Wednesday, March 2, 2011

China isn't Egypt

Or Yemen, or Tunisia, or Syria, or Libya, or any of those North African & Middle Eastern nations seeing nascent democratic - or at least rebellious - movements within their polity.

The People's Republic of China [PRC] will not see its government overthrown in the next few months by hordes of repressed, outraged, angry Chinese protestors clamouring for régime change & democracy. Sorry for deflating the bubble, but that is just the truth of the matter. There are a number of reasons for this. The Chinese government has tighter control (though this is by no means hermetic) of foreign press than Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia or Yemen; issues in China are largely local & issue based (see Charter '08), rather than national & personal/general; additionally, the economic situation in China is positive, growing &, importantly, provides full employment. That last factor is, by far, the most important to consider.

Media wise, it is true that young people in China can and do use proxy servers to easily circumvent the national firewall. This means that foreign media & information contrary to political doctrine is hardly difficult to access. It's propagation is not particularly restricted, either. Free speech is not total in China, obviously, but it exists in a great enough degree that the state cannot be accused of grossly violating it. Nevertheless, the average citizen is subjected only to media that exists in partnership with the State; there are enough people in China that even if millions upon millions of people circumvent state media & propagate that information, the vast majority does not. As such, the population is less likely to be swayed by external support, pressure or information than the middle-eastern countries abovementionned.

As for the issue-based Chinese outrage: China is very much a country in development with much work that remains to be done. The Chinese people know this and they are willing to work at it & make the country better. A great example of this is the young Rock & Roll musician in the Tank Man documentary who tells the interviewer that an full-fledged, complete transformation of China that would solve every problem the country faces and give them democracy & free choice is unrealistic. That improvement will take work and slow, methodical change.

And so the Chinese people work at it, pressuring their government one issue at a time. Weathering leaders like Jiang Zemin & embracing leaders like Hu Jintao, they work toward a better country.

Importantly, in many ways, they live in a much better country than they did in 1989, when a lone man stared down a tank in order to stand up to his government. The Special Economic Zones [SEZ] have been massively expanded. Every major eastern urban center is as capitalist as New York ever was. The Chinese people realize this success is true, aswell.

The old adage says, "It's the economy, stupid!" It isn't a lie. For every problem China faces, the fact remains that the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] has delivered on its economic promises. Chinese economic growth is just plain staggering and as long as it remains that way - as long as the CCP continues to deliver on Deng Xiaoping's promise to make China prosperous - the real risk of rebellion in China is infinitesimally small.

The argument can be made, aswell, that China has been revolutionary since the Taiping Rebellion; that what we're seeing in China is the slowest, most utterly complete, most methodical revolution in world history. That we won't see new revolutions in China because they aren't done with the one at hand. I think there is some truth to the argument. & I believe that the outcome of this revolution is far from certain: we may witness something novel in China in the coming years. Not Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Corporatism or any other permutation of socio-political organization we're familiar with, but rather a sort of new social order... With Chinese characteristics!

Hang on & enjoy the ride. This one'll be interesting.