Randall Peerenboom’s China Modernizes

China Modernizes Book review

The other day, Mark Anthony Jones (formerly of China, now returned to Australia), mentioned in a comment that he would like me to read Randall Peerenboom’s book, China Modernizes.  My response was that I would love to read the book, but since I am already way behind in my promises to read and review books, I asked if he would do so and the below is that review.

There are precious few good books on present day China’s governance and society.  Most tend to be either overly optimistic or overly pessimistic.

Two sharply opposing images of China seem to prevail in the Western media, reflected also on the pages of many English language China-related blogs and discussion forums.

The Middle Kingdom is often depicted as a rising superpower set to achieve global economic hegemony, some even say by as early as 2020.  According to this view, China provides a model for other developing countries, and with its high growth rates, is the envy of the post-industrial world.  In 2004 the Pew Research Centre surveyed the popular attitudes of people towards China in sixteen countries, and their findings showed China is much more popular around the world than the United States, and is roughly as popular as France, Germany and Japan. Even in the UK, America’s closest ally, 65 percent of those surveyed viewed China favorably, as compared to just 45 percent for the United States.

The opposing view, easily found on the shelves of Walmart and common among many (if not most) English language China-related blog sites, sees China as a brutal authoritarian state that violently suppresses its citizens, and that far from being self-confident and tolerant, is instead defensive and nationalistic.  Its environmental problems are made out to be so severe that the country’s days of stability are numbered and its impoverished rural population is constantly rising up in protest against corruption and land thefts.

I have always challenged both of these extremes, and roughly nine months ago I wrote a piece for my blog, titled “Some Thoughts on the Nature of China’s Governance and Society,” [link no longer exists] where I sought to present a fairer, more balanced assessment.  Though I framed my arguments using abstractions derived from the Frankfurt School of Marxism, my study was nevertheless empirically based and dialectical.

Though I received many comments in response to my text, I am nevertheless well aware I am generally quite alienated from the narrow world of the English language China-related blogosphere.  Most of those who frequent this particular cyberspace are quick to dismiss me as a “CCP apologist,” which has always puzzled me, since I am quite clearly not of this mold.  I am often quite critical of the CCP and my conclusions on the nature of China’s present day governance and society are nuanced, and, as in my piece “Shenzhen Kitsch,” [link no longer exists] sometimes overtly critical.

Blogs however, necessarily reflect the biases of their creators, who themselves usually look to the popular media for guidance in forming their world views.  I think it better to rely on academic sources as they are more likely to present balanced, fairer assessments.

There are, however, precious few academic books that examine present day China’s governance and society, which is why I ended up producing my own text on the topic for my blog.  There are plenty of excellent academic studies on China to dealing with specific social phenomena, but bringing them together to create a broader assessment seems to have been attempted by very few.

So I was thrilled to come across Randall Peerenboom’s new book, China Modernizes, because it addresses the same questions as in my post on China governance and society and his conclusions very closely mirror my own — though he reaches his conclusions using different sources.

Peerenboom builds his book around the four pillars of modernity: economics, human rights, the rule of law and democratization, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Peerenboom looks favorably on the CCP’s economic management of China and its pragmatic and successful approach to reforms.  While embracing market reforms, China resisted the attempts of international financial institutions and foreign experts to engage in shock therapy, pursuing instead a more gradual pace of reform. “Rather than blindly following the advice of the IMF or the World Bank,” writes Peerenboom, “the government has taken care to adapt basic economic principles to China’s current circumstances . . . . contrary to neoliberal prescriptions, the state has actively intervened in the Chinese economy and played a key role in setting economic policy, establishing government institutions, regulating foreign investment, and mitigating the adverse effects of globalization on domestic constituencies.”
Like the vast majority of Chinese mainlanders, Peerenboom praises China’s political leadership for pursuing economic reforms before democratization, which is also what most other East Asian states like South Korea did, and for that matter America and Western European countries too.  Most of Peerenboom’s second chapter in fact, is spent on demonstrating the wisdom of this approach, which he does convincingly by drawing on numerous broader empirical studies. Surprisingly, he does not mention Henry Rowen’s contribution to this debate.  Rowen was one of the first to argue that “growing wealth is accompanied by increased education, the building of business and government institutions with some autonomy, and the formation of attitudes that enable democratic governments to survive when they have a chance at power.”

“If China’s economic growth continues at today’s rates,” argued Rowen, “it will reach mean incomes of $7,000 to $8,000 by 2015. Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina, in addition to Taiwan and South Korea, all made the transition to democracy while they were within this income range.”

Like Rowen, Peerenboom links performance on human rights standards, including measures of civil and political rights, to a country’s level of wealth, by drawing heavily on the World Bank Good Governance Indicators as empirical evidence to support his claims.

Indeed, one of the strengths of this book is that it is does rely heavily on empirical studies to demonstrate how China performs relative to other countries.  The book demonstrates convincingly that rule of law, good governance and virtually all rights including civil and political rights are highly correlated with wealth.  “Comparing China to much wealthier countries,” says Peerenboom, “leads to the unsurprising conclusion that China has more problems: there are more deviations from the rule of law, government institutions that are weaker, less efficient and more corrupt; and citizens enjoy fewer freedoms while living shorter and more impoverished lives.”

But what is more revealing, and as Peerenboom very rightly stresses, is how well a country does compared to the average country in its income class.  When we examine the empirical evidence this way, we see China meets or exceeds expectations on most measures.

In terms of economic growth, China’s performance has been “phenomenal’, lifting roughly 250 million of its people out of poverty.  “The legal system has played a greater role in economic growth in China than often suggested by those who belittle the importance of rule of law for development,” says Peerenboom, and “China has made significant progress in a short time in improving the legal system, having essentially begun from scratch in 1978.” China’s legal system, notes Peerenboom, “now outperforms the average in its income class on the World Bank’s rule of law index.”

China also “outperforms the average country in its income class on most major indicators of human rights and well-being.”
According to Peerenboom, “China’s performance across a range of variables from economic performance to elimination of poverty to the establishment of a functional legal system and government institutions is on a whole demonstrably superior to the performance of most African, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries.”  China, argues Peerenboom, is following the East Asia Model used by Singapore, South Korea and Japan, and is performing better than these countries did when they were still at China’s current income level.

After spending much time demonstrating empirically developments in the rule of law in China, Peerenboom investigates why China is among only a handful of countries frequently targeted for systematic government human rights violations by the wealthy West in the UN, even though it does so well relative to its level of development on most measures of human rights and well-being.  He spends three and a half pages on India alone, demonstrating how its respect for human rights is far worse than China’s, though, unlike China, it is never censured before the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.  Peerenboom sees this double standard as the product of four things: first, a longstanding bias among Western human rights activists and governments that favor liberal democratic societies and do not want to see a non-liberal nondemocratic regime succeed: “UN resolutions for systematic government violations of human rights have overwhelmingly been meted out against a handful of nondemocratic developing countries with poor civil and political rights records, even though some of them may do better on other human rights measures and indicators of well-being, including physical integrity violations.”

Another factor explaining this double standard is that much of the reporting on China by the general media and human rights monitors tends to focus on particular horrific cases of human rights violations, — which is what I have been arguing now for a long time (see my piece, “Regimes of Truth — How Westerners imagine China” [link no longer exists]). As Peerenboom very rightly points out, “the emphasis on individual cases, especially heart-wrenching cases that are not representative of the system as a whole, creates a misleading impression of how serious the problems are and a distorted image abroad.”  The bias in favor of liberal democratic states mentioned earlier above is also reflected in Western media reports on China.  Much of the reporting, as Peerenboom notes, “continues to be framed by the narrative of ‘good dissidents’ battling the ‘oppressive authoritarian state’ in a noble quest for democracy and social justice. . . .”

But as Peerenboom empirically demonstrates, not all democracies guarantee and protect human rights, just as not all non-democracies seriously violate and neglect human rights.

Peerenboom again:

The US State Department reports for China invariably start with a description of the nature of the political regime, as if that were the most significant determinant for rights in the country. To be sure, the reports only discuss civil and political rights, in itself a clear indicator of bias. The 2004 report for China begins: “The People’s Republic of China . . . is an authoritarian state in which. . . . the Chinese Communist Party . . . . is the paramount source of power.” Imagine it began instead: “Human rights and other indicators of well-being across the board are highly correlated with wealth.  China outperforms the average country in its lower-middle income category on every major indicator except civil and political rights (as is generally true for other East Asian countries).

As I argued in my post, “Some Thoughts on the Nature of China’s Governance and Society,” [link no longer exists] a fairer assessment requires examining empirically verifiable evidence, rather than simply relying on qualitative evidence.

The third reason for Western double standards towards China comes from those who want to contain China’s development and influence. Criticizing China’s human rights record “deprives it of legitimacy and ‘soft power,’ thus making it more difficult for China to persuade others to join it in pursuing policies that serve China’s interests.”  Despite its various diplomatic successes, notes Peerenboom, “the demonizing of China has indeed impeded China’s international influence to some extent.”

The fourth cause of the double standard is the over-critical attitude many foreigners have towards China’s system of governance, stemming largely from a blind faith in the legacies of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment, which of course made valuable contributions to our modern ideas about democracy, human rights, religious tolerance, and the rational pursuit of truth.

There is so much more to be gained from this important new book than what I have outlined here.  There is an entire chapter on democracy, a chapter on the rule of law, and a chapter on human rights, all carefully researched and empirically grounded. “China’s performance to date,” Peerenboom concludes, “has exceeded expectations, and there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.  It is a large country, with considerable room for further growth.  As rule of law and good governance are highly correlated with wealth, there is reason to expect that China’s legal system and government institutions will continue to improve as China becomes richer . . . . Chinese leaders have no choice but to continue with economic, legal and political reforms” and “China need only look at its more successful neighbors to get a general sense of the way forward.”

Rather than demonizing China as a strange authoritarian anomaly, Peerenboom succeeds in demonstrating China is simply following the normative patterns of its East Asian neighbors in terms of economic development, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratization.

171 responses to “Randall Peerenboom’s China Modernizes”

  1. 250 million / 1.3 million gives you about 20%
    Magna Carta was not important until after the fights between the king and parliament in the 16th century, and that occurred after the commercial revolution of the 16th century. The House of Commons was not effectively elected in anything like a democratic fashion until the Reform Act of 1830. The United States was not a democracy until about 1820 and Andrew Jackson. Property requirements kept the franchise closed, and the original US Constitution wasn’t particularly democratic. Parts of Greece were democratic, but Rome never really was.
    The idea that China is xenophobic and racist and devoid of rule of law is hardly a “consensus” on this board.
    As far as the speed of poverty reduction. 800-900 million people are hardly being pushed down. Everyone is pretty much better off than they were when this experiment began. If you have a realistic plan that would have had China develop more quickly and get 1.3 billion to first world standards in thirty years, I’d like to hear it. Development takes a long time, and China is developing about three times as fast as England or the United States during their industrial revolution.
    Also, it makes it easier to have these discussions if you stop with the “ad hominem” attacks. China is big and different people see different things, and it’s a bad idea to assume ill-will from people who have different views. I know Professor Peerenboom, and he has been pretty active in rule of law issues in China.
    The problem I have with your views is that you correctly point out that China has huge problems, but I don’t think that you really have any better solutions. The basic problem is that in order to get China at US levels of wealth, you need to generate tens of trillions of dollars of wealth, and I haven’t seen any thing that you’ve written that suggests that you have any clue how to do that. The people that know how to generate wealth are the bankers, the lawyers, and the MBA’s that you seem to have big problems with.
    If we don’t generate wealth, then to redistribute global wealth fairly will require a massive drop in the standards of living of people in the United States and Europe. That is going to be unpleasant.
    Part of the reason I’m a “panda hugger” is that I’ve been to Mexico. If you look at China from the standards of the United States, it looks awful. If you look at China from the standards of a third world nation, then it looks really, really good.
    If you are going to bash other people for being corporate drones then you been to be prepared to be bashed for being out of touch with how much poverty there is on this planet and for having unrealistic and impractical expectations for what a third world government can get done, and worse yet, for not having any better alternatives.

  2. Found this comment from businessweek.com after an article regarding the latest US trade sanactions on China:
    “nanheyangrouchuan Apr 4, 2007 11:29 PM GMT Now it’s time for full tariffs on Chinese products: 29.5%! Production will be shifted to other countries and the U.S. will have a broader outsourcing base. Other countries win; the U.S. wins. Bad China is just bad.”
    Is this the same “nanheyangrouchuan” on the CLB?
    Here is the link to the BW article:
    http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/apr2007/gb20070404_113885.htm

  3. Thanks for the review and summary, MAJ. Haven’t read this book yet. The author spends three and half pages focusing on India’s human rights violations and concludes that India’s human rights record is “far worse” than China’s. That’s something I’m interested in knowing more about. My impression is that corruption is a serious problem in India, and it’s probably on par with China. You may often hear train crashes or train related disasters in Bombay or Mumbai. But that hardly constitutes human rights in strict sense.
    One thing about the book, It seems to me that the key argument of Peerenboom is that the level of civility, so to speak, of social governance is closely related to gross level of wealth. I’m not sure if this can go unchallenged. Along this line, could someone argue that a poor person would be a bad person?
    It certainly doesn’t hold true empirically.
    Well, under Peerenboom’s theory, Mr. Chuan is Category III? 😉 Chuan is pretty ubiquitous around the China Blogsphere. It seems that he’s gotten a pet China minority (Tibet or Xingjiang) issue. These are all heavy duty stuff.

  4. “before democratisation, which is also what most other East Asian states like South Korea did, and for that matter America and Western European countries too”
    Let’s see, the Magna Carta took place well before “free market capitalism” was even a phrase, the House of Commons was an elected body long before the English economy was even a shadow of what it is today. The French Revolution was driven by the excesses and abuses by a small upper class on the vast, hungry, dirty lower class. The US was established as a Greco-Roman style democracy and evolved from that.
    “, China’s performance has been “phenomenal”, lifting roughly 250 million of its people out of poverty.”
    “respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratisation.”
    And yet this site has recently had so many posts in which the general consensus is that China is virulently racist, xenophobic and ultra-nationalistic and that the “average Zhou” couldn’t get a fair day in court unless God saton the bench.
    All of these panda-huggers conveniently forget about the 800-900 million people who were pushed down. Perhaps these “sinologists” ought to demonstrate their mandarin fluency at a construction site next time they are in China instead of enjoying banquets and KTV girls.
    250 million sounds impressive until you consider it is less than 10% of the population and that took 30 years.
    India is a human rights abuser? Their SEZ plans are in serious jeopardy because of rural resistance. How many E. Turkmenistans and Tibets does India have under its belt? How many Tiananmen square and Gulja massacres has India committed?
    More panda hugging hogwash from someone who sees China from his 20th story 5 star hotel room.

  5. Sepa, the reason why you and numerous others are surprised by Peerenboom’s remarks about India merely goes to prove his point – that China is treated unfairly, and that it is singled out for particularly harsh criticism by both political states and by the Western media, and for all of the reasons he lists.
    The fact is, India shares with China a Political Terror Scale rating of 4, though Peerenboom argues that unlike India, China doesn’t deserve to be ranked this poorly.
    Peerenboom draws not only from his own knowledge about India’s human rights record, but also from the US State Department’s 2004 Report of India, He cites the report extensively to demonstrate that the US government is well aware of the seriousness of the human rights situation in India – yet it has faled to sponsor any motions against it – hence the double standard when it comes to their attitude toward China.
    Very briefly though, allow me to outline just a few of the problems in India:
    * In 2001 and 2002, security forces killed an average of 1,600 militants per killed. Some of those killings occured in “fake encounters” where the security forces summarily executed suspected militants and other civilians offering no resistance. The bodies of many of those killed showed signs of serious torture and bore multiple bullet wounds.
    * Estimates of unexplained disappearances in Kashmir and Jammu alone since 1990 range from 4,000 to 8,000, according to NGOs. Military and paramilitary troops throughout India also engage in abduction, torture, rape and arbitrary detention.
    * Death in custody is commonfor both suspected criminals and militants, and according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, torture is “systematically” used. Authorities in India, according to the report, routinely torture detainees in order to extort from them money. Rape in custody is also common.
    * India’s legal system is plagues by corruption and a serious lack of resources, and an enormous 75 percent of detainees in Indias’ prisons are unconvicted, waiting for trial.
    * According to the US State Department report, restrictions on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech are severe, and include the use of defamation laws against journalists along with beatings, detentions, and other forms of harrassment.
    * The government in India bans books and censors the media and the internet to a greater extent than does China.
    * The Indian government restricts academic freedom, most notably by regulating partnerships between Indian and Western universities in line with Hindutva philosophy.
    * The Indian government refused a visa to the Secretary General of Amnesty International after it issued a critical report regarding the government’s handling of the religious-based violence in Gajurat, and in 202 it refused to allow the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Extrajudicial Killings to enter the country.
    * The Indian police routinely refuse to arrest rapists, and the courts fully adjudicate only 10 percent of rape cases, thereby creating a culture of impunity for rapists.
    * Dalits or “untouchables” (the lowest caste) make up the majority of bonded labour, face segregation in housing and marriage, and tend to be malnourished and illiterate. Brahmans, by contrast, despite making up only 3.5 percent of the overall population, make up 75 percent of the judiciary and 50 percent of the parliament.
    * Tiananmen-style massacres occur throughout India quite frequently – only last month for example, the police gunned down fifteen civilians farmers in Nandigram who were protesting against a government decision to evict them from their land in order to make way for the establishment of an Indonesian-owned petrochemical plant. This story was picked up by the Western media (see The Australian, March 20, 2007 for example).
    I could go on….
    The point is this: India’s human rights record over the past 25 years has been, and continues to be, noticibly worse than China’s, and yet the US and its Western allies have never once sponsored a motion to censure India for rights violations, yet they sponsored eleven motions to censure China in the UN between 1990 and 2004 alone.
    As far as the correlation between wealth and good governance goes, the empirical evidence to support this is overwhelming. You cannot infer from this though, that individuals would behave badly simply because they are poor. Peerenboom is not talking about individuals, but entire nation states, which require enormous wealth in order to develop and to maintain effective institutions and services – be they in the areas of health, education, the judiciary, etc.
    Nanheyangouchuan – if you have a “pet” minority issue, then read my arguments on Tibet, which I think will challenge your views on this. You can find them posted at: http://www.pbs.org/chinainside
    Peerenboom’s point about democracy, Nanheyangouchuan, is that liberal parliamentary democracies did not suddenly just appear spontaneously in Western European countries, or in the U.S. or Australia. They developed over many hundreds of years, and the type of system really only began to mature into what we enjoy today after the Second World War – helped along partly by the shift in the balance of class forces that resulted in the development of the welfare state.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 6, 2007

  6. nanheyangrouchuan —
    You are completely missing the point of the review. The point is not that China does not still have a long way to go, but that we should be looking at China in context. Complaining about China having pulled only 250 million people out of poverty in 30 years is to ignore context entirely.
    Does one really need to speak Mandarin with Chinese construction workers to know that their jobs are brutal? I don’t think so. Does “enjoying banquets and KTV girls” disqualify one from having any validity in commenting on China. You and I both know that you bring this stuff up just as an attempt to shock and to show “inside” knowledge, not to advance any real proposition.
    What I find so funny about your attack here is that Mark is an academic, not a businessperson. Again though, you are engaging in irrelevant ad hominem arguments.

  7. Sepa —
    I have not read the book, so I am guessing here, but I am pretty certain Peerenboom would not say poor people are bad people, but rather, he would say the following:
    1. Poor countries have weak institutions. Strong insitutions are key to the Rule of Law, Human Rights protections, lack of corruption.
    2. Corruption is more likely in a poor country than in a rich country for the simple reason that rich people have more to lose and less to gain by corruption.

