MARTIN JACQUES ON CONTEMPORARY CHINA: OR WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
"Yet China’s governance system has been remarkably successful for more than three decades. It has presided over the greatest economic transformation in modern history. The state is highly competent, able to think strategically, while at the same time pragmatic and experimental. It has presided over rapidly rising living standards and enjoys a great deal of popular support. The idea that sooner or later – the western assumption has generally been sooner – public support will evaporate is farfetched. On the contrary, with economic growth still rapid and living standards rising similarly, it seems more likely that the regime will enjoy growing rather than declining support. We should not, however, regard support for the regime as simply a function of economic growth. It has become almost axiomatic in the west to believe that democracy is the sole source of a regime’s legitimacy. This is mistaken. The legitimacy of the Chinese state lies deep in the country’s history. Along with the family, the state is one of the two most important institutions. For at least two millennia the state has been seen as the guardian and embodiment of Chinese civilization". Martin Jacques, "The myopic western view of China’s economic rise". The Financial Times. 22 October 2014, in www.ft.com."Underlying Xi’s vision is a growing sense of urgency. Xi assumed power at a moment when China, despite its economic success, was politically adrift. The Chinese Communist Party, plagued by corruption and lacking a compelling ideology, had lost credibility among the public, and social unrest was on the rise. The Chinese economy, still growing at an impressive clip, had begun to show signs of strain and uncertainty".Elizabeth Economy. "China’s Imperial President: Xi Jinping Tightens His Grip". Foreign Affairs. (November / December 2014), in www.cfr.org."The state created by Frederick II combined two qualities which were elsewhere opposites. It had, on the one had, the unscrupulous authoritarianism, the disregard both of humanity and of principal everywhere characteristic of a rule by a privileged upper class; on the other hand, a striving after efficiency and improvement, a rigid devotion to the balancing of accounts, elsewhere associated with the rule of a reforming middle class. The Prussian Junkers one might say, were politically in the Stone Age; economically and administratively they looked forward to the age of steel and electricity."Alan John Percivale Taylor. The Course of German History. (1945), pp. 29-30. One does not have to be excessively cynical to look with a degree of skepticism at Martin Jacques apotheosis of the contemporary Chinese polity and state apparatus. One merely needs to: a) remember that Jacques was once the celebrated editor of the British periodical 'Marxism Today', so his inclination to read contemporary realities in a sort of Hegelian-style treatment are very much par for the course. Which of course does not negate the fact that in this instance, seeing matters via Hegelian-colored glasses is not the best recipe for critical analysis; b) concentrate on other aspects of modern-day China that Jacques in his infinite wisdom refuses to look at or tabulate. Like for example the amount of unrest, both rural and urban which is an ongoing affair in China. Indeed as far back as 2006, the Congressional Research Service noted that China suffered from:"In the past few years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has experienced rising social unrest, including protests, demonstrations, picketing, and group petitioning. According to PRC official sources, “public order disturbances” have grown by nearly 50% in the past two years, from 58,000 incidents in 2003 to 87,000 in 2005. Although political observers have described social unrest among farmers and workers since the early 1990s, recent protest activities have been broader in scope, larger in average size, greater in frequency, and more brash than those of a decade ago 1."Of course one cannot gainsay the fact that contemporary China in the past thirty some years has made enormous progress in the economic and to a certain extent the social realm. Merely that per se, this type of development cannot be copied by other countries, nor can it hide the fact that Chinese society and indeed its elites are non-believers in the type of analysis that Jacques employs. As the great Chinese scholar, Perry Link cogently notes in the current issue of the New York Review of Books:"If people in the Chinese elite were truly confident in their system of Leninist capitalism, they would not need a huge budget for domestic repression, would not keep a Nobel Peace laureate in prison, and would not be looking to emigrate. Schell correctly notes that they find Western criticisms of their one-party rule to be condescending. But that very fact reveals their ambivalence about the West. If they were really confident that their system is superior, they might simply pity the misguided West. That they feel “condescended to” shows that, at one level in their minds, they are still according the West an elevated position . 2"And as anyone who is in the least informed about the New York metro area real estate market knows, there are an increasing number of Mainland Chinese who are looking to 'park' their (usually) ill-gotten gains in the more protected and secure real estate market. That if nothing else speaks volumes as per the lack of confidence that mainland Chinese elites have in their rather rickety system of governance 3. 1. Thomas Lum, "Social Unrest in China". The Congressional Research Service. 8 May 2006, in www.loc.gov/crs. 2. Perry Link & Orville Schell, "China Strikes Back’: An Exchange". The New York Review of Books. 20 November 2014, in www.nybooks.com. 3. On this, see: "Latest hot spot for Chinese property investors." The Real Deal. 2 November 2014, in www.therealdeal.com.