Skip to main content

Reading China through "Dictator's handbook"

Ai Weiwei doing what needs doing, even if it is futile

Can China exist as a democracy? Is it even possible? If it can't sustain as a democracy, what makes the single party factory-of-the-world system so special to ensure evolution rather than revolutions? Perhaps the 'dictator's handbook' can answer that question better.

Today I was listening to the podcast "Intelligence squared", as I do with every evening walk from my office to home. The motion was that democracy perhaps is not suited for China. I thought that debate is preposterous - say that to an Uighur peasant or a miner dying of lung cancer or an indentured labourer at any of the big electronic companies. He/she will tell you the answer.
What I was most interested by was the recurring rhetoric about the economic miracle of China, that this kind of economic growth is unprecedented. That it single-handedly brought 70% of world's out-of-poverty transformations.
So on the one hand of the debate, there was this sweeping generalisation - economic prosperity is the definitive proof of a system's success. On the other hand, the debater pointed out how this makes the system vulnerable, ripe for a revolution. She gave the example of the Tunisian fruit seller whose immolation sparked Arab Spring. And this is where I remembered the Dictator's handbook. The book tells us that the Arab Spring took place because it was allowed to take place by the disgruntled elite who stood to benefit with the change in regime. Not because of the 'revolution' per se.
And so if we look at China and its around ~150,000 mutinies per year that haven't made a dent in the system, the reading tells us that China is under no threat of revolution right now. It is safe until it benefits the regional politicians, military and the elite 400 families who control most businesses. So until they are prospering, why would they let the communist party come under duress?
The question is how long will this party go on? China's economy is based on extraction of resources and labour and externalising private costs to public (through pollution, coercion, plundering public places etc) They have succeeded in moving up the value chain better than India, but not by much. They have indigenous technologies but nothing on the scale of California. Can a google/ Uber come out of China ever? I doubt. They have local hegemony, but outside, China can only hegemonise resources, not cultures or technologies (unlike US or potentially India). Resources unfortunately are limited. So that puts a limit to China's hegemony as it runs aground US/ european hegemonies. Open conflagrations help no one, so it creates a natural limit.
 The trade surplus, if used strategically, can help them solidify their advantage, a moat around their advantages of sorts. They can take this opportunity of trade imbalance to create favourable rules and infrastructure of international trade. To an extent they are already doing that with infrastructure projects across the developing world and financial leverage with anyone desperate enough. China that way is definitely smarter than most nations.
Will this advantage hold? Will the system always have enough treasures in its coffers to pay off the influentials and essentials?
In the near future, definitely yes - it is doing all the right things economically. And it has the means to crush any internal 'revolution'. unfortunately. In the foreseeable future, yes again. Like US turned dollar into the default language of international trade, China will solidify its centrality in the global economic system.

In comparison to China, Indian masses are emaciated, hollowed out and broken people who are forced to live from one false dream to another. So  it is easy to control and easy to not let them organise. But China's masses are becoming comparatively better off. They have tasted money and education. They will be ready to fight when the situation gets shitty. Here again, China has demonstrated its ability to concede small grounds to its people if status quo can be maintained. They are mighty paranoid to keep their status quo. And that paranoia helps them sustain.

What about next two-thirty years? who knows? first, climate change and resource depletion will fundamentally change the world power dynamic by then. Who does what to control resources such as water, food and how they distribute it to their people would be key. With the current levels of pollution acceleration, situation is going to get dire pretty quick. Food, water access will be a problem, both in India and China. Both might then see tribal fights among its citizens to gain access. End of nations, perhaps.
who knows.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why I repair my shoe

I have 3 shoes. One formal, One sport shoe and another a mix of the two. The last one is particularly awesome, cause of its uniqueness. It looks like a formal shoe, but is as comfortable and flexible as a sport shoe. I bought it for my first job in Mumbai. I was newly rich and was expected to behave like one. I found this gem of pure black leather in a Colaba Causeway showroom. Quite a find. But its been almost two years now and the shoe shows its age. For all its awesomeness, its quite a weak shoe, to give out so early. I have stitched it, got new laces, and strengthened its sole. It doesn't look shiny anymore cause the leather has suffered from a few hostile trespasses. I think, like a man, things too should be allowed to carry their scars. Shiny scar-less men are just so... irrelevant. 

Since childhood, I have been used to using things for long times. Clothes, equipments, shoes etc. I can't just throw things away cause they don't look as good anymore or they don't w…

Reading India through 'Dictator's handbook'

What's the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?
The book says, not much. India, agrees. Current political dispensation especially agrees vigorously.

"Soma" of hindutva and past glory + divided impoverished amnesiac masses + legitimised attack on individual rights + tremendous wealth shared among few = brave new world of oligarchical India.


Essentially, democracies/ dictatorships etc., are simply variants of the same power dynamic between the ruler, essentials, influentials and inter-changeables.

Interchangeables are the nominal selectorate - the individual voters who have nominal (or cosmetic) power to choose leader - most of us.
Influentials  are the real selectorate - the guys who really choose the leader. In US recently, the electoral college famously went against the popular vote and elected a clown as their president instead. In India, theoretically, the system is a bit better in terms of a wider base of influentials - it could be religious gurus, party…

How many shots of the girl dancing or laughing aimlessly does it take to establish her as a Manic pixie dream girl?

Learning from bad writing: Meri Pyaru bindu These days I am writing my first story that I intend to complete and publish. So as you can imagine, I am in the writer mode most of the time - anxiously looking for writer's intent, choices, character arcs, alternate story lines etc, while watching any movie or reading any novel. With a well written story, these choices are not that apparent. You have to look hard and yet you might miss out on essential choices that the writer made, to make the film/ novel a great piece of art. It feels as if the story flowed out from the author's mind onto paper with zero loss in translation. For that reason, it is difficult to learn much from good writing. It inspires, yes of course. It helps you get in the mood or get into the right frame of mind. But it can't teach as well as a badly written movie/ novel can.
A badly written story makes you aware of your own fallibility. It grounds you. Most importantly, it helps you see the many ways in wh…