Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Mountains Remain When an Emperor Reigns

Is centralizing power under Xi the best way to maintain order in the vast country/continent China when the saying is "the mountains are high and the emperor is far?"

The future of 1.4 billion people, the world’s second-largest economy and an emerging military juggernaut now lies largely in the hands of just one man: China’s President Xi Jinping.

Let a single flower bloom!

The ruling Communist Party's flagship newspaper on Thursday provided more evidence that President Xi Jinping should be regarded as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after this week's party congress.

Xi's official portrait dominated the People's Daily's front page report on the unveiling of the party's new top leadership. Below that was a smaller group photograph of the new top leadership - the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee including Xi.

At least when China had multiple rulers with provincial powers able to maneuver between them, some limited form of autonomy (under local autocrats--not a form of democracy, I hasten to add) allowed the system to move a bit and avoid friction under orders from the center.

What happens when the center strengthens and reduces the limited autonomy that the provinces have had to adjust faster than the center can order?

I don't think the empire of China is immune to decentralization--perhaps dramatically--as the periphery pulls away.

UPDATE: Related discussion.

UPDATE: This is scary as Hell:

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called "Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System". In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It's not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school - or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it's already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens.

Good God. The emperor is far and the mountains are high, but the Chinese Internet will follow you everywhere.

Thank goodness this tool is being used by a reasonably enlightened ruling elite, eh?

UPDATE: In America, Twitter mobs ruthlessly enforce the changing standard of the Left by attacking dissenters. How will that work with the power of a dictatorial state apparatus behind it?

UPDATE: Of course, when the revolution comes, nobody will be able to claim that they were with the "resistance" all along when their personal loyalty score is high enough to have made the former regime happy.

In their revealed shame they can try saying that they will focus on fighting the PLA going forward, but nobody will buy that defense.