Friday, June 04, 2004

China: the next great society? Part 1 in a series of ongoing, stream-of-consciousness explorations of China

Without a doubt, China has exploded onto the world scene since Nixon first visited in Febuary 1972. During a period when communist nations imploded under the isolating nature of its structure, capitalist nations prospered from an open-market society, further pressuring communist nations into incestuous self-protection.

However, China may well be the sole communist nation which has a hope for introducing a significantly new form of government to the world. A strange amalgam of communism, capitalism, and a relatively progressive outlook has thrust China onto the world stage not just as a nuclear power but as a major economic player.

From the New York Times:
Tiananmen irrevocably changed the relationship between China's people and its rulers. Although the immediate sequel was repression and reaction, that change has worked out mainly for the better over time. It is now possible to recognize China's Tiananmen spring as part of the global political upheaval of 1989 that wrote Communism's epitaph. That fall, similar youthful and idealistic movements helped end Communist rule across Eastern and Central Europe. In China, Communist power survived, but Communist ideology crumbled.

There have been few opportunities in the history of civilization to affect such a massive and progressive change. Make no mistake: the Chinese model is far from perfect, and suffers severely from limitations on human rights and personal freedoms which are the byproducts of the communistic culture.

However, China has an outlook on capitalism that is both realistic and progressive. With tight controls already in place, and reforms slowly developing on social fronts, the government has an opportunity to start well ahead in those areas than the US and other major democracies.

Where China currently fails is in the social realms dealing with freedom: speech; press; assembly. In a comparison to some recent court decisions in the United States, and in combination with laws such as the Patriot Act, it is clear that this nation is quickly heading toward many of the communistic over-reaches that are so devastating to the morale of the citizenry. Patriot in particular offers near-absolute power of search and seizure, with no real safeguards against abuse.

The soon-to-be Patriot II goes even further.

The Bush Adminstration has held Padilla for over two years without offering him a court date or hearing. A key symptom of past communist nations is the ability of the state to hold its citizens against will for an undeclared and indeterminable period of time.

So, in essence, while the United States manages to introduce the authoritarian, police state aspects of communism in our nation, the Chinese are slowly but surely softening some aspects of its authoritarian constructs.
China began experimenting with market reforms long before 1989. The man who started those reforms, Deng Xiaoping, was also the man who authorized the Tiananmen crackdown. Deng the economic maverick was also Deng the rigid Leninist. Yet the archaic structures of power and belief that Mr. Deng shed so much blood to preserve soon began turning into something he neither foresaw nor approved of: an evolving 21st-century mix of capitalism, authoritarianism and pragmatism.

I'll continue this thought in a second part later

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