October 20, 2005

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Mao and the maoists

This review of Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday is also the chance to remind the bloody history of the man whose gigantic portrait still overlooks Massacre Square, whose statues still stand in chinese villages, towns and cities, whose political heritage CCP has never repudiated.
Keith Windschuttle starts and ends his piece highlighting the responsibility of western intellectuals and journalists for praising the barbarism of Mao era and for lying against every evidence:

Snow’s book played a major role in converting public opinion in both America and Europe towards a more favorable view of Mao. Its biggest impact, however, was within China itself, where it had a profound influence on radical youth. Red Star over China and the Mao autobiography were quickly translated into Chinese and widely distributed. Many young, urban, middle-class Chinese men and women who read Snow’s books were converted. They cut their long hair short—still a daring and eyebrow-raising gesture in the 1930s—and joined the Communist Party. By 1941, thanks to the reputation Mao had earned from the Long March, party membership had grown to some 700,000.

Edgar Snow was the first, but he was far from being the only Western writer or artist to succumb to Maoism.

Instead, the West was fed a steady diet of propaganda from respectable political leaders and writers who asserted the opposite. The future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau visited in 1960 and wrote a starry-eyed, aptly titled book, Two Innocents in Red China, which said nothing about the famine. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery visited in both 1960 and 1961 and asserted there was “no large-scale famine, only shortages in certain areas.” He did not regard the shortages as Mao’s fault and urged him to hang on to power: “China needs the chairman. You mustn’t abandon this ship.” The United Nations was completely ineffectual. Its Food and Agricultural Organization made an inspection in 1959, declaring that food production had increased by 50 to 100 percent in the past five years: “China seems capable of feeding [its population] well.” When the French socialist leader, François Mitterand, visited in 1961, Mao told him: “I repeat it, in order to be heard: There is no famine in China.” Mitterand dutifully reported this assurance to a credulous world. At the same time, Mao enlisted three writers he knew he could trust—Edgar Snow, Han Suyin, and Felix Greene—to spread his message through articles, books, and a celebrated BBC television interview between a fawning Greene and Chou En-lai.
Among Western intellectuals, Mao’s most enthusiastic supporters came from the French Left. Simone de Beauvoir visited China in 1955 and declared: “The power he [Mao] exercises is no more dictatorial than, for example, Roosevelt’s was. New China’s Constitution renders impossible the concentration of authority in one man’s hands.” She wrote a lengthy book about her visit entitled The Long March. During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, her consort Jean-Paul Sartre praised the “revolutionary violence” of Mao as “profoundly moral.”

This was the regime western intellectuals (and politicians) appreciated and excused:

Chang and Halliday calculate that over the course of his political career from 1920 to 1976, Mao was responsible for the deaths of 70 million Chinese. This is more than the total killings attributable to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin combined. The biggest single number of Chinese dead was the 38 million who perished in the famine of the four years from 1958 to 1961, during the so-called Great Leap Forward. Westerners have known since Jasper Becker’s path-breaking 1996 book Hungry Ghosts: China’s Secret Famine that the famine killed between 30 and 40 million people. Becker attributed this to Mao’s ideological folly of conducting an ambitious but failed experiment in collectivization. Chang and Halliday produce new evidence to show it was more sinister than that.

Mass homicide on the scale of the Great Leap Forward was something that Mao prepared for. He told the 1958 party congress it should not fear but actively welcome people dying as a result of party policy. It was a common theme of his at the time. In Moscow in 1957 he said: “We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.” On the prospect of another world war, he told the party in 1958: “Half the population wiped out—this happened quite a few times in Chinese history. It’s best if half the population is left, next best one-third.” Hence, Mao’s eventual career tally of 70 million deaths was actually much less than he anticipated.

Mao used precisely the same model in the so-called Cultural Revolution of 1966–1968. Party historians and sympathetic Western academics, then and now, rationalize this event as Mao’s attempt to revive the revolutionary spirit and arrest pro-capitalist and anti-socialist tendencies. In reality, Chang and Halliday show, it was yet another purge of Communist officials designed to terrorize the party and secure Mao’s leadership. Indeed, Mao himself thought of it as the Great Purge. Its principal targets were those party leaders who thought Mao’s attempts at collectivization and industrialization during the Great Leap Forward were a disaster.

