Monday, December 06, 2010

What irony.

If you haven't, you might want to take a look at this op-ed in the IHT today.

A Color Revolution in China? Keep It Red

My God. It sounds like the defense of a right-wing authoritarian regime. "Only El Caudillo can maintain stability and prevent this country from falling to the radicals."

But in this case, we're worried about China turning toward ... toward what? Chaos? Toward extreme nationalism? (I doubt we are actually worried the country will be falling into the Communist camp again? Or are we actually scared of a society more distributionally equal -- where plutocrats and governments don't get to exploit people with impunity and make unbelievable profits? This is just ... so ... ironic ... )

I intend to post an in-line critique of this paper soon, but I just wanted to put the URL out there now. I read the article with a rising sense of irony and horror and disappointment, because this is what we've come to: the fear that democracy will bring us evil, and dictatorship is the only way to maintain stability and guarantee freedom. CCP hook, line and sinker. (It's almost like the 1970s redux, and how America justified support for right-wing military juntas in South America and the Mediterranean).

We're not arguing for multi-party elections tomorrow; no one is so naive. But elements of a more just system can be put into place, including most fundamentally, protections of basic rights. Liberalism is a bulwark for individuals and communities against abuse and government malfeasance -- and that really does have to start at the local level. (We can talk about national-level representative government later, as that will probably take more of a transition). But the jailings, beatings, confinements, executions, evictions, and political prosecutions need to stop now. Period.

I am highly concerned at the distorted view of history that this fellow has -- that somehow the Chinese Communist Party must be credited with *everything* good in Modern Chinese history. It completely eschews the fact that it also imposed some of the *worst* atrocities in history on the Chinese people. And the fact that the CCP is taking this direction now? It's really a belated resumption of the modernizing path that China was already undertaking in the 1920s and 1930s.

Ah well. We so easily forget? No, we so willfully ignore! That's why it's important to remember the past, to give credit where credit is due, and even more importantly, to assign historical responsibility. We ought to study the conditions, events, and decisions that led to these crimes against humanity, so they are not visited on the world again. Sometimes achieving this requires institutional corrections. Sometimes it requires system-wide reform. And sometimes it requires changing norms. But we've got to have the ability to speak freely, to have an open discussion about these very issues, so we can seek out the root causes and prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

What's most frustrating about pieces like this is that they completely buy into and perpetuate the CCP line -- a narrative that monopolizes the future and the past, and that patently excludes all other possibilities. The contention that "this way is the only way" is absolutely false. There are many paths forward, and it is deeply inappropriate for one clique, one party, one junta to impose its vision on society without more careful deliberation, without greater public discussion and participation, without securing the consent of the governed.

It is not true that we must accept bloodletting with economic growth, that we must endure the poisoning of our children as the price of development. (Even the Singapore model that some observers use to argue for the rightness of authoritarianism in China has real laws with real teeth to punish corrupt officials. The Singaporean government would never tolerate such depraved and predatory behavior as that happening in places in China today).

The talk of development notwithstanding, no one has a right to deprive any one of us of our human dignity. It is sad that in our haste to compete in the marketplace, we freely give it up ourselves. For isn't that the real battle Chinese intellectuals, reformists and nationalists have been waging for the last century and a half? The search for dignity, be it the standing of a nation, or the right of an individual to live decently? For a society to persist and flourish with its core values and mores intact, yet still find ways to improve upon them? For communities to cherish their culture heritage and live out, on a daily basis, their traditions, while simultaneously enjoying the fruits of modernity?

Dialogue is key to answering these questions. Too bad those voices would be quashed in China today.

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