Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 3rd, 2015

 

 

Genocide has deep causes: The catalyst is a major war to ignite the massacre

And why Germany committed this mass ethnic cleansing genocide on Jews, Ukrainians, Polish people, Tsigans…?

Because the colonial victors in WWI  refused to set up an international tribunal for crimes against humanity:

1. On the genocide of the Armenians planned by Germany in 1915 and executed by the Turks and Kurds

2. On the famine hecatomb in Mount Lebanon (1915-18), willed by Germany after a visit of its monarch  in 1909

This post focuses on the genocide of the Armenians and Lebanese.

But prior to that, let us refresh our memories of the colonial genocide before the cases of the Armenians and Lebanese people:

1. The massive killing of the people in the Congo (5 million) by colonial Belgium

2. the genocide on Indonesians by colonial Netherland

3. The genocide on people in Australia, India and New Zealand by the British Empire

 

And Hitler to wonder in 1939: “Who remembers the massacre of the Armenians?”

Actually, the Nuremberg Tribunal focused on the latest of genocide. The colonial powers executed a dozen of those they had no interest in using for their talent and professionalism, particularly in the development of weapons of mass destruction, torture techniques, sciences and spying.

The Nuremberg Tribunal didn’t brought to trial

1. the genocide in Libya and Ethiopia by Italy under Mussolini

The Nuremberg Tribunal didn’t convince anyone with strong links to former colonial powers that there can be serious consequences of committing genocide. Let’s start with:

1. genocide in Korea by Japan, China, Soviet Union and USA

2. genocide in China by Japan, Soviet Union and Mao Tse Tong

3. genocide in Viet Nam by the French and USA

4. genocide in Algeria by the French

5. genocide in Rwanda

6. genocide in Cambodia

7. genocide in Afghanistan

8. genocide in Iraq and then Syria

Shall we go on?

This post will focus on the two genocide of Armenians and Lebanese of Mount Lebanon.

When WWI started, Germany was the main western nation dealing with Turkey, in trade, military cooperation and training, building infrastructure (The Istanbul-Hejaz railway for example)

By 1906, the British Empire realized that it was unable to prevent Germany becoming the second economical power behind the USA or overtaking German external trade around the world in quality or price.

England decided that its best strategy was a preemptive war on Germany by blocking the maritime ports with which Germany imported and exported goods.

All the diplomacy of England was to ally France ( the largest land army) and neutralize Russia (the main trade outlet for Germany for many centuries) in the event Germany wage an all out war.

Germany had no qualm with France and Russia because it benefitted from these 2 countries.

Ironically, it is France and Russia that first declared war on Germany.

As Russia declared war on Germany, and since the Armenians in Turkey steadfastly and consistently supported and aided Imperial Russia frequent incursions into the Ottoman Empire since the 19th century, Germany planned the Armenian genocide and the new  colonial national zeal of the Young Turk junta systematically executed the plan, and in a very German professionalism.

It is to be noted that the Ottoman Empire was the most lenient and tolerant among all empires relative to its varieties of ethnic and religious diversities.

Germany finally decided to agree that it shared in the genocide of the Armenians by the planning of this mass murder. 

The roots for this hatred of the Turks against the Armenians was there, and it needed a new Nationalist feeling of the 20th century to go all the way according to the German decision.

The turks executed the plan in the large cities while the Kurds were assigned this job in the far fetched country side.

Germany was also behind punishing Lebanon and committed this genocide famine hecatomb between 1915-18

For example, the city of Kars in Turkey, on the eastern side of the Anatolia Plateau (Anadol), is built by the river Kars and is a must cross location on the routes from Georgia, Tabriz (Iran), the Caucasus and Tiflis. I urge my readers to recollect other cursed cities through history.

Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus form one homogeneous geographic area in economy, culture, and social communication and trades.

The Armenians on both sides preferred to pay allegiance to Christian Russia and wished that Russia would grant them administrative autonomy in the Caucasus.

The Moslems on both sides paid allegiance to the Moslem Ottoman Empire.

The triangle of the current States of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were the scenes of major battle fields and invasions through history and is still a hot area till now.

The Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk published “Snow” that described the calamities suffered by the inhabitants of the Kars region.  The Armenian people lived in that region for a thousand years and then many waves of immigrants and refugees from persecutions flocked to it.

