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Aug 03

Democracy need reform – Australia, China and USA: A Tale of 3 Natural Disasters

Written by guest on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 12:08 pm
Filed under:Analysis, Opinion | Tags:, , ,
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This month mark the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, USA (29 August 2005), This remind me the 2nd anniversary of the Earthquake in Sichuan, China (12 May 2008) three month ago and the 1st anniversary of the Black Saturday (Bush fire) in Victoria, earlier this year in Australia (7 February 2009).

The similarity of these 3 events is that they are natural disasters with many deaths and many more left homeless. However, for those who lost their home in such a large scale natural disasters, which government do you think do more and care more for their citizens in need? The so-called “autocratic” regime in Beijing, China or the so-called “democratic” and “human right” governments in USA and Australia?

The scale of damage to property and the human cost in the 3 natural disasters:

– Australia: Black Saturday (Bush fire) in Victoria 2009:

The fires killed 173 people, injured 414 with 7,562 people displaced. The list of damage to property are as follows:

· 450,000 ha (1,100,000 acres) burnt

· Over 3,500 structures destroyed, including 2,029+ houses, 59 commercial properties (shops, pubs, service stations, golf clubs, etc), 12 community buildings (including 2 police stations, 3 schools, 3 churches, 1 fire station), 399 machinery sheds, 729 other farm buildings, 363 hay sheds, 19 dairies, 26 woolsheds.

To learn more: Wikipedia.

– USA: Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005

The flood killed 1,464 people, and an approximately 200,000 people were evacuated from the Gulf Coast Region to Texas, Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C. Of the more than 400,000 residents who lived in New Orleans prior to Katrina, approximately 350,000 lived in areas that were damaged by the storm.

Again, please click on Wikipedia, and Amnesty International to learn more.

– China: Sichuan earthquake in 2008:

Approximately 15 million people lived in the quake affected area. More than 90,000 people in total were dead or missing in the earthquake and 374,176 injured. The quake left at least 5 million people without housing. The area affected by earthquakes exceeding liedu VI totals 440,442 km2, occupying an oval 936 km long and 596 km wide, spanning three provinces and one autonomous region.

Again, to learn more, click on Wikipedia.

Which governments do you think do more and care more for their citizens in need?

– Australia government

Out of the above three named natural disasters, Australia suffered the least in term of the scale and human cost of the disaster. Besides damages to a total of 3,500 structures including 2,029 + houses, the basic infrastructure such as road and other transport system were fully in tact. However, at the first anniversary of the disaster, let’s examine the governments performance during and after the disaster:

The disaster begin on 7 Feb 2009, the then Prime Minister ‘Rudd activates disaster plan’ (Brisbane Time, 9 Feb 2009) and announced a “$10 million in federal and Victorian government funds to help victims and emergency workers.”

Two days later, Mr Rudd told Parliament: “Hear this from the Government and the Parliament of the nation. Together we will rebuild each of these communities — brick by brick, school by school, community hall by community hall.” (Brisbane Time, 11 Feb 2009 – ‘We’ll rebuild: Rudd’)

However, he then begin to play politics with the well being of the disaster victims by “linking government relief for Victoria’s bushfire victims to its $42 billion economic stimulus package,” (Canberra Times, 11 Feb 2009 – ‘Opposition blasts bushfire, stimulus ‘link’‘)

Our media begin to compare Australia handling of the Victoria’s Bushfires with the American during the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is how the contributing editor of the Age, Russell Skelton wrote: “Where the Bush administration dithered for 48 hours after hurricane Katrina, leaving the flooded city of New Orleans without help, in Victoria, government and non-government agencies such as the Red Cross were on the ground from first light. Within days a reconstruction authority was set up along with a royal commission.” (The Age, 31 March 2009 – Out of the fire)

As usual in this country, the words of the politicians always sound louder than action. The actual outcome to the victims of the fires was: ‘Australia, Survivors of Victorian bushfires receive minimal compensation’ (wsws.org, 28 April 2009). One should note that: “More than 2020 homes were destroyed in the “Black Saturday” fires; 700 or just under a third of these had no insurance. Nevertheless, Victorian fire survivors have only received token government support. Small farmers unable to prove that over 51 percent of their income is derived from their properties will receive nothing from the official public bushfire appeal fund.”

Despite the fact that: “Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby has granted a one-off $50,000 grant for owner-occupiers whose homes were destroyed and the possibility of an additional $40,000 for some victims, subject to government approval” The arrangement was : “according to the premier, $35,000 of this amount can be used for building expenses and the remaining $15,000 for restoration of home contents. Those with homes partially destroyed by the fires and those who were renting will receive $15,000. The state government is charging survivors who have been forced into temporary accommodation a “maintenance” fee of up to $100 per week “.

The reality was: “These paltry grants will not even cover the cost of repairs, let alone fully replace homes and contents. They amount to a fraction of the cost of a home in the fire affected areas.” (Full report by wsws.org)

14 months on, our Reconstruction Authority which was set up within days of the bush fire seems to have done a “great” job? Frankly speaking, as someone who read dozen of Australian Newspapers every day, I have no idea what our “Reconstruction Authority” done so far for the bushfire victims? This was how the Herald Sun reported on the 4 April 2010 (without mentioning the Reconstruction Authority) – ‘Slow and steady but no promise of winning race’. The reality on the ground after one year are:

“HUNDREDS of people in the worst-affected zones are committing to rebuild after Black Saturday,” “But progress is patchy in some areas, and statistics reinforce that it will be many years before the destruction is close to being repaired.”

“Just under 300 rebuilding permits have been issued for houses, sheds and commercial properties in Marysville and the surrounding triangle,” “Locals believe as few as 50 houses are actually being rebuilt in Marysville while many permits are probably for sheds.”

“In the Kinglake Ranges, taking in Kinglake, Pheasant Creek and Toolangi, 361 building permits have been sought. There were 505 properties destroyed there on February 7.” and again: “There were 117 permits sought for Flowerdale and its sister hamlet, Hazeldene, compared with the 225 properties destroyed.”

The progress for reconstruction has been very slow, part of the reason mentioned by Herald Sun report was: “with the rebuilding process arduous for many – particularly those who lost family or can’t decide whether to face the risk of any disaster.”

However, I believe that among those 700 who were not insured, there must be people who do not have the financial ability to rebuilt but not mentioned by the media. The major reason for the “slow in progress” is actually due to bureaucratic red tape. I read a report about this aspect of the delay in building approval few months back, but unable to find back the link. However, one of the NSW’s local council has this statement in their website under the title: Rebuilding after a bush fire pointing out that: “When bushfire events do occur, Council’s ability to help in terms of the approval process is limited because State planning and building laws continue to apply as they would in normal circumstances, and Council is not at liberty to alter or ignore them.”

15 months on, a Royal Commission of Inquiry set up more than a year ago to investigate into the Victoria’s Bush Fire has the following finding:

“The tragically high death toll was caused by grossly inadequate emergency services, lack of fire warnings and the absence of any centralised evacuation plan.” The individual homeowners were left to decide by themselves whether they should “stay or go”. (WSWS, 28 May 2009 – ‘Australian bushfire royal commission: Survivors expose “stay or go” policy’)

The enquiry also find that: “None of those in command showed any real leadership” (News Limited, 28 May 2010 – ‘Black Saturday – Leaders faltered as Victoria burned’). The situation were:

“VICTORIA’S police minister and the state’s three most senior police officers were all absent from the emergency nerve centre when most of the deaths occurred on Black Saturday” (Herald Sun, 7 May 2010).

“The uncoordinated and chaotic division of responsibilities and functions of senior police and emergency services leadership points to the negligence of the state government of Premier John Brumby. It made no serious attempt to establish clear lines of command and communication inside the IECC prior to the devastating fires.” (WSWS, 17 May 2010 – ‘Australia: Government culpability in 2009 Victorian bushfires’)

As for the Federal Government, beside making some grand statements and posting for photo opportunities with the media at the beginning of the Bushfires and on its anniversary seems to disappear from the radar screen throughout the very slow rebuilding process. At the anniversary this year, the state government of Victoria was left alone to defend the delays in rebuilding including the rebuilding of schools in the bushfire-hit towns of Marysville and Strathewen (Herald Sun, 7 Feb 2010 – ‘Brumby defends bushfire rebuilding delays’)

– US government

Comparing to the Bush administration, Australian media did has the right to feel good about ourselves.

President Bush has been warned on the eve of Hurricane Katrina that New Orleans’ flood defences could be overcome” and “the risk to evacuees in the Superdome. However, “Mr Bush does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.” (BBC, 2 March 2006 – ‘Video shows Bush Katrina warning’) That is, no action being taken by the President to do anything to the anticipated disaster.

During the disaster, a well research website in the US with links to its sources showing photos of the President enjoying himself – “playing Guitar While New Orleans Drowned”.

The research also show that: “Vice President Dick Cheney continued to enjoy his vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the whole debacle,” while “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bought $3000 worth of shoes at the exclusive NYC boutique Ferragamo.”

“Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert called for the bulldozing of New Orleans, saying that it didn’t make sense to spend the money to rebuild the city; he also initially refused to call a special session of Congress to appropriate emergency relief funds for the Gulf Coast, saying that FEMA was handling the situation perfectly well. Hastert capitulated to pressure from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to allow the vote, then tried to take credit for the funding.”

At the 4th anniversary of the disaster last year, reality on the ground of New Orleans indicated that, not much being done by the US government to rebuilt the flood affected areas. Amnesty International released a report with title: ‘The Facts: The Right to Return—Rebuilding the Gulf through the Framework of International Human Right.’ indicated that:

“Despite the passage of almost four years, thousands of those internally displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina who want to return to New Orleans are unable to do so.”

“More than 14,000 families living in metropolitan New Orleans are still receiving Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) vouchers which help them pay rent. These vouchers come with an expiration date, which was recently changed from March 2009 to September 2009. Only approximately 7,500 of these families may be eligible for Housing Choice vouchers, which gives them access to Section 8 housing. Once the DHAP vouchers expire, the remaining families face potential homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acknowledges that at least 4,000 of those who do not qualify for Section 8 housing will have difficulty finding affordable housing.”

The report further explained the situation: “After Katrina, the federal government placed tens of thousands of families in trailers which were meant to provide temporary shelter. Today, there are approximately 3,400 families still living in trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi, 760 of which are in New Orleans. After being told that they would be evicted if they did not vacate their trailers by May 30, 2009, the trailer residents will now be given the option to purchase their trailers for $5 or less. Many of the FEMA trailers contain levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic toxin, which are 75 times the recommended maximum for U.S. workers. The federal government has indicated that trailers with elevated levels of formaldehyde will not be available for purchase. As a result, only 1,160 of the trailers currently being used qualify for purchase by these IDPs. HUD has not yet provided a clear indication of how it will supply the remaining trailers.”

Here is the full Amnesty International Report in 2009

The mainstream cooperate media in US were basically silence on the problem in New Orleans. This is how AlterNet, an independent website reported the situation on 10 September 2009: ‘How Corporate Media Are Washing Away Katrina From America’s Mind’.

This year, on the March 2010, a blogger by the name of Douglas Brown has this personal account of what he watched first hand in New Orleans: “This week, I drove to New Orleans as part of a Mission Trip to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After five years, there are still literally thousands of people who are still homeless or living in trailers that FEMA provided in 2005. Most of these people are people who have little or no income, have lost family, often the main income earner, are elderly, widowed or disabled. There is no funding that these people can get to rebuild. They have nowhere to go, and in the richest nation in the world, the shame we saw when the poor were left behind when Katrina hit is still here, albeit not on National TV, since it is not a current story anymore.”

For your info, a US federal judge has ruled in November 2009 that the Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Brisbane Time, 20 Nov 2010 – ‘Corps’ negligence caused Katrina flooding’).

– China Government

Sharp Contrary to the performance of the Australia and US’s governments during a major natural disaster, Chinese leadership responded to the 2008 earthquake in a professional manner characterise by its high efficiency and comprehensiveness:

The military formed the key elements in the rescue process and its response to the earthquake was rapid with “the first Chinese military rescue team reportedly headed for the disaster area within 14 minutes after the strong earthquake began” (Hoover Institute Research: China Leadership Monitor – 2008 No 25 – ‘The Chinese Military’s Earthquake Response Leadership Team’).

The research also find that within days, “China’s armed forces dispatched more than 100,000 soldiers and armed police to help with rescue operations in earthquake-hit areas, dividing their units into three geographical rescue zones.”

“Military transport aircraft and helicopters had made 1,069 flights during the first week of operations, supplemented by 92 military trains and about 110,000 military vehicles, cranes, rubber boats, portable communication devices, and power generators. The military units had pulled 21,566 people both dead and alive from the debris, treated 34,051 injured people and transferred 205,370 people to safety”.

“115 medical teams were sent to the disaster zone, and quilts, food, medicine, and tents weighing 780,000 tons were distributed. The armed forces also airdropped 307 tons of relief supplies and repaired 557 kilometers of damaged roads.”

There are 9 working groups involved in the rescue mission: “Emergency Management and Relief Provision Group, Masses’ Livelihood Group, Seismic Monitoring Group, Sanitation and Epidemic Prevention Group, Propaganda Group, Production Restoration Group, Safeguarding Infrastructure and Post-Disaster Reconstruction Group, Water Resources Group, and the Public Order Group.”

The Time (14 May 2008 – ‘China Races to Save Quake Victims’) also has this account of the military involvement in the rescue mission: “On the streets of Dujiangyan the rescue troops are ubiquitous. Military vehicles are lined up, and People’s Armed Police and People’s Liberation Army soldiers, kitted out in crisp, matching green camouflage, are battling rain and rubble as they try to reach trapped survivors and control emotional crowds.”

The response from the top leadership in Beijing were also sweep and decisive. This is how Wikipedia described the rescue effort: “President Hu Jintao announced that the disaster response would be rapid. Just 90 minutes after the earthquake, Premier Wen Jiabao, who has an academic background in geomechanics, flew to the earthquake area to oversee the rescue work. Soon afterward, China’s Health Ministry said that it had sent ten emergency medical teams to Wenchuan County in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. On the same day, China’s Chengdu Military Area Command dispatched 50,000 troops and armed police to help with disaster relief work in Wenchuan County.”

Not long after the quake, the Chinese government begin to announce an eight-year reconstruction plan, which targets 2008-2010 for immediate recovery and 2011-2015 for long-term economic reconstruction. (International labour Organisation, 12 Oct 2009)

Within 16 months of the massive earthquake, Premier Wen Jiabao already re-visited the quake zone 8 times (This is the report of his 8th visit by the Hong Kong’s media, Ifeng news, 27 Sept 2009 in Chinese language).

A year later, China government released a report in regards to the progress of the rebuilding effort covering a wide range of issues and statistics including the reconstruction of schools, hospitals and residential building; the variety of assistance given to the farmer who lost their land, people who lost their home, old people who lost their children, children who lost their parents and people who became handicap; and the issue with employment, etc. (Detail in Ifeng News in Chinese language, 7 May 2009).

The Time’s journalist, Austin Ramzy has a personal account of the quake zone after 6 months as follows (The Time, 19 January 2010) :

“I went back to Sichuan six months after the catastrophe and was amazed at the speed of physical and economic recovery. In Dujiangyan, the largest city in the quake zone, the rubble and tent cities had disappeared. The jumble of debris was replaced by piles of new bricks, lumber and other construction materials. There was a building boom across the region, and dozens of temporary villages were erected to house the 5 million people who were rendered homeless by the quake. The prefab housing was made out of blue aluminum siding lined with Styrofoam insulation. It had concrete floors and was arranged in neat rows in flat spots at the bases of the mountains. Conditions weren’t luxurious, but the camps were clean and the housing dry and fairly warm.”

“I found no evidence of homelessness, though there were reports of people in the mountains who refused to spend their rebuilding funds and chose to remain in tents.”

“In 2008 the government said it would spend $176 billion on reconstruction by 2011. (The total recovery cost is estimated at $250 billion.) As of last June it had already spent more than $50 billion. Some of the expenses have been shouldered by other parts of China. Twenty provinces have set aside 1% of fiscal revenues for two years to help rebuild Sichuan.”

In fact, the kind of care the Chinese government extended to its citizens in needs has gone beyond financial aids and the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructures, their care for the people has extended to areas such as: “paid for group weddings and plan to hold a matchmaking fair.” (The Guardian, 11 May 2009 – A year on from the Chinese earthquake, love flourishes amid ruins of Sichuan)

In fact, the center of the quake begin from a village where the Tibetan’s live, and what the Australian media did not tell us is how China assist their minority to rebuilt their live. I will have a special article on this issue at an appropriate time with title: “Minority Policy—China Vs. Australia”.

Purpose of this article

The purpose of writing this article is to use actual examples of how the three governments (US, Australia and China) handled a major natural disaster to demonstrate one fundamental truth: That is, the world has yet to find a perfect political system. All form of government has its strength and weaknesses. For the sake of humanity, countries should learn from each other successful experience to improve on oneself.

Unfortunately, in Australia, despite the fact that we have daily news about China, our media not only failed to tell the Australian public the massive human right achievement China made to the more than 5 million people who lost their home in the 2008 Earthquake, some in our media industry systematically running smear campaign with invented stories to demonise China. For those who are interested to find out how? Click on this story: How the Australia Press Council protected media that violated it own written principles?

Conclusion: Democracy Needs Reform

Theoretically, democracy is supposed to bring about caring leaderships with the assumption of “from the people, by the people and for the people”. In practices, this may not be the case as the above 3 examples already demonstrated. Why?

Have we become complacent and obsessed with Winston Churchill assessment of democracy in 1947: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Is there any room for improvement? For examples, I believe it is fair for one to ask the following questions:

1) Has our current form of democratic process produce leaders with the right attitude, mindset and ability to care for the people in needs?

2) If not, what should we do to overcome those system deficiency?

3) Will it be a good idea to introduce the element of socialist philosophy into our democratic process? How?

4) Should we regards the inability of a government to care for their citizens in need a human right issue?

The 2009 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report rank China 98 (USD3,678) out of 180 countries based on its per capital GDP, Australia rank 11 (USD45,587) and USA 9 (USD46,381). However, why China out perform the two much richer countries in term of caring for their citizens in need?

If democracy is define as government ‘listening and caring for their citizens in need’, I believe, China has no doubt achieve such goal.

I will continue to write a series of articles using the heading ‘Democracy Needs Reform’ before moving into the area of analysing the solutions. Unfortunately, I was banned by the Australian Media as an accredited Journalist from enjoying my membership due to my political view, so I reckon, most Australians would have to be happy with the Age contributing editor assessment that: “Australia is better than USA.”

However, my up coming article, ‘Democracy Needs Reform—Australia Voters Facing a Basket of Rotten Apples’ may provide some insight into why both Australia and US’s governments failed to care for their people in needs during the Bush Fires in Victoria and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

To read with hyperlink, please visit: http://www.outcastjournalist.com/index_democracy_need_reform_australia_china_n_usa_a_tale_of_3_natural_disaster.htm

Written on 2 Aug 2010 by www.outcastjournalist.com

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http://www.outcastjournalist.com/index_democracy_need_reform_the_cruelty_of_poll_driven_politics.htm


There are currently 5 comments highlighted: 69983, 69997, 70006, 70014, 70191.

125 Responses to “Democracy need reform – Australia, China and USA: A Tale of 3 Natural Disasters”

  1. kui Says:

    Two major political parties of Australia, Liberal and Labour. In recent years, Liberal got Iraq war and GST for Australians and Labour got Afgan war and Mining Tax (or China Prosperity Tax) for Australians. Great achievement! I can not stop thinking that they are actually the same, both bring war and more tax. They may be slightly different in one area, Liberal is unwilling to do anything to help the environment while Labour seems to be willing to do something but unable to do so effectively. 2010 Federal Election is coming soon. Take your pick, Australians.

  2. Tanmay Says:

    I’ll repost something I posted on another thread:

    Just out of curiosity, how many people on this forum are currently living in China or have ever lived in China?
    I mean people of Chinese origin not foreigners because as I understand it foreigners live in “a world of their own” in china, i.e. they don’t face all the problems the Chinese do.

    I want to know this because if no one has ever experienced Chinese life first hand, how is it that we are talking about degree of freedom or the lack of it in China?

    If indeed none of the posters here have any experience of life in china on what basis are they contesting or supporting the aforementioned report?

    I believe first hand information is the best!

  3. Tanmay Says:

    You said:
    “The purpose of writing this article is to use actual examples of how the three governments (US, Australia and China) handled a major natural disaster to demonstrate one fundamental truth: That is, the world has yet to find a perfect political system. All form of government has its strength and weaknesses. For the sake of humanity, countries should learn from each other successful experience to improve on oneself.”

    Sorry but this article and the series of articles you are planning to write seems a little bit like an anti-democracy rant.
    You have focussed on the wrong issue. It is not because China has Oligarchy that it responded well to the earthquake, it was either because they have a better disaster management scheme or because they implemented it better.

    Please consider this:
    Do you actually believe in the form of government existing in China today or are writing in support of it and trying to find faults in an ideology that is it’s primary opponent BECAUSE you are pro-chinese?

    If you think it was because of the form of government in China that it responded better to the crisis please write an article on “how” the form of government affected the response!

