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China at Crossroad, a Critique from Left.

With China’s stupendous achievements from the last 35 years it would seem petty to complain about problems accompanies the growth. Yet Xi and his leadership group face some structural problems in reforms necessarily to transform Capitalism to her eventual goal of Socialism. Last month Beijing University named a new building after Karl Marx, and hosted first of hopefully many more conferences of Marx scholars from around the world. Xi has revisited his old home in Yan’an when he was a teenager and invoked Mao’s speech in 1942 in Yan’an Forum on art and literature. There are palpable worries from liberals in the West that Xi might be another Mao in waiting.

Since Xi assumed power, his major focus is on fighting corruption at various levels of government, party, and military. Yet as major cases shown it is not easy as corruption has grown to be integral part of society, intertwined with roots stretching beyond easy reach and facing pushbacks that threaten his own hold on power. Various special interests under the slogan “To be rich is glorious” has married power to money with few immune to the lure of lucre. Xi’s fight against corruption is popular in China, yet it raises unrealistic expectation that threaten the mantra of social stability. An example was the collapse of school buildings during the Szechuan earthquake. It is easy to play the blame game after the fact. Grieving parents together with other public personalities were a powerful force, but can you dig deep enough to affect not only the contractors, but government official and everyone involved? Xi’s solution is trying to contain the investigation of corruption to major ones, a somewhat amnesty for minor past misdeeds and crack down on new or egregious cases. Events seem to expose the inadequacy of this strategy. Tianjin chemical explosions, red alert for smog in Beijing, and now the Shenzhen landslide show that laws is powerless against the collusion of power and money.

I applaud what Xi and his leadership group is attempting. Reducing inequality by health care for everyone, social security for rural farmers, continuing urbanization with household registration open to migrant workers, subsidized and reduced price to sell excess apartments to them, new changes in 1 child policy, reducing military by 300,000 and divorce military from profit and business. Reduce pollution and for a greener less CO2 future, the list is endless and daunting. Compare them with the coming GOP contenders in U.S., where evolution and climate warming are denied, it’s obvious future lies with China. Yet all these will not be possible without a socialist ethic, and Mao looms over it. China has to deal with the legacy of Mao and CR, avoiding or ignoring them will not do. Whatever the positives or negatives must be analyzed and examples learned.

The career of Yu Yonjun is instructive. He rose to became governor of Shanxi province from 2005-2007. He purposed zero growth for coal and steel production there, and closed thousands of small inefficient coal mines which exploited labor and were unsafe. He wanted to protect the environment and made powerful enemies in party bureaucracy and coal barons. He was a most popular governor there, yet he lost his job due to the scandal he exposed in coal mines. I think there are 3-4 more governors there since he left and none were successful. He’s now retired and hired as a professor in a southern university. He gave a series of lectures on CR recently and probably triggered sensitive nerves and called to Beijing for conference.

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  1. December 22nd, 2015 at 10:13 | #1

    Yet as major cases shown it is not easy as corruption has grown to be integral part of society, intertwined with roots stretching beyond easy reach and facing pushbacks that threaten his own hold on power. Various special interests under the slogan “To be rich is glorious” has married power to money with few immune to the lure of lucre.

    Perhaps this is slightly out of topic in most people’s eyes, but for me it’s an important point.

    In the West, China’s fight against corruption is caricurized in two major forms. 1.) it’s just a charade for Xi’s power grab; 2.) it’s a hopeless battle until China gains a “liberal democracy” and “rule of law.”

    1.) is possible in name, but if anyone is to look at the overall trajectories of China, it’s nonsense. There is a legitimate push by the gov’t and yearning by the people to rid of corruption.

    2.) Would democracy really rid of “corruption”? I doubt it. Corruption grows many forms. By definition, since it is about doing things that cannot be approved in broad daylight, it is inevitably about doing things in the shadows – it’s about shady business. Do shady business much less in Western democracies? I don’t think so. In the U.S., for example, there is the “military industrial complex,” the pharmaceutical complex, and all other brands of special interests. In fact, scholars at Princeton have even gone to prove statistically that government actions have little to do with people’s preferences (at least going back to 1981). If people can’t control their government actions going awry in broad daylight, can they really control illicit actions in the shadows?

    As for rule of law, I laugh, because rule of law is always about the implementation of law according to the preferences and biases of social norms than the laws themselves. The U.S. Constitution has been used to justify and reject slavery (with the former focusing more on sanctity of property and property owner’s “right to choose” and latter on equality of slaves as human brethren). The concepts of rule of law has been applied to eradicate and slaughter native Americans, to justify segregation, to enact Chinese Exclusion Act and to validate Japanese internment.

    It’s not that the predecessors were incompetent or sly at their implementation of the rule of law. It only appears so today to us because our values have changed from theirs…

    As I’ve discussed on this blog before, for any body of law to appear just, it must incorporate sufficient numbers of “principles” that appeal to all human circumstances, including plenty of room to emphasize rules that tailor to specific norms of the times. If rule of law can be used to condone as well as condemn genocide, condone as well as to condemn slavery, it can be used to do anything. REALLY!

    Think also universal declaration of human rights. It can be applied to yield any of various results depending how you prioritize the rights. It can be polities as to be meaningless except as a legal political farce

    The ancient Chinese were right. Rule of law is a tool. That’s fine. But at the highest levels of gov’t, rule of law can’t constrain them. Only their internal virtue and morals can.

    So the CCP is faced with new challenges that will only grow as the country becomes wealthier. Will it become a Western style oligarchy that mouth words of equality and democracy but is rotten at the core in providing for the people … for humanity, or will it resurrect older wisdoms that can take it to the next level?

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