The Karss region hosted people from the Empires of Persia, Byzantium and then Moguls, Georgians, Kurds, and Cherkessk.

In the 17th century, the Karss region was predominantly of Moslems and then Armenians were second in numbers.

The absolute monarchic Russian Empire vied for this region since the 18th century.

In 1827, Russia entered Karss and chased out over 27,000 Moslems and transferred 45,000 Armenians to this city from Iran and the Anatolian Plateau.

The city of Yerevan (Capital of the current State of Armenia) that was mostly of Iranians was transformed demographically in 1827.

In every Russian invasion to the Karss region, the Russian troops could rely on the Armenian population for auxiliary regiments, logistics, and intelligence services.

As the Russian troops vacated the region in 1829, over 90,000 Armenians fled with the Russians fearing well deserved persecution.

During the Crimea War, which confronted Russia against the combined alliance of Britain, France, and the Ottoman, the Russians put siege on Karss in 1855 for many months and all the Ottoman army within the city was massacred.  The Paris treaty of 1855 forced the Russians to vacate the Karss region. The Ottoman troops retaliated heavily on the Armenians.

In 1859, the Cherkessk, lead by their leader Shamel, revolted against the Russians and Shamel was defeated; many Christian Russian Orthodox were transferred to Karss to replace the Moslem Cherkessk.  The same eviction process befell three quarter of the Moslems of Abkhazia in 1867.

Thus, in less than 30 years, the Russian Empire changed the demographics of the Caucasus from mostly Moslems to mostly Christians.

Over 1, 200,000 Moslems were forced to transfer to other regions; 800,000 of the Moslems settled in the Ottoman Empire. 

In 1877, the Russians amassed troops on the border with Karss; Sultan Abdel Hamid preempted the invasion by massacring the Armenians on ground that they will inevitably aid the Russians.

After 93 days of war, the Russians entered Karss and a pogrom on the Moslems proceeded for many days.

The treaty of San Estephanos relinquished the region to the Russian Empire. The Russians built a new city south of the city of Karess where the Emperor Alexander III met with his concubines and hunted.

In the next 43 years, the Armenians harassed the Moslems of this region and thousand had to flee.

In retaliation, Sultan Abdel Hamid formed in 1891 a special regiment of Kurdish cavalry with the purpose of harassing the Armenians of the Karss region and the pogrom around Lake Van raised an outcry in Europe.

During the First World War, the Armenians again aided the Russians and formed semi-regular armies to fight the Ottoman Empire.

On both sides, Armenian troops were under either the flag of Turkey or of Russia.

As the genocide was decided in April 1915, the Turks disbanded 125,000 armed Armenian troops and transferred them to dig ditches and construction works.

Consequently, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire launched the genocide plan against the Armenians and thousands died of famine during the long march out of Turkey.

The Armenians settled in Constantinople (Istanbul), and the people in the Adana region shared in the mass persecution; only the Armenians in the Caucasus, within Russia, were spared.

The British occupied the Karss region in 1919 and gave some authority to the Armenians who gathered arms from the Moslems and gave them to the Armenians and another round of harassment and massacres took place.

The Turkish General Mustafa Kemal re-occupied the Karss region in 1920 after defeating the Armenian army: the Bolsheviks were then allied to the new Turkish Republic.

The Russians transferred the Armenians from the region of Patum to Yerevan.

In 1927, all the properties of the Armenians in Karss were confiscated.

The Armenians were robbed of a homeland because Turkey ceased Cyprus to Britain in exchange of guaranteeing the Karss region to Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal (Attaturk) also negotiated a political deal with mandated power France over Syria to relinquish the Syrian region of Alexandrite to Turkey, setting the premises for future regional feuds.

Nowadays, there are no Armenians in Karss; the imposing buildings of Tsarist Russia are government Administrative offices; a vast villa of 40 rooms is transformed into hospital, and a Jewish museum.

An entire century of struggles, massacres, harassment,  genocides, and useless hate to their neighbors in order to gain self-autonomy rewarded the Armenians nothing.

They had to wait for the break down of the Soviet Union to enjoy the Armenian State that is totally dependent in its economy on the neighboring States.

