Democracy

23
Dec

clip_image002Based on experiences of Brazil, Venezuela and the state of Kerala, India

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes

[Paper presented at the International Scientific Academic Meeting on Methodology and Experiences in Socio-environmental Participatory processes, Cuenca University, November 13-15, 2014.*]

December 19, 2014 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — These words are aimed at those who want to build a humanist and solidarity-based society. A society based on the complete participation of all people. A society focused on a model of sustainable development that satisfies people’s genuine needs in a just manner, and not the artificial wants created by capitalism in its irrational drive to obtain more profits. A society that does all this while ensuring that humanity’s future in not put at risk. A society where the organized people are the ones who decide what and how to produce. A society we have referred to as Twenty-First Century Socialism, Good Living or Life in Plenitude.

The question is how can we achieve this complete participation? How can we guarantee as much as possible that all citizens, and not just activists or leftists, take an interest in participation? How can we achieve the participation of middle class sectors alongside popular sectors? How can we ensure that solidarian interests prevail over selfish ones? How can we attend to the concerns of the poorest and most forgotten and repay the social debt inherited by previous governments?

I am convinced that it is through what we have called “decentralized participatory planning” that we can achieve these objectives. We have reached this conclusion not on the basis of reading books and academic debates, but through the study of practical experiences of participatory budgets and participatory planning, primarily in Brazil, Venezuela and the Indian state of Kerala.

We were very attracted to the experience of participatory budgeting undertaken by the regional Workers’ Party government in Porto Alegre, Brazil, because we saw it as a new, transparent, rather than corrupt, way of governing, that delegated power to the people.

In Venezuela, we got a strong sense of how the popular subject was strengthened through the initiative taken by Chávez to promote the creation of communal councils and his decision to grant them resources for small projects. This was not done in a populist manner, with the state coming in to satisfy the community’s demand; rather it occurred after a process of participatory planning where the citizens of the community implemented what he called “the communal cycle”, which involved the following actions: diagnosis, elaboration of a plan and budget, execution of the project, and control over how it was carried out.[1]

Lastly, our work was been greatly enhanced by what we learnt from one of the first experiences in the world of “decentralized participatory planning” that occurred in the Indian state of Kerala. There, a communist government decided to carry out an important process of decentralization, not only of monetary resources, but also material and human resources, to aid with the implementation of local development plans that were based on the active participation of local residents. The end result of this has been a more egalitarian economic development when compared to the rest of India, and a growth in resident’s self-esteem and self-confidence. This type of decentralization allowed for greater local government autonomy when it came to planning their development, which facilitated the progress of a much more effective participatory planning.

I. A decentralised participatory planning proposal

The type of planning we advocate is the antithesis of the centralized planning implemented under the Soviet Union. In the old USSR, it was thought that to coordinate all efforts towards building a new society, a central authority was required to decide objectives and means. It was a process in which decisions were always made from above, on many occasions without taking into consideration that down below was where people best knew the problems and possible solutions.

Similarly, often processes that claim to be participatory limit themselves to being processes of simple consultation. Rather than promoting a process of decision-making by citizens, local politicians limit themselves to consulting citizens. The people in the local area are called upon to participate in working groups where they are asked to point out their main priorities for public works and services for their respective communities. A technical team collects these and it is the technicians and not the people who decided upon which projects to implement. We don’t deny that a willingness to listen to people represents a step forward, but it is very limited.

We advocate a more integral process in which it is the people who genuinely discuss and decide upon their priorities, elaborate, where possible, their own projects and carry them out if they are in the condition to do so without having to depend on superior levels. We seek to fully involve citizens in the planning process, which is why we refer to it as participatory planning.

To achieve complete citizen’s participation we must take the plans of small localities as our starting point, where conditions are more favorable for peoples’ participation, and apply the principle that everything that can be done at a lower level should be decentralized to this level, and only keeping as competencies of higher up levels those tasks that cannot be carried out at a lower level. This principle is referred to as subsidiarity.

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Category : Democracy | India | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Venezuela | Blog
7
Jul

 

By Harry Targ

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

For presentation at the  upcoming “Moving Beyond Capitalism” Conference, Center for Global Justice, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico July 29-August 5, 2014

Introduction

The deepening 21st century crises of capitalism-from growing economic impoverishment to neo-fascism to literal destruction of planet earth-demand movements and visions of change unparalleled in quantities and qualities of response. Anti-capitalist responses to these crises range from helplessness to spontaneous activism. Often political reactions ignore the history and context of the crises and the movements that have come before that have planted the seeds of fundamental social change. This paper will survey movements of social change in the era of neoliberal globalization suggesting both the breadth of such movements and the historical context from which they came. The tasks for today still require an analysis of the nature of existing systems and responses, visions of desirable alternatives, and contextualized discussions of moving from here to there. “Moving Beyond Capitalism” requires such a grounding of the future in the past and the present.

