June 29, 2005

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Post Communist China

Plenty of debate China focusses on the Communist Party (CCP) and its (mis)-rule. The question is not if the CCP will fall, but when. But that question implies another which is seldom addressed by the China punditry - what next? Should the CCP fall, what kind of Government will emerge? While most hope for a democracy, is that likely? Is that even desirable? What kind of support will a post-CCP China need and will it get it?

One clear lesson from the Iraq war, regardless of its merits, is the need to look beyond the change you desire to what comes after. That is the debate we need to start today. I welcome your thougts on the topic. Naturally I have mine...

The key to the answer is how the transition happens. What comes next depends on what happened before. If the CCP implodes under the weight of its own contradictions the evolution to a new system of government will differ significantly from that which comes about through a popular uprising. If a popular uprising is violent or peaceful is another key difference. China's changes of government have tended to come about through violent overthrow. A peaceful transition will be a novelty. The influence of other countries, in particular China's significant neighbours (Japan, Korea) and America, will be crucial in the transition. It is impossible to say how each country would re-act, but here's hoping they have each at least considered the possibilities.

Can democracy work for China? It has been often cited that China (excluding Taiwan) has never had universal suffrage. On the other hand India provides an example of a massive and diverse country that successfully runs election after election. Yet many argue that India's democracy has hampered it in its race for growth compared to China. To some extent that must be true, because totalitarian governments can make decisions without heed to the short term interests of the voters (although that assumes such dictatorships are enlightened enough to have their population's longer term interests at heart).

A lack of democratic tradition can mean a country that rapidly changes to a market liberal democracy can just as quickly slide back into a more murky and bastardised version of the same. To wit, Russia. The countries of Eastern Europe have more successfully made the transition. But Russia is the closest, albeit imperfect, forerunner of China's past and future. A vast country nominally ruled from a dominating centre but with strong regions, Russia and China have both historically been "top-down" rather than "bottom-up" countries.

How do you ensure a democratic China emerges? There has to be external support for the crucial elements such as rule of law and universal suffrage. But far more importantly there has to be popular legitimacy. The people of China have to want a democratic system. It is not clear to me that that is the case. A crucial part of the longer term planning for a democratic China needs to be direct communication with the Chinese people to explain and re-enforce the democratic ideal.

But the planning cannot stop there. The reality is any successor democracy in China will be an imperfect one. The key becomes prioritising. Which parts of a liberal democracy are more important to get right? Should it be getting the economy in order? Installing a government elected by universal suffrage? Implementing and consistently enforcing laws and regulations? Eliminating corruption and graft? In an ideal world all of these and more would be addressed simultaneously. But that's not going to happen in practice. Who decides the priorities and how?

This is the dilemma of the Bush Doctrine of bringing democracy to the world. What happens when democracies elect your enemies, such as in Iran? Such a scenario isn't difficult to imagine for China. Should the CCP be toppled, a nationalist party would be expected to dominate any successor government (and I'm not talking about the KMT marching trimuphantly back across the straits...necessarily). The result could be a more nationalist, insular and beligerent China rather than a more benign one most expect. In short, democracy is a double edged sword.

Turning to another issue: if not democracy, then what are the alternatives? Unfortunately the most likely is the CCP gets replaced with a similar entity. Perhaps not the same ideology (although what does ideology matter to today's CCP), but the same format: central government that is nominally kow-towed to by the regions but in reality is largely subservient to them. Much of China's history has been one of pledging alliegence to a distant emperor, paying the usual tributes but otherwise running the place how you like. Without significant action the same is likely to be true in the future.

My conclusion is simple: as much as the China punditry wishes for it, an eventual Chinese democracy is no sure thing. Far from it. It is one thing to document the evils of the CCP and hope for its demise. It is quite another to plan for a post-CCP future. But it is an urgent task that needs to begin now.

Any ideas?