Kosovo, Kashmir, Jerusalem, Gaza, and Palestine are current examples of lost opportunities for stability and peace.

As for the case of the famine hecatomb in Mount Lebanon read:

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/famine-hecatomb-in-lebanon-1915-18/

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My country is a horror show

The two Americas

Note: What is taking place in Baltimore and other US cities is direct confirmation to this article analysis

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics.

There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it.

About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be.

We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.

I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.

I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically.

I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.

You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that.

But Marx was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.

That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.

We understand profit. (I am Not that sure)

In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?

And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years, and it has triumphed.

Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological: it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.

It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.

After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best.

It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.

Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be – and forgive the jingoistic sound of this – the American century.

It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.

It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.

And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.

Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to.

But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.

The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.

Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought.

That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works.

Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances.

Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.

And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show.

You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education.

You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons.

No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.

We have become something other than what we claim for the American dream and all because of our inability to basically share, to even contemplate a socialist impulse.

Socialism is a dirty word in my country.

I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh by the way I’m not a Marxist you know”. I lived through the 20th century. I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth. I don’t.

I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.

And so capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx then the diagnosis, because he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted.

And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.

From this moment forward unless we reverse course, the average human being is worth less on planet Earth. Unless we take stock of the fact that maybe socialism and the socialist impulse has to be addressed again; it has to be married as it was married in the 1930s, the 1940s and even into the 1950s, to the engine that is capitalism.

Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.

The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.

It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?

If you watched the debacle that was, and is, the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple of years, imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something really complicated like global warming.

We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? It’s socialism, motherfucker.”

What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you …?” “Oh yeah, I get …” you know, “my law firm …” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.

The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”

And … you know when you say, OK, we’re going to do what we’re doing for your law firm but we’re going to do it for 300 million Americans and we’re going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm … Their eyes glaze. You know they don’t want to hear it. It’s too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.

So I’m astonished that at this late date I’m standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavour.

And that’s what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.

That’s the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people’s racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.

And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans.

And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?

So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody’s going to get left behind. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.

We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.

The other thing that was there in 1932 that isn’t there now is that some element of the popular will could be expressed through the electoral process in my country.

The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.

So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I’m arguing for now, I’m not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.

David Simon is an American author and journalist and was the executive producer of The Wire. This is an edited extract of a talk delivered at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.

Andrew Bossone shared this link on FB

“The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not –

the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.”

David Simon: Capitalism in America has lost sight of its social compact
theguardian.com|By David Simon

 

Tale of 2 political systems

My name is Eric Li, and I was born here. But no, I wasn’t born there. This was where I was born: Shanghai, at the height of the Cultural Revolution.

My grandmother tells me that she heard the sound of gunfire along with my first cries.

When I was growing up, I was told a story that explained all I ever needed to know about humanity.

It went like this. All human societies develop in linear progression, beginning with primitive society, then slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and finally, guess where we end up? Communism!

Sooner or later, all of humanity, regardless of culture, language, nationality, will arrive at this final stage of political and social development.

The entire world’s peoples will be unified in this paradise on Earth and live happily ever after.

But before we get there, we’re engaged in a struggle between good and evil, the good of socialism against the evil of capitalism, and the good shall triumph.

1:24 That, of course, was the meta-narrative distilled from the theories of Karl Marx. And the Chinese bought it. We were taught that grand story day in and day out. It became part of us, and we believed in it. The story was a bestseller. About one third of the entire world’s population lived under that meta-narrative.

1:45 Then, the world changed overnight. As for me, disillusioned by the failed religion of my youth, I went to America and became a Berkeley hippie.

1:58 Now, as I was coming of age, something else happened. As if one big story wasn’t enough, I was told another one.

This one was just as grand. It also claims that all human societies develop in a linear progression towards a singular end. This one went as follows: All societies, regardless of culture, be it Christian, Muslim, Confucian, must progress from traditional societies in which groups are the basic units to modern societies in which atomized individuals are the sovereign units, and all these individuals are, by definition, rational, and they all want one thing: the vote.

Because they are all rational, once given the vote, they produce good government and live happily ever after. Paradise on Earth, again.

Sooner or later, electoral democracy will be the only political system for all countries and all peoples, with a free market to make them all rich.

