Thursday, March 4, 2010
On the brink of revolutionary turmoil
A few months back Dr. Manmohan Singh stated in Washington: “Well, I have no hesitation in saying that I think development in India cannot be a carbon copy of what happens in China. And the Chinese system is very different.” Just as well, one could say!
If one analyses the future of the two countries, one sees that India and China have chosen different paths and today their destinies seem to go in opposite directions.
Democracy, with its many vicissitudes, is a far safer tool of governance than the one-Party regime presently prevalent in the Middle Kingdom.
An interesting article, entitled China insider sees revolution brewing written by John Garnaut, appeared recently in The Guardian: “China's top expert on social unrest has warned that hardline security policies are taking the country to the brink of revolutionary turmoil”, it said.
Though one has to acknowledge that the Party unique has been able to 'mutate' remarkably since the 1980's, there is no doubt that a revolution is brewing.
What is new in China today is the fact that semi-official voices from inside the Party are speaking out; these are not the voices of dissidents or human rights activists, but of people like Professor Yu Jianrong, the Director of Social Issues Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Rural Affairs. Prof. Yu is a top advisor of the Chinese government. Conducting surveys and interviewing hundreds of stakeholders, he has gone into the alarming situation in great depth.
In a speech in December, Yu said that he believes that “the deepening social fractures were caused by the Communist Party's obsession with preserving its monopoly on power through state violence and ideology.”
Earlier, he had mentioned several demonstrations which occurred in China in 2008: “Among these incidents, three have special significance: a clash between rubber farmers and police in Yunnan’s Menglian county, protests following the death of a student in Guizhou’s Wengan county, and outrage over a business-loan insolvency in Hunan’s Jishou City.” He further elaborated: “The Menglian county incident began with farmers trying to defend their rights and later developed into a violent confrontation between police and 500 rubber farmers. Before it was over, 41 police officers were injured and nine police vehicles were smashed; two rubber farmers were killed and many injured. The trouble began when the farmers complained that their land rights were being abused by the local rubber company. …the farmers rose up to defend their rights, and the local government used police to suppress them.”
Prof Yu cites statistics: recorded incidents of ‘mass unrest’ grew from 8709 in 1993 to more than 90,000 in each of the past three years: “More and more evidence shows that the situation is getting more and more tense, more and more serious”, commented Yu.
According to Yu, the type of incidents cited above “currently account for over 80 % of all Chinese mass protests. They are generally triggered when workers, farmers or city residents who have a weak position in society decide to fight back against more powerful social groups infringing on their legal interests.”
Interestingly, protesters are well informed about the law and use existing regulations as the framework for their actions. They are law abiding citizens, not rogue elements of society or persons having grudges against the Party.
Prof Yu, being part of the system, has a nice formula: “Disaster could be averted only if ‘interest groups’ were capable of making a rational compromise to subordinate themselves to the constitution”.
Unfortunately, from Deng Xiaoping's days, the sole objective of these ‘interest groups’ (the different factions or cliques within the Party) has been to remain in power.
What complicates the matter is that President Hu Jintao and colleagues are stuck between their 'strike hard' and 'stabilizing' campaigns. Hu’s slogans are bu zheteng (‘stability’ and ‘harmonious society’).
Many predict that this ‘forced’ stability can only bring social disaster. Yu believes that “for seeking bu zheteng, we sacrifice reform and people's rights endowed by law.”
A few years ago, Yu Jianrong had written an essay titled Social Conflict in Rural China. His main thesis was that social conflict is taboo in Chinese political circles, because of the ‘overriding need for stability’ to have ‘a harmonious society’. He conclusions were: “Rather than attempting to understand and address the roots of these conflicts, Chinese leaders are more inclined to suppress them in order to keep them out of the public eye. This mentality and practice not only works to aggravate conflict, but also diminishes the legitimacy of the rulers”.
Nicholas Bequelin, a research scholar at Human Rights Watch, explained in an article in The Far-Eastern Economic Review: “Two decades of breakneck economic growth, a policy of openness to the outside world, particularly on business, and continued domestic political control have strengthened the rule of the Chinese Communist Party beyond all expectations.”
The Communist leadership understood that the system needed to be reformed in the reverse order from the Soviet Union; economic reforms first, political later; Bequelin added: “In fact political reforms were actually never on the agenda. …By following this principle, the CCP has become what could be best described as the first Darwinian Leninist Party in history, one that sees constant adaptation as the key to survival.”
Surprisingly, some of the reforms introduced by the Party seem to undermine its own rule; but caught in a vicious circle, there are introduced as security valves to save the Party from what the Emperors dreaded the most: chaos (the loss of their divine Mandate).
The main question facing China today remains: is the Party flexible enough to survive new changes; or will the extent of the Party’s forced ‘reforms’ be ultimately the Party’s destroyer. Internet is a case in point.
A recent exampleof how the Party reacts to a challenge (in this case the Tibetan unrest) is the appointment of Gyaltsen Norbu, the CCP-chosen Panchen Lama as a delegate to the top legislative advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Beijing is today so desperate to win over the Tibetans while projecting its own Lama as a possible successor of the Dalai Lama, that they anointed this young Lama. But this tactical move can only create more resentment among the Tibetan masses. The Chinese leadership seems to have lost contact with the masses, the local ‘common man’.
Had Beijing freed the genuine Panchen Lama (under house arrest for the past 15 years), it may have gone a long way to convince the 'masses' that the Chinese government was sincere in its approach towards the Tibetan ‘nationality’. It has not been the case.
What Mr. Hu does not realize is that a ‘harmonious society’ has to grow from within, it can't be imposed by force from outside. The human spirit is the same on each continent, for each nation or individual; it craves more and more freedom. Intrinsically, the Party is not able to provide this freedom, being built on a totalitarian foundation. Will Emperors in Beijing listen to Prof. Yu Jianrong?
The Indian Prime Minister was right when he said: 'We are a functioning democracy — Democracy is slow-moving — I always believed that it may be slow-moving in the short term, but in the long run, an arrangement which has the backing of the people at large will prove to be more durable.”