June 21, 2005

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Pundita does China (Updated June 21st)

Note: this post has several updates below, not to mention an interesting discussion with Tom.

Pundita is a recent well deserved addition to the Top Shelf blogroll. An American foreign policy insider, she clearly and lucidly explains this most complex of policy areas. I've been fortunate enough to have been in an email dialogue with her, which has blossomed into two posts (so far) on China. The first is China: ducking reality, where she answers my questions on the direction of American policy towards China. She then follows up with China and the rascal rabbit of life's surprises, which covers Henry Kissinger, the Bush doctrine, bird flu and democracy, by way of Elmer Fudd.

Go. Read. Now.

Then bookmark her and check back often.

Update (June 15th)

The third essay, China: Say, whatever happened to those one billion consumers? is now up. Read it all, it's not long but it's thought provoking. I've sent a reply which I've reproduced:

Allow me one comment on today's post. I agree with the thrust of it but I fear you define democracy too tightly. Democracy is not just about voting; it also requires checks and balances; independent, free and strong institutions (courts, press etc); rule of law (in both enforcement and legislation by popular acclaim rather than decree); and respect of private property rights. If we were to chart countries on these yardsticks you'll find China is currently a mess, with the CCP trying to restrict the first two while implementing the second two. Are they compatible? No. That's the true contradiction at the heart of China. But is it sustainable? I fear it is for far longer than most would suspect.

In terms of the US, the vast majority are likely very complacent about democracy but thankfully the system has enough people concerned about it, and enough checks on it, that it can be sustained with only minority interest. I've long thought the vast majority are mostly interested in the basics - food, shelter, rising living standards and a good education for their kids. It's only the few who care about the rest of "that freedom thing". Once China's been democratic for 200 years, I'll forgive some complacency.

Pundita's point about China's "enclavers" is a telling one. Likewise I fully agree with her contention:
China's ruling party says they have a way to beat the devil: Planning. First get the peasants educated, then teach them English, then put them through university where they will study nanotechnology, then gradually introduce more government reforms at the local levels....

Clearly the stepwise process assumes that dolts can't manage democracy. But look at America. First of all, we had a long tradition of only sending dolts to Washington because we couldn't spare the smart ones from their jobs. Second of all, America was a bunch of illiterates as late as....well, the IRS still writes tax forms for people with only a twelfth grade education, and still takes wall-to-wall calls around tax filing time from Americans who can't understand the forms.

Pundita suspects that the way democracy has been presented by advanced Western democracies helped create the perception in the developing world that one has to reach a certain IQ and level of character development before democracy can breed anything more than anarchy.

It's all about the marketing, and the marketing of the "democracy" brand has been pretty poor at times. Or in the words of Glenn Reynolds, democracy is a process, not an end in itself. As Pundita says:
Democracy is a form of government; it's a gizmo for managing decisions and tax money in a large complex society...It [democratic government] furthers human rights and many other wonderful things. But the system itself is just that--a tool. The anarchy comes when you don't know how to work the tool.
Tom, I'm ready to discuss if you've actually got some substance to debate.

Update June 16th

Pundita replies to my email: Never Assume. It clarifies many of the issues and re-inforces the democracy as a process idea. Another good read.

19:45 6/16 And now the next instalment - China and the world: Yes, and back again. This time I take issue with some of the points...email to be reproduced below.

You say Governments better listen, but in cases such as China there are two problems: they don't want to listen and they don't have the mechanisms for listenening. China has never had a system of feedback from "the people" - if there was an issue, the only form of redress would be to take a petition to Beijing and try and see the right person (and this continues today). That's what I was getting at - central planning doesn't work but China (and others) have long had a top-down model of governance. Human history tells us that's been the more common model. Call it tyranny, call it dictatorship...even today it is the "preferred" governance model for a lot of places. Even those trying to transition to democracy are finding the path bumpy to say the least. Look at Russia for an example of one that is now rapidly backsliding into its preferred model. How does the Bush Doctrine deal with this?

Secondly I (being from an economics background) disagree on your analysis of world trade. I get your drift - that world trade meant making deals with the devil. But the fundamental argument comes down to whether living standards can influence politics or is it vice versa? By that I mean if a country's population has rising living standards, people start to have something worth saving, fighting for, protecting and defending. That means they want a voice in how things are run, especially when they are run contrary to their interests. Globalisation and free trade encourage that trend. From my reading of your post you see it the other way around. You actually hit on a key difference - today trade is much "freer", thanks to the WTO. The managed trade of the Cold War was an artifice to support political ideologies. Now trade is a way to raise living standards and encourage understanding across nations and cultures.

