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February 17, 2012 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Why China’s Political Model Is Superior [SLNYT]

"The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift. In this sense, America today is similar to the old Soviet Union, which also viewed its political system as the ultimate end.

History does not bode well for the American way. Indeed, faith-based ideological hubris may soon drive democracy over the cliff."
posted by metaplectic (105 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift.

When you start with a premise that wrong, can the conclusion be worth much?
posted by jsturgill at 9:50 AM on February 17, 2012 [31 favorites]


Actually, that was his conclusion, not his starting point.
posted by metaplectic at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The ignorance on display is astounding.

In the history of human governance, spanning thousands of years, there have been two major experiments in democracy. The first was Athens, which lasted a century and a half; the second is the modern West. If one defines democracy as one citizen one vote, American democracy is only 92 years old. In practice it is only 47 years old, if one begins counting after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — far more ephemeral than all but a handful of China’s dynasties.

Those with a high school education or greater do not define democracy as one citizen, one vote, nor do those with a high school education or greater describe democracy's birth as the VRA of 1965. You might as well say that China literally did not exist until China's wealth approached that of the First World.

The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy

Looks like somebody doesn't know what "republic" or "democracy" means.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:55 AM on February 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


History does not bode well for the American way.

You know, it wasn't that long ago that most of Europe and Japan were devastated by the most destructive war in history. I think, today, you'd say these countries were doing pretty well for themselves. And in the case of the Axis powers, destructive ideologies were still a significant political force for some time after the war. It's not like they all just rubbed their eyes one morning and decided to be nice people.

In the great, grand scheme of things, life gets better in democracies, not worse.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on February 17, 2012


This is such a poorly argued editorial I'm surprised the Times published. I don't even know what to say about it really.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


The resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth and prosperity that propelled China’s economy to its position as the second largest in the world.

You say "stability" I saw "government encouragement wide-spread human rights and environmental conservation violations in the name of Western manufacturing contracts." To-may-to, to-mah-to.
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [23 favorites]


o.O
posted by Xoebe at 9:58 AM on February 17, 2012


If one defines democracy as one citizen one vote, American democracy is only 92 years old. In practice it is only 47 years old, if one begins counting after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — far more ephemeral than all but a handful of China’s dynasties.

How well did those dynasties work out, Eric Li?

Eric X. Li is a venture capitalist.

...

(Also, Li doesn't seem to understand what "secular" and "faith-based" mean.)
posted by kmz at 9:58 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, if you're wondering who the fuck this Eric X. Li jackass is, he's "a venture capitalist in Shanghai and a doctoral candidate at Fudan University’s School of International Relations and Public Affairs." (From here.)

So this is basically the "Pepsi gives you cancer, buy Coke" of global politics op eds.
posted by griphus at 9:59 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Economic growth at any cost is the best!"

-Eric X. Li, venture capitalist.
posted by helicomatic at 9:59 AM on February 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Eric X. Li is a venture capitalist.

Well there's the guy I want leading me to a new political model that keeps individual liberty safe from corporations. If you're actually interested in different approaches and China's take on "state-based capitalism", The Economist had a recent piece and section on the topic, that I'm guessing the author cribbed from without actually comprehending.
posted by yerfatma at 10:00 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree the comparison is bold, but the major takeaway is the point of that we've "solved" government in America. Frankly, I wish our system was a quite a bit better designed to make change.
posted by straight_razor at 10:01 AM on February 17, 2012


Actually, that was his conclusion, not his starting point.

The article may have read like that, but if you read between the....

FBI Warning: The remainder of this comment is in violation of 18 USC § 2384. User has been removed for re-education.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:01 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can we somehow perma-link to this article? I think later this year when they have their economic collapse as a result of their construction/real estate bubble, and the doctored currency is royally screwing every citizen not plugged into the crony communism; resulting in dissent and near overthrow of the impending power vacuum (all while the US is whining about their leaders in comments sections from their still well-heated homes)...

It will be worth the laugh.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:02 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm having difficulty finding a single sentence in this editorial that I agree with, or isn't fundamentally flawed.

One of his conclusions at the end is simply staggering. China's prosperity and stability was a direct result of the violent crackdown at Tiannamen Square, which though regrettable, was better than any of the alternatives.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that it's beneficial to take a results-oriented approach to public policy, and use government as a means to an end, rather than as an end itself.... but Jesus Christ, the rest of his conclusions are crazy to the extreme.

How the hell did this make it past the editor's desk at the NYT?
posted by schmod at 10:02 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy

Looks like somebody doesn't know what "republic" or "democracy" means.


Yeah, whenever you hear the "republic not a democracy" line you know some right wing authoritarian horseshit is coming next.
posted by clarknova at 10:02 AM on February 17, 2012 [24 favorites]


The US has swallowed quite a bit of globalist snake-oil, to the harm of its own national interest. On this point, the author is correct.
posted by No Robots at 10:04 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


What other features does this new online blogging platform called nytimes.com have?
posted by perhapses at 10:05 AM on February 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


"This is such a poorly argued editorial I'm surprised the Times published. I don't even know what to say about it really."

I don't actually disagree with you that this is article displays arguments that are fundamentally ignorant of much of our history, but I'm glad the times published it. The ideas are pretty representative of the views of many of the Chinese graduate students living in the US that I know, and I think it is worth being exposed to them.

That said, if beliefs in the fundamental dignity of human life, the superior decision making power of the governed to shadowy assholes pulling strings, and the idea that I have rights which no one has the moral authority to take away are articles of faith, then I am a happy zealot.

Smug shit like this will also be a lot funnier in the next few years as the Chinese economy collapses into the truly epic real estate bubble and the party rips itself to shreds fighting over the scraps that are left.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is such a poorly argued editorial I'm surprised the Times published. I don't even know what to say about it really.

Trollin' for pageviews?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


from article: "China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years."

This is trenchant nonsense, and everyone ought to know it. In a time when dissidents are still being persecuted on a broad scale, the notion that China is in the hands of benevolently flexible elders seems flatly insane, and moreover poisonous to human welfare.

straight_razor: "Frankly, I wish our system was a quite a bit better designed to make change."