    Sugar coating your article using phrases like “world peace” doesn’t change what it really is!

    Another thing is I am not sure about is the sources you have used. The Chinese government is notorious for “fixing” information.

  4. Joyce Lau Says:

    This article misses the point of democracy.
    Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to chose their leaders.
    It’s not a magic wand that will prevent natural disasters, fix financial systems or house the homeless.
    All countries sometimes handle things badly — but that is not a black mark on a centuries-old political system that runs most of the world’s major nations.

    All of these practical matters — how many planes were deployed, how many people were hit by disaster — are important, but they are not direct democratic issues.

    Some Chinese find far too much glee in picking on the misery of others. This ill will makes me uneasy. “We handled our horrific killer disasters better than you did” is not exactly a mature or sympathetic response. I’m glad that China is rebuilding parts of Sichuan, just like I’m glad that Victoria picked itself up after the fires. (My family were there at the time, and I flew to Australia soon after that).

    I’m not sure why Chinese bloggers are so eager to find reason — particularly inevitable human problems like crime or disaster — to “prove” that there is something wrong with democracy.

    It sounds like sour grapes. The Chinese can’t vote, can’t express themselves openly in the media, can’t access wide swaths of the Internet, etc — so they try to look down on those who can?

    Nobody who actually lives in a democracy thinks it is perfect. Nobody will say that the response to Katrina was good. But ask anyone living in the US or Australia if they wish to give up their basics rights and go to a Communist Party-run system like China — and they will say no.

    Despite flaws in the system, most people believe that being able to choose your leaders is better than not being able to choose your leaders.

    @ Tanmay. The lack of rights in China — from voting to Internet access to media openness — is well recorded both inside and outside the country. Doesn’t matter where you personally are from.
    BTW, I am Hong Kong Chinese.

  5. pug_ster Says:

    Joyce,

    Where does it mention that the poster have some kind of glee on the misery of others?

  6. sids Says:

    I do agree with the title but i don’t get why he use natural disaster as his main point.

    Joyce Lau

    How can i choose my leader? I thought most of the leader are pick by the parties and you just choose what they pick for you?. Im not anti-democracy just picking your flaw thats all and why i mention this is because i will have a election in mid-August and i dislike the 3 leaders that was choosen by the parties and i have to be stuck with them for atleast 4 years ><.

  7. colin Says:

    But Joyce Lau, you miss the bigger point.

    “This article misses the point of democracy.
    Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to chose their leaders.”

    Democracy as a form of goverment is to supposed to provide a better life for its citizens. What’s point of have a democratic government if the leaders can’t more effectively deal with natural disasters and other quality of life issues.

    And besides, democracy as it exists today, show me a country where the “elected” leaders aren’t already corrupted by moneyed and powerful interests long before they ever get to office. In the US, elections are an illusion to give the masses the false belief that they have any say.

  8. ChineseInUK Says:

    Tanmay:

    “Sorry but this article and the series of articles you are planning to write seems a little bit like an anti-democracy rant.
    You have focussed on the wrong issue. It is not because China has Oligarchy that it responded well to the earthquake, it was either because they have a better disaster management scheme or because they implemented it better.”

    From what I can gather, the series of articles the author is planning to write will not be anti-democracy. I expect him to try to prove Western style direct election is not necessarily in itself a better form of governance than what China has today.

    If China’s current system produces “a better disaster management scheme “ and “they implemented it better.”, then the question one needs to ask and the author is rightfully asking is “why?” Is it possible that the Western system is not necessarily achieving the theoretical outcome of a more caring & responsive government than China’s system? And if that is the case, is it possible those Western democracy activist who are trying to promote Western system in/for China have been promoting an oasis that never exists in the form they believe?

    “Do you actually believe in the form of government existing in China today or are writing in support of it and trying to find faults in an ideology that is it’s primary opponent BECAUSE you are pro-chinese?
    If you think it was because of the form of government in China that it responded better to the crisis please write an article on “how” the form of government affected the response!”

    Chua Wei Ling was not trying to prove China’s system was better than Austrilia/US, I’m not aware of any Chinese activists trying to promote Chinese system to/in the West, but the Western system is not necessarily better.

    Unfortunately for you, he/she only needs negative evidence for his negative assertion.

    “Another thing is I am not sure about is the sources you have used. The Chinese government is notorious for “fixing” information.”

    The author used almost exclusive independent Western research, including Times & & Guardian journalists’ personal account, hardly Chinese government propaganda!

    Joyce Lau:

    “Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to chose their leaders.
    It’s not a magic wand that will prevent natural disasters, fix financial systems or house the homeless.
    All countries sometimes handle things badly — but that is not a black mark on a centuries-old political system that runs most of the world’s major nations.
    All of these practical matters — how many planes were deployed, how many people were hit by disaster — are important, but they are not direct democratic issues. “

    I see, are you saying as long as people can choose their leaders, that’s all job done done? And because “most of the world’s major nations” are run under Western democracy, then it must be better, even though they accumulated their wealths in some very non-democracy manner?

    Following your logic, can we assume we can forget about what those governments do to their people, whether they leave them drowning, starving, illiterate or dying of infant deaths? Just give them votes then everything is fine for them, or are they???

    “Some Chinese find far too much glee in picking on the misery of others.
    The Chinese can’t vote, can’t express themselves openly in the media, can’t access wide swaths of the Internet, etc — so they try to look down on those who can? “

    Like Pug_ster, I can’t find any glee in this post. On the contrary, you comments come across very gleeing: Chinese can’t vote so they must be miserable, how dare they challenging our system? For god’s sake we can vote, though some of us voters voted governments that persistently leaving us starving, illiterate or dying of infant deaths!?!

    “But ask anyone living in the US or Australia if they wish to give up their basics rights and go to a Communist Party-run system like China — and they will say no.
    Despite flaws in the system, most people believe that being able to choose your leaders is better than not being able to choose your leaders.”

    I have news for you.

    Plenty of Americans & Australians have already given up their residency in their native countries and gone to China. And that number has been increasing steadily over the years.

    Ask those poor living in China, which are the majority of Chinese population, you will find they do not wish to give up their Chinese citizenship, and go to India or some other parts of African where they can vote for their leaders but their leaders leave them starve, illiterate or die in early age, they will say no.

    Those who can vote but starve, can’t get education or medical care do not think being able to choose their leader is better than not being able to directly vote for their leaders but get fed, clothes, educated & medically cared for in their country!

    If direct election can not produce the theoritical benefits, then it can be potentially worth than China’s current systems.. due to its inherent systematical inefficiency.

  9. Vincent Law Says:

    @Joycelau: “Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to chose their leaders.
    It’s not a magic wand that will prevent natural disasters, fix financial systems or house the homeless.”

    The article you are commenting on said nothing about “prevent natural disasters”, but about disaster response by three different governments.

    No matter how a government is formed or how leaders are chosen, people expect their government to promote the general welfare, and properly respond to national emergencies, natural or economic wise.

    “I’m not sure why Chinese bloggers are so eager to find reason — particularly inevitable human problems like crime or disaster — to “prove” that there is something wrong with democracy. ”

    When you are painting Chinese blogger, all of them, in such a broad brush, does that including yourself?

  10. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To CWL:
    sobering piece. Despite China’s disaster being of the largest scale among your three examples, you’ve certainly shown that the Chinese response was bigger, faster, more comprehensive, and arguably producing better results than the others. It certainly seems that the US and Australian governments could have, and should have, done better.

    I am interested to learn of how you perceive China’s response to be related to her political system. Specifically, do you think it is a causal relationship, and if so, how so?

    I agree that “democracy” needs reform. In fact, such a sentiment probably exists independent of those examples you brought forth. But those examples certainly underscore the need for reform in one arena. In that arena, in the example you used, China’s ‘democracy’ has done well; in her case, I think it is in other arenas where reform and improvement is needed.

    Look forward to your follow-up piece.

  11. jxie Says:

    You can see hurricanes coming, & you can see bush fire spreading, but you can’t see earthquakes coming. That makes the response to the earthquake in China that much more impressive. My quick theory (not some deep thought) is,

    They say the Chinese leadership lacks legitimacy, and is more paranoid. They definitely have a point. The whole PRC bureaucratic apparatus is geared toward serving, pleasing and making people happy, because otherwise they are in trouble. In a democratic society, which is beyond any doubt inherently superior from here to eternity, the hard part is campaigning, adjusting messages based on the poll numbers, filling the payable dinner seats for champaign coffers, up to the point of the election, otherwise known as the political orgasm. After taking the office, it’s time to mail it in and sail to the sunset.

    Ok, honestly? I don’t know. Things just tend to work in China.

  12. foobar Says:

    While I think there may be some truth to the OP’s main thesis, it’s really hard to make the case. There’s so many variables in play, no less complicated than for example in Nimrod’s effort to examine correlations between ‘democracy’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’. In the latter case at least both descriptors were quantified (legitimacy of methods aside). In this case, no quantification is in place yet, and even if there is, what’s 3 data points good for?

    To echo jxie’s point in #11, I’d also like to throw out my 2 cents in a historical/tradition-wise perspective:
    Natural disasters and their handling by the govt have been a huge part of the Chinese society throughout history. Part of Wen Jiabao’s political capital was his performance in the 1998 flood, when he was vice Premier and also head of the State flood control and drought relief HQ. Now both positions are occupied by Hui Liangyu. We can probably trace this all the way back to Yu the Great, who was ruler of China, famous for controlling floods in the Yellow River region, whose son established China’s first dynasty. (part history part legend here). Similarly, within hours of the Sichuan earthquake, an Earthquake Disaster Relief HQ was established with Wen directing it. Disaster relief leadership starts at a much higher level than say, FEMA. Historically, fighting flood, drought and famine were a big part of the govt’s job in China, probably because of their damage and frequency, whereas in the US they were less frequent and and less damaging (my guess) so they are not as high on the US govt’s priority list.

  13. jon Says:

    What in the world does the type of governance (authoritarianism vs democracy) have to do with whether you have emergency prevention and preparation (training, equipment, and education)???

    Maybe I misunderstand the article, but the sheer non-sequitir of the entire premise of “democracy needs reform” is so ridiculous, I have no words. Again, enlighten me if I am mistaken.

  14. Joyce Lau Says:

    My — my comment got alot of comments! That’s good.

    Sids — I don’t know what nation you are writing from. Of course there is no “absolute” democracy. Democracy is representative — everyone gets a small and equal say on how to form a larger government. It doesn’t mean that every person gets exactly what he or she wants all the time.

    If you don’t like your party’s representatives, you can do something — you can run for office yourself, you can vote for someone else, you can write an op/ed to a newspaper criticizing them.

    Every nation’s democracy is different — America has two main parties, Canada has several parties, Britain’s is legislative, the US is more executive-led.

    Political parties are formed by popular demand. In China, there is only one Party and no widespread elections worth talking about.

  15. Joyce Lau Says:

    @ Colin. Of course a government’s job is to provide a better life for its citizens. But I agree with Jon — this post throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    The post argues that, because there were flaws in the way that Western nations handled disasters, that the whole centuries-old concept of democracy is wrong.

    But if you look hard enough — and you wouldn’t have to look very hard in China — all nations have flaws and problems. The poster is bending over backwards trying to find a way to criticize the West’s political system. But all this is is a long-winded complaint about disaster control. (And a biased one, too.)

    As for quality of life — come on. Compare an average American, Canadian, Briton or Australian’s quality of life to that of the average Mainland Chinese resident. Compare access to health care, quality high education, pollution control, food safety, and a million other things.

    The Sichuan earthquake aftermath was not handled perfectly either. China did do a good job — in fact, the paper I work for (The New York Times) did a story comparing it favorably to the bumbling in the aftermath of Katrina. But there were problems there too, particularly in the way the government handled accusations of shoddy school construction. Grieving parents were pressured or bribed to shut up. And several people who have written or protested about the issue have been punished or jailed.

    As for U.S. politics — sure you can find corruption. It’s in every country. That said, I don’t think China can take the moral high ground in pointing its finger at other nations’ corruption.

    U.S. democracy, however flawed, is certainly no illusion. People criticize the government and its working freely every day — and they complained loud and clear over Katrina and BP. People do actually vote. Votes are actually counted. Whether the U.S. president today is McCain, Clinton or Obama was firmly in hands of the American public.

  16. Joyce Lau Says:

    Jxie — “Things just tend to work in China”? Yeah.

    S.K. Cheung — What Chinese democracy? China does many things right, but democracy isn’t one of them. No vote = no democracy.

    Vincent Law — Of course I didn’t mean all Chinese bloggers. Some bloggers, obviously. There are a wide range of opinions out there, which is why the blogosphere is so wonderful. Yes, I meant prevention as in preparation, good infrastructure and recovery — I know that nothing can literally “prevent” Mother Nature from striking.

    Anyway, I will stop now. I think I’ve made my broader point.

    Plus, I’m on vacation and my husband is nagging me to get off the laptop and do some sightseeing!

  17. sids Says:

    Joyce

    What i meant is you don’t pick the leader, you just choose the leader that was given to you by the party. You have no say who you actually want to become the leader of the country, the leader already choosen for you. For my instance its either Julia (pinnochio) Gillard or Tony (mad monk) abbott which neither i have voted for before.

    Sadly black hair yellow skin with a chinese surname i doubt my chance of getting elected as prime minister of this country is a big phat 0 for this election or for the next 50 election. If Barrack obama fail to get his second term you won’t see a black president in Europe or North America for a longtime. Democracy should meant to give everyone a chance to run for the country that is bullshit if you are a minority in the country even you are 4-5th generation you chances of getting elected is %0 that is democracy for you. That is why i agree it need reform.

  18. jxie Says:

    @Joyce Lau

    The paper you work for compared favorably to Katrina because it made Bush look bad. It isn’t about to praise an authoritarian government for its own ideological slant. When it comes to news reporting on China, NYT is a shining example of truthiness. Among many accusations, personally I found the “shoddy school building” meme particularly worth to debunk.

    In the earthquake, there were 5335 students death or missing, which was about 6.2% of the total death or missing. On the other hand, grade 1 to grade 9 students in 2008 were 12.0% of the general population. If anything, rural schools have been built better than rural homes, because the former was built by the local governments mostly — and the newer they get, the more likely they had to meet some sort of building codes; the latter was built by rural residents themselves and the quality of them were mostly inferior to local schools. Actually if you drive down the countryside Italy or France, observe the way that some of the old buildings were put together, and imagine if an earthquake hits… Quality of the buildings tend to go up with the living standard.

    At the time of the earthquake, most students congregated in schools. A collapsed school building often had tens to hundreds of death student underneath, and it made the images extremely gruesome. But if you think it through, “shoddy school building” is just a myth.

  19. Kage Musha Says:

    Adding to sids post above.

    Not forgetting that there are many other hurdles to overcome in the current democratic systems (talking about European here as that’s where I live) like election thresholds and tresholds for actually getting funding.

    It’s not easy as Joyce says to start a new party and get it on with

  20. Jerry Says:

    @CWL

    No doubt about it. Katrina was a botch-up. Whether it can be attributed to democracy or humans playing politics … well, that needs more investigation.

    Some have said here that you can see hurricanes coming. That you can. In fact, in NO, they know they will come.

    The Picayune Times has reported about scientists’ multiple warnings about storm surge and how to use nature and the Mississippi River Delta to minimize storm surge. The scientists were not heeded. In fact, the Shipping Channel and the oil/gas pipelines in the river delta have been allowed to seriously damage the delta. The marshes and the Miss. River delta are dying. And they are one of nature’s prime defenses against storm surge. Greed won out in Louisiana. The oil and shipping industries caused a lot of the problems Katrina wrought on NO by destroying the MR Delta. And scientists have seen this coming for years.

    It turns out the levees were built on improper foundations. That caused a number of the levees to fail. Not good, Army Corps of Engineers. You blew it.

    NO did not institute a good evacuation plan, Mayor Nagin. Many of the poorest and oldest were trapped. Too many died in the flooding when the levees failed. And the abomination at the Super Dome was inexcusable.

    The cavalier attitude from the White House was abominable. And the “Good job, Brownie”? Right up there with “Mission accomplished!”

    Thank god some of the Coast Guard and USN leadership turned their ships around and headed for NO. That alone probably saved many lives in LA and MS.

    God bless Walmart for having emergency supplies ready to roll into the affected area. They were blocked by FEMA, the WH and local authorities from getting into NO and elsewhere.

    And the story goes on and on.

    Congrats to the Chinese for taking care of the victims of the quake. My kudos to the Chinese people for donating so much money and many emergency supplies. That is all very commendable. I don’t see the connection with their method of governance.

    Well, CWL, enough of the happy talk, drinking the Chinese Kool-Aid and paeans to the ChiComs. I saw some articles that you may have missed or just chose to omit. Nothing is quite as clear cut as your report assumes. Nothing!

    Here are some articles I found out at the Telegraph UK and the Guardian UK, in a short search. It seems to me that the issues arising from these articles deserve further investigation.

    Malcolm Moore in the Telegraph, Jan 26, 2009 – “Officials in Sichuan province have outraged donors by buying a series of luxury cars while millions of refugees face freezing temperatures in makeshift shelters.”

    Malcolm Moore again on Feb 2, 2009 – “Now scientists in China and the United States believe the weight of water, and the effect of it penetrating into the rock, could have affected the pressure on the fault line underneath, possibly unleashing a chain of ruptures that led to the quake.”

    Malcolm once more on Apr 30, 2009 – “A year after the Sichuan earthquake, millions remain homeless, many stuck in makeshift camps without the money to rebuild their lives and homes. Despite this, the Chinese government is keen to show how it is making great advances in the region. … ‘I reckon only 10 per cent have started rebuilding, a year after the quake,’ one NGO worker in Chengdu tells me. ‘Now that a year has passed, everyone’s immediate needs have been taken care of. The problem is that people are now waking up to the idea that they are going to have to spend the next five years of their lives in a small metal hut or makeshift shack. A lot of people are still falling through the gaps here.’ ”

    David Eimer in the Telegraph, May 8, 2009 – “Sichuan earthquake anniversary: Parents of victims told not to hold memorials … Parents of the children who died during last year’s earthquake in Sichuan have been threatened with imprisonment if they hold memorials for their dead on May 12th, the one year anniversary of the disaster.”

    Jonathan Watts for the Guardian on Oct 26, 2009 – “Sichuan earthquake survivors face pollution threat … Residents report crops failing and health problems as aluminium plant coats earth in white dust.”

    I remember reading about reporters collecting forensic samples of the collapsed school houses and taking them to engineers in the West. Those journalists reported that the scientists thought that there was a serious problem, but they needed to investigate further. And wouldn’t you know, the buildings had been removed, thus removing all the forensic evidence which was needed for further investigation. The following is probably closely tied to the missing forensic evidence.

    Tania Branigan in the Guardian, Feb 9, 2010 – “China jails investigator into Sichuan earthquake schools … Tan Zuoren jailed over Tiananmen Square article but supporters say detention owing to research into death of pupils in quake. … The quake in the south-western province in May 2008 left almost 90,000 people dead or missing. But parents demanded to know why many schools collapsed even when buildings around them stood firm. As public outrage about poor quality construction grew, authorities stamped out any discussion of the matter, harassing parents who protested.”

    The Telegraph reports on Jun 9, 2010 – “A Chinese appeal court on Wednesday upheld a five-year jail term handed to an activist who was probing whether shoddy construction caused school collapses in a massive 2008 quake, his lawyer said.”

    Malcolm Moore, Jun 22, 2010 – “Parents of Sichuan earthquake victims arrested in China …
    As many as 40 parents whose children died during the Sichuan earthquake have been arrested after calling for an investigation into the deaths to be made public. … “More than 180 parents, who believe that their children died because school buildings in the province were built shoddily, signed a petition calling on the Chinese government to publish the findings of a post-earthquake investigation. … Around 60 parents attempted to deliver the latest petition to the local government on Monday but were instantly arrested by police. “The police came right away and took us away,” said one parent, who managed to flee, to the South China Morning Post. He added that around 40 parents had been taken to the police station.
    “We have been petitioning various government departments, and none of them would listen to us. We are very angry and frustrated now,” another parent told the paper.”

    CWL, I noticed this prominently displayed on your site.

    The most humane thing the West can do for the rest of the world is to MYOB (Mind Your Own Business)

    After causing million of deaths, injuries, displacements and suffering, the American lead ‘civilise world’ lost the war in Vietnam, did the world become worst off? I have been asking myself many times, why do a lovely country like Australia has to engaged in each and every war (crime) the United States or United Kingdom committed throughout the world? .. (Read more)

    So sorry, but that has never worked with me. Just ask my father! He surely tried. :D :P

  21. HKer Says:

    What the world needs is … Nanny McPhee

    Nanny McPhee is a 2005 fantasy film starring Emma Thompson.

    http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTk0Mzg4NDA4.html

    Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee
    Colin Firth as Cedric Brown
    Kelly MacDonald as Evangeline
    Angela Lansbury as Great Aunt Adelaide

    Sequels

    There are another two films planned, as Emma Thompson revealed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. The second film, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, was released March 2010. The villain in the film is played by Rhys Ifans; Dame Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Gyllenhaal also star, Smith’s character being a now elderly Baby Aggy Brown from the first film. In it, Nanny McPhee takes charge of the children of a woman whose husband has gone to war.