Other reading

Naturally Joe Katzman (if you're not reading Winds of Change, what's wrong with you?) has several important additional links and thoughts. His final question:

Once the problem is framed in terms of requisite variety, could it be possible to have a non-Democratic China Post-CPC, that nonetheless takes steps in the right direction and so sets the stage for coping now and positive change later? What could that look like?
An interesting "what if" would be to ask what if the KMT survived the civil war and war against Japan and was still ruling the Mainland? Would something along the lines of modern Taiwan have evolved across the entire country, not to mention the 70-odd million lives that would have been spared Mao's meglomania? Joe's question suggests a kind of Pinochet Chile writ large. David's comments also makes sense to me: that China will require "a corporatist authoritarian structure rather than a pluralistic democracy".

To repeat my main theme: most China pundits hope for a fall of the CCP and a liberal democracy for China. My question is whether that is realilstic or even feasible? And most importantly, how do we make it realistic and feasible?

Pundita replies

Pundita replies with What China can learn from India. She discusses the grassroots attempts at democracy already going on in Chinese villages and expects China to modernise via democracy. The problem with the village democracy experiment is it is largely meaningless - most local village chiefs hold next to no real power, answering to township or county cadres. The experiment smacks of token-ism. However her point on a Chinese style democracy is a telling one. There's no monopoly on a democratic model. I'm just not sure China will get to that point.

Daily Demarche

Dr. Demarche takes the idea one step further, asking how would the US and the world react should the CCP be overthrown.

posted by Simon on 06.29.05 at 02:56 PM in the China politics category.


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Post-Communist China
Excerpt: Simon (of Simon World) says: "I've written a piece titled Post Communist China, which asks what is the plan if and when the Communist Party falls? What is the best way to ensure a liberal...
Weblog: Winds of Change.NET
Tracked: June 29, 2005 04:33 PM

What next?
Excerpt: Simon is talking about things we could never utter here...but we can link to it. Read the whole thing...its something to ponder (although how he could realistically conclude that Iran 'elected' its current leader, is beyond me).
Weblog: GZ Expat, Part II
Tracked: June 29, 2005 09:13 PM

Wednesday's Blast Around the Blogosphere (UPDATED: Awesom-O Edtion)
Excerpt: Round the Reader for today is up. Need something to blog about? Go and see the myriad of topics you can discuss either there or on your blog. UPDATE: Can I dump a few links here Chris? Because my e-mail...
Weblog: The Jawa Report
Tracked: June 29, 2005 11:20 PM


An interesting point to ponder on, Simon.

Sun Yat-Sen didn't think China wasn't ready for democracy in the 1920's and I'm not so sure they're ready for it now.

posted by: Gordon on 06.29.05 at 04:55 PM [permalink]

That's an oft-made point, but I'm not convinced by it. Why are 800 million Indians able to cope with 50 years of it with no obvious ill-effects, yet China be considered unready? Again it circles back to my point in the main post, that perhaps it is the historical and cultural legacy that matters more. In which case the Indians owe the Brits a mighty big thank you.

posted by: Simon on 06.29.05 at 05:01 PM [permalink]

Hi Simon,

Enjoyed your post very much. Democracy has been bandied about for many years now in reference to China, and I'd agree with you, the country is not yet ready. Back in my grad school days, when I was studying comparative politics, the most convincing theory about democracy I'd read and when and how it takes hold was modernization theory (Larry Diamond is its greatest active exponent). Bascially, economic progress brings about the creation of a middle class, which then in turn creates a clamor for democracy from below. This leads to popular unrest which then in turn generally leads to democracy.

Sounds easy no? The reason it rarely happens is the economic development bit. There is an excellent book called "The Future of Freedom" by Fareed Zakaria (editor of Newsweek and Foreign Affairs), that makes the point that democracies need a certain minimum level of development (GDP per capita as a rough proxy) for the likelihood of democratic change to be successful. (The exceptions are the oil rich countries, which have achieved their developed through wealth in natural resources, rather than the creation of a pluralistic middle class). There is an extremely high level of correlation between economic development and successful democracy.

Given current conditions in China, it does not seem that the country is there yet. Shanghai may be there, but most of the rest of the country is not. It is definitely not clear to me that China has a large and vociferous middle class that is clamoring for democracy from below. So it's likely going to have to wait. Your point is well taken that democracy imposed from outside generally fails - you are right, empirical evidence entirely backs that up. Any look at the last half century of decolonization without the proper economics in place makes it obvious.

