact that you usually have a transition of power without bloodshed. That is an enormous advantage…democracy as we know it was only invented recently in the West, historical speaking. It did not really work in ancient Rome. It functioned for less than 200 years in ancient Athens. And then it had not functioned in any other country in the world until the Americans declared independence from the British monarchy.
Even in the time of Pericles in ancient Athens you had slaves. You had to be a citizen of Athens, and for every citizen of Athens there were at least three people who did not have the right to vote and at least one third were slaves.
Even in America, slavery was officially accepted until the middle of the 19th century. The Civil War in the American democracy was about slavery. Don’t forget that. And by the middle of this century you will see that the Mexicans and their children and the Afro-Americans and their children will together be one half of the American electorate. And whoever is president will have to play to the ears of these electors. America will change from a world power into something different. China will also change. And whether you become a democracy or not remains to be seen. My feeling is that you will not become a democracy.

What I disagree with you here is minor. You’re bringing in different kinds of democracies here. Strictly speaking, generic democracy shares only one thing: open balloting to select a leader. However, there are limitless practical ways to select candidates. Ironically, for all practical intent, the choice of candidates to stand in elections for every country must be of necessity “undemocratic” in every sense of the word. Does it mean that by making this nomination process into the singularly important issue, we Hong Kongers are the stupidest in the world? I am afraid so. We are just not ready for your democracy. Our losers in elections, the activist dissidents, are not likely to accept gracefully the outcome of a losing election. How do I know? Because our politicos have stated uniform suffrage is the only be-all-end-all issue. For them there are no others issues – not jobs, not healthcare, not education and not provident funds – and no fallback positions on election loss. Win or else could mean one thing: riots and violence. In mature democracies, life goes on after an election.
In the generic use of the word democracy, only a small number of democratic countries are free of bloodsheds in elections. Just look at India, Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine and numerous others. An even better counter example is the former Soviet Union. It was not democratic. There was no coupe or killings when the country transitioned from communist Gorbachev to drunkard democratic Yeltsin. Chinese has not seen any bloodshed in power transfers in the last 4 decades.
Also you must admit vast majority foreign wars of occupation that kill up to millions were all started by Western democracies after WW 2.
The reason early American Republic worked well is because it was not very democratic. Only landed gentry were given the ballots and the leadership was a bunch of crème de la crème elitists and geniuses.
You (China) are certainly in a post-communist system but you have not entered the new era. I also doubt that you will remain a one party system either.
What you are talking here is the superficial political structure. Looking under the hood, there are already two opposing de facto parties within the CCP. For me, this is Nature’s way to organize humans. In order to survive, every individual, group or nation constantly needs a certain amount of tension to adjust and fine tune its goals as environment changes. Individual Chinese politicians are no different. They find it necessary to belong to a faction, first to survive personally and next, to have their small voices heard as part of their faction’s platforms.
It is impossible to use a huge diversity of individual inputs on multiple issues as is as inputs to a system. Therefore, inputs must be categorized and filtered into a consensus at different levels of an organization’s hierarchy. This is how political parties came into being in the first place. These inputs formation processes in human organizations occupy space and time at different hierarchical stages, whose number of political parties, horizontal and vertical issues integrations depend highly on the size of an organization or a nation. The final stage of adversarial showdown, the statement of political platforms, is expressed by chiefs of parties. There is no right or wrong number for political parties. In the US and China, there are two.
What matters is whether the process works or not. In China, it works quite well at present. We can’t predict the future.
They (media) are too powerful. I believe in the representative type of democracy. The media are undermining that type of democracy. Particularly since the computerization of the world, the impact of media has grown enormously. The printed books and the printed media have become less important. Why should somebody read Laozi or Confucius if he can Google?
You’re perfectly correct insofar as politics is concerned. But in terms of gathering information and acquiring knowledge, we are living in the best of times.

  1. April 25th, 2014 at 00:28 | #1

    This is an interesting post. I enjoyed reading it – and also the post titled “Yet another myth about democracy: “democracy+capitalism = prosperity”” by Mister Unknnown.

    But I think the problem with democracy is deeper than this. It’s not just that democracy doesn’t work for poorer, developing nations. It’s not just that democracy needs reform to bring it back to the gilded age. It’s that there had never been any gilded age. We never had a democracy that worked. I will write a post about it soon.

