Apr 9, 2009 General Nonsense |
I don't understand a lot of things. Recently I realized I don't understand the Chinese form of government. This seems important because China will someday buy whatever is left of the United States. Any way you look at it, China is the major economic force of the future. I feel as if I should understand how they roll.

I suspect that if you quizzed most Americans, they would say China is a communist dictatorship. I had a hunch there was more to China than the cartoony image I learned in school. So I spent five minutes with Google to see what I could learn.

First of all, there are 1.3 billion Chinese, but only 73 million of them are members of the Communist Party. The party has a monopoly on power. They decide who gets to run for office. The Communists manage a vast bureaucracy that apparently has provisions for weeding out the idiots. I make that assumption based on the fact that the country functions at all, given its size and complexity. Check out this chart of the Chinese government.


Although the Communists run the show, I assume most citizens have the right to join the party and work their way up the ranks. So merit appears to be important in their system. Obviously any big political system will have its share of corruption and favoritism. It's unclear to me if China is better or worse than the United States on those measures. But I imagine that getting caught with your hand in the public till in China means death. Here it means reelection. Advantage China.

Chinese citizens can vote for their local leaders, at least from the slate of candidates deemed appropriate by the party. And those local leaders in turn select higher level leaders, and so on. Is that less fair than the political systems in so-called democratic countries? Philosophically, it might be less fair. On a practical level, that's not so clear.

As far as I can tell (in five minutes) you don't get to be the head guy in China unless the Communist Party supports you. So it's far from a dictatorship. And the party has a huge incentive to pick the most effective leader. There's a lot to like about that system.

Unlike the political system in the United States, the Chinese don't base policy on superstition. They are more pragmatic. If you think God is talking to you, you probably don't go far in the Communist Party. Advantage China.

Obviously you have to include in this discussion the issues of human rights. China comes up short on that measure compared to western democracies. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Chinese would prefer it otherwise. Perhaps they appreciate the lower crime rate, for example.

If the Chinese had a more free press, would the citizens be better off? I appreciate the free press telling me that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell political influence. But in China he would already be executed, whether I read about it in the newspaper or not. Advantage China.

China's government is more like a large business enterprise. IBM doesn't have a free press reporting about its manager's decisions, but that doesn't make them less effective. They weed out the crooks and idiots in their ranks because it is in their best interest to do so. China's Communist Party apparently has a similar system. Would a free press make much difference in their case?

I started this discussion by admitting my ignorance. That situation hasn't changed much since I wrote this blog post. Feel free to correct any misconceptions here.

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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 2, 2009
I know the U.S economy is bad, but I may have found a way to fix it, with water slides. One thing I have come to understand is that the looming threat of something crashing into buildings is always evident. However I think what people fear most is not having anywhere to go while stuck on the 200th story. nowhere to go but down. I think a solution would be to attach giant watersides to every story of every tall building in America. This would not only ease tensions when planes flew over New York, but would also provide the U.S with countless number of jobs for maintaining the water slides. The best part of this plan is that with a small stimulus package, the watersides would eventually become self sustaining, as countless thrill seekers around the world, would pay admission in order to enjoy themselves on the biggest and best of the watersides, unlike, most of the other companies the govt is bailing out, the water slides will eventually pay for themselves. I know it sounds crazy but we've tried sane and failed, its time to think outside the box.
Apr 23, 2009
Listen to EconTalk Podcast by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on the Political Economy of Power(www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/08/the_political_e.html), it clearly explains how political power works in these types of dictatorships and semi-dictatorships. Unfortunately it will take about an hour, but you'll understand a lot more about how political power works. It's kind of important.

If short on time you can probably get away with just the first 40 minutes.

If you want to know why term limits aren't such a great idea, be sure to listen to the whole thing.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 16, 2009
I don't know if anyone else has noticed or not, but that .jpg org chart of the Chinese government has been taken down (or else) renamed. Suspicious, since it only disappeared AFTER appearing in link form here....
Apr 15, 2009
"Um two words: Tienanmen Square." I'm sure I don't need to point out the many, many equivalents in so-called democracies? British police executed a totally innocent man on the tube and got away with it. They also recently attacked a female demonstrator and a passer-by who then died of a heart-attack. Our emails and phone calls are monitored. Our corrupt politicians and newspapers lie to us. Greedy businessmen destroy thousands of lives for a quick buck they don't need.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 13, 2009
Yes, all that AND they are the source of General Tso's Chicken!!! China is truly the world's paradise. It's not surprising that security is so tight and information is controlled so strictly so that the rest of the world doesn't learn more about it and beat their borders down to get in.
Apr 12, 2009
I'm confused why you think Blago would be executed. It seems to me the people accusing him of being corrupt would be the ones in more danger.
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 10, 2009
The whole thing about "Bush thinks God talks to him" annoys me. Just because a guy talks about being religious and bases his leadership decisions on his religious principles, people make him out to be some kind of looney who hears voices in his head.