  8. Nanheyangrouchuan – one more thing! The figure of 250 million people lifted out of poverty over the last 20-25 years is very impressive, by any messure, and it does represent roughly 20 percent of the overall population, as Joseph has pointed out. That’s one in every five!
    Why not try looking at China’s human rights record over the past 25 years through Chinese eyes? If you do, then you will appreciate the big picture as looking pretty impressive: as the latest United Nation’s Human Development Brief reports, “China has registered some of the most rapid advances in human development in history, with its Human Development Index ranking increasing 20 percent since 1990.” China is now ranked 85 out of 177 countries. “China was the world’s fastest growing economy over the past two decades, with per capita incomes rising threefold,” says the report, “although growing inequalities have left Guizhou ranking alongside Namibia (ranked 125 on the index) whereas Shanghai is more comparable to Portugal (which ranks 25 on the index – not all that much further behind the U.K and the United States! Norway, incidentally, is ranked Number 1, followed by Australia. The U.S. is currently ranked Number 8. Keep in mind that this ranking takes into account not only the spending power of its citizens, but also per capita literacy and numeracy rates, the quality and accessibility of health care and housing, as well as various other indicators. There is I think, every reason to be generally optimistic about China’s future.
    Development is always going to be uneven of course – that’s a universal phenomenon. So yes, inequality has grown dramatically as a reult of all of this development, but the poor are, generally speaking, still getting richer, albeit, at a much slower rate than are the rich. But can you name one country in the world where this is not the case – both historically, and as ongoing phenomena?
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 6, 207

  9. Dan – I just read your last comment above, and yes, that is EXACTLY Peerenboom’s argument – an argument that is supported by the overwhelming weight of available existing empirically-verifiable evidence – all carefully documented by Peerenboom himself throughout the 393 pages that make up this important and very welcome new book.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 6, 2007

  10. MAJ —
    I think the overwhelming point here (and in countless of my previous posts on the environment in China, rule of law in China, IP protection in China, etc.) is that we need to compare China with comparable countries and, surprise, surprise, when we do that, China is comparable. By comparable countries, I mean comparable in terms of wealth, which, like it or not is highly correlative with many other factors we would like to believe exist on their own.
    Corruption is one of my favorite examples of this, because the rankings on country corruption nearly always closely track the rankings on wealth. I am also of the view that these rankings give lie to the idea that corruption is somehow genetic or ethnic. Singapore, HK, Taiwan, and China, are all more or less where one would expect them to be in terms of corruption, based on their economic development.

  11. MAJ:
    If Tibet is such a wonderful place for Tibetans, why is it that so many leave for India or Nepal?
    And why does the PLA shoot at them as they flee?
    Journalists with PSB permits are still “observed” by the Chinese. You can try to dismiss this as “commie paranoia” but talk to some really old china hands who arrived in the 80s and early 90s.
    After a month in CHina they knew by face the person who tailed them aronnd town and their comings and goings were openly recorded by the community representative. There are too many foreigners in China’s big business cities for that kind of activity, but Tibet is too sensitive and the foreigners are few enough that this kind of observation is still common. If a foreigner went somewhere or met a Tibetan they weren’t supposed to, they would be “informed”.
    As for India’s human rights violations, I”d like to see some web links or publication references to Tiananmen scale massacres in India. Tiananmen is known to the world and Gulja is starting to come out as a Rebya Kadeer is being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (China is vehemtly protesting) for her work to save her people. Where are the Indian equivalents?
    MAJ, you may or may not know that India as the same problem with Maoists in its east that Nepal has. And Kashmir? Firstly, thank the Brits, second, its a three way struggle. If it wasn’t for water rights, the Kashmir issue would have been settled 20 years ago.
    So lets see some links. There are lots of links and quite a few videos of PAP/PSB banditry on behalf of local officials.
    BTW, this morning on PBS, the Indian gov’t fessed up regarding Nandigram, which was supposed to be a SEZ. But unlike China, that and other SEZs are on hold because of local protests. No PSB beat downs, no garrison of PAP to restore “harmony”.
    It would be intersting, if possible to compare India’s degree of internet censorship with China’s. Blogspot has had a tough time with the PSB nannies recently and the BBC is on permanent ban. Even satellite TV broadcasts to 5 star foreign hotels get “the fuzz” from our CCP friends.

  12. You all do realize the inherent danger in taking a Neville Chamberlain stance with a country/ethnic group that considers itself to be the center of the world/guardians of heaven and the rest of us to be barbarians? This same country has fairly modern weapons, nukes, alot of territorial claims on its neighbors, resentment about past unfilled potential and an assumption of its future place in the world.

  13. Thanks MAJ for this wonderful piece, and thanks Dan for running it. GVO had its annual meeting in Delhi last year, and most of us from the East Asia team were shocked at the huge differences between Delhi and Beijing, more than one of us, back in China, joking that we’d come back to the first world. The points MAJ makes about India in comparison to China really do put things in perspective.
    So what does that say about foreign correspondents stationed in China? I’d just like to draw attention to one line in one analysis of foreign media coverage of the recent Two Sessions which seems to contradict what Peerenboom argues, “CNN correspondent FlorCruz said, “But compared to free education, medical insurance and inequality of wealth, democracy cannot be said to be the most urgent thing that the common Chinese people want,” contradicted in turn by one Chinese writer, who asks “whether these big international media have fallen? Or does Beijing actually have the ability to co-opt them? Do they fail to notice the hundreds of thousands of acts of violent resistance each year? Do they pretend not to see that an undemocratic system creates corruption, wealth disparity and social injustice? Can a CNN reporter not see the connection between free education, medical insurance, wealth disparity and democracy in a country without democracy and individual human rights?”
    links: http://zonaeuropa.com/20070323_1.htm
    http://zonaeuropa.com/20070404_1.htm

  14. I’d say on the whole, I’m a dragon slayer more than a panda hugger. I try to read articles like this to balance things out, so to say. For me, I think the reason why it’s so easy for me (and possibly for other dragon slayers) to give a knee-jerk reaction to this by saying “CCP apologist!!”, etc., is the impression I get from the panda-huggers is that I’m being too harsh on CHina. Why is it that we try to humanize a piece of dirt on a map? China does not have feelings, America does not have feelings, NO country has feelings, thus no country should be free from insult and criticism when it is due. Sure, China has come a long way, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still makes mistakes. Any success of any country should NEVER be used to diminish it’s failures.

  15. Arghh… Call me pedantic, but there’s one little word that keeps popping up in Nanheyangrouchuan’s comments that has been bugging me for too long: Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is an independent country. Has been since the collapse of the Soviet Union.I’m not aware of any significant political problems in the eastern part of Turkmenistan, but I suspect that if such problems exist, their relationship to China is so weak as to be essentially irrelevant to this blog (although I’ll leave that to the China Law Bloggers to decide). I believe NHYRC means to be referring to Xinjiang, which Uighur nationalists like to call “East Turkestan”. I really have been teaching English far too long, I’m sorry.
    Back on topic: Thank you Mr Jones for the review. I don’t have any empirical evidence to offer the debate, but my experience of both urban and rural China seems to match Peerenboom’s argument. It’s good to see there are people out there trying to put China into its proper context.

  16. Dan & MAJ,
    Without comparing India and China, I have to admit India’s record alone clearly escaped my eyes. Maybe I’m not alone. At least for the general public in the United States, India is geneally viewed as a relatively benign, largest democracy on the earth.
    I get the points from both of you regarding correlation between a country’s wealth ranking and the desirability of its legal and political system.I guess I’m more willing to say that if a country has a better system, then it gets to build and keep wealth in a more efficient and sound fashion than to say the other way around, i.e. here is the wealth you have, then here is the system you can buy. It somewhat resembles the egg and chicken thing.
    In any rate, I’ll pick up the book and find out more.

  17. nanheyangrouchuan —
    Okay, so what EXACTLY do you propose. Should we completely isolate China? Who should do the isolation? Do you really believe China is the equivalent of Nazi Germany, because I sure as hell don’t and I think any such comparision is, frankly, idiotic.

  18. feng37
    I certainly do not dispute that not all Western reporters see China the same way. In fact, I think much of the worst writing on China comes from the reporters who goes to China for two weeks, not from the people stationed there.

  19. Chip —
    I pretty much agree with you. Two wrongs do not make a right and we are entitled to hold China up to high standards. But, it is counterproductive and unfair to hold China up to higher standards than it can realize and higher standards than comparable countries. I would love as much as anyone to turn China into Denmark tomorrow, but that just ain’t gonna happen and we need to deal with that reality accordingly. Democracy cannot be imposed and it cannot be rushed. I wish it were otherwise and I used to think it was otherwise, but I stopped thinking that a while ago, before the Iraq war, actually.
    I have been heavily influenced by the book, “THE WORLD ON FIRE,” and now believe democracy pretty much has to come from within. We can help and we should help, but pushing too hard will backfire. Democracy and freedom are the way, and I have not backed down one bit in that belief. I simply have come to realize it cannot be achieved instantly and rushing it may just slow it down.

  20. sepa —
    Interesting point and one to which I somewhat agree. I agree in the sense that I think democracy and freedom are really good for business, but I disagree to the extent (and I wish it were otherwise) that I believe this only holds true for the more advanced democracies.

  21. IMHO, there is a reason why human rights are correlated with wealth and that is that human rights are expensive. To create a just, fair legal system, you need to hire and train large numbers lawyers, judges, police, legislators and officials, and this costs money.
    Also the connection between democracy and wealth disparity and social injustice is less close than a lot of people assume. Both India and Philiphines are democracies, but still have wealth disparity and social injustice, while Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea were able to go through a period of having a just and more or less equalitarian society without democracy. Something I think has that greatly influences American reporters and the public is the total failure of the “Iraqi experiment.” Right now, Americans are just not in the mood to hear about how democracy will solve everything and that affects China coverage.
    The resentments and sense of lost glory that Chinese feel is not unique in the developing world. You see it a lot in the Arab world. The difference is that because China has a more or less functioning economy, the energy of Chinese gets directed at getting rich rather than straping dynamite to themselves and blowing themselves up. China has its issues with ethnic groups with legitimate greivances, but so does every other third world country.

  22. “Two sharply opposing images of China seem to prevail in the Western media…” This couldn’t be more true. And it’s a pity, because it stands in the way of more balanced analysis.
    In this context, the expression “panda hugger” is entirely unhelpful. So too is “armchair sinologist”, which often crops up on China blogs when one person claims a monopoly on access to the “real” China. Rather silly.
    Anyway, I was interested by Peerenboom’s analysis of the “double standards” that have been imposed on China. I tend to agree. Part of the problem, perhaps, is that relatively few non-Chinese (including myself) were familiar with China even as recently as the 1980s, so it’s hard to have any genuine empathy with the sheer scale of human development that has taken place. It follows, I suspect, that the natural tendency is to view the country’s politics through a post-1989 lense, which obviously puts the spotlight on human rights, often with the most negative starting assumptions.
    I enjoyed your review and have added the book to my “to read” list.

  23. Nanheangrouchuan – you write:
    “If Tibet is such a wonderful place for Tibetans, why is it that so many leave for India or Nepal? And why does the PLA shoot at them as they flee?”
    I have addressed these points in great detail in the discussion that took place on the PBS discussion forum, at: http://www.pbs.org/chinainside
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 6, 2007

  24. Dan,
    True, I agree with you. I guess I just needed to get out some energy, and I can’t agree more that democracy comes from within. I remember having a conversation with somebody about Iraq, China, etc., and he basicly said “why should we give them democracy? They don’t want it, and they wouldn’t use it. If they wanted it, they’d demand it the same way we did!”
    And he’s absolutely right, America’s democracy (and pretty much every other truly democratic country) became that way because of the demands of the people. We demanded it, and were willing to die for it (well, our forebearers anyway). I guess in terms of China, we can keep encouraging it, criticising it, etc., but in the end, any real change especially in terms of democracy will have to be up to the people. And for right now, they don’t want it badly enough.

  25. “Okay, so what EXACTLY do you propose. Should we completely isolate China? Who should do the isolation? Do you really believe China is the equivalent of Nazi Germany, because I sure as hell don’t and I think any such comparision is, frankly, idiotic.”
    My proposition involves the US gov’t divorcing itself from the Fortune 500, for that group is what has led us to the China we have today, a “David Copperfield” society in a supposedly far more englightened era.
    Your opinion of China v. Nazi Germany is yours, but I can promise you that plenty of China experts who are not panda huggers and armchair sinologists in certain corners of the US, Oz, Japanese and Indian gov’t lean more my way than yours.

  26. “Two sharply opposing images of China seem to prevail in the Western media…”
    I agree, but I also think it is, at least in part, only a reflection of the two sharply opposing images of China that exist in the Chinese media. On the one hand there are the never-a-point-against nationalists who, for every point of reasoned criticism, must make an opposing criticism of the West. And on the other hand there are the likes of my students who refused to believe me when I told them that I thought the facilities in their college were, for the most part, better than those in my New Zealand high-school. Likewise when I told them that I thought their teachers were as good as those in my country.
    I often find myself reflecting on Chinese news articles and thinking that the writer either has too a rosy view of China, or a unreasonably negative one.

  27. Joseph Wang – you write: “Both India and Philippines are democracies, but still have wealth disparity and social injustice, while Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea were able to go through a period of having a just and more or less equalitarian society without democracy.”
    Exactly! This is, once again, what I have been arguing now for the last five years plus. Peerenboom also spends considerable time discussing this. And you can add to this list of poorly performing elitist democracies Indonesia, Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh. All of these countries, along with India and the Philippines, introduced democracy prematurely, and all have suffered greatly as a consequence. Those countries that postponed democracy until they were wealthy and developed enough, are the more successful ones: South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia.
    The East Asia Model works, and as Peerenboom points out, even “democracy is no panacea, this is the case even in those countries typically cited as success stories…in short, democracy in East Asia is often a story of grand political corruption, of clientelism and the dominance of the elite and business interests.” South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong and Malaysia all suffer considerably from the problems listed above. The fact is, democracy in East Asia relies heavily on good governance by a technocratic elite. Apologists for democracy all too often overlook the fact that political elites are normally always dominantly represented by business interests, and that the rise in money politics in newly established democracies undermine the democratic potential of elections, making a mockery of equality and fair competition inherent in the slogan of ‘one person, one vote’.
    When China does eventually democratise, which it will unlikely attempt until the country’s mean income reaches at least US$3,000, it will almost certainly follow the East Asia Model, and introduce an elitist form of democracy, similar to that of Singapore’s.
    Peerenboom again: “China will most likely democratise when there is a broad consensus among state leaders and citizens alike that soft authoritarianism has outlived its purposes. The transition is likely to involve a pact among the elite. There is a reasonably good chance that the CCP, or a sizable faction within it, would be able to reconstitute itself as a social democratic party or some other reformist party and then retain power. There may then be single-party dominance for a considerable period, as in Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.”
    In short, not all soft authoritarian states produce poor quality governance, just as not all democracies produce high quality governance, which is why there are numerous democracies in the world at present that have poorer human rights records than China.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 6, 2007

  28. Chip —
    Sort of. I think almost everyone (except those in control) want democracy on some level so I do think we should be encouraging and engaging in appropriate prodding. We democratic countries should show the way to democracy, help get other countries to democracy, and encourage democratic elements, but but we cannot make the way.
    I hate to always revert back to popular culture, but it kind of reminds me of an old commercial (I think it was for Gallo), that said something like, Gallo will sell no wine before its time. The point being, rushing can do harm.

  29. nanheyangrouchuan —
    Of course there are people who agree with you, but on what? You have yet to clearly articulate how the West should be treating China today. Let’s hear it.

  30. The other Joe —
    But that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean it is better to have two views than just one. I also think both views make sense and is exactly what one finds in most developing countries (I think). The person in a developing country tends to be proud of what the country has achieved, yet still very wary of its place in the world.

  31. nanheyangrouchuan —
    India does not have execution buses and your asking that question shows either desperation on your part or a willful misunderstanding of this post’s analysis.

  32. MAJ —
    I think much depends on definitions. To me, bad democracies are not really democracies at all. In other words, democracy takes more than just elections. I also think you are wrong on South Korea, which in the last ten years or so has become what I would consider a fully functioning democracy. Corruption is way down there, there are two strong political parties, the people take their vote very seriously, and the government is listening to the people.

  33. “You have yet to clearly articulate how the West should be treating China today. Let’s hear it.”
    We should NOT be treating China the way businesspeople want us to, ie as a non-security threat, a non-hegemon and non-strategic competitor that we can benignly share technology with and ignore its political objectives. China should have been left alone by Nixon.
    Desperation in my post? No, more of a quanitifiable counter to MAJ’s claim that India is equal or worse than China in human rights abuses.

  34. Nanheyangrouchuan: We should NOT be treating China the way businesspeople want us to, ie as a non-security threat, a non-hegemon and non-strategic competitor that we can benignly share technology with and ignore its political objectives. China should have been left alone by Nixon.
    Who is we? Americans? Westerners? Anti-business leftists?
    1) If China had been left alone by Nixon, it would have ended up looking like North Korea.
    2) China’s political objectives is to become a rich and powerful country and a major great power. I don’t find this objectionable, and the Chinese government is making a strong effort to make it so that large numbers of people in the world don’t find this objectionable.
    Having China a major power is objectionable only if you find something inherently repugnant about Chinese nationalism, which I don’t, or if you object to any other power with the same level of power as the United States, which I don’t either.
    Something the United States is rapidly finding out is that the world is too big to have one policeman and one-power planets have some of the problems of one-party states. Having six or seven major powers would I think lead to a better world.
    3) How do you intend *not* to share technology? Chinese can figure out a lot of things on their own, and the real technology is in people’s heads. For you to stop technology transfer, you basically have to close US universities to PRC students, and that is going to kill US R&D.
    Personally, I like the multi-national corporation because for all of their faults, MNC’s generate wealth in a way that no other system has, and MNC’s tend to view things from a global point of view rather than from a national one. An MNC looks at me, and the color of my skin or the language that I speak is not as important as how much money they can get out of me.
    The problem is that your goals are self-contradictory. First you are complaining that Chinese government and multi-national corporations aren’t doing enough to end poverty in China, and then you are also complaining about the consequences if Chinese do get rich. If you get 1.3 billion people to reasonable standards of living, there is no way that China *can’t* be a major power on the level of the United States.
    In order to prevent China from being a major power, you have to keep China divided and poor, and if in the name of US national security, you choose to do that, this undercuts any moral arguments that you have against the MNC’s.

  35. Dan, I think perhaps you have misunderstood me regarding South Korea, which is one of the East Asia Model countries, It is, because it has followed this model, been quite successful – along with Malaysia and Singapore. There are still numerous problems in South Korea. I lived there for two years (back in 1997 and 1998) and when the Asian Economic Crisis hit, South Korea was one of the countries worst effected. Serious and widespread government corruption (especially where its dealings with the major business enterprises was concerned) is what most economists from around the world blamed for the serious of the impact.
    South Korea is nevertheless one of the success stories, and as the country continues to get wealthier, so too does the strength of its major institutions.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 7, 2007

  36. Nanheyangrouchuan – even the UN has given India a Political Terror Rating scale of 4, equal to that of China’s – so India’s human rights violations are at the very least on a par with that of China’s. Peerenboom, however, along with many others (like the British journalist Keith Sinclair for example) argue that China does not deserve a PTS 4 rating, though India they say, does.
    I agree with them, especially if we were to widen our definition of human rights to include access to health care, education, housing, etc. Then China comes WAY out in front.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 7, 2007

  37. nanheyangrouchuan: I don’t think that anyone is ignoring the Chinese government’s political objectives, which is to maximize China’s comprehensive national power and keep the Communist Party in power for as long as possible. No one is hiding this.
    The thing which I think you are having difficulty trying to explain is how those objectives conflict with the objectives of the people you are talking with. What you seem to be arguing is that the Chinese government is so fundamentally evil that working with it is morally repugnant and self-destructive, which is something I and a lot of people just don’t agree with.
    The Chinese government aren’t saints, but by the standards of a typical third-world government, they aren’t doing too badly. Part of the reason I think reasonably highly of the Chinese government, is that I’ve seen much, much worse, and the people who argue for some sort of democratic revolution really don’t have the track record to suggest that they are going to do better.
    I tend to be skeptical of revolutions because revolutionaries tend to end up being as bad or worse than the people they replace, and after a few decades of running in circles, you end up back to where you were before the revolution.