  2. April 25th, 2014 at 01:06 | #2

    @Allen That’d be great Allen. Democracy has in recent years been turned into a cult. Most arguments for it have become detached from facts and rationality. It’d be very interesting to take a positive look at it through rational eyes, and see where it could go next, and how.

  3. Matchut
    April 26th, 2014 at 12:22 | #3

    Guo Du :
    Democracy has in recent years been turned into a cult.

    Speaking of which, I recall once reading an analysis on a quality-of-life survey (the survey and analysis were done by two different organizations); the analysis stated that quality of life tended to correlate with health, wealth, and “democracy”. On the topic of democracy, the analysis stated that people were happier when the government didn’t interfere in their private lives, as if that actually had something to do with democracy.

  4. pug_ster
    April 26th, 2014 at 15:43 | #4

    The problem with Western democracy is that people choose others to “represent them.” The fallacy of it is that it assumes that people who were elected often represent their views but most often they don’t. Instead these elites have the money to get themselves in the ballot and this certainly is not what democracy is all about.

  5. Wahaha
    May 1st, 2014 at 20:22 | #5

    Helmut Schmidt: Japan Has No Friends In Asia. Neither Does
    China. Part II
    WANG HUI: China has become the second largest economy in the world. Many economists
    argue that by 2030 China will be the number one economy.
    HELMUT SCHMIDT: Whether in 2030 or 2040, that will happen. It is a great change in
    global history.
    WANG: At the same time, the situation in East Asia has been worsening. Since the late
    Qing Dynasty, Japan has been the most powerful country in the whole region, and it was not
    prepared to see the revival of China. I visit Japan regularly and I can see a certain kind of
    bewilderment in the mentality of Japanese people: Even though China faces many problems, it is
    nonetheless rising in its economy and military might.
    Many of my Japanese friends argue that the best way forward for Japan is integration into
    Asia so it does not become isolated in its own region.
    SCHMIDT: The basic fact about Japan’s situation is that it does not have any friends in the
    region –- not the Philippines, nor the Koreans, nor the Russians, nor the Chinese, nor people in
    Indonesia. They have invaded all these countries. They do not understand that all their neighbors
    hate them despite the fact that the present Japanese did not commit any crimes.
    Germany certainly committed more war crimes than anybody else. But, unlike the Japanese,
    we have had the great stroke of luck of finding neighbors who have helped us overcome our past.
    We have openly regretted what our fathers have done. So the Germans today, to an amazing extent, have been able to join in a project of European integration that, whatever its problems, makes war
    between European nations impossible.
    In Asia, a military conflict between the Japanese and others in the region cannot be
    completely excluded. If I were a Chinese politician, I would wait in peace for demographics to take
    its course. I would continue the policy of the emperors of the “Middle Kingdom” and bide time as
    events take their inevitable course. By 2050, China will have 1.5 billion inhabitants. Japan will have
    only 120 million or even less.
    If I were a Chinese I would just wait and see how long it takes until the Japanese come
    bearing presents. Just give them time and don’t fight about these ridiculous Diaoyu islands.
    WANG: Ten Southeast Asian countries plus one — that is, China– want to have a free trade
    zone. Japan and Korea followed to propose a ten plus three system. When these ideas arose, there
    was a certain kind of optimistic sentiment toward the integration of Asia, encouraged by the
    European example. Will it work?
    SCHMIDT: It will not really work. As is the case of Japan, China also has no friends in the
    region. The Chinese leaders are not unaware of this fact. However, you do not need friends. You are
    big enough and you will be able to stand alone. And you will still be the largest economy of the
    world. But you don’t have friends. And they will not join a Chinese-led union like Europe.
    In history, China never had any friends. A number of people came to Beijing and brought
    presents as tributaries. China was the Middle Kingdom. You didn’t make friends, but you did make
    people dependent on your leadership. Right now, however, others are not willing to submit
    themselves to the Chinese. This is true for Indonesia; it is also true for India, Korea and Japan.
    WANG: Regional integration in Asia could be radically different from the regional
    integration of Europe. This is partly because the integration of Europe relied on inter-state relations
    to form the system of one large entity. The integration in Asia will be inevitably based on inter-state
    relations as well, but it will be more like a network. The goal will not be the formation of a large,
    unified political entity.
    SCHMIDT: International law is an invention from about 400 years ago. That is rather young
    compared to the age of Confucius. It is rather young compared with the age of Chinese history and
    Chinese civilization. The Chinese have one great advantage in Asia: You have one and the same
    written language. You can even read Japanese newspapers. You may not understand Japanese
    philosophy, but you can read their newspapers.
    WANG: Especially for scholars, we can read some pre-modern books because many of them
    use Chinese characters exclusively or extensively. SCHMIDT: That’s a great advantage compared to the 500 million Europeans where every
    nation has its own language. Don’t underestimate this enormous difficulty.