A point relating to a previous debate on this page about inequality - if democracy is what you are aiming for, then indeed it is important that there not be such urban/rural income inequality, because then you'll have cities that are ready for democracy whereas the countryside is not. But that seems to be putting the cart before the horse, as per your Russian example, instead of proceeding with economic growth and well-being first.

Overall, democracy to me is simply a necessary tool that legitimizes regime change. Legimitacy is what is needed to rule. In a democratic country, you simply vote out the bums and get in a new crew. In authoritarian regimes that is a lot tougher. But as long as China's economy continues to tick along at a rapid rate of growth, it's hard to see desire for change or democracy emerge. And as Hong Kong has shown us in recent history, legitimacy can be restored without democracy. Simply look at the paltry numbers that will march tomorrow - simply put, Donald Tsang's emplacement by China has restored legitimacy to the government (the ICAC did the same thing for the colonial government in the 1970s). The big test will be when China hits its first crisis...but I don't see a middle class in China seizing control effectively for another two decades.

posted by: David on 06.29.05 at 05:02 PM [permalink]

I'll add that book to my ever-growing Amazon wishlist immediately. Good point about the income inequality gap also being a key tension to resolve before democracy can take root.

I completely agree with David's conclusion. You could argue that June 1989 was the CCP's first exogenous crisis, and we all saw how they handled that. It gives credence to the lack of middle class and its ability to carry the early momentum of those events into a toppling of the CCP. Even today I don't think the outcome would be too different. Nevertheless to ensure democracy can take root (rather than other paths to legitimacy) the process needs to start now.

posted by: Simon on 06.29.05 at 05:07 PM [permalink]

"Nevertheless to ensure democracy can take root (rather than other paths to legitimacy) the process needs to start now."

Great point Simon, I feel the same way, albeit uncomfortably, because I know that for now, as with Taiwan or Korea historically, China may be better off near-term with a corporatist authoritarian structure rather than a pluralistic democracy. And I have to admit it is because China is undeniably becoming a world power, and to think of a country with the future clout and stature of China wielding its power internationally and shaping global international norms of behavior without believing or practicing democracy is disturbing to someone like myself that takes liberty for granted.

posted by: David on 06.29.05 at 05:38 PM [permalink]

Exactly right. What we need is some idea of the road map(s) of how to get from here to there. the examples of Taiwan and South Korea do both represent successful, relatively peaceful transitions to democracies from autocracies without economic penalty. On the flipside, Japan managed a similar or even more successful economic growth path (until the start of the 90s) while remaining relatively democratic throughout. Although now I think about it, the LDP was/is effectively a form of benign elected dictatorship that is only slowly changing after years of economic depression.

posted by: Simon on 06.29.05 at 06:06 PM [permalink]

One possibility is that international business will take the lead from national politics in the long-term. The move to professionalise the economy would start in developed countries first. This is scenario two in an article from 'The Globalist'; democracy is not a priority.(http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=4429)

"Confronted with tight budgets and growing obligations to care for their aging populations, governments turn to corporations to handle a number of formerly public sector services."

posted by: IJ on 06.29.05 at 06:54 PM [permalink]

I have two quick thoughts (and I'm sure I'll have more later). To the commenter who said that Sun Yatsen proposed a period of tutelage and military rule, and that China might not be ready for democracy.... look at what Taiwan has accomplished in the last forty years. It took longer than Sun suggested (the civil war didn't help) but the process has come to a remarkably satisfactory point (not a conclusion, never a conclusion), both politically and economically. It's possible (though I'm not sure how wise) to view the last quarter century of mainland China as the military dictatorship period, which would be followed (not without struggle, mind you) by a one-party pseudo-republic tutelage period which would morph into something like democracy.

Second, regarding Simon's "if this happens then this" scenarios: it's entirely possible that it won't be that simple. Take the fall of the Qing: there was an armed uprising, but that wasn't where power passed; there was an organized opposition, but they didn't end up with power, either. The collapse of the CCP, if it comes, is likely to be a slow, not quick process, and it will really be a transformation in the guise of a power struggle rather than an outright collapse. More thoughts later...

posted by: Jonathan Dresner on 06.29.05 at 07:22 PM [permalink]

(David - thanks for the tip about Zakaria's book David--I've already ordered it)

I consider the possiblity of liberal democracy only one option, and an outside chance at that.

