Posts Tagged ‘autocracy’

The Chinese Dream of Premier Xi Jinping

May 7, 2013

During his first weeks in power, Xi Jinping, the new head of the ruling Communist Party, has promoted a slogan designed to unite an increasingly diverse nation: The Chinese Dream. News bulletins across the nation are full of his dream, evoking its American equivalent. A talent show on television is looking for ‘The Voice of the Chinese Dream’.

Unfortunately,Xi Jinping’s dream falls somewhat short of the aspirations outlined so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence and by James Madison in the Constitution of the United States. It does indeed encompass the pursuit of happiness: ‘To meet our people’s desire for a happy life is our mission.’ Unfortunately, it falls well short of any desire to promote individualism, and especially to advance the liberty of each individual from the reach of the Communist Party.

Instead, Xi Jinping’s dream incorporates a troubling whiff of nationalism and of a repackaged form of authoritarianism. It is no coincidence that Mr. Xi’s first mention of his dream of ‘the great revival of the Chinese nation’ came in November 2012 in a speech at the national museum in Tiananmen Square, where an exhibition called ‘Road to Revival’ lays out China’s past suffering at the hands of colonial powers and its rescue by the Communist Party.

In bowing towards a renewed nationalism, Xi Jinping is already courting China’s armed forces. In December 2012, on an inspection tour of the navy in southern China, he spoke reverently of a ‘strong army dream’. Suggestively, he told the generals that the spirit of a strong army lies in resolutely obeying the orders ofd the Communist Party. The Chinese dreams, he stated is an ideal. Communists should have a higher ideal, and that is Communism.

Of one thing, one can be absolutely certain. Xi Jinping’s dream falls well short of any notion of the rule of law. The rule of law can only come to China when dictatorship collapses. And Xi Jinping’s dream does not carry with it any notion whatsoever of a martyr’s death.

Hat Tip: ‘Xi Jinping and the Chinese Dream’, The EconomistMay 4, 2011

Autocracies in global ascendancy

March 30, 2013

Although Westerners like to believe that democracy is on a continuously upward trend, this is far from true. Democracy has been in retreat across much of the developing world in recent years. In its latest Index of Freedom in the World, the global monitoring group, Freedom House, notes that 2012 was the seventh consecutive year in which the survey found more declines than gains. For democracy, this is the longest losing streak in the past 60 years.

Democracy in the developing world is struggling in part because citizens in many countries, led to believe that democracy and prosperity always go hand in hand, are finding out that this is not necessarily so. For this reason, trust in democracy has waned in such countries as Malawi and the Philippines. Simultaneously relatively new democracies such as India, Brazil and South Africa, have done little to promote themselves as fruitful political models.

In politics there is no such thing as a vacuum. When democracies falter, the world’s most powerful autocracies fill the vacuum. In particular, China and Russia have become far more assertive on the global stage and increasingly are working together to promote what they view as common interests. Most especially, they are concerned to block democratic developments in their own backyards.

China has provided training over the past decade for police, judges, judicial officials and bureaucrats from a range of countries in Central, South and Southeast Asia. Initially such training focused on economic management. Increasingly they have turned to lessons on how to replicate Chinese-style legal systems, crowd control, Internet monitoring and other strategies of internal repression.

Under President Putin, the Kremlin has taken similar initiatives. In Ukraine, the Kremlin party United Russia, signed an agreement to cooperate with the pro-Russian Ukrainian leader, Vikto Yanukovych, who was unsympathetic to the country’s Orange Revolution of the early 2000s. Kremlin support, including a promise to lower gas prices, helped to secure the presidency for Mr. Yanukovych in 2010. Russia has continued to provide strong support for his repressive government.

Beijing further promotes its model of autocratic development in the nations of Africa and the Middle East as an alternative to the Washington consensus of free markets and free politics. Where China moves, Russia almost always is a fast second.

Western promoters of democracy have no cause for complacency. The autocrats are now on the march into territories once viewed as entirely safe for democracy.

Hat Tip: Joshua Kublantzick, ‘A New Axis of Autocracy’, The Wall Street JournalMarch 30, 2013

Democracy sometimes may be worse than autocracy

December 11, 2012

Democracy has become a favored form of government in Western parlance. And autocracy has become a dirty word.  Yet, history does not support such a comprehensive judgment.  Just to mention, in broad-brush terms,  a few possible exceptions:

Germany’s  democratic Weimar Republic performed so badly as to open the gates to Hitler’s Third Reich.  Kaiser Wilhelm’s autocracy performed much better during the early years of the twentieth century.

British autocratic rule over Hong Kong offers one of the finest examples of governance in the history of mankind.

Singapore’s long-lived one-party autocracy continuously positions Singapore second in the index of economic freedom.