But what were the main differences between Mao and the other totalitarian mass murderers of the XX century?

What made Mao the greater monster was not just the sheer quantity of his killings. It was because so many of his victims came not only from his real and imagined enemies but also from his own supporters. Chang and Halliday make it clear that Mao built his political power out of a life-long strategy that easily outdid even Stalin in waging murder and terror among his own Communist Party comrades.

Mao’s innovation to the Soviet system was to turn this persecution into public display. Mass rallies, public denunciations by informers, and public confessions of being AB (anti-Bolshevik) became the order of the day. Mao used this accusation to purge the party hierarchy of anyone who disagreed with him or whom he thought potentially disloyal.

Unlike Hitler and Stalin, who used secret police to arrest and interrogate victims, Mao used all those not yet accused to spy on, guard, interrogate, arrest, and punish those already accused. The Yenan settlement became a self-perpetuating totalitarian state. No outside press or radio communication was permitted. No letters could be sent or received from the outside world: Indeed, letters were construed as evidence of spying. Humor, sarcasm, and irony were banned. The regime invented a new catch-all offence, “Speaking Weird Words,” which meant any comment that could be interpreted as a complaint or a wisecrack could have its speaker accused of being a spy or traitor. Two years of this regime transformed the once young and passionate volunteers into robots, capable of enunciating nothing but bland echoes of the party line.

Mao and CCP today:

Chang and Halliday finish their biography with a gloomy reminder. In the face of today’s renewed bout of Western enthusiasm for China and its purported miracle economy, they use their epilogue to emphasize just how little has changed politically. Today, Mao’s portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates his myth.

Ever paid a visit to Mao's Mausoleum? So much for "socialist political democracy"...


In the past, books about China have played a major role in altering its politics. Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China was important in winning domestic support for the Chinese Communist Party. Chang and Halliday’s book will be impossible to ignore. It will no doubt be banned in China, but will still circulate secretly and be more sought after for that. The tens of thousands of Chinese students now studying at Western universities will see it in the bookstores. The story its authors tell is so awful it will both shock the Chinese people and confirm many of the private anecdotes and rumors passed down within families. Rather than being the man who made the ancient Middle Kingdom stand up again, Mao was the one who brought it to its knees. This is a powerful story which Mao’s heirs will have great difficulty denying or suppressing. Just as Snow’s book helped install the regime, Chang and Halliday’s could help bring it down. If any single book in our own time has the capacity to change the course of history, this is it.

Dedicated to the CCP (and sometimes Mao) apologists that still today people the world and the blogosphere.

posted by Enzo on 10.20.05 at 10:32 PM in the China history, education & culture category.


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Unknown Story Over China
Excerpt: Keith Windschuttle compares Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China (1937) and Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's Mao: The Unknown Story (2005). Not surprisingly he comes down on the side of the latter.
Weblog: MeiZhongTai
Tracked: October 21, 2005 07:48 AM


I doubt that arguing Mao is evil is going bring down the system.

The official version is that Mao was a great man for leading the 1949 revolution but led China into disaster in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. In any case Mao doesn't matter all that much any more.

Yes, statues of Mao really annoy me, but they are no worse than statues of Confederate leaders that you still see in the southern United States, and there really are a lot of parallels between how Southerners think of and attempt to defend Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and the official Chinese history of Mao.

The interesting thing about facts is that people react differently to them. For example, what do we learn from the Cultural Revolution? The thing that I've learned is that basing policy on ideology is a bad thing, looking at details is important, experts can be stupid, bureaucracy can be a good thing, and "revolutionary causes" are a bad thing.

For example, I think it is hideous that one would consider allowing millions of people to die for the "greater good," but sometimes I think detect the same sort of thinking in Chinese democracy activists, who really don't think through or don't care about the consequences of social revolution because it fits in the "greater good."

posted by: Joseph Wang on 10.20.05 at 11:37 PM [permalink]

I think your reasoning is respectable but your historical and political comparisons are silly. Think again, if you want.



posted by: Enzo on 10.20.05 at 11:53 PM [permalink]

The thing that I've learned is that basing policy on ideology is a bad thing, looking at details is important, experts can be stupid, bureaucracy can be a good thing, and "revolutionary causes" are a bad thing.