I'm not convinced by the co-operation amongst nations argument either. Even Bush and co. attempted multilateralism for Iraq via the UN, even though it was rebuffed. The Iraq war can even be cast as Bush's attempt to strengthen the UN or at least multilateral institutions, by giving force to resolutions. Also witness his putting Wolfowitz into the World Bank. Multilateral institutions matter - what they face is how to recast themselves now the Cold War is over...something they should have done 15 years ago but are only getting around to now. And where you quote Belmont, he notes the EU as one of Chirac's great institutions. And indeed it is - it can be argued the EU has helped solidify the transitions of Eastern Europe, as far afield as Ukraine, and helped human rights and freedoms in Turkey and the Balkans. Like it or not, you've got to give it to the EU. It has been one of the best institutions for spreading freedom and democracy in modern times.

I think the problem with your argument is it mixes up notions of multilateralism with notions of a multipolar world. I'm all for the former and against the latter. That's not a contradiction. A world lead by the US, with the support of the Anglosphere and like minded nations is the best defence (and if needed, offense) against tyranny and dictatorship. That's what we're seeing now.

Update June 17th

The latest instalment, Clairol joins with the barbarian hordes plotting China's overthrow, has an interesting perspective on the relationship between China's peasantry and government. Keep an eye out for the next exciting episode...and if you've got some thoughts, feel free to jump in. The water's warm!

Update June 21st

Pundita concludes the dialogue on America's China policy with US policy on China: Quo vadis? Read the whole thing, but the conclusion:

China's present situation is very complex, and present US policy has ignored the complexity. This had led the US to a passive-aggressive relationship with China.

This in turn helped Beijing (and numerous Western policy analysts) avoid confronting a stark reality: to the extent that China has become successful, they have been carried to success on the back of Western democracies.

So it is now time for American policymakers to gain a clear-eyed view of China -- one that avoids the extremes of demonizing Beijing on the one hand and overlooking the threat that a dictatorship ruling over a large nation poses to civilization, on the other.

There is a summary of all the links on this topic at Pundita's China Dialogues file.

posted by Simon on 06.21.05 at 01:37 PM in the


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China's Rise: The Next Big Hit, or the Current Big Myth?
Excerpt: Various notes on developments in China, the socio-economic issues they face, and perspectives on offer re: their sustainability into the future.
Weblog: Winds of Change.NET
Tracked: June 17, 2005 05:56 PM

peasant protests
Excerpt: Simon has been corresponding with Pundita, and has been keeping track of the conversation here. Today, she looks at the (what I trust to be State Department's view) on the rise of rural protests in China:What we're seeing today in
Weblog: asiapundit
Tracked: June 19, 2005 12:15 PM


Too bad Blogspot blogs are blocked here in Chiner. I'll have to catch this through the work leaseline.

posted by: GZ Expat on 06.14.05 at 08:43 PM [permalink]

That's top shelf? *snort* Really?

Between the Clinton bashing and the puffery about how her team is doing the best in 40 years, I'm dumbfounded. Really!

Utter and complete tripe.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 06.15.05 at 11:20 AM [permalink]

Tom, how does that constitute a refutation of anything she has said. If you think it's tripe, at least do us the courtesy of saying why.

posted by: Simon on 06.15.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

I'm not even sure where to start on these monstrosities.

There is a lot of wrong information {like the bit about Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai Gang} and a lot more disinformation {like the tripe about Clinton and how past military assessments of China were wrong, but the new one is more accurate. check discussions at Peking Duck on that subject, but I've got a few more thoughts that involve the foolishness of the whole Bush Doctrine} involved in these.

This isn't surprising given the track record of the Busheviks to create a political goal and then concoct a story line and details to sell that goal.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 06.15.05 at 08:19 PM [permalink]

But many of the Clinton military assessments were wrong. That's not because of politics, it's because it's ten years later and there's that much more information available.

As for the Bush Doctrine, it might surprise you but really it's not so far removed from Clintonism. Both are about spreading democracy and supporting human rights. They don't even differ that greatly in the means to achieve it - please see Serbia for one example.

This isn't surprising given the track record of the Busheviks to create a political goal and then concoct a story line and details to sell that goal.

Tom, I think you'll find that's what all of politics is about. It's not exclusive to any side of politics.

I'm sorry but you're going to have to do far better than that to convince anyone that Pundita's arguments have no merit.

posted by: Simon on 06.15.05 at 09:42 PM [permalink]

Thanks for the tip, Simon. I will be sure to check her out as soon as I get a moment. The exchange here on the comment board has only increased my interest!

posted by: RP on 06.15.05 at 10:23 PM [permalink]

But many of the Clinton military assessments were wrong. That's not because of politics, it's because it's ten years later and there's that much more information available.

