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« When Martin Jacques Fools the World | Main | Another Daoist Thanksgiving »

November 07, 2012

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Transparency is indeed one of the areas the Chinese government must improve on to improve its standing among its own people. It is also a hallmark of democracy.

But transparency is not the only criterion. When the people are blind transparency has little value.

I noticed another contradiction in many folks when they criticize the Chinese government on things like legitimacy. When polls show that the Chinese people overwhelmingly favor their central government, this is quickly dismissed as the opinions of mindless, brainwashed robotic Chinese. But when Chinese people also voice disapproval of large aspects of their government this is viewed as evidence of widespread discontent. I have no doubt that the Chinese people are very critical of their government as they should be.

But I also have no doubt that Americans are also very critical of major aspects of their government and many may have lots of great and justified grievances. When it all comes down to it, I don't know which government actually enjoys more "legitimacy" but I do know that the US propaganda system is FAR more effective than the Chinese in brainwashing its people (and other people too).

With the re-election of Obama some cheered and some cried, but I don't think the billionaires are shaking in their boots, and staus quo prevailed. Even though Donald Trump wanted to start a revolution when Romney's popular votes were ahead of Obama's when he was declared a winner electorally he was just a court jester putting more fodders for the comedians. The 4 billion dollars spent on the election is small change for the plutocracy whoever wins. Consider the recent series of 5-4 decisions by the Supreme Court, with Justice Roberts and Alito appointed by the illegitimate president George Bush who was appointed by the Supreme Court with some of the justices appointed by his father. After all Gore did get more popular votes and electoral votes if all the votes in Florida were counted despite the butterfly votes. He started the Iraq War despite the opposition of Europe and public opinions of the world. Do the people of Afghanistan consider U.S. legitimate? That is if they can vote on it. Consider Wyoming with its 2 senators gets to cancel the 2 votes from California, consider it takes 60 voyes in senate to kill fillibuster. Consider Republicans with less than 49% of the popular votes still control the House of Representatives due to gerrymandering. We may be able to gripe about it but is powerless to change it.
China maybe opaque with its election of Xi, he may well be a compromise candidate, so is her last 2 group of leaders. Yet they manage to provide leadership and direction to improve livelihood of 1.3 billion people. We nay see the eclipse of the sun and moon, but we can not affect them in anyway. To use a Western saying the proof is in the pudding.

With the opening of the 18th CCP and the re-election of Barak Obama we can look at the various problems each faces and probable outcomes. For President Obama it's the fiscal cliff which he and the congress both agreed to kick down the road until Jan 13, then it will be the debt ceiling a few months later. With most of the House Republicans took the no tax increase pledge I don't see Tea Party will blink. The result will most likely be Obama caves again. So no millionaire tax increase and Bush tax cuts will be make more permenant. Certainly defense spending will not be cut, and entitlement will be cut but probably pushed to the future. The debt will continue to baloon and Federal Reserve will print more money until creditors like China will decide to throw in the towel and flee and precipitate a crisis. The problems will remain unsolved.
For China we can see from Hu's speech the major theme will be on corruption and income inequality, which will face heavy going but I do expect they to make headway albeit slowly. Reform on economy to transition to consumer and service economy will proceed and Hu wants to GDP and income per capital to double by 2020. we will see whether so called democracy where people are promised everything to get votes, low tax, high service, selfish interest versus Chinese authortarianism which consider society as more important than individual will prevail.

Teddy Ng of SCMP wrote something that I thought sums up this dichotomy well: "...The irony was not lost on some, like Ma Qiji , a former vice-president of CR-Nielsen, a Chinese joint venture by the market research firm Nielsen.
"Chinese media can only focus on and speculate about who will win the US elections, even though we are having our party congress and picking a new boss," Ma wrote on his Sina Weibo account.
Others were more sarcastic. "The happiest thing for Chinese citizens is that they get to see the American people casting votes to elect a president they like, while letting the party pick a leader for them," wrote one internet user.
Another commenter said: "The Americans still don't know who their president will be. We have known who our leader will be for years."..."

Is one better than the other? I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. But I certainly know where I'd rather be.

In this vein there is an article in today's NY times (IHT global Opinion) by Zhang Weiwei titled "Meritocracy versus democracy" that is quite interesting;

"On the institutional front, the Party has introduced a strict mandatory retirement age and term limits at all levels. The general secretary, president and prime minister now serve a maximum of two terms of office, or 10 years. Collective leadership is practiced within the Politburo in part to prevent the type of the personality cult we witnessed during the Cultural Revolution."

"Meritocratic governance is deeply-rooted in China’s Confucian political tradition, which among other things allowed the country to develop and sustain for well over a millennium the Keju system, the world’s first public exam process for selecting officials."

"Virtually all the candidates for the Standing Committee of the Party, China’s highest decision-making body, have served at least twice as a party secretary of a Chinese province or at similar managerial positions. It takes extraordinary talent and skills to govern a typical Chinese province, which is on average the size of four to five European states.
Indeed, with the Chinese system of meritocracy in place, it is inconceivable that people as weak and incompetent as George W. Bush or Yoshihiko Noda of Japan could ever get to the top leadership position."

Take the incoming leader, Xi Jinping, as an example. Xi served as the governor of Fujian Province, a region known for its dynamic economy, and as party secretary of Zhejiang province, which is renowned for its thriving private sector, and Shanghai, China’s financial and business hub with a powerful state-sector.

In other words, prior to taking his current position as the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, Xi had in fact managed areas with total population of over 120 million and an economy larger than India’s. He was then given another five years to serve as vice president to get familiar with running state and military affairs at the national level.

Indeed, Abraham Lincoln’s ideal of “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” is by no means easy to achieve, and American democracy is far from meeting this objective. Otherwise the Nobel economics laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz would not have decried, in perhaps too critical a tone, that the U.S. system is now “of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, and for the 1 percent.”

China has become the world’s largest laboratory for economic, social and political change, and China’s model of “selection plus election,” is in a position now to compete with the U.S. model of electoral democracy.

Winston Churchill’s famous dictum — “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried” — may be true in the Western cultural context. Many Chinese even paraphrase Churchill’s remark into what China’s great strategist Sun Tzu called “xiaxiace,” or “the least bad option,” which allows for the exit of bad leaders.

However, in China’s Confucian tradition of meritocracy, a state should always strive for what’s called “shangshangce,” or “the best of the best” option by choosing leaders of the highest caliber. It’s not easy, but efforts in this direction should never cease.

China’s political and institutional innovations so far have produced a system that has in many ways combined the best option of selecting well-tested leaders and the least bad option of ensuring the exit of bad leaders.


"China’s political and institutional innovations so far have produced a system that has in many ways combined the best option of selecting well-tested leaders and the least bad option of ensuring the exit of bad leaders."
---in who's opinion?

There's nothing wrong with meritocracy as a concept. The question has always been who gets to determine merit. In the CCP, the people who do the choosing were themselves chosen? And who chose them? Someone else who was chosen. It becomes chicken-egg...who was the index person who made choices, which over the years led to the current group of "chosen ones"? And who chose that index person? Basically, Chinese people did, at the time. If Chinese people could be relied upon to make a choice 60 odd years ago, why haven't they been good enough to make a choice since?

The western system also works on merit, at the level of bureaucrats and appointees. The difference is that elected people choose them, and elected people themselves are chosen by the electorate.

So which one is better? Like I said, it's in the eye of the beholder. In one, you get transparency, open scrutiny, and choice. In the other, you don't. Assuming you live in the US, the further irony is that you avail yourself to a system that permits choice, while advocating others be subjected to one that doesn't.

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