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Post Is the Chinese Model "Sustainable"?
Created by John Eipper on 01/13/19 11:58 AM

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Is the Chinese Model "Sustainable"? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 01/13/19 11:58 am)

Commenting on my post of January 3rd, JE stated: "Democracy is messy, yes, but is it also stupider? I'm still struck by the eagerness of many monied Chinese to leave the country. The central question: how truly 'sustainable' is China's system of free-wheeling capitalism mixed with political totalitarianism? Doesn't this model present internal contradictions? To be sure, we said the same thing ten or twenty years ago, and the Party seems to be more in control than ever."

There are several interesting dimensions to this commentary. The most important is that true democracy is never stupid because it represents the will of the people's majority, which I normally trust more than any small oligarchy or dictator. In the case of the PRC the democracy is limited to the members of the Communist Party. That is not a true democracy, but it has worked quite well for China in the last few decades when they got a "get out of the economic jail free" card from the Western world by becoming their cheap manufacturer. In that way Chinese "totalitarian democracy" seems more effective than US corrupted democracy.

Regarding John's characterization of "China's system of free-wheeling capitalism mixed with political totalitarianism," I think the system is very sustainable as long as the totalitarian side does not commit horrible mistakes. There is no basic contradiction: one is free to make money as long as one doesn't contradict Party rules and edicts; they both can be on the same side. I believe the buzzword for this combination is Fascism, which worked reasonably well for the Nazis until their crazy party leader started WWII.

JE comments:  Totalitarian democracy--I'll have to chew on that one a bit, before I file it in the "oxymoron" drawer.  Tor Guimaraes's comment raises a fundamental and unanswerable question:  what do people prefer, prosperity or freedom?

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  • Prosperity or Freedom? Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/14/19 9:16 AM)
    Regarding John E's question, "what do people prefer, prosperity or freedom?" I believe the question has been answered by Maslow hierarchy of needs. Prosperity, which can be reasonably well defined as freedom from want, is thought most important among hungry and destitute people. Once people are reasonably free from these needs, they want security, freedom to travel, to express themselves, to do whatever they want. Needless to say, wealthy people understand the need to increase their wealth further to secure their freedom to influence their social, political and economic systems.

    The word "freedom" is meaningless unless qualified as freedom to do what. Thus in a hybrid (capitalism mixed with political totalitarianism) nation like China today, there will always be political tension between the Party and the people. Very likely the totalitarianism will have to give ground slowly but inexorably, unless external forces provide the excuse for tighter controls. The clash may come if their capitalist system fails to deliver prosperity to the masses. Rest assured the Party is keenly aware of the importance of a reasonably "fair" income distribution, which is really never achieved satisfactorily to all.

    On the other hand, it is also interesting to note that countries with dramatic gaps between the wealthy/high income oligarchy and the people, growing poverty can be slowly introduced to the masses even though the nation is supposedly democratic. Thus I hypothesize that under these conditions the growing poorer masses care less about political freedom and settle for getting money, religion, political ideology, and misinformation.

    JE comments:  Or the clash may come because the Party delivered prosperity.  Perhaps this is why Xi seems to be doing his damnedest to achieve absolute power.

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