  6. Wahaha
    May 1st, 2014 at 20:24 | #6

    ‘Why Chinese Civilization Has Lasted.’ Part III
    WANG HUI: I read some interview in which you talked about your early visits to China and
    you said that Deng Xiaoping smoked when you met him. [Helmut Schmidt is famous for insisting
    on smoking, even in public places, at 95- ed.]
    SCHMIDT: I met him three times in my life. And each time we had plenty of time. He was a
    great listener; quite different compared to Mao Tse-tung. Mao didn’t really listen. He did not speak
    a lot, but he did not really listen. He believed in what he believed and stuck to that that over a long
    number of decades.
    HELMUT SCHMIDT: There is something about China that I do not really understand. The
    Chinese civilization, the Chinese written language, Mandarin, has existed at least for 3000 years
    now. Three thousand years ago we had the great civilization of the Iranian people, of the Egyptian
    people, of the Romans, of the Greeks. All of these civilizations have gone. Yet, the Chinese
    civilization has retained its continuity. And after more than 4000 years of Chinese history, all of the
    sudden the Chinese are exploding onto the world stage. Why?
    WANG: The Chinese civilization has had the tendency to construct and reconstruct itself
    continuously. It was interrupted many times, but continuity was always revived. No doubt it has
    much to do with Confucianism. Confucianism is a political culture and not only a philosophical
    “Confucianism is a political culture and not only a philosophical culture.”
    SCHMIDT: The Confucian civilization starts only around the year zero A.D. — 500 years
    after the death of Confucius. And later on Confucianism almost died out. And it came back around
    900. So, Confucianism covers only one half of Chinese history.
    WANG: But even in the dynasties when Confucianism was in decline, rulers and scholars
    still attempted to reconstruct the ideology of the Confucianism to some degree.
    SCHMIDT: And it is coming back today.
    WANG: They always tried to reconstruct it. The thing most difficult to understand is that the
    Chinese civilization was interrupted by nomadic people from Mongol, Khitan, and Jurchen. But it is
    interesting that the nomads who came to China also tried to re-establish society in the tradition of Chinese dynasties. They tended to respect Confucianism while preserving their own cultures and
    diverse identities, hence enriching the Chinese civilization.
    SCHMIDT: The political civilization of China differs in one way from the rest of the
    civilizations. Chinese Confucianism does not seek to establish the belief in one religion.
    Confucianism is a philosophy, or an ethical system, but not a religion. You do not believe in God.
    In what do you, as a Confucian, believe?
    WANG: Confucius himself said that we should respect ghosts and spirits while keeping
    some distance from them.
    SCHMIDT: Your theory is that the impulse for reinvention so many times after so many
    dynasties is what gives Chinese civilization its sustainable longevity?
    WANG: To one extent, yes.
    SCHMIDT: What is the other extent?
    WANG: The other extent is that there was still an important legacy that always survived,
    especially in the countryside. Until the 20th century, China remained as an agricultural civilization.
    “Farming and studying as the family lineage,” or geng du chuan jia, had been the basic lifestyle. But
    now there is a big change. Another great transformation is happening now.
    SCHMIDT: Of course, farmers are always conservative. They stick to what they have
    learned from their fathers and from their grandfathers. This is the same all over the globe. It is not a
    Chinese specialty.
    WANG: No, of course not. But the other side of the coin is radicalness. Mao himself is such
    a paradoxical character. On the one hand, he was very radical. But on the other hand, he was so well
    acquainted with Chinese history and classics. When I was a student in the middle high school, I
    started to study the Chinese Classics under the influence of Mao.