But before we get there, we’re engaged in a struggle between good and evil. (Laughter) The good belongs to those who are democracies and are charged with a mission of spreading it around the globe, sometimes by force, against the evil of those who do not hold elections.

3:18 (Video) George H.W. Bush: A new world order

3:20 (Video) George W. Bush: … ending tyranny in our world

3:22 (Video) Barack Obama: … a single standard for all who would hold power.

3:37 This story also became a bestseller. According to Freedom House, the number of democratic States went from 45 in 1970 to 115 in 2010. (That’s the biggest lie ever)

In the last 20 years, Western elites tirelessly trotted around the globe selling this prospectus: Multiple parties fight for political power and everyone voting on them is the only path to salvation to the long-suffering developing world.

Those who buy the prospectus are destined for success. Those who do not are doomed to fail. But this time, the Chinese didn’t buy it.

4:13 Fool me once …

4:20 The rest is history. In just 30 years, China went from one of the poorest agricultural countries in the world to its second-largest economy.

Six hundred fifty million people were lifted out of poverty. 80% of the entire world’s poverty alleviation during that period happened in China.

In other words, all the new and old democracies put together amounted to a mere fraction of what a single, one-party state did without voting.

4:48 See, I grew up on this stuff: food stamps. Meat was rationed to a few hundred grams per person per month at one point. Needless to say, I ate all my grandmother’s portions.

5:00 So I asked myself, what’s wrong with this picture?

Here I am in my hometown, my business growing leaps and bounds. Entrepreneurs are starting companies every day. Middle class is expanding in speed and scale unprecedented in human history.

Yet, according to the grand story, none of this should be happening. So I went and did the only thing I could. I studied it.

Yes, China is a one-party state run by the Chinese Communist Party, the Party, and they don’t hold elections.

Three assumptions are made by the dominant political theories of our time. Such a system is operationally rigid, politically closed, and morally illegitimate.

Well, the assumptions are wrong. The opposites are true. Adaptability, meritocracy, and legitimacy are the three defining characteristics of China’s one-party system.

Most political scientists will tell us that a one-party system is inherently incapable of self-correction. It won’t last long because it cannot adapt. Now here are the facts.

In 64 years of running the largest country in the world, the range of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies has been wider than any other country in recent memory, from radical land collectivization to the Great Leap Forward, then privatization of farmland, then the Cultural Revolution, then Deng Xiaoping’s market reform, then successor Jiang Zemin took the giant political step of opening up Party membership to private business people, something unimaginable during Mao’s rule.

6:38 So the Party self-corrects in rather dramatic fashions. Institutionally, new rules get enacted to correct previous dysfunctions.

For example. Political leaders used to retain their positions for life, and they used that to accumulate power and perpetuate their rules.

Mao was the father of modern China, yet his prolonged rule led to disastrous mistakes. So the Party instituted term limits with mandatory retirement age of 68 to 70.

7:06 One thing we often hear is, “Political reforms have lagged far behind economic reforms,” and “China is in dire need of political reform.”

But this claim is a rhetorical trap hidden behind a political bias.

See, some have decided a priori what kinds of changes they want to see, and only such changes can be called political reform.

The truth is, political reforms have never stopped. Compared with 30 years ago, 20 years, even 10 years ago, every aspect of Chinese society, how the country is governed, from the most local level to the highest center, are unrecognizable today.

Now such changes are simply not possible without political reforms of the most fundamental kind. Now I would venture to suggest the Party is the world’s leading expert in political reform.

7:56 The second assumption is that in a one-party state, power gets concentrated in the hands of the few, and bad governance and corruption follow.

Indeed, corruption is a big problem, but let’s first look at the larger context. Now, this may be counterintuitive to you. The Party happens to be one of the most meritocratic political institutions in the world today.

China’s highest ruling body, the Politburo, has 25 members. In the most recent one, only five of them came from a background of privilege, so-called princelings. The other 20, including the president and the premier, came from entirely ordinary backgrounds.

In the larger central committee of 300 or more, the percentage of those who were born into power and wealth was even smaller. The vast majority of senior Chinese leaders worked and competed their way to the top. Compare that with the ruling elites in both developed and developing countries, I think you’ll find the Party being near the top in upward mobility.

8:53 The question then is, how could that be possible in a system run by one party?