  22. my mother Says:

    Hey,

    I agree with HKer. It’s much funner watching Nanny McPhee than responding to some of the usual hyperbole filled comments (you know who you are).

  23. jxie Says:

    @Jerry,

    Allow me to de-Kool-Aid this for you. Seriously you need to develop some sense in spotting BS, otherwise GIGO, and you are just another sad consumer of false news reporting.

    The pieces such as disallowing parents to mourn are so easy to pick on, that I will leave them to you. For now let’s focus on what Moore of Telegraph on 4/30/2009 wrote:


    The government plans to start shutting down the temporary camps this coming August, although many charities believe that victims will still be in the camps several years from now.

    ‘I reckon only 10 per cent have started rebuilding, a year after the quake,’ one NGO worker in Chengdu tells me. ‘Now that a year has passed, everyone’s immediate needs have been taken care of. The problem is that people are now waking up to the idea that they are going to have to spend the next five years of their lives in a small metal hut or makeshift shack. A lot of people are still falling through the gaps here.’

    Apparently there were 2 possible ground realities there. One was the rebuilding had been going on very well — the government wanted to shut down the temporary camps starting in 8/09; the other was that the rebuilding process was very slow — only 10% had been started and it would likely take up to 6 years for the people to live in the temporary camps. We are talking about the difference between Michael Jordan, and an average high-school team scrub here (though nowhere near as bad as the Freedom Tower).


    The sheer size of Sichuan makes the overall picture all but impossible to judge, in the absence of any reliable statistics from the Chinese government.

    Actually there were very precise stats but Moore possibly deemed them unreliable, or maybe just that he couldn’t care less about them. For instance: http://www.eeo.com.cn/Politics/by_region/2009/05/11/137299.shtml. You will need to know Chinese to understand it. There are a lot of numbers in it, they could be all BS, but if they are true, trust me they are the Michael Jordan like stuff. In it, they claimed that they planned to complete the rural rebuilding by 1/10, and township rebuilding by 5/10, 2 years removed from the earthquake. Obviously we aren’t talking about anybody still living in temporary camps in 5/14.

    How do we know who is right? If Moore was right all along (and the Chinese provincial/local governments were BS’ing), by now he should be basking in his own glory since the promised time by the Chinese governments is up. Ok, do this, search what he has written in the past 6 months…

    He hasn’t said a thing about the Sichuan Earthquake rebuilding process.

  24. Jerry Says:

    @Jxie

    Apparently your ability to comprehend English is suffering here.

    I wrote above in #20,

    Here are some articles I found out at the Telegraph UK and the Guardian UK, in a short search. It seems to me that the issues arising from these articles deserve further investigation.


    You wrote back in #23, rather non sequitur-like,

    Allow me to de-Kool-Aid this for you. Seriously you need to develop some sense in spotting BS, otherwise GIGO, and you are just another sad consumer of false news reporting.

    I was calling for further investigation. I was not attempting to state that any of the articles listed are written “ex cathedra”, with the Pope’s or my rabbi’s imprimatur.

    Methinks you are trying to gain an upper hand by hurling insults. FAIL – BIG TIME! Well, Jxie, if this is GIGO & BS, and “I am just another sad consumer of false news reporting”, would you mind substantiating your claims. You have substantiated nothing; you have merely conjectured.

    I really don’t know what is going on in China. And the ChiComs have made it extremely difficult, what with their authoritarian, repressive media control policy, of which the GFW is just one element. At least in the US, you stand a prayer of uncovering the truth. IMHO!!

    BTW, did you bother reading the whole article? I read all the articles from which I quoted! The “homeless” report is a rather lengthy report, focusing on Beichuan.

    Maybe I should conjecture here that you don’t care for Malcolm’s reporting? And perhaps you are reciting GIGO and BS yourself? I don’t buy your Kool-Aid, not for one minute. Let alone drink it!

    The story of the earthquake and its ongoing aftermath is at best a muddled one. Thus, my prime point is that a paean to the ChiCom government is improvident and disingenuous at best. There were heroic people doing heroic things in China. The Chinese people responded admirably to those in severe need. And there were and are dastardly, criminal deeds committed by those in government or their agents, for whatever reason.

    Finally, here is another snippet from Malcolm’s “Homeless” article:

    With the anniversary of the earthquake imminent, the Communist Party is keen to show the world that every effort is being made to rebuild Sichuan. On the road to Beichuan, where Communist Party officials regularly visit in their limousines, several Qiang villages have been beautifully restored. Some resemble clusters of alpine chalets: the houses are clad in stone and boast timber roofs and intricately carved windows and doors.

    But the authorities have also gone to great lengths to ensure that some areas are off-limits and out of sight, and in the run-up to the anniversary, the Sichuan provincial government has closed down access to the region for journalists. Since the beginning of April, reporters have had to apply for a separate permit for different towns within the earthquake zone, a lengthy bureaucratic procedure designed to control or stop foreign media travelling through the region.

    Wenchuan, the epicentre of the earthquake, is completely off-limits, partly due to its proximity to Tibet. Police roadblocks have closed off all access routes to the area to anyone without important business. Teams of paramilitaries in camouflage gear search through cars and stop lorries. According to 5.12, an umbrella group that seeks to coordinate the NGOs working in the region, a large population of Tibetans was badly hit by the earthquake, but has received little help.

    Have a great day. And yes, I am being cynical and sarcastic when I say that. :D :P

  25. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To JXie:
    I’ve tried to look really hard, but I can’t say your last 2 posts on this thread have provided any learning value for me. And I even read them!

    In #18, you suggest that the lower ratio of dead students/total dead as compared to the ratio of students/general population means that “shoddy schools” is a myth. That’s an interesting theory. Of course, that doesn’t explain why schools collapsed adjacent to still-standing government buildings. And just think: if those schools stood up as well as those government buildings did, that dead student/total dead ratio might even be lower.

    In #23, I enjoyed this quote of Moore the best:
    “in the absence of any reliable statistics from the Chinese government.”
    —no kidding, eh?

    So considering that it’s already 8/10, do you know if rural rebuilding had in fact been completed in 1/10, and township rebuilding by 5/10?

    What sort of logic are you using that allows you to condemn this Moore guy based not on what he wrote, but on what he hasn’t written? This I could definitely learn from.

    Here’s the other thing. Jerry lists a bunch of articles to simply point out to CWL that the thesis of the OP is possibly based on a rather selective assessment of the Sichuan situation. You then focus of ONE of those articles, and criticize Jerry’s consumption of news reporting on the basis of another article that has “a lot of numbers in it, they could be all BS, but if they are true, trust me they are the Michael Jordan like stuff.” Really? Someone quoting an article that says something of which you disapprove means that that person is drinking Kool-Aid? That’s rather grade-school, no? That’s not much better than back-and-forth accusations of “brainwashing”, and I’ve certainly learned from elsewhere to avoid such pointless antics, but certainly not from you.

  26. Jerry Says:

    @SK, @Jxie

    SK (#25), thanks for reminding me to get back to #18. I focused on #23. And thanks for hitting points on #23 which I did not cover. Well said, monsieur!

    Jxie (#18), you wrote,

    In the earthquake, there were 5335 students death or missing, which was about 6.2% of the total death or missing. On the other hand, grade 1 to grade 9 students in 2008 were 12.0% of the general population. If anything, rural schools have been built better than rural homes, because the former was built by the local governments mostly — and the newer they get, the more likely they had to meet some sort of building codes; the latter was built by rural residents themselves and the quality of them were mostly inferior to local schools. Actually if you drive down the countryside Italy or France, observe the way that some of the old buildings were put together, and imagine if an earthquake hits… Quality of the buildings tend to go up with the living standard.

    At the time of the earthquake, most students congregated in schools. A collapsed school building often had tens to hundreds of death student underneath, and it made the images extremely gruesome. But if you think it through, “shoddy school building” is just a myth.

    There may be some rather large flaws to your logic declaring ‘”shoddy school building” is just a myth.”‘ And, yes, I thought it through, which is how I found the flaws.

    One flaw is that you are assuming that “there were 5335 students death or missing”. That is if the ChiComs are accurately reporting the statistics. Student deaths is a “hot button” issue. Honestly, I would not be surprised if the ChiComs intentionally lowered the reported number; you know, that GIGO BS thing. Especially in light of the repression of parents’ protests and detaining of parents who do protest. And how can I forget the jailing of Tan and Qiang! Of course, I am only guessing, just like you are! It is hard to declare QED when you are only guessing.

    Another flaw: how do we know if “rural schools have been built better than rural homes”? At best, it is an assumption on your part until it is substantiated one way or the other! How do we know anything about the quality or lack of quality of construction? Or is this just another of your academic exercises and extrapolations?

    Which takes us to the central source of the flaws in your logic: If the ChiCom government had left forensic evidence in place, a good scientific investigation by experts could have made a scientific determination of the whole question of “shoddy school buildings” and construction issues in Sichuan. And we may have been able to put this issue to rest. At least we would be a whole lot closer.

    BTW, how did we get to France and Italy? Or was that just some pleasant, evasive diversion? Hmmmm…

  27. Raj Says:

    colin

    Democracy as a form of goverment is to supposed to provide a better life for its citizens

    According to whom? If a country has a problem because it’s leaders/legislators cannot be removed from office, fix the system so they can never be removed from office, etc then democracy can help. But as Joyce says the point of democracy is to be able to have a real say in who your leaders and representatives are. If the people choose bad leaders it’s their own fault.

  28. ChineseInUK Says:

    Raj,

    “If the people choose bad leaders it’s their own fault.”

    When the system produces bad leaders, it’s hardly voters fault. They are the victims.

    Unfortunately in many Western countries today, the system is no longer capable of producing good leaders who can implement long term beneficial policies let alone being voted back in to see these long term policies through to fruition.

    The real tragedy is the fact, those who have been voting year in year out either do not realise the trap, the limit of their system or even when they do realise these, they feel totally powerless to change. Yet they are convinced by their governments & media that despite the fact their system is not working, it is better than any other form of governance, even for those countries under totally difference circumstances, simply because they have the rights to vote.

    It’s so true that the worst prisons are those without walls.

  29. jxie Says:

    First, I can’t possibly address all the points you raise, with the time available to me.

    @SKC,

    So considering that it’s already 8/10, do you know if rural rebuilding had in fact been completed in 1/10, and township rebuilding by 5/10?

    What sort of logic are you using that allows you to condemn this Moore guy based not on what he wrote, but on what he hasn’t written? This I could definitely learn from.

    Not that it’s my business what your learn or not learn, at least you can try to research this home rebuilding progress using this wonderful invention called the Internet, right? If you did your homework and then posted, the conversation would be more fruitful instead of this dreadful and tiring, don’t you think?

    @Jerry,

    Another flaw: how do we know if “rural schools have been built better than rural homes”? At best, it is an assumption on your part until it is substantiated one way or the other! How do we know anything about the quality or lack of quality of construction?

    Because I happened to spend quite some time in the Sichuan rural side, visiting a branch of my family in different decades. Most rural homes are built privately. A very high percentage of the Sichuan rural working age men have been working as migrant workers at one point or the other. Those who have picked up some construction skills often build their homes themselves with the help of friends and family. Anyway, my old man was a civil engineer, so more or less I can pick up building quality. Let me just say, most of those privately built homes aren’t very earthquake-proof. On the other hand, most schools are funded by the local governments, and built by accredited construction contractors. Even in the 80s when the local governments starved for educational funding, and had to go cheap in building schools, those schools tend to have better construction than many relatively new rural homes.

    I really don’t know what is going on in China. And the ChiComs have made it extremely difficult, what with their authoritarian, repressive media control policy, of which the GFW is just one element. At least in the US, you stand a prayer of uncovering the truth. IMHO!!

    The tough part for you is that you don’t know Chinese, and most of the English-speaking news reporters you depend on probably don’t speak much Chinese, and don’t mingle with the locals saving a few Western media attention whores. How exactly can you gain any insight on what China is like?

    There is a WORLD out there in the Chinese-language part of the Internet. There is insanely large quantity of first-handed information out there in the Internet. Think about this, there were near 100,000 people died, and about 10,000,000 people became homeless. Many (if not most) Chinese now have mobile phones that can take pictures and videos, and have Internet access.

    Anyway, at least two friends of mine who spent quite extensive time in the quake area told me that they were proud of the people, and proud of the government. These are folks who are in their 40s and participated the 1989 student movement.

    That is if the ChiComs are accurately reporting the statistics. Student deaths is a “hot button” issue.

    Nothing hotter than how many people died in the Beijing streets on 6/4/89. Yet after some 2 decades of soul searching and fact finding, this former protesting college student came to the realization that the initial number released by the “ChiComs” were quite probably the accurate number. Like a reformed alcoholic who doesn’t take a drop of drink, this would turn into a much longer post if I elaborate — the “ChiComs” nowadays are very truthful as far as reporting numbers go.

    BTW, how did we get to France and Italy? Or was that just some pleasant, evasive diversion?

    Houses built in the old days when you were poor, are all shoddy in the today’s standard. Plus I like to brag about my vacations, I guess.

  30. jxie Says:

    One more point to ponder.

    Which takes us to the central source of the flaws in your logic: If the ChiCom government had left forensic evidence in place, a good scientific investigation by experts could have made a scientific determination of the whole question of “shoddy school buildings” and construction issues in Sichuan. And we may have been able to put this issue to rest. At least we would be a whole lot closer.

    Don’t know your story specifically. But the “ChiCom” government does have the tendency of not digging around and quickly moving on. It depends on what type of society you want, I guess. If you don’t mind it taking what looks like 15+ years to build the Freedom Towers, sure every single issue needs to take as much time as possible to get resolved. If in China, it probably wouldn’t take more than 12 months to rebuild the towers. All of the lawsuits wouldn’t even be allowed to start, and all the bickering would be forcefully dropped. Some will feel slighted for sure. But should you hold up and address different issues raised by some concerned citizens and foreign friends, and a lot of attention whores, so that 10 million can live in makeshift camps for much longer time?

  31. S. K. Cheung Says:

    I have no doubt that you cannot address all the points that have been raised. However, I don’t think time is your only constraint. I’ll leave you to surmise what some of those other constraints might be…but I have my own theories.

    I could research the rebuilding. But since it was your point that this rebuilding was supposed to have been completed in 1/10 and 5/10, surely you don’t expect me to do your homework for you on that internet thingy, do you? Which is why I asked you, since you brought up the point with that other article. You can look it up, or not…matters not to me. But consider it an open invitation with no expiration date.

    While you’re looking stuff up feverishly to support your assertions, try this on for size: what is the ratio of workers in government buildings killed/total number of dead, and what is the ratio of workers in government buildings in the quake zone/ population in the quake zone? If the workers killed/total dead ratio is lower than the workers/general population ratio, then we can also state, with your logic, that government buildings weren’t shoddy. Then comes the really fun part, especially since you like to compare stuff: we could compare the government building worker killed ratios to the student ratios. That might be fun. Happy internet researching!

    I actually have no quarrel with ““rural schools have been built better than rural homes”” I would imagine, in most places, most schools are built better than most homes in their area. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “better”, but considering how much bigger schools are than homes, how many more people run through a school than a home, and how many more regulations a school is subjected to than a home, I’m not surprised that the average school is a better structure than an average home, whether it’s in Sichuan, or Canada. But here’s the thing: is comparing a school to a home a reasonable comparison? Here’s another thing: who’s responsible for school construction vs home construction? For starters, telling a parent that their child died in a school which was better built than the surrounding homes provides probably not much comfort. And when these parents complained of “shoddy schools”, do you think they did so in comparison to private houses, or was it perhaps to local building codes that may have prevented their collapse in the first place? Better yet, perhaps they were making comparisons to adjacent government buildings that were still standing.

    I’m ecstatic that your friends were proud of the government. I wonder how the locals felt.

  32. Wukailong Says:

    @SKC: “But here’s the thing: is comparing a school to a home a reasonable comparison?”

    Thanks for bringing this up. I thought the whole comparison between schools and homes was strange from the outset, a bit of a non sequitur if you will – wasn’t the contention about whether government buildings (as in offices, not built by the government) were better built than schools because of corruption?

  33. foobar Says:

    In China of this day and age, you don’t really need corruption to build govt buildings better than schools.

    It’s sad, but that’s the Chinese society we have now. It will probably be another decade for that to change.

  34. foobar Says:

    All in Chinese.

    http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2009-09-04/025118575953.shtml
    “By the end of 8/09, the rebuilding of all the1.26million rural homes has started, 1.188 million of which has been completed.”
    “Another 0.196 million homes need rebuilding due to aftershocks, work on 0.09 million of them has started.”
    “0.259 million urban (towns and cities) homes need rebuilding. Work on over 80% of them has started. 24% has been completed.”

    http://scnews.newssc.org/system/2010/05/12/012717360.shtml
    “99.7% of the 1.549m rural homes are completed. 0.257m urban homes are being rebuilt, 98.3% of the toal; 0.2163m completed, 84.2%”

    http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2010-07-08/054620633635.shtml
    “Urban resident housing construction in the quake zone rebuilding project is mostly complete, and now begins the housing allocation phase”

  35. Jerry Says:

    @Jxie

    Hmmm… Your dad was a civil engineer. I worked for my father in my 20’s in his shopping center company. I was responsible for maintenance and working with general contractors on new construction. I worked with architects and engineers. I enjoyed it.

    Again, let’s get down to basics. The easiest way to determine the quality of construction and why school buildings failed and some groups of buildings did not fail at the same rate as the school buildings: a thorough, forensic investigation of failed and non-failed buildings by engineers and scientists. The CCP removed this option post haste.

    But the “ChiCom” government does have the tendency of not digging around and quickly moving on. It depends on what type of society you want, I guess. If you don’t mind it taking what looks like 15+ years to build the Freedom Towers, sure every single issue needs to take as much time as possible to get resolved.

    I don’t remember saying that the forensic investigation would take 15+ years. The forensic investigation needed to be thorough and expedited. It is important to know why the failures failed and standing buildings were standing. That is how earthquake science and earthquake engineering advance. Besides, it would most likely result in safer construction, which would be good for everybody concerned.

    On the other hand, most schools are funded by the local governments, and built by accredited construction contractors.

    True, in a very ideal world. Want to know why the levees failed in NO with a normal hurricane (if there is such thing as a normal hurricane)? They were properly designed and built by accredited building contractors. I have seen way too much in my life to ever make a statement like yours. But then again, I am a cynic and a skeptic. Your comment above about the assumed quality and assumed honesty of accredited construction contractors is just one more assumption. The more assumptions you make, the more variables you inject, the more elongated and complex the comparisons, the more likely that your whole hypothesis will crash and burn. That is why the KISS rule is such a good guideline. Computational complexity was my specialty at msft. The more complex, the more likely it is to fail. The more complex, the harder it is to debug and find the actual failure points. And the more difficult it will be to repair the failure.

    In my book, “I don’t know” is a good answer. I am with Samuel Clemens when he said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    I for sure don’t know Chinese. But I do know that the ChiComs censor their internet and their media. Things disappear if they want it to disappear. Things get edited if they choose. Even if I could read Chinese contextually and culturally, I would always be skeptical about what is told to me. Hell, I am skeptical about what my own government says. And I don’t trust first-hand accounts by Tea Partiers, Birthers, neo-fascist militia, the GOP and the Dems.

    Like a reformed alcoholic who doesn’t take a drop of drink, this would turn into a much longer post if I elaborate — the “ChiComs” nowadays are very truthful as far as reporting numbers go.

    As I said before, I am a cynic and a skeptic. Governments in general report what they consider to be politically expedient, especially if it is politically important. I suspect that the ChiComs are even more sensitive to that which is political expedient. They are, after all, an authoritarian government who controls their media and internet ruthlessly. Sorry, but I don’t buy your statement.

    You know, Jxie, you earlier said in #11:

    The whole PRC bureaucratic apparatus is geared toward serving, pleasing and making people happy, because otherwise they are in trouble.

    To which I would retort, “Yes, if it is politically expedient to do so!” And the ChiComs get to make the decision what is expedient and what they have to do to keep out of trouble. And sometimes they seem very willing to stomp on people if necessary, like recently beating those malevolent parents from Shanxi and other provinces. What did these malevolent insurrectionists do to deserve their beatings? They had come to Beijing to protest tainted vaccines which were given to 1,000s of children in Shanxi which left 4 children dead and 74 more severely damaged. I have no idea how many just got sick and recovered. Wow, the ChiComs sure made those parents happy.

    Let’s cover the replacement of the Twin Towers.

    If you don’t mind it taking what looks like 15+ years to build the Freedom Towers, sure every single issue needs to take as much time as possible to get resolved. If in China, it probably wouldn’t take more than 12 months to rebuild the towers. All of the lawsuits wouldn’t even be allowed to start, and all the bickering would be forcefully dropped. Some will feel slighted for sure.

    What is the rush? If it takes time for NYC to do this right, such is their right. It still is an extremely difficult issue for many. I, for one, am not in a rush.

    But should you hold up and address different issues raised by some concerned citizens and foreign friends, and a lot of attention whores, so that 10 million can live in makeshift camps for much longer time?

