Wednesday, January 30, 2008


As a sort of follow-up to my post on how to fight and negate the bad effects of a limited objective Chinese attack on Taiwan, I want to point out that Mad Minerva notes a Foreign Affairs article on Chinese democray. I appreciate the heads up since I long ago abandoned Foreign Affairs. Too often, big names in the field simply pass off banality supporting the conventional wisdom of the elites as a significant work. Aging gunslingers coasting on their reputations are all they are.

But there are useful pieces in there if you exclude anyone you've seen on the national news in the last decade. This article on Chinese "democracy" is all too willing to believe democracy is what China is developing by defining "democracy" to include liberalization of aspects of social and work life that are certainly an improvement over the poverty-inducing dictatorship China once was, but which are not actually democracy. The freedom to earn money and talk to foreigners is not the same as choosing your government and operating under rule of law.

The summary is a good place to start:

Is China democratizing? The country's leaders do not think of democracy as people in the West generally do, but they are increasingly backing local elections, judicial independence, and oversight of Chinese Communist Party officials. How far China's liberalization will ultimately go and what Chinese politics will look like when it stops are open questions.

You might almost think this supports the idea that China is slowly introducing democracy. But their use of our words don't imply our definitions. This detail should answer much:

Through their deeds, Mao and Deng showed that despite their words, such concepts held little importance for them. Still, the three agreed that democracy was not an end in itself but rather a mechanism for achieving China's real purpose of becoming a country that could no longer be bullied by outside powers.

So how far liberalization will go and what Chinese politics will look like are uncertain? Yes, those are open questions. But if the Chinese leaders have their way, the answers are already set. Liberalization goes only as far as the Chinese communist leaders will allow it while keeping in mind that democratizing is just a tool for expanding state power--state power ultimately wielded by the communists themselves. That's what they want Chinese politics to look like in the end. Democracy is only a tool to get those darned peasants and factory workers to work hard after decades of communist slogans and mass murder failed to motivate them enough.

Anything else is out of bounds:

Chinese leaders do not welcome the latitude of freedom of speech, press, or assembly taken for granted in the West. They say they support the orderly expansion of these rights but focus more on the group and social harmony -- what they consider the common good.

Funny how the common good of group and social harmony in China requires their particular communist group to run the show. It's almost like an excuse to steal from the people, eh? The article reveals much about the Chinese rulers that should indicate that democracy as we understand it has no place in communist China. It relies on examples of "democracy" that are certainly conditions that those who live in a real democracy enjoy but which in sum do not equal democracy. In college, I was continually frustrated by reading articles that argued that the Soviet Union was no longer the communist dictatorship it once was under Stalin because peasants were allowed to own a few chickens or some other minor concession by the state granted to the people. This is the same thinking applied to the People's Republic of China. It is equally wrong.

If China ever achieves actual democracy, it will only because the plans of the ruling communist elite go horribly wrong in the face of heightened expectations among a growing middle class to define a common good radically different than their overlords.