Traditional Chinese authoritarianism goes back several thousands of years of course and China has repeatedly resisted many historical trends in modern world history.

It would be nice to hope that the Chinese might one day clamour for democracy but I can't see it. The unusual cultural quirk in favour of stability above all and fear of chaos will ensure that anyone coming into political power in China and promising only stability will be enough to satisfy the masses.

Whatever follows the CCP will very much depend on how CCP rule ends.

I can't imagine the CCP simply moving aside as this so-called communist party has proved adept at transforming itself into whatever it thinks will prolong its rule.

Therefore, economic collapse or political revolution seem the most likely scenarios for ending CCP rule.

China is presently way overdue an economic downturn, even more so as more of the economy lies in private hands, China is ever more integrated into the global financial system and dependent on imported commodities like oil and iron ore.

Bread riots have been the bane of govts throughout history and an economic collapse and subsequent run on the banks might well threaten CCP rule.

Simon's statement about China collapsing under the weight of it's own contradictions is a great quote and anyone familiar with China will understand exactly what he means. As we've seen with recent riots, it only needs a spark and whole towns light up like a tinderbox. It's entirely possible that one of these incidents could spread and unseat the govt.

My only concern with all of these scenarios is that there is no effective opposition within China. All officals and anyone in authority belong to the CCP. If the entire CCP were overthrown, who on earth could step in and assume power?

The army.

The army are the only alternative power structure within China and it just so happens that they have the means to enforce political power.

If China suddenly collapsed and the CCP lay in discredited ruins, only the army could take the reins of power and prevent China fragmenting. They could also enforce martial law and restore stability.

The PLA is not the CCP so I believe they could rise to power without being too closely connected with any descredited CCP.

While the rest of the world looked on in despair the army could justify its power grab by talking of stability and an ending to chaos and they's nowt the world could do about it.

posted by: Joe on 06.29.05 at 11:11 PM [permalink]

Simon, very interesting post and debate. Just one thing. You write: "What happens when democracies elect your enemies, such as in Iran?".
Iran is not a democracy (in no way): the whole political and religious power is hold by a group of unelected people. A flawed electoral process is only the fig leaf the regime uses to try to legitimate itself. But none of the carachteristics of a real democracy can be found in Iran.



posted by: Enzo on 06.29.05 at 11:41 PM [permalink]

As above, I consider that the army would take power in any doomsday scenario of a near-total economic collapse or in a sutuation where the people rose up against the entire CCP power structure.

However, in the event of a partial/regional collapse or partial rejection of the CCP, which is perhaps more likely, I consider that a new faction within the CCP would assert itself.

As we all know, the CCP is a myriad of factions and political and regional power bases. This has consequently led to speculation that the current Hu/Wen faction cannot properly assert its power until it has replaced Jiang Zemin's allies from their positions of power with their own supporters.

Therefore, I'm thinking that any major events that occur under Hu/Wen's watch might well pave the way to an internal power struggle and China being led by a new faction. Perhaps under a new party name even.

Whether the faction that finally asserts control is made of reformers, New Left (!) or a thousand other possible groupings may well depend on the situation of the day as well as the various strengths of the factions/personalities involved.

However, I'll reinterate that the army is the only entity capable of holding such a fracious "country" together. Although that statement is arguably another of China's contradictions.

Any leading faction within the CCP will have to have the support of the army.

posted by: Joe on 06.30.05 at 12:36 AM [permalink]

The People's Liberation Army?

I would recommend looking at the biographies of the members of the Central Military Commission:
http://english.people. com .cn/data/organs/militarycommission.html

The only reason that they are there is because they are proven loyal members of the Chinese Communist Party for their whole lives. Many of them are also members of the Central Committee of the Party. There is no local warlordism because the regional commanders are rotated.

posted by: eswn on 06.30.05 at 01:21 AM [permalink]

You're right eswn and as I said, all those in postitions of power (including the armed forces) are members of the CCP.

What I'm arguing is that the army have the means to grab poitical and restore order and the PLA, despite the rock-solid connections of the officer class to the CCP, could assert that the military PLA is not the political CCP and therefore avoid being tarred with the same brush.

In the event of a total collapse, what would happen?