21st Century Imperialism: Post-Cold War Perspectives on Global Political Economy

The collapse of the Soviet Union transformed world affairs, scholarly analyses of international relations, punditry, and rationales for imperial foreign policies. A new buzzword became part of political discourse to describe the international system: “globalization.” Almost immediately a large literature was generated suggesting that the world had changed. Globalization was replacing the system of often hostile nation-states that had characterized the world since the sixteenth century.[1]

While interpretations of globalization varied, the common conception of the term suggested that a process of relations was occurring in which interactions between nations, business and financial organizations, groups, and peoples had become so frequent and intense that they were creating one global society.[2] Major globalizing institutions included multinational corporations, especially the 200 largest global corporations with production, distribution, and decision-making facilities in many countries, and international financial institutions engaged in speculative activities all across the globe. At the cultural level a handful of media conglomerates produced a large percentage of the cultural products, images, artistic endeavors, and print and electronic information that the world consumed. Finally, international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the newly created World Trade Organization brought international influence to bear on states that resisted the globalization process.

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Category : Capitalism | Democracy | Globalization | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
8
Jun

 

The Specter of Authoritarianism and the Future of the Left: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

 

By CJ Polychroniou,

Truthout | Interview  – 08 June 2014

Henry A. GirouxHenry A. Giroux (Screengrab via Disposable Life / Vimeo)"The commanding institutions of society in many countries, including the United States, are now in the hands of powerful corporate interests, the financial elite and right-wing bigots whose strangulating control over politics renders democracy corrupt and dysfunctional," says Henry A. Giroux.

To read more articles by C. J. Polychroniou, Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

C. J. Polychroniou, for Truthout: It is widely believed that the advanced liberal societies are suffering a crisis of democracy, a view you share wholeheartedly, although the empirical research, with its positivist bias, tends to be more cautious. In what ways is there less democracy today in places like the United States than there was, say, 20 or 30 years ago?

Henry A. Giroux: What we have seen in the United States and a number of other countries since the 1970s is the emergence of a savage form of free market fundamentalism, often called neoliberalism, in which there is not only a deep distrust of public values, public goods and public institutions but the embrace of a market ideology that accelerates the power of the financial elite and big business while gutting those formative cultures and institutions necessary for a democracy to survive.

"Neoliberal societies, in general, are in a state of war – a war waged by the financial and political elite against youth, low-income groups, the elderly, poor minorities of color, the unemployed, immigrants and others now considered disposable."

The commanding institutions of society in many countries, including the United States, are now in the hands of powerful corporate interests, the financial elite and right-wing bigots whose strangulating control over politics renders democracy corrupt and dysfunctional. Of course, what is unique about the United States is that the social contract and social wage are subject to a powerful assault by the right-wing politicians and anti-public intellectuals from both political parties. Those public spheres and institutions that support social provisions, the public good and keep public value alive are under sustained attack. Such attacks have not only produced a range of policies that have expanded the misery, suffering and hardships of millions of people, but have also put into place a growing culture of cruelty in which those who suffer the misfortunes of poverty, unemployment, low skill jobs, homelessness and other social problems are the object of both humiliation and scorn.

Neoliberal societies, in general, are in a state of war – a war waged by the financial and political elite against youth, low-income groups, the elderly, poor minorities of color, the unemployed, immigrants and others now considered disposable. Liberty and freedom are now reduced to fodder for inane commercials or empty slogans used to equate capitalism with democracy. At the same time, liberty and civil rights are being dismantled while state violence and institutional racism is now spreading throughout the culture like wildfire, especially with regards to police harassment of young black and brown youth. A persistent racism can also be seen in the attack on voting rights laws, the mass incarceration of African-American males, and the overt racism that has become prominent among right-wing Republicans and Tea Party types, most of which is aimed at President Obama.

At the same time, women’s reproductive rights are under assault and there is an ongoing attack on immigrants. Education at all levels is being defunded and defined as a site of training rather than as a site of critical thought, dialogue and critical pedagogy. In addition, democracy has withered under the emergence of a national security and permanent warfare state. This is evident not only in endless wars abroad, but also in the passing of a series of laws such as the Patriot Act, the Military Commission Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and many others laws that shred due process and give the executive branch the right to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge or a trial, authorize a presidential kill list and conduct warrantless wiretaps. Of course, both [former President George W.] Bush and Obama claimed the right to kill any citizens considered to be a terrorist or who have come to the aid of terrorism. In addition, targeted assassinations are now carried out by drones that are more and more killing innocent children, adults and bystanders.

Another index of America’s slide into barbarism and authoritarianism is the rise of the racial punishing state with its school-to prison pipeline, criminalization of a range of social problems, a massive incarceration system, militarization of local police forces and its use of ongoing state violence against youthful dissenters. The prison has now become the model for a type of punishment creep that has impacted upon public schools where young children are arrested for violating something as trivial as doodling on a desk or violating a dress code. Under the dictates of the punishing state, incarceration has become the default solution for every social problem, regardless of how minor it may be. Discordant interactions between teacher and student, however petty, are not treated as a criminal offense. The long arm of punishment creep is also evident in a number of social services where poor people are put under constant surveillance and punished for minor infractions. It is also manifest in the militarization of everyday life with its endless celebration of military, police and religious institutions, all of which are held in high esteem by the American public, in spite of their undeniably authoritarian nature.

