This week we’ve been looking at how the party relies on improving its citizens quality of life for its mandate to rule. We started by looking at how GDP is no longer enough to maintain that stability, and what changes will be coming in the next few decades. Today I want to focus on some ways the Party could eventually transform its system of rule.
As you read remember that the Party will maintain absolute power until a majority of the population feels that their lives are no longer improving.
The most important idea to understand, is that there is no action considered beyond the pale for maintaining their position of power. As Fei Xiaotong points out in his book, “From the Soil”, they would be willing to sacrifice the whole country for the sake of their party, and the whole world for the sake of their country (I’ll give you a second to let that sink in).
The Party has demonstrated this stance several times, most notably in Tian’anmen square, and more recently with their overreaction to whispers of a Jasmine revolution (e.g beating foreign journalists trying to report on a group of 20 people standing around).
I believe that any popular movement to remove the Party completely from power would be met with such overwhelming force, that it could not succeed. The fact that the gov’t spends more on domestic security than their military shows just how desperate they are to cling to power.
They have also been learning how to defeat protest movements by studying those at home and abroad:
- Tibet protests led to the blocking of Youtube, since it allowed images of gov’t backed violence to be quickly spread.
- Iran protests led to the blocking of Facebook and Twitter, which were heralded as the tools of modern demonstrators.
- Jasmine protests led to speedier and wider ranged key-word censorship on Weibo, and other Chinese-run sites.
Some of you may point again to the protest of 12,000 in Dalian just this past week. While it was a surprising show of unity, it was not directed at the gov’t. These resulted in quick concessions from the local gov’t. For a more typical example, look instead at the recent riots in Guangdong by migrant workers, which caused the local gov’t to bring in paramilitary troops and armored-vehicles.
Instead the change will be gradual, I think a completely non-violent movement, dedicated to reforming local gov’ts is likely sometime in the next 10 years.
Already the central gov’t is allowing more open criticism of these low ranking officials, and will eventually concede to more supervision from the citizens they rule. Once this happens public oversight would slowly expand to higher levels.
After all, those with a hunger for democracy have been experimenting with how to protest despite gov’t controls:
- Code words and double meanings to out-maneuver the Great Firewall of China.
- Organize protests as walks, so that gov’t cannot distinguish between demonstrators and pedestrians.
- Using sites beyond the firewall to spread the message quickly to like minded individuals (e.g Ai Weiwei has 100,000 followers on Twitter).
- They are pushing the boundaries of what is “safe” to change with actions like the Dalian protest.
Secondly it is important to consider the sheer size of the Communist Party, nearly 78 million members. They would not be willing to lose their status, even for the greater social good.
These people would need to agree to the changes made, and the Party itself could not be dismantled without serious waves through Chinese society. Instead positions and promotions would gradually be decoupled from Party membership, and new political parties would be allowed to compete for spots in the government.
Before any of that can happen though, I believe we would see greater discussion of policy and enforcement within the Party and Gov’t organizations (currently laws are passed with virtually no dissent or discussion).
These next few decades will decide the fate of China’s next century. A smooth, and gradual transition from the current one-party system would ensure China’s position as a dominant world power for the next century (this is an idea that Wen Jiabao has been hinting at on recent trips overseas), or the Party may try to cling to power after losing their mandate, and China’s rise could end with internal struggle and isolation.
note: I am in no way advocating these changes, but simply pointing out likely problems and compromises that may occur in the near future.