So do I; but the price of flexibility is not a combination of brutal dictatorship and a good PR campaign.

Shame on the New York Times for publishing offensive drivel like this.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


This reads a bit like Thomas Friedman's recent "the Chinese really know how to get things done" column. Getting the results you desire is so much easier without all that pesky dissent.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The article may have read like that, but if you read between the....
FBI Warning: The remainder of this comment is in violation of 18 USC § 2384. User has been removed for re-education.


HA, nice. In case anyone else was wondering what 18 USC, Section 2384 was about: Seditious Conspiracy.

Regarding the op-ed itself, I feel like this piece (and like half of the posts on MeFi this week) can follow the New Yorker Cartoon model of rewriting the punchline to read:

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by jsr1138 at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


How well did those dynasties work out, Eric Li?

They lasted far longer than American democracy has yet. Actually, I think that was his point.
posted by iotic at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems to be framed as an appeal to authority, citing the Chinese dynasties. While it can be argued that a centralized authority is needed at times, like war proper (WW2, not Vietnam or any subsequent 'Police Action'), it is rare for that authority to be handed back over to the citizenry when it is not needed. Our government has these provisions built into it (which is why there was so much wrangling for the police actions in the middle east and why they aren't 'real' wars).

Pointing to California as the 'future' of democracy is in essence picking on the special needs kid. Sorry for using this term but I couldn't think of a better one.

-Eric X. Li, venture capitalist

Yeah, they currently love the way China is set up now.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Worked out great for the Soviets.
posted by demiurge at 10:08 AM on February 17, 2012


Blasdelb: "The ideas are pretty representative of the views of many of the Chinese graduate students living in the US that I know, and I think it is worth being exposed to them."

I get your point, but wouldn't it make sense to publish a good rebuttal alongside it?

This guy's other writings are every bit as crazy and ignorant. Expect an article next month about a Chinese Physicists' shocking new discovery that time is, in fact, a cube.
posted by schmod at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


See, once China opens up its markets, it will inevitably head towards democracy. Free Markets == Free People. It's an axiom!
posted by benito.strauss at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


How the hell did this make it past the editor's desk at the NYT?

The point of the op-ed pages of a newspaper is not to be a surrogate for the views of the paper's editorial board. The point is to host a wide range of opinion so that reader's can be informed as to the positions being espoused by various different groups and individuals of note.

The reason for publishing this piece is to give us a window into how Chinese business people think about the relationship between China and the West and think about the political differences between the two systems. Obviously no one on the editorial board of the NYT would agree with a word in this piece. Choosing to ignore the fact that views like these are widely held among the Chinese economic elites seems, however, like willfully depriving yourself of a necessary insight into the functioning of contemporary Chinese politics.
posted by yoink at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Neither the USA or China have a lot to brag about when it comes to "popular participation" in "political decisions," unless you define this as the extremely wealthy and powerful running the show.
posted by kozad at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


China: Socialist paradise?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2012


Say what you like about the strength or the weakness of the editorial, but China will continue to have a profound impact on Western societies. Take the Great Firewall, for example. Much of that technology has been developed and implemented by Western companies such as Cisco, Siemens, Yahoo, and Google. Western "democratic" governments are paying attention, and we learn from week to week the efforts of our elected masters to clamp down on free speech and privacy.

The so-called "state capitalism" model of China is also admired. During this era of stagnation, and, let's face it, chaos in the United States and Europe, it seems likely that the pendulum is swinging back towards totalitarianism and state-ism.

Welcome to the Chinese Century.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've long thought that robust economic growth often depends a lot on underpaid (or un-paid) labor. The US unquestionably got a huge economic boost from the slave labor and continues to benefit wildly from migrant workers 9both documented and undocumented). China is reaping the economic rewards from massive underpaid labor and surprise! is a current economic powerhouse. Doesn't mean it is right or correct or better, just means they can extract labor cheaper which oftentimes means piss poor human (and environmental) conditions.
posted by edgeways at 10:12 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Blasdelb: "The ideas are pretty representative of the views of many of the Chinese graduate students living in the US that I know, and I think it is worth being exposed to them."
    schmod: "I get your point, but wouldn't it make sense to publish a good rebuttal alongside it?"
You know, if anything, I'd find that more offensive than any of the other options. If we would really need talking points from the New York Times to remind us of the value of human rights, participatory democracy, and free will than I think we would have bigger problems than this article is trying to point out.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd agre that political systems should be viewed as a "means to achieving larger ends", but those ends should be liberty, justice, and cultural progress, not China's myopic drive for economic progress.

America's greatest threat is losing the democratic tradition that keeps the technological upheaval possible, probably by passing SOPA/PIPA, ACTA, TPP, etc. Any step backwards from this "little singularity" brought by the internet gives other nations an advantage.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2012


They lasted far longer than American democracy has yet. Actually, I think that was his point.

For starters, the argument presents a completely inane, irrelevant metric. A rock could be millions of years old, and a house could have just been finished last week - would you rather live on top of the old rock, or in the new house? I have a month-old pot roast growing new life in the back of the fridge, but I also have a perfect good meal which I've cooked just now - which would you rather eat?

The argument is also completely self-contradictory. Li sings the praises of the Chinese government's alleged flexibility, but he treats each change in American governance as a proof of ephemerality. Which is it, Mr. Li?

For another, it's factually incorrect regardless. It is not true that the dynasties lasted far longer than American democracy (about 225 years). Many of the dynasties did not survive the 230ish years of the USA's history.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why does anyone expect anything other than Right Wing Bullshit disguised in erudite language from the opinion page of the New York Times anymore? Because they have the token Krugman column? Here's a hint... It's all about Economics. (NYT is furiously competing with the WSJ for the 'Top .1%' audience) It's not about Humanity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2012


Why China’s Political Model Is Superior

Is it because they kill everyone who disagrees with it?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


I do really think that they might be trolling for pageviews. I heard Clay Johnson talk recently (he's just written a book called The Information Diet) and one of the points that he makes is Opinion is much cheaper than News. As a result more and more big media companies are churning out opinion pieces that readers use to self-affirm their beliefs, or to be horrified at how wrong the Other Person is. His suggestion is to become an Infovegan! (Every click has consequences; read mostly the literary equivalent of vegetables etc). The metaphor breaks down but is a good thought-provoker.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree the comparison is bold, but the major takeaway is the point of that we've "solved" government in America.