As for the Bush Doctrine, it might surprise you but really it's not so far removed from Clintonism. Both are about spreading democracy and supporting human rights. They don't even differ that greatly in the means to achieve it - please see Serbia for one example.

Actually it is all about politics and not about better intelligence.

And if you actually believe that the Bush Doctrine uses "democracy" as anything but a buzzword as marketing to distract from the initially stated goal of undisputed US hegemony, there isn't enough tea in China to convince you otherwise.

Just don't tell the folks in Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan or Burma or Equitoreal Guinea that the US has any interest but the control of global oil supplies for friends of George and Dick and Condi.

Remember torture is a-okay with the Bush administration and with Glenn as long as it's "our guys" doing it. Remember that rigged elections are a-okay with this administration and with Glenn as long as it's "our guys or gal" that is rigging the elections. Remember that democratically elected governments, such as Chavez in Venezuela, are not okay as long as they do not jump high when George and Dick and Condi say jump.

This IS the Bush Doctrine and democracy is a buzzword to be sprinkled around generously to distract from destruction of liberties at home and mass extrajudicial imprisonment and torture abroad.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 06.16.05 at 11:13 AM [permalink]

Let's take a few examples: Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon. Lybia giving up its nuclear weapons program. If US hegemony means a spreading of liberal capitalist democracy, then bring it on. I'm not saying the execution of this strategy has been perfect, far from it. But it is a continuation of what Clinton was trying to achieve. You can't have one without the other.

You do have a valid point on the line to be drawn between restrictions of civil liberties in the fight against terror. That's a very seperate argument. I'm with you in thinking Gitmo is a travesty and indefensible.

posted by: Simon on 06.16.05 at 02:21 PM [permalink]

No, Simon, the connection to Clinton is a f*ckin' radical right cannard to try and make the PNAC agenda seem less radical.

Clinton went in to Bosnia after the racial cleansing camps made the front cover of Time. Bush decided to go in to Iraq BEFORE 9/11 and would find the excuses to do so later. In fact Bush and company fabricated the evidence to go in to Iraq, which is starting to lead for calls of impeachment.

Lebanon: elections were already scheduled there before Bush got involved. It was already a stable, though obviously "compromised" democracy. Unfortunately for GW and company, the election didn't produce an anti-Syrian government. We'll watch with interest.

Ukraine: Same situation. Don't like the election results, use "people power" to change the rules for the election to bias for your guys to win.

Afghanistan: Same situation. What's the latest count on Karzai delaying elections?

Iraq: US cancelled local elections within a month of the invasion, because it would have produced anti-US governments. Change the rules for the elections {proportional representation with lists that are nation-wide only} to produce results more favourable {which meant in this Allawi the puppet and Chalabi the con artist} having some swing in the final government despite little local appeal.

P.S. check today's The Standard on the Iraqi Kurds and extrajudicial kidnappings and relocations with the support of the US Army in the command city for Iraq's northern oil.

These aren't "liberal capitalist democracy", but they are attempts at installing pro-US governments in countries with leadership that previously opposed the US hegemony.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 06.16.05 at 02:37 PM [permalink]

In fact Tom you've hit the nail on the head without realising it. Clinton went into Bosnia...and Bush went into Iraq, premedidated or not. Iraq had also grossly abused its citizens' human rights as well as defied numerous UN resolutions and the ceasefire agreement after Kuwait. Yes, Iraq also sits on 10% of the world's oil. Which makes it significant not just for the reasons Clinton went into Bosnia, but also because the economic future of the world was potentially at stake.

I'm puzzled by your other counter-examples. Are you saying when "people power", an expression of popular will, overthrows elites then that's a bad thing? the elections in both Lebanon and Ukraine were far cleaner than anything they've had for a long time. Each are complicated situations with their own nuances, but in each case Bush doesn't determine the result. Hell he didn't even have that much impact in either case. Rather his doctrine has set the conditions in place for such "revolutions" to occur...a domino effect.

George W certainly isn't a fan of Chavez but they voted for the guy and Bush puts up with it.

I don't see a conspiracy to install pro-US Governments around the world. On that we'll have to agree to disagree.

posted by: Simon on 06.16.05 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

Sorry Tom you are dead wrong on Bush. Prior to 9/11 he was isolationist and had no desire for any entanglement in any foreign adventures. In fact he wanted removal from foreign affairs even more than Bill Clinton did, to focus on his domestic agenda, in the 00 election.