For example, I think it is hideous that one would consider allowing millions of people to die for the "greater good," but sometimes I think detect the same sort of thinking in Chinese democracy activists, who really don't think through or don't care about the consequences of social revolution because it fits in the "greater good."


excellent points, Jo

"democracy fundamentalists" won't do china any good compared with old guards of the past, because they harbor the same mentality of intolerance and sacrificing individual/minority for the "greater good".

while the dying ideology annoies me from time to time (like the blocking of wikipedia), "democracy fundamentalists" in various forms are more dangerous for china in the coming years.

btw, here is another portrait that might upset some people but is no longer related with any ideology or "national spirit", it only serves to be a symbol of mongolian nationality:


posted by: bingfeng on 10.20.05 at 11:59 PM [permalink]

To: "Simon"

From: "Rykehaven"

I posted a a second response a while ago to your post about "Gnome Unknowns", but your page rejected the response because of "questionable content".

What qualifies as "questionable content"?

posted by: Rykehaven on 10.21.05 at 12:47 AM [permalink]

Today in China, Mao is more widely used as a luck-charm (to scare away bad luck/devil) than a 'statue'.

It had been reported (over 10 years ago), there was a miracle survival in a car accident where there was a Mao "charm". Talk to taxi drivers they would tell you different versions of the story.

posted by: sunbin on 10.21.05 at 01:48 AM [permalink]

Enzo: It might help if you point out why my historical analogies are silly.

I don't think that comparing the official Communist view of Mao Zedong to the southern view of Robert E. Lee is silly at all. Both of them were responsible for defending systems that were morally reprehensible and indefensible, yet both have fans today that rely in some part on emphasizing some parts of history and deemphasizing the "bad bits."

I mean pretty much no one can defend chattel slavery and institutional racism just as I don't think anyone can seriously defend the Cultural Revolution. By you can talk about the heroic qualities of Mao and Confederate generals, and how they are good people because they "defended us from outside interference."

States-rights/anti-imperialism, same thing. It lets you have people rally together without really thinking about what they are defending.

Another experiment is to find someone that calls themselves a Maoist and see what they think about the current Chinese government. Pretty much every self-described Maoist I've talked hates the current Chinese government which must mean that they are doing something right.

Also if you think that my worry about "Chinese democracy activists" repeating the Cultural Revolution is overblown, read the last few paragraphs of Wei Jingsheng's the "Fifth Modernization." If forced to choose between the Communist Party's version of democracy and Wei Jingsheng's, I'll take the former. (Yes I realize its not either or, but I'm making a point.)

Fortunately, overseas Chinese democracy activists are like campus Marxist radicals, pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. They've manage to destroy themselves before doing any real harm to anyone else. Sad, in a way. The Tiananmen generation could have done so much more, but oh well......

The current crop of public intellectuals and peasant activists are a different story. They aren't trying to overthrow the system, just put pressure on the system to reform itself, and so my objections don't apply to them at all.

posted by: Joseph Wang on 10.21.05 at 09:04 AM [permalink]

Joseph Wang - you never cease to amaze me! Once again, as usual, you bring to these discussions a sober sense of fairness and balance. I won't add anything further, because you have already pretty much summed up my own views.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 10.21.05 at 10:27 AM [permalink]

Enzo, you are right to point out that millions died under Mao, and that given not only what we know today about him, but also what we know he knew about the tragedies he caused, he was a terrible, atrocious leader neck deep in blood.

I think before one totally rips apart outside observers for being sympathetic to him though, one has to remember that during those years, outsiders actually knew very little about what was happening inside China. The CCP was very good at pulling the wool over the eyes of foreign visitors. There was evidence, yes, but the same sort of evidence that, for instance, tells us that there is global warming today.