America: the worst system of government except for all the others some of the better parliamentary systems and places with better campaign-finance laws.

Still a better system than China though, sorry.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Where do you start? Well, I guess with the hope that the most august of the Chinese national newspapers (which is? I should know. I don't) allows an editorial argued from a Western viewpoint. It could have useful things in it like accurate definitions of democracy, the Enlightenment, the nature of individual rights in a state and so on, and could even reach a different conclusion.

I doubt that'll happen, somehow.

And I can confirm that this is how an awful lot of Chinese people think. with just as much resistance to discussing and examining that point of view as you'd get from many a red-blooded nationalist in the US or the UK. An interesting experiment would be to set up some sort of online debating arena with the explicit remit of discussing such things, but it would almost invariably end up like the creationists versus the rest: the creationist discussion areas are locked down with very heavy comment censorship and contributor restrictions, and the non-creationist discussion areas open to all but shunned by the creationists.
posted by Devonian at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012


facepalm
posted by polymodus at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012


The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.

Negotiations between the population and the government -- that last part sounds like it could be implemented via some sort of periodic voting system. Who wants to try it?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012


This is a scary and callous article that I disagree with in important respects. The idea of "the nation" as the proper unit for judging a political system is a dangerous one -- inconvenient people can always be sacrificed to the nation.

At the same time, I think the Western ideology of democracy is sometimes crazy, and the view of increased political participation as an end itself is self-destructive. Political participation can be important or stupid. Some decisions should be taken with the participation of all, some should be taken with the participation of only a few. Few would advocate replacing the US Supreme Court with a referendum, for example.

Like economic competition, political competition can be a powerful force for good, or a destructive force, depending on the circumstance. It's not crazy to think that the US has too-competitive politics, too-competitive media, and too-competitive religion (fact: countries with established churches, which group includes most of Europe, have lower public religiosity; religious awakenings in the States have historically tracked episodes of religious de-regulation). I did a post a while ago about Singapore, arguably a successful democracy with less-competitive politics.

I am not comfortable with holding up "the Chinese model" as a success. Much has been accomplished, but a lot of terrible things have been done and continue to be done. On the other hand, if you are making a serious effort to judge the Chinese model based on its human rights abuses, you would have to compare it to abuses undertaken by America and the US government, including foreign wars that have killed perhaps a million people in the last decade, torture, and assassination, as well as the "softer" social problems that can perhaps be blamed on American government. The proper standard of comparison for the Chinese model is not democracy as we like to imagine it but democracy as we practice it.

If we think of democracy as as including constraints against the exercise of lethal powers, then both China and America are bad democrats. The US is increasingly a plebiscitary democracy rather than a republic proper. The President is directly answerable to the people and wields more direct power than any ruler in history. As long as he can either deceive or persuade the people, he can wield the power of life and death with little constraint. Congress, like the rump Senate of imperial Rome, retains enough power collectively to hinder and annoy the President, but largely sits on the sidelines, content to oversee the distribution of pork. Everyone can vote, but that doesn't magically make this a good system.
posted by grobstein at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:20 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The author is a venture capitalist. That says it all.
He is a professional self-absorbed, greed-first, ass.
posted by Flood at 10:21 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like this "Eric X. Li" shithead from Shanghai to discuss how pollution has made cancer the leading cause of death (circa 2007) in China.

My guess is this joker does not give one shit about the sanctity of human life.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


At the same time, I think the Western ideology of democracy is sometimes crazy, and the view of increased political participation as an end itself is self-destructive. Political participation can be important or stupid. Some decisions should be taken with the participation of all, some should be taken with the participation of only a few. Few would advocate replacing the US Supreme Court with a referendum, for example.

I see your point, but there isn't really a Western ideology of conflating democracy with "pure democracy," where everything would indeed be put up to a general referendum. The US has a representative system, where many decisions are further delegated to individuals who are either elected or selected by other representatives, or to individuals further down the chain.

Making these compromises within this representative model is a feature, not a bug, of modern American government.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2012


There are multiple premises to this article that I deeply disagree with on a pretty fundamental level. It assumes, among other things, that individual human rights are subservient to governmental aims like control and a well funded purse, that those who run the government know better than the majority of their citizens, that free speech and an open political system would have prevented China's economic development, and that having a strong economy is more important than fairness.

Moreover, having recently traveled in China, I feel a lot more comfortable saying that it is nonsense to view China as either stable or truly prosperous. The country is extraordinarily poor. They cannot feed all their citizens. Transportation, power production and basic infrastructure are primitive. There is endemic, profound corruption and a huge amount of anger in the population over seizures of land. The landscape is being raped, everywhere. And the fruits of their economic successes are being distributed in a hugely uneven way. Perhaps China will continue to move ahead -- or perhaps the result of their top down economic system, their corruption, and the frustration of their citizens will be a lot more negative.

As for the observations the author makes of the US, all I can say is he clearly doesn't know much of anything about how things work here.
posted by bearwife at 10:26 AM on February 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Blasdelb: "The ideas are pretty representative of the views of many of the Chinese graduate students living in the US that I know, and I think it is worth being exposed to them."
schmod: "I get your point, but wouldn't it make sense to publish a good rebuttal alongside it?"
Blasdelb: "You know, if anything, I'd find that more offensive than any of the other options. If we would really need talking points from the New York Times to remind us of the value of human rights, participatory democracy, and free will than I think we would have bigger problems than this article is trying to point out."