    It seems that you are trying to provide the ChiComs some cover here. I addressed the investigation up above. But you throw in the term “attention whores”! Hmmm… Perhaps you are trying to make your conclusions and your viewpoint seem more valid? It doesn’t work with me. Your conclusions and opinions are no more or less valid than mine, SK’s WKL’s and others here.

    So, Jxie, why don’t you stick to ridiculing the “attention whores” for attempting to inconvenience and cause more misery to the victims? I will stick to my belief that the ChiComs seriously blundered (I am being kind here) by removing the forensic evidence before a serious investigation could take place. And maybe the ChiComs’ actions in this matter are also criminal? We will never know for sure.

    I, too, am concerned about making the lives of the 10+ millions of victims any more miserable. In fact, I believe that aid should be expedited to make their lives better more quickly.

    I wonder if the ChiComs really care about the victims? Or maybe they are more concerned about their own image? Or possibly covering their own very vulnerable tuchuses?

  36. foobar Says:

    “I don’t know” is a good answer on things you don’t know.
    A better answer is to assign the worst motives to CCP, and make it your belief.
    Or so it seems.

  37. jxie Says:

    Congrats to SKC who finally got the fat part of the wood on the ball. Chasing all the foul balls got me tired and addressing this specific issue would be a relatively lengthy post, which I decided to skip, and I shall devote this post to this topic alone.

    The topic is why in a few occasions, which can be seen in some widely circulated pictures in the Internet, a school building collapsed and some adjacent government buildings still stood.

    The typical explanations are:

    * A typical earthquake ravages the nearby buildings unevenly. Some show pictures of earthquakes in other countries including Japan and the US, whereas a building totally collapsed but the adjacent buildings were practically undamaged from the outward appearance.

    * There are wider open spaces in schools, with support beams further apart, such as an auditorium.

    Personally I have found none of these explanations really satisfactory, because chances are somebody should be able to produce a picture whereas a school still stood but the adjacent (government) buildings collapsed, or pictures where an auditorium in a school collapsed, but other parts of the school still stood.

    Here is my freakoconomic explanation.

    First, it’s pretty common sensual that when one gets richer, he will care more about his living conditions. When a society gets richer, a lot of things will improve, including the construction quality of its buildings. Everything else being equal (the severity of the quake, the population density, etc.), an earthquake happening in a low-income place likely will have higher fatalities and more property damage, than in a high-income place.

    In 1990, the fiscal revenue of China was $61B, compared to $700B for Japan and $1T for the US. In 2009, the fiscal revenue of China was $1T, compared to $380B for Japan, and $2.1T for the US. (some caveats in currency exchange rates & federal plus local or central/federal only)

    In 2008, the largest age groups in China were 35 to 39, and 40 to 44. The grade 1 to grade 9 age groups were only about 70% of the peak experienced some 2 decades ago. China has had pretty high (high 90s% to lately near 100%) grade 1 to grade 9 enrollment rate for several decades already. The total number of the students between grade 1 to grade 9 is quite a bit smaller than 2 decades ago. What this translates to, if you are still with me on this, comparatively there have been much fewer elementary to middle school buildings being erected in the past 2 decades — and any new ones likely were replacement buildings. If you ever wonder where the extra money in educational funding has gone, it has gone to, 1. from high-school and up (much improved enrollment rates), 2. salary, 3. equipment.

    On the other hand, the space requirements by different levels of governments have gone up a lot, driven by urbanization and more sophisticated government services. Other than new buildings being erected, some perfectly usable old buildings were razed down to make way of newer and bigger buildings. If you actually have been to some of the rural towns, you will notice the spanking new government buildings sit beside some rather old school buildings. The first impression for many is that the local education has been short-changed, but in reality if you bother to dig into it a bit more, nowadays teachers are making comparatively better living than they have been for at least several decades.

    Go back to the popular pictures circled around the Internet. Chances are the collapsed school buildings were older and the standing government buildings were newer.

    It doesn’t mean that there was no corruption or graft, but I highly doubt corruption or graft for school building construction would be any higher than others. The recovery effort is organized, funded and supervised by the central government, which in the past had no qualm about holding the local governments’ feet to the fire. If it was a building or a bridge collapsed, you will be sure far more detailed and thorough investigation would be conducted. But you had a warzone-like case where 10 million were without home, some snap judgments will be made.

  38. colin Says:

    @Joyce Lau et al.

    Regarding “American, Canadian, Briton or Australian” high standards of living.

    These countries’ standard of living are high not necessarily due to their form of government. In fact, I think government has little to do with it. Each of these countries had access to massive natural resources per capita (canada, australia, US), or had a long history of exploiting natural resources from other countries (briton, US). Perhaps, democracy is mostly sustainable when there enough natural wealth to keep citizens happy and docile enough to not want to overthrow government.

  39. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To #37:
    wow, that is indeed an inordinately verbose “theory”. I’m not surprised you kept it holstered until now. And I’m not really sure it would’ve been worth waiting for.

    As with all theories belabored with needless verbiage, it seems to boil down to this: “Chances are the collapsed school buildings were older and the standing government buildings were newer.”

    Well, I have no doubt your Chinese (and in particular your simplified) is better than mine. So do the “facts” (and I’ll even accept the “official CCP numbers” as a starting point, Jerry’s understandable pessimism about such things notwithstanding) confirm your “chances”? For someone tapped into the “Chinese internet world” as you seem to be, that would be easy pickings, no? Were the majority of collapsed schools 20 year old relics, while their adjacent government buildings were sparkling new fortresses?

    Let’s move to Jerry’s point. Yes, there was a lot of rebuilding to be done, obviously. So while the urge to “just bulldoze everything and get started” might be understandable, it is also rather convenient…especially if there was something to hide. And it’s much harder to know for sure one way or another, after the bulldozing’s been done. Admittedly, it’s all water under the bridge. However, the point of investigating is also to learn. So if your “theory” is correct, is there a rush afoot to seismically upgrade all 20 year old school buildings in all the earthquake-prone parts of China to mitigate the effects of par-for-the-course 1990’s school construction if and when the next one hits? Cuz if it’s a systematic issue, surely the CCP would embark on a systematic solution, right?

    At the very least, I’m happy you’ve moved on from comparing rural schools to rural houses.

  40. Jerry Says:

    @foobar in #36,

    “I don’t know” is a good answer on things you don’t know.
    A better answer is to assign the worst motives to CCP, and make it your belief.
    Or so it seems.

    Wow, you have some talent in digesting what is written and condensing it into a distorted statement oops, I meant an essential statement. You have a fantastic career ahead of you. I just can’t figure out in what. :D :P

    Actually, I wrote, “In my book, “I don’t know” is a good answer.” Still is. But it is not my only answer!

    As I said before, I am a cynic and a skeptic. And my opinions on the ChiComs have been informed by much credible information. Now, if I get new credible information, I have been known to change my opinions. I am in no rush!

    ####

    Here are some statements made by the OP and commenters here:

    The whole PRC bureaucratic apparatus is geared toward serving, pleasing and making people happy, because otherwise they are in trouble.

    Things just tend to work in China.

    We can probably trace this all the way back to Yu the Great, who was ruler of China, famous for controlling floods in the Yellow River region, whose son established China’s first dynasty. (part history part legend here).

    democracy needs reform

    Are we kidding here? If I turned these statements around to apply favorably to the US or Israel (2 countries I dearly love), I would be embarrassed. Really embarrassed! Or at least I should be.

    You will not hear paeans from me being sprinkled on the USA and Israel. We need changes for the better in both countries. Ordinary people would really like some improvement in governance, happiness and financial affairs. You know: that “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” thing.

    Thank god that Ben Franklin harnessed electricity 100’s of years ago, and did not electrocute himself doing so. Thank Yahweh that Moses learned to harness the waters of the Red Sea and smite others with his staff. But Moses was such a klutz that he dropped the 3rd tablet, leaving us with 10 commandments rather than 15 (at least according to Mel Brooks)! And kudos to David for slaying Goliath, saving the Israelis from the Philistines. Unfortunately, David became King David because he was a brilliant, criminal thug. He murdered all of Saul’s heirs. And he allied himself with the Philistines when it was expedient, and fought them when it was expedient. So much for legends.

    Does Wen walk on water, too? Now that would be a neat trick. He could add that to his legend, too. A coonskin hat might help, too. Sorry, Wen baby, I am just too sarcastic and irreverent for my own good. And legends are just too tempting.

    ####

    Colin #38

    Regarding “American, Canadian, Briton or Australian” high standards of living.

    These countries’ standard of living are high not necessarily due to their form of government. In fact, I think government has little to do with it. Each of these countries had access to massive natural resources per capita (canada, australia, US), or had a long history of exploiting natural resources from other countries (briton, US). Perhaps, democracy is mostly sustainable when there enough natural wealth to keep citizens happy and docile enough to not want to overthrow government.

    I agree that those countries had access to vast internal and external natural resources. The US and others exploited the natural resources and people in other countries. And, who is following in our footsteps? China. Surprise!

    And any form of government, including China’s CCP, is more stable if the people have an economically sustainable and happy life. Don’t want those natives to get restless, now do we?

    I would add that China gained its economic wealth by inflicting tremendous damage on its ecosystems. Let us hope, for everyone in the world and the people in China, that the damage is not irreversible. It is kind of nice having those little natural services we just take for granted: Clean air, oxygen, climate moderation, soil, food, water, sea life, etc.

    Replacing those services, if the global ecosystems collapse, will cost China and the world a huge amount; namely most of or nearly all of their annual GDP. Repairing or replacing the ecosystems which provide those services could cost 10 to 20 times the world’s annual GDP. Kind of grim! And major league uncharted territory!

  41. jxie Says:

    @Jerry, #40,

    Here are some statements made by the OP and commenters here:

    Well, since you put a couple of my quotes there. Allow me to explain. First I thought with the “Ok, honestly?” after that, it should be quite apparent the paragraph including “the whole PRC bureaucratic apparatus is geared toward serving, pleasing and making people happy,” was satirical. But you didn’t read the whole thing, and quickly wanted to reply… I forgive you.

    I don’t know how anybody who has intimate knowledge of China can argue against “things just tend to work in China.” An earthquake of such magnitude, 10 million homeless and all that, in no other country on earth they can rebuild virtually all homes in a bit over 2 years, not even close — close as between Finway Park and Yankee Stadium type of close. If you stay at a place 500 km from an airport, and you want to take a train then a flight with a relatively tight gap in between, don’t do it unless you are in China (and a couple of other countries). In China, trains are 99+% on time.

    I would add that China gained its economic wealth by inflicting tremendous damage on its ecosystems. Let us hope, for everyone in the world and the people in China, that the damage is not irreversible. It is kind of nice having those little natural services we just take for granted: Clean air, oxygen, climate moderation, soil, food, water, sea life, etc.

    The Dust Bowl was not irreversible. The conditions in Japan that produced Minamata disease were not irreversible. Actually before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, they had the same concern of air quality. It’s a phase thing.

  42. jxie Says:

    @SKC, #39,

    The “inordinately verbose” theory was not intended to you. You don’t strike me as the scientifically inclined and intellectually curious type, who would most likely find Freakonomics a fascinating read. If it was only a dialogue between you and me, I wouldn’t have written that long piece, which would be 对牛弹琴.

    Yes, at least one collapsed school building was confirmed rather old. Even some of the very well funded schools, including the one I went to, haven’t had structurally new buildings for a rather long time. Why they didn’t upgrade the buildings in the potential quake zone? Why didn’t they upgrade the New Orleans levees to withstand Cat-5 hurricanes instead of Cat-3 ones? Hindsight is 20-20. In life we are actually running a lot of potential risks at this very moment. Most of them would never manifest themselves but some would eventually and make us ask “why we didn’t.” But I know if it’s in China, it must be the system’s or CCP’s fault.

    This shall come to an end that I reply to your comments, in principle (meaning I may but I likely won’t). My parting story is:

    When I was 21 I worked in an office for a part-time job, and there was a pretty girl who was a few years older than me. I was rather fond of her, and felt there was some connection between us. I was not new to the dating per se, but new to the interracial dating. My English was not very good then, so I told a much older female coworker and asked her advice. She told me that she was doing a married male coworker. “No way”, I said, “how did you figure?” Nobody told her and she wasn’t like bumping into them when they were making out. She just figured that out by observing their body language and the way their eyes met, so I wasn’t convinced. At the end, she said, “do they need to have sex in front of you, for you to believe?” Eventually she was proven right.

    Well, the lessons for me then were,

    * I need to have the eyes of the much older woman.
    * I have to be able to dispassionately assess the reality.

    The reason why I am telling you this is, you seem to have invested a lot of negative emotional energy on China that every positive things about China you want the “they are having sex in front of you” type of proofs. Also you really need to develop a better means of finding out the truths of China independently, since you are so into a blog such as this.

  43. No99 Says:

    Mind me jumping in here for a moment. Regarding environmental destruction, yes and no, it’s a phase thing. It’s a phase thing because every industrial country went through it. As well as no, because those developed countries know how to hide their dirty stuff. We haven’t gotten to that point of “zapping trash to nil” or “creating something from nothing” type of technology. Even though we have a lot of knowledge and experimental projects. There’s three things people need to take care of if you all truly care about the Earth. Energy, resources and waste treatment. Everything about the modern lifestyle is based on that, mainly two things; Electricity and Chemicals. Without them, you’re pretty much back to the pre-industrial age. Better off with ancient Chinese methods, since a lot of them were the most sustainable and efficient (advanced) forms recorded.

    No one wants to go back to those times.

    That’s kind of why every country is so focused on Energy research and resource management. Right now, almost everyone is aiming for a particular model, a specific brand of what they consider as modernity. Well, that model wasn’t meant to be long lasting, and was based on exploiting resources from many to benefit the few. Even if China doesn’t take part in this path to modernity, hypothetically speaking, we’re still going to destroyed the planet by the few developed countries by default. I know what I just said aren’t the only reasons for environmental degradation, but they are the most significant.

  44. foobar Says:

    #40, And my opinions on the ChiComs have been informed by much credible information.
    Based on your judgement and the amount of skepticism you’ve shown toward the Malcolm Moore story, your claim doesn’t look that solid.

    If I turned these statements around to apply favorably to the US or Israel (2 countries I dearly love), I would be embarrassed. Really embarrassed! Or at least I should be.
    If there’s good reasons for you to be embarrassed, I guess you should be.

    Not to speak for others, what’s with my particular comment that made you go biblical? In this thread about disaster relief vs democracy, I argue that it may not be that democracy made the Australian and US relief performance worse, but rather China did what it did following a long line of historical tradition. Yu’s story true or not, the Chinese society value and demand the leading role of the government in disaster relief/prevention. Accordingly, the government put enormous emphasis in quick and effective response in the event of disasters. Disaster relief command HQ starts from the very top of the govt, as compared to the case of the US, for example. Wen’s performance in both the 1998 flood and the 2008 quake is generally regarded as excellent by the Chinese people. These are facts you are welcome to dispute. It has nothing to do with Wen’s ability to walk on water.

  45. Jerry Says:

    @Jxie in #41,

    LOL! “But you didn’t read the whole thing, and quickly wanted to reply… I forgive you.”

    Actually, Jxie, I wrote about this earlier in #35

    You know, Jxie, you earlier said in #11:

    The whole PRC bureaucratic apparatus is geared toward serving, pleasing and making people happy, because otherwise they are in trouble.

    To which I would retort, “Yes, if it is politically expedient to do so!” And the ChiComs get to make the decision what is expedient and what they have to do to keep out of trouble. And sometimes they seem very willing to stomp on people if necessary, like recently beating those malevolent parents from Shanxi and other provinces. What did these malevolent insurrectionists do to deserve their beatings? They had come to Beijing to protest tainted vaccines which were given to 1,000s of children in Shanxi which left 4 children dead and 74 more severely damaged. I have no idea how many just got sick and recovered. Wow, the ChiComs sure made those parents happy.

    Well, actually I was not in a rush yesterday. I have read the passage numerous times. I picked up the dripping sarcasm in the first paragraph. I just did not pick up on, in the next paragraph, “Ok, honestly? I don’t know.” That statement seemed coupled with “Things just tend to work in China.” I did not see it as a sequitur. Sorry, must be some kind of block. Or cross-cultural joke issues… Or verbosity… Oh well, I rarely get forgiven, so the whole thing is a plus. :D

    I agree that “Things just tend to work in China”. Sometimes for the good, sometimes not. Yes, autocratic, authoritarian governments can take shortcuts that democratic governments are loathe to take (except for King Shrub and Darth Cheney). You know; that “checks and balances” thing. Like marshalling forces to respond to an earthquake. That was the right thing to do. The Shanghai maglev train from the airport is a great idea. High speed rail, too! Trains running on time is great, too, provided somebody is not playing around with the stats!

    But there is the flip side. Like the MIT study a few years ago which showed that after installing 85 state-of-the-art coal-fired electrical generation plants, pollution from each one of those plants was still horrible. MIT scientists found that each of the plants turned off their state-of-the-art scrubbers and used the cheapest, dirtiest coal. Why? To maximize profits. Scrubbers take energy to run. High-quality coal is expensive.

    Also, the ChiComs are incarcerating immigrants from the rural areas in walled communities at night in villages surrounding Beijing. An inconvenient population hidden from sight and handled efficiently! How convenient. NYC, uses the South Bronx as a trap for the riff-raff, drug-addicted and poor people. The police do not tolerate them in other neighborhoods. If they get out of line, off to Rikers Island, which is actually like a vacation compared to the S. Bronx! NYC paints murals on walls surrounding the freeway which passes through the S. Bronx to make it look so homey and inviting. NYC is literally trying to paint over and cover up the S Bronx.

    Now, I sent a cynical and sarcastic “It Just Works (IJW) in China” email to several friends. Fortunately, I have chosen not to bore you with my crass humor from that email.

    So, Jxie, like life, it is a mixed bag out there, including China. I have yet to find Nirvana, Shambhala or Valhalla!

    “The Dust Bowl was not irreversible. The conditions in Japan that produced Minamata disease were not irreversible. Actually before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, they had the same concern of air quality. It’s a phase thing.”

    Maybe, maybe not!

    The level of environmental destruction and the extent and breadth of the destruction in such a short period of time is mind-numbing. China has seriously damaged every ecosystem they have. Plus China is a large geographic area with just under ¼ of the world’s population.

    That brings me to WWF and the Global Footprint Foundation. China’s overuse of its biocapacity, the biological services which the ecosystems provide, has accelerated over the past few years; the annual overshoot now is around 50%. The overuse of biocapacity in the US, Canada and the EU has decelerated over the past few years. All of this is consistent with the growth of the Chinese middle class which is consuming more.

    Currently, on a global basis, we need 1.45 earths to handle the overuse of the earth’s biocapacity. Unfortunately, we only have one earth. So what we are doing is destroying the natural capital of the earth’s ecosystems. It will cost us a fortune to replace/repairing the damage to those ecosystems. In China alone, the deferred cost of replacing/reparing that damage is probably already in the tens of trillions of dollars (US). Ten trillion dollars is 10 with 12 zeros following: $10,000,000,000,000.

    The worst news is that, 49 years ago, in 1961, the earth had a 50% surplus in biocapacity. We now have a deficit of 45%. This is not a good trend.

  46. Rhan Says:

    “Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to choose their leaders.”

    Eh, that is all? No wonder the Chinese don’t buy the “democracy” prescript here by some of the so-called liberal horde.

    After every four or five years when the party is over, life goes back to normal whereby the people continue to criticize / blast / rabble rousing in the so call liberal papers such as NYT, believing that someone listen to them?

    I personally think that how efficient and effective a government handles a disaster does indicate the scale of whether a government respect the wish of it people and act on it, this is another form of “democracy” in work, and hence I think CWL wrote a good article. I understand where the critics come from and I have no doubt their mindset is as narrow as the one they criticized all this while, not knowing that the other side have evolve significantly.

    The people will find out more from a disaster than a party election.

  47. pug_ster Says:

    Another funny thing I found about democracy is that some government person can overthrow it. If you guys recall California’s Proposition 8, the people in California voted against gay marriage. Recently some judge overthrew this proposition and another judge overrules this other judge. I’m not against gay marriage, in fact I am for it. But it is troubling that one person can overrule what the majority have voted for and that is not democracy.

  48. Jerry Says:

    @ Pugster in #4,

    Another funny thing I found about democracy is that some government person can overthrow it. If you guys recall California’s Proposition 8, the people in California voted against gay marriage. Recently some judge overthrew this proposition and another judge overrules this other judge. I’m not against gay marriage, in fact I am for it. But it is troubling that one person can overrule what the majority have voted for and that is not democracy.

    Actually, Pugster, that is the beauty of American democracy. If, in the opinion of the federal judge, the law violates the constitution of the US, a judge can rule that the law is unconstitutional.

    Here is what happened in this case. California voters passed a ballot initiative, Proposition 8, in 2008, which amended the constitution. It added a section banning gay marriage. The vote was ~52 % for and ~48% against. The new constitutional provision became law the day after the election was certified, IIRC. Several groups filed lawsuits challenging Prop 8. The California State Supreme Court upheld the voter initiative.