The Allende democratic majority in Chile brought the nation to economic ruin. It took a  General Pinochet dictatorship to promote Chile from third to second world status.

The Chavez democratic majority in Venezuela has brought the holder the world’s largest oil reserves to economic ruin.

British economic performance under limited democracy 1689-1884 arguably was far superior to British performance under an expanded suffrage following the passage of the Third Reform Act in 1884.

Readers will easily identify other exceptions to current political correctness on this issue.

Readers may care to think about the implications of such ‘evidence’ for the future of  those Middle Eastern countries that move from secular dictatorship to Islamic ‘democracy’.

With respect to Egypt, the ‘democratic’ rule of Mohamed (Moriarty) Morsi quickly springs to mind!

 

Siloviki: Russia’s Cosa Nostra autocracy

February 26, 2012

Russia in no sense is a democracy in the Western sense of that term.  It is completely controlled by an elitist oligarchy,  obedient to Vladimir Putin, and dependent upon him for its continued access to privilege and wealth.

“In Putin’s Russia, the political power, government structure and a substantial chunk of economic resources are controlled by a network…of  ‘siloviki’. The word comes from the Russian for strength and refers to officials from the police, military and secret services.” Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya, ‘A world of privilege at stake for Putin loyalists’, The Washington Post, February 26, 2012

In the USSR, the siloviki were feared, if not respected, as the guarantors of Soviet power.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they were humiliated and deserted by President Boris Yeltzin and battered by a temporarily free press. When Vladimir Putin eventually assumed the Presidency in 2000, the siloviki slipped back into power, hungry to take their share of the spoils available to a new oligarchy. They now comprise a network of bureaucrats, businessmen and corrupt hangers-on with a vital pro-Putin stake in the March 2012 presidential election.

The core of the silivoki is located within the 104 most influential people in Putin’s Russia. Among those holding 22 posts closest to Putin, at the very pinacle of the power structure, 14 are former KGB associates and the others are either close friends or other trusted colleagues from his home town of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

The most successful members of this network enjoy expensive property, lucrative investments, and large overseas bank accounts. They send their offspring to study at the world’s most prestigious universities. They live in luxurious accommodations, all the while earning relatively modest government salaries.  The siloviki have built Putin a billion-dollar palace in return for the privileges that he has bestowed upon them. It is estimated that Putin and the siloviki control 15 per cent of Russia’s gross domestic product.

The only risk confronting Vladimir Putin, in such a tightly controlled system, would emanate from within the siloviki itself. If Putin continues to deliver the goods, he is completely safe from any electorate and from any potential Russian spring.  The scent of jasmine will be quickly and ruthlessly obliterated by a  Russian Mafia that learned how to enforce its blood oath of loyalty during the late years of the Evil Empire.

“The elite have shown no signs they are willing to cede authority or privilege. To give up all this?… Their business assets and residences?  Their palaces and country houses?  Their bank accounts and control over financial flows?  Their power and influence within Russia and abroad?  And why?  Because 100,000 people gathered in Moscow streets?  They will be trying to stay in power for a long, long time. Forever.” Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya, ”A world of privilege at stake for Putin loyalists’, ibid.

A nice radioactive  cup of tea for each of you from your best friend Vlady, Kirill Kabanov and Olga Kryshtanovskaya?

Henry Kissinger offers wisdom on China

October 7, 2011

“Now we are living in a world in which both China and the United States have to get used to the fact that they’re not the dominant country, and that they have to deal with each other and with other countries on the basis of creating an international system.  There has to be some equilibrium, there has to be some principle of order, and that has to arise not out of confrontation but out of possible partnership.  I do not believe we have the capacity to make every country in the world democratic.  I think we have the capacity to make our views known on human rights and we should use our influence on human rights.  There may be decisions in which we can contribute to democracy.  But I do not think that the objective of American foreign policy with respect to China should be to involve itself in the domestic affairs of China, in the domestic evolution of China.  But when there are unjust treatments of individuals we can and should express our view with respect to those issues.  The relationship between China and the United States has become really the key single element for international stability.” Henry Kissinger, The Washington Post, October 7, 2011

Those Senators and U.S. government officials who are pressing to impose penal tariffs on Chinese imports would do well to remember that China was the most advanced country in the world in 18 out of the last 20 centuries. China was a civilized country when Native Americans were running around, near naked with red-paint on their bodies, chanting war songs as they danced around totem poles as they built up courage to go on the war path with the  intent of scalping their enemies.

China is now well on the road back to its earlier pre-eminence, and Americans would do well to cultivate good will and trade relationships, rather than envy and hatred for a well-earned success that is currently eluding their own half-educated and increasingly work-shy population.


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