Fair points, Blasdelb, but I disagree. I'm all for encouraging vibrant public debate and all that, but I think a paper's op-ed page shouldn't be a space for any troll that comes along. Don't give a mouthpiece to someone whose views are morally repugnant or whose arguments are factually incorrect, is what I'm saying, I guess. If the NYT wanted to give us a view into how some Chinese businesspeople view American democracy and our capitalist system, they could have a columnist (Friedman, no doubt) write about it, or maybe have a reporter or writer for their longer Sunday Review section write a piece about it. By putting these views on the op-ed page, you're at least endorsing the arguments as well thought out and well argued, even if you disagree with them. And this op-ed does not seem to be well thought out OR well argued. (See, for example, the blatant dismissal of China's crackdown on dissidents and the hand-waving toward 'allowing greater participation', as pointed out in koeselitz's great comment.)
posted by jsr1138 at 10:28 AM on February 17, 2012


This article reminds me of another article, one from maybe a year ago, where a Chinese writer complained that China was being held to a double standard: the US was able to build its gigantic economy of the backs of workers in ways that are denied to "newer" players like China. It is an interesting point, that human rights abuses can be grandfathered in like that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


For starters, the argument presents a completely inane, irrelevant metric. A rock could be millions of years old, and a house could have just been finished last week - would you rather live on top of the old rock, or in the new house? I have a month-old pot roast growing new life in the back of the fridge, but I also have a perfect good meal which I've cooked just now - which would you rather eat?

Exactly right. Life under Chinese dynastic rule wasn't exactly a picnic.

My guess is this joker does not give one shit about the sanctity of human life.

What's a life when it can't be sacrificed for the good of the state?
posted by kmz at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift.

It's survival depends on it retaining its democratic and liberal nature. We've had this argument before, about kings, generals and dictators - authoritarian regimes who achieve dazzling success in the near term, but either stagnate and falter and collapse, or metamorphise into modern democracies.

I'll bet you a cookie China becomes a democracy before we become a dictatorship.

Hell, I'll bet you a cookie China becomes a democracy before another Republican is elected President. They look a lot like Taiwan in the '90s and South Korea in the '80s, a nation on the verge of modernity, an exploding middle class.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like this "Eric X. Li" shithead from Shanghai to discuss how pollution has made cancer the leading cause of death (circa 2007) in China.

I should point out that I've never been to China, and can't really comment intelligently on how things work (or don't work) in that country. At the same time, pollution from China has increased noticeably over the past 15 years, and in Korea it's even worse.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on February 17, 2012


...the US was able to build its gigantic economy of the backs of workers in ways that are denied to "newer" players like China.

I never understood this argument. What are they expecting the response to be? "Well okay, I guess, you can exploit your populace for slave labor but if you become the reigning first-world global superpower you gotta promise you'll stop."
posted by griphus at 10:39 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one thing I can agree with in this article is the idea that the state should have a purpose and a role in getting things done, moving towards a goal. This is something I complain about here in the US all the time. I think most citizens have not even noticed that loss of direction.

We used to have goals, exploring space, fighting poverty, building infrastructure, etc. In the last 30 years we’ve reduced that to the War on Drugs and Terrorism, which are not about moving forward at all, but fighting boogeymen (and select people making a lot of money doing it). That’s the direction the Republicans have pushed because they don’t want the government to lead the country. Now we just have to wait for a private corporation to decide if it’s profitable for any area of our lives to improve.

This is why government is important, and while I’m always suspicious of government anywhere, it is our only resource for making change without worrying about profit. This is also why the idea that "government should be run like a business" is so insanely stupid.
posted by bongo_x at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I should point out that I've never been to China, and can't really comment intelligently on how things work (or don't work) in that country. At the same time, pollution from China has increased noticeably over the past 15 years, and in Korea it's even worse.

I visited family in Beijing last November. As soon as we got out of the airport, there was a thick almost suffocating smell of burnt sourness. And I thought it was just foggy at first, but nope: big clumps of smog right at ground level. Eventually we got more used to it, but I'm sure it's not great for you.
posted by kmz at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


News Flash: Chinese venture capitalist says China has a superior government.

I suppose the interesting bit is that this was published in the New York Times.

And it is undeniable that with 20% of the world's population, as China integrates with world markets, China will become more capitalist (which it has) and the rest of the world will become more autocratic (which it is). But this is hardly news.

Chinese policy does very well at some things. For instance, China is tackling renewable energy and climate change on a level comparable with Germany -- and spurring America to up its game at the same time. Part of the reason that works well is because you can enter into long term contracts with the Chinese government for certain technologies.

In the US, Bush liked biofuels (because oil companies like biofuels, because biofuels are liquids that live in pipes and tankers). Then Obama came in and Obama likes solar and wind (because those are 'technology products' that play well in blue states).

So in addressing immediate, large scale concerns, autocratic governments react much faster. However, autocracies struggle with innovation, culture, transparency, and whole host of other contemporary concepts that many of us place in high regard.

So the solution probably falls somewhere in between. The problem with democracy is that 51% of the population can enslave the other 49%. With democracy, there need to be controls on things like campaign finance, and perverse incentives.

That being said, how much Chinese music does the average American youth listen to? How much hip-hop does the average Chinese youth listen to?

How many Chinese students are learning English (which came from a different form of democracy)? How many British students are learning Mandarin?

What is the revenue generated for Apple shareholders by the iPad? What amount of that revenue remains in the assembly part of the value chain in China?

It's silly to say that due to the America's current problems democracy is dead. It is necessary to consider the impact of autocracy, but it's no more "the answer" than a theocracy, a plutocracy, or a democracy. Different systems have different advantages and disadvantages.

All that being said, his true colours show here:

That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.

The resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth and prosperity that propelled China’s economy to its position as the second largest in the world.


