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
I note that it says in that chart on the Wikipedia site that membership in the Communist Party is only if a current member backs you and if you pass a series of checks and examinations. Thus, people can't really join freely, they can only join if the party lets them. That doesn't sound like a merit based system, which sort of undercuts all your other arguments.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
I lived in China for 7 years and see nothing to disagree with. I guess I should've just stayed home and spent 5 minutes on Google. Advantage Scott Adams.
Apr 9, 2009
Disadvantage China. Reasoning follows :

1. People are idiots.
2. Idiocy is of different kinds
3. A large sample of idiots is in sum-total less idiotic (basic principle of statistics)
4. Democracy is therefore the best risk mitigation strategy against human idiocy
5. Unfortunately this stability also means a level of mediocrity as democracy filters out both extreme genius and extreme stupidity
6. Still, in today's world as we advance further technologically, idiocy can do more harm than intelligence can do good
7. Howsoever brilliant China's leaders appear right now - rampant idiocy will sooner or later follow
8. China will go fut (and maybe the rest of the world with it.)

Remember, these are the same people who use chopsticks to eat rice (how is that better than a spoon?)
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
In my opinion the greatest advantage of democracy over communism played out recently. The US had a leader that was... lets say not so good... people where unhappy... one election and everyone is celebrating. Imagine for an instant that you had no power to throw out your leader every once in a while... that those feelings of having been done wrong by just kept building... how long before the bloody revolution? Democracy has a wonderful safety valve that is not present in the Chinese system.

[You think Bush would have lasted 8 years in China? -- Scott]
Apr 9, 2009
"They weed out the crooks and idiots in their ranks because it is in their best interest to do so. "

Is it? Look at the USSR. It was rife with crooks and idiots (no offense) because it was in the best interest of the people nearer to the top to keep them.

Consider this scenario: The Ministry of Agriculture was responsible for feeding the population of the USSR. Due to shortages in parts, seeds and a particularly harsh winter, they were only able to feed half the population. Someone must be to blame because Communism is perfect. Would the Minister want to take the fall for that?

Obviously the he would want someone (an idiot) he could pin the problem on, so he could keep his dacha and, well, his head. Moreover, certain members of the Politburo and others within the gov't would *know* he was lying, therefore it was in his best interest to keep some crooks around, to make deals with regarding secrecy, etc.

Democracy has a lot of holes, mainly because it wasn't designed to be practised by a group of apathetic malcontents, but by educated, interested citizens. However, it beats the (current) alternatives.
Apr 9, 2009
I think comparing the Chinese government to a large corporation is actually a good one. Now expand that to how a large corporation would act if they wielded absolute power and didn't have to worry about outside investigation or enforcement, and you've got a better idea of what's going on. Corruption in China is actually a big, big problem. Yes, occasionally people get executed for it, but it doesn't really scratch the surface. Don't know if it's actually any better here or not, but I think the fact that we are less centralized in our power structures (corporate vs. government) helps a little, since you can never know for certain what the feds and regulators will do, which in theory might keep you from embezzling huge piles of cash.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
Corruption is way of life in all poor countries (which is why they stay poor).
Corruption is less in more advanced countries due to the higher level of education of the general population.

Everyone prefers democracy and freedom, but NOT everyone deserves them.
With a huge population and low level of education and standard of living, comminism is best suited for China.
If they didn't control the birth rate in the last few decades, their population would have been in the 5 billion (ill!).

If you hear any statistics of the massive consumption by chinese, it's because of their huge head counts, not because of any advancement in standard of living.

Apr 9, 2009
Considering I have a misconception about what you said, correcting your misconceptions would then make the correction a misconception.
Apr 9, 2009
As has been mentioned several times, the idea that the Chinese system is corruption free is ridiculous. Another example: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/world/asia/14gifts.html

Quote: "China is now the world’s fastest-growing luxury market, with an estimated $7.6 billion in sales last year, according to Bain & Company, a global consulting firm. And industry experts say gifts to government officials make up close to 50 percent of the country’s luxury sales. "
Apr 9, 2009
Interesting that two adjoining paragraphs talk about cause and effect, but don't make the connection.
Scott says the Chinese don't base policy on superstition and by superstition, he means, "Stuff I don't believe," such as the existence of God. In a Godless society, such as China, human rights can never be a priority. There is no higher authority than whatever eartly entitiy holds power for now, and, after all, we're just talking about "moist robots" anyway. Who cares? All robots are disposable after their usefulness to the robots with guns ends.
Apr 9, 2009
China has massive problems with corruption - a lot at the local level. It isn't just with the politicians. A bank in China disappeared a couple of years ago - the people running the bank decided to run off with the money. At the time I read the article, no one seemed to know where they had run off to. The local people who had trusted the bank were left with nothing.
Apr 9, 2009
I would gladly put up with a few extra muggings and some vandalism to not live in a country where you can be put in prison or even executed for engaging in peaceful protest. We don't always get things right in America, but I would say that our Bill of Rights is one place where we succeeded. Our trials might not always be fair, but they are certainly !$%*! ahead of the "trials" in China.

The Chinese government is a totalitarian one, because they stifle any attempt at opposition. And speaking out against the government can put you on the wrong end of a gun.

Just look at the Tibet issue. The Chinese invaded them, forcefully occupied them and are in the process of moving so many ethnically Chinese people in that the Tibetans are in danger of becoming minorities in their own country. I've been to Tibet. I've seen the field where they carry out their executions. I've met people who were tortured by the Chinese government. I've experienced the fact that all media is completely controlled by the government. We were there during the height of the SARS epidemic and you wouldn't have even known if it existed. Everything that mentioned it was blocked/banned. That's not just oppressive, it's downright dangerous. People should have the right to know what is going on in their own country.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
One hallmark of a corrupt-free society is the responsibility of any institution to outside oversight. IBM for example is responsible to the SEC, FTC and various state and federal agencies and police. Politicians such as Blagojevich, Spitzer or Dan Rostenkowski (remember him?) can be investigated by authorities they do not control.

The Chinese government and the Communist party are joined at the hip and police themselves with no outside accountability. This is the old fox guarding the hen house conundrum. Can we really believe that the cases of corruption we've seen so far are anything more than window dressing, or made with an ulterior motive? For example what if a corruption charge was brought by a rival in order to remove an opponent from the scene; clearing the way for someone else to take over the job? Has anyone also noted that no corruption cases in recent years has involved anyone at, or close to, the top leadership? Why? Perhaps the top are better at it or are able to protect their friends and family.

Finally Scott, you as an author ought to be quite concerned about China's violation of intellectual property. The repeated theft of patents, software, literature and entertainment with impunity speaks volumes about the level of corruption in China.
Apr 9, 2009
It's a bit of an unfair comparison since you are well versed in American corruption but not very well versed in Chinese corruption. It could very well be that it's a better system, but we don't know for sure since no one with any objectivity is there to document it. It could also be that each Chinese bureaucrat knows what it can get away with and what it can't get away with. This would put a limit on the amount of corruption but it guarantees corruption. Would you be ok with knowing that every politician was a little corrupt, but not enough to affect you? The Chinese philosophy says yes while American philosophy says no.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
Not sure comparing Chinese gov't to a corporation is really helpful here. Its in the best interest of every organization to weed out crooks and idiots. Is the chinese system average? above average? How would you measure?
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