  38. Thank you for your detailed review Mr. Jones, and for the links to your various essays. Shenzhen Kitsch was exceptionally good reading, and your arguments about the Tibetan issue highly challenging and provocative.
    I have a question for you about the Political Terror Score that you mention in some of your above comments. What exactly is the Political Terror Score, how is it measured, and by whom, exactly?

  39. Chinalawbog
    -of course it’s okay for Chinese people to have a dual view of China. I just wonder if foreign journalists aren’t sometimes influenced by them. If we’re trying to answer the question: ‘why are westerners sometimes unfairly critical of China?’ then perhaps one answer (which this review does not propose) is that they’ve been reading the Chinese press, which is also often unfairly critical of Chinese people, I think. Not the China Daily, maybe, put perhaps articles like this: http://view.news.qq.com/zt/2006/tourist/
    which worries about why the ‘suzhi’ (quality, in the Victorian sense) of the Chinese people is so low. If foreigners complain view China as having apocalyptic pollution problems, well so does some sections of the Chinese press.

  40. nanheyangrouchuan —
    Wow, almost a hint of a suggestion as to how we might consider treating China. But in the end, you really just say how we should not treat China. So I again ask you, what do you prescribe.
    I most certainly agree that businesspeople should not decide US foreign policy as I do not want my foreign policy decided based solely on a profit motive.

  41. Tyler – thanks for yuor question. The Political Terror Scale (PTS) was developed by Mark Gibney, who is a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. It is used by the UN and World Bank, and is based on the yearly Amnesty and U.S. State Department reports. The Scale measures human rights conditions using a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the worst. India is ranked PTS-4, as is China, which means that in both countries murder, disappearances and torture are a common part of life for those who push political or ideological discourse that run counter to those of the government. This kind of violence would have to extend to the wider population in order for a country can be given a PTS-5.
    Peerenboom, however, argues that China, unlike India, doesn’t desrve a PTS-4, but rather, a PTS-3 (extensive political imprisonment, political murders and brutality reasonably common, and unlimited detention with or without trials accepted – this is closer to today’s China, which makes it a PTS-3, not a PTS-4).
    According to the 2005 PTS figures, the United States, if you were to go by the Amnesty Report alone, is a PTS-3. Back in 2002 it was given a PTS-2, and in 2001 a PTS-1. This suggests that the human rights situation in the United States has been deteriorating over the past seven years, and once again, it goes to demonstrate the fact that democracies do not magically safeguard human rights. Based on the Amnesty Report, even Cuba does better than the U.S. – it now has a PTS-2. Based on the U.S.State Department, Cuba has a PTS-3. The U.S. State Department, interestingly, does not provide any data or reports for the U.S. itself.
    Of course, both Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department are prone to exaggerate the extent of human rights abuses in those countries they don’t like, so their reports need to be read with considerable caution, so the validity of the PTS is indeed questionable. The point Peerenboom makes though, is simple: India has never been censured, China is constantly being censured, yet they have both been given a PTS-4, based on U.S. State Department human rights reports.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 7, 2007

  42. Mr. Wang —
    I tend to agree with your most recent comments, except your enthusiasm for a multi-polar world and for the stateless MNC. I will be blunt: if I had my way, the US would remain the sole superpower for the next 100 years. There, I said, it. SO WHAT? I don’t have my way nor does the US so let’s be realistic and act accordingly.
    I think your love of MNCs ignores that though they don’t care about the color of your skin, they also don’t care about the environment, racism, poverty, war, healthcare or really anything other than making a profit. Now as a capitalist, I have no problem with this. The role of the MNC is to make money and when they seem to care about other things, they are really mostly doing so just to please their constituencies so as to make more money. I do not view them as evil, but I do view them as not being in any way driven by morality. They therefore must be restrained by states.

  43. Mark —
    I have been going to Korea 4-6 times per year for around 15 years and let me tell you, around 3 years or so ago, things really started happening there, in every sphere. You know how the art in Insadong was always the same; nothing new. Go there now and there is all kinds of great stuff. Movies? Korea is making great movies. I am told its literature is getting edgier. I have noticed noticable changes in its court system. Let’s just say that my going out drinking with the local lawyers AND the judges is no more. Seoul is getting greener. No kidding. There are excellent foreign restaurants in more than just the 5 star hotels. It is really on the move. Just this week, it agreed to a free trade pact with the US. Would you have believed that possible back in 1998. What I am saying is that Korea is there and still rising. As you and I would expect, it took time (hell, let’s compare freedom and equality in 1880, 1950 and 2000 in the US).

  44. Dan – that’s great news about South Korea. In fact, I noticed that South Korea now has a PTS-1. The U.S., as I said in my last comment above, now has a PTS-3. So the human rights situation in South Korea really has improved over the years, especially since the 1980s, when it was ruled by a series of dictatorships. Australia used to have a PTS-1 too, until it embarked on the so-called “War on Terror”. Now, sadly, it has been downgraded to a PTS-2.
    Judging from your observations above, I think I really ought to go back to South Korea for another sojourn. I enjoyed my time living and working there immensely, and I absolutely love the spicy food. Not a week goes by here in Sydney, when I don’t dine out at least once at a good Korean restaurant.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 7, 2007

  45. Joseph Wang —
    I too have seen worse. What I find fascinating about China and an aspect which is often ignored, is how much the government wants to listen to the people. Now I do not for a moment think it wants to listen to the people because it loves the people, but rather, it wants to listen to the people for the very same reason senators and congressmen want to listen to the people in the US: because it legitimizes and strengthens their power. Co-blogger, Steve Dickinson, has been slogging through China’s new property laws and he has been shocked by what he is seeing in the comments. Things like, “look guys,” we know many of you don’t want to make private property equal to state owned property, but this is what the people overwhelmingly want and if we don’t give it to them they will be pissed as hell. This is in public writings! The reality is that once a government (for whatever reason) decides it cannot brutalize 90% or more of its population, it becomes at least somewhat beholden to them. China passed that threshhold a while ago and once that genie is out, it is very hard to put back.
    Anyone want to talk brutality, let’s talk Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, North Korea, and Burma, among others.

  46. “If China had been left alone by Nixon, it would have ended up looking like North Korea.”
    Rubbish, China was doing a good job at putting itself back together from the great leap until a Beijing opera parodied Mao, then came the cultural revolution.
    “China’s political objectives is to become a rich and powerful country and a major great power”
    The problem is that this goal comes with alot of racial supremacy baggage. You’ve heard of “150 years of humliation”? And some now even stretch it to “400 years of humiliation” starting with a small Portugese (or was it Dutch) trading post that was planted on Taiwan.
    Han chinese blame China’s downfall on two groups: the Manchus and the foreign powers. The Manchus are now subjects, but the West and Japan have yet to be taught their lesson for crossing heaven. Never mind that China’s downfall was already in the cards due to a variety of internal cancers.
    “Who is we? Americans? Westerners? Anti-business leftists?” Corporate greed for cheap/slave labor led the way for reproachment as well as the sellout of Taiwan and Tibet. Being anti-business is inaccurate, being anti-corporate is a more accurate statement.
    “I most certainly agree that businesspeople should not decide US foreign policy as I do not want my foreign policy decided based solely on a profit motive.”
    CLB: I’m glad we agree on something, pro-business foreign policy in the past led to the “banana republics” and the overthrow of quite a few S. American and African democracies. The West is at its best when it makes foreign policy decisions that cannot be counted on a balance sheet.
    “What you seem to be arguing is that the Chinese government is so fundamentally evil that working with it is morally repugnant and self-destructive, which is something I and a lot of people just don’t agree with.”
    Yes, that is what I am arguing. The Chinese gov’t runs roughshod over its people not unlike NK. Otherwise the FLG wouldn’t be contributing to the CCP’s profit margin with organ sales.
    “but by the standards of a typical third-world government, they aren’t doing too badly”
    By what standards? NK? Africa?
    “Peerenboom, however, argues that China, unlike India, doesn’t desrve a PTS-4, but rather, a PTS-3 (extensive political imprisonment, political murders and brutality reasonably common, and unlimited detention with or without trials accepted – this is closer to today’s China, which makes it a PTS-3, not a PTS-4).”
    A China apologist and the same UN that does nothing for Darfur out of respect for internal sovereignty. Nice grouping, gladly exclude me.
    I’m sure Peerenboom and the other author MAJ mentioned don’t have a problem with Taiwan being steamrolled in the name of “prosperity and mutual benefit”.
    “Co-blogger, Steve Dickinson, has been slogging through China’s new property laws and he has been shocked by what he is seeing in the comments.” China changed its original constitution a few years back because of the enumerated personal liberties in it. Now the constitution only speaks of “moral guidance” and the Three Represents (or “Wears Three Watches”, hehehe)

  47. nanheyangrouchuan:
    Are there any “panda huggers” who are NOT “armchair sinologists”? Or are the two attributes logically inseparable from each other? Just curious…

  48. >>The point Peerenboom makes though, is simple: India has never >>been censured, China is constantly being censured, yet they have >>both been given a PTS-4, based on U.S. State Department human >>rights reports.
    I am not sure why this is such a key point, as censuring for human rights abuses is just a part of political posturing between nations. The only major story in the recent past is the whole Steve Harper and Hu Jintao business — which was vastly overblown.
    India receives a fair amount of flak from the U.S. for human right abuses, especially in the aftermath of Gujarat riots. In fact, they did not allow the chief minister of that state to visit the U.S. because he was accused of taking part in a pogram, which is quite serious — as he was/ is an elected representative. I am not aware of any PLA/CCP member receiving the same welcome.
    With that said, I won’t be suprised even if the cumulative of recorded human rights violation is more in India. Unlike China, India is still fighting insurgency in Kashmir & significant portion of North-Eastern India. But the difference is that in India it is likely that the media will pick it up and the government — with a few exceptions like Tehelka — cannot bully it to not to report. Since most people/bloggers/maybe even governments (righly) believe that Chinese media is far less independent, they become vary even if there is a small hint of human rights violations because everything invariably gets covered up in China. For example, we still don’t know much about the Falun Gong & CCP still claims that 4 people died during Tian An Men. Hell, the practice is so entrenched that contractors in Haidian tried to cover up the recent tunnel collapse in Beijing — you can imagine then what happens in the boondies. So maybe people hold the iceberg view; where they know that there is so much they cannot see.
    >>>> The government in India bans books and censors the media >>>and the internet to a greater extent than does China.
    That is beyond ridiculous. I doubt even the CCP will say that.
    Name ONE major website that is blocked in India. Besides when blogger was blocked for two days accidentally (they wanted to block a particular blog — which is still pretty lame).

  49. nanheyangrouchuan —
    There is a huge difference between China and NK. Among other things, China is moving forward, NK is not. History matters, but the more China develops, the less it matters. And again, what are we supposed to do? Squish China now because of what happened 400 years ago?

  50. Oh, dear. I’d love to read this book. CLB, I’m sure you’re aware of the fuss that MAJ has caused on Peking Duck. I’m not sure that inviting him to review this for you was the best choice. It certainly prejudiced me against the post, which is a shame.
    OK, really blindingly obvious point that no-one seems to have picked up on: this particular 25 year comparison is completely bogus. You take the period in history when China has been (arguably) more successful than at any time in the last 1000 years, and compare other countries, and whaddya know, China looks good.
    Here’s another idea: the modern Chinese and Indian states were founded in about the middle of the last century. Let’s do the comparison from that point on, shall we? Now what does the picture look like? China still such a shining example to the world?
    Here’s why people are down on China and not on India: in China, Tiananmen, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution could happen again *at any time.* There’s no checks, no balances. It only takes one nutter.
    As to all these massacres that have happened in India – I’m sure that’s true, they have. And why do we know about them? Because India has a free press. Recently in China, there’s been a spate of reports on killings in the countryside. Did these never lead you to wonder how many weren’t reported on in the 80s and 90s?
    And China’s economy: I once read an interesting thing about economics, talking about what happens when you wreck a country’s economy. It pointed out that after the crash, you always get a few years of excellent growth as the country puts itself back together using infrastructure (things and people) that was already there. Now, China has had more than a few years, but might we not wonder exactly what proportion of the “China miracle” is real growth?
    It’s a shame, because I’d like to see a reasoned analysis of what’s gone right in China. Education is a big feather in the cap of the Party in my view. Health care has slipped, but they seem to have done OK. But it’s easy to get sucked in by the hype of China’s miracle economy and the government claims of “harmony.” With all this talk of “strong government,” why is it that whenever it’s time for a change of president, the world holds its breath to see if China can manage it without descending into chaos again? Is that the hallmark of a strong government?

  51. nanheyangchuan: Han chinese blame China’s downfall on two groups: the Manchus and the foreign powers. The Manchus are now subjects, but the West and Japan have yet to be taught their lesson for crossing heaven.
    I think that you being simplistic and incorrect. Talking about what “Han Chinese” believe is like talking about what “white Americans” believe. In any case, no Han Chinese I know don’t blame the foreign powers for anything that happened after 1949. ., and what happened before 1949, is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
    nanheyangchuang: Yes, that is what I am arguing. The Chinese gov’t runs roughshod over its people not unlike NK.
    And I just disagree with this. Ultimately, people just have to look at China and make their own conclusions, and most of the people who have don’t come end up seeing China as too evil to deal with.
    The problem with this view is that if the Chinese government is too evil to deal with, then anyone who deals with the Chinese government is either evil or stupid, and eventually all of the people in the middle end up on the Chinese government’s side instead of yours.
    nanheyangchuan: By what standards? NK? Africa?
    Latin America, the Phillipines, Africa, the Middle East. In short, most of the world. The Philliphines is an interesting example of how a democratic revolution doesn’t necessarily help people.
    nanheyangchuan: China changed its original constitution a few years back because of the enumerated personal liberties in it. Now the constitution only speaks of “moral guidance” and the Three Represents (or “Wears Three Watches”, hehehe)
    This is factually incorrect. If you want to convince people that you are correct, it doesn’t help to state something that is easily verifiable by looking at google.

  52. Dataman: So maybe people hold the iceberg view; where they know that there is so much they cannot see.
    The trouble is that this might lead to extrapolations that are wrong. People assume that political repression is the major source of incorrect information, and my experience is that this is not true.
    It also leads to some counterinitutive effects. One thing that is instructive is to read some books of China from the 1970’s which talked about how wonderful China was when it was total hell. The reason for this was that in 1973, China was so politically repressive that no bad news got out, whereas today it’s open enough so that a lot of bad news gets out.
    There are a lot of foreign news reporters in Shanghai, whereas I don’t know of too many foreign news reporters in Lagos, Nigeria. This means that the mess which constitutes most of the third world doesn’t get covered. On the week of June 4th, the Burmese government also shot a whole bunch of students, but no one remembers that because there weren’t armies of reporters with video cameras.
    The internet helps because you meet lots of people who have been there. I’m interested for example if nanheyangchuan has actually talked to Chinese construction workers or if he is merely trying to be rhetorical. I have had long conversations with working class Chinese and Chinese peasants, and those conversations have led to my mostly positive views of the Chinese government. I’d be interested in “comparing notes” with someone who has had similar conversations who come up with different conclusions.

  53. Phil: Here’s why people are down on China and not on India: in China, Tiananmen, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution could happen again *at any time.* There’s no checks, no balances. It only takes one nutter.
    I don’t think that this is true. There are enough checks and balances so that it is impossible for a GLF or CR to happen again. My guess is that if there were another TAM, the government wouldn’t have the ability to crack down.
    The problem is that people think in terms of “democracy” versus “dictatorship” whereas China today is an oligarchy. A rough analogy could be made with medieval England in which power was in the hands of a few nobles. Not democratic, but not autocratic. Hu Jintao has to answer the the Politburo and the Politburo has to answer to the Central Committee. Power in China resides in a small group of about 100-200 people. The system has been set up specifically so that one crazy person can’t overwhelm the system.
    Phil: Did these never lead you to wonder how many weren’t reported on in the 80s and 90s?
    Yes, and you can do fieldwork to figure out what the number was. There are some papers in “China Quarterly” which do statistical analysis on rural unrest.
    The problem is that people think “we don’t know so there must be total hell” when the actual situation should be “we don’t know so we don’t know”.
    Phil: With all this talk of “strong government,” why is it that whenever it’s time for a change of president, the world holds its breath to see if China can manage it without descending into chaos again?
    I think this has to do with the lack of knowledge on how far China has progressed at creating institutionalized systems. Bringing up Iraq again, it is interesting how few people thought that Iraq would descend into chaos once Hussein fell. It’s part of the incorrect black-white democracy versus dictatorship thinking that a lot of people have.
    Part of my view on Chinese government has been because I’ve followed the legislative process regarding securities regulation. It’s remarkable how many people don’t realize that China has a legislative process.

  54. Phil – first of all, you don’t really know me from a bar of soap, and if you’re so easily prejudiced against anything and everything I write or espouse, then I’d say you have a problem. The events over at the Peking Duck took place two and a half to three years ago, and I have apologised publicly and pivately to the owner of that blog countless times. Much of what is said about me is unfounded and untrue, and those who love a good soap opera continue to this day to bait me by posting comments on various sites under various personas, and then claiming these personas to be me. As far as I am concerned, I’m the victim of a vicious smear campaign, though fortunately I have a sense of humour about it all.
    Now on to your criticisms:
    Phil, you write: “OK, really blindingly obvious point that no-one seems to have picked up on: this particular 25 year comparison is completely bogus. You take the period in history when China has been (arguably) more successful than at any time in the last 1000 years, and compare other countries, and whaddya know, China looks good.”
    Sorry, but I fail to see the logic in tyhis line of reasoning. The entire purpose of Peerenboom’s book is to examine TODAY’S China. I don’t see how this in itself makes Peerenboom’s study “bogus”. Please explain.
    Why should we do a comparative study on India and China dating back to the middle of the last century? If we did, woulod see that both countries suffered from the effects of foreign intervention and imperialism, both developed in different ways, with China today proving more successful than India. So what? What’s your point? If we carried out such a study, the findings would hardly, in themselves, invalidate Peerenboom’s arguments about TODAY’S China.
    You then go on to argue that: “China, Tiananmen, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution could happen again *at any time.* There’s no checks, no balances. It only takes one nutter.” Like Joesph Wang, I tihnk it highly unlikely that any of these events are ever going to repeat themselves in China. China is a far different country today than it was in the 1960s and even to what it was nineteen years ago. And your argument that it only takes “one nutter” is totally ridiculous and completely unfounded. Are you that naive to think that all it takes is one individual to orchestrate a “cultural revolution” or a “Great Leap Forward”. You don’t think that China’s political elite have serious stakes in the economy, which is now globalised? You don’t think that China’s sizable middle class also has an investment in the economy and the way it is managed politically?
    India does not have a free press. I dispute that, and if you like I’ll provide you with empirical evidence to back this up. There is a reason why both Amnesty International and U.S. State Department reports have led to India being given a PTS-4.
    Finally, neither Peerenboom nor I have ever claimed China’s economy is a “miracle”. Go back and read my opening paragraphs – I actually caution against seeing China in an overly positive way, just as I caution against the viewing of China in an overly pessimistic way. it’s economic performance is nevertheless better than expected, and it is normative, in the way that it is progressing along East Asia Model lines. Simple as that. The central argument here Phil, is that TODAY’S China is following normative patterns of development, in the areas of econonmy, human rights, rule of law and democratisation. It’s roughly where South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore (and even Japan) were, when they were still at China’s level of development, and in some areas, China is doing even better than what these countries were in China’s income class.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 8, 2007

  55. Hey, here late to the show.
    Anyways, I’d just like to comment that y’all are suffering from issues with definitions. Throwing around democracy and communism without truly incorporating what it means…
    before I get to the meat, allow me to state that I’m a china pessimist, for whatever that might mean to y’all. Main reason is environment. It was a prime reason why China fell behind as the Ming era was ending, and it (especially water issues) will be a primary issue in its downfall in the nearer future.
    Now, first of all, one must understand the context of what democracy means. The Phillipines, in no shape or form, have an extant democracy, as in the country’s welfare is significantly enfranchised within all of the populace. For most of it’s history in the 20th century, it has essentially undergone cyclical peaks in autonomy and colonial administration, whether overtly or subvertly. The same is even more true of Indonesia. Indian democracy has its own particularities, and so had Thailand’s former democracy. Throwing the term around isn’t helpful to understanding what is going on.
    Next, the notion that wealth comes before personal rights is ludicrous. It takes political/personal rights just to prevent some asshole from taking your shit, let alone any profitable opportunities. What you *seem* to be arguing is that *formal* political rights has to take place after wealth is formed. Which is sorta true, in the sense you have to coddle the old regime. But that does not include greater opening of respect for autonomy by agents absent any law, and it certainly does not include increased political rights as a wave spreading out from the center outwards to the rim. When it hits the rim, then the lawmakers then make a big show of granting rights, after it’s a fait accompli.