It is very fashionable in China right now to just look at outputs and ignore costs, especially socially. To become wealthy is glorious. If money is your driver, I can see that point. People got rich, so 1989 was the right decision. Fine, if that's the kind of society you want to live in. But that has absolutely nothing to do with democracy or autocracy. That just means to the author of this piece, the ends justify the means.
posted by nickrussell at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I meant was, pollution from China has increased in Japan over the past 15 years. In western Japan, each May strong westerlies blow in from the continent, bringing with them "kosa", or "yellow sand" from Mongolia. It's an ancient phenomenon, but over the past 15 years this particulate has both increased, due to desertification in China, and it also bonds to industrial pollutants. Besides creating a layer of toxic, yellow dust on everything in western Japan each May, the kosa yellow sand also causes a haze of smog everywhere (at least along the Japan Sea Coast). I have mild asthma, so now May, the most truly glorious and beautiful time in Japan, is just a time of misery for me.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey. This internet thing this guy's dumb old editorial is making the rounds on? Yep, China's "superior model" didn't produce it and probably couldn't have produced it, as with most American innovations of modern life that even Chinese authorities implicitly acknowledge are desirable.

China, you don't get to just appropriate all the most economically valuable cultural fruits of our system and then decry our system as inferior once you're on the verge of fully appropriating them! We invented this modern world you're still desperately trying to imitate in form, if not in substance, and our democratic political systems (back a few decades ago, when they were still working democratically as intended and hadn't been compromised by your authoritarian ideological fellow-travelers and economic collaborators in our political classes) played a crucial role in making that happen.

Get back to me once your system offers anything truly innovative to the world other than freedom-suppressing firewall technologies, China. Then we can talk about whose political system is superior. You don't just get to ride on having invented fireworks forever, you know.

The one thing I can agree with in this article is the idea that the state should have a purpose and a role in getting things done, moving towards a goal. This is something I complain about here in the US all the time. I think most citizens have not even noticed that loss of direction.

I sort of agree with this--but from my POV the problem is, the American people have been fooled by private interests into believing the state is not ours to use as an instrument for the public good in the way you describe. It's not that we need some tiny elite ruling us with an iron fist to make the state work in our interest. It's the opposite: instead of letting an increasingly small minority of wealthy interests capture our political system, we need old school, massive public participation in the process. It's the active participation of the American people that makes America's system powerful. But first, we have to reclaim the state as an instrument for the public interest.

And why the hell is he talking about the longevity and success of Chinese Dynasties as compared to American democracy? Last I checked, China isn't run under the old dynasty system anymore, and it's current system isn't even as old as ours, so...?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:59 AM on February 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


If the NYT wanted to give us a view into how some Chinese businesspeople view American democracy and our capitalist system, they could have a columnist (Friedman, no doubt) write about it

Yes. If we want to know what Chinese people think about the US, let's ask Friedman. I mean, why would we ask an actual Chinese person? They might say something we disagree with. That would be bad.
posted by yoink at 11:03 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, incremental technological improvements don't count. What have you truly innovated, China? God knows, I admire your culture and love and respect your people, but what has your system done for the world on the order of magnitude as the American system has?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:03 AM on February 17, 2012


oh NYT, why are you running op-eds better suited for The Global Times?

Laughable that this op-ed only mentions the Chinese Communist Party in the slightest way, without naming it. The idea of Chinese politics put forward by this kiss-ass writer is that the Party is the same as the State and the Government and the absolute priority of Chinese rulers is the well-being of the nation and the people (unclouded by pluralistic politics and interest groups and dissenters blahblahblah of democracies). In practice, the Chinese Communist Party is sovereign (it's in the Preamble to the Constitution), not the State/Government and so above the law (when senior party members are arrested for political or ordinary crimes, they are tried in secret by Party committees, not by the Chinese courts of law; btw - some Westerners admire China for being led by engineers-turned-politicians rather than lawyers-turned-politicians as if this is a sign of technocratic efficient and wise politics. Actually it's more because the judiciary and courts system, and the legal profession in China is a relatively recent development, is generally under the thumb of The Party, and is seen as weak. ) . Sure, they are very interested in promoting and nourishing the interests of the nation and the people (and in some ways, they've been very effective at this), but primarily for the reason, and to the extent, that it preserves and expands the power of the Party and enriches its friends.
posted by Bwithh at 11:07 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sticherbeast : Those with a high school education or greater do not define democracy as one citizen, one vote, nor do those with a high school education or greater describe democracy's birth as the VRA of 1965.

You suggest you have an unspoken definition of democracy that we all implicitly agree with. I doubt that's true. I for one prefer the dictionary for definitions:

Merriam-Webster ("de·moc·ra·cy 1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority") would appear to be agree with the author that the US was far from a democracy until at least the 19th Amendment (1920). I'm fairly certain a high school degree is required to work there.

There are other definitions, but following this one, his statement is more-or-less defensible.


The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy

Looks like somebody doesn't know what "republic" or "democracy" means.


Since that person appears to be you, I'll assist:
republic
1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president
(2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government
b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
(2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government


Frankly, the Federalists worked to prevent direct election of the country's leadership (at the presidential level) by the people. To this day, the U.S. presidential election is not democratic, but by (democratically elected) representatives (the Electoral College).

--

The fact that the author is wrong does not mean every single point he makes is wrong. Lazy attacks on his article weaken the opposite side's argument.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law

Another term for that is "democracy."

It is true that the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid the evils of a direct democracy (i.e., the Athenian model in which the legislature is, in effect, the assembled body of the citizenry). What they created, however, was a representative democracy--which also happens to be a Republic. It is, in fact, a democratic republic.

And, come to that, the Athenian democracy was also a republic. The term "republic" implies absolutely nothing about the extent or type of democracy practiced. So the claim "they were making a republic, not a democracy" is of the same logical type as "that chair isn't blue, it's made of wood."
posted by yoink at 11:28 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Old Republic, on the other hand, seemed to give way too much power to the Jedi Council.
posted by kmz at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since that person appears to be you, I'll assist:
republic
1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president
(2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government
b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
(2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

Frankly, the Federalists worked to prevent direct election of the country's leadership (at the presidential level) by the people. To this day, the U.S. presidential election is not democratic, but by (democratically elected) representatives (the Electoral College).


You are mistaken, IAmBroom.