"The US has launched an attack not only on the practice of justice and democracy itself, but on the very idea of justice and democracy."

As Edward Snowden made clear, the hidden registers of authoritarianism have come to light in a trove of exposed NSA documents which affirm that the US has become a national security-surveillance state illegally gathering massive amounts of information from diverse sources on citizens who are not guilty of any crimes. To justify such lawlessness, the American public is told that the rendering moot of civil liberties is justified in the name of security and defense against potential terrorists and other threats. In reality, what is being defended is the security of the state and the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the controlling political and corporate elites.

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Category : Capitalism | Democracy | Fascism | Hegemony | Intellectuals | Youth | Blog
23
Feb

An Essay Confirming Our Ongoing Need for both Marx and Gramsci to Spotlight, Dissect and Break Apart Our Adversaries

By Mike Lofgren

Billmoyers.com

Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.

The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)


Feb 21, 2014 – There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. [1]

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country…

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions — with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either — even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. [2]

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Category : Capitalism | Democracy | Hegemony | Technology | Terror and Violence | Blog
28
Dec

Chairman Mao Zedong (L) signs a copy of his Little Red Book for Sidney Rittenberg (R) in Beijing, 1966. (Sidney Rittenberg)

By Matt Schiavenza

The Atlantic

From 1944, when the 23-year-old Sidney Rittenberg first arrived in China with the U.S. Army, to his departure 35 years later, no other foreign national played as important a role in the country. A Chinese linguist and Communist sympathizer, Rittenberg served as a friend, confidante, translator, and journalist for the Communist Party leadership after first encountering them at their Yan’an base in 1946. During the first three decades of P.R.C. history, Rittenberg enjoyed remarkable influence in a country largely closed off to the outside world. However, his high profile came at a grave cost: He was imprisoned twice and held in solitary confinement for a total of 16 years.

Now 92, Rittenberg remains a sharp observer of contemporary China, commenting often about the country that has defined his personal and professional life. A genial man with an easy laugh, Rittenberg betrays little bitterness about his years in China, which he wrote about in his memoir The Man Who Stayed Behind, and has continued to visit since his return to the U.S. In a wide-ranging phone conversation with me last month, Rittenberg recounted his personal memories of Chairman Mao Zedong, born 120 years ago today, and why he believes that, through forging an early alliance with the Chinese leader, the United States might have avoided both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

When did you actually first meet Chairman Mao in person?

It was October 20-something in 1946. I’d just come over land to Yan’an [the Communist Party home base in Shaanxi Province] from Inner Mongolia, and after arriving, I was immediately taken to the weekly dance in the Party headquarters building. When we opened the door to go in, Mao was dancing in the middle of the floor. He saw me and stopped dancing, and after I shook his hand he said, “We’d like to welcome an American comrade to join in our work.” Then, he took me over by the side of the hall and sat me down on a chair, and immediately said that he wanted to invite me to his place and spend a day or two just talking about America. The interesting thing here is—and this is confirmed by Li Zhishui, the doctor who wrote the book on Mao’s personal life—America was the only foreign country that really fascinated and interested him and was one he greatly admired. He would invite left-wing Americans to his place and sit and chat. To my knowledge, he didn’t invite foreign experts of any other nationality—just the Americans.

Why do you think he had such a fascination with America and Americans?

Mao’s modern education began when he went to high school in Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan Province. There, he had a very enlightened liberal teacher, one whose daughter he actually married, who taught him about Rousseau, Franklin, Jefferson, and so on, and those first foreign thinkers really interested him. In fact, Mao related somewhere that he once thought Jeffersonian democracy was the future for China. Eventually, he came to believe that foreign backers would not permit China to evolve into a Western-style democracy, and that’s when he turned to Lenin.

What were your impressions of him? What was he like? Was he as charismatic as people say?

He was only charismatic because of the strength of his mind and his ability to put complicated political thinking into very colorful, popular language—which is a talent that seems to be totally lost in China these days. But, you know, he was no Fidel Castro. He was no orator. He didn’t keep people spell-bound—he was a rather slow and bumbling speaker. But the way he analyzed things was fascinating. And he was always careful to make it very simple, to put things in popular terms, not like the mind-numbing stuff that began coming out later.

You know, it was interesting: When you sat and talked with him, he was laid back. He talked as though everything was just a casual conversation and very humorous. Anyone who was talking with him in my experience would be constantly in stitches laughing, and he’d laugh too. So he gave the impression of a kind of sage from the backwoods, who was a great analyzer and a great talker. Nothing threatening at all, nothing tough.

What was the relationship like between Mao and [Chinese premier] Zhou Enlai? Was Zhou more sophisticated and more urbane? Did they balance each other well?