  7. Wahaha
    May 1st, 2014 at 20:24 | #7

    SCHMIDT: Did you do it with the consent of Mao or against his will?
    WANG: Well, both. Mao argued that we needed to criticize Confucianism and should be
    pro-Legalism (the school of thought emphasized strict obedience to authorities and the law—ed.)
    That political campaign started in 1974. That’s why even in middle school, we were required to
    read and then criticize Confucian texts. We were hence asked to read a lot of the classics.
    SCHMIDT: My impression is that Mao was even against Confucius being quoted in public.
    WANG: That happened mainly after 1974 when the campaign “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize
    Confucius” started. Lin was criticized for attempting to revive Confucianism as a power move, so
    Mao launched this campaign.
    SCHMIDT: At the time of Confucius, there was another outstanding Chinese philosopher,
    Laozi. Did Mao also attack Laozi? WANG: No, at least he was not the main target. He was considered a master of dialectical
    thinking. Mao regarded Laozi as a strategic thinking above all. You may read Laozi from the
    perspective of military strategy.
    SCHMIDT: When I was in China in the 1990s, the general answer that I got when asking
    about Mao was the he was “70 percent was right and 30 percent was wrong” in what he did. Is that
    still the answer?
    WANG: For China, Mao is complex. Nowadays, some people dislike him very much, but on
    the other hand many people have a very positive opinion of him. It is difficult to evaluate such a
    man with such accurate metrics.
    SCHMIDT: By the way, he also liberated women in China. This is something that is
    overlooked at present. If you speak about what Mao has achieved, he paved the way for the
    liberation of women. Am I right?
    WANG: Yes, absolutely. And another issue is that, even though we suffered in a certain
    period, the history of his period would become the foundation for the next period. After the Cultural
    Revolution, Deng Xiaoping was under great pressure to denounce Mao. But Deng refused to do so.
    It was partly a political strategy since the legitimacy of the reform was derived from the legitimacy
    of the Chinese Communist Party. But it was also because he knew perfectly well that while the
    Cultural Revolution caused tremendous loss, the Mao era also laid the foundation and defined the
    framework for a unified nation that was the basis for “opening up and reform.”
    Deng’s decision strengthened the legitimacy of China’s political system. Otherwise, China
    could have fallen into chaos at that time.
    SCHMIDT: This could still happen — not very likely, but not totally unlikely. And it would
    certainly, after some time, lead to reconsolidation of China once again. It is not the first revolution
    in history. By the way, Mao confessed to not being a Marxist. He never was (laughter) — he was a
    WANG: How Mao should be evaluated remains a provocative question. But he said during
    the Cultural Revolution that, in his view, very few people in the Chinese Communist Party really
    knew Marxism. He made this comment in the 1970s.
    SCHMIDT: Marx believed in the revolution by industrial workers. Mao believed in
    revolution by the peasants. That had nothing to do with Marx. What they had in common was
    revolution. Right now in Germany, among every hundred people who earn their living by working,
    less than a third are “workers” in the sense Marx meant it. Many are not workers in a traditional
    sense. They work in an office and in front of them is a computer. WANG: The Chinese situation is different. We still have 260 million migrant workers —
    who have come to the cities from the countryside. It is the largest working class in the world. But in
    the 20th century, when the Revolution took place, there were less than 2 million workers in China.