  56. Thanks, Joseph Wang, those are interesting comments. Your comparison with medieval England, especially. I’d love to see a comparison of how the political and economic power played out at the various levels in those two states. Unfortunately, it’s not a very comforting comparison for me. England went through wracking changes over religion in the Tudor period (could clashes in China over ideology produce the same results?) and then a big fat civil war.
    Plus, you say there are enough checks and balances, but several people and papers I know have wondered aloud whether the army is going to attempt to reunify Taiwan by force next year no matter what Hu says. This may be unfounded speculation. I don’t know enough about the structures involved. But it’s hearing these kinds of views that leads me to the position I put above.
    “we don’t know so we don’t know”
    Sure, so I’m taking my best guess. Given what we know from recent years, I don’t think my extrapolation is too out there. But I haven’t read China Quarterly, I could be dead wrong.
    “lack of knowledge on how far China has progressed at creating institutionalized systems. Bringing up Iraq again, it is interesting how few people thought that Iraq would descend into chaos once Hussein fell.”
    You’ve got me there – you clearly know far more about this field than I do. If the systems are there and genuinely working, then I’ll have to do some reading and reconsidering. As to Iraq – we obviously read very different papers! Everyone I read said the US would need twice as many troops to control the place.

  57. “Talking about what “Han Chinese” believe is like talking about what “white Americans” believe. In any case, no Han Chinese I know don’t blame the foreign powers for anything that happened after 1949. ., and what happened before 1949, is becoming increasingly irrelevant.”
    Hardly, you may not have ever made the mistake of asking a Han chinese whether they were Han or not and the response the expressed shock and dismay that I could not tell the difference. And what happened before 1949 is very relevant as it makes great motivation to support the chinese gov’t against foreign, especially western, agression.
    CLB: “And again, what are we supposed to do? Squish China now because of what happened 400 years ago?” China would like to squish us for things that happened back then.
    “Ultimately, people just have to look at China and make their own conclusions, and most of the people who have don’t come end up seeing China as too evil to deal with.”
    And the most of the people do come are looking for profit, so they will overlook anything that makes them examine their morals.
    “then anyone who deals with the Chinese government is either evil or stupid, and eventually all of the people in the middle end up on the Chinese government’s side instead of yours.”
    Not stupid, just greedy and willfully ignorant. You’d like all of the people in the middle to side with Beijing, regardless of what that does to the common chinese person or countries that Beijing has bone to pick with.
    “Latin America, the Phillipines, Africa, the Middle East. In short, most of the world. The Philliphines is an interesting example of how a democratic revolution doesn’t necessarily help people.”
    The Phillipines has never been right, it was in tribal turmoil when the Spanish arrived. Latin America is vastly better than China. Less friendly to foreign companies but they’ve learned from the past. The Middle East is a mess but no more than china, and they’ve got a much longer history. Africa is the embarrassment of the whole human race and China isn’t making things any better. It just sold a large number of MiG 29s and FC-17s to Sudan…for what reason?
    “I’m interested for example if nanheyangchuan has actually talked to Chinese construction workers ”
    Based on your last name, I’m not going to attemtp to compare my language skills to yours, but I have talked to enough native Chinese who hate the CCP, some actually turned their backs on the CCP after learning what really happened to their grandparents in the 70s. And those construction workers would just wish they could be treated like the other chinese people inside of CHina instead of like disposable tools.

  58. Thank you for answering my question Mr. Jones. I accept the argument that you and Peerenboom present, and I agree that China no longer deserves its PTS-4 rating. The U.S. certainly does not deserve its PTS-3 rating either. The reports issued by Amnesty International are indeed questionable. The U.S. as far as I am concerned, ought to have been given a PTS-1 or 2.
    sha8, I think it is very clear what Mr. Peerenboom and Mr. Jones mean by their use of the word “democracy”. They are referring to liberal parliamentary democracies. Mr. Jones makes this quite clear in his review. Can you name one single country that has managed to acheive a decent democracy on a mean anual income of less than $7,000? I am already quite familar with the Henry Rowen study, so I find it very easy to accept Peerenboom and Jones on this one. It’s a position that is hard to argue against empirically, as Mr. Jones is so quick to point out.

  59. MAJ – whatever. While you, Tyler and Wei are still out there, I’m never going to take you seriously. Live with it.
    On to your points: “The entire purpose of Peerenboom’s book is to examine TODAY’S China.”
    OK. Today’s China is richer than today’s India. It is also much more repressive. I’ve been and looked at the US human rights reports for both countries, and they’re both pretty damning. The key difference lies in the origins of the abuses. According to the US reports, in India “Many of these abuses are generated by a traditionally hierarchical social structure,” while “The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas.” In China: “The Government’s human rights record remained poor, and the Government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses.”
    So in India the government is a progressive force, in China a regressive one.
    “Why should we do a comparative study on India and China dating back to the middle of the last century?”
    Because the study of history enriches and informs our understanding of the present? I’m fed up with every writer in China and on China following the Party line that in 1978 there was an enormous break, and what happens now has nothing to do with what happened before.
    “India does not have a free press.”
    Yeah, and nor does the US. There’s a question of degree here. China has a *seriously* unfree press. I work in it. Did you know we’re not allowed to publish stories about the Pope? From the US human rights report on India: “The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice”. For China: “The Constitution states that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all citizens; however, the Government tightly restricted these rights in practice.”
    “Are you that naive to think that all it takes is one individual to orchestrate a “cultural revolution” or a “Great Leap Forward””
    That’s all it took last time.
    “You don’t think that China’s political elite have serious stakes in the economy, which is now globalised?”
    Yep. OK, here’s what keeps me awake, what really worries me about China now. Suppose a protectionist administration emerges in the US, and they make large cuts in trade with China. Some have argued that China has developed enough of an internal market to grow on its own, but at the very least, China’s economy takes a very serious hit. All those men floating about as “migrant workers” have nothing to do, and to prevent unrest being directed against the government, the Party decides to direct it at someone else. Rightists, leftists, foreigners, doesn’t matter. Either way, China’s stuffed.
    “TODAY’S China is following normative patterns of development,”
    Great. So I’m supposed to be glad, am I, that the largest country in the world has a political ethos similar to that of the UK in the eighteenth century? Cause, like, that turned out really well for everyone didn’t it? I don’t know which straw man it is that you’re arguing against. Neither I nor anyone else on this thread has said that China is much worse than any other country. We do, however, say that the Chinese government has unparalleled power: it governs a whateverth of the world’s population, and is trying to turn itself into a superpower. It would be nice if it were a friendly and benign one. At present, it’s not.
    “neither Peerenboom nor I have ever claimed China’s economy is a “miracle””
    You used the word phenomenal. Split the hair if you must.

  60. nan: Hardly, you may not have ever made the mistake of asking a Han chinese whether they were Han or not and the response the expressed shock and dismay that I could not tell the difference.
    So we are to take one conversation and generalize to all Chinese people?
    nan: And what happened before 1949 is very relevant as it makes great motivation to support the chinese gov’t against foreign, especially western, agression.
    The Chinese people I know have complex feelings about the West. In particular, there is a lot of “foreign chic” (i.e. people want to work for Western companies and go to Western schools).
    nan: And the most of the people do come are looking for profit, so they will overlook anything that makes them examine their morals.
    Profit isn’t a dirty word. There are lots of ways of making money, and if you say no to something that is immoral, you can usually find something more moral. In any case, you are arguing that business people are somehow less moral than ivory-tower academics, which is something that has not been my experience.
    nan: Not stupid, just greedy and willfully ignorant. You’d like all of the people in the middle to side with Beijing, regardless of what that does to the common chinese person or countries that Beijing has bone to pick with.
    No. Being willfully ignorant is bad for business. People in the middle tend to end up siding with Beijing because Chinese bureaucrats are more willing to listen and more willing to tolerate differences of opinion than their opponents. There is this “moral indignation” that if you don’t agree with me, you are stupid and ignorant that is common among democracy activists that I haven’t found in either businessmen or the Chinese government. Business involves sales, and sales involves listening.
    nan: Based on your last name, I’m not going to attemtp to compare my language skills to yours, but I have talked to enough native Chinese who hate the CCP, some actually turned their backs on the CCP after learning what really happened to their grandparents in the 70s.
    So do I. I know lots of people in China who hate the CCP. I listen carefully to why, and I understand and respect their opinions. However, I just have different experiences and have come up with different conclusions. Most of the people who hate the CCP because of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward end up having different explanations for what happened than I do.
    I just see things differently. They’ve seen things I haven’t seen, but I’ve seen things that they haven’t seen. In particular, I’ve seen the “democratic alternative” to the CCP, and these people scare me. They are nice well meaning people, that have zero idea on how to run an economy. The Cultural Revolution and GLF hangs heavy on my parent’s generation. Iraq hangs heavy on mine.
    Who’s right? Probably none of is, but I might be wrong, but I’m not willfully ignorant.

  61. Phil: That’s all it took last time.
    That’s because China just came out of a revolution with no institutions. Without institutions, it’s easy for one crazy person to take over. This is why I think it is a seriously bad idea to overthrow the Party and start from ground zero. There are all sorts of checks and balances that have grown up over the last twenty years, and if you have a revolution, all this gets flattened.
    Phil: All those men floating about as “migrant workers” have nothing to do, and to prevent unrest being directed against the government, the Party decides to direct it at someone else.
    China has massive savings and very little government debt. If foreign trade disappears, then the logical thing for China to do is your standard Roosevelt New Deal Keyesian stimulus. It’s not a big deal.
    This is where competence matters. People have this weird idea that all you have to do is to have elections and then everything will be wonderful. The trouble is that you have elections, you end up with incompetent people in power, and then next thing that happens is that the people look for someone else that isn’t nice.
    Phil: it governs a whateverth of the world’s population, and is trying to turn itself into a superpower. It would be nice if it were a friendly and benign one. At present, it’s not.
    Nations have neither friends or enemies, merely interests. The question is not whether or not China is friendly or benign. I don’t think that any powerful nation can be universially seen as friendly or benign (witness the number of people around the world that hate the United States, which is probably the nicest superpower in the history of mankind).
    The question is whether or not China is sane or
    insane at achieving what it sees to be its national interests, and it’s clearly sane.

  62. Phil: So in India the government is a progressive force, in China a regressive one.
    Except that the relative lack of hierarchy in Chinese society has to do with government efforts to redistribute the ownership of land. China doesn’t have the huge pockets of urban poverty which is typical of most third world countries because of the land tenure system, which gives all peasants a right to farm some land. One of the good things that came out of the Maoist era was a relatively egalitarian distribution of land and a high literacy rate.
    The problem with the State Department report is that it is coming from the point of view that “democracy will solve everything” when it is clear from Iraq, Russia, and the Philiphines that it won’t. I keep mentioning Iraq because I think it is exactly what China will look like if the CCP falls, and it is exactly what China looked like in the 1920’s after the Imperial dynasty was overthrown.
    People I’ve talked to in the US government democracy promotion group are scary, because they are well meaning, nice people that are totally naive about politics and economics. My experience is that nice well-meaning, ideological, people who are out of their depth often do much more damage than corrupt, greedy people. Corrupt, greedy people will generally not do anything to damage themselves, which is not true for people who are nice and ideological.
    If you look at history, revolutions do not have a good track record of creating “nice” governments. There’s only one revolution that has done so (the American Revolution) and in that case, the revolution was conservative in that it largely preserved the institutions that existed before hand.
    Also the “East Asian development” model isn’t unique to East Asia, Francoist Spain looks a lot like today’s China, and that worked out well. They “worst case” scenario I see with keeping the Communist Party in power is that it will look like Singapore. One party state with a bad record of press freedom, but not a bad place to live in.

  63. Dang, Joseph Wang, no, Francoist Spain is NOT a good example. Franco held Spain BACK for decades, and the release from idiotic militarist dictator allowed Spain to grow…
    tyler, pretending that you are arguing from the book’s definition of democracy is disengenous when people aren’t really doing that here. Not only that, you’re side-stepping my argument that the author and people here are being excessively tied to the formal nature. I’m saying that an informal distribution of political rights must exist, before wealth growth or formal democratic political institutions can exist.

  64. The democratic revolution in Spain took place in 1976, while the Spanish economic miracle happened in the 1960’s. Once Spain became middle class, the political pressures that this released made the transition to democracy relatively smooth after Franco’s death. Same thing happened in Taiwan and South Korea. Yes, Franco did hold back Spain’s growth for decades with idiotic policies before the 1960’s, but even here there is a parallel with the CCP before 1978.
    The other parallel is that some of the major players that made Spain’s transition to democracy smooth were from within the system. Namely Juan Carlos I and Adolfo Suarez.

  65. JW: So we are to take one conversation and generalize to all Chinese people?
    Right back at you.
    JW: In particular, there is a lot of “foreign chic” (i.e. people want to work for Western companies and go to Western schools).
    That is for economic and prestige (ie, “face”) reasons.
    JW: In any case, you are arguing that business people are somehow less moral than ivory-tower academics. Oh, no. There are quite a few ivory tower CCP huggers, latter day Neville Chamberlains.
    JW: Being willfully ignorant is bad for business.
    It also allows business people in places like China to tuck away their morals.
    JW: People in the middle tend to end up siding with Beijing because Chinese bureaucrats are more willing to listen and more willing to tolerate differences of opinion than their opponents.
    You have “willingness to listen” confused with hollow acknowledgements whilst foreigners babble away with their ideas for China. The only part of your conversation they are interested in is how they can make money and gain from your plan. Look at how neatly everyone is arranged for the camera when a political leader speaks in a room.
    JW: I listen carefully to why, and I understand and respect their opinions. However, I just have different experiences and have come up with different conclusions.
    Now I’m curious about your age range.
    JW: I’ve seen the “democratic alternative” to the CCP, and these people scare me. They are nice well meaning people, that have zero idea on how to run an economy.
    Which western economy runs worse than China? Economies (especially big ones) can’t be controlled and can barely be managed with monetary policy. Our economy ain’t perfect but it is far more open, sustainable and balanced than China’s will be for another generation.
    JW: The Cultural Revolution and GLF hangs heavy on my parent’s generation. Iraq hangs heavy on mine.
    Now I have my “generation” answer. It’s easy for your generation to dismiss the past as “the past”, but to ignore the experience and wisdom of your elders is to sentence yourself a repeat performance. China’s history of self-destruction is set in 5000 years of continuous stone and was reaffirmed during your parents’ generation. And it is no irony that China’s form of government hasn’t during that time period as well and that includes the CCP dynasty. Don’t try to nitpick details, the CCP’s style rule and the way emporers/presidents are picked is fundamentally no different than any other dynasty.
    In fact you do your parents’ generation’s suffering a great disservice by ignoring their plight. They know the true nature of the CCP.
    After all, the “Red Youth” of their time are now 40 to 50 something party cadres from county seats all the way up to the NPC.

  66. Phil, you write: “I’m never going to take you seriously. Live with it.”
    I can live with that, because I really don’t care whether you take me seriously or not. My views very closely mirror those of Peerenboom – our analysis of China is almost identical. There are many others who share this general line of reasoning too. Even my analysis of the Tibet issue drew support from a number of academic China “specialists” over on the PBS site. I take their responses far more seriously than I’m ever going to take yours.
    Dan, who runs this site, along with Joseph Wang, also appear to share in my overall views on China, but you don’t behave abnoxiously towards them.
    You’re unnecessarily rude towards me, which says far more about you than it does about me frankly. I could very easily rebuff your arguments, but I’m not going to bother since you won’t do me the courtesy of responding in a pleasant manner, and since you won’t be taking anything I say seriously any way.
    All the best to you,
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 9, 2007

  67. Sorry, one more thing Phil. You say that “in India the government is a progressive force, in China a regressive one.”
    Yet overwhelming weight of empirically verifiable evidence does not support your argument here, as Peerenboom carefully documents. China outperforms all other countries in its income class in the areas of economy, rule of law, and human rights (except political and civil rights – though it excels in other areas of human rights. To dismiss China’s political leadership as a “regressive” force simply does not stand up to the weight of empirical evidence. Simple as that Phil.
    Few people today would seriously try to argue that China is in regression. The fact is, as I stressed in my piece “On the nature of present day China’s governance and society”, capitalism is a historically progressive force, and most indicators of economy, rule of law and human rights, show that China’s political leadership has been managing the country’s transition surprisingly well.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 9, 2007.

  68. My impression of nanhey and Phil is that they are young and angry individuals, probably both aged 25 or less. Their naivity shows, as does their passion. I was once like them, 20 years years ago when I was their age. Admirable, but they ought to show more respect for their elders.
    Harris, Wang, Peerenboom and Jones all show a level of maturity in their analysis that deserves careful consideration and respect.
    I agree with most of what Mr. Wang has said here, apart from his bizarre endorsement of the Franco regime of Spain – a fascist regime, in gthe classic sense of the word “fascist”. I doubt very much, Mr. Wang, that Mr. Peerenboom and Mr. Jones would agree with you on your assessment of the Francoist regime.