Clinton wanted to spend as little time, energy, and political capital on foreign affairs as possible. This is why he consistently turned away from any hard choices with bin Laden (turning down extradition from Sudan in 96; chances to use military force to kill him in 98, 99, and 00). Clinton chose the minimal risk strategy in Bosnia and Kosovo, and chose missile and bomb strikes against Iraq and Saddam in 98-99 (Operation Desert Fox). Bush during the campaign didn't even want THAT much involvement, citing Haiti as an example of what not to do. Nation building. He meant it and during his early Presidency his big issue in foreign affairs was ... closer ties to Vincente Fox and Mexico.

9/11 changed EVERYTHING, most notably the perception of risk. If an attack could be launched on NYC and DC from Afghanistan of all places, the need for strong action to kick ass as much as it could be kicked, to send a strong message, was seen as needed in a bipartisan way. If ANYTHING Bush has been too restrictive by far, refusing to go to war with Iran and Pakistan over their sheltering bin Laden (one of them has him) and Al Qaeda elements. If we had a SERIOUS War President like FDR we'd have had a five million man military, and simply CRUSHED both those regimes. Then gone the hell home with a promise we'd come back if someone was stupid enough to poke the giant awake again.

Don't let your anti-Americanism and Bush hatred delude you. If anything Bush has been a godsend to the Islamic world, because he's held back America's awesome power. He resisted attempts to use strategic nuclear weapons in response to 9/11. He didn't invade Syria, or Saudi, or any other country but Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which were done deals after 9/11 even if Gore had won in 00. Despite later Partisan wrangling, Dems as well as Reps supported getting rid of Saddam as unfinished business and a demonstration ass-kicking for the world on why it's a bad idea to provoke the US post-9/11.

Far too much of the world seems to think that "9/11 taught America a lesson." Which it did but not the one they think. Most Americans feel that the lesson was not that people around the world didn't love them (which is what the Press and Dems think, and has about as much relation to the American populace as Billionaire Bill Gates does); but rather that nasty terrorists and their appeasers and partners did not FEAR AMERICA ENOUGH. We were not tough and feared enough and so were attacked. THAT is the lesson, not that "hey America it's your turn and you deserve it" which much of the foreign press seems to think was the lesson. It is the height of stupidity to attack a nation with a fleet of nuclear attack submarines.

The real danger is post-Bush there is no one with the credibility and political strength to hold back the American people sadly WHEN another mass-casualty terrorist atrocity kills thousands if not more Americans. Given that we as a nation flattened most of Japan and Germany in WWII, and Curtis LeMay was busy planning 10,000 plane raids to kill half of Japan from the air before Hirohito's surrender, provoking Americans with mass terrorism is a stupid idea the stupidity of which has been lost in the post-Saddam Iraqi mess and general idiotic press chatter. Bush has been yelling stop! and when he exits in 08 there will be no one to brake the inevitable American Anger and real WWII style mobilization after the next attack.

posted by: Jim Rockford on 06.17.05 at 03:16 PM [permalink]

Mr Rockford, it's you who are dead wrong. And I'm sure you know it. Bush's team, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Bolton, and company had written it all out before. As I'm sure you are quite aware.

But it is so cute when you say I'm anti-American. Another wingnut buzzword futilely thrown out to try and discredit the PNAC crap.

As for Furious George holding back the US... *snort* Furious George has been doing his best to ride the political advantage of the corpses of 9/11 as far as he can and he'll do the same after another attack. If there was to be one, and there won't, unless it's a wingnut like McVeigh again.

As for the Ukraine, Bush and company pushed very hard that election methods would change between the first and second election there. Not just closer scrutiny to ensure free and fair elections, but changed the basic procedures on how campaigning is done and how ballots could be cast.

As for Lebanon, the Busheviks pushed hard that their would be only one source of political funding from outside Lebanon allowed in. That would be from the Busheviks and not from Syria.

The Busheviks don't want fairness, in the sense that equals compete. They want their side to win and democracy, freedom, and fairness have nothing to do with it.

That's why the Busheviks continue to support torture and dictators around the world, which the wingnuts don't want to talk about, because it shows that "freedom on the march" isn't a doctrine, it's merely a rationalisation to cover up their crimes against humanity.

posted by: Tom - Daai Tou Laam on 06.17.05 at 07:52 PM [permalink]

You forgot Bush=Hitler. Your hate-speech is not complete.

posted by: Carl on 06.17.05 at 09:48 PM [permalink]

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