It was also a time when the Cold War and later, the Vietnam War made intelligent people wary of demonizing another country just because it was Communist. They thought they were open minded by considering Mao without the blinkers of Cold War rhetoric. Sadly, this sort of doubt led people to very incorrect conclusions.

I am not defending Mao at all. I simply think that we must remember that many people's sympathy to Mao came out of a time of little information about China and also of rebellion against 2 decades of anti-Communist rhetoric. They were mistaken, they were misguided, some of them were stupid, but it does not make them evil...

Incidentally, I think Joseph Wang makes a good point, albeit tangetially related to the main thrust of your piece, that what is really necessary in China is not a new ideology per se, but a fundamental appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of the life and welfare of individual citizens.

posted by: HK Dave on 10.21.05 at 01:12 PM [permalink]

Jonathan Spence gets it right (excerpt found at The Corner):

"As I was reading this book [Chang and Halliday's], I kept asking myself why historians should feel that they ought to be fair even to pathological monsters, if that is truly what Mao was. The most salient answer is perhaps structural as much as conceptual. Without some attempt at fairness there is no nuance, no sense of light and dark. The monster, acute and deadly, just shambles on down some monstrous path of his own devising. If he has no conscience, no meaningful vision of a different world except one where he is supreme, while his enemies are constantly humiliated and his people starve, then there is nothing we can learn from such a man. And that is a conclusion that, across the ages, historians have always tried to resist."

posted by: Simon on 10.21.05 at 03:29 PM [permalink]

While we're at it, another review of the Chang/Halliday book in the NYT.

posted by: Simon on 10.21.05 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Joseph, you wrote:

"I don't think that comparing the official Communist view of Mao Zedong to the southern view of Robert E. Lee is silly at all. Both of them were responsible for defending systems that were morally reprehensible and indefensible, yet both have fans today that rely in some part on emphasizing some parts of history and deemphasizing the "bad bits."

Unless you think that one death is a tragedy, one million deaths is statistics (Stalin docet), unless you have some news for me, Robert E. Lee was not responsible for the death of many millions people in the name of a totalitarian utopy. Is that difference enough or do I have to go on? Let's be serious, these are serious matters.

You wrote:

"Also if you think that my worry about "Chinese democracy activists" repeating the Cultural Revolution is overblown, read the last few paragraphs of Wei Jingsheng's the "Fifth Modernization." If forced to choose between the Communist Party's version of democracy and Wei Jingsheng's, I'll take the former. (Yes I realize its not either or, but I'm making a point.)"

When I read statements like "the Communist Party's version of democracy" I give up. There are some necessary premises to have a consistent debate. "The Communist Party's version of democracy" in the real world is called dictatorship. You are free to think that it's the best for China or that chinese people don't deserve anything else, but stop using the orwellian language, please. Democracy is a serious thing, many democracy activist as well, if you don't like them don't talk about. But, please, don't insult them and the intelligence of your interlocutors. Confusion is not a good companion.

Dave, you wrote:
"I simply think that we must remember that many people's sympathy to Mao came out of a time of little information about China and also of rebellion against 2 decades of anti-Communist rhetoric. They were mistaken, they were misguided, some of them were stupid, but it does not make them evil..."

In the case of journalists and intellectuals, they had cultural background and material possibilities to know the truth. Simply, they weren't interested.
As for the "rebellion against anti-Communist rhetoric", I don't buy it. I'm sure the same excuse wouldn't accepted if we were talking about nazi crimes.

"what is really necessary in China is not a new ideology per se, but a fundamental appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of the life and welfare of individual citizens".

I completely agree. It's for that that China needs democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and individuals.



posted by: Enzo on 10.21.05 at 03:59 PM [permalink]

Enzo, correct me if I'm reading you wrongly here, but are you trying to say that China ought to adopt something similar to what we have in the West? If so, what makes you think that our system is any more democratic than what China already has?

What is democracy, Enzo? I tell you what it is. Democracy, by definition, is the idea that soceity's public decisions will reflect the collective will of equal citizens rather than those of powerful elites. Now, do you really believe that in countries like Australia or Britain or France or Germany or the United States, that the public decisions which are made by government usually reflect the collective will of their citizens? And are all citizens in these countries really all that equal - in terms not only of their wealth and educational level, but also in terms of their abilities to influence decision-making processes and to impact in any significant way on public opinion?