  8. Wahaha
    May 1st, 2014 at 20:25 | #8

    SCHMIDT: You have to consider the abolishing of the hukou system [the system or urban
    registration for urban dwellers. Without residence permits, migrants do not get urban services, as
    urban residents do, including education.. editor].
    WANG: Now we are moving toward that direction — not abolishing it, but making it much
    more flexible. .
    SCHMIDT: You need to do away with the whole system of hukou. It is one of the
    necessities or modernization. How long will it take?
    WANG: Some cities in China have already changed the policy for allowing migrants to get
    urban services. Compared with the past, the significance of hukou has already dwindled. The key
    issue for the present is land ownership. Each peasant has a small piece of assigned land, the rights
    of which they still own even after they migrate into cities.
    SCHMIDT: This has also to be changed.
    WANG: This is a big issue for China. There are heated disputes over it. Many peasants who
    live in the suburbs or cities don’t want to give up their land.
    SCHMIDT: I think one of the greatest changes that have happened in China is that you do
    not need so many farmers any more. And they are going into the cities. And the cities are becoming
    bigger and bigger. Beijing has about 19 million inhabitants now. Shanghai is close to 30 million.
    This means that the instinct of the farmer keeping to his father’s will in the Confucian tradition is
    bound to dissipate.
    WANG: That’s right.
    SCHMIDT: You Chinese today do not believe in your father or your forefather. You believe
    in making money.
    WANG: That is a big challenge. According to the estimation of some Western scholars, by
    2035 China will have 25 of the most populous cities among the top 75 in the world. If true, that
    would entail a thorough transformation in the social structure of China.
    SCHMIDT: The urbanization of the nation also means massification. The psychology of the
    masses is something completely different than the psychology of the family, or even the psychology
    of the market. And the masses can be led astray. This is as big a problem as the smog over Beijing
    and Shanghai.
    WANG: Now there is a debate in China among the leaders and the intellectuals about the
    approach for the next reform, and about the trend of urbanization. Basically the consensus is that
    globalization renders the trend of urbanization inexorable. This has been the premise of such
    discussions. But in China, land is still state-owned and collectively owned, so the problem focuses
    on how to handle the relationship between cities and the countryside.
    In the end, the debate comes down to the issue of the privatization of land. Some argue that
    state and collectively-owned land should be privatized. But some other scholars disagree and
    promote the reconstruction of the rural society at the same time as urbanization continues. Even if
    our rural population is reduced dramatically in the next 50 years, we will still have a population of
    500 million in the countryside.
    SCHMIDT: I guess that the average size of a Chinese village today is several thousand
    people. At the time of Sun Yat-sen, there were several hundred people. How great was the
    population of China in the year 1911?
    WANG: It was about 400 million.
    SCHMIDT: And now it is more than 1.3 billion. And an increasing share of that 1.3 billion
    is living in the cities. And the process is going on, whether you like it or not.
    WANG: Life in central cities is not that comfortable. The Chinese government does not
    simply encourage the expansion of cities. The trend is rather to get people to move to the smaller
    SCHMIDT: The problem is rather more complicated, because the standard of living in the
    big cities, is infinitely higher than in these small towns that are large villages. The standard of living
    per capita in Shanghai is probably 10 times higher than the standard of living in the small towns of
    which you have spoken.
    On the other hand, the bulk of the Chinese people are still living under the consequences of
    the one child policy. That means that as a nation you become ever older and you will need to care
    for the older people. And this is one of the great Chinese problems approaching the middle of the
    WANG: Yes, absolutely. One doctrine of Confucianism is about “expanding piety to your
    parents and to others as well.” It is about the respect for the elderly and about sympathy with those
    who came before, both of which are facing challenge as urbanization accelerates.
    “One can expect a future race between America, on the one hand, and China on the other
    hand. Both of them will be forced to invent social security systems almost at the same time.”

  9. Wahaha
    May 1st, 2014 at 20:26 | #9

    A RACE BETWEEN THE U.S. AND CHINA ON SOCIAL SECURITY SCHMIDT: One can expect a future race between America, on the one hand, and China on
    the other hand. Both of them will be forced to invent social security systems almost at the same
    time. The Americans have an advantage because they already do have the beginning of a social
    security system and you do not have one, or it is very weak.
    WANG: Yes. China has been attempting in the last decade to rebuild the social welfare
    system, especially the healthcare system. Of course the standard is still low, but for the first time in
    history China has a basic healthcare system that can cover the whole population. We have to be
    realistic in a country with more than a billion people: The pressure on the state budget might be too
    SCHMIDT: Further, the science and the art of applying medicine today will extend people’s
    lives. Your children will become much older than yourself. They will become five years older at
    least. I am an example; I will become 95 this year. And I’m still alive, due to modern medicine.
    WANG: Average life expectancy is already over 70 years of age in China.
    SCHMIDT: Before long their lifetime will reach 80.
    WANG: I believe so. The average life expectancy in China is much higher than that in India,
    and is about the same as Russia. It is still lower than that in Japan.
    SCHMIDT: And this longevity will grow while the margin of manoeuvre for the state to act
    in a globalized world is dwindling at the same time.
    WANG: The pressure exerted by the society on the government has grown. The urban
    population has a strong consciousness. Most of the protests in the early days happened in the
    countryside. But now, they happen in urban areas. Globalization has certainly impacted China, but
    in comparison to other nation-states, we are relatively independent.
    SCHMIDT: And at the same time they are not revolting against the central government.
    WANG: That is another phenomenon. A lot of the protests call for social equality more than
    a change in government.


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