  69. Phil – I have decided to engage with you in debate, and if you decide to respond, I hope that you will be mature enough to engage critically with my arguments rather than attacking me personally. You don’t me, and you cannot judge me based on the events of two and a half to three years, since the internet record of those events have all been seriosuly compromised by people writing comments under my name, etc. At any rate, this forum shouldn’t be turned into a soap opera. How about judging the actually arguments, based on the strength on the strength of the empirical evdience used to support them.
    Phil, you wrote: “Are you that naive to think that all it takes is one individual to orchestrate a ‘cultural revolution’ or a ‘Great Leap Forward’. That’s all it took last time.”
    Sorry Phil, but I dispute your reading of Chinese history here. These events were not orchestrated soley by one individual. Your analysis of these events is way too simplistic. Chief responsibility for the Cultural Revolution, does lie with Mao Zedong, I agree, but he alone could not have simply orchestrated those events himself. For starters, you ignore the roles played by Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, and you ignore the entire social context in which the Cultural Revolution took place – espeically important, you ignore the fact that most of the violence was initiated at th elocal level by local officials keen to further entrench their own power and authority. Their interests, as is still the case today, often runs counter to the interests of the national leadership in beijing. A vitally important contributing factor to the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution was the violent factionalism that erupted at the grass roots level within schools, factories, offices, county towns and villages. Mao may have triggered the situation by initiating the revolution, but it very quickly took on a life of its own, with Mao losing control of what he started.
    These factional divisions provide a unique window on the hidden tensions and antagonisms in Chinese society in the years leading up to the Cultural Revolution – another contributing factor. In the heat of the 1966-68 upheaval, under the cover of Maoist rhetoric, socio-economic groups that were disgruntled with their pre-Cultural Revolution situations came into conflict with groups that wished to preserve the status quo. You cannot ignore all of this Phil, it is misleading to paint Mao out to be the sole cause of the Cultural Revolution.
    Next – you write: “Many of these abuses [in Indai] are generated by a traditionally hierarchical social structure.” True, but I had already pointed that, and if you had read me carefully enough you would have noticed that. It’s also true that the top castes control government, and the state’s main jurisprudic institutions. The point that Peerenboom makes is that democracy in India is messy, so much so that Indian society is messier and more violent than China.
    Thirdly, to describe China’s economic performance over the past 20-25 years as “phenomenal” is NOT the same as saying it’s a “miracle”. To describe it as phenomenal is to acknowledge that the speed and scope of its growth has been unusually fast given the relatively short time span in which it has occured, and given the low base that it sprung from. To describe it as a miracle would be to overstate the case, to imply that it somehow shouldn’t have occured at all, that it was somehow the result of a magical new formula. Peerenboom, by contrast, sees this phenomena as normative – impressive, but normative.
    Phil, next you write: “…here’s what keeps me awake, what really worries me about China now. Suppose a protectionist administration emerges in the US, and they make large cuts in trade with China. Some have argued that China has developed enough of an internal market to grow on its own, but at the very least, China’s economy takes a very serious hit. All those men floating about as ‘migrant workers’ have nothing to do, and to prevent unrest being directed against the government, the Party decides to direct it at someone else. Rightists, leftists, foreigners, doesn’t matter. Either way, China’s stuffed.”
    I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how to respond to this, as it’s hard for me to take you seriously here. I think you are being way too alarmist and hyper-pessimistic. The idea that a protectionist administration in the U.S could bring down China is in itself highly unlikely – many would say absolutely ridiculous! How about sobering up Phil? You’re allowing your imagination to run wild.
    Finally, you write: “We do, however, say that the Chinese government has unparalleled power: it governs a whateverth of the world’s population, and is trying to turn itself into a superpower. It would be nice if it were a friendly and benign one. At present, it’s not.”
    Once again Phil, sober up! “Unparelleled” power??!!!!???? Phil, early in my review of Peerenboom’s book, I mentioned the study conducted by the Pew Research Centre, which surveyed the attitudes of people in 16 countries – China was far more popular than the U.S., and one of the main reasons why is because China is more widely perceived as being the more benign. Even if one thinks that the U.S’s repuation is unfair, you can surely understand and appreciate why this perception is so widely held. Afterall, how many countries has China invaded over the past 20 years, since 1987? None! Vietnam was the last country it invaded, during the Vietnam War, and that action, short-lived as it was, needs to be understood and viewed in the light of the Cold War.
    You may like to argue that China continues to occupy Tibet, and if you want to know my response to this line of reasoning then simply go to:
    http://discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=68073&sid=0ce8e82493889ee4c1a5dd25b2e7fcae
    All the best Phil,
    Regards,
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 9, 2007

  70. Joseph, you are a great optimist, and I’m glad you’re here to balance out the doom-and-gloom views.
    I completely accept what you’re saying about democracy: when viewed reductively as elections it is not necessarily helpful to a country’s development. But I have two comments.
    1) Democracy (not necessarily just elections, but the whole package) is an absolute good. It’s a right. If you don’t agree with that – well, I’m not sure I’d know how to talk to you. It is just a truth that people should be allowed to have some say in the way they are governed.
    2) You’re arguing that China is OK at the moment because it has been successful at building institutions. You also say that democracy requires strong institutions. So why not use China’s building ability and build democratic institutions?
    In the end, saying “China’s no worse than…” isn’t an answer. MAJ wants to argue that it means we shouldn’t single China out, but that’s incorrect. We don’t single China out for comment because it’s bad, we do it because China is big and powerful – just the same as the USA. However “good” China may be, it is still hurting and abusing the rights of millions and millions of people. We are hoping that this situation can be improved.

  71. Phil – my argument (which is the same as Peerenboom, Professor Colin McKerras, the British journalist Keith Sinclair, the Tibet specialist Goldstein and many others)is simply that it is morally wrong to misrepresent China, to unfairly demonise it. Better to present a fairer, more soberly balanced view, especially if you want to engage with China meaningfully.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 2007

  72. MAJ —
    Never much too to Korean food, mostly, I think, because I don’t eat meat. So I take about 90% of my meals there in Japanese restaurants. I know that is a shame, but there is certainly really good sushi there.

  73. MAJ —
    Never much took to Korean food, mostly, I think, because I don’t eat meat. So I take about 90% of my meals there in Japanese restaurants. I know that is a shame, but there is certainly really good sushi there.

  74. shah8 —
    Thanks for checking in. I disagree with you on China’s environment. I certainly do not disagree with you that its envirnomental situation is exceedingly grim right now and I would go even further in saying that I do not see it improving in the short term. However, there would have been a time where I would have said the same thing about all the Asian Tigers as well. When people get rich enough that they can think about more than just putting food on the table, they start thinking about their environment. It is already happening in Shanghai and it will eventually happen more and more in China. Again, these things just take time.
    I agree with you that words like democracy have different meanings, and that is why I am reluctant even to call certain countries democracies even though they have elections.
    I certainly never said wealth comes before all personal rights. It’s far more complex than that. Right now, though, China has started to take some extraordinary steps towardings codifying business rights and that is the kind of thing that leads to more investment, which leads to …..

  75. Phil —
    I do not understand your China-Iraq comparisions. First you say nobody knew Iraq would descend into chaos and then you say everything you read said twice as many troops would be needed as were provided.
    I am not going to claim to have been an Iraq expert, but I will say that I initially thought Bush & Co. were just feeding us a line about turning Iraq into a democracy. I just could not fathom that anyone who knew anything about history or the world could have truly believed that one could graft democracy onto Iraq, when there has never been anything close to democracy in an Arab country (with the exception of Lebanon, which is so totally different in so many ways as to not even count. I have since come to realize that some of the neocons actually did believe this was possible, but they were pretty much the only ones.
    China is far riper for democracy than Iraq ever was. China has institutions in place to give the people a say. The people in China are at least somewhat used to expressing their views on some things. Iraq under Saddam was far far more repressive than China today.
    On the big issues, though, I agree with you. I agree that “democracy (not necessarily just elections, but the whole package) is an absolute good. It’s a right. It is just a truth that people should be allowed to have some say in the way they are governed.” But having said this does not mean we can just create it for China.
    I also agree with you that China needs to use its strong institutions to build democratic institutions. I do see this happening, very slowly, on the legal side.
    I also agree with you that ‘saying “China’s no worse than…’ isn’t an answer.” I certainly don’t think it is the answer. But it does mean we need to keep things in perspective and be patient.
    I very much want to see the situation in China improved, but I also have to admit that my sense of urgency with China pales to my sense of urgency for places like war mongering countries like Syria, Sudan and North Korea, where innocents get killed every day.
    China needs to change, but it is changing and its size and power, if anything, mean that we outsiders cannot force the change. I am not saying we should do nothing, because I think there are lots of things we can and should do. But I do think that demonizing and isolating China at this point would be counterproductive.

  76. Tyler —
    I agree with you re the US and I am not a big fan of the UN or of Amnesty International, both of which seem to go way to far out of their way to achieve a purported “balance.”
    Nonetheless, I think the point is that China’s human rights record is not all that different from India’s and yet China gets 90% of the heat.
    And I say all of this without any intention of denigrating India, which deserves huge kudos for its democracy, which, if I were to be scoring a country on human rights, would be a hugely favorable factor. And though I hesitate to say this because I am not all that familiar with India, I dare say that one of the reasons it has been relatively insulated from outside pressure is because it is moving forward and it has achieved so much and there is probably a feeling that it is unrealistic to expect India’s democracy to be like Denmark’s democracy at this point. I am not saying India should be considered above reproach, but I am saying that we need to be patient there too and it would be ridiculous to, let’s say, call for boycotting India until it reaches Denmark status.
    I am not opposed to boycotts and blockades, but I am of the view that such tactics should be used only when it has become clear that a country’s actions are so outside the pall and that there are no signs of that country improving. If we are going to boycott countries on moral grounds, let’s at least start with the worst of them.

  77. Tyler/Mr. Wang —
    I think the analogies to Franco Spain are interesting. Franco did hold Spain back, in large measure by cutting Spain off from much of the rest of Western Europe. I wish I knew more about Spanish history to know whether Franco helped lay the groundwork for what followed after his death, but I know enough to know that King Juan Carlos did a truly heroic job in leading Spain’s transition.
    Now I know he could not have done this single handedly, but what would have happened to Spain had he not be so forward thinking and democratically inclined?
    I think Spain was extremely fortunate to have him and I also think any system that relies on the benificance (sp?) of one person is ripe for disaster. Juan Carlos was a rare breed, as power does usually corrupt and absolute power does usually corrupt, absolutely.

  78. nanheyangchuan: The only part of your conversation they are interested in is how they can make money and gain from your plan.
    Maybe they are being self-interested, but in a lot of cases, long term self-interest involves doing the right thing. That’s one fundamental difference between us. I think you are assuming that if someone is being selfish and greedy that this automatically means that they are doing the wrong thing, whereas I’ve seen people do right things for totally selfish and greedy reasons whereas I’ve also seen people who are totally altruistic come up with plans that send a nation to hell.
    I’m in my late 30’s in case you are wondering. Tiananmen was the defining experience of my youth. A lot of my views involve working with the post-TAM student movement in the United States and watching them be generally politically incompetent. I’ve got about a decade of experience working in corporate America.
    I do believe that the US economy runs better than the Chinese economy and the US and India have better political systems than China does. However, I don’t believe that you can get China to copy either system by waving a magic wand. It will take decades, maybe longer to change the political and economic systems, and the problem with “lets do it tomorrow thinking” is that you end up copying the wrong thing.
    nanheyangchuan: It’s easy for your generation to dismiss the past as “the past”, but to ignore the experience and wisdom of your elders is to sentence yourself a repeat performance. China’s history of self-destruction is set in 5000 years of continuous stone and was reaffirmed during your parents’ generation.
    I’ve read history, and I’ve come up with different conclusions. The lesson I’ve read from Chinese history is that governments don’t last forever. You have up-cycles, you have down-cycles. Right now China is in an up-cycle which will should last for about two hundred or so years.
    nanheyangchuan: Don’t try to nitpick details, the CCP’s style rule and the way emporers/presidents are picked is fundamentally no different than any other dynasty.
    That’s what you say. A lot depends on what you think is fundamental, and what you think isn’t. I don’t think it is correct. The fact that you now have a more or less orderly ten year succession cycle is something that is unprecedented in Chinese history.
    Ultimately, I think there is the basic question. What is democracy? My definition is that democracy starts with the premise that no one human has all of the answers, and that everyone can benefit from listening to different view points. If we all had the answer, then what’s the point of discussing things?
    The problem that I see with the post-TAM student movement was that they had a huge amount of moral self-righteousness. We know what to do. Anyone who disagrees with us is obviously evil or stupid, and not worth listening to. This creates the inevitable revolutionary cycle. Idealistic young people get in power. Things don’t work they way that they hope. Next then you know, you look for enemies of the people. Look at any campus Marxist movement and you see the same thing, and then you wonder what happens if people like that get in charge of a nation. Then the 1950’s and 1960’s start making sense.
    My basic experience has been that the CCP is a lot more tolerant of different viewpoints than their opponents, and is getting increasingly good at integrating different viewpoints into a coherent policy. Certainly they tolerate different opinions for purely selfish reasons, but that gets at my point about selfish people doing the right thing.

  79. Phil: The problem with saying that democracy is an unalloyed good is that it becomes impossible to make reasonable tradeoffs if it turns out that “democracy” is in conflict with some other good.
    Phil: So why not use China’s building ability and build democratic institutions?
    It is. All of the work that is being done on legal frameworks, setting up legislatures, setting up courts, building bureaucracies will be extremely important if and when China makes a democratic transition. Democratic institutions generally don’t start out being democratic.
    As far as my bringing up Franco. I don’t quite understand how pointing out that the Spanish economic boom started before the democratic transition or that the people responsible for the transition came from the Francoist bureaucracy makes me a supporter of Franco.
    Juan Carlos I was Franco’s hand picked successor, but a lot of his actions were guided by self-interest and looking at what happened with the Greek and the Italian monarchies.
    I bring it up because I’ve studied a lot of Spanish history to figure out how to create a democratic transformation, and Spain is an example of what to do and Russia under Gorbachev is an example of what not to do.

  80. nan: In fact you do your parents’ generation’s suffering a great disservice by ignoring their plight. They know the true nature of the CCP.
    I said I know people who hate the CCP, but people in my parents generation have different views. The people who really hate the CCP are people whose lives right now are far worse (i.e. they are now a street peddler rather than a chemical engineer) than they would have been if the CR had not happened.
    I also know people whose lives are more or less the same as it would be without the Cultural Revolution, and they don’t have the passionate hatred that the former group has. For them, the CR is a sad period that they have gotten over.
    But I’ve seen things that they haven’t. Part of what influences my thinking is that I’ve had more interaction with Taiwan, I’ve seen the third world outside of China, I lived through Tiananmen. etc. etc.
    nan: After all, the “Red Youth” of their time are now 40 to 50 something party cadres from county seats all the way up to the NPC.
    Curiously, the people I know personally in the Chinese government had parents or relatives that were labelled “class enemies” during the CR. I don’t know anyone who was a “red youth” perhaps because anyone who was would be quite careful to hide that.
    Most of the revolutionary people in the CCP were purged around 1978 . Also, one must keep in mind that the party bureaucracy was a target of the Red Guards. Mao was trying to destroy the Communist Party.
    I’m curious if you know personally know people in the government who were Red Guards when they were young or are you just assuming that they are there. (This is an honest question. I’m trying to figure out why you believe what you believe.)

  81. Mr. Wang —
    Thanks for all your contributions.
    I disagree with you when you say there is a problem with saying “democracy is an unalloyed good” and that problem is that it “becomes impossible to make reasonable tradeoffs if it turns out that “democracy” is in conflict with some other good.” I think you are being a bit paternalistic in saying this. Saying something is an unalloyed good does not mean one must or even should pursue it at any cost.
    I agree with you that China is building institutions that could eventually serve a transition to democracy. I see it in the legal arena.
    How did countries like the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Poland make the transition so relatively easily? Familiarity with democracy before communism? What?

  82. Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic all had working bureaucracies and institutions and highly developed economies, and their transition also involved a great deal of “throwing off the foreign, colonial yoke.”
    One other thing about the “real face of the CCP.” My general impression of the Communist Party of China is that it is a large bureaucracy, and you meet the same sort of people, culture, and processes that you see in the typical Fortune 500 company. You have the general cynicism with bits of idealism. You have basically the same people, (i.e. the middle manager that is worried about his career, the secretary who is low on the totem pole but actually keeps things from falling apart, the new corporate slogan, the endless meetings, the political maneuvers, the photo-ops, the pieces of corporate propaganda etc. etc.) Read the transcripts of the Party Congress and your typical corporate annual report, the wording and the pictures are similar.
    The net result is that people who function within the corporate culture tend to find the CCP familiar. People who hate the culture and the implicit ideology of the multi-national corporation also tend to hate the CCP.

  83. Joseph Wang:
    “Ultimately, I think there is the basic question. What is democracy? My definition is that democracy starts with the premise that no one human has all of the answers, and that everyone can benefit from listening to different view points. If we all had the answer, then what’s the point of discussing things?”
    “The problem that I see with the post-TAM student movement was that they had a huge amount of moral self-righteousness. We know what to do. Anyone who disagrees with us is obviously evil or stupid, and not worth listening to. This creates the inevitable revolutionary cycle. Idealistic young people get in power.”
    “My basic experience has been that the CCP is a lot more tolerant of different viewpoints than their opponents, and is getting increasingly good at integrating different viewpoints into a coherent policy.”
    Eh, apparently you seem to think that you have most of the answers and the rest of us better wise up and listen to you. I agree that there are serious issues with many Chinese democracy activists, but shouldn’t we expect more from the ruling party than from frustrated activists? It is almost as if you are putting the blame of the June 4 tragedy on the victims.
    No one is suggesting that China should have open and fair elections next week, but there is no way a new open-minded generation will grow up in China if you either inprison them or kick the out of China for quite small infractions against them established order, such as opening a blog or handing out some leaflets.
    The point here is that for a democracy to grow, you have accept uncertainty and even conflict occasionally. In most countries that have representative government, democratic reforms only came after lengthy struggle for enfranchisement. It is very unproductive to dimiss every activist and movement as unworthy of the cause of democracy and postpone the introduction of even the most basic democratic rights by referring to the immaturity of the movement. Yes, many democracy activists are naive and make mistakes, but they will never learn from them if they are shot at or thrown into jail. That is the best way of preserving status quo.

  84. Amban: I agree that there are serious issues with many Chinese democracy activists, but shouldn’t we expect more from the ruling party than from frustrated activists?
    Not if the activists plan on overthrowing the current government and putting together a new one. The reason I’m a bit negative about Chinese democracy activists is that the look a lot like the bright idealistic people that overthrow the Emperor in 1911 and the KMT in 1949. Sure you can say this time it’s going to be different. Why?
    Amban: The point here is that for a democracy to grow, you have accept uncertainty and even conflict occasionally.
    And in the case of things like the Property Law, the Company Law, and the Securities Law, I’ve seen people within the system disagree about some fundamental issues and reach compromises and agreements, which end up with better social systems than existed as a result of the process. It’s a much better process than what I saw of student politics in the mid-1990’s. If you want to see what that was like, rent the movie “The Life of Brian.”
    Amban: It is very unproductive to dimiss every activist and movement as unworthy of the cause of democracy and postpone the introduction of even the most basic democratic rights by referring to the immaturity of the movement.
    Why does there need to be a “movement”? What happens if I happen to be against the “movement”? There are people who I’ve ended up respecting and people who I don’t. Most of the people I end up respecting do their little part to make the world a better place. I’ve found that in the “movement” there is a disturbingly large number of people that are basically empire builders.
    If you have someone who wants something specific and limited, like better wages or compensation for land, this good and I support this. If you have someone who thinks the answer is “overthrow the government” then I have big problems with that solution.
    Amban: Yes, many democracy activists are naive and make mistakes, but they will never learn from them if they are shot at or thrown into jail. That is the best way of preserving status quo.
    What do I do about someone that thinks the status quo is worth preserving? What do I do about someone that thinks parts of the status quo are worth preserving and parts aren’t? What do I do about people who disagree about which parts of the status quo are worth preserving?
    In areas of economic law there is real discussion and debate. What is the best way of restructuring Chinese state-owned enterprises? What should policy be toward the RMB? What is the role of independent directors in SOE’s? What should rights should employees have under the labor contract law? How do you build a fair health care system? How do you build a good system for funding local governments?
    The thing about these issues is that democracy activists tend to assume that if you have elections that these problems will solve themselves, and if you put in bright idealistic moral people to replace the evil corrupt people that are in charge right now, that things will magically be good.
    I just don’t think that this is the way the world is going to work.

  85. Joseph,
    Excellent analysis. I do, however, would like to hear your opinion on the U.S. preparation on the eventual rise of China.
    Beyond all the hyperboles we read in the newspaper, what’s your assessment on the intellectual and elite base understanding of China’s rise? It seems to me the elites here still beholds the supremacy of “Enlightment Value” and probably is never going to accord equal status to “Confucius Value” (for lack of a better term). Given the high probability of China’s success in the economic arena and Chinese people’s determination to pursue its own value system, what’s the likelihood of U.S. successful transition to next phase (whatever it is)? Again, here hyperboles in the media hinder the accurate assessment. Low savings rate, high dependence on oil, ethnic and racial tension, etc. etc. So, what’s your assessment on U.S. for the foreseeable future?
    Constructive inputs from other bloggers are also welcome.

  86. Joseph:
    I’m afraid we’re talking past each other. Who is saying that the current government should be overthrown? I am not talking about that in any case and I thought that was obvious from my comments. Did any one here say that?
    I was mainly asking how suppressing relatively minor acts of dissidence serves the larger cause of some form of accountable government. Is it right to suppress independent trade unions that only ask for better working conditions or descent wages? Is it OK to imprison bloggers that vent their anger with politicians? That is actually things that are going on right now as we speak.
    I mean, if we really mean business with gradual change towards some form of democracy, that is where we would expect change. Democracy is learning by doing.