Surely not?

In the United States, Britain, Australia, and most other developed countries, there operates what is generally known as the "two-party system". Sure, other political parties can exist, like the Greens in Germany and Australia for example, or like independents like Ralph Nader in the U.S. But the rules are rigged in such a way as to ensure that one of only two main political parties will always form government. Sure, this system does provide a certain amount of political stability for a nation state (I'm not necessarily against it), but it also prevents any real form of democracy from being able to emerge - in essence, it works to protect the status quo.

The United States is in fact less democratic than most other parliamentary democracies, because in the United States there exists a "winner-takes-all" electoral system: by giving all representation to the candidate with the most votes by definition shuts the door on political minorities, does it not?

Nearly all European legislatures, as well as in New Zealand, have forms of proportional representation, where 51 per cent of the vote wins ten percent of seats, and in some nations, like Germany and Belgium, candidates can win with far less support. Indeed, new political parties form in European "democracies" in roughly similar numbers as they do in the United States; the difference is that with proportional representation, more than half of these parties ultimately win seats and a chance to bring new voters and issues into politics even as the leading parties (or coalitions) typically function as stable pillars of government.

Still, I would argue that even under a system of proportional representation, parliamentary democracy is a very limited form of democracy. Surely democracy implies much more than the simple right to choose between representatives of political parties every four or five years? The Chartist Movement in the 19th century saw that gaining the right to vote was meaningless unless it could be used to effect "change".

Exercising our democratic right to vote for a conventional political party does not effect change Enzo. No way! It amounts to little more than making a selection between rival representatives of power and class interests whose overarching function is to protect private property and to ensure that profits flow. It is, quite frankly as far as I am concerned, little more than a representative government where all the representatives support obedience to the capitalist system.

Can anybody seriously say that in the United States there is really any fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans? Or in Australia, between the Liberal/National Party Coalition and Labor? Or in Britain, between the Tories and Labour? I don't think so. What differences do exist are grossly exaggerated when you strip away all of the opposing rhetoric.

Not only this, but in all of these societies, both major rivals are more often than not funded by the same corporations. Do you think that Murdoch for example, puts all of his eggs into the one basket? Of course not.

Any political party which in fact challenges the orthodoxy of corporate rule, any party which genuinely seeks a better deal for workers, or whose policies are perceived in any way to threaten the health of the corporate world, will simply not attract any real funding from corporate bodies. How can such alternatives manage to voice their policies in fair competition with the big guns? Such an enequal contest is far from democratic. To get anywhere, a party must be able to attract corporate sponsors. The last presidential race in the U.S. is estimated to have cost at least US$1.2 billion.

And of course, not surprisingly, the corporate media in all of these countries even shut out the smaller fry by staging election "debates" between the two major parties only. And these so-called debates are very limited in their scope, precisely because both parties are essentially the same. They are the "two heads, of the one monster", as Gore Vidal once said - and each one feeds from the same trough.

Just take a good look at how governments throughout the so-called "democratic" world operate. The most important decisions are usually made unilaterally and without any consultation - not even with elected representatives or allies, much less with the ordinary citizen. Most people in both Britain and Australia were opposed to any military involvement in the Iraqi invasion for example, and still are. And yet, the governments of both of these countries made the decision to get involved nevertheless. There was no referendum, no consultation with local representatives even. Both governments ignored all opinion polls as well.

At any rate, for us Westerners to be constantly rattling on about how China needs and should be compelled to introduce "democracy" (whatever that might mean, and I assume usually such people like yourself Enzo are referring to a parliamentary system not unlike the type found in the U.S., etc) is simply unrealistic and naive, not to mention downright ignorant and arrogant. Not every country can suddenly "introduce" this kind of democracy for themselves - for such systems of limited representation always develop best where it develops incrementally - with gradual but consistent reforms in the political and civic landscape - instigated by economic change, and the changes in social mores that flow from this.