They were totally different. Zhou was a very gregarious, urbane person, an organizational genius who could do two or three different things at the same time without getting mixed up. In the early 1930s, Zhou had led the attack on Mao as one of the students Stalin had sent back from Moscow to run the Chinese Communist Party. But after the near-obliteration of the Red Army—when they took its remnants and started the Long March— Zhou decided that Mao had been right about the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare and dropped his opposition and made up his mind that from now on, he was going to follow Mao—and he did. He acted as Mao’s chief of staff: Whatever the leading team decided, Zhou would be in charge of executing the decision. He was an organizational genius, no question about it. Everyone respected him and looked up to him.

Was Deng Xiaoping a major figure in the Party by this time, or did he emerge later?

Deng only emerged later, really. He came to prominence in the Chinese Civil War, when he was the number one political commissar of the great field armies that wiped out or captured most of Chiang Kai-Shek’s elite troops. He was a little man who carried out Mao’s strategic concepts. Mao would send him a document on how to wage the campaign strategically, and Deng was in charge of making sure it was carried out. You know, one of Deng’s great advantages politically—and it probably saved his life in the Cultural Revolution—was that in the 1930s, he was persecuted for supporting Mao against Stalin’s people. Mao never forgot that. So, in the Cultural Revolution, Liu Shaoqi was enemy number one, and Deng was enemy number two. But unlike Liu, who was hounded to death, Deng was protected by Mao.

How did you earn the trust of these men in the 1940s?

[Laughs] Well, you know—that’s a curious question. I’m a kind of open, direct guy, and I think they understood that I was telling them the truth, whatever I said, as I saw it. I was working with the UN relief program and doing famine relief work in the Communist area that was under the command of Li Xiannian, who later became president of the P.R.C., and Wang Zhen, who later became vice president. I was able to give them some important information about the American decision to allow Chiang Kai-Shek to wipe out Communist troops in that area. At the time, the local leaders, Li Xiannian and his colleagues, were in dispute about the intentions of General Marshall and the American role in the Chinese civil war. Some people, including the then-political commissar, felt that the Nationalists would not be allowed to attack them and wipe the Communists, who were outnumbered four or five to one in that area, out. Others believe that Marshall would let them be killed.

I got a very clear statement from General Marshall’s attache, General Henry Byroade, that the Americans were definitely going to let the Nationalists attack and annihilate these 60-70,000 Communist troops in that area.  I took that information to the local commanders, Li Xiannian and so on, it proved to be right, and they totally escaped from encirclement. And when they came back to Yan’an, they thanked me and told me how correct my information had been. And in his memoirs, Li recalls this story and my role, which he exaggerates—my role wasn’t probably the decisive factor, but it was helpful. And then, these two commanders, who were both Central Committee members, Li Xiannian and Wang Jian, became my two sponsors in joining the Chinese Communist Party.

And was this in 1946, as well?

1946. It was all in 1946.

What were the circumstances of your arrest in the 1940s? How did you run into trouble with Mao? And did Mao personally play a role in your arrest or was it someone beneath him?

No, no, no. Nobody could have touched me, or any other foreigner, without the personal approval of Mao. Couldn’t be done. What happened was, the story came out some years ago. Stalin’s foreign trade minister and one of his old Bolshevik allies, Anastas Mikoyan, otherwise known as the “Armenian rug salesman,” made a secret trip to China in 1949, I think in January. He went to

the mountains where Mao and we all were, about 100 miles from Beijing, and held a series of talks with Mao, giving him Stalin’s opinion of what was going on in China. Among the documents that he brought was a personal message from Stalin to Mao, saying that they had identified me as a member of an American spy ring, the queen bee of which was Anna Louise Strong, a friend of mine, whom they had arrested in Moscow. Stalin had her deported and recommended that the Chinese arrest me as well. Of course, they never sent any evidence because there wasn’t any.

And how long were you in prison at that time?

Six years. The first year was in total darkness. It was not good.

Did you think you’d be in prison indefinitely?

Well, I’ll tell you, not this time. That was the second time (from 1967-1977). Because after the horrible first year in darkness, the warden suddenly came and told me that they understood that I was telling the truth. They understood who I was, and that I should forget about all the accusations that were hurled at me. So he gave me two choices. I’d been hollering all along that if they were going to keep me here, let me at least read and study and make some use of my time. He said “we can’t let you go until your case is cleared up,” which I knew meant while Stalin was alive. The other option, he said, was that I could just go back to America and forget about China for the rest of my life. If I wanted to go back, they’d send me back.

But that was not an option for me. I didn’t even think about it. My health was totally broken down. I was in shambles, just trying to get back to normal life. And besides, I didn’t want to go back with this cloud over me. What was I going to do? So I said I’ll stay and study. And I did that for five more years.

And what was it like to be released? How did that happen?

[Laughs] One day, the chief keeper unlocked my little cell and came in and said, “Come with me. Someone wants to talk to you.” So I went outside and into the main prison corridor and he unlocked a little door that I had never seen open and led me in. And there was a man whom later I learned was the first leader of the Chinese version of the CIA, the state security ministry. At that time, he was a bureau chief at the ministry of public security, which was internal.