Read the definition of "republic" again. Now, read the definition of "democracy." As you will notice, republics and democracies are not mutually exclusive. The terms "republic" and "democratic" describe very different qualities of a nation. A republic is simply a nation without a monarch; it can be democratic, it can be Soviet, it can be fascist, et cetera.

As for democracies, they are not all "direct, pure democracies." A representative democracy is still a democracy. As a matter of fact, it is the most popular form of democracy by far. While an American presidential election is not an example of direct democracy, it is still an example of democracy.

So, a nation can be a democratic republic, such as the United States of America, or it can be democratic but not a republic, such as the United Kingdom, or it can be a republic but not democratic, such as East Germany.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:34 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.

Well, I guess the end justifies the means then. Democracy is certainly messy, but it lets off the steam in more controlled batches. When you depend solely on force and authority to keep everyone in line, the whole thing blows up completely once that authority shows the slightest crack. Every threat to the Party's authority is an existential threat to the entire State.

It's funny to me that the Times runs this op-ed the same day as their editorial basically asking to tear down Hetch-Hetchy, a public works project that China would consider to be teeny-tiny. The Chinese government certainly wouldn't be interested in environmental groups and the press criticizing a public utility in this way.
posted by zachlipton at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


...put another way, pretending that "democracy" and "republic" are mutually exclusive categories is like pretending "four-legged" and "carnivorous" are mutually exclusive categories.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:36 AM on February 17, 2012


Better defended, yoink, but I think a more relevant metaphor would be "that chair isn't pine, it's plywood."

If you're contrasting the terms, it's pretty clear that you are implying definitions of the words that allow for differences. The US was designed with some non-democratic republic properties... but no real non-republic democratic properties.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:38 AM on February 17, 2012


This is unintellectual flamebait, just a political version of last year's Tiger mom, written in a way to move eyeballs, not to enlighten minds. As an Asian this brainless tripe saddens me.

The answer lies in the source of the current democratic experiment. It began with the European Enlightenment. Two fundamental ideas were at its core: the individual is rational, and the individual is endowed with inalienable rights. These two beliefs formed the basis of a secular faith in modernity, of which the ultimate political manifestation is democracy.

Bullshit. Look at all the post-enlightenment philosophers and scientists, starting with Bertrand Russell, and it becomes obvious that rationalism and individualism were not the fundamental "ideas", they were just the initial ones. You can't construct an argument by leaping through time, ignoring all the new development that happened in between. He cites the Enlightenment but clearly has learned nothing from it.

His criticisms of the American system, mainly being certain kinds of inefficiency and corruption, are well noted and he provides no new insight there. Beyond that he is incoherent, as if what it takes to fix today's America will require a more terrible price than the political violence already inflicted by the Chinese government upon its populace. Just attempting to grasp the hidden social costs of that boggles the mind of most researchers; in contrast the person just barges on, unperturbed by his own unanalytical thinking.

His understanding is most flawed when he asserts that Americans consider our political freedoms to be God given. They're not. Americans work every day to exercise and affirm our rights. What he pseudoskeptically labels hubris, we know it as the Grand fucking Experiment.

"Beijing" is 1% of China. Somehow I don't think most of China agrees that political freedoms "should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation". I dare him to read his article in front of some Chinese college students.
posted by polymodus at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Better defended, yoink, but I think a more relevant metaphor would be "that chair isn't pine, it's plywood."

No, yoink's metaphor is the correct one. The reason the pine/plywood distinction is incorrect is because a chair cannot be both pine and plywood, whereas a nation can be both democratic and republic. Having or lacking a monarch is a different quality than being or not being governed through either the whole population or through elected representatives.

If you're contrasting the terms, it's pretty clear that you are implying definitions of the words that allow for differences.

The actual definitions of the words, yes.

The US was designed with some non-democratic republic properties... but no real non-republic democratic properties.

You are correct to the extent that the US does not have a monarch.

Delegation to unelected officials does not in and of itself render a democracy not-a-democracy. If that were the case, then no democracies of any real size have ever existed ever, and everyone has been using the "democracy" incorrectly for centuries.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Read the definition of "republic" again. Now, read the definition of "democracy."

Then look at your man. Now look at me. Buy Old Spice.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're contrasting the terms, it's pretty clear that you are implying definitions of the words that allow for differences. The US was designed with some non-democratic republic properties... but no real non-republic democratic properties.

Except that the distinction is just meaningless. If someone says "it's not a democracy, it's a republic" I can only assume that they don't know what the words mean--because there is a huge overlap in the two terms. It is even arguable that all democracies are republics (the only exceptions are constitutional monarchies, but there are plenty of political scientists who will argue that that is actually a distinction without a significance difference), and that republics that are not some form of democracy are usually not really republics either (see e.g. East Germany).

When you read the Federalist Papers in their entirety, it's quite clear that what Madison means by "democracy" is one particular form of democracy--which he initially calls "pure democracy" (making it clear that he recognizes that there are "impure" forms--such as the form he is, in fact, promoting). Here he is in Federalist 10:
From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I mean a Society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of Government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
His strictures against "pure democracy" are entirely limited to that one, particular form of democracy. His solution to those problems is not "republicanism" as opposed to "democracy" it's "representative democracy in a republic" as opposed to "pure democracy in a republic." The "republican" part of the equation is entirely neutral.
posted by yoink at 11:51 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


History does not bode well for the American way. Indeed, faith-based ideological hubris may soon drive democracy over the cliff.

China has been slaughtering dissident intellectuals for millennia. Who in the hell is suggesting they don't suffer from faith-based ideological hubris? From reading the article, I get the feeling the author doesn't really know what those words mean.