    A suit was filed in Federal Court which challenged the constitutionality of the Prop 8 amendment to California’s Constitution.

    Judge Vaughan Walker, a Federal Judge in California, heard the case. This week he ruled that the Prop 8 section of the California Constitution violated the US Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection under the law and due process.

    This hardly stops here. Walker will hold a hearing next week to determine if he will stay his ruling while his ruling is under appeal by proponents of Prop 8. This will be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The appeal will be heard by a panel of judges.

    After the Appeals Court makes their final determination, this will probably head to the US Supreme Court, SCOTUS, where it will be heard by all nine justices, if they decide to hear the case.

    BTW, the Ninth Circuit Court will also hear the Arizona immigration law case.

    Pugster, you said, “But it is troubling that one person can overrule what the majority have voted for and that is not democracy.”

    First of all, one person cannot overrule the majority. The majority who voted for Prop 8 can appeal it to Federal Appeals Court, where a 3 judge panel hears the appeal. Occasionally, the 9th circuit court empanels 11 circuit judges. Rarely does it empanel all 28 judges. The 11 or 28 judge panels can overrule a ruling by a 3 judge panel. At the Supreme Court, all 9 justices hear the appeal case after final determination by the Circuit Court. The Supreme Court makes the final determination on a case, if it goes to SCOTUS. Lots of judges are involved.

    Secondly, if the US allowed the majority to rule and there was no recourse to overthrow a law, you would have a tyranny of the majority. We would probably still have slaves in the South, “Jim Crow” laws, and other odious laws! A community that did not like Chinese-Americans could disenfranchise them with a simple majority. Or prevent Chinese-Americans from owning property or whatever. And Arizona could be absolutely ruthless to immigrants and Hispanic-Americans.

    And that is why we have a constitution, due process, equal protection and a legal system to protect everyone’s rights. Checks and balances are good.

  49. scl Says:

    #48 Jerry: your argument implies that democracy and expert-rule go hand to hand. Democracy without expert-rule only brings chaos and mob-rule. The Western media supports “democracy” in China but labels expert-rule as dictatorship. This makes me suspicious of their motivation.

    I personally do not believe U.S. media and government that much, after witnessing the fiasco of news-reporting on Iraqi WMD. I suspect a lot of things in China are exaggerated by the U.S. media, just like how they hyped the Iraqi WMD.

  50. Josef Says:

    Rhan, that is good: “The people will find out more from a disaster than a party election.”
    So, what exactly could the Chinese people find out after the great leap or the cultural revolution? Wasn’t it the same system in China then? Probably you see by this the obvious advantage of
    “Democracy gives people the basic, universal right to choose their leaders.”?
    However, it is still good to know how different systems can solve problems and it seems that all-in-all China did a good job on repairing, after this disaster

    Scl, expert-rule can lead to disastrous results too, and as it cannot be removed, it is labeled dictatorship.

    Jerry, I was curious about this procedure on Prop8. Certainly all votes and the outcomes had to be aligned with existing rules and laws, which might have higher priorities. But why was that not clarified before the vote?

  51. Wukailong Says:

    It seems these discussions have mostly ended up in the “US democracy good, China bad” and vice versa. Personally I’m most interested in the way it works on the ground, and my opinions about China are naturally based on life here, not so much on foreign media.

    @Jxie (#41): “I don’t know how anybody who has intimate knowledge of China can argue against “things just tend to work in China.” ”

    When I first read the claim that things just work in China, I thought of all the times things break and have to be fixed. Then I realized you might be discussing things on a different level: the general handling of emergencies as well as reliability of infrastructure. The two cases in point are the handling of the earthquake and trains being on time. I don’t have anything to disagree with there, but…

    * The handling of the SARS outbreak?
    * National flights, it just works? No, they are often late or changed.
    * General level of infrastructure is still an issue.

    When you live somewhere for a long time you will begin to notice problems here and there. I just haven’t noticed that China would be so much more impressive in this regard than any other country, and I do think I have quite “intimate knowledge” of the country.

  52. jxie Says:

    @Jerry, #45,

    If you want, you can write a blog entry about the environment & we can take the discussion to there. For now, let’s focus on the main topics,

    [A]utocratic, authoritarian governments can take shortcuts that democratic governments are loathe to take (except for King Shrub and Darth Cheney). You know; that “checks and balances” thing.

    Historically, there were “checks and balances” built in the traditional Chinese system — between the power of emperor and the power of prime minster, between the various divisions/branches of the government, and further checked by a group of relatively low-ranking career bureaucrats who did nothing but audited, monitored & critiqued the others including the emperor. “Check and balances” makes sense, East or West. It’s not about “checks and balances” in some democratic systems that are making the system slow to a crawl, but rather it’s about the political bickering and the governmental lethargy. Bill Gates once said, “When you meet Chinese politicians, they are all scientists and engineers. You can have a numeric discussion with them—you are never discussing ‘give me a one-liner to embarrass [my political rivals] with.’”

    A Western commentator, whose name escapes me, once said in the 90s that despite China’s rapid growth, he wondered what would happen after Deng died, or what would happen to Singapore after Lee Kuan-Yew died. The implicit message was that without a democratic framework for power transition, good time would last only as long as the enlightened “dictator”. Yet from Deng to Jiang, from Jiang to Hu, power seemingly was transitioned rather peacefully and uneventfully from one generation to the next, and the good time continues rolling. You have this “checks and balances” among different fractions within the CCP, so to speak, to prevent the emergence of a tyrant. Yet on the other hand, they by and large unify in working toward a common goal.

    Also, the ChiComs are incarcerating immigrants from the rural areas in walled communities at night in villages surrounding Beijing. An inconvenient population hidden from sight and handled efficiently!

    There are A LOT to the story. First, it’s hardly incarceration. The villages are sealed off between 11 pm to 6 am, no passage in or out without a pre-approved permit is allowed. The permit is free to apply — essentially there will be a record of entry or departure at night time.

    The story was first broke out in China in April. The first villages that implemented the policy got a lot of media attention — but somewhat less in Internet debate. It was even covered in the English newspaper in China, for instance: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2010-04/29/content_9789183.htm. A local National People’s Congressman even questioned the legality of such move, but quickly that question was answered by the revelation that the local villages voted for such policy.

    Then in late July the story was picked up by some Western media outlets. The reporting general lacked the texture of what was reported early in China, and it has taken a quite drastic turn in its the overall tone of reporting. The final part of the saga is that some oversea Chinese media such as the one sponsored by a well-known spiritual movement, picked it up from the Western media.

  53. jxie Says:

    @WKL, #51,

    Understand the theory of that “grass is greener the other side”. FWIW, I maintain a resident in China though I don’t live there full-time. Wasn’t around when the SARS hit so I can’t comment on that. However, the impression from a distance seemed to be that once the bureaucrats learned the lesson, they were on top of their game and it didn’t become a much bigger disaster.

    Airline is a miserable business. Unless you don’t need to worry about the bottom line, so that you can have a lot of extra airplanes, and don’t need to worry about the terminal rental cost, your system is always so delicate that bad weather in one region can wreck the whole thing. Flight delay to me is a norm, everywhere.

    Often only a few months away from China, I could see the improvements in local infrastructure, and can’t help but marvel at the pace of change. (I drive in China, BTW.) Only when I leave China, I have to face the snail pace of road upgrade, bridge building, subway expansion, etc., and wish whoever manage those in China to manage the projects there. Granted in China, no matter how fast you build them, they will just fill them up even quicker. When Beijing builds its 10th ring road, the whole city will eventually turn into a parking lot…

  54. Rhan Says:

    Jerry,
    I think the most unique “check and balance” system that had happened in China is a government position with the name “御史”, though their influence and authority may not be huge but I do think Chinese is well aware of the importance of check and balance, from a long long time ago.

    Josef,
    “Wasn’t it the same system in China then?”
    No, it is not the same. The “Emperor” is now replaced by a number of “Emperors” that power are derived from the members, which are with approval from the people.

    The ultimate objective of “Democratic” is to pronounce that people is the master while government is the servant right? And I believe CCP never deny this basic understanding while facing the people.

  55. mick Says:

    Your source for the information on the Australian bushfire disaster is the wsws.org, a website run by a Leninist-Socialist fringe group. I think they might be a bit biased and have an anti-government agenda.

  56. Jerry Says:

    @Foobar in #44,

    Based on your judgement and the amount of skepticism you’ve shown toward the Malcolm Moore story, your claim doesn’t look that solid.

    Well, the word is actually “judgment”! Foobar, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I just disagree heartily! End of story!

    If there’s good reasons for you to be embarrassed, I guess you should be.

    Obviously you did not get the sarcasm! Oh, well!

    Not to speak for others, what’s with my particular comment that made you go biblical? In this thread about disaster relief vs democracy, I argue that it may not be that democracy made the Australian and US relief performance worse, but rather China did what it did following a long line of historical tradition. Yu’s story true or not, the Chinese society value and demand the leading role of the government in disaster relief/prevention. Accordingly, the government put enormous emphasis in quick and effective response in the event of disasters. Disaster relief command HQ starts from the very top of the govt, as compared to the case of the US, for example. Wen’s performance in both the 1998 flood and the 2008 quake is generally regarded as excellent by the Chinese people. These are facts you are welcome to dispute. It has nothing to do with Wen’s ability to walk on water.

    When I see someone lionizing someone and worshipping him as a living legend, somehow my sarcasm, irreverence and irreligiosity just cranks up. So I decided to have some fun. Beats crying! :P

    Some of my Jewish brethren, especially the right wing nutjobs, like to drag out King David and Moses to justify their righteousness in mistreating Palestinians and their fellow Jews, I decided to irreverently debunk some of their nonsense. Then with your obsequious, sycophantic words about Wen, I just could not resist the “walk on water” remark.

    “These are facts you are welcome to dispute.” Facts? More like opinions, IMHO! :D

    Have fun vacationing in Hawaii!

    #####

    SCL in #49,

    Jerry: your argument implies that democracy and expert-rule go hand to hand. Democracy without expert-rule only brings chaos and mob-rule.

    I think you missed a few things here. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, law and the rule of law ensured by institutions. Freedom of speech. Checks and balances. Free elections. Accountability. Three branches of Federal Government. An independent judiciary. An independent media. An uncensored internet. To name just a few points.

    Furthermore, democracy is always a “work in progress”. Lately, in the last 10 to 15 years, there is a growing trend towards participatory democracy. This has been greatly aided by the PC, cell phones, the internet, Microsoft, Twitter, WikiLeaks, Wikipedia, Facebook and Google. Even the last election was so much different than previous elections. It is a transition, so I am sure the ride will be bumpy.

    #####

    Hi Josef (#50),

    Jerry, I was curious about this procedure on Prop8. Certainly all votes and the outcomes had to be aligned with existing rules and laws, which might have higher priorities. But why was that not clarified before the vote?

    It is legal for voters in California to change their own constitution by a majority vote. The election was legal.

    The issue is that a federal judge ruled that the new section of the California Constitution violates the US Constitution’s provisions for due process and equal protection under the law. Hence, the federal judge can overrule the new section enacted by Prop 8. Supporters of Prop 8 can appeal this all the way to the US Supreme Court.

    Yes, Federal law supercedes state law on this issue.

    #####

    Hi Jxie (#52),

    So you don’t want to talk about China being a major player in creating what may possibly be the disaster to end all disasters, and human life with it? OK. I will still write about it when and how I see fit! You just don’t have to participate. It is a free world, at least in the US, Canada and the EU! :P

    Historically, there were “checks and balances” built in the traditional Chinese system — between the power of emperor and the power of prime minster, between the various divisions/branches of the government, and further checked by a group of relatively low-ranking career bureaucrats who did nothing but audited, monitored & critiqued the others including the emperor. “Check and balances” makes sense, East or West.

    I was not aware that there were checks and balances in ChiCom governance. I still am unconvinced. And I have no idea how the subject of “checks and balances” has anything to do with having a “numeric discussion” with Chinese politicians.

    It’s not about “checks and balances” in some democratic systems that are making the system slow to a crawl, but rather it’s about the political bickering and the governmental lethargy.

    That tends to happen during financial downturns. It has happened before.

    “The reporting general lacked the texture of what was reported early in China, and it has taken a quite drastic turn in its the overall tone of reporting.” Hmmm… I am not surprised. The Chinese reporting has to undergo government scrutiny and censorship.

    A local National People’s Congressman even questioned the legality of such move, but quickly that question was answered by the revelation that the local villages voted for such policy.

    That seems to speak to the needs for an independent judiciary, a constitution that is more than just nominal and the rule of law. Sounds to me like tyranny of the majority.

    #####

    Hi Rhan (#54)

    How many branches of government are there in the ChiCom’s CCP? What government institutions have been set up to ensure checks and balances? To ensure the rule of law? An independent judiciary?

    “The ultimate objective of “Democratic” is to pronounce that people is the master while government is the servant right? And I believe CCP never deny this basic understanding while facing the people.”

    I find that hard to believe, probably impossible to believe (and I am being nice and restrained here). Talk is cheap, Rhan! Results are king! It would be nice if the ChiComs honestly walked their talk!

  57. Jason Says:

    I’ll go with paralimentary system than checks and balances.

  58. Rhan Says:

    Jerry,

    Thanks for being nice and restrained, and I agree talk is cheap. After all this year, I tend to believe China and CCP is becoming more open and freer, in particular with regards to their media and people’s life, it is relatively better / improve than many democratic country. The road ahead is a tough one, as more and more people begin to grasp and grow to be more assertive toward their rights, and CCP have no choice but will change in order to adapt.

    Via website like http://www.chinaelections.org and many forums, I notice China and Chinese still debate intensely what is the better model moving forward. I sincerely believe this is truly a “let a hundred flowers blossom (百花齐放,百家争鸣)” scenario, and this is why I “talk” and “talk” in an optimistic manner.

    Most SEA Chinese share similar language and culture with China Chinese, and that is why we be more incline to see things from their perspective at this point of time, however, nothing is static. My concern is, being a citizen from a smaller country that is from the same continent, would China turn to an arrogance superpower in the end or become a break-up basket case that have non-stop civil war? My phobia i guess.

    Just curious, is the above mention website block in China?

  59. Wukailong Says:

    @Jxie (#53): I agree with most things you said there. Infrastructure has indeed been developing very fast; for example, in Beijing, where I live, the subway have changed enormously since 2007 and it will get three new lines this year. The airport train works great, and the new airport terminal itself is really impressive. Even making the city greener, which has been a problem in the past, have gotten underway nicely.

    But is this due only to the way China is governed, or because it’s easier to make changes on this level? I’m willing to consider this as a sort of intellectual experiment: if it can be shown that a city like Singapore, which is more or less authoritarian, builds everything faster than developed democratic countries, then that’s a case against democracy.

    @Others: Ah, the good old debate about democracy and tyranny of the majority. I don’t think this is solved merely by pointing out the way the US works… Rather, it’s an age-old question. The US is an interesting and somewhat odd example of a few guiding principles (the constitution) which are above the will of the people. So that is a check against tyranny of the majority, but if we by democracy mean “rule of the people” no matter what, then it’s a limitation to democracy. Not that democracy isn’t already limited (it is), but the question is if this is a valid limit or not. Various countries have different ways to deal with this.

    In the long run, though, I think most people value civil rights and the rule of law the highest. It isn’t just about electing leaders, but rather what protection you have against arbitrary detention, what freedoms you have and how much power society gives you to lead your own life. For the sake of these discussions, I think we should focus less on elections and more on the “rule of law” part.

  60. Wukailong Says:

    @Rhan: The site http://www.chinaelections.org is visible in China. I believe this is actually a government-run site so it wouldn’t be blocked under any circumstances.

    Btw, have you heard about Yu Keping (俞可平)?

  61. Rhan Says:

    WKL,

    俞可平? 民主是个好东西, and Liu Yazhou (刘亚洲)?

    Government run site? Oh….they “talk” about election.

  62. wuming Says:

    Let me point out another framework that these questions can be thought of — the dissipation of power.

    This is the case when the power and wealth of a nation is no longer aligned with the long term interest of the nation. The nation therefore can not make significant adjustment of the status quo. A nation, or any system for that matter, that can not adapt looses its vitality.

    This is clearly happing in America like it happened in many Chinese dynasties in decline. The paralysis has very little to do with ideological nature of the government. In China now, this dissipation process has started but far from being able to paralyze her. Therefore China of today is one of the most adaptive nation in th history of the world, and therefore one of the most vital.

  63. jxie Says:

    @Jerry, #56, trust me I have plenty to say about environment & pollution, my point is is the topic itself is quite OT here.

    A couple points:

    * Bill Gates’ quote show that American politicians whom he had met only seemed to be interested in political bickering.

    * How exactly you got from the earlier, more detailed reporting with wider array of opinions by the Chinese media, to “government scrutiny and censorship”? (Have you checked out the China Daily link?)

  64. jxie Says:

    @WKL,

    Addressing your point as to China’s rapid development is because of its current level of development, is rather easy. Just look around at other democratic developing nations, Thailand (increasingly less democratic though), Philippines, Indonesia, and India — none of them develop infrastructure nearly as fast as China.

    But authoritarian vs democracy is far too broad a topic. Sure authoritarian Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile had developed nicely, but authoritarian Argentina and Brazil in the same era hadn’t. In Asia in the 50s to 80s, one can easily argue the rapid growth of then authoritarian South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong & Singapore, was driven by the rapid growth of democratic Japan.

    Instead of putting the development and growth of China in this authoritarian vs democracy frame, I think we ought to see China as the distinctive self. For instance, it has more commonalities with Japan than its “authoritarian” brethren say Franco’s Spain. Just like if port the political system from Sweden to Philippines, they may do poorly, if you port China’s system to another nation, it may also do poorly. Maybe each needs to find his own path.

  65. TriStar Says:

    Those who vote with a full stomach under a warm cloth and inside a safe building think DEMOCRACY is EVERYTHING. Basic neccessity of life in order of important are: air, water and food. Give those poor developing countrie’s citizens 2 choices: a ful meal or a vote (vote for what is more important: food or vote), I have no doubt the majority will choose the formal.
    United States are able to jump-start with a democratic system because she started with a low population on a stolen land with plenty of natural resources and rich soil.
    I believe the US badly handling the Katrina disaster and universal health care have nothing to do with democracy but that of race. Think of all the majority of poor American are black and majority New Orlean resident are also black.

  66. Raj Says:

    TriStar (65)

    Those who vote with a full stomach under a warm cloth and inside a safe building think DEMOCRACY is EVERYTHING.

    WRONG! Most people who vote with a full stomach, etc take democracy for granted.

    Give those poor developing countrie’s citizens 2 choices: a ful meal or a vote

    Only God could give people that choice. What you’re really suggesting is that some leader or politician will say “vote for me and I promise you a land of milk and honey – but you have to trust that I won’t fail to deliver and that I won’t change the law/arrest all my opponents so I will be leader for life”.

    But even if people could be sure they will get the next meal for free under Strongman X, what about the meal after that? And the meal after that one? No one can guarantee food, shelter and jobs for life. They can only try to trick desperate and naive people into thinking they can guarantee them.

    The real choice is to offer someone an authoritarian/dictatorial leader who promises everything but with no way to remove them from power, and regular, multi-party, democratic elections with the hope of change when a new government is required. If poor people have been forced to endure the former, they will usually take the latter.

  67. ChineseInUK Says:

    Raj,

    If the poor in India & China have choices, which country do you think they’ll choose?

    India, where they could vote but had remained poor & illiterate & uneducated & die of early age for the past 60 years since its independence from Britain, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future?

    Or

    China, where hundreds of million had been lifted out of poverty, and likely to continue lifting the rest out of poverty in the foreseeable future?

    My money is on China.

    Indians have had the chance to remove their leaders for the past 63 years and have indeed exercise that rights but what have they got in return? You see, when it comes to having a better life, whether you can remove a leader or not is not important, if your current leaders are doing well for you!

    How many poor countries, those below the world’s average GDP per capita, run efficient democracy? Western style democracy is an oasis that was never there for poor & unstable countries. And Indians, Iraqis, Thais & Afghanistans are have paid for the prices of their countries’ political dramas.

    China should follow their suit? I don’t think so. We’ll worry about removing Chinese leaders AFTER they have stopped delivering their promises, not before :)

  68. Raj Says:

    ChineseInUK

    Given that the Chinese poor don’t know what democracy is, having never experienced it, and that the Chinese media is heavily biased against democracy for China/aren’t allowed to fully promote it, how could they make an informed choice? Access to the internet (especially given the restrictons if you use it in China) doesn’t make you automatically fully informed on all topics, and the poor don’t have the time or money to research different political systems for an offer of reform they’re not going to be given anytime soon.

    However, if you offered poor Chinese the ability to directly elect their local leaders and regional chiefs/governers or keep the current system, I’d be surprised if a majority didn’t back a democratic experiment. Whilst changing how the national government is formed is something that would require a fully open debate (and take years for the reformists to be able to get their side of the story across), I do not think that a majority of poor Chinese live in the misguided belief that the only reason life is getting better is because local politicians are geniuses. Quite the reverse, I think they’re seen as venal, corrupt, lazy sods who only look out for themselves, so allowing democratic competition wouldn’t be something they’d automatically dismiss.