Would the army just sit back and watch the country descend into chaos? Would the army stay in their barracks if the monks in Lhasa rose up and the Xinjang freedom fighters established an Islamic Republic of East Turkistan?

posted by: Joe on 06.30.05 at 01:40 AM [permalink]

My conclusion is simple: as much as the China punditry wishes for it, an eventual Chinese democracy is no sure thing. Far from it. It is one thing to document the evils of the CCP and hope for its demise. It is quite another to plan for a post-CCP future. But it is an urgent task that needs to begin now.

I really wonder about this exercise. As pundits (if that's what we bloggers really are), we write about what we see happening and what we see reported in the media. I don't really think most pundits are capable of architecting a model for the post-Communist government, especially since there are so, so many variables involved. If it's an overnight collapse, there's going to be bloodshed and anarchy before order is restored; if it's a slow but steady transition to a more judicious and democratic system, it will be a relative bed of roses. While the exercise of a bunch of expats mapping China's political future might be fun, I see it as a fairly futile effort. You say the time to begin planning is nown and I couldn't agree more. But who should be doing this planning? Certainly not us bloggers, though we can toss some ideas into the ring. The responsibility is on the shoulders of China's leaders, and they're so busy trying to hold the mess together I'm not sure they'll bother with such esoteric fantasies(that's how they would see it.)

All of that said, my quick take is that the only acceptable path is one of steady reform. And for all of Hu's faults, we may actually be on that path now. I see mixed signals, but there is no denying there are elements of reform at work. For all the continuing horrors, things have become much better than they were, at least for most.

For one brief moment I believed, as did so many China pundits, that things were on the right track to real and rapid change. Hopes were highest on the day of that amazing 2002 SARS press conference, where heads rolled, apologies were made and the CCP finally took responsibility for its gross deception.

The heady sense of progress was short lived. Hu rapidly swung back into censorship mode, proving even more ruthless than his predecessor in this regard. Transparency evaporated as more journalists were jailed and more embarrassing stories blacked out.

Still, I believe that Hu and Wen realize they must continue with reforms, including reining in the rampant corruption and showing increased sensitivty to the disenfranchised. Eventually, step by step, and with the help of the Internet and pressure from us wiseass pundits, there will be reform. And that's the key to China becoming more democratic.

That's the best I can do, but as I said, it's a volatile situation and the slightest upset -- a banking crisis, an earthquake, a death in the Party leadership -- could make all of our plans irrelevant. (Or more irrelevant, I should say.) And remember, there's absolouetly no one waiting in the wings. Give the CCP credit for its efficiency in wiping out all meaningful political opposition. It has a true monopoly. I want to see it replaced more than anyone -- but with what? For now, I think they need to stay in power until reform brings about the possibility for more politicl voices to be heard. I am not optimistic.

posted by: richard on 06.30.05 at 09:02 AM [permalink]

Let me address a couple of points.

Firstly my Iran example. I am not saying the election their was perfect. But it does seem to broadly reflect the popular will of the Iranian people, whether we like it or not. It is an instructive example in more ways than one. The key point is what happens when democracies elect those vigorously opposed to other democracies and perhaps even their own? That could very easily happen in a democratic China.

Secondly on Joe's contention the PLA would be the only viable alternative power structure once the CCP falls. My first reaction was the same as ESWN's. The PLA is very much an organ of the CCP, not of the state. It has political commissars, its officers are senior CCP members. As an organisation it is completely and utterly part of the CCP machinery. But Joe's final comment is likely correct - the military would be the ones to fill the gap should the CCP fall, given the lack of any viable opposition or alternative. Except one, which prima facie seems outlandish - that Taiwan's Government could re-assert control over the mainland and introduce its democracy to the whole country.

posted by: Simon on 06.30.05 at 09:40 AM [permalink]


I do not suppose to speak on or behalf of the Chinese people. From from it. But this debate is necessary to both contemplate likely future scenarios and plan for it. As you would agree, a lack of planning post-invasion in Iraq has significantly hampered efforts there. I'm suggesting the same kind of foresight is necessary for China's future. China's leadership won't be planning for this. There is no doubt in their minds the CCP will rule forever. After all, that is what they spend every waking moment doing - planning the survival of the CCP at all costs. So others need to take the burden. Given the inability of those within China to take that on, as you so accurately said given the CCP's monopoly, it is up to others, including us pundits, to speculate and ponder.

