Apr 9, 2009 General Nonsense |
I don't understand a lot of things. Recently I realized I don't understand the Chinese form of government. This seems important because China will someday buy whatever is left of the United States. Any way you look at it, China is the major economic force of the future. I feel as if I should understand how they roll.

I suspect that if you quizzed most Americans, they would say China is a communist dictatorship. I had a hunch there was more to China than the cartoony image I learned in school. So I spent five minutes with Google to see what I could learn.

First of all, there are 1.3 billion Chinese, but only 73 million of them are members of the Communist Party. The party has a monopoly on power. They decide who gets to run for office. The Communists manage a vast bureaucracy that apparently has provisions for weeding out the idiots. I make that assumption based on the fact that the country functions at all, given its size and complexity. Check out this chart of the Chinese government.


Although the Communists run the show, I assume most citizens have the right to join the party and work their way up the ranks. So merit appears to be important in their system. Obviously any big political system will have its share of corruption and favoritism. It's unclear to me if China is better or worse than the United States on those measures. But I imagine that getting caught with your hand in the public till in China means death. Here it means reelection. Advantage China.

Chinese citizens can vote for their local leaders, at least from the slate of candidates deemed appropriate by the party. And those local leaders in turn select higher level leaders, and so on. Is that less fair than the political systems in so-called democratic countries? Philosophically, it might be less fair. On a practical level, that's not so clear.

As far as I can tell (in five minutes) you don't get to be the head guy in China unless the Communist Party supports you. So it's far from a dictatorship. And the party has a huge incentive to pick the most effective leader. There's a lot to like about that system.

Unlike the political system in the United States, the Chinese don't base policy on superstition. They are more pragmatic. If you think God is talking to you, you probably don't go far in the Communist Party. Advantage China.

Obviously you have to include in this discussion the issues of human rights. China comes up short on that measure compared to western democracies. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Chinese would prefer it otherwise. Perhaps they appreciate the lower crime rate, for example.

If the Chinese had a more free press, would the citizens be better off? I appreciate the free press telling me that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell political influence. But in China he would already be executed, whether I read about it in the newspaper or not. Advantage China.

China's government is more like a large business enterprise. IBM doesn't have a free press reporting about its manager's decisions, but that doesn't make them less effective. They weed out the crooks and idiots in their ranks because it is in their best interest to do so. China's Communist Party apparently has a similar system. Would a free press make much difference in their case?

I started this discussion by admitting my ignorance. That situation hasn't changed much since I wrote this blog post. Feel free to correct any misconceptions here.

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Apr 9, 2009
On the minus side, they kill many baby girls at birth so they don’t have to feed them.
This has led to some interesting lonely angry drunken kung fu kicking testosterone filled fighting farmer gang fights. Okay, I made that part up.

“extermination of 'surplus' baby girls, has created a nightmarish imbalance in China's male and female populations."

"the imbalance between the sexes is now so distorted that there are 111 million men in China -- more than three times the population of Canada -- who will not be able to find a wife." As a result, the kidnapping and slave-trading of women has increased.
Apr 9, 2009

I see you've tossed another match into the gasoline storage area.

If you actually thought China was equivalent in most respects and better in most, you'd be living there. Obviously, you are not. That's the ultimate testament. Do people anxiously try to get into China to live there? Not that I've ever heard of, though I've heard of plenty trying to get out. Maybe they know something you and your five minutes on Google do not.

America, for all its flaws, is a place people are still literally risking life and limb to come to. So are most democratic, free-market countries (to the extent any of our countries fit either bill anymore or arguably ever did).

That's only one metric, but I think it's a good one. If people look at a country from another country and say "I'd rather be living there, even if it means sacrificing my family ties, my frienships, my past social and economic context" - then that's a pretty good sign at least about the perception of the quality of life in each place. I don't see a lot of folks giving up everything they have to come to China. I do see a fair number of Chinese who've packed up and moved to Canada, USA, Britain, etc.

Trust the folks who live there. If they grew up in the system and were educated/indoctrinated by it and still want out, that's a pretty good telltale.

Lastly, ask Tibet how it feels about China.
Apr 9, 2009
Also, your children get to learn real life skills in school (since many of the schools are actually run as free-labor factories).

And, if your neighbor is a real go-getter and works harder than you do, you don't have to worry about 'keeping up with the Joneses' since he will NOT get ahead that way (if he starts to get ahead the government will come and take it).