Now we come to a powerful political institution, little-known to Westerners: the Party’s Organization Department.

The department functions like a giant human resource engine that would be the envy of even some of the most successful corporations. It operates a rotating pyramid made up of three components: civil service, state-owned enterprises, and social organizations like a university or a community program.

They form separate yet integrated career paths for Chinese officials.

They recruit college grads into entry-level positions in all three tracks, and they start from the bottom, called “keyuan” [clerk]. Then they could get promoted through four increasingly elite ranks: fuke [deputy section manager], ke [section manager], fuchu [deputy division manager], and chu [division manger].

Now these are not moves from “Karate Kid,” okay? It’s serious business.

The range of positions is wide, from running health care in a village to foreign investment in a city district to manager in a company.

Once a year, the department reviews their performance. They interview their superiors, their peers, their subordinates. They vet their personal conduct. They conduct public opinion surveys. Then they promote the winners.

Throughout their careers, these cadres can move through and out of all three tracks.

Over time, the good ones move beyond the four base levels to the fuju [deputy bureau chief] and ju [bureau chief] levels. There, they enter high officialdom.

By that point, a typical assignment will be to manage a district with a population in the millions or a company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Just to show you how competitive the system is, in 2012 there were 900,000 fuke and ke levels, 600,000 fuchu and chu levels, and only 40,000 fuju and ju levels.

10:47 After the ju levels, the best few move further up several more ranks, and eventually make it to the Central Committee.

The process takes two to three decades. Does patronage play a role? Yes, of course.

But merit remains the fundamental driver.

In essence, the Organization Department runs a modernized version of China’s centuries-old mentoring system.

China’s new president, Xi Jinping, is the son of a former leader, which is very unusual, first of his kind to make the top job. Even for him, the career took 30 years. He started as a village manager, and by the time he entered the Politburo, he had managed areas with a total population of 150 million people and combined GDPs of 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

11:33 Now, please don’t get me wrong, okay? This is not a put-down of anyone. It’s just a statement of fact.

George W. Bush, remember him? This is not a put-down. (Laughter) Before becoming governor of Texas, or Barack Obama before running for president, could not make even a small county manager in China’s system. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is a terrible system except for all the rest. Well, apparently he hadn’t heard of the Organization Department.

12:05 Now, Westerners always assume that multi-party election with universal suffrage is the only source of political legitimacy.

12:13 I was asked once, “The Party wasn’t voted in by election. Where is the source of legitimacy?”

12:19 I said, “How about competency?”

12:23 We all know the facts. In 1949, when the Party took power, China was mired in civil wars, dismembered by foreign aggression, average life expectancy at that time, 41 years old.

Today, it’s the second largest economy in the world, an industrial powerhouse, and its people live in increasing prosperity.

12:41 Pew Research polls Chinese public attitudes, and here are the numbers in recent years.

Satisfaction with the direction of the country: 85 percent. Those who think they’re better off than five years ago: 70 percent. Those who expect the future to be better: a whopping 82 percent.

Financial Times polls global youth attitudes, and these numbers, brand new, just came from last week.  93% of China’s Generation Y are optimistic about their country’s future. Now, if this is not legitimacy, I’m not sure what is.

13:19 In contrast, most electoral democracies around the world are suffering from dismal performance. I don’t need to elaborate for this audience how dysfunctional it is, from Washington to European capitals.

With a few exceptions, the vast number of developing countries that have adopted electoral regimes are still suffering from poverty and civil strife.

Governments get elected, and then they fall below 50 percent approval in a few months and stay there and get worse until the next election.

Democracy is becoming a perpetual cycle of elect and regret. At this rate, I’m afraid it is democracy, not China’s one-party system, that is in danger of losing legitimacy.

14:02 Now, I don’t want to create the misimpression that China’s hunky-dory, on the way to some kind of super powerdom. The country faces enormous challenges.

The social and economic problems that come with wrenching change like this are mind-boggling.

Pollution is one. Food safety. Population issues.

On the political front, the worst problem is corruption. Corruption is widespread and undermines the system and its moral legitimacy. But most analysts misdiagnose the disease. They say that corruption is the result of the one-party system, and therefore, in order to cure it, you have to do away with the entire system.