  87. xlf: low savings rate, high dependence on oil, ethnic and racial tension, etc. etc. So, what’s your assessment on U.S. for the foreseeable future?
    There will be a fairly significant recession that will reset the US economy, much to the detriment of economies who live and die by our spending. Our depedancy on foreign oil is dwindling unlike China’s. Racial tension has existed in the US since it was a British colony, today’s immigrants have it much, much easier than the european immigrants had it.
    For all of Joe Wang’s expert analysis on the rise of China and the fall of the US, he like many other CCP huggers enjoys his comfy, convenient life in the US under the boot of “Pax Caucasian” instead of packing up and moving to China. Of course then he is afraid he might end up a regular on sinocidal and china would loose all of its luster.

  88. “Nonetheless, I think the point is that China’s human rights record is not all that different from India’s and yet China gets 90% of the heat.”
    Coincidentally, China also gets 90% of the praise from corporations. In the early 2000s, the media was full of praise, adulation and glory regarding “China’s rise”, there was nothing bad that could be said about China unless you were a dyed in the wool racist and “frog in a well”. It is natural and good that the other side of China comes out: its paranoia, institutionalized racism, bipolar superiority/inferiority complex and desire to reconquer what is percieved as “lost territory”.
    JW: Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic all had working bureaucracies and institutions and highly developed economies, and their transition also involved a great deal of “throwing off the foreign, colonial yoke.”
    They did? As soviet satellites they were all economic and bureaucratic train wrecks.
    JW: “Most of the revolutionary people in the CCP were purged around 1978”
    Most of them were teenagers, how were they “purged”? They were still party members and still are.
    JW: “democracy activists tend to assume that if you have elections that these problems will solve themselves, and if you put in bright idealistic moral people to replace the evil corrupt people that are in charge right now”
    Or they have the opinion that bad leaders are on borrowed time, until the next election. And that is what happens, the bad get voted out and the new get voted in. Who is bad and who is not is the judgement of the people and not a select committee behind closed doors.
    JW: “The people who really hate the CCP are people whose lives right now are far worse”
    To the tune of around 800 million people, and there are alot of unemployed/underemployed engineers.

  89. Nanheyangrouchuan – where is the empirical evidence to support your claim that around 800 million Chinese “really hate” the CCP? The only scientifically valid national-based study ever conducted on the attitudes of mainlanders toward the CCP and the question of democracy is the one carried out by the Taiwanese scholar Tianjin Shi (I discuss his study in my piece “On the nature of present day China’s governance and society”) His findings show overwhelming support for the CCP among China’s rural poor as well as among the urban middle classes.
    I think you are being way too presumptuous. I prefer to base my assessments on the available existing empirically verifiable evidence, and if one is going to make sweeping assessments of a general nature, then that evidence needs to be quantitative in nature – not just qualitative.
    You seem to be pushing a strong anti-CCP discourse based largely on a collection of qualitative evidence, from which you derive all kinds of assumptions.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 2007

  90. Dan, you qualify your remarks by adding that you have no intention of denigrating India, “which deserves huge kudos for its democracy, which, if I were to be scoring a country on human rights, would be a hugely favorable factor. And though I hesitate to say this because I am not all that familiar with India, I dare say that one of the reasons it has been relatively insulated from outside pressure is because it is moving forward and it has achieved so much and there is probably a feeling that it is unrealistic to expect India’s democracy to be like Denmark’s democracy at this point. I am not saying India should be considered above reproach, but I am saying that we need to be patient there too and it would be ridiculous to, let’s say, call for boycotting India until it reaches Denmark status.”
    Exactly! I agree with you entirely on this one.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April, 2007

  91. “where is the empirical evidence to support your claim that around 800 million Chinese “really hate” the CCP? ”
    I was referring to the 800 million who have been left behind by the boom. Those people you pass by around China without a thought while patting yourself on the back about your China knowledge.

  92. Amban —
    I agree with you that it is unfair to critize democracy activists as immature as almost by definition, activists are immature in the sense that they are inexperienced. But they can and do change upon assuming power or others take their place.

  93. Nanheyangrouchuan – I know which 800 million you are referring to. But where is your empirical evidence to support your claim that they “really hate” the CCP?
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April, 2007

  94. Joseph, you’re terrifying me again. First you say that China is like medieval Britain, and now this: “My general impression of the Communist Party of China is that it is a large bureaucracy, and you meet the same sort of people, culture, and processes that you see in the typical Fortune 500 company.”
    I have no axe to grind against good old capitalism, but I do thank my lucky stars every day that my country (the UK) consists of a bit more than its corporations. Corporations are great, in their place. But the CCP attempts to organize the whole of society, and brooks no competitors.
    You seem to be right in at least one crucial respect: both corporations and the Party are committed to maintaining their own power. The joy of democracy is that parties engage with a system which can and does regularly turf them out of power. They are a mere part of a system which exists to serve a greater purpose: the good of the citizens of the country.
    To be successful, a country needs way more than just self-serving organizations like companies. It needs charities, clubs, alliances, organizations. China has many of these, but what worries me are the cases where it *pretends* to have them: fake political parties that are CCP-controlled; fake charities whose money disappears into cadres pockets. I sometimes feel like the Party is constructing facsimiles of institutions with no real content, and thus fooling itself and stymieing efforts to build real institutions.

  95. Shulan – thanks for your thought-provoking and insightful comments in response to the issues raised by Peerenboom in this important new book.
    My blog, by the way, hasn’t been updated since last December, when I posted my final farewell declaring my site over.
    Best regards,
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April, 2007

  96. —————- … I have always challenged both of these extremes, and roughly nine months ago I wrote a piece for my blog, “Some Thoughts on the Nature of China’s Governance and Society”,
    … as in my piece …
    which is what I have been arguing now for a long time (see my piece, …
    As I argued in my post, Some Thoughts on the Nature of China’s Governance and Society,”———————-
    I am under the impression this is not so much about the book in question but about the reviewer’s own blog. But that might be only me. I actually wrote a piece about my subjectivism some months ago. Read it here …

  97. MAJ:
    “- I know which 800 million you are referring to. But where is your empirical evidence to support your claim that they “really hate” the CCP?”
    The same source that the rest of you use, talking to people and the occasional confidential outburst from landladies, former state owned workers whose iron rice bowl was taken away, etc.

  98. My own anecdotal experiences seem to match the statistics that Mark A. Jones mentioned. The people that really, truly, passionately hate the CCP are people who lived through the CR and GLF. People who are working class either dislike or like the CCP, but they aren’t passionate about it. Significantly young people are more supportive of the government than people in the 60’s.
    Also, nan is confusing me with someone else….
    I don’t think that the United States is going to fall, and it has a great century ahead of it. The United States is a wonderful country, with probably the best constitutional system in the world and a very good economic system. For all of the complaints I have about Iraq, the US will muddle through it. It will be a mess, but that’s politics.
    Personally, I think that the Chinese political system should be a lot more like the American system, with multi-party legislatures, contested elections, rule of law, etc. etc. Since I’ve benefited greatly from the American political and economic systems, I happen to see it as my duty to figure out how China’s political and economic system can be improved using some American ideas.
    It’s a long thread, but I’ll leave with two thoughts:
    The first is that if nan gets what I believe wrong and ascribe views to me that I don’t hold, then I wonder about his reporting of other people’s views. My views on the United States are completely the opposite of what he thinks they are.
    The second thing is that I don’t have too much of a problem with accepting the idea that “The Communist Party of China is fundamentally bad” since that isn’t a core part of my identity. My views on the CCP are instrumental. I really emotionally don’t care if it rises or falls.
    I do have big problems with the view that “China is fundamentally bad, and the CCP is merely a manifestation of China’s badness.” That hits me at a core part of my identity, and that is something I simply cannot and will not accept. There are lots of skeletons in China’s closet and 5000 years of history has both good and bad things in it, but the idea that “China is fundamentally bad” is something I don’t think is true.

  99. Mr. Wang —
    I understand your consternation with people ascribing views to you that you do not hold. I have had some views ascribed to me that are diametrically opposite of what I actually believe. I mean the exact total opposite, and yet people put it out there as a certainty. That’s blogging, I guess.

  100. ‘I do have big problems with the view that “China is fundamentally bad, and the CCP is merely a manifestation of China’s badness.”‘
    Who said that China is fundamentally bad?

  101. For those who think America’s democracy and rule of law sprang up fully formed, I urge you to watch the John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart movie, “Who Shot Liberty Valance.” It’s a great movie and it’s a great movie on how the rule of law evolved in the US and evolves in general. The last time I watched it was very soon after the US went into Afghanistan and I found the movie to be surprisingly relevant to what was going on there.

  102. Phil writes: “To be successful, a country needs way more than just self-serving organizations like companies. It needs charities, clubs, alliances, organizations.”
    Yes, I agree fully.
    Phil then writes: “China has many of these…”
    Yes, it has many thousands. NGOs have been growing in numbers at a henomenal rate.
    Phil continues: “…but what worries me are the cases where it *pretends* to have them: fake political parties that are CCP-controlled; fake charities whose money disappears into cadres pockets. I sometimes feel like the Party is constructing facsimiles of institutions with no real content, and thus fooling itself and stymieing efforts to build real institutions.”
    Perhaps, but I think there is no need to worry too much. I mean, so what if some of the political parties are “fake”? Once again, think of where China is today, then think of where it was 25 years ago when reforms were first introduced, and then look at where it’s heading. As Peerenboom takes great pains to stress all throughout his book, it is unreasonable to judge China against developed countries like the U.K. It needs to be comparatively assessed against those countries that fall into its income class.
    Nanheyangrouchuan writes: :he same source that the rest of you use, talking to people and the occasional confidential outburst from landladies, former state owned workers whose iron rice bowl was taken away, etc.”
    So you admit to relying purely on a handful of sources. So your sweeping claims are based on little more than qualitative evidence. I thought so.
    Joseph wrote: “My own anecdotal experiences seem to match the statistics that Mark A. Jones mentioned.”
    Joseph, my own anecdotal evidence also matches the statistics compiled by Tianjian Shi. The studies that Peerenboom draws upon also compliment that of Shi’s.
    Dan writes: ” Mr. Wang — I understand your consternation with people ascribing views to you that you do not hold. I have had some views ascribed to me that are diametrically opposite of what I actually believe. I mean the exact total opposite, and yet people put it out there as a certainty. That’s blogging, I guess.”
    Yep! Exactly, that is blogging. I suffer from this constantly, which is why I even brought the issue up early in my review of Peerenboom’s book.
    Dan – no democracy or system of law magically springs up fuly developed. It takes hundreds of years to evolve. As Samuel Huntington so rightly points out:
    “Modern democracy is a product of Western civilization. It is rooted in social pluralism, the class system, civil society, the credo of rule-of-law, the experience of a system of personal political representation, the separation between spiritual and secular authority, and the insistence on individualism. All these cultural traits can be found in the traditions of Western Europe, and began to appear there more than a thousand years ago.”
    All of these things, however, are very new to China, and have only just begun to develop over the past 15 to 20 years.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 11, 2007

  103. Sir Jones wrote:
    “All of these things [Modern democracy, civil society…], however, are very new to China, and have only just begun to develop over the past 15 to 20 years.”
    If you want to control an argument about history, the first thing you do is to create a periodization that fits your thesis. Then everything else follows. Why is the time frame for these discussions maximum 30 years? Modern Chinese history did not start in 1987 or 1992. People have been discussing forms of accountable government in China since the late nineteenth century, if not earlier.
    A relatively free press started to develop around 1870. The first attempt to create a constitutional monarchy was made in 1898. China’s first local elections took place around 1909 and the first national elections took place in 1913. Despite everything that has happened since then, China today is much richer now and has far more educated people. Is it not about time to stop pretending that China is this slumbering giant that has just emerged from the dark ages? It is useful to remember that China did exist before we were born.

  104. JWang: “I do have big problems with the view that “China is fundamentally bad, and the CCP is merely a manifestation of China’s badness.””
    Well, my cross use of China/CCP can be discerning. China is made to be bad by the CCP. Look at the way they treat their own people…with contempt, as tools to ensure and increase the each leader’s own prestige, power and wealth, from the village boss up to Hu and Wen. I can’t remember whether it was this blog or another that distinguished yesterday’s charasmatic (though still horribly greedy and bad) leaders with today’s ice cold technocrats.
    It is the CCP that makes China bad, it is the CCP that instills white hot hatred of Japan and teaches the events of the Opium wars as if they happened recently. It is the CCP that not only feverishly blocks internet sites but also jams satellite TV signals of foreign hotels, I guess the CCP is concerned with the moral and ideological compass of traveling businesspeople, wealthy expats and consulate staff as well as common chinese people. And it demonizes a man that the rest of the world regards as the greatest embodiment of a peaceful, compassionate life since Ghandi and Jesus.
    I can understand J.Wang’s nuanced views coming from immmigrant Chinese parents, but MAJ’s views are simply a broken record of “blue skies and green grass” business propaganda I hear everytime I’m in an expat bar. I believed that stuff when I first arrived in china, but experience and conversations with Chinese people taught me otherwise. In other words I regard MAJ’s lines as ivory tower and Am-Cham bull.

  105. Amban —
    You raise a good point, but one with which I disagree. What good is it to go way in Chinese history when so much was stalled until around 30 years ago? I am certainly not absolving China of blame, but if we are going to compare China to other countries and seek to predict where China is going, 30 years seems about the right time period for me. If anything, perhaps it should be shorter.

  106. nh —
    I think that it would do you a world [pun intended] of good for you to read the book THE WORLD ON FIRE. It’s a very quick read. I think you need to become LESS Sino-centric. Seriously.

  107. Amban writes: “If you want to control an argument about history, the first thing you do is to create a periodization that fits your thesis.”
    I have. The direction in which China is currently moving has its origins with the Deng reforms, which began in the very late 70s/early 80s. Simple as that.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 11, 2007

  108. Dear Dan – I have just noticed that Randall Peerenboom’s name has been typed incorrectly. Probably my careless mistake. His first name is spelt with a double l, so it should read “Randall”. Would you mind correcting it – cheers!
    Mark

  109. Dan – Amy Chua’s “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability” (2003) is indeed an excellent book, and it’s one that Randall Peerenboom refers to in his book. In fact, he seems to have been quite heavily influenced by this too.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 11, 2007

  110. Dan – I think this particular thread is drawing to an close, so I would like to thank you here for inviting me to write this review of Peerenboom’s new book for your site. The discussion it provoked has been, for me at least, an interesting one.
    One of the reasons why I have been exploring my thoughts on China over thne past five years with friends, colleagues, and with those who inhabit the blogsphere, is not, contrary to what many people like to think, to promote myself or my own blog, but rather, to test the strengths and weaknesses of my own views. I feel as though I have indeed developed my various analyses sufficiently enough to complete the final draft of my book on China, which will be published in February 2008. The book will be unusual in that it will be structured in two distinct parts: part one will be a collection of travelogues, and part two a collection of semi-formal essays. The title, which my publish has agreed to, will be “Flowing Waters Never State” and a few of the travelogues on my site will appear in the book, albeit, in a greatly modified form. It will retail, I am told, for around AU$25.
    Thanks again,
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 11, 2007

  111. Dan,
    I was referring specifically to a comment that things such as rule of law, civil society and representative institutions are entirely new to China and have only existed for the past 15 or 20 years. That is not true. There is a tendency in China watching to think that its constantly Monday morning, 7 am.
    If we look at what is happening in China now only in the light of the past 30 years, we’re not seeing the whole picture. If we don’t pay attention to how such things as legal procedure or land use rights have worked in China during say, the past hundred years, then we have no way of telling to what extent China’s development now is something qualitatively new or builds on trends in the recent past.

  112. I’ll check out that book, I’m reading Obama’s new book right now, as I like to have a positive outlook.
    “”World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability”
    Without reading the book but based on accumulated knowledge in other areas, the West has been exporting capitalism but not democracy for the benefit of MNCs. Oil companies in Africa, mining and agriculture in S. America and outsourcing throughout Asia. Lots of “capitalism” but no democracy or support for local rule of law.
    The West has been at its worst in support of MNCs and at its best when it acts purely for humanitarian purposes.

  113. MAJ wrote:
    “The direction in which China is currently moving has its origins with the Deng reforms, which began in the very late 70s/early 80s. Simple as that.”
    No, it’s not as simple as that. I hope it is not pedantic to point out that Deng Xiaoping was born in 1904; his childhood were spent under the Qing dynasty and his formative years under the Republic of China – and in France.
    We can debate the significance of that at some other place, but it is impossible to understand the China of today if we forget that most of the people that built the PRC spent their youth in a world that was very different from the China of today. Historical change is both synchronic and diachronic; if we don’t know where China is coming from, it is very hard to even guess where it is going.

  114. Amban – I understand your argument, but Peerenboom is looking at today’s China by comparing it’s current level of development to that of other nation states that are in the same income class. There may very well be various kinds of traditions and institutions that influence the thinking of today’s political leaders that date al the way back to thousands of years ago, but Peerenboom limits his study to today’s China, and in terms of the direction it has taken developmentally, is a product of the reforms of the past 25-30 years, as carried out in the context of globalisation.
    I really don’t understand what your beef is against Peerenboom’s approach. What is fundamentally wrong with looking at where China is today, by comparing it to where it was 35-30 years ago, when the reform process first began? It’s a sound approach as far as I’m concerned.
    Just exactly what aspects or phenomena from the more distant past do you thiink are so crucial to understanding the nature of today’s China? Perhaps you can enlighten us?
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydeny, April 12, 2007

  115. MAJ:
    I haven’t read Peerenboom, so I’m not able to comment on the book. I was more commenting on some of your posts where you stated that stuff like civil society and representative institutions are “very new to China, and have only just begun to develop over the past 15 to 20 years.” That just isn’t true. Sure, the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution were incredibly destructive, but people didn’t just begin from scratch in 1979. They had a heritage they had to either reject, accept or modify.
    “Just exactly what aspects or phenomena from the more distant past do you think are so crucial to understanding the nature of today’s China?”
    Well, to give one example, the idea of “rule of law” is not something completely new in China. To be sure, China former legal system did not have the same safeguards as the ones we expect of a modern legal system, but there were ideas about due process and fair trial in China. Contrary to what many journalists seem to think, the limited possibilities to appeal a capital sentence is actually an aberration from what used to be the norm in Qing China, where you at least in theory had quite extensive possibilities to ask for review of capital sentences. Now, if you did’t know that, you may be led to believe that recent reforms in the appeals procedure is an example of the “Westernization” or “modernization” of Chinese law. But if we take Chinese legal history into account, what is happening can be seen as a return to what used to be the norm in imperial China – with some modifications.
    I can give more examples, but the upshot is that it is not possible to know what is new, if we don’t know what is old.

  116. Ambam, I dont know why u must dismiss Mark becasue he says a few positive things about the CCP. The CCP, liek any government anywhere in the world, has done good and bad things. This latest book is good in that is a balanced look at the CCP. The CCP has done somem very good things- if you compare China last century to the place it is today, it come forward in leaps and bounds. yes, there has been a few steps back, but the trend is forward, and its thanks in large part to the CCP.

  117. MAJ —
    Randall with two l’s. Done.
    “World on Fire” is an excellent book and it has greatly influenced my thinking as well. Before reading that book, I was strongly of the view that every country must democratize and they must do so NOW. That book caused me to drop the NOW part.