Yeah, China has a lot of advantages. Of course, the way we are going you'll get to experience them up close and personal soon.
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
YOu show your own stupidity in this discussion for one main reason: The measure of a society is not its strength during times of double digit gdp growth. The true measure of a society is how it deals with the hard times. What happens when China's economic growth peters out the same way Japan's did? Also, when China sees 10% unemployment, that's probably 50 million people (assuming 500 million working adults) out of work. That's larger than any army and almost the population of the UK. Even if 5 million of them took up arms that would be an international crisis. Who will these people turn the guns on? Probably the pushy system that pointed guns at them for decades. You used to think things through better in the 90's......
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
The Chinese have a lot of freedom with making a living with few restrictions, no OSCA or government regulations but the minute you start to get political they will crush you like a bug. That is why we are getting so many problems from Chinese made products. They want to make a dollar and will take any short cut to do so and the corruption is at the local level.
Apr 9, 2009
I'd say that the chinese system is an aristocratic system. It is not neccesarily bad when aristocracy has great education (which is typical of some "lightened" aristocrats, which because of not needing to work they can get better education) and chooses the best things for the nation. In fact, IIRC tocqueville said on "democracy in america" that one of the advantages of the eeuu political system is that encouraged clever people getting elected. But then, there must be a reason why most of advanced countries are fully democratic and EEUU rules still the world...

By the way, Scott, have you read this link? It says that Mars and other planets are also getting warmer: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html If its true, it seems to rule out humans causing the global warming.
Apr 9, 2009
To tkwelge:

Apr 9, 2009
You make some large assumptions, also, I think plurality (political and not only) is better, it gives more flexibility, if there's a population of organisms that are genetically very close can be wiped out by a disease or a change in environment while if they are genetically diverse there's a chance some will survive. Same with politics, a huge bureaucratic system as in China can be easier to fail to adapt than a 4 years election type of system.
Apr 9, 2009
Scott, I absolutely agree with you... you DON'T know anything about China!
Apr 9, 2009
Actually, China has already begun its takeover of the US. I worked in a warehouse for a while, and everything that shipped in from China was covered in dirt and dust. They are strategically covering our nation with Chinese soil. Eventually they will be able to claim our land as their territory and the scientific tests will back the claims.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
According to the book I just read, China isn't really the next big thing. I don't buy all his predictions but the ones about China make sense. The book was "The Next 100 Years" by George Friedman
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
You started out the post saying you know nothing about China. You should have ended your post there. It seems the premise of this post is "China is big and important right now, so they must be morally superior." Rather than spending 5 minutes on Wikipedia, try reading a book. I recommend "China: Alive in the Bitter Sea" by Fox Butterfield (of The Pentagon Papers fame). When you are done, you will thank God (or whoever you like to thank) that you do not live there.
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
to rjpaquin

Your cynicism is outrageous. I live in Fort Worth, TX and I can honestly say that I have a diverse array of friends with diverse political and religious opinions. F U! Enclaves in LA and SF? Suck a fat one, okay? Remember, Texas will have the nations largest wind farm..... MOron! (Although I don't believe that wind farms are ready for production..., but I'm just challenging the notion that 3 cities are diverse and progressive while the rest of the nation are bible beating hicks. You're the worst kind of liberal! The worst! In fact, you're the worst kind of intellectual. It doesn't matter what you believe. Even if you agreed with me, I'd distance myself from you in large gatherings.
Apr 9, 2009
When I read it, I am really happy that I have the chance to spent first 15 years of my life in communistic dictatorship (then the revolution came; so happy we were). The reason for my happiness is that I can compare two systems - totalitarism (I was enough old to grasp how the system was working) and democracy - this experience is obviously non-transferable. (I spent one month in China and what I see was very close to that I lived here in Czech Republic during that 15 years).

Several points:
- Corruption was inherent part of daily life (and it wasn't because we were poor country)
- Not everybody can enter into communistic party (you had to have "the right" social origin)
- The stupid leaders (as say Bush or worse) can stay in power unlimitedly
- We could (or must) vote, but we could choose from one candidate list only…

No, Scot, don't believe in Internet research - go to China and live there several months, at least. Then, maybe, you will understand, how superb system you live in.
Apr 9, 2009
We are indoctrinated from birth with the belief that our way of life is the best way of life the human race has to offer, making any attempts to rationally examine different ways of life impossible. It isn't just a question of the ability to think outside of the box, it's a question of being able to believe outside of the box, and that's a non-starter.