As for Hu and Wen, they do seem to be creepingly move towards "reform". But there is little doubt their idea of reform is to avoid the "mistakes" of Gorbachev and his reforms of the Soviet Union.

Your key point is the last one - that it's a volatile situation, easily triggered and with no viable opposition or alternative. That's exactly why we need to comtemplate alternatives. I don't share your pessimism. As I said previously, the CCP is Communist in name only. It is a party of nationalism and self-preservation. But hoping they stay in power until other political voices can be heard is putting the cart before the horse. It's not going to happen that way around.

posted by: Simon on 06.30.05 at 09:48 AM [permalink]

Simon, as you surely know much better than I, China is a vast and diverse country. Consequently, IMO, if there's a China, it's likely to be an authoritarian one. Liberal democratic China will be Chinas.

posted by: Dave Schuler on 06.30.05 at 09:50 AM [permalink]

Dave, you could argue that's already the case. Taiwan and the Mainland.

I saw your point on WoC that a breakup of China is also a likely consequence of the fall of the CCP. That's certainly true although I imagine nationalist pressure would mean the majority would not want that to happen. After all, the interior needs the coastal regions to provide economic growth (even if it's via trickle down effects) while the coast needs the vast reservoir of resources, both human and otherwise, the interior provides.

posted by: Simon on 06.30.05 at 10:03 AM [permalink]

Look, every man and his dog Misti knows that the PLA is an organ of the CCP and the political connections are rock solid between the two. We all agree on that.

Ok, my argument is that you don't hear of any displaced farmers, petitioners travelling to Beijing or disgruntled Chinese people unhappy at the high levels of corruption complaining about the PLA. Those complaints are directed at the CCP.

While the PLA are the military wing of the communist party, THEY DO NOT RULE CHINA.

Therefore, any backlash against the CCP would not necessarily be directed at the armed forces, who, let's not forget, the people are brought up to love and respect.

(1) The army is the only alternative power structure within China.

(2) The army could still assert itself even after a huge backlash against the CCP because they have never held the strings of political power.

posted by: Joe on 06.30.05 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

While I agree that the PLA represents *an* alternative power structure, it is quite incorrect to say people are not protesting against the PLA. In fact, protests outside PLA HQ in Beijing are becoming more common because disgruntled ex-servicepersons and their families find they get no justice elsewhere in the system. They rail against the high levels of corruption in the PLA hierarchy, and all the other problems common in the PLA as elsewhere in the party-state.

Maybe more likely than the PLA per se taking over is a move by an officer (or officers) to take power and not in the name of the PLA but reconstituting those parts of the PLA loyal to him as a new army.

posted by: dylan on 06.30.05 at 11:38 AM [permalink]

Regarding the point, what if the KMT had survived the Civil War? I think its an interesting question. Some things to consider though are that the KMT did not really learn its lesson on how to guide economic development until they were so badly defeated on the mainland and forced to reevaluate for survival, specifically how hyperinflation seriously compromised their ability to rule. Yergin's excellent Commanding Heights does a good job detailing how the KMT on Taiwan made the right choices re: economic development by exploiting exports and leaving policy to actual economist rather then economic "geniuses" like H.H. Kung. Furthermore how much foreign capital would have been available. In a lot of ways it was the cutting off of aid payments by the US that forced the KMT to move away from nationalized industries. Just some thoughts.

posted by: Ian on 06.30.05 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

dylan, well of course disgruntled ex-servicemen are going to protest outside PLA HQ, where else would they go? McDonalds?

However, I agree that a new power structure may emerge from a segment of the PLA/newly named army. That's defo another possibilty

I suppose the PLA could also fragment under officers and/or regoins despite the fact that commands are rotated to discourage power bases.

Of course, civil war is another possibility.

posted by: Joe on 06.30.05 at 12:31 PM [permalink]

Let's leave Misti out of this...

posted by: Simon on 06.30.05 at 12:46 PM [permalink]

Many cited Taiwan and Korea as examples of a peaceful transition. My thought on this is that size does matter. The relatively small population and area makes it more manageable for opposition ideas to spread, germinate, and acted. In addition, transition happened when per capita GNP at the time was near or above 10,000 USD. With thousands of social unrests last year, CCP is still fairly effective in blocking the news, though technology will make it harder in time.