Sure, we've got some things we can learn from Chinese culture. But until they have freedom of assembly, freedom of information and expression, freedom of religion, a modicum of LGBT rights, a minority Premier, and flushing toilets in 99% of their homes, let's have a little perspective on who is ahead. There are of course limits to our freedoms, but comparatively, there no comparison.
posted by deanklear at 11:55 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are superior! You, your hubris will destroy you!
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:59 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


This reads a bit like Thomas Friedman's recent "the Chinese really know how to get things done" column

Apparently, the Chinese have pirated The Moustache Of Understanding.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Bill Kristol's editorials were vapid and stupid until I read this. Did the People's Daily acquire significant shares of the Grey Lady?
posted by Renoroc at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not getting all the hate, I thought this article was quite reasonable. The author claims that postmodern/pragmatic authoritarian capitalism is more efficient than democratic capitalism, and this seems to be coming true.

Capitalism was once associated with all the standard liberal enlightenment values - democracy, reason, tolerance, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and so on. But why should this be true for all time? The West will soon need to choose one or the other.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:41 PM on February 17, 2012


(1) When the chickens of China's rampant currency manipulation, its out-of-control property bubble, and its total dependence on foreign consumption all come home to roost, Mr. Li will be shocked, shocked, that he wasn't living in a bold new era of golden tomorrows after all.

(2) The inability to leave comments on the article itself is at once the most infuriating thing I've seen all week and also the most completely appropriate reflection of the author's values.
posted by belarius at 12:45 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's some horse/cart inversion in this thread.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,


[for "their Creator" feel free to read: "a fluke of evolution".]

It's not a matter of shopping between degrees of authoritarianism; from the right comes the government, not the other way around. It is a question of justice, not one of technological efficiency. It doesn't matter whether repression is efficient or not. It's fucking wrong.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problems in the US are social, not political.

To be frank, large swathes of the population are, for lack of a better term, ignorant fucks. They think black people, gays, atheists, and women want to eat their babies. And so they vote for knuckle-draggers who pay lip service to conservative social values while eviscerating the social safety net, helping the rich to get richer, and doing nothing to help future generations be more competitive in the global marketplace.

The greatest strength of the US is its diversity. However, in an ideological sense, it's also our greatest weakness. We can't pursue social goals in a unified fashion like "utopian" Scandinavian countries where everybody's related within 3 degrees of separation.

Ultimately, this country at the tail end of a very long process of realizing that Ayn Rand was full of shit. As our infrastructure and economy continues to crumble, even the backwoods human-phobes will come to realize that everybody needs a place to eat, shit, breathe, and recover from a serious injury, regardless of what they think of god, guns, and gays.

We'll probably never agree about social issues. We'll probably always have braindead fucks picketing abortion clinics. But we'll ultimately come to our senses about economic issues. I think it's inevitable that we'll see a decoupling of social and fiscal issues. Old power blocs will break down. New ones will form. Religious books have a lot to say about feeding the poor, and people will heed that.

That's my prediction.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:55 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Machiavellian government is fabulous.

Provided you're Machiavelli and not the soon-to-be unperson who disagrees with him.
posted by jefficator at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2012


Is this another one of those "State Capitalism" dealies that seems to be making the rounds the past month or so on the econ blogs? Where do these ideas come from? Is there like a think tank spreading this shit, or was it actually a sort of natural organic thought process evolving, because as much as I'm seeing all this kind of talk lately, it sure looks like there's something pushing this agenda recently.

Call me when we can get our Libertarian Socialism on, kthxbai.
posted by symbioid at 1:05 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not getting all the hate, I thought this article was quite reasonable. The author claims that postmodern/pragmatic authoritarian capitalism is more efficient than democratic capitalism, and this seems to be coming true.

It is efficient only because the killed dead do not speak.

I don't just hate his writing. I am deeply offended by his thoughtlessness.
posted by polymodus at 1:08 PM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, whenever you hear the "republic not a democracy" line you know some right wing authoritarian horseshit is coming next.
What makes you doubt that right wing authoritarian horse shit is compatible with democracy?

A strong (47% against 36%) plurality of Americans supported the airstrikes against Libya. A majority favored the war in Iraq. Most don't favor military action against Iran yet, but around 60% say they'd be in favor of it "if economic and diplomatic efforts don't work" to get their nuclear program shut down. The requirement of a Congressional declaration of war appears to be considered too atavistic to bother polling about.

Support for amending the Constitution to ban flag desecration oscillates around 50%. Marijuana prohibition is losing popularity, but (excepting medical prescriptions) still seems to have a majority. Gay marriage support is gaining fast, but not fast enough to avoid being soundly rejected by most voters just a few years ago.

Polls seem to show support for waterboarding *rising*, now hitting 50%. Depending on how you phrase the question, support for torturing suspected terrorists ranges from 45%-73%. Support for Guantanamo is still over 50%. 48%-81% of people think the full body scans and pat-downs at airports are worth it. 76% wanted the underwear bomber treated as an "enemy combatant" and given no trial, and a plurality would extend that treatment to US citizens accused of terrorism as well. 51% say it is "necessary to give up some liberties" to fight terrorism; only 36% say "some proposals go too far".

Now, I'm not saying that a limited Constitution or the Bill of Rights are unmitigated successes; clearly the gaping loophole is that government officials can exceed their powers or violate our rights anyway and then get away with it so long as they manage to keep both a higher court and enough of the voters on their side.

Still, I can't think of any better way to squeeze a little more freedom out of a democracy: get everyone to agree ahead of time on broad principles like "freedom of speech should be protected" and "people should get fair trials", and sometimes those principles might even be upheld when they hit the wall of "wait, I didn't mean that to apply to speech and people I hate!"

...

On the other hand, the "republic" vs "democracy" distinction in Federalist 10 wasn't referring to limiting democratic excesses via constitutional restrictions, but rather via the moderating effect of wise elected legislators. I think the evidence is conclusive that that bright idea was doomed to fail.

...

