July 31, 2009

Law vs Power

Rule of law is being tested in China with the arrest of prominent legal scholar Xu Zhiyong.

This seems to be part of a wide-ranging crackdown on non-governmental civil society in China.

It would be as if the FBI jailed the leaders of the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the Red Cross because they were getting too nosy over Guantanamo.

China is not a really great place to live.

Posted by David at July 31, 2009 04:35 PM
Comments

Broadly speaking, what are your thoughts on the consequences of so much of the developed world having invested extensively in building up China's industrial base over the last two decades? Ultimately uplifting and good for everyone, or the creation of an unmanageable and undisciplined 800-lb gorilla in exchange for short-term profits for a few?

Posted by: Terran at August 1, 2009 01:25 PM

It is a good thing in the end.

The profits of a few have also lifted billions of Chinese out of poverty and ignorance.

The Cultural Revolution was really devastating to China. My relatives in China (like all intellectuals) had to hide their home-schooled literacy through the 70's. They lived in the closets of their previous homes, cooked on coal stoves in kitchens without electricity and had to scrounge for food. And they were still better off than most Chinese born in the 60's and 70's, who went completely without any education of any kind.

If it wasn't for massive reform and foreign investment of the 80's and 90's, today we would be facing a China that looks like today's North Korea on a far larger scale, starving, uneducated, xenophobic, and nuclear-tipped.

Instead, due to huge capital investment, most people in China are optimistic and trying to get rich. The country is turning out airports and steel mills and cellphone towers. It is really an incredible turnaround.

On the other hand, power in China is dangerously concentrated. If you raise billions of people out of poverty and illiteracy, they will be happy to a point, but eventually they will want to have control over their own destiny. Having something to lose - and fear of losing it - will do that to you.

The worldwide economic collapse is a period of real danger for China's ruling class. Stories like this must keep Chinese industrialists up at night:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/29/china-blames-officials-riots

Our main hope should be that China somehow finds a way to spread its power in a peaceful way.

And if a new form of government appears in China, our hope should be that it - and its army of 30 million excess males - is sympathetic towards the rest of the world.

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