  118. MAJ/Amban —
    Great discussion re role of history. Like a good lawyer, I come down in the middle. Amban, I am seeing your point now and I agree with you. Of course, China’s history beyond 30 years ago matters. China’s culture certainly did not spring up out of thin air 30 years ago, nor did so many other aspects of China today. Seeing as how my knowledge of Chinese history (pre Cultural Revolution) is not terribly strong, I have a tendency to just ignore it and I shouldn’t.
    Yet at the same time, MAJ is right that when we are talking about comparing China to other countries and in looking at China’s politics, law and human rights record, 30 years is an appropriate time period in terms of looking at how far China has come. Amban, you are exactly right about how we should not ignore China’s own legal traditions, yet at the same time, it is as though the Cultural Revolution changed everything.
    I think that in examining a country like China, one can do so by comparing it to other countries today or by looking at its own history or both. Because my knowledge of othe countries so far surpasses my knowledge of Chiense history, I always lean towards country comparision. But history is critical as well, of course. And yes, it is not possible to know what is new without knowing what is old.
    On the subject of country comparisions, a Russian paralegal at my firm is about 3/4 of the way through the book, “Chinese Lessons.” I loved that book and she is finding it really boring. Her explanation for the boredom is that it has taught her only one thing new: that despite the huge differences in culture between China and Russia, China’s communism and China’s transition out of communism have affected its people in “exactly” the same way as those things impacted Russians. She asserts that she already “knew” every single person in the book from her time in Russia and it just is not interesting reading about their lives “again.”
    I then told co-blogger Steve of this and he said that he feels the same way when he reads most “general interest” books on China. Even when well written, they are just too close to what he already knows about China to be terribly interesting. Now coming from Steve this is no surprise (he’s been living and breathing China for more than 30 years), but it is fasicinating to hear this from someone who has never been to China and who has been instead living and breathing Russia for the last nearly 40 years. I am definitely going to have to post on this.

  119. Greg —
    Thanks for checking in. I would agree with you, but only post Cultural Revolution. But, and here’s the big question, at what point, if any would China have been or at what point will China be better off without the CCP?

  120. “Blogs however, necessarily reflect the biases of their creators, who themselves usually look to the popular media for guidance in forming their world views. I think it better to rely on academic sources as they are more likely to present balanced, fairer assessments.”
    Great post (especially the above quote). My only addition is that we reviewers of China (if you can call the large group of us that are interested in China) shouldn’t just rely on media or academic resources but also any personal involvement or experiences that we have had in China or with the area of Chinese culture that we are commenting on. That personal touch tends to distill whatever the media or the academics say and therefore provide at least some balance to the assessment.

  121. Amban – thanks for your thought-provoking response. I appreciate your point, but I stand by my analysis, because although China does have various legal traditions that can be traced back to previous dynastic periods, it has only been in the past 25-30 years that the rule of law, in the modern liberal sense of the term, has began to develop institutionally, and it is, of course, still evolving. You simply cannot compare today’s jurisprudic insititutions in China with those that existed hundreds of years ago, despite the fact that some of the legal ideas now accepted today may have also existed in the distant past. The jurisprudic institutions of Great Britain are very different today than they were in the 17th and 18th centuries, although many of the principles still in use today may have had their origins during this time. Systems of law evolve over time, and reflect historical changes in the social relations of production and reproduction (that’s because such relationships express themselves in jurisprudic forms.) Today’s China is in transition, and the capitalist nature of its social relations of production and reproduction are quite fundamentally different from the feudal relations that characterised the Qing Dynasty.
    The path of capitalist reform began with Deng, and so it is only logical that one should measure the success of these reforms by going back only as far as their beginnings – 25-30 years ago!
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  122. @MAJ:
    I guess we have to agree to disagree here, but my advice is that you need to do some reading on the last 100 or 200 years of history before you dismiss it as irrelevant. Just two additional points:
    1) Chinese capitalism did not start in 1979. Many of the regions that are the most developed 2007 were also the most developed in 1907.
    2) I have absolutely no idea what you mean when you refer to the Qing dynasty as feudal.

  123. @Dan
    Of course we should compare China to other countries and never said we shouldn’t. I’m just objecting to the tendency to talk about China either as a glorious civilization of “5000 years” or as a developing country with barely 30 years of history. The tendency to ignore China quite recent past may not matter if you are making five-year forecast based on hard numbers from the last ten years, but they are harmful if we wish to understand larger trends in Chinese society.
    For those who think that the economic development we now see is completely unprecedented, I recommend Kenneth Pomeranz’s book _The Great Divergence_. He is an economic historian who argues that the economies of the Yangtze delta and England were comparable by 1750-1800 and that China’s lagging behind the West is a relatively recent phenomenon. Not everybody agrees with him, but the book is a gentle rejoinder to those who think that reading travelogues and biographies is a substitute for deep thinking.

  124. Amban – one more point. You also have to keep in mind the fact that the Qing dynasty entered a serious decline and eventually collapsed. It’s feudalistic jurisprudic institutions declined, and then collapsed with it. The country was in a mess, and was quite lawless in many places. Mao, for all of his faults and failed experiments, did manage to succeed in unifyinf the country, and in doing so he provided the stability necessary for his successors to be able to build on – which they did, beginning with Deng. China’s capitalist modernity began with Deng. I know of no historian who would argue otherwise. The move towards building the system of rule of law, in the liberal sense, thus also began with Deng. This is EXACTLY the reason why Peerenboom say, quite explicitly, that China had to build its legal system virtually “from scratch in 1978”. He is correct in sayng so.
    I really don’t understand why it is that you are so keen to push this idea that today’s evolving system of liberal law in China has some kind of direct link dating all the way back to at least as far as the Qing.
    Amban, you bring up the attempt that were made in 1898 to introduce a constitutional monarchy in China to help illustrate your point, BUT by doing so you actually help to further strengthen my argument. Roger Thompson, in his book “China’s Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform, 18981911”, argues that the Qing regime’s decision to promote Western-style local self-government is what led to its destruction.
    “The Qing regime,” he argues “introduced the idea of ‘local self-government” in the hope of adapting China to the emerging forms of political modernity elsewhere (notably Japan) in a way that would strengthen the state.” Not surprisingly, the imperial centre failed to carry through its promises to include elites effectively in the new constitutional arrangements, thereby driving them into the arms of the revolutionaries. Thompson argues that “the Qing regime’s promotion of local self-government from 1906 forward was successful, and that it was that success that paradoxically brought China to the brink of revolution. He shows how the call for local self-government introduced an intense competition between state and locality. This competition factionalized elites so thoroughly that a small mutiny in Wuchang was able to destroy the dynasty in a morning’s work.”
    Yep! Exactly what Peerenboom, based largely on his reading of Amy Chua’s “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability”, argues. You simply cannot import democrarcy or the rule of law to feudal societies where such tradtions have never existed – a point that Samuel Huntington also makes, as quoted in one of my earlier comments above. Once again, this is what he says:
    “Modern democracy is a product of Western civilization. It is rooted in social pluralism, the class system, civil society, the credo of rule-of-law, the experience of a system of personal political representation, the separation between spiritual and secular authority, and the insistence on individualism. All these cultural traits can be found in the traditions of Western Europe, and began to appear there more than a thousand years ago.”
    And, once again, I would argue that all of these are very new to China, and have only just begun to develop over the past 15 to 20 years – maybe 25-30 years.
    A few failed and short-lived experiements with Western ideas and institutions back during the late Qing, confined mostly to only small pockets of the country, hardly represents a challenge to my argument, Amban.
    Amban, I have come across others in the blogsphere who have used your line of reasoning with the explicit purpose of trying to argue that the coming to power of the CCP resulted in a disaterous break with the evolving liberal traditions set in place during the period of the late Qing. They push this line because of a strong prejudice they harbour against non-liberal democracies and against Mao the CCP. It’s a ridiculous argument, not least of all because the failure to carry out such reforms occured during the Qing, before the civil war and the revolution even took place.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  125. Amban – name one historian on thismplanet who argues that China during the Qing was not a feudal society. I have idea why you think that it wasn’t. And towards the later part of the Qing it was a partly colonised feudal society.
    Secondly, I dispute your argument that Chinese capitalism has its origins in 1907. Revisionist historians during the Thatcher years also tried to argue that England had “always” been a capitalist society, even going all the way back to the times of King Henry I.
    Ridiculous!
    For starters, different modes of production can exist at any one time in a given society. It’s quite possible to have slave, capitalist and feudal modes of production all operating at the same time in a given society. But what matters is the dominant mode of production – and in Qing China the dominant mode of production was most certainly not a capitalist one, but rather, a feudal one.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  126. Amban – you need to keep in mind the fact that the Qing dynasty entered a serious decline and eventually collapsed. It’s feudalistic jurisprudic institutions declined, and then collapsed with it. The country was in a mess, and was quite lawless in many places. Mao, for all of his faults and failed experiments, did manage to succeed in unifying the country, and in doing so he provided the stability necessary for his successors to be able to build on – which they did, beginning with Deng. China’s capitalist modernity began with Deng. I know of no historian who would argue otherwise. The move towards building the rule of law, in the liberal sense, thus also began with Deng. This is EXACTLY the reason why Peerenboom says, quite explicitly, that China had to build its legal system virtually “from scratch in 1978”. He is correct in sayng so.
    I really don’t understand why it is that you are so keen to push this idea that today’s evolving system of liberal law in China has some kind of direct link dating all the way back to at least as far as the Qing.
    Amban, you bring up the attempt that was made in 1898 to introduce a constitutional monarchy in China to help illustrate your point, BUT by doing so you actually help to further strengthen my argument. Roger Thompson, in his book “China’s Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform, 1898-1911”, argues that the Qing regime’s decision to promote Western-style local self-government is what actually led to its destruction.
    “The Qing regime,” he argues “introduced the idea of ‘local self-government’ in the hope of adapting China to the emerging forms of political modernity elsewhere (notably Japan) in a way that would strengthen the state.” Not surprisingly, the imperial centre failed to carry through its promises to include elites effectively in the new constitutional arrangements, thereby driving them into the arms of the revolutionaries. Thompson argues that “the Qing regime’s promotion of local self-government from 1906 forward was successful, and that it was that success that paradoxically brought China to the brink of revolution. He shows how the call for local self-government introduced an intense competition between state and locality. This competition factionalized elites so thoroughly that a small mutiny in Wuchang was able to destroy the dynasty in a morning’s work.”
    Yep! Exactly what Peerenboom, based largely on his reading of Amy Chua’s “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability”, argues. You simply cannot import democrarcy or the rule of law to feudal societies where such tradtions are frail or have never even really existed – a point that Samuel Huntington also makes, as quoted in one of my earlier comments above. Once again, this is what he says:
    “Modern democracy is a product of Western civilization. It is rooted in social pluralism, the class system, civil society, the credo of rule-of-law, the experience of a system of personal political representation, the separation between spiritual and secular authority, and the insistence on individualism. All these cultural traits can be found in the traditions of Western Europe, and began to appear there more than a thousand years ago.”
    And, once again, I would argue that all of these are very new to China, and have only just begun to develop over the past 15 to 20 years – maybe 25-30 years.
    A few failed and short-lived experiments with Western ideas and institutions back during the late Qing, confined mostly to only small pockets of the country, hardly represents a challenge to my argument, Amban.
    Amban, I have come across others in the blogsphere who have used your line of reasoning with the explicit purpose of trying to argue that the coming to power of the CCP resulted in a disaterous break with the evolving liberal traditions set in place during the period of the late Qing. They push this line because of a strong prejudice they harbour against non-liberal democracies and against Mao and the CCP. It’s a ridiculous argument, not least of all because the failure to carry out such reforms occured during the Qing, before the civil war and the revolution even took place.
    Amban – name one historian on this planet who argues that China during the Qing was not a feudal society. I have no idea why you think that it wasn’t. And towards the later part of the Qing it was a partly colonised feudal society.
    Secondly, I dispute your argument that Chinese capitalism has its origins in 1907. Revisionist historians during the Thatcher years also tried to argue that England had “always” been a capitalist society, even going all the way back to the times of King Henry I.
    It’s hardly a convincing argument.
    For starters, different modes of production can exist at any one time in a given society. It’s quite possible to have slave, capitalist and feudal modes of production all operating at the same time in a given society. But what matters is the dominant mode of production – and in Qing China the dominant mode of production was most certainly not a capitalist one, but rather, a feudal one.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  127. @MAJ
    Whoa, whoa! Is this a debating contest for sophomores? Perhaps I should let you argue on my behalf, because you seem to know what I think much better than me. I never thought that arguing for a historically informed understanding of China puts you in the same camp as the ailing Qing court and Thatcher. Now I know better.
    To begin with, I have never argued that the Qing was a fledgling liberal state in 1898, neither I have I denied that the Qing declined after 1800. I’m in full agreement with Peerenboom and everbody else who say that change is gradual and we should not expect China into a liberal democracy overnight. But did this gradual change start in 1979, or does it make me a complete reactionary to point out that gradual change has been pretty much the order of the day for the last 120 years or so? Yes, there have been terrible set-backs on China’s march to modernity (or whatever you want to call it), but can we just stop pretending that these debate on democracy are completely novel to China? Take a look at Marina Svensson’s _Debating human rights in China_ and you will get a much more nuanced picture.
    Does the fact that the Qing fell in 1911 mean that all its institutions just disappeared in thin air overnight? Well, if we restrict ourselves to the realm of law (the subject of this Blawg) let me begin by informing you that many of the legislative reforms that were started under Qing continued under the early Republic, and in the meantime the Qing Code was still in force in large parts of China. Which is my point: staring yourself blind on dates as absolute watersheds does not help you understanding what has been going on in China during the last century or any other country for that matter.
    I still have no idea what you mean by China being feudal. You have to define it to me, you are the one bringing up the term. Does it mean that Qing China was divided into satrapies where hereditary aristocracies exploited peasants living in serfdom like in medieval and early modern Europe? I don’t even think Chinese Marxist historians would argue that. Does feudalism mean that China was predominantly agricultural in 1800? Well, then most other countries in the world were feudal then – including Japan and most of Europe. Does it mean that Qing China had nothing that even closely resembled a monetized economy, production for markets and wage labor? Well, perhaps you should go to a library and read up a bit instead of engaging in gratuitous accusations.

  128. Amban – I have NEVER argued that gradual change hasn’t been the order of the day for the last 120 years in China, nor have I ever argued that democracy debates are novel to China.
    My argument, which echoes that of Peerenboom, is simply this: that China under Deng had to begin developing its jurisprudic institutions virtually from scratch. The fact that some of the reforms introduced under the Qing may have survived into the Deng era hardly detracts from the arguments presented in Peerenboom’s book, does it? Nor does it take away the fact that most such liberal traditions introduced under the Qing were foreign to China. The early attempts at modernisation under the Qing failed. It wasn’t until after the Mao era that the liberal reform agenda was able to be reintroduced. You may wish to disagree with this reading of Chinese history, in which case, as you said, we’ll simply have to agree to disagree. But there are numerous historians who would agree with me. Indeed, my understanding is based on the works of some those very historians, like Chen Jianfu. In his paper titled “Chinese law: towards an understanding of Chinese law, its nature and developments”, he writes:
    “The present legal system is, however, MAINLY a product of legal efforts in the 1980s and 1990s. Thus the pre-1949 experience of communist justice is more relevant in explaining the lawlessness in the first 30 years of PRC rule than the present legal developments.”
    The KMT legal system and its laws were largely abolished in 1949 which left a real legal vacuum in China. During the Mao era Soviet legal concepts were introduced instead, and these legal concepts had little in common with Western liberal notions of law.
    In fact, many historians of Chinese law argue that the Chinese legal system today has its origins in 1992, when the national leadership introduced the idea of creating a “socialist market economy”. Marx was replaced by Weber. Prior to this, they argue, the country was more influenced by the Soviet model, and was more ideologically driven (see Li Shuanyuan and Zhang Mao for example, in their study titled “The Assimilation of Chinese Law with International Practices” or He Hangzhou’s study titled “On legal transplant and the construction of an Economic Legal System”.)
    Who’s the sophomore here? – an unnecessary cheap shot, don’t you think?
    As for the question of feudalism. Well, definitions do indeed vary, as you say, and China did develop a particularly bureaucratic form of feudalism which has resulted in debate. I’m happy to debate this particular issue with you, if you like, but I’m not sure this is the correct venue. If Dan doesn’t mind us using this thread, then I’m quite happy to explore the controversy with you here. But let’s keep the discussion courteous and gentlemanly, shall we?
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  129. Amban – you ask me to define my use of the term feudalism. Essentally, I use Sakai Kakusoburo’s definition. He argues that “the decisive structural characteristics of feudal society are the organisation of a stratum of territorial lords, regional states, and a political framework that is usually (but not always necessarily) decentralised into segments and strata. The society is run by a status system of rank and occupation, based on birth, and at the highest rung dwells a military aristocracy that dominates military power. This structure is bequeathed to subsequent generations by a system of single inheritance and is maintained by a systematic religion or philosophical system of thought as a unifying principle.”
    Now this is basically what you had in China from the Warring States period all the way to the Qing period, although a far more despotic, bureaucratic, and centralised state began to take shape from the Sung dynasty onwards.
    But as the Japanese historian Ishimoda Sho argues,”the form of the decentralised state is not a necessary condition of the feudal state. Even under feudalism, which assumes an anarchic political form, because the state is the mechanism for class rule, it spawns a unified segment of power. Royal power in the feudal states of Western Europe followed this pattern. Thus, it was not strange that feudal society in China constructed a centralised bureaucratic state.” As Professor Satya J. Gabriel argues in his book titled “Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision” (Routledge, 1998):
    “In the China prior to the 1949 revolution, most rural direct producers were quite clearly non-capitalist. Most of them toiled under conditions of obligation to produce goods in excess of that which would have satisfied the needs of their respective families and to turn this surplus (in product or money form) over to local landlords. These landlords secured the surplus by means of economic processes (monopoly control over certain lands), cultural processes (unwritten customs that created expectations about the proper role, rights, and behaviour of landlords and their tenants), and political processes (laws protecting the rights of the landlord to monopolise certain lands and to exclude use of such lands, including employing political agents to apply coercive force to maintain customary roles and relationships, and exercising de facto local area sovereignty under the supreme sovereignty of the Empire and later the Republic) by which direct producers were locked into a contractual relationship with the landlords. In this contractual relationship, the direct producers could use the land to produce products necessary to their social survival if and only if they also provided the landlords an obligatory surplus product. In other words, the social (and physical) survival of these direct producers depended upon their participation in these contracts (whether explicit or implicit). The various demands upon the surplus producing abilities of the so-called peasantry took many forms: rents, taxes, fines, all collected and controlled by an aristocracy and those working as intermediaries for the aristocracy. This type of social relationship is typically defined as feudal, not capitalist.”
    Most Chinese historians certainly classify the Warring States period all the way to the Qing as “feudal”.
    Commercial and urban relations did develop and exhibited early modern signs, as you quite rightly point out Amban, but this doesn’t mean that China during this period was not feudal. The feudal state in China, as Ishimoda Sho says, “manifested a complex visage in which ancient, medieval, and early modern elements overlapped and intertwined.” The dominant social relationships of production and reproduction, however, were nevetheless feudal, as defined by Kakusoburo above.
    I hope this clarifies for you my use of the term feudal.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 12, 2007

  130. I don’t have time to check this discussion on a hourly basis, so I was just about to leave this debate until I saw the last post. If I had known that you were this ignorant about Chinese history, I would never had bothered to intervene in the first place, but the ignorance in this last post is profoundly shocking.
    You are quoting one economist (Gabriel) and a historian of Japan (Ishimoda) and a scholar I never heard of (Sakai) to prove that China was “feudal”. Now, I have the greatest respect for economists, but I take their statements on Chinese economic history with a grain of salt, especially if they haven’t undertaken any archival research. And Ishimoda is a productive historian of Japan, but last time I checked he didn’t write anything on China. I may be wrong.
    Now, if I shall take you literally, Qing China basically had…
    …”a stratum of territorial lords” – ever heard of the bureaucracy and law of avoidance? Officials were explicitly forbidden from sevring in his home province and moved from office to office in order to prevent the growth of territorial lords.
    …”a status system of rank and occupation, based on birth, and at the highest rung dwells a military aristocracy that dominates military power” – ever heard of the exam system?
    These two statements look more like descriptions of Tokugawa Japan and as anyone with a modicum of knowledge about Chinese and Japanese history knows, China and Japan were two fundamentally different societies. I think a quick read of even Encyclopedia Britannica would lead you to that conclusion. And the decentralized state structure of China during the Warring States period was nothing remotely similar to the highly centralized state of Ming and Qing.