A more careful look would tell us otherwise. Transparency International ranks China between 70 and 80 in recent years among 170 countries, and it’s been moving up.

India, the largest democracy in the world, 94 and dropping. For the hundred or so countries that are ranked below China, more than half of them are electoral democracies. So if election is the panacea for corruption, how come these countries can’t fix it?

 I’m a venture capitalist. I make bets. It wouldn’t be fair to end this talk without putting myself on the line and making some predictions. So here they are.

In the next 10 years, China will surpass the U.S. and become the largest economy in the world.

1. Income per capita will be near the top of all developing countries.

2. Corruption will be curbed, but not eliminated, and China will move up 10 to 20 notches to above 60 in T.I. ranking.

3. Economic reform will accelerate, political reform will continue, and the one-party system will hold firm.

We live in the dusk of an era. Meta-narratives that make universal claims failed us in the 20th century and are failing us in the 21st.

Meta-narrative is the cancer that is killing democracy from the inside.

Now, I want to clarify something. I’m not here to make an indictment of democracy. On the contrary, I think democracy contributed to the rise of the West and the creation of the modern world.

It is the universal claim that many Western elites are making about their political system, the hubris, that is at the heart of the West’s current ills.

If the elite class would spend just a little less time on trying to force their way onto others, and a little bit more on political reform at home, they might give their democracy a better chance.

China’s political model will never supplant electoral democracy, because unlike the latter, it doesn’t pretend to be universal. It cannot be exported. But that is the point precisely.

The significance of China’s example is not that it provides an alternative, but the demonstration that alternatives exist.

Let us draw to a close this era of meta-narratives. Communism and democracy may both be laudable ideals, but the era of their dogmatic universalism is over.

Let us stop telling people and our children there’s only one way to govern ourselves and a singular future towards which all societies must evolve. It is wrong. It is irresponsible. And worst of all, it is boring.

Let universality make way for plurality. Perhaps a more interesting age is upon us. Are we brave enough to welcome it?

17:45 Bruno Giussani: Eric, stay with me for a couple of minutes, because I want to ask you a couple of questions. I think many here, and in general in Western countries, would agree with your statement about analysis of democratic systems becoming dysfunctional, but at the same time, many would kind of find unsettling the thought that there is an unelected authority that, without any form of oversight or consultation, decides what the national interest is. What is the mechanism in the Chinese model that allows people to say, actually, the national interest as you defined it is wrong?

18:23 EXL: You know, Frank Fukuyama, the political scientist, called the Chinese system “responsive authoritarianism.” It’s not exactly right, but I think it comes close.

So I know the largest public opinion survey company in China, okay? Do you know who their biggest client is? The Chinese government.

Not just from the central government, the city government, the provincial government, to the most local neighborhood districts. They conduct surveys all the time.

Are you happy with the garbage collection? Are you happy with the general direction of the country? So there is, in China, there is a different kind of mechanism to be responsive to the demands and the thinking of the people.

My point is, I think we should get unstuck from the thinking that there’s only one political system — election, election, election — that could make it responsive. I’m not sure, actually, elections produce responsive government anymore in the world BG: Many seem to agree. One of the features of a democratic system is a space for civil society to express itself. And you have shown figures about the support that the government and the authorities have in China. But then you’ve just mentioned other elements like, you know, big challenges, and there are, of course, a lot of other data that go in a different direction: tens of thousands of unrests and protests and environmental protests, etc. So you seem to suggest the Chinese model doesn’t have a space outside of the Party for civil society to express itself.

19:56 EXL: There’s a vibrant civil society in China, whether it’s environment or what-have-you. But it’s different.

You wouldn’t recognize it. Because, by Western definitions, a so-called civil society has to be separate or even in opposition to the political system, but that concept is alien for Chinese culture.

For thousands of years, you have civil society, yet they are consistent and coherent and part of a political order, and I think it’s a big cultural difference.

Note: In States as populous and large as continents, it does not make sense to have a vote for the central power without it done in successive levels, piece meal.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
It’s a standard assumption in the West: As a society progresses, it eventually becomes a capitalist, multi-party democracy.
Right? Eric X. Li, a Chinese investor and political scientist, begs to differ. In this provocative, boundary-pushing talk, he…
ted.com|By Eric X. Li

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