Indeed, in the West, electorates were enfranchised gradually. It took the British almost 150 years to develop a middle-class parliament. By contrast, the advent of democracy in the developing world has been telescoped. In relative terms, Asian politics is still where Britain was when rotten boroughs were bought and sold.

You cannot simply implant a "democracy", in the way that certain U.S. cowboys are trying to do in Iraq right now. The idea that you can bomb a country to pieces, occupy it, and then set up a parliamentary system with free elections is foolish nonsense - especially in a country with no real democratic traditions, and where political power has for centuries rested with local tribal affiliations based on religious and ethnic divisions.

In fact, parliamentary democracies do not promote peace and prosperity in such places, but conflict. One of the leading causes of conflict in our world today is the rivalry between peoples of different ethnic and religious groups. A very large number of these conflicts have taken place under so-called "democratic" regimes - like in India for example. According to the noted American lawyer and libertarian scholar, James Ostrowski, 25 out of 29 recent intrastate conflicts were ethnic or religious in nature, and out of those, 23 of the 25 occured in nations that were "democratic" throughout the time of the dispute.

The empirical evidence supports the view that "democracies" can, under certain social conditions, promote ethnic and religious conflict. According to Ostrowski, "an examination of the dynamics of the democratic process explains why this is so: in democracies, people tend to vote along ethinc or religious lines. All experience confirms this: people of one ethnic group tend to vote for candidates of the same ethnic group, or candidates that are known to favour the interest of such a group. The same applies to religion - the recent division of Americans in the last election certainly took on an evangalist verses liberal line to some considerable extent. Not only this, but according to one Gallup Poll, 93 percent of Republicans are white, while 93 percent of blacks voted for Al Gore for President in the 2000 elections."

Why do people vote like this? Simple, says Ostrowski. "It's because parliamentary 'democracy' gives people a virtually meaningless single vote. It allows them to vote for one of the candidates on the ballot, none of whom may represent the views and values of the voter. Since voters implicitly recognise the virtual meaninglessness of their vote, they have little incentive to inform themselves in detail about candidates, issues and policies. It is much easier to vote along ethnic or religious lines. Thus, ethnic/religious voting is a rational response to the problem of rational ignorance about candidates and issues."

"So 'democracies' inherently contain the seeds of ethnic conflict," concludes Ostrowski, "and as history shows us, under certain circumstances, people who are members of ethnic minorities prefer to fight wars of sucession to escape from the control of majority ethnic groups they believe are hostile to their interests."

Just look at all of those countries that once belonged to the former USSR - their experiments with democracy have proven to be dismal, and have resulted in conflicts and wars that have been based around ethnic divisions. Most Chinese will most certainly alert you to the speedy break-up of the former Soviet Union once it began dabbling in "democracy", which is one of the main reasons why they now tread so cautiously.

China is a country with not only a huge population, but also with a diverse range of ethnic minority groups. At least 56 in fact. Trying to rush through with the introduction of a parliamentary "democracy" could be fatal. Most people in China, if given the choice, would have no hesitation in choosing their current system rather than to risk the break-up of the nation state, and all of the violence and conflict this would no doubt entail. In the paper he delivered to the 32nd Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China, Gilbert Rozman noted that influential CCP members as well as influential mainland academic analysts have indeed interpreted the Soviet collapse as "the consequence of moving too quickly toward democracy and thereby losing control," which is something that the British journalist and author, Kevin Sinclair, also discusses in his book, China Culture Shock.

Remember Enzo, every major study to date - both by independent US and Chinese scholars alike, have found that the overwhelming majority of mainlanders DO NOT WANT multi-party elections, and are generally satisfied with the present system and status quo. You can't simply ignore empirical data like that, nor can you try to dismiss it as CCP propaganda.