If you don't embrace the Christian God (or at least pay it lip-service), if you don't support freedom of the press and of speech (at least when it's convenient for you politically; or doesn't threaten your precious little snowflake who you want to raise in whatever way you see fit, unless something goes wrong, in which case you want someone to blame), if you don't express a willingness to die for the right to bear arms, then in all likelihood you are aberrant, probably on a genetic level, and someone should be assigned to watch over you. Failing that, you should move to one of the enclaves that have been set aside for your kind; NYC, San Francisco, LA. We will tolerate you, but only just. (And let me hasten to add that, on social issues, I am just a wee bit to the left of Gandhi. It’s just that I’ve noticed that much proudly proclaimed liberalism only goes so deep.)

Which is a slightly long-winded way of saying that you will never resolve your lack of understanding of China because, despite your intellectual gifts and your penchant for engaging in thought experiments, on some level you are simply not able to rise above the ignorance of our shared delusion.

I like to think about it all in another way. For 2,000 years (since Athens in ancient Greece), Democracy did not flourish in the land. For the past 200 years, our little experiment has been sustained by the greed inherent in our beloved rugged individualism. Our population is just under 400 Million. The world population exceeds 6,000 Million, most of whom have long since arrived at the conclusion that we're certainly uncouth, most likely insane, but well armed and not too discriminating about who we'll shoot given the right (constantly shifting) provocation.

Having said that, it's only a matter of time. Teach your children to speak Mandarin.
Apr 9, 2009
The biggest misconception about China is that it is Communist in anything but name. I lived there for a few years and I've never seen such raw and pulsing entrepreneurship, wily marketing and rank commercialism.

One example: Outside any major subway station in Beijing (and other large cities I assume) you will see guys holding wads full of tax receipts for sale. Why? The receipts are from major restaurants and hotels, for large, expensive lunches. The guy that just took a potential client to McDonalds (for what may admittedly be seen as a 'prestige' outing for someone from a rural area) can swing by the subway on his way back into work, spend a couple of kuai on a reciept, and then claim back the expenses of a 400 yuan banquet from his employer.

If that isn't entrepreneurship, I don't know what is.
Apr 9, 2009
I think the most important thing your missing is that through media the vast majority remains ignorant. Remember Tiananmen Square? Educated people stood up to China, and were obliterated. All traces of this incident has been wiped from the Chinese internet.

Based on what you have told us, China is essentially animal farm. Propaganda, an elite ruling class, and a dictator who has his serfs do tasks for less pay than they would in a corrupt capitalistic system.

Essentially, Communism and Socialism both are inferior to capitalism, do to the fact that human nature makes all government corrupt, but in capitalistic democracy corruption affects the majority less. Only democratic nations have the majority of the populace as Middle Class
Apr 9, 2009
I think the comparison is not appropriate. The dynamics are totally different between a developed country and a developing country (economically). It would have been more apt to compare India and China. India is a democracy that is as corrupt as China or even more. But generally, history seems to favor democracy as of now. Take East and West Germany, the Koreas, eastern and western european nations. The people were culturally the same, it was the democracy and capitalism that made the difference.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
Wow, this comparison is amazing.
India is a democracy, and you can choose to vote for any one who the major parties select. (which is either the kin of senior politicians, filmstars or gangsters)

India has free media, so all they show is what populist reality TV, and corrupt politicians are so common that no one cares

You can be head of the biggest political party since your great grand father was one of the MANY freedom fighters and was lucky to be the first prime minister.

You could be uneducated, (dropping out of various universities), unarticulate, have zero charisma, make George W Bush appear like a Physics Nobel Laureate, and be called as the next prime minister of the worlds largest democracy.

I am not sure I like democracy any more.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
"Chinese citizens can vote for their local leaders, at least from the slate of candidates deemed appropriate by the party. And those local leaders in turn select higher level leaders, and so on. Is that less fair than the political systems in so-called democratic countries? Philosophically, it might be less fair. On a practical level, that's not so clear."

In theory that's how it works in the US. You vote for your state representative in the electoral college. It's not absolutely guaranteed that they will submit their votes to the right person.

That's how it works in Britain. You don't elect the prime minister, you elect your member of parliament, and they vote for the prime minister (it's slightly more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it). When Margaret Thatcher was thrown out, she didn't lose an election, she lost a vote of members of parliament (actually, she didn't lose, but it looked like she would so she quit).

Local leaders are (usually) elected in the same way in the UK. You vote for your representative on the council, who collectively select their leader.

It means that you have a lot less interest in whoever is in charge (especially at the local level). That might be a good thing, because it means it's not about how good they are at making a speech on the TV that matters. But it might be a bad thing, because it means that no one knows who they are and they can get away with doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
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