China won’t take the Egypt route
Posted by Author on February 15, 2011
Despite Beijing’s efforts to prevent it, there is not a thoughtful person in China who has not been asking these past few days how their country compares with Egypt.
The parallels include fast economic growth accompanied by widening inequalities, systematic corruption and a crisis of injustice.
The distinction that matters, which makes a Chinese people’s uprising a practical impossibility, is that the Chinese Communist Party is a more professional and well-resourced dictatorship.
Advertisement: Story continues below Five years ago China’s Ministry of State Security directly employed 10,000 people in intelligence collection and analysis. Since then their numbers have more than tripled and their focus has swung from international to domestic security.
The Communist Party has also strengthened its organisational structures to keep itself unified and embedded in every facet of organised life – its “united front” activities to co-opt private enterprise, religious groups and the Chinese diaspora, and its propaganda systems to keep pace with technology. Last year the Propaganda Department boasted of deleting 350 million items of “harmful” information, and that was only up until November.
The party controls the largest and most sophisticated apparatus for securing the regime that the world has ever seen. That is why it is not about to be swept aside. But it is also its greatest weakness.
It is reasonably well understood that the increase in state power is under attack from Chinese lawyers, journalists, economists and civil society actors of the liberal right. Professor Yu Jianrong is an eloquent exponent of how tightening political control is generating greater discontent in what becomes a self-generating spiral.
The economist Xu Xiaonian warns that China risks being trapped in a stage of crony capitalism, where no official can find the energy to give up a system that so readily transforms their unfettered political power into cash.
What is ignored outside China is how the system is also under attack from the opposite direction.
The joke lurking at the core of all the hype about a “Beijing consensus” supposedly encroaching across the planet is that there is no consensus even in Beijing. Whereas the right wants to redress corruption and inequality by reining in the state and bolstering the market, the left wants to realise the same objectives by reining in the market and bolstering the state.
For 30 years the Communist Party has forged ideological unity around Deng Xiaoping’s “two hands” formula of a market-based economy and uncompromising political control. When the contradictions inherent in this approach flared in 1989, Deng’s solution was to defer any resolution and make the tensions worse. He massacred the students, rebuilt the party’s security apparatus and then opened the market economy further.
The nepotism and corruption enjoyed by Deng’s children may have been exceptional in 1989 but these days they are the norm for those born into the communist aristocracy. Whether you are in private equity, a sprawling state-owned enterprise or a village enterprise, the end game is the same: connect the right party official (or relative) with the market and turn public money into private gold.
Left and right agree that the Deng consensus is crumbling under the weight of inequality and corruption. But they cannot agree on whether to dismantle the ”open market” or ”political control” side of his legacy.
President Hu Jintao has squandered eight years in mortal combat with his predecessor. Powerful princelings have dealt themselves out of the debate by their kleptocratic hypocrisy. The country has reached gridlock. The party is entering a period of realignment and it is not clear what the new direction will be.
It is no coincidence that the only two obviously popular members of the Politburo are those who have come closest to challenging the Deng consensus. Much may depend on how the Mao-singing Chongqing party boss, Bo Xilai, and the democracy-talking Premier, Wen Jiabao, reach an accommodation.
– The Sydney Morning Herald
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This entry was posted on February 15, 2011 at 5:30 am and is filed under Africa, China, News, Politics, Social, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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