    As for India, what was China like in the 1960s, 1970s or even the 1980s? Not nearly as great as it is now. Why? Because the Chinese government had followed crippling economic policies that acted as a break on China’s development. India had similar policies after China started reforming itself economically. India’s growth in recent years is not down to a growth in authoritarianism or restrictions on democracy – it’s because economic policy has changed. And whilst life is hard for so many there, it’s still a fast-growing country with a lot of potential.

    If you really understood politics you would know that democracy is not a single system, identical everywhere. There is no reason why China cannot have multi-party elections but avoid the bad things about India that restrict its potential.

    In reference to the poorest countries of the world, it’s no surprise that so many of them are poor given they have rubbish, dictatorial leaders. Ghana is not a rich country by any standards, but it is democratic and doing a lot better than many of its less free neighbours. Generally the most democratic African states are also, relatively speaking, the best off on the continent.

    Thailand – do you even know what’s going on there? Their problem isn’t too much democracy, it’s not enough democracy. The upper and middle classes were annoyed that after more democracy was brought in the peasants could vote for people who gave a damn about them. The palace courtiers and generals disliked their declining power. Thailand didn’t suffer overall, if anything it became better. But the elites became angry. So they held coups, dissolved Opposition political parties and generally tried to roll-back democracy. That is why there has been so much trouble in Thailand. If the elites just stopped trying to have everything their own way and respected democracy, Thailand would be in a much better state.

    Afghanistan is a deeply troubled country that arguably is still fighting a civil war that started long before the “democratic” government was set up and subsequently voted in. If a bunch of Taoist or Confucian religious nutters rebelled against Beijing and won the support of tens of millions of Chinese (maybe hundreds of millions), I doubt China’s political system would help much more than a democratically-elected government. If anything the CCP’s political dominance might work against it as the rebels could say they were an actual alternative. A democratic government could say “we were elected – if people want us out, we can have an early election as a means of securing peace”.

    Afghani reconciliation isn’t going to happen with some strongman kicking the crap out of anyone he doesn’t like. Elections give people the chance to resolve differences peacefully rather than with a kalashnikov. One reason (amongst many) that there is trouble in Afghanistan is that many Afghanis believe Karzai stole the election. Again, that would mean there’s not enough democracy in Afghanistan, rather than too much.

    As for Iraq, once it was invaded by the (former) Coalition a new government had to be created. Again, with different groups with a lot of suspicion of each other democracy was the only way forward. If there was no democracy we’d be back to where we were only a few years ago with each group almost trying to commit genocide to get rid of the other.

  69. ChineseInUK Says:

    Raj

    “Given that the Chinese poor don’t know what democracy is, having never experienced it, and that the Chinese media is heavily biased against/ democracy for China/aren’t allowed to promote it, how could they make an informed choice?”

    The whole thing is hypothetical so let’s assume the Chinese poor DO know what Indian democracy is; do you think they would choose India over China?

    “However, if you offered poor Chinese the ability to directly elect their local leaders and regional chiefs/governers or keep the current system, I’d be surprised if a majority didn’t back a democratic experiment.”

    Unfortunately that’s not the choice exists in this world at the moment. Which large populated poor country has a political system where the poor can directly elect their national leaders and at the same time get lifted in large numbers out of poverty? Being able to be lifted out of poverty at the same time being able to elect their leaders directly is an oasis that doesn’t exist in this world.

    The real choices is between staying poor and elect their leaders, like the Indians, or get lifted out of poverty but can’t yet elect their leaders, like the Chinese.

    “As for India, what was China like in the 1960s, 1970s or even the 1980s? Not nearly as great as it is now.”

    We’re talking about today’s China, not China in 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. If China had fallen back into the chaos of that era, I’d be the first to rise and act against the government.

    “India had similar policies after China started reforming itself economically. India’s growth in recent years is not down to a growth in authoritarianism or restrictions on democracy – it’s because economic policy has changed. And whilst life is hard for so many there, it’s still a fast-growing country with a lot of potential.”

    Unfortunately for the poor in India, its economic growth didn’t lift them out of poverty nor improve their education etc. What a shame, for the Indians, and for Western democracy, which is supposed to be caring & responsive to its electorate’s needs!

    “There is no reason why China cannot have multi-party elections but avoid the bad things about India that restrict its potential.”

    Care to prove that? You need to point out at lease one poor & populated country that are electing its national leaders AND successfully avoiding the bad things about India that restrict its potential.

    If not, then do you mind if I make an opposite assertion that there is no reason why China cannot continue having single-party rule which had already avoid the bad things (illiteracy & poverty) about India that restrict its potential.

    If China’s current system is already avoiding the bad things about India that restrict its potential, why does China need to change to India’s system that is not working?

    “In reference to the poorest countries of the world, it’s no surprise that so many of them are poor given they have rubbish, dictatorial leaders. “

    Many of these poor countries directly elect their national leaders, unless you can point out one poor country that’s running Western democracy successful, doesn’t it in a way proves Western democracies in poor countries are only capable of producing dictatorial leaders or useless leaders! Or at lease Western democracy is not a cure to China’s, and all those poor countries’, problems?

    “If the elites just stopped trying to have everything their own way and respected democracy, Thailand would be in a much better state.”

    “If only” is a wonderful thing to have – another oasis that doesn’t exist in this world. If only the rich & powerful stopped lobbying the US, UK & India government & misleading the poor successfully, the poor in their countries would have a wonderful life. The reality is painfully different.

    “If a bunch of Taoist or Confucian religious nutters rebelled against Beijing and won the support of tens of millions of Chinese (maybe hundreds of millions), I doubt China’s political system would help much more than a democratically-elected government.”

    Guess what? The most important reason Chinese on the whole support its current political system is because China historically has suffered over the past 350 year of weak government, not being able to fight foreign forces & political rebels and protecting its people until CCP took power. Chinese learnt the hard way that when your government is weak, you suffer no matter how much freedom you have personally. That’s why they are willing to trade in a level of personal freedom for a strong government.

    Yes, you’re right, if hundreds of million Chinese had lost their trust in CCP & joined a rival movement, CCP would have no chance of survival. However the reality is CCP has the support of 86% Chinese, highest in the whole world, according to internationally commissioned surveys. Let’s reserve our worry about hundreds of million Chinese against CCP until it actually happens :)

    “Elections give people the chance to resolve differences peacefully rather than with a kalashnikov.”

    Another oasis. Where are the peaceful reconciliations? I’ll believe it when I see it. The Afghanistans are killing the shit out of each other at the moment!

    “As for Iraq, once it was invaded by the (former) Coalition a new government had to be created. Again, with different groups with a lot of suspicion of each other democracy was the only way forward.”

    We’re not talking about “Why” Iraq has Western democracy but if it has worked. If not, or even not yet, then the Chinese are not going to rush into copying it any time soon :)

  70. Rhan Says:

    The moment you have “enough democracy”, such as Thailand, the so-called dictator and useless leaders will get elected. Most people from the poor country live on lies and promise, and most of the time, only the thief and robber know how to tell the best lies and make the best promise, of course a bogus one.

  71. Wukailong Says:

    Let’s be fair to India, alright? ;)

    India began its economic reforms after several decades of protectionism and economic policies that stifled its growth and kept people living in poverty at around 90% (according to the international standard of $1.25 a day). 90% is a staggering number. That the country has been able to bring this down to the current number of around 21% is amazing, perhaps not as impressive as the Chinese example, but bear in mind that China has had their reforms for another decade and have also been growing faster. Statistics for 2004-2005 are here:

    http://planningcommission.nic.in/news/prmar07.pdf

    Then there’s this:

    http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/economic_studies/tracking_the_growth_of_indias_middle_class_2032

    When you think about it, has China had any extensive systems for redistribution of wealth in place? No. The reason it has worked out so well is because reforms began in the agricultural sector and the more extreme experiments started out in a number of small economic zones.

    I’m saying this not to make an argument in this debate between authoritarianism and democracy, but rather to make sure that we don’t make the same mistake with India that many did with China – predicting its collapse and not realizing its future importance. Back in the year 2000 China wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today on the international stage, and all sorts of doom and gloom prophecies were made on its current conditions. India started out later in China, and I’m sure, when its markets are huge, that people will stop thinking of it as the poor man of Asia.

  72. Wukailong Says:

    The beginning of the last sentence should of course read “India started out later than China.”

  73. Wukailong Says:

    As for the debate on democracy and authoritarianism, I would like to quote what Jxie said above (#64):

    “Instead of putting the development and growth of China in this authoritarian vs democracy frame, I think we ought to see China as the distinctive self. For instance, it has more commonalities with Japan than its “authoritarian” brethren say Franco’s Spain. Just like if port the political system from Sweden to Philippines, they may do poorly, if you port China’s system to another nation, it may also do poorly. Maybe each needs to find his own path.”

  74. Nimrod Says:

    Let’s put aside for a moment the specific case studies and consider the philosophical underpinnings of government. I came across an interesting piece of writing on a fellow’s blog, which you can read here and here (warning, it’s long). None of what he says is entirely new, but his specific formulation is interesting.

    The main thrust is about the source of legitimacy of government. Whereas in Western tradition it is believed that legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed, “Chinese intellectuals (such as Shaoguang Wang, Professor of Political Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong) point to a theoretical frame work, proposed by the famous 20th Century American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, which defines legitimate government:

    A government is legitimate if and only if no better feasible policy exists.

    I find this statement to be an extremely beautiful and powerful generalization of “consent of the governed.” As you may recall, democracy is often described as the worst system except all the others, which is a statement about performance. Why do people like democracy, indeed, why do people give consent at all? Is it not on utilitarian grounds of promised or hoped-for performance, despite the ideological clothing of the sanctity of consent? It is, after all, a social “contract.” So we immediately see that it is the search for an optimal public policy that we are after, not necessarily the individualized or partisan “pre”-consent derived from non-scientific, sometimes irrational, and definitely ideological sources! The article argues that the proper way to take public opinion into account is as optimization constraints to produce the best feasible policies that would continue to maintain ex post facto support. A government’s goal is to aim for the feasible policies closest to the ideal policies obtainable without political constraints. In general, they’d be able to get closer to ideal in an environment not tainted by ideology or shackled by particular forms of pre-consent: it’s more convincing to let results speak than engage in sophistry beforehand.

    So we can stop arguing about special Asian values, or whether Confucianism is suited for China because of its imperial tradition, or the universality of certain basic rights, etc. We can bridge all of that and talk in a framework that is truly universal (as given above) from which all the local variations show up as special cases due to different optimization objectives, constraints, ideologies, trade-offs, that each society can debate about. But the nature of what constitutes legitimacy can be laid to rest.

    Specifically, he goes on to write:

    Improving living standards are the results the Chinese people are looking for, the results by which they primarily judge the legitimacy of their government. Chinese technocrats translate this into a basket of numerical indices which include, for example, a growth index, a green index, a poverty index (“Glasshouse Forum – China Model”). The goal of policy makers then becomes the optimization of this basket. Behind the calculation and optimization of policy are vast numbers of academics, economists and statisticians (eg “IFTE CASS”). Chinese technocrats regularly experiment with new policy ideas at the provincial level, and if successful introduce them nationwide.

    In 400BC Plato talked about the concept of non ideological government, so it is hardly a new idea, but the breakthrough is in the scientific framework Chinese economists have built to embody the principle. Plato’s Republic lacks both any constraint on government power, and any objective definition of optimal policy which can be subjected to empirical validation. The former is achieved by the Lispettian power boundary, and the the latter by modern scientific methods. Both of these key enablers were missing in the past, making modern Chinese government the first proper attempt at ‘enlightened authoritarianism’ / ‘scientific government’ / ‘ideology free government’. Note, without the Lipset power boundary, it is in theory still possible to construct a government which can be scientifically proven to run optimal policy, but the general public, which lacks the expertise to have confidence in that proof, might rebel.

    The Lipset power boundary refers to convincing the public that the best feasible policy has been obtained and therefore retaining their support. Now “non-ideological” to many people sounds like inhumane or amoral, which is exactly a charge frequently leveled against China. I think the performance of the Chinese state is still lacking, so some complaints are conflating this fact with the theoretical question. For example, I’m not so sure non-ideological and amoral governance is bad, as long as the procedure incorporates public opinion as constraints in some fashion. Whether it has to go all the way to devolved individualism to guarantee the last check against inhumanity, as goes the thinking in the Western tradition, can be debated, but we at least have numerous historical examples that show individualism expressed through pre-consent did not change this equation. And finally,

    What about the famous phrase from the United States Declaration of Independence that says “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the three “unalienable rights” of man. How is Lipset’s utilitarian concept compatible with this claim? The answer has to be that these three rights can not be simultaneously attained and the Declaration of Independence is irrational. Society is the process of limiting individual freedom in order, as Francis Hutcheson explained, to bring “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

    This is at once a shocking and obvious statement derived from scarcity economics. It resets the normative narrative back to an age before the US founding, a moment at which it was somehow thought that there could be a free lunch. It was probably a delusion generated by the relative large spaces each person had to himself in the New World, which allowed a heightened degree of approximation to the state of nature.

  75. ChineseInUK Says:

    Wukailong #71-73

    “Let’s be fair to India”

    We’re not really talking about India here. India is only used as an example as what China could be if Western style democracy has been implemented. Facts speak louder than dreams :)

    “India began its economic reforms after several decades of protectionism and economic policies that stifled its growth and kept people living in poverty at around 90% (according to the international standard of $1.25 a day). 90% is a staggering number.”

    Which begs the exact question the author & I was asking: “Does democracy really work better than authoritarian government?” Why did directly elected Indian government failed to remove the protectionism & stifling economic policies that kept 90% of its population living in absolute poverty? Where were the care & responsiveness in Indian over its first 40 years of independence that “Democracy Fighters” are so sure of naturally exists in directly elected governments? 40 years is a very long time for any caring & responsive government to learn & change!

    For those same “Democracy Fighters” who blame Communism for China’s set backs before 1980s, directly elected government of India didn’t do better either. Direct election is not necessarily a cure for most of China’s problems, nor can it necessarily prevent the mistakes Chinese government made, and India is a good example as almost all China’s problems existed for a long time or still exist within a directly elected India government.

    And you’re so right, 90% poverty is also so staggering that it proves Western style democracy in poor undereducated countries, where the vast majority poor consistently voted in governments that did very little for them and the government is either uncaring or incompetent or both – complete the opposite of what “Democracy Fighters” claim, are often nothing but a joke.

    “China has had their reforms for another decade and have also been growing faster.”

    So it takes an authoritarian government to show a directly elected government how to reform, prosper and better serve its majority poor :)

    No wonder most Chinese are so keen to keep their existing governance – they’ve seen the alternative! Someone has to prove changing to a directly elected government will substantially IMPROVE China’s future, not lagging behind as India has so far proven to be the case, what its current government is likely to deliver, before they expect Chinese to sit up & listen to them :)

    “The reason it has worked out so well is because reforms began in the agricultural sector and the more extreme experiments started out in a number of small economic zones.”

    So the authoritarian Chinese government worked out a better solution for its people than a directly elected government? What a surprise :)

    I wish Indians the best of luck in their endeavour but us Chinese are in no rush to copy its election system any time soon, certainly not before it catches up & bypass China in poverty alleviation, raising education standards, reducing infant mortality rate & increasing life expectancies :)

    “I’m saying this not to make an argument in this debate between authoritarianism and democracy”

    You’re not, but others are. And my comments are aimed at those who are :)

    “As for the debate on democracy and authoritarianism, I would like to quote what Jxie said above (#64):
    “Instead of putting the development and growth of China in this authoritarian vs democracy frame, I think we ought to see China as the distinctive self. For instance, it has more commonalities with Japan than its “authoritarian” brethren say Franco’s Spain. Just like if port the political system from Sweden to Philippines, they may do poorly, if you port China’s system to another nation, it may also do poorly. Maybe each needs to find his own path.””

    Totally agree. I have never, and know no one else, promoted Chinese system to other countries. But there are plenty “Democracy Fighters” trying to force Western democracy upon China.

    Nimrod #74:

    Great post. Who needs elections :)

  76. Raj Says:

    ChineseInUK (69)

    The whole thing is hypothetical so let’s assume the Chinese poor DO know what Indian democracy is; do you think they would choose India over China?

    They don’t have to choose between India and China. They can choose a different democratic system. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make but for some reason you’ve completely ignored or failed to grasp.

    Unfortunately that’s not the choice exists in this world at the moment. Which large populated poor country has a political system where the poor can directly elect their national leaders and at the same time get lifted in large numbers out of poverty? Being able to be lifted out of poverty at the same time being able to elect their leaders directly is an oasis that doesn’t exist in this world.

    First, this is a hypothetical situation as you said. Second, I said nothing about electing national leaders, I talked about electing regional leaders. Third, as I said elsewhere, probably the best African states are the most democratic. They have pulled people out of poverty. The fact that so many are still poor has less to do with democracy and more to do with Africa – the autocratic states are even worse off.

    The real choices is between staying poor and elect their leaders, like the Indians, or get lifted out of poverty but can’t yet elect their leaders, like the Chinese.

    Complete nonsense. Poverty in India is decreasing and has been for years.

    We’re talking about today’s China, not China in 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. If China had fallen back into the chaos of that era, I’d be the first to rise and act against the government.

    Again, you’re missing the point. India is not “behind” China in terms of helping the poor because of democracy, it’s behind because it was later in adopting the sort of economic policies that let China grow.

    Unfortunately for the poor in India, its economic growth didn’t lift them out of poverty

    Err, it has. You can read any number of research papers, articles, statistics, etc that show poverty India has fallen dramatically over the decades.

    Perhaps you could do with actually reading up on the subjects you like to pontificate about? Or are facts just for everyone on this blog except for you?

    Care to prove that?

    Sure, China can just continue with its current economic policies. It’s for you to prove that democracy automatically makes for bad economic policy.

    do you mind if I make an opposite assertion…….

    Yes, but can you explain why if China can have growth with or without democracy, one-party rule with the controls, restrictions and punishments on those who don’t like it better than letting people have more freedom.

    If China’s current system is already avoiding the bad things about India that restrict its potential, why does China need to change to India’s system that is not working?

    I never said that China had to adopt India’s system, it would help if you bothered to read what people say rather than just imagine it. I have said several times that China can have democracy without following India. And India’s system does work – which is one reason why it’s doing so much better than Pakistan, Bangladesh and a host of other Asian nations.

    Many of these poor countries directly elect their national leaders, unless you can point out one poor country that’s running Western democracy successful

    As I said, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa are fairly democratic and better off than so many of their neighbours. Or do you think that they’re not real countries and I’m inventing them?

    Or at lease Western democracy is not a cure to China’s, and all those poor countries’, problems?

    China’s problems are different from those of the poorest nations. They lack many things including good government, which democracy can give them. But they need more than that.

    “If only” is a wonderful thing to have – another oasis that doesn’t exist in this world. If only the rich & powerful stopped lobbying the US, UK & India government & misleading the poor successfully, the poor in their countries would have a wonderful life.

    The rich and powerful in the US, UK and India have not recently held a coup or closed down Opposition parties because they were unhappy. There is no reason why the Thai elites have to throw their toys out of the pram so destructively when they behave in other countries. Lobbying does not compare in any way to what has happened in Thailand, especially given that unions lobby too – and hold strikes, I might add, when they don’t get their way.

    Guess what? The most important reason Chinese on the whole support its current political system……..

    We’re talking hypothetically, remember? If you want to raise Afghanistan as a “reason” why democracy “doesn’t work”, we need to create the same situation in China for a comparison.

    Another oasis. Where are the peaceful reconciliations?

    How about that Afghanistan had an election without voters killing each other at the polling booths because they realised someone had voted for the other guy? When a country is having a civil war, by definition people are going to kill each other. An election can’t stop that, it can only offer a way out of the killing. And as I said (and of course you ignored), part of Afghanistan’s problems is that Karzai is suspected of cheating at the election.

    We’re not talking about “Why” Iraq has Western democracy but if it has worked. If not, or even not yet, then the Chinese are not going to rush into copying it any time soon

    Given that Iraq and China have completely different circumstances, why on earth would China look to Iraq to decide whether or not to reform itself politically? Maybe it should look to the rich countries of the world like the USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan, even South Korea, which – oh wait a minute, this is interesting – are all democracies. Beacuse there are no rich authoritarian or dictatorial countries in the world. Whilst I’m not saying China has to become a democracy before it gets rich, the world is not exactly full of examples that it can emulate.

    (75)

    So the authoritarian Chinese government worked out a better solution for its people than a directly elected government?

    I don’t think that was Wukailong’s argument. After all the reason China took so long to get to where it is now is because of the CCP. They were the ones that had the crazy economic policies, the Cultural Revolution and all the other rubbish that held China back. A series of democratically-elected governments – after all, I doubt China would have had one party elected for 60 years – would not have necessarily had such bad policies and allowed the country to grow and develop earlier.

    Who knows, China might have ended up with a level of development not far off Japan if the CCP had fallen by the wayside.

  77. Nimrod Says:

    Raj wrote:

    Who knows, China might have ended up with a level of development not far off Japan if the CCP had fallen by the wayside.

