Minxin Pei Proves Freedom of Opinion is a Bad Thing
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".
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's largest 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. China's leaders today have no idea what their party stands for, and if they did know, they would lie about it. But, luckily for us, Mr. Pei apparently does know - and, happily, will tell us the truth.|
|This much we know: 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.|
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'.
|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 7.7 trillion dollars in total bailouts. If that isn't a "self-serving political patronage machine", I can't imagine what would be.
|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.|
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, where does Mr. Pei believe we should recruit them? The 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 apparently good chance to have become the next "Leader of the Free World". By the way, Sarah, Africa is a continent, not a country.
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.|
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, patently obvious in the 5-year plans, and 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.
Nobody, least of all China's government, denies that corruption does exist at the lower levels, but one would look in vain for evidence of cynicism or insecurity at the national level. 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.|
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.) Let's Talk About Tiananmen Square.
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.
As a Westerner living in China I suggest you come to see for yourself the absence of repression and opposition being 'crushed'.
The policies of China's government, rather than being increasingly in doubt as to their sustainability, have brought China from one of the poorest nations to the world's second-largest economy, becoming the world's factory in the process, while rescuing hundreds of millions from poverty. And all accomplished in only 30 years.
Whoever you are, wherever you live, you should wish your government has as little purpose as China's.
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:
Maybe I'm imagining things, but that description sounds eerily like the US. 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.|
Mr. Pei's ideology appears unable to grasp an enormous intellectual difference between China and the West, one attributable to culture and, I would say, intelligence.
A curious part of political dogma Americans hold with evangelical certitude, is a conviction that when the Chinese obtain an improved living standard their first wish will be an overwhelming desire to meddle in the government of their country.
But a typical Chinese would no more have foolish ambitions to try to direct the economy of the largest country in the world than he would think of going to the nearest hospital to '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 see it as serious, and best left to those who have studied and worked their whole lives to be in those positions. You can't tell them they're wrong.
Mr. Pei earlier disparaged China's government for being 'elitist' by containing only the middle classes, but he now claims with apparently equal conviction that this same government 'cannot incorporate the middle class'.
In any case, 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.
There is something here to be exposed. 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 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; a false propaganda premise and two corollaries, none of which can survive easily in the open light.
The first theorem is that a multi-party political system is the apex of socio-religious development to which all nations and peoples will helplessly gravitate, and will embrace by natural universal law - when they become as enlightened as Americans.
The first corollary of this theological theorem is that as nations evolve from apehood, all citizens will cry out for "freedom", meaning in this case they will be possessed by the demon of democracy and imbued with an overwhelming desire to 'participate' in their nation's government.
The second theorem is that the above natural social developments will make a one-party state effectively impossible to maintain.
But this is all largely nonsense, a foolish conjunction of baseless ideological premises. In what other country but the US, does this mass hypnosis exist?
In any case, there is nothing in our world's history to suggest that rising incomes result in social changes that naturally force a nation into multi-party politics and the citizens into mindless religious acolytes. This conviction appears pathological.
|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.|
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 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 become a "political entrepreneur" and exploit that imaginary rising discontent by appealing to the public to force a multi-party system - presumably one which he would lead.
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