  131. Amban – Ishimoda is, as you say, a productive historian, and he has indeed written very extensively on the nature of Chinese feudalism – his conclusion: China was from the Warring States all the way up to and including the Qing, a form of feudalism. See his essay titled, “Chusei shi kenkyu no kiten” which I quoted from in my comments above.
    Most Chinese historians say the same.
    So who is right?
    The existence of a bureaucracy and a system of imperial examinations do not, on their own, mean that China was not feudal. Feudalism was practiced in many different ways, depending on location and time period.
    I could just as easily accuse you of ignorance, frankly.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 14, 2007

  132. Did you read that essay by Ishimoda Sho? Or are you quoting from the on-line book _Medieval Chinese Society and the Local “Community”_ by Tanigawa Michio, which you found by using Google? This book is a critique of Marxist historiography, its use of periodization and problematic terms such as feudalism. There are limits to Google and cut-and-paste scholarship. Perhaps you should start reading books instead of using Google as your mail source of information.
    You still haven’t come up with a definition of feudalism that fits China, so I take it that the discussion is over. See you around.

  133. Amban is Jottings from the Granite Studio. Interesting idea.
    Seeing as how Mr. Granite Studio is getting his Ph.d in Qing history, if you are correct, MAJ is in for a very tough battle.
    I will note, however, that I am able to read the IP address of those who comment and Amban and GFTS have different IP addresses.
    I am quite curious who Amban is, however, as he certainly does know his Chinese history.
    In any event, I fully intend to stand clear, both because I do not purport to know much at all about the Qing judicial system and because discretion is the better part of valor.

  134. Amban —
    Our comments crossed in the blogosphere. I tried to answer Sepa’s question first, but you now have.
    So will you tell us how it is that you have acquired so much knowledge of Chinese history? Are you a prof?

  135. Amban – I was quoting from the on-line book Medieval Chinese Society and the Local Community” by Tanigawa Michiog, but so what? This doesn’t change the fact that Ishimoda Sho regards China as having been a feudal society from the Warring States period all the way up to and including the Qing. Nor does it change the fact that the fair majority of Chinese historians regard China from this period as either feudal or semi-feudal.
    At any rate, the original point of this entire discussion centred around whether or not the jurisprudic reforms made under the Qing had had any significant historical influence on China’s present day legal system. As I said about three comments ago, I don’t think this was the case. Instead of continuing with this discussion, you instead redirected the topic onto whether or not China was ever a feudal society. The answer to that question does depend very much on definitions – and there is considerable debate among historians about this.
    More tomorrow – I have a party to attend today.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 15, 2007

  136. @MAJ
    It does matter if you quote someone directly or through someone else’s work. In the blogosphere you can get away with it, but in academia you better make sure you have at least looked at the works you quote.
    And yes, many Chinese historians argue that China was feudal, but it remains a highly controversial concept because the term is so vague it hardly means anything. I’m not saying that it should be discarded completely, but if you use it you better define it and so far I haven’t heard any coherent definition of the word from you. In fact, every time you have tried to define it, you have brought up new questions.
    Anyway, to return to our original discussion, while I have the greatest respect for Peerenboom, I take exception at categorical statements like “China had to create a legal system from scratch”. I’m not even sure he intended to be that categoric. 10 or even 30 years is too short a time for an entire legal order to disappear entirely. Creating something so complex as a legal system from scratch doesn’t just involve rewriting substantive, procedural, constitutional and other bodies of law, but also creating a language and a way of talking about law.
    However, you might be surprised to find that the post-1979 legal reformers did not recreate the Chinese language, they worked on the same legal language that had existed before the Mao era. Sure, many terms they used were coined during the legal reforms during the Republican era, but very fundamental legal terms such as yuangao (plaintiff) or beigao (defendant) have existed in Chinese for centuries. Language changes slowly, and so does the thinking that comes along with it.
    But things can also change and they don’t always change when we think they do. When people like Yan Fu or Liang Qichao discussed “democracy” a hundred years ago, they had to decide what words to use for that concept – and they settled on “minzhu” for better or worse. When people started to demand democracy in in Beijing in 1978, no one was in any doubt what they meant – certainly not the government itself.
    What is the point of all this? Now, if people can start talking about law, rights or even democracy again – after decades of apparent chaos – we may have to rethink what we mean by turning points or ruptures. Can we really say that China’s march towards the rule of law started in 1979? I don’t mean to belittle the great strides that have been made, but we should not forget the contributions made by earlier generations. China may be much more ready for the rule of law than we dare to think and any talk about this or that idea or institution being “alien” to China should be taken with a great deal of skepticism.
    Again, we can agree to disagree about this, and you may consider me pendantic if you like, but I think these things matter. Have a relaxing party!
    @Dan
    I do have some training in Chinese history.

  137. MAJ-
    “Most Chinese historians certainly classify the Warring States period all the way to the Qing as “feudal”.
    That’s because most Chinese historians are working within a Marxist paradigm, which states that all countries move through the same phases of development in their history, from feudalism to capitalim to communism. As the Chinese state still officially calls Marxism its guiding philosophy, they have to say this. Although of course most Chinese historians are well aware that ‘feudalism’ was completely different in Europe and Japan from China. So in Chinese contemporary usage ‘feudalism’ (????)really just means ‘pre-modern’.
    Also: “that China under Deng had to begin developing its jurisprudic institutions virtually from scratch.”
    Have you read ‘Radicalism and Education Reform in 20th Century China’ by Suzanne Pepper? It’s very much worth a look. She doesn’t write about judicial institutions, but she does write some fascinating things about educational institutions. Such as, for example, that many development experts, including the World Bank, praised China’s early 1970s education system. Later, the early 70s came to be regarded as a part of the Cultural Revolution (which didn’t have an official end-date) a period of utter stagnation and waste. So even though that era’s institutions made important contributions to later developments and debates, which remain current in Chinese society today, people don’t recognise them as such.

  138. Amban – I understand and appreicate your arguments, especially when you say “that the post-1979 legal reformers did not recreate the Chinese language, they worked on the same legal language that had existed before the Mao era” and that “fundamental legal terms such as yuangao (plaintiff) or beigao (defendant) have existed in Chinese for centuries.”
    But I think you are overstating your case. The question is this: today’s developing system of law in China is modelled essentially on modern Western liberal ideas and concepts. The decision to develop the rule of law along these lines was made formally in 1992, when the officially stated goal of developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” was declared (ie. market-preserving federalism). Marx was, by and large, replaced by Weber. The move towards establishing a market-preserving federalism began earlier, of course, arguably as early as 1978. This is why Peerenboom makes the point that today’s jurisprudic institutions had to built up virtually from scratch, and that this process began in 1978.
    I expressed agreement with Peerenboom, but you have challenged me on this by arguing that China’s has a tradition of experimenting with liberal notions of law and democracy that date back at least as far as the late Qing.
    Amban, you explain your beef by posing the question: “if people can start talking about law, rights or even democracy again – after decades of apparent chaos – we may have to rethink what we mean by turning points or ruptures.”
    This is a fair enough question to pose, but I think that it is fair to say that the coming to power of Deng was a turning point in Chinese history, as was 1992 when significant reform policies and agendas were introduced.
    Consider this: to what extent did these past reforms during the Qing influence the development of today’s Chinese system of law? No doubt some influences do exist, but I think that Peerenboom’s assertion remains a valid and reasonable one. Why? Because in 1949 the liberal legal reforms introduced during the Qing were scrapped, almost totally. China turned to the Soviet Union for its inspiration. Reforming the legal system along Western liberal lines, as I said earlier, didn’t begin officially until 1992. The reform legacies of the Qing period had been largely forgotten about or lost. Few legal reformers in China today look back to the Qing period for inspiration, even though some of the legal ideas introduced at that time are now once again coming back into vogue.
    I think perhaps you have read Peerenboom (and me) too literally. He was making a generalisation, which I think is quite a fair and valid one.
    However, having said, you are right to alert us all to the need not to overlook the contributions of past generations – but in this case, the efforts of Qing legal reformers were largely lost with the changing of regime. Not only were their reforms abolished and the legal system rebuilt largely along Soviet lines, but many of the legal reformers themselves were purged, often resulting in death. Ideas and reformers alike were purged.
    As for the question of feudalism, keep in mind that Joseph Needham’s classic study, “Science and Civilisation in China”, remains highly influential, despite having been first published way back in 1954. He developed the thesis that China developed a form of fuedalism that was different from that which developed in Europe and Japan – what he called “bureaucratic feudalism”.
    It all depends on how you define feudalism, but I suspect that you are intent on employing a rather narrow or restricted definition.
    What is your definition of feudalism? And if China wasn’t a feudal society during this period, then what kind of society was it, in your opinion?
    Finally, this is the blogsphere – I’m writing comments on a blog, not an academic thesis. I see no problem then, in googling topics like this, and in reading online books and articles. I also see no problem in me reading about Ishimoda Sho’s study and his arguments through another source – through somebody else’s book – and then quoting Ishimoda and his study. I’m only making blog comments here. I do accept your point though, that if I was writing a thesis, then I ought to read the actually book in full – but not all of Ishimoda’s studies are available in English translations. Sometimes it’s necessary to go through secondary sources.
    Other Joe – thanks for the reference. I will keep my eyes open for Suzanne Pepper’s book.
    Also Other Joe, I understand that most Chinese historians are influenced by classical Marxism. Joseph Needham’s thesis was accepted with great enthusiasm by most Chinese historians, but Japanese historians like Ishimoda Sho also accept the “bureaucratic feudalism” thesis. Marxists the world over do – though Marx and Engels themselves used the term “Asiatic mode of production” to describe the same thing.
    There is nothing wrong in employing their use of the word feudalism. In the late 1970s/early 80s some historians in the U.K. began to argue that the term feudalism iteslf was totally useless. They were driven largely by ideology too – products of the Thatcher dynamic. The discourse they were out to push was that feudal Europe was never feudal, but rather, capitalist. This kind of revisionsim was mounted as a challenge to Marxist discourse, and needs to be viewed in the light of the Cold War, and in light of the class war that was taking place during that time in countries like Britain. The Industrial Revolution didn’t occur – feudalism never existed, etc.
    This revionism also, of course, influenced the way Chinese history was interpreted.
    Dismissing me as “ignorant” and labelling me a “sophomore” was a little harsh on Amban’s part, in my opinion, simply because I haven’t taken to this kind of revisionism. Interpretations of history will always reflect, to some extent at least, what particular studies we have, read as individuals, as well as ideological influences, and hence what definitions we use to help describe particular phenomena.
    I appreciated Amban’s last comment though, as he was somewhat more gentlemanly, and because he explained where he was coming from a little more carefully.
    It’s been an interesting little exchange.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 16, 2007

  139. Other Joe – one more thing I forgot to mention. The Thatcherite revionists were not the only ones to challenge the very idea of feudalism. Post-modernist historians are now also arguing that feudalism is a meaningless term – this line of reasoning reflects their overall dislike of grand narratives. In my opinion, feudalism remains a valid concept, and in my opinion in remains a valid description to describe China from the Warring States all the way up to and including the Qing – I maintain this view because I accept the argument that feudalism can be practiced in many different ways, depending on location and time period.
    I’m not sure where Amban is coming from – whether he is a Thatcherite revisionist, or a post-modernist. Perhaps he sees himself as belonging to no particular tradition or movement. He has yet to explain his own use of the word feudalism.
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 16, 2007

  140. I thought the exchange was over, and now you ask me to explain my use of the word feudalism. What use? You are the one who brought up the word and you can’t shift the burden of proof to the person questioning the word. That is a basic logical fallacy.
    Yesterday, I sat down carefully reading your previous contributions to this thread, and I realized that it is a waste of time to engage in a discussion with you on Chinese history. Or anything else Chinese for that matter, because you are not even able to read Chinese if I’m not mistaken.
    I’m sorry if you find my tone harsh and ungentlemanly, but remember that the moment I made two very brief points where I expressed my doubts about your argument, you wrote two or three long rants where you called my argument “ridiculuous” and called on me to find a “single historian on the planet” who agreed with me. Then you attributed a number of things to me that I never said. Pretty harsh and completely uncalled for. Another person on this forum who disagreed with you was asked to sober up.
    Since you are in the NSW area, you are fortunate to have a number of good schools around. I suggest that you enroll in a course in modern Chinese history this fall.

  141. Amban – in my first comment in response to your original I began by saying that I “understand your argument” and that “I appreciate[d] your point”. Nothing nasty.
    In my second comment addressed to you I continued the friendly and appreciative tone, beginning like this: “Amban – thanks for your thought-provoking response. I appreciate your point..”
    Dan then congratulated the both of us on the the “great discussion” and in my third comment addressed to you I wrote: “Amban, I have come across others in the blogsphere who have used your line of reasoning with the explicit purpose of trying to argue that the coming to power of the CCP resulted in a disaterous break with the evolving liberal traditions set in place during the period of the late Qing. They push this line because of a strong prejudice they harbour against non-liberal democracies and against Mao the CCP. It’s a ridiculous argument, not least of all because the failure to carry out such reforms occured during the Qing, before the civil war and the revolution even took place.”
    And later: “Secondly, I dispute your argument that Chinese capitalism has its origins in 1907. Revisionist historians during the Thatcher years also tried to argue that England had “always” been a capitalist society, even going all the way back to the times of King Henry I.”
    Notice that I am referring to the arguments and motives of “others” in the blogsphere or the “revisionist historians” of the “Thatcher” years. Nowhere do I accuse you of anything, and yet, in your response you accused me attributing things to you that you never said. You also shifted the tone of the discussion with the following opening: “Whoa, whoa! Is this a debating contest for sophomores? Perhaps I should let you argue on my behalf, because you seem to know what I think much better than me. I never thought that arguing for a historically informed understanding of China puts you in the same camp as the ailing Qing court and Thatcher. Now I know better.”
    Two points here: (1) I did NOT accuse you of anything. You misread me. (2) It was you who turned nasty first.
    I mentioned feudalism in passing, and you seized on it by challenging my use of the word, even though this had little to do with the original issue under contention.
    I have provided a reasonably detailed response to your initial concerns, in my last few comments, explaining why I think Peerenboom’s statement is a valid one, but you have yet to respond to that in turn.
    I have also made a reasonable response to the side issue concerning the use of the word feudalism. If you don’t think that China was a feudal society then fine. Why not share with us your alternative view?
    I was trying to be conciliatory in my last few comments above, and yet you respond, once again, in an unnecessarily aggressive tone, refusing once again to tell us what kind of a society you think China was from the period of the Warring States to the Qing – saying that the burden of proof is on me to provide a definition first. I have already done that, but you dismissed it as not fitting China, calling my “ignorant”. I disagreed, pointing out that my understanding had derived from various historians such as Ishimoda Sho and, in particular, Joseph Needham. Most writers of China describe this period as feudal, as any quick google search will show.
    Instead of engaging in a polite and productive exchange, you have instead responded throughout by trying to belittle me – labelling me a “sophomore” (not that I think that there is anything wrong with being a sophomore, I might add) and by dismissing me as ignorant, Later you tried to discredit my arguments by once again belittling me, criticising me for having used online sources and for having quoted Ishimoda Sho via a reading of a secondary source. You didn’t respond to Ishimoda’s position, instead you attacked me for the way in which I read about Ishimoda’s views. You pull the same tactic again in your most recent comment, this time trying to call into question my right to hold a view, my credibility, on the basis that I am not fluent in Chinese Mandarin. You don’t need to be fluent at reading Mandarin in order to have an informed or valid opinion about Chinese history, culture, politics or society.
    If you don’t have the time or the inclination to share with me your views about the nature of China’s economic system during the period from the Warring States to the Qing, then fine. Just say so. No need to be nasty in the process though, is there?
    Thanks for the discussion. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way. If we ever cross paths in an online discussion again, I sincerely hope that we’ll be able to manage our exchange in a more friendly manner.
    Best regards,
    Mark Anthony Jones
    Sydney, April 17, 2007

  142. @MAJ
    This is what you wrote…
    “Amban – name one historian on thismplanet who argues that China during the Qing was not a feudal society. I have idea why you think that it wasn’t. And towards the later part of the Qing it was a partly colonised feudal society.
    Secondly, I dispute your argument that Chinese capitalism has its origins in 1907. Revisionist historians during the Thatcher years also tried to argue that England had “always” been a capitalist society, even going all the way back to the times of King Henry I.
    Ridiculous!”
    …and that is what offended me. 1) You create the impression that not a single historian would agree with me (=I’m ignorant); 2) claim that I said that capitalism started in 1907 (I didn’t); and 3) you put me on a par with revisionist historians in the UK – thus answering your own question where you think I got my ideas from’; 4) based on the above, you shout “ridiculous!”
    Anyone who can read the discussion above, will see that I am not the only one who has been targeted of diatribes like that.
    You have every right in the world to have an opinion about China with or without knowledge of Mandarin. But considering the fact that you have made an number of uniformed statements about the present and the past of China – then your lack of knowledge in Chinese reflects badly on your argument. I’m sorry if I offend you in saying this, but that the way I see it.
    Sorry that the discussion went this way and I hope to see you around in a different debate.

  143. MAJ —
    Interesting article in the WSJ on how India’s sex ratios are getting mighty skewed, just like China’s. I find it fascinating how India and China really do have so much in common even though they are nominally so different.
    On another note, a Russian paralegal in our office got 3/4 of the way through the book, Chinese Lessons, by John Pomfret (which I absolutely loved) and then stopped, saying she found it too boring because everything in the book was exactly like Russia AND everyone in the book were exactly like people she knew in Russia. She said the only interesting thing for her from the book was how the impact of communism and the impact of moving away from communism had been exactly the same on both Chinese and Russians, even though culturally, they are so different.
    I think what all of this says is that we can expect similarities in development stages and maybe even that there are certain stages in development that may just be impossible to avoid.

  144. I have to agree with the assessment provided by Randall Peerenboom, whose views Mr. Jones has done a very good job of summarizing. I take issue with Amban’s counter-arguments: Mr. Jones is quite right to argue that China’s present legal system has it’s origins in the post-Deng era, not in the Qing period, as Amban seems to be claiming. I say this as a professional historian of Chinese history, who has looked long and hard at the history of legal reforms from the Qing period right up to the present. When China started its economic reforms in the late 1970s, the country seriously lacked statute laws in virtually EVERY category, including such essential elements of a functioning legal system as the civil and criminal codes. Over the succeeding years, China has enacted more than 500 laws. While there are still critical gaps in the country’s basic legal framework, these laws form the backbone of a legal system that is by and large functional. The critical point where this discussion is concerned though, is that today’s legal system has its origins in the late 70’s/early 80s, developing from this period almost from scratch.

  145. Zhimin Li:
    If you read my arguments carefully, you would realize that I am not denying that most of the statutory laws in today’s China are of recent origin. But that does not mean that the legal system was created out of nothing after 1979.
    Besides, you are a political scientist and not a historian, so it is quite natural for you to focus on the last couple of decades. Just a thought.

  146. Sorry guys, I don’t quite understand where this is heading. If, in 1978, China “seriously lacked” statute laws in “virtually every area”, then isn’t it fair to say that the present system was built almost from scratch, which is what Jones says Peerenboom argues in his book?
    What’s it matter whether or not China’s legal system was created out of nothing, or out of almost nothing? Or Amban, are you suggesting that it was created out of something – something substantial? Something worth arguing about?

  147. Again, have you bothered to read what I have said, or have you just skimmed through my contributions?
    If you would invent an entire legal system “from scratch,” you would not only have to write a lot of statutory law, but create an entirely new terminology. Now, it may surprise you to learn that the legal language was not reinvented after 1949. Yes, a lot of terms changed content because of political expediency, but Chinese legal language has remained very stable. If that doesn’t matter, I don’t know what does.
    For more about this, you could read David Finkelstein, “The Language of Communist China’s Criminal Law,” in _Contemporary Chinese Law: Research Problems_ (Harvard 1970).
    Sure, a lot has happened since 1979, much of which is new and is to be applauded. No one denies that. But if you’d like to understand why things work the way they do in China – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – it helps to study history.
    What mystifies me here is that while no one questions the utility of teaching Roman law in US law schools, the mere mention of the fact that China does have a legal history of its own invites sneers – sometimes from people who in other contexts like to talk about the relevance if Confucius and Mencius to legal reform in PRC. We live in a strange world.

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