    +++++
    That’s the wrong conclusion to draw. China would have been ok if you just removed the Mao factor after 1958, that is, if Liu Shaoqi/Deng Xiaoping had been able to prevail with the current policy path, China would have ended up with a greater level of development than Japan. Is there an argument against this? I don’t see one. Therefore, it’s non sequitur to conclude removing the CCP entirely and replacing it with the “good governance” of an hitherto undefined electoral alternative (perhaps like India’s?) was the thing to do. I’m not sure where that gets pulled out.

  78. ChineseInUK Says:

    Raj

    “They don’t have to choose between India and China. They can choose a different democratic system… I have said several times that China can have democracy without following India…”

    Care to elaborate what democratic system China can choose? A real one, not an imaginative one please :)

    “…probably the best African states are the most democratic… As I said, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa are fairly democratic and better off than so many of their neighbours … Maybe it should look to the rich countries of the world like the USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan, even South Korea, which – oh wait a minute, this is interesting – are all democracies”

    Ghana has only 20 odd million population living on world’s top gold productions; Botswana has a tiny population of less then 2 million where 40% of government revenue comes from diamond mines; and South African’s poor share less than China’s poor of its national wealth and post apartheid has seen its Human Development Index has consistently fallen year on year!

    Have you considered the possibility you have got it the wrong way around: democracy is the result not the cause, ie democracy is a rich men’s game?

    “India is not “behind” China in terms of helping the poor because of democracy, it’s behind because it was later in adopting the sort of economic policies that let China grow.”

    I see. The directly elected Indian government is slower compared with Chinese government in serving its people. How did that happen?

    “It’s for you to prove that democracy automatically makes for bad economic policy.”

    I never said such thing. I said democracy is not necessarily the solution for China’s problems.

    “The rich and powerful in the US, UK and India have not recently held a coup or closed down Opposition parties because they were unhappy.”

    They don’t need to. They can lobby the government & mislead the masses for what they want :)

    “How about that Afghanistan had an election without voters killing each other at the polling booths”

    I see, they had an election. Everything is alright then.

    “A series of democratically-elected governments – after all, I doubt China would have had one party elected for 60 years – would not have necessarily had such bad policies and allowed the country to grow and develop earlier.”

    See India for negative proof.

    “I’m not saying China has to become a democracy before it gets rich”

    Agreed :)

  79. UFO Says:

    Here’s an America scientist, and star professor in one of the greatest universities in the USA which the US mainstream media avoid because he doesn’t buy the warmongering democratic system of his country. He is however very popular in Europe.

    “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”  

    Here, he echoes American founding fathers’ raison d’être or the purpose of mass education – It is to make waged slaves of peasants for the power elites.

    ” Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.”

    Schools are inherently authoritarian. In socialist education autocracy is demonized while schools in democratic countries students are constantly preached propaganda about democracy. He wrote: “If [American] schools were, in reality, democratic, there would be no need to bombard students with platitudes about democracy. They would simply act and behave democratically, and we know this does not happen. The more there is a need to talk about the ideals of democracy, the less democratic the system usually is.”

    “The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it I’d be ashamed of myself. ” 

    The anti-immigrant law SB1070 will make life even more horrific and unbearable for millions of immigrants and millions more who look like they are from another country. This is a leap in the whole bigoted storm trooper culture that was unleashed under Bush and has been offered a place to stay in the Obama administration. This culture was strategically developed after 9/11 when the powers that be widely promoted that there was nothing too vile, sadistic or inhumane when it comes to “ America and American lives.” It began with the round-ups, preemptive war, Guantanamo Bay, indefinite detentions, and the ripping apart of families. 

    “The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.” 

    War mongering: “You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it.”

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    All of the above quotes are the words of the prolific Jewish author, MIT professor of linguistics, reputed to be the most quoted American intellectual ever. He grew up in the Jewish-Zionist cultural tradition” His father was one of the foremost scholars of the Hebrew language and taught at a religious school. Chomsky has also had a long fascination with and involvement in left-wing Zionist politics. As Chomsky described: “I was deeply interested in…Zionist affairs and activities — or what was then called ‘Zionist,’ though the same ideas and concerns are now called ‘anti-Zionist.

    ” We can, for example, be fairly confident that either there will be a world without war or there won’t be a world – at least, a world inhabited by creatures other than bacteria and beetles, with some scattering of others. ” Noam chomsky  
     

  80. Wukailong Says:

    @ChineseInUK (#75): I agree that “facts speak louder than words,” but that’s also why I don’t feel comfortable with the way India is described. Political system aside, it isn’t true that India is poorer than China because redistribution of wealth doesn’t work, it’s because economic reforms haven’t been going on as long as they have in China. Obviously, looking at the world, many Asian countries have developed the bulk of their economy during an authoritarian regime that later democratized, so I’m not saying China is wrong to choose such a path.

    I don’t think good governance necessarily comes from either an authoritarian or a democratic system. Both India and China had their socialist dreams to begin with, and in India’s case I’m not sure if it was China’s reforms that spurred it on so much as the demise of the Soviet Union and the communist states in Eastern Europe. In 1991 China was developing slower because of the conservative forces, until Deng’s journey to the south was made public. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, capitalism and globalization just weren’t as popular as they are today, and many governments believed some form of socialism was the best way to develop a country.

    If I were to compare India and China, I would say that India’s democratic government avoided things like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. When China got out of the totalitarian mode, though, it was faster and more effective than India.

    @Nimrod (#77): “China would have been ok if you just removed the Mao factor after 1958, that is, if Liu Shaoqi/Deng Xiaoping had been able to prevail with the current policy path, China would have ended up with a greater level of development than Japan. Is there an argument against this? I don’t see one.”

    The problem is that this is also hypothetical – would Deng have been as inclined as he was in 1979 to remove the planned economy altogether if it hadn’t been for the Cultural Revolution? What I’m trying to say is that the reforms of Liu and Deng might have been much less impressive if it hadn’t been for the long excesses of the Mao era; maybe something like Lenin’s NED, but hardly anything like today’s Reform and Opening. Of course, this is just conjecture on my part, and you’re free to bring up facts that prove me wrong. ;)

  81. Raj Says:

    ChineseInUK

    Care to elaborate what democratic system China can choose? A real one, not an imaginative one please

    You still don’t get it. China can create a tailor-made democratic, political system for itself. It’s not like shopping for a TV where you have to buy off the shelf. Providing you have core things like rule of law, an independent judiciary, multi-party elections and the like, a country can fine-tune its system to make it work in the way the country wants.

    Ghana has only 20 odd million population living on world’s top gold productions; Botswana has a tiny population of less then 2 million where 40% of government revenue comes from diamond mines; and South African’s poor share less than China’s poor of its national wealth and post apartheid has seen its Human Development Index has consistently fallen year on year!

    So what? Plenty of countries with mineral or energy wealth squander it and are worse off. You asked for poor countries, not large ones. And the point remains, these democratic states are all doing better than their authoritarian neighbours.

    I see. The directly elected Indian government is slower compared with Chinese government in serving its people. How did that happen?

    Because they believed in Socialism, which doesn’t work. The CCP realised this earlier.

    They don’t need to.

    But the point remains that only the Thai elites feel the need to hold coups and dissolve opposition parties to get their way. They can lobby like everyone else, write newspaper articles to put their points across. But that’s not enough for them, they want absolute control.

    mislead the masses for what they want

    Ok, when and how were the “masses” in the UK mislead in a way that decided an election?

    I see, they had an election. Everything is alright then.

    So what’s your solution for Afghanistan? No elections and a strongman running the show, murdering everyone who disagrees with him? It’s the ballot box or a reign of terror that would make the Taliban look like hippies.

    See India for negative proof.

    Or Japan for positive proof.

  82. Raj Says:

    Nimrod

    That’s the wrong conclusion to draw. China would have been ok if you just removed the Mao factor after 1958, that is, if Liu Shaoqi/Deng Xiaoping had been able to prevail with the current policy path, China would have ended up with a greater level of development than Japan.

    First, you’re assuming that Liu and Deng wouldn’t have fallen foul of opposition elsewhere in the CCP. Second, you’re assuming they were following the same route that was followed in later decades. It’s true that they would have been a lot better than Mao, and China would have done well if he’d died in 1950. But they might have just made China more efficient as a Socialist state.

    Therefore, it’s non sequitur to conclude removing the CCP entirely and replacing it with the “good governance” of an hitherto undefined electoral alternative (perhaps like India’s?) was the thing to do.

    Why does India always get mentioned? Do Chinese people have some sort of chip on their shoulder about India that they always need to mention it whenever democracy is discussed? Why not look at all the democracies in the world and take the best bits from them to have something unique in China? Is Chinese scholarship so cowed and feeble that it’s “benevolent CCP authoritarianism” or “chaotic Indian democracy”?

  83. HKer Says:

    Oh my word ! I wonder who wrote these comments following the article that Tony quoted in Open Thread?

    http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/08/18/a-tale-of-two-games/

    6:02 am August 19, 2010
    IndiaTurdWorldCountry wrote:
    India lives up to its well-deserved reputation as the preeminent underachiever among nations. India has a knack for defying the most pessimistic predictions by performing even worse than expected. This sham of a preparation must be unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth Games, no, the history of sports. I can say with confidence that there has never been such a painfully plodding, incompetently executed, and thoroughly corrupt preparation for an international sporting event, be it the Olympics, the Asiad, the World Cup, or the Commonwealth Games. The incredible India has indeed done the incredible: being a self-proclaimed Great Power while botching a modest sporting event. Even the small nation of Greece, with a sliver of India’s population, has hosted the Olympic Games, which dwarfs the Commonwealth Games not only in scale but also logistical and infrastructural demands. India the super power soon-to-be? Bah! Try India the giant pygmy that can’t match the tiny Greece! With a political class of sycophants and incompetents, India would be lucky to hold itself together for another 60 years, much less aspiring to Great Power status.
    Speaking of Great Powers, I recall that a few years back, there was voluminous talk in India about catching up with China and surpassing it. Many Indians, driven by delusions of grandeur, flooded the Internet forums, belching the “India Shining” balderdash as unremittingly as the Gulf oil spill. Ever since the Chinese hosted the Beijing Olympics, which was an astounding display of China’s organizational and sporting prowess, the Indian pastime of fantasizing about overtaking China has suffered a precipitous decline. Through the Beijing Olympics, the Indians caught a glimpse of reality, which sharply moderated their false pride. The Indian ego was further deflated by the release of Slumdog Millionaire, which allowed the Western movie audiences a rare peek into the real India, whose grotesquery had hitherto been obscured by decades of Gandhian sanctimony and more recently, a thick layer of triumphalist maquillage. Now comes the Commonwealth Games fiasco, the last play in a trifecta of crushing publicity, and it may just do the impossible: muzzling the famously motor-mouthed Indians and putting their silly delusions to rest. No wonder India was fated to discover zero, for India is a ZERO!

    6:02 am August 19, 2010
    IndiaTurdWorldCountry wrote:
    You Indians are really something special. There’s an old saying in Texas, “it ain’t bragging if you’ve done it”. For years now, I’ve witnessed an incessant stream of self-idolizing, grandiloquent drivel out of India, such as “India is Shining”, “India will be a super power by 2020″, “India will overtake China”, “Mumbai will be better than Shanghai in five years”, “India will host Olympics in 2020″, India this, India that, blah blah blah blah blah blah… India sure talks the good talk, but it can’t walk the walk. Heck, never mind walking, can India even crawl? Infrastructure can’t get built with idle boasts, so all the triumphalist nonsense is sadly beside the point. Thanks to the UN Development Agency’s new MPI Poverty Report and various other surveys, we now know that 55% of Indians live BELOW poverty line; 47% of Indian children are malnourished and therefore physically as well as mentally stunted (a percentage higher than Sudan and North Korea!); 20% of Indians go hungry everyday, of whom women suffer disproportionately; 160 million Untouchables are being oppressed by the Caste System and denied the very basic of rights; functional literacy stands at around a pathetic 50%, etc. All the figures add up to India being poorer than most Sub-Saharan African states. Now, here’s an idea for you Indians: how about putting a lid on your loud mouths and start doing real work for a change? Put action over words, substance over style, and actual results over marketing gimmicks. If you Indians can do that, you might just catch China by, say, 2150.

  84. Wukailong Says:

    @HKer: You don’t think that post is quite biased in some direction?

  85. Nimrod Says:

    Wukailong, Raj:

    Liu and Deng would not have made as radical a change in 1958 as Deng ended up making in 1978, but here’s the thing: they would not have had to. Think about it, 20 extra years in there plus no damage to a generation of people. A more moderate, pragmatic policy as Liu and Deng were successfully pursuing already would have sufficed. And it would have been better, too. What Deng ended up doing was drastic and the urgency with which reforms had to be carried out resulted in Tian’anmen Square and many other terrible legacies which we are still dealing with — like environmental damage. Unlike Raj, I have no aversion of China turning into an efficient socialist state. What’s wrong with that? Capitalism needs to be leashed at a high level; it’s only the microeconomic incentives that are desirable. Anyway, an efficient socialist state is what the leadership is said to be seeking these days. Whatever China ends up with, it appears it is going to be some moderate path — not strict controls and not crazy direct democracy. So it would have been easier to go through the middle rather than swing between the extremes. There is no doubt in my mind that things would have been okay without the latter-day Maoist personality cult and paranoia.

  86. Steve Says:

    Nimrod, I’m not sure which China you’re referring to but the one I lived in was Gilded Age capitalist and about as far removed from socialism as I can imagine. When I think of a well run socialist state, I think of Denmark. Right now the leadership is trying to create the rudiments of of very basic social net in terms of medical coverage and retirement benefits, but these are still in infant stages.

  87. Wukailong Says:

    @Nimrod: “Anyway, an efficient socialist state is what the leadership is said to be seeking these days.”

    They can’t officially throw Marxism out, so they have to pretend it’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and all that, when in fact it was capitalism (under Jiang) or its softer brother, capitalism within a welfare state (which is what Hu is working towards). Socialism under Liu and Deng in the 60s, without Mao, would probably have been something like Chruschev’s Soviet Union. I’m sure China would have ended up like the latter country if they had pursued that policy.

    Vietnam is another example. They didn’t have the Cultural Revolution but not much reform either, so they began doing what China did. Another thing we shouldn’t forget was the role of ideology these days – the Soviet Union was seen as a viable alternative by money, which is why India, for example, kept its policies until the 1990s.

  88. Nimrod Says:

    Steve, Wukailong,

    That’s exactly my point — the reforms that Deng had to carry out took China toward the other extreme, with heavy costs, and now these are being reconsidered. Whether you want to call it capitalism or socialism doesn’t matter. In some areas it’s a lot more laissez-faire than capitalist countries, and in some other areas, the government is heavily involved in redistribution and regulation. I don’t think you’ll find some consistent ideology, and that’s why it’s a hybrid system, and indeed one with “Chinese characteristics” — where else do you find this?

    On the second point, I’d be careful about comparing China to the Soviet Union or India. The reason that the Soviet Union did not work out was its inability to convert a war-time economy to a civilian one. The reason that India remained stagnant was because of the devolved political structure and the costs of democracy. China had none of those problems. Further, it has always had a pragmatic, secular cultural tradition and if there is any ideology that stands the test of time in China, it is desire for social order and authority, not Communism. Remember, China’s goal was to reclaim its rightful place, to “surpass Britain and catch up with America,” not some leftist utopia. Communism was only a means to an end. That’s why when it came down to it, China broke with the Soviet Union, and when it had to, allied with the US. Under a different set of circumstances, little would have prevented China from taking a direction that was more productive economically while maintaining a degree of equality two decades earlier, and I can only imagine that external conditions would have rather favored this inclination.

    Vietnam is perhaps a better point of comparison. I take the opposite lesson from it. Even though it didn’t have a Cultural Revolution, it made pragmatic reforms voluntarily, and in some areas has gone farther than China. They didn’t sit on their hands at all. Remember that Vietnam was engaged in wars until the mid 1980s. When conditions allowed, they did what they had to do, with haste. Ideology certainly did not tie them down, just like it ultimately didn’t tie down Deng when he led, not followed, the Eastern bloc in bold reforms.

    So, recapitulating the original point. If you asked most Chinese, I think they would have been very happy living in a China where Mao retired when he was supposed to (and symbolically did), and did not change his mind later. If things moved up 20 years or even if 10 years, the CCP would be almost unfathomably popular and legitimate with the people, with or without such crass stamps of approval as periodic electoral affirmations that we are used to in the Western world. The CCP could credibly make the claim that it was the better alternative to the KMT in that case. Ironically, that kind of political capital would have allowed space for far more liberties to develop in the civil society than Chinese generally have now.

  89. HKer Says:

    # 84 WKL,

    I think it is another good example of supremely bad attitude, hence, “Oh my word ! I wonder who wrote these comments” Unfortunately, when I sent it to my foreign friends, they seem to agree with the writer !

    Nimrod, WKL, Steve, I like your comments. I’ve never believed in ideologies. They are too much like religions or religious cults. I am glad that Chinese are practical with secular outlook – The Mao worship era was thankfully short and OVER !

  90. HKer Says:

    Stephen Roach of Morgan Stantley is evil ….

    James Fallows good as always…Click on the video box.

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11171
        

  91. Rhan Says:

    “Communism was only a means to an end. That’s why when it came down to it, China broke with the Soviet Union, and when it had to, allied with the US.”

    Is this not predominantly a Mao policy and strategy? I still find it not objective enough to leave the bad to Mao while praise Deng for his so called pragmatic approach, can we really draw a line between the two?

  92. Nimrod Says:

    Rhan,

    Yes, we can draw a line. Foreign policy and domestic policy are different beasts. China never believed in nation-less international Communism per se, so these geopolitical moves don’t conflict with state ideology.

    Even Mao himself wasn’t a slave to Soviet Communism. (I doubt Mao fully understood the economic intricacies of Marx’s treatise anyway. What he understood was populism.) His ideology was Maoism: mobilizing the populace in permanent revolution so progress will “materialize.” This is a kind of domestic policy ideology that certain people believe makes the country stronger (c.f. Adam-Smithism: dismantling all regulation to make a totally free market so progress will “materialize.”). Where he and Deng part ways is on whether Maoism is right for the country, and if results say not right, do you change course or not.

  93. HKer Says:

    Pingback by The Continuing Fallacy of Government “Creating Jobs” | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty on 25 November 2009:

    […] this year, I wrote some commentaries based on Lawrence Reed’s excellent 1981 Freeman article, “7 Fallacies of Economics.” Not surprisingly, these fallacies pop up again and […]
    […] one wishes to better understand Krugman’s economic worldview, read “7 Fallacies of Economics,” and you will find that nearly everything the Nobel Laureate writes falls into one of the […]
    …………………………………………………………….

    April 1981: http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/7-fallacies-of-economics/#

  94. Rhan Says:

    Nimrod,
    Deng approach is nothing new or fantastic, read Singapore LKY. The “Chinese characteristic” is merely a kowtow to the elite. Mao tried another way and he failed, perhaps there is no another way, i don’t know.

    1956
    “Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love – it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.”

    1962
    “If I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I would not have the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their interests.”

    1967
    “We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two… We will regret the time lost if we do not now take the first tentative steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic.”

    1982
    “I make no apologies that the PAP is government and the government is PAP”

    1983
    “If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society…So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That’s a problem.”

    1986
    “We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”

    1987
    “I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”

    1991
    “Now if democracy will not work for the Russians, a white Christian people, can we assume that it will naturally work with Asians?”

    1997
    “If you are a troublemaker…it’s our job to politically destroy you. Put it this way. As long as JB Jeyaretnam stands for what he stands for – a thoroughly destructive force – we will knock him. Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.”
    “Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.”
    “They say people can think for themselves? Do you honestly believe that the chap who can’t pass primary six knows the consequence of his choice when he answers a question viscerally, on language, culture and religion? But we knew the consequences. We would starve, we would have race riots. We would disintegrate.”

    2003
    “If we had considered them serious political figures, we would not have kept them politically alive for so long. We could have bankrupt them earlier.”

    2004
    “If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.”

    2005
    “Political reform need not go hand in hand with economic liberalisation.. I hold unconventional views about this.. I do not believe if you are a libertarian, full of diverse opinions, full of competing ideas in the market place, full of sound and fury, therefore you will succeed.”

    2006
    “Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don’t understand this”
    “Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it”.

  95. ChineseInUK Says:

    Wukailong

    “I don’t think good governance necessarily comes from either an authoritarian or a democratic system…many Asian countries have developed the bulk of their economy during an authoritarian regime that later democratized, so I’m not saying China is wrong to choose such a path. “

    I agree. As matter of fact I don’t think we have any fundamental disagreement. I’m using India to specifically combating those who hold direct election as a holy weapon that will solve most of China’s problems and you’re not one of them.

    “If I were to compare India and China, I would say that India’s democratic government avoided things like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.“

    Maybe, but it creates its own atrocities, killing people through things like infant mortality, starvation & ill health.

    Infant mortality alone claims 2 million infant lives every year in India TODAY, not 50 years ago in the case of Culture Revolution, and half die in the month of birth. How many have died over the past 6 decades due to infant mortality alone, and more importantly still dying everyday NOW, as a result of Indian government’s inability to respond to its citizen’s needs? For me, this is worse than the Culture Revolution.