This is all a digression from China, anyway, and there the author's thesis is a bit of a stretch. Look at a graph of Chinese GDP. The explosive growth doesn't start in 1989; it had been underway for a decade by then. If anything the correlated event was a loss of central control, not a gain.
posted by roystgnr at 1:10 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So the miracle of China is the right wing's new object of lust? That was a subtext of the recent Hoekstra commercial. And I thought they were playing it as next year's evil empire. Or maybe they want it to be both. (If only we were as evil as China, all of our worries would go away...)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2012




Much of the article is crazed but I do agree with him dating American democracy as beginning with the Voting Rights Act. It's not anything like Democracy if only people who count, as defined by the people who can vote, get to vote.
posted by TheKM at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2012


Still, I can't think of any better way to squeeze a little more freedom out of a democracy: get everyone to agree ahead of time on broad principles like "freedom of speech should be protected" and "people should get fair trials", and sometimes those principles might even be upheld when they hit the wall of "wait, I didn't mean that to apply to speech and people I hate!"

I get the theory, but if you look at the history of, say, the US and compare it to the history of the UK (with its unwritten constitution) it's not clear that one approach is notably better than the other at guaranteeing 'freedom.'

And, conversely, you get perverse effects like the Second Amendment--where something that made a certain kind of sense in the original historical context becomes almost impossible to get rid of when it eventually becomes an anachronistic nightmare.
posted by yoink at 1:35 PM on February 17, 2012




Yall postin' in a troll thread.
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:04 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, maybe Mr. Li means that China's system is superior once you include the dynastic cycle:

1) A new ruler unites China, founds a new dynasty, and gains the Mandate of Heaven.
2) China, under the new dynasty, achieves prosperity.
3) The population increases.
4) Corruption becomes rampant in the imperial court, and the empire begins to enter decline and instability.
5) A natural disaster wipes out farm land. The disaster normally would not have been a problem; however, together with the corruption and overpopulation it causes famine.
6) The famine causes the population to rebel and a civil war ensues.
7) The ruler loses the Mandate of Heaven.
8) The population decreases because of the violence.
9) China goes through a warring states period.
10) One state emerges victorious.
11) The state starts a new empire.
12) The empire gains the Mandate of Heaven.
(The cycle repeats itself.)

And I harp on this a lot, but the right to overthrow the ruler is a part of Mencian Confucianism. I don't know if Mr. Li is just hamming it up for page views or if he actually believes the current regime has broken the dynastic cycle.
posted by FJT at 3:05 PM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I suppose this is part of an Overton Window push, presumably to make "Party Leader, Supreme Executive, and Defender of the Faith Santorum" sound more palatable.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:11 PM on February 17, 2012


And I harp on this a lot, but the right to overthrow the ruler is a part of Mencian Confucianism.


What the hell does Carlos Mencia have to do with this?!?
posted by jsr1138 at 3:59 PM on February 17, 2012


jsr1138: thankfully, nothing.
posted by deanklear at 4:16 PM on February 17, 2012


Since we are in for a period of extended one party rule resulting from the Republican meltdown I welcome the advice of our Chinese friend on how to acheive political stability and economic growth during the upcoming decade.
posted by humanfont at 5:03 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I welcome the advice of our Chinese friend on how to acheive political stability and economic growth during the upcoming decade.

If their advice is to treat the vast majority of our nation's people like subhuman crap, force them to work in virtual slave labor conditions manufacturing cheaper versions of products that used to be produced in richer countries with better labor standards only to turn around and sell those products at the same prices as before so the difference shaved off the production costs can be reckoned as profit growth on our corporate books to keep our investor classes happy, while raking in money hand over fist for a tiny club of economic elites, and then calling that monstrous state of affairs "progress," no thanks.

That kind of cure is worse than the disease.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:40 PM on February 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


If Li thinks that genuine democracy requires the enfranchisement of all people or even of all citizens, then the U.S. is still not a democracy, since citizens under the age of 18 cannot vote. More seriously, important features of American republican-democracy are significantly older than the U.S. itself. In many ways, the break with Britain was a result of colonists asserting rights they thought they already had under British law -- including limited self-governance through elected representatives.

Just for kicks, consider the following. In 1644, the last Chinese dynasty -- the Qing -- began. It lasted until 1911 (268 years). Also in 1644, in Britain the Parliamentarians defeated the Royalists, and in Massachusetts, the General Court (state legislature) turned 14. Granted, it was another hundred and thirty (-ish) years until the colonists threw off the crown entirely, but the groundwork was laid already in the 1600s. You have to go back to the time of the Ancient Greeks to find a Chinese dynasty that lasted that long.

Also, no love for the Roman Republic?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2012


Also, no love for the Roman Republic?

Yeah, I don't care.. it's not democracy while you have a class of humans that aren't people. I could be wrong, and if I am.. what is so great about democracy?
posted by TheKM at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2012


Well, that was pretty fucking stupid. The New York Times will print pretty much any lame old tosh that gets tossed their way, it seems.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:30 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that was pretty fucking stupid. The New York Times will print pretty much any lame old tosh that gets tossed their way, it seems.

This is in the larger context of China's V.P. Xi Jinping's week-long visit to the US. which, coincidentally, he just wrapped up today. He's considered a shoe-in for the presidency when Hu Jintao's term is up.

His purpose here was trade. Among other things, we've got a lot of Ag products to sell and China wants to buy. The NYT and other media outlets have been painting a very rosy picture of him.

So if some wealthy Chinese businessman wants to tell us how superior his own nation is, and that democray's a joke, the editors are happy to give him a timely platform. The customer is always right.
posted by clarknova at 8:23 PM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I sort of agree with this--but from my POV the problem is, the American people have been fooled by private interests into believing the state is not ours to use as an instrument for the public good in the way you describe. It's not that we need some tiny elite ruling us with an iron fist to make the state work in our interest. It's the opposite: instead of letting an increasingly small minority of wealthy interests capture our political system, we need old school, massive public participation in the process. It's the active participation of the American people that makes America's system powerful. But first, we have to reclaim the state as an instrument for the public interest.

That was my point as well.
posted by bongo_x at 10:25 PM on February 17, 2012


This is almost as big a troll as ha ha ha america. Almost.
posted by Potsy at 11:28 AM on February 18, 2012


Cool video, Potsy, but it was pretty transparently a "Debbie Spend it Now" type attack on the G.W. Bush administration, whereas Eric X. Li sounded dead serious.
posted by metaplectic at 12:11 PM on February 18, 2012


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