And this is, of course, as opposed to his successor, a guy whose voters think that he IS god, and probably got him believing it too.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 10, 2009
Imagine your views tend to align with the Democratic Party. After 8 years of rule by President Bush you are looking forward to the opportunity to elect someone new. You arrive at the polls and are given a ballot. On the ballot are two choices: a. Dick Cheney, b. Go to Jail.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 10, 2009
Is the party open to all?

Are there ever more than one candidate on the party slate? I think the citizens generally just endorse a party slate.

Is advanvement within the party (at the lower ranks) based on acheivement or, like a company, largely based on toadying up to your boss?

Is there a clear line between the government and the judiciary? Can a party member make life hell for people who disagree with them?

I think China is run as a bad, ruthless, corrupt, corporation... or like a church.... Scientology?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 10, 2009
(Totally offtopic)

Scott, is there a way to find specific comics on the site? I'm trying to find the one with the Dogbert lines: stuffed of cremated, whatever is cheapest (dilbert died and dogbert has to decide what to do with the corpse).
Apr 10, 2009
Membership of the CP is by recommendation of existing members and after checks an exams, so it isn't open to all citizens: cf. literacy tests in the southern US pre-desegregation.

It would be interesting to see what proportion of ethnic minority peoples in the PRC are members of the CP and compare that to the proportion of ethnic Chinese membership. I suspect that Tibetans and Muslim minorities don't fare very well. I also suspect that they take a different view of the rights/law and order balance from the dominant population.
Apr 9, 2009
"Obviously you have to include in this discussion the issues of human rights. China comes up short on that measure compared to western democracies. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Chinese would prefer it otherwise."

It is odd that the world thinks China has a bad human rights situation. The incarceration rate in China is 100-150 per 100,000 population. In America we incarcerate more than 700 per 100,000 population. We have 5 to 7 times as many people in prison per capita than China does. China is more a "home of the Free" than the United States by several magnitudes.

Apr 9, 2009
"Obviously you have to include in this discussion the issues of human rights. China comes up short on that measure compared to western democracies. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Chinese would prefer it otherwise."

There is something very dangerous about this way of thinking ... consider this (extreme) example :

"1938: Nazi Germany comes up short on that measure compared to other countries. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Germans would prefer it otherwise."
Apr 9, 2009
Um two words: Tienanmen Square.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
I'm still having problems posting comments, so there it is. China in three lines or less.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009
A centrally-planned crypto-Confucian one party autocracy based on a mostly meritocratic bureaucracy. It is rapidly shifting from an illiterate agrarian society to a laissez-faire State-dominated mixed economy characterized by high levels of corruption and broadly based, consensus-forming, but top-down governance.
Apr 9, 2009
Well,l that post brought out the wingnuts, didn't it? I know nothing about China either, but is is easy to deduce that they are nothing like a Communist System. NPR today had a piece on how there is no Socialized Medicine in China. You want an operation, you pay cash. Data point.

Their rate of economic growth is about three times ours. Data point.

They managed to change the whole country from a regimented supposedly egalitarian society, to a wide open free market economy with a few speeches. Data point.

They managed to institute a program of low population growth with remarkably little outcry. Data point.

Whatever system they have, it works as well or better than any other on this planet. Data point.

Many people living there today can remember a totally failed state, that was under occupation by a brutal foreign power, Japan.

They are not now, and never have been Christian to any large extent. People who try to hold them to a Christian morality are ahistorical idiots.

I assume Ray Kurzweil has been translated to Chinese.

We are in big trouble, bubba.
Apr 9, 2009
In China, opponents of the Establishment are publicly executed, whereas in America they commit suicide or die in plane crashes or are assassinated by a lone gunman who is killed before he has a chance to explain what he means by 'patsy.'

Apr 9, 2009
Scott, you do realize that in China any number of your comics would have gotten you thrown in jail or worse. That alone should make you thankful for our system of government.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2009

Having grown up in a former communist country in Eastern Europe (Romania) I am having a hard time accepting your reasoning. You seem to enjoy triggering cognitive dissonance and then sit back and watch the show :-)

I very much enjoy reading your blog nonetheless and your arguments make sense in the narrow context of your examples.

Some of the big disadvantages that come to my mind are:

1. Rampant corruption on every level of daily life: from DMV to [public] medical services, education, police, etc.
2. Extremely poorly perfoming economy with low productivity, low efficiency, disregard for safety, health and environment due to massive subsidies and lack of healthy competition.
3. Impossible to trigger a peaceful shift of power; to take your Bush example, the GOP paid the price and lost the governing majority they had enjoyed for more than a decade. That doesn't work in countries like China, unless there are tanks and troops and things like those involved...
4. Lack of true entrepreneurship. Someone told the story of a guy selling restaurant receipts. That's not entrepreneurship, that's contraband, illegal and wrong in many ways. The expectation in a communist country is that the government takes care of everyone and everything. And that comes with a certain price...

I could go one for a while, but I must get back to work, before I get my azz fired. Which would never happen in a communist country - I don't know anyone back home that got fired for incompetence. Advantage China, huh? :-)
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