    I’m a simple soul. I focus on results, not necessarily the “whys” & “hows” unless it’s my specialist area of professional expertise.

    The results? As far as I can see after over 60 years of the founding of the states in their current forms, India’s directly elected government has not served the majority of its people better than China’s.

    Raj

    “China can create a tailor-made democratic, political system for itself…Providing you have core things like rule of law, an independent judiciary, multi-party elections and the like, a country can fine-tune its system to make it work in the way the country wants.”

    If it’s so easy, please point out a populated poor country that has succeeded what you have listed above AND at the same time beat China’s records at bettering people’s lives? My apologies as I have just realised when I asked for examples in my earlier post, I mistakenly missed “populated”, as both Singh & Hu will tell you running a large country IS different from running a tiny country.

    “And the point remains, these democratic states are all doing better than their authoritarian neighbours.”

    I’m afraid you have to prove direct election is the REASON these states are doing better than their authoritarian neighbours, rather than the RESULTS?

    Otherwise it is like saying those who live on their independent means are doing better than their benefits dependent neighbours, so it is the state benefits that made people poor.

    “Because they believed in Socialism, which doesn’t work. The CCP realised this earlier.”

    So directly elected Indian government has been less responsive, leaving 90% population in poverty for 50 years, compared with Chinese government.

    “Ok, when and how were the “masses” in the UK mislead in a way that decided an election?”

    What a loaded question. When were the masses in the UK not mislead in a way that decided an election?

    “So what’s your solution for Afghanistan? “

    I never said I had a solution for Afghanistan. I just can’t see what good elections have done for Afghans.

    “Why does India always get mentioned?”

    Because it’s a good example that direct election is not necessarily the solution to most of China’s problems.

    “Why not look at all the democracies in the world and take the best bits from them to have something unique in China?”

    It’s of course extremely easily when you type it on the keyboard of your computer. But in the real world, unless you can point to one populated poor country that had achieved this after so many have tried for decades and failed, then I think it’s safe to assume it is a tall order.

    And China is doing exactly that (take the best bits from them to have something unique in China, which the CCP calls it Democracy with Chinese Characteristics), though direct election is not necessarily one of “the bits” that has been/will be yet taken by China :)

  96. Nimrod Says:

    Rhan,

    LKY’s comments may be unpalatable, but are they wrong? Now, he didn’t address the question of whether he could be senile or not, and how he would know he was governing in the interest of the people. Perhaps people could ask him that, but I suspect he’d say, look at the results (and compare to, say Malaysia or Indonesia).

    By the way, Deng never publicly articulated something like LKY’s views though he admired the latter’s achievements in Singapore. Even if LKY were the devil and the enemy of your way of life, it doesn’t hurt to examine what worked. Liberal democracies don’t have that inquisitive need because things have always been pretty good for them ever since the Renaissance and European colonization. And until they fail (which they will: states don’t last more than 300 years, historically), they won’t re-examine this question. That’s anchor bias. China hasn’t been so lucky and so it makes sense to look at all model polities whose successes we wish to emulate.

  97. Raj Says:

    ChineseInUK

    If it’s so easy……

    Who said it was easy? My point remains, one that you fail to address, is that China can reform itself without having to copy any single version of democracy currently in existence. Democracy is largely about some key concepts, not the exact term of the legislative, the precise powers of the Head of State, etc.

    What a loaded question. When were the masses in the UK not mislead in a way that decided an election?

    YOU made the original assertion, so YOU back it up with some facts. For someone who proclaims that he lives in the UK, you’re highly disrespectful of so much about it. Which makes me wonder why you’re here at all.

    I’m afraid you have to prove direct election is the REASON these states are doing better than their authoritarian neighbours

    Once again you fail to understand what democracy is about. If you paid attention for 5 minutes whenever I or anyone else discussed the aspects of democracy, you would know that elections by themselves aren’t enough. Democracy is about the ability to openly criticise your rules without punishment, judicial independence, civil service independence, rule of law, etc. You need direct and fair elections to get rid of governments, but if for example all media is controlled by the State it’s often hard for the Opposition to get their messages across.

    However, if you want to say that I need to PROVE that democracy makes these countries better, it’s for you to PROVE that democracy also makes other countries worse off than they might be under “superhuman, genius CCP rule”.

    which the CCP calls it Democracy with Chinese Characteristics

    There’s nothing democratic about the CCP’s rule. What’s sad is that the CCP thinks such a stupid slogan will fool most people. Though it would be a good way of working out who is fit to vote in elections. Anyone who buys it could be disenfranchised on the basis of pure stupidity.

  98. jxie Says:

    @Nimrod #77,

    China would have been ok if you just removed the Mao factor after 1958, that is, if Liu Shaoqi/Deng Xiaoping had been able to prevail with the current policy path, China would have ended up with a greater level of development than Japan. Is there an argument against this? I don’t see one.

    It’s possible but very hard. After the WW2, Japan’s literacy rate was in the 90s%, compared to mid-40s% of Taiwan, and mid-teens% of mainland China and South Korea. For China to catch up Japan in terms of development, China would need to first catch up Japan in terms of education, and then with enough time so that the whole workforce can catch up. An ancient Chinese saying, 十年树木,百年树人 — it takes 10 years to grow trees, and it takes 100 years to educate the mass. Well, the original Chinese, “一年之计,莫如树谷;十年之计,莫如树木;终身之计,莫如树人,” is quite a bit more elegant than my lousy translation.

    As it stands, South Korea’s per capita GDP is about half of Japan’s. It largely caught up Japan in youth literacy rate in the 70s, and in youth college education rates in the 90s. Yet likely it will take South Korea quite a bit more time to catch up Japan’s development level.

    Liu didn’t govern long enough to leave his print. Deng despite being more cosmopolitan than Mao, wasn’t necessarily that enthusiastic about education — he didn’t despise education as Mao did though. He was kind of like South Korea’s Rhee in that regard along the line that, if I had that many youths with college education, I couldn’t possibly place them all (in jobs he helped creating). When Deng died, including adult and remote educations, Chinese youths in their lifetimes would stand less than 10% of chance achieving an associate’s degree or better. That put China below the likes of Brazil, Chile & Mexico.

    It wasn’t until Jiang/Zhu that the tertiary enrollment really took off. In 2008, Chinese colleges including adult and Internet-based institutes, enrolled about 9.5 million new students. Compared to about 20 million who turned 18 that year, it worked out that in that year, the expectation of college-level education for the 18-year-old group, was 47.5%, quite a bit higher than the US, but still trailing South Korea and Japan.

    Anyway, Deng’s policies were much saner than Mao’s. But in due time, for China to catch up even faster, in this what-if scenario, at one point he would need to bow out and let the next generation take over.

  99. Nimrod Says:

    jxie,

    Agreed. Certain people have their place in certain times. Somebody like Mao was needed to mobilize the country, somebody like Deng was needed to find pragmatism, somebody like Zhu was needed to bolster competitiveness, etc. It may not even be the particular person, but the vision they embodied. Basically policy innovation needs to move with the situation and not stagnate. If the desire is for China to change at a rapid pace, the supporting structure needs to update just as quickly. The mistakes in the last century and centuries past have come from letting things that worked for a time but no longer worked continue to fester. And that remains a challenge going forward, because humans are inherently risk-averse.

  100. Rhan Says:

    Nimrod,

    “LKY’s comments may be unpalatable, but are they wrong?”

    This is a very good question, and I believe the answer shall be vary depend on who you ask. It is a complex issue, but if someone prefer to see things from a more direct and simple perspective, may I know what is your take in regarding to Jackie Chan remark that Chinese people need to be controlled? Do you think Jackie Chan, a movie star with little former education would agree with LKY claim that “Do you honestly believe that the chap who can’t pass primary six knows the consequence of his choice when he answers a question viscerally, on language, culture and religion?”

    Being a minority in my country that strives for a more democracy society, I would have the impression that what LKY said is a humiliation to human beings, especially to Chinese. Though I tend to agree that an authoritarian government is much easier to command high growth in term of economies progress by looking at what happen in Japan, Taiwan and Korea in the sixties and seventies.

    If I will to give you my answer, I hope LKY is wrong.

  101. Rhan Says:

    Nimrod / Jxie

    Deng not merely opening up China, he opens up the poor Chinese girl leg as well.

  102. Nimrod Says:

    Rhan,

    I don’t think “Chinese” people in particular needs to be controlled, as much as, to have a functioning society, everybody gives up some sovereignty — isn’t that philosophy 101? I don’t know what Jackie Chan meant in particular, but given that he was remarking in the context of Taiwan’s benshengren/waishengren electoral violence in recent years, I think it’s a very legitimate point to consider the consequences of such things if carried to China on a much larger scale.

    Obviously the best thing is for everybody to be educated enough and to have good enough temperament as well as time for careful consideration on every issue, so as to make rational choices, but this is never the case and so I highly doubt LKY is wrong. It doesn’t mean his bare-knuckle tactics are the only ones we know, but that’s a methodological issue which is secondary to fundamental questions about human nature. I shalln’t need to mention all the failures that have come out of basing governance on overly optimistic views about human nature, just because they sit well with us. In rich countries living in plenty, prosperity masks much of the animal spirits that would otherwise need to be controlled. In poor countries where everybody is fighting over resources in often nasty competition, you get a totally different dynamic.

  103. Arsent Says:

    Pretty pointless correlation there. The simple explanation is that Western countries simply don’t have the collective spirit to implement any kind of policy or widesweeping action. If the USA called in the military to deal with Katrina on the same scale as the PRC did during the earthquake, the American administration would face a storm of criticism for misusing the military.

  104. Wahaha Says:

    #50 Scl, expert-rule can lead to disastrous results too, and as it cannot be removed, it is labeled dictatorship.

    _______________________________________________

    Not with internet.

    If people in Soviet Unions had had internet, Stalin wouldnt have ruled till his death.

    If Chinese had had internet in 50s, the disaster of great leap would have been known to public within no time.

  105. Wahaha Says:

    They don’t have to choose between India and China. They can choose a different democratic system. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make but for some reason you’ve completely ignored or failed to grasp.
    ______________________________________

    I know the father of little star in “slumdog millionaire” chosed to sell his star child for $300,000.

  106. Wahaha Says:

    Given that the Chinese poor don’t know what democracy is, having never experienced it, and that the Chinese media is heavily biased against democracy for China/aren’t allowed to fully promote it, how could they make an informed choice?
    _____________________________________

    Only through media.

    But media never like government having too much power. The less power government has, the better for media, politically and financially. THAT IS WHY YOU ALMOST NEVER SEE MEDIA PRAISE GOVERNMENT, unless the media is state-run.

    So in ANY society, the so called people’s voice is always filtered by media(controled either by government or by the rich).

    Like the rescue plan by American government, the voice of those who disliked the plan was filtered.

    Like the crisis in Greece, people there want the rich to pay, but you dont hear such voices there.

    But in China, media put pressure on the rich to donate money for earthquake. Why ? cuz government >>> the rich.

    That is why if you go to the website of Time of India, you dont see them talking much about the misery of people, AS SUCH THINGS ARE OF NO VALUE TO MEDIA IN A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM. But in China, in any website, you can see dozens of thread talking about how people are suffering under CCP.

  107. Wahaha Says:

    About people and system :

    1) people are short-sighted and not willing to scrafice for the common good.

    2) people are greedy. that doesnt mean they were born greedy, but one greedy person can make 100 people greedy; 100 greedy people can make 10,000 people greedy.

    3) people are not willing to be responsible for their own mistake, blaming government is an easy way to find excuse for their own stupidities and mistakes. That doesnt mean they were born irresponsible, but if one person refuses to blame himself, the people around him wont either.

    Now, start with the 3 points above, think of a good system ON EARTH, not a system in disney land or Mars.

  108. Wahaha Says:

    where are my other posts ?

  109. Wahaha Says:

    Pretty pointless correlation there. The simple explanation is that Western countries simply don’t have the collective spirit to implement any kind of policy or widesweeping action. If the USA called in the military to deal with Katrina on the same scale as the PRC did during the earthquake, the American administration would face a storm of criticism for misusing the military.
    ___________________________________________________

    The only way to have ” the collective spirit” is giving government power and limiting the freedom of individual.

    Are you willing to scrafice some of your freedom for that ?

    If you dont, then dont ask your neighbor to scrafice, then ask the people in your town to scrafice, then dont ask the people in your country to scrafice.

  110. Wahaha Says:

    #48,

    Do you know what you have lost with the right you gain ?

    According to Chinese’s Ying & Yang, they are complementary to each other.

    The good complements the bad.

    The bad complements the good.

    You have the ‘ good ‘, the right, then what is the bad part ?

    Can you think of it ? think harder, harder, harder, harder…

  111. Wahaha Says:

    #103

    To have the “collective spirit” , you have to give government power and sacrifice some of your freedoms.

    Are you ready to do that ?

    If you dont, you dont have the right to ask others to.

  112. Wahaha Says:

    #108 continue :

    not with internet.

    Without internet, the only way people can get info is through media; with internet, they dont have to.

    We are now in 21st century, so please.

  113. Wahaha Says:

    Two news:

    1) Newsweeks was sold for one dollar. What is funny is that pro-western-democratic Southern china group was willing to pay a lot but was rejected. why ?

    2) North Korea launched a website, and was banned by South Korea.

    please give a new definition of freedom of speech that can explain these two events.

  114. Wahaha Says:

    #101 Rhan,

    what is your point ?

    White Russia banned exporting their girls as models. was it also the fault of Deng ? or gentlemen from West who “liberated” them from communism were @$$?

  115. Wukailong Says:

    @Wahaha (#110): “1) Newsweeks was sold for one dollar. What is funny is that pro-western-democratic Southern china group was willing to pay a lot but was rejected. why ?”

    Sorry, I don’t understand exactly what you mean. Where were Newsweek magazines sold for one dollar each, and what was Southern China group paying for, and whom were they rejected by? For what reason?

  116. Wahaha Says:

    # 66, Give those poor developing countrie’s citizens 2 choices: a ful meal or a vote

    Only God could give people that choice.
    __________________________

    the father of little star in “Slumdog millionaire” was willing to sell his star child for $300,000.

    You mean that is choice God gave to him ?

    Suppose you have to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, and you will value voting >> than a better job ?

    What kind of lame argument you use to keep your utopical idea intact !!!

  117. Wahaha Says:

    WKL,

    Remember the only media that was allowed to interview Obama ?

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/06/24/news/international/china_newsweek_bid.fortune/index.htm

    In an interview with The Hefei Evening News newspaper in Anhui province, China, Xiang Xi, the executive editor of Southern Weekly, a popular Southern Media Group publication, said there was no clear-cut reason for the rejection.

    “Personally, I feel the reason is quite complex, but there is one point that can be made: The seller genuinely does not comprehend the desires of idealistic Chinese media workers and institutions,” he told the paper.

  118. Rhan Says:

    Nimrod,

    “everybody gives up some sovereignty”
    But many may have the opinion that the “some” here tantamount to “control”, so when Jackie said it, the first illustration come to mind is China and Singapore, not Taiwan. And many claim that China and Singapore is the indefensible case of proof.

    Generally, my view is not conflicting with what you have written in 96 and 102, however, by looking at the literacy rate of Singapore today, I think perhaps this is a good time to ponder again what is human nature, or “Chinese” nature.

    Wahaha,

    I don’t know whose fault is this, but I think a leader that come up with slogan like “to get rich is glorious” and “no matter if it is a white cat or a black cat….” should shoulder some blame. No?

  119. Wahaha Says:

    Democracy is about the ability to openly criticise your rules without punishment,
    ____________________________________________________________________

    Please talk about the democracy on earth, not democracy in your backyard, or disney land or Mars.

    Read the following, READ THE COMMENTS :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/18/huang-guangyu-former-rich_n_579810.html

  120. Wahaha Says:

    I don’t know whose fault is this, but I think a leader that come up with slogan like “to get rich is glorious” and “no matter if it is a white cat or a black cat….” should shoulder some blame. No?
    ___________

    read #106,

    can you give another alternative ?

    #106 tells you why those activitsts and media are always right and always on moral high ground, but only make (large scale) things worse. Because large scale projects will always have lot of “Ying” sides, which those activitists and media utilize to maximum extent to show their “greatness”.

  121. Wahaha Says:

    Raj,

    read the following, READ THE COMMENTS, then educate others about democracy :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/18/huang-guangyu-former-rich_n_579810.html

  122. ChineseInUK Says:

    Raj:

    I don’t think we’re at the same wave length. You look at China and think it should be able to do whatever you think it should be; I’ll leave you to it.

    I know you’re convinced that you can understand China remotely by reading from Western press/websites, but I hope once day you’ll reconsider.

    However I will reply to your comments below:

    “For someone who proclaims that he lives in the UK, you’re highly disrespectful of so much about it. Which makes me wonder why you’re here at all.”

    I currently live in the UK, but plan to return to China soon. I’m very fond of England – there are many things I like, its clean air, many of its people’s mannerism, the freedom of speech & rule of law – which is why I kept coming back: the job offers were also too good to be turned down :)

    However there are 2 things in England I positively dislike: many of its people’s neglect of / disrespect for elderly population and its food (the availabilities of international eatery places helps to lessen the pain but the lack of varied fresh ingredients drives me crazy at times!).

    And there are 2 things I think is fundamentally wrong and will drag the country down if not addressed: its political system and the arrogance that exists in so many people, just because they have done better than others for a while, they think they know it all and when they don’t like or understand something they think it must be wrong.

    Nimrod is right when he said that Western countries are not inquisitive because things have worked very well for them ever since the Renaissance and European colonization. But the tide is turning and personally I think its current political system and the lack of real empathy for others at an equal level (not just pity & charity) and the urge to self-examine have already to a degree & will continue in the future stopping them from improving & progressing, if not changed.

    Is pointing out the faults of a country disrespectful. Not in my books. I write about them because I care, like many people on this board writing about China.

    However I don’t take things out of context and write articles in China calling Blair murderer for invading Iraq, Cameron shallow for preening before a TV interview, Gordon Brown a liar for saying he had saved world, labelling those living on state benefits lazy or those leaving their elderly relatives to state care selfish. And I don’t throw eggs at Britain’s heads of state when they visit China nor try to interrupt London Olympics to force UK government to allow the Chagos Islanders to go home or to return Akrotiri & Dhekelia to Cyprus.

    Instead I do what I can to help & convey my messages.

    I volunteer at my local lunch club for elderly people; I befriend & look after my elderly neighbours, despite one instance when the daughter of one neighbour accused me of trying to influence her mother’s will, which just showed how sad her state of mind was that she couldn’t imagine a complete stranger would be willing to help her mother for nothing!

    A couple of years ago, the organisation I was working for were involved in several national & local projects and I worked directly with 3 MPs & many local counsellors. It was disheartening for me to see how policies that disadvantaged large numbers of poorest citizens of the society were passed for the benefits of few relatively well off but politically active & vocal citizens, and the long term strategies were giving way to the needs of impressing voters at yearly local elections to hang on to power: what can you plan & do and show for what you have done within a 12 month period was mostly what they focused.

    Do I curse the voters for being short-sighted to elect those politicians or politicians for being irresponsible? No. Both are victims of the system, which works in a constant mindset of “topple and rebuild”, for which the media plays a major role. Effectively those who plan & act for the long term interest of the nation don’t have the chance to get onto the voting cards, let alone being voted in or staying long enough to see their long term plans to fruition.

    Though I’m not suggesting UK needs to adapt China’s political system, I think it needs to move towards the direction that MPs & local counsellors are given the trust & room to serve the people they are elected for, and civil servants, and not having their hands tied behind their backs.

    So as part of my involvement with the project, I actively promoted biennial local elections & more than 1 year financial planning as a small step in the right direction towards helping local governments to plan &act long term and I’m pleased to say some progress has been made in those areas since then.

    Do I assume I know it all and try to impose my views on the country & its people? No. Instead I do what I can to spread my views and be realistic with what I advocate for.

    So despite what you may think of me, I shall leave UK proud of who I am & what I have done, not just for myself, my family but the country I have spent a lot of time studying, working & living over the past 20 years.

  123. albert cheng Says:

    chineseinUK, Thanks for posting. I am often frustrated at not being on the same stylistic level as native English speakers when arguing about something as dear to my heart as our beloved China and our people, which inevitably project the image of a weaker argurment but the lagacy of European Accendency. You however, has not only equals but as chinese who are the most literate souls at heart in the whole wide world actually and beautifully surpass those who would thoughtlessly slight so many of us who slaved all our life with the English language. I know how difficult it is. You make me feel warm, content and full of hope. Thanks a heap.

  124. ChineseInUK Says:

    Don’t worry, Albert. As long as you write from your heart, you would have done what you need to and can do. Besides, your English is pretty good from what I can see.

    Westerners have been subject to biased propaganda against China for centuries & generations. It will take time and China’s own progress to change some of their views, especially those who have never been to China. It will be a long game which we are well used to.

    Thanks for your comment.

  125. Rhan Says:

    But albert, most westener can’t even rebut what the Chinese wrote in our own language, perhaps they should be the one who get frustrated?

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