Anyway, they had a chair there. I sat down and I knew immediately something big was happening because you don’t sit counter-revolutionaries down. He then issued a formal apology in the name of the central government, and said: “We were wrong. You’re a good man. We mistreated you, we misunderstood you. We’ll do everything possible to make it up to you.” After that, we went through the process of picking jobs that I wanted to do. He said, “Well, if you want to go back to America, we’ll send you back and we’ll give you enough money to start up whatever you want to do. If you want to travel in Europe, we’ll send you to Europe. If you want to stay in China, we’ll give you a villa in the south. You won’t have to work.” And of course, that was the funny thing, because what you want most when you’re locked up in solitary is the chance to do something, to work. So anyway, I told him, I said I want to go back to doing what I was doing on the day I was arrested.

What was that?

I was working at the Xinhua news agency, correcting English, teaching a little journalism, and doing some writing and some pinch hit announcing. But mainly just helping the Chinese journalists who were working in English just straighten their stuff out.

In 1955 when you were released from prison, did your relatives and friends think you were crazy for wanting to stay in China? Did they petition for you to come back?

They knew nothing about it. They had no idea. My brother-in-law was a flying Colonel in the Marine Corps and he stuck his neck out in the McCarthy days to get the government to figure out where I was, what happened. But they were only able to find out that I was somewhere in prison. They didn’t know where or why or what. So when I got out, they still knew nothing about me. They didn’t know what was going on.

When did they learn that you were released from prison?

As far as I know, the first time they got word was when Israel Epstein, who was working in the foreign languages press in Beijing, went to America and met my niece. He told her the story and then my niece got in touch with me, and then my sister, and so on. Oh, my goodness, but by then, that was after my second arrest. By then, it was 1977. In between, they didn’t know anything about me, and I didn’t try to contact them because in those days it was tricky for an American to be in touch with, you know, “Red China,” quote, unquote. It wouldn’t have been good for them. 

Was there any criticism of Mao in the mid-50s? Was there a sense of euphoria in China at this time? When did his so-called abusive power begin, in your mind?

I think there was a fundamental change that began as he was coming into power. He gave a speech in 1949 just before the proclamation of the P.R.C. on the people’s democratic dictatorship. Previously, he said that the government of the new China would preside over a pluralistic economy. He even once said, “China doesn’t suffer from too much capitalism; it suffers from too little.” So when the new regime took power, they’d develop socialism, collective economy, private capitalism, individual artisans; six different forms of economy, altogether.

But in this 1949 speech, he shifted his emphasis to one-party dictatorship. I remember feeling aggravated at the time because I thought if the U.S. had played its cards better, maybe he wouldn’t have gone that far. We may have been able to influence the kind of government that finally formed in China. In 1946, I translated a message from Mao to the United States saying that in five years, the Communists planned to be in power in China and wanted to have normal relations with the United States by then. They knew Americans supported Chiang Kai-Shek, but that once Mao took power, that would be over.

Mao cited two reasons why he wanted normal relations. The first one was that China was in shambles: They’d been fighting wars for over a century and everything needed to be rebuilt. They needed a major input of capital. And the only country in the world, after World War II, that had that kind of money was the United States. So China want to get construction loans from the U.S. Mao added that the Chinese were not asking for a handout. They had gold and they could pay at the ongoing rates of international interest. So that was point one, which was not surprising to me.

But point two really bowled me over. He said after the Communists came to power, they didn’t want to be unilaterally dependent on the Soviet Union. They wanted to have good relations with both East and West. Mao said, of course, the Soviets were China’s comrades.  "We’re all Communists, but there are many of their viewpoints that we do not share, and we have our own way of looking at things. And we don’t want to be shut off from you, from America, and dependent on them."

I think if America had taken those remarks seriously, it could’ve been different. I even think that we may not have had to fight the wars in Korea and Vietnam. But we totally ignored it.

And was that just because of the McCarthyist spirit in the U.S., the fear of a Red China?

Yeah. It was not just McCarthy, it was people like Dean Rusk—Secretary of State [under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson], undoubtedly a man of strong principle, a good man, but very, very ideological, and, in my view, bigoted. In Rusk’s view, a Communist was a Communist was a Communist. The differences between the Chinese and the Russians were not that important.

After your first arrest from prison, how did you get involved again with Chairman Mao? How long did that process take?

Actually, I didn’t sit down and talk with him again until 1963, when I had been working for two years on the translations of his works into English. Four Americans plus Israel Epstein, who was stateless, met with Mao to discuss some questions of translation, which turned into a long talk about everything under the sun, and then dinner. And then I saw him every year after that until my arrest in 1967.

What were the circumstances of your second arrest? They were very different from the first, is that right?

Very different. My wife and I were supporting young people who were trying to dismantle the dictatorship of the proletariat and establish a kind of town hall democracy in China. And I was making speeches in support of them all over the place. And, well, Mao lost his sense of humor about it and put me back in prison. 

And you were imprisoned for how many years this time?

Ten years.

And solitary again?

Yeah.

My goodness.

But this was better than the first time because I knew why I was there, you know. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing there. There was this terrible hurt, this feeling of being misunderstood. But the second time, I was not being misunderstood, so it was different.

You were in prison until 1977—how did you learn about the death of Chairman Mao in ‘76?