China has a one-party system. We in the West have also have one-party systems, disguised as two-party systems.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 10.21.05 at 04:37 PM [permalink]

As I've said before, we need some premises to have a consistent debate.
Every time I run into someone trying to explain to me that liberal democracies and one-party dictatorships are the same thing, I give up.
Nothing personal but some points of view and some history and politics interpretations are beyond me.



posted by: Enzo on 10.21.05 at 05:03 PM [permalink]

Well look Enzo, this is why, at heart, I am an empiricist, in the more traditional British sense. The fact that the our Western parliamentary democracies are essentially designed to maintain the status quo is I think, empirically verifiable. And I think this is a good thing, incidentally, because what most rational human beings want is stability - a stable economic, social and political environment. They why the two party system exists, but let's not pretend that it is democratic! It's not - and that too, is empirically verifiable.

If the same interests fund and influence both major parties in a two-party system, then is it not reasonable to conclude that these two parties are merely the two sides of the one coin? Some people, intimately familar with the Western political system, like Gore Vidal, are honest enough to admit this.

The Chinese people, like us Westerners, want stability. The two party system might work well for countries like Britain, Australia, etc., but most Chinese themsleves don't believe that it would work well for China. And I agree with them - as do many other Westerners, journalists and scholars alike.

You disagree - fine! But you should at least be willing to listen to alternative viewpoints, and to examine whether such positions can be supported empirically or not, and if so, by how much weight? It's ultimately a more productive approach to debate than merely drawing a line in the sand, separating the two opposing viewpoints as though they were incapable of coming together to form something new. Sands do shift, and it's always best to think dialectically - both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Chinese appreciated that, and independently of one another too.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 10.21.05 at 05:28 PM [permalink]

I should repeat myself. There's no need to do it.

Just one final thought. Things are much less complicated than all that. The only way to know what chinese want would be let them express freely. It's so easy. Why so many people are so scared of that?

Thank you, Simon, as usual.



posted by: Enzo on 10.21.05 at 05:49 PM [permalink]

Enzo, as I pointed out earlier, there have been a number of surveys, some of them on ahuge, national scale, conducted by independent researchers from countries as diverse as the United States, Taiwan, and of course, the mainland itself. All of the them consistently produce the same basic result: most mainlanders do not want multi-party elections at this stage of China's development. They answered these surveys freely, the findings have been discussed widely and accepted - the last one I know of was discussed at the 32nd Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China in Taipei.

So there you have it. The people have spoken!

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 10.21.05 at 06:06 PM [permalink]

Why would you need democracy and free expression when you already have a survey...

My God...



posted by: Enzo on 10.21.05 at 06:16 PM [permalink]

O.K. Enzo, I take your point. I mean, I wasn't trying to suggest that national surveys constitute in themselves a form of democracy. As a way of gauging popular sentiments and attitudes, surveys are limited, I admit. We're not talking about a national census here. But every single survey to date has yielded similar results, and this provides some empirical evidence to suggest that most mainlanders do not want multi-party elections, and that most are presently satisfied with the current system. That's all I'm pointing out. It doesn't seem as though most mainlanders are screaming out for a two-party system, as some people like to suggest.

My main arguments here are (1) two-party systems are really one-party systems disguised as two.

(2) Both China's one-party system and the two-party systems that we have in the West are undemocratic, and are designed to maintain the status quo and to provide economic, social and political stability.

(3) Both systems in question are clearly achieving these aims, and that I think, is empirically verifiable fact.

(4) The aims achieved are in fact what most rational human beings desire, so I'm not suggesting that either system is bad - I'm merely saying that both are very undemocratic.

(5) At present, the one-party model is best suited for China,

and (6) if national surveys are anything to go by, most mainlanders themselves are of the opinion that the one-party system is best for them.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 10.21.05 at 06:36 PM [permalink]

Yeah Mark, I guess that is why so much time and effort is put into controlling the media and public opinion, right?
If people really liked the current set-up, what are the authorities so scared of?

posted by: kevin on 10.22.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]

Sorry Mark- but to argue that there are no substantive differences between the Democrats and Republicans in the US simply defies reality. Many naive Americans thought so back in 2000- allowing a clown like Ralph Nader to amass millions of votes and allowing the "compassionate conservative" Bush to take the White House.

I actually agree that introducing parliamentary democracy at this stage of China's development would probably be chaotic, but equating China's one-party government with the two-party ones elsewhere in the world undermines your entire argument.

posted by: Matt on 10.23.05 at 02:37 PM [permalink]

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