Thursday, July 12, 2018

Getting What They Wish?

There is a warning to "be careful what you wish for--you just might get it." Could Xi Jinping get what he wishes for?

China is going from authoritarian state to dictatorship under Xi:

Internally, China under Xi has been moving from authoritarianism back to totalitarianism. The political system is now much more intolerant than it had been in decades, and these days it is far more aggressive in enforcing its intolerance.

And he has the means to enforce it:

Moreover, officials are developing ways to use technology to collect and analyze vast amounts of data for the purpose of controlling behavior. The new “social credit system,” where every citizen is assigned a constantly updated score, gives the party the ability to administer punishments and hand out rewards. As foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer pointed out in Time, “The plan’s ultimate purpose, according to Chinese officials, is to ‘allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.’”

Or, for that matter, board a plane. Officials prevented Liu Hu, a journalist, from taking a flight because he was on a list of low-scored individuals. Ordered by a court to apologize for tweets he had posted, he was informed his apology was insincere. “I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” Liu said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

How will the Chinese people react under that kind of reward and punishment system? Will innovation be stifled out of fear of losing your good score and having you--and your family--insufficiently trusted to board a plane or buy property?

And will China's economy have room for innovators, anyway?

While Xi is closing down public discussion, he is also walling off China’s economy from the world by increasing Beijing’s sway over markets, tightening capital controls, creating new state monopolies, enlarging subsidies for favored domestic businesses, and employing an array of tactics to cripple foreign competitors. He has reinvigorated central planning with state-centric initiatives such as the now-notorious Made in China 2025 program, which seeks Chinese dominance in 10 crucial industries.

Xi believes in Marxism, as seen in his actions and campaigns extolling the ideology.

Ah yes, centrally plan your way to dominance! Great plan! This time for sure, Marxism will work out!

Yet the worst periods of Chinese history were when they abandoned more open societies for territorial aggrandizement:

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Wang, in The China Order: Centralia, World Empire, and the Nature of Chinese Power, maintains that the tianxia system [“all under heaven” system, in which "Chinese emperors believed they ruled the entire world, near and far."] “has a record of suboptimal performance that features despotic governance, long stagnation of economy, suffocation of science and technology, retardation of spiritual pursuits, irrational allocation of resources, great depreciation of human dignity and life, low and declining living standards for the masses, and mass death and destruction periodically and frequently.”

Will the economic and technological process unleashed by loosening China's economy (and of course putting the most efficient peasant in the most inefficient factory helped) be throttled by Xi and his plans for total control?

There is another saying. Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg.