• The Problem With the China Model | ChinaFile

    The other appendix proposes a Harmony Index, consisting of indicators like low suicide rates of children and the elderly, low rates of domestic violence, public trust in politicians, high levels of loyalty to family and of general social trust, and high scores on environmental performance. China gets middling scores on this index, while India and the United States perform worse. Yet China is one of the most conflict-ridden societies on the planet—understandably so, given that its citizens have been put through a dizzying process of economic and social change in the course of three and half decades, wealth is distributed increasingly unequally, the environment is severely damaged, the official ideology is bankrupt, and official corruption is widespread. These are all problems that Bell acknowledges. But he seems taken in by a surface impression of social harmony. “China,” he says, “has many problems, but most citizens perceive China as a harmonious society and the country is more harmonious than large democratic countries such as India and the United States” (p. 60).

    “Of course,” he goes on, in one of those passages in the book that leave a reader’s head spinning, this harmony “relies on force to prevent the open articulation of diverse interests…; [h]ence, political reformers in China argue for intraparty democracy that would allow for internal competition within the CCP…. But full democratization … is likely to aggravate social conflict and forever bury the ideal of a harmonious society” (p. 60-61). In short, the harmony is forced; the flaws of Chinese style authoritarianism can be fixed; adoption of liberal democracy would make them worse.

  • The Tianjin Explosion | ChinaFile

    Chinese leadership has sought to centralize power and contract space for independent civil society actors, not expand it. In July, over 250 human rights lawyers and activists were rounded up in a nationwide coordinated wave of suppression. Later this year an already cool environment for NGOs is likely to get frigid when a new set of regulations unleash unprecedented scrutiny and restrictions on overseas money connected to Chinese NGOs.The larger socio-political context in China is pointing toward more restriction of non-government entities in China. It is with this in mind that I have little optimism for Tom’s hoped outcome: that the CCP will come away from the Tianjin disaster with a greater appreciation for the value of public oversight and participation. Instead, we are seeing a repeat of the official response to the Kunshan tragedy one year ago. Control the dominant narrative through directives. Suppress influential inquisitive voices. Focus attention on assistance and support for survivors and families. Deliver swift and resolute justice unto business owners and local officials. Let other news stories dilute the toxic subject until it becomes another disaster among many in the annals of China’s industrial era.