China has not always been a unified country in its long history. Each province has traditional suspicion toward outsiders. The more prospered area, like Guandong and Shanghai, would probably not want to be tied up with less developed part of China given the chance. In the last two decades, Guandong has always taken the most liberal interpretation of any economic national policy until Beijing comes down hard. Southern China is exposed to outside ideas the earliest, and therefore has a slightly different worldview. Difference between individual provinces or regions does exist. The tie will be weakened during crisis. Even Mao wanted to establish an independent nation of Hunan in his early days. The idea of a unified China can certainly face challenge in chaos.

I quite agree with Joe that PLA will be a principle/central actor when China descents into a political power vacuum. What I am not sure is that will PLA carry the mandate of upholding a unified China. Ming and Qing courts also rotate officials to prevent corruption and favoritism. The result is definitely questionable. I don’t know how PLA structure is distributed in term of locality. But remember in 89, CCP had to go through a few different brigades to find the right one to carry out the killing. Given the tendency of Chinese brokering deals behind the scene, I am sure a compromise can be made between local powers and PLA.

So I think a fragmented China is likely to emerge. Will it take form of a collection of independent nations? May be, but not necessarily. A weak, barely-stitched-together central government may take CCP’s place. Will it be democratic? It would please me if it is. Would it matter to 800 million peasants? Probably not as long as the CCP replacement can deliver a minimum standard of living.

posted by: Michael on 06.30.05 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

1)About Iran. You wrote: "I am not saying the election their was perfect. But it does seem to broadly reflect the popular will of the Iranian people, whether we like it or not".
Again I have to fully disagree. The problem isn't that their election wasn't "perfect". The problem is that it was a fiction. Real power doesn't reside in "elected" people. "Elected" people are those the Guardian of the Revolution decide can be "elected": of 1.000 candidates only 7, the loyalists, were admitted. To say that this "broadly reflect the popular will of the Iranian people" is completely wrong. There are many doubts about real participation, there are many explanations about the reasons of people who decide to vote. But don't confuse that fiction with an electoral process and, above all, don't confuse iranian theocracy with some sort of democracy.

2)About China. I already posted my two cents on the subject (more or less).
I completely agree with you here: no real reform with CCP, no CCP with real reform. To hope CCP will allow its demise is, to say the least, a naivety.



posted by: Enzo on 06.30.05 at 09:19 PM [permalink]

... and to say that chinese people "are not ready" for democracy is to look for an excuse.



posted by: Enzo on 06.30.05 at 09:23 PM [permalink]

I am new to your blog. Although it's really hard to remember the name of this blog,the contents are exceptional! (actually last time when I wanted to come back here, I had to go to Pekingduck, then got the link. why is the domain name so strange?)

posted by: lin on 07.01.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Lin - can I recommend you bookmark this site...then you won't have any problems. Thank you for the kind words.

As for strange domains, are you telling me Peking Duck is a normal sounding domain?

posted by: Simon on 07.01.05 at 09:42 AM [permalink]

Isn't Lin talking about the .mu.nu?

posted by: Joe on 07.01.05 at 06:03 PM [permalink]

The .mu.nu is the hosting I use, and to be honest I think it's helped avoid China's Net Nanny to some extent because it is so unusual.

I also think the rhyme makes it easy to remember. Maybe one day I'll see about getting a .com or .net (or a .blog if they ever create such a domain).

posted by: Simon on 07.02.05 at 11:47 AM [permalink]

Great post and wonderful discussion but might I urge caution in any planning. Military people love the quote that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Your enemy here is history. Planning for a post-CCP China is going to be near impossible because there are so many influences which will come into play as the CCP collapses. This is not to say we should not prepare, but planning requires predictions that cannot be made with the data at hand.

Where is the correct balance between a too rigid plan that will fail unless all its assumptions are correct and a too flexible one that is meaningless because it has no assumptions at all? I don't know and without that balance this will all be pure speculation.

posted by: Ken Hahn on 07.07.05 at 06:42 PM [permalink]

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