I had the People’s Daily in prison so I had the news.

And what did you feel when Mao died? Were you relieved? Were you delighted? Were you sad? It must’ve been complicated.

No, no—I still thought he was a revolutionary leader that had answers to the world’s problems. I thought his death was this terrible loss … but you know, here’s the thing, Matt. It was very strange. When Zhou Enlai died, in January that year, I was distraught. I thought he’d been a very dear, very warm and caring friend on a personal level. And I felt like I’d lost my father almost, I really, literally sat in prison, you know, and just cried and cried.

When Mao died, intellectually, I felt that this was much more important. A much greater tragedy, this was the leader, with a capital L, who had been lost to the world. But I didn’t have a single tear. And I remember thinking to myself at the time: why is this? What’s going on? And I didn’t have the answer.

I think my emotional intelligence, if there is such a thing, was smarter than my intellect at that point. Intellectually, I mourned him, but emotionally, I didn’t.

You moved back to the United States in 1980. What prompted that decision? Did you think you were through with China? Was it exhaustion?

No, no, not at all. When I was in the Army class at Stanford in 1943, I had this idea of learning to be a bridge-builder between Americans and Chinese. If I had both languages and both cultures, I could help these two peoples understand each other and to learn to work together. So by 1980, I decided there was nothing more that I could do on the Chinese end, and I needed to go back and work from the American end. What brought it about was my disgust at the corruption that was already rampant. It wasn’t yet like it is today, but it was already very much in evidence.

I was disgusted by the fact that Deng Xiaoping, after bragging to Robert Novak about the Democracy Wall, about how the government allowed people to put up posters and express their opinion and criticize freely and so on, he shut it down once he consolidated his power. He suppressed the Democracy Wall. We had lots of young democratic activists coming to our home every weekend and we had a kind of forum discussion, and we were living at the Friendship Hotel, where most foreign experts lived, and when they came in to the hotel compound, they had to register their names. So once Deng began suppressing democratic opinion, these people were all going to be in danger. I didn’t feel that my wife and I would be in danger because they weren’t going to fool with us anymore, but I thought these kids were going to be in danger.

But mainly, I was just disgusted by the shutting down of democratic activity and the corruption, and I just said to Yulin you know, it’s time to go to America and off we went.

I imagine that when you arrived in America after 35 years, the culture shock must have been incredible.

It was such fun! When I got back, the op-ed editor of the New York Times asked me to write a piece on July 4th on how it felt to come back after being away 14 years longer than Rip Van Winkle. And I did. And you know, we got a terrific welcome from the press. I was on the Today Show the day after we got back. And, unfortunately, Tom Brokaw wasn’t there that day, so it wasn’t a great program. But, then, the next day, Linda Charlton of the New York Times wrote a feature that took up the whole of page 2. And the headline was something like: "Native Son Returns to Tell His Folks About His In-Laws." And they had a picture of Yulin and myself. Then, everything was coming up roses. That week, I was invited to go to Washington and was formally received by the assistant Secretary of State for Asia, who was Richard Holbrooke. I spent two days talking with the guys on the China desk at the State Department. Everyone was very courteous and friendly. Nobody tried to put me on the spot or ask embarrassing questions. And I felt right at home. I felt great.

It was around this time that Deng Xiaoping made his famous assessment of Mao, saying that Mao was 70 percent correct and 30 percent incorrect. How do you feel about that?

I don’t buy that. I think of it more as before and after. I think Mao was a great leader up to coming to power in 1949, and maybe for three or four years afterwards, when they carried out these great social reforms in China. You know, the eight-hour day, jobs for all the intellectuals, and eliminating opium, eliminating prostitution, equality before the law for women; just ordinary social reforms, which really were a transformation in the China of that day. 

It started going bad around 1955. Initially, he encouraged the set up of co-ops, which worked very well. Farm production went way up. It was based on continued private ownership of the land, but the farmers helped each other to till the land. The harvest yield was distributed 60 percent in terms of how much land one had, 40 percent in terms of how much work one put in, or different proportions like that.

But then, Mao got overexcited and got into his build-Rome-in-a-single-day mode. They went from the co-ops to collective farms, so the farmers who had got their own land after centuries of hunger now lost their land to the collective. But being good Chinese patriots, most of them didn’t complain about it. They went along, but farm production, per capita, never went up again until the Deng Xiaoping reforms, when the land was de-collectivized. So that’s when it all really started going bad, really. So, in other words, what I’m saying is I think of it more in terms of Mao before power and after power, rather than a particular ratio.

Do you think there was something personal that changed him? Did he get drunk with power, to use the cliche?

I do. I do think that. In 1968, I think it was, he was up at the Tiananmen gate with Edgar Snow. I was in prison then, but I read about it. He told Snow that China was mostly a peasant country and needed an emperor figure. He was endorsing the kind of adulation and emperor-worship that was going on with him at the center. I think he consciously did get drunk.

It’s strange, Matt, because before coming to power, he wrote and talked constantly about the dangers of the arrogance of power. I remember in 1944, before I got to China, he had reprinted a little pamphlet about a peasant uprising in the Ming dynasty, where the peasant leaders drove the emperor out of Xi’an and assumed the throne. But as soon as they got into power, they became drunk with power and corrupt. And they lost power very quickly. The emperor brought his armies back and chased them away. Mao ordered every functionary in the party to study the pamphlet as a guard against being corrupted by power later on. And he kept constantly preaching this kind of sermon, and yet he was corrupted by power worse than most people. 

Jung Chang in her biography of Mao in 2006 argued that he was a megalomaniac who was after more than just power of China—that he wanted world power. What do you think about that idea?

Well, first of all, in my personal opinion, I think that whole book is pretty much garbage. It’s a terribly one-sided—well not really one-sided, but a lot of it is just fiction. You know, like the story she tells about the Long March being a conspiracy hatched by Chiang Kai-Shek and Stalin, working together. It’s ridiculous. Anyway.

Did Mao want to be a more consequential figure than just the President of China? That was one of her arguments.

No, I think that’s nonsense. You know, Mao, he had two sides. One, he was a great military strategist and tactician. I could cite endless examples of brilliant strategies that most people wouldn’t even dream of.  But the other side of him was that he was a terrific individualist, and sort of an anarchical populist. I remember after the border war between China and India in 1962, Marshall Chen Yi, who was also foreign minister, came back from the Himalayas and he brought a big cobra back with him. And he invited my wife and I to come eat the snake with him. And I remember asking him, playing devil’s advocate, I said look: the Indians were beaten, you’re at the peak of the Himalayas, you could have swept down, and in 200 hundred miles, you’d be in Calcutta. So why did you turn back?

He looked at me like I was crazy. He said: Lord, we have so many problems managing China, you think we want to have to manage India? I don’t think Mao or anybody else was really interested in anything but China.

If Mao were alive today, what would he think about China’s progress? What would he think about the country? I mean, I know it’s impossible to answer in a way, but would he be satisfied? Would he be disappointed? Is today’s China what he had in mind, in a strange way?

I think it’s a two-sided thing. I’ve thought quite a lot about this, actually. He would be very proud to see the strength of the economy and the change in the world position of China. He’d be thrilled at that. On the other hand, he’d be really disgusted at the breakdown of morality and values. And I think he would be very happy with the way Xi Jinping is starting out by trying to restore some of the old values. But, at the same time, I don’t think he would be happy about the added emphasis now, after the recent Third Plenum meeting, on letting market forces decide things and getting the government increasingly out of economic management. That was certainly against his fundamental views. Of course, he might have changed.

Does it surprise you that Mao is still the face on all the Chinese banknotes, that his portrait is still at Tiananmen, that he is still revered in China?

No, not at all, because the young people that are growing up now, including young Party members, have no idea really who he was and what he wrote and what he did. All they know is he’s sort of the George Washington figure. He was the founder of the country, the unifier of the people, and so on. And that’s all they know. And I wouldn’t expect that to change in the near future.

Category : China | Democracy | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
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August 16, 2013, supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gather in the center of Cairo to protest against the clearance of demonstrators. / Xinhua

Overcoming Difficulties in the Study of Democracy

By Su Changhe

English Edition of Qiushi Journal,
Central Committee, Communist Party of China,
Vol.5 No.4 Oct 1, 2013

I. From Africa to the United States

In October 2012, I had the chance to attend the Second China-Africa Think-Tanks Forum in Africa. After the conference, I travelled to the United States to observe the presidential election there. 

At the Think-Tanks Forum in Ethiopia, I remember hearing certain African scholars go on about Africa’s civil society and democratic transition. The forum was being held in a resort compound in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Leaving the compound, it was not long before I came across impoverished everyday people living in squalor. The state in which these people were living came in stark contrast to the talk of democracy that had taken place in the conference hall. I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the huge gap between academia and the real world.

The year 2012 was a big year for elections. This election fever began with general elections in Russia and France towards the beginning of the year, and came to a conclusion with the US and Japanese elections towards the end of the year. But while it all seemed so “perfect,” a feeling of democracy “fatigue” has nonetheless set in for many people. Democratic transition has become a topic of considerable interest among scholars in China over the past few years. For over a year, I have been a regular attendant at various academic symposiums on democracy held in China. The contrast I have experienced between reality and academia has been the source of some uncertainty in my mind over popular topics concerning democracy. As a researcher of diplomacy and international relations, democracy is certainly not my field of expertise. However, I do believe that looking at democracy from the perspective of diplomacy and international relations could have a meaningful bearing on how we think about the development of democracy of various countries in the age of globalization.

II. Misconceptions in the study of democracy

The academic study of democracy has long been centered around the democratic transition of developing countries. This gives the impression that democratic transition only concerns developing countries, and that it is not an issue for developed countries. In their studies, scholars, the media, and social groups tend to subconsciously regard Western-style democracy as the sole benchmark for gauging democracy. In their minds, the so-called path to democracy for developing countries must be to follow the standard that has been set by Western-style democracy. These research tendencies have proven seriously misleading for developing countries, with many paying bitterly as a result. The number of developing countries who have sealed their own tombs with the “democracy” they tried to emulate is not small either.   

A large-scale global industry has formed around the study of democracy. Of course, the agenda of these studies has been set by a small minority of Western countries for developing countries to follow. Moreover, the benchmark for appraising democracy is determined entirely by a small handful of countries. This involves a range of appraisal mechanisms, and a contingent of campaigners who are paid by various foundations to go around the world delivering speeches and selling the case for democracy. Thus, democracy, together with the social sciences founded on its basis, is more like a propaganda tool employed by the West than anything else, and the resulting knowledge bubble is far from small. Whenever the West, driven by its own interests, plans to intervene militarily in another country in the name of “democracy” and “humanitarianism,” this propaganda tool springs into action, relentlessly labeling the country in question as authoritarian and autocratic. When this happens, the country on the receiving end is never far from civil war and chaos. Scholars of diplomacy and international relations are almost constantly looking at countries and regions that have been thrown into chaos owing to external intervention. Faced with developing countries that have descended into killing and destitution as a result of foreign intervention, any scholar versed in the basics of politics who still believes that this is due to a lack of “democracy,” or to the need to constantly enhance “democracy,” as opposed to turning to external intervention for the answers, is making an argument that cannot be justified in reason or logic.

Under the Western-style appraisal mechanisms of democracy, there is only one precondition that needs to be met for a developing country to be considered a “democracy,” or to “graduate” from the class of authoritarian countries: that country must show obedience to Western countries, and must give up its independent foreign and domestic policies. Any country that does so is immediately rewarded with “international” praise. As far as international public opinion is concerned, some countries are able to become democracies overnight. But those who do not do what they are told may find themselves being put back on the “authoritarian” list without prior warning, which is what happened to Russia several years ago. Various appraisal mechanisms are like leashes tied around the necks of developing countries and emerging markets. If one of these countries refuses to do as it is told, the holders of the leash will not hesitate to tighten the knot.    

When Chinese academics study democracy in China, they tend to subconsciously see the West as being the perfect model for democracy. Sometimes they even subconsciously place themselves on the non-democratic side of the scale, a mentality that leads to a sense of inferiority in global academic exchanges. The result is that they are unable to hold their heads high in front of their teachers. I remember one time being at an event with scholars from English-speaking countries. As per routine, they began wielding their leash, putting questions to me about censorship and freedom of speech in China. It just happened to be around the time when the Muslim world was up in arms over the film the Innocence of Muslims. I responded by asking the scholars a question: If you had even the most basic respect for the religious beliefs of others, and if you had the necessary censorship in your countries to prevent such insulting material from going public, would it not have been possible to prevent the US Ambassador to Libya from being killed? My question left them in silence. In the age of globalism, all countries must seriously consider the issue of restraint and self-restraint in the expression of public opinion. Any country failing to do so has no credibility to talk about freedom of speech. 

So, it is evident that developing countries need to free themselves from this leash. This being the case, they need to liberate their minds from overly simplistic distinctions such as “democratic and non-democratic,” and “democratic West, authoritarian non-West.” And they need to free themselves from their superiority-inferiority mentality. Only then will they genuinely be able to approach the development of democracy on the basis of their own national conditions.

III. The retrogression of Western-style democracy and the re-democratization movement

Before we are genuinely able to boast a spirit of freedom and an independent national character, we must untie ourselves from the discourse of Western-style democracy. To do this, we must first downgrade the democracy that a small number of Western countries preach from “universal knowledge” to “local knowledge.” For a considerable period of time, the US has relied on diplomatic initiatives to turn American-style democracy from local knowledge into universal knowledge. If all of the world’s countries, north, south, east, and west, were able to cherish the democracy that they have built on the basis of their own national conditions and history, and if they were able to develop a new and more advanced theory of democracy, the so-called universal theory of democracy that is currently prevalent would naturally be reduced to a local theory of democracy. Admittedly, this downgrading will be a long and drawn-out process. The most important thing, therefore, is that researchers and practitioners start on this now. 

It will be impossible for us to free ourselves from the discourse of Western-style democracy unless we are able to think independently and communicate as equals in academic activities. Do the small minority of Western countries that have always been viewed as a paradigm of democracy not have the potential for democratic transition? In other words, are the democratic systems in these countries undergoing a process of retrogression? Going a step further, at a time when academics are speculating as to which developing region will see the emergence of “democracy’s fourth wave,” I personally am more inclined to make the assumption that this next wave of democratization is most likely to appear in the West. Without reform, it is possible that the standing of Western-style democracy in human political civilization will go into decline. Of course, most academics throughout the world, especially those engaged in the study of comparative politics, are busy devoting all their energies to the lack of democracy in developing countries. Few have the courage to go out on a limb and raise the retrogression of Western-style democracy and the democratic transition that the West is facing as a serious topic for academic discussion. Do those scholars who study ways of gauging the quality of democracy dare to apply those benchmarks to developed Western countries, instead of just developing countries?

There are indeed signs that Western-style democracy is retrogressing. