Sunday, July 31, 2011

What if the Party is right?

It's more or less an accepted belief that while the Chinese communist party is an adept economic manager, it has not done much for ordinary people, nor does it do much for the people outside of helping them live comfortable lives.

However, I've noticed several cases where an authoritarian government can do a better job of serving the people than one which is democratic. China can be contrasted with its giant neighbour India, which has more poverty and more social ills despite being a democracy.

The sort of heavy-handed security apparatus the state has constructed in conjunction with the army and the Party allows it not just to keep riffraff away from party headquarters, but also to restrict harmful or dangerous behaviour.

To wit:

1. I saw a police officer wrestle with a man on a motorcycle who was trying to cross a busy street on red light. It seems that the police or security officials in a democracy don't feel as empowered as their Chinese counterparts. This would explain why buses and even police cars in South Korea will go through a red light if there's no one in their way.

2. From the standpoint of the traveler, the tours of sites around Beijing such as the Great Wall have been standardized and regulated by the state. While shady outfits no doubt exist, they have become a little harder to find.

3. It's actually very hard to cross the street in Beijing now given the way that thigh-high white fences all over the city tunnel pedestrians to crosswalks.

4. Similarly, an army of middle- aged women patrol underground passages and subway platforms for all sorts behaviour. While much of it is nonsense, it makes getting on a train that much easier.

On a far larger scale, it's conceivable that the only thing keeping this country together and functional is a very strong state. Much of the standardizations that the PRC gas undertaken in its history no doubt trample on many, but the linguistic unity in Mandarin, for example, is probably more beneficial than a Europe-sized country of people who can't understand each other.

I think it's undeniable that all of East Asia's developed states got there by some form of benign dictatorship. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and of course China all got there thanks in part to strongmen. Compare that to a democracy like Mongolia which is still struggling to develop.

Ideally, we would have a free state with development. But if you had to choose one, it's probably better to rich than to vote in poverty. None of this excuses the Chinese Communist Party's murderous excesses, its rampant narcissism (seen in massive exhibits all over Beijing commemorating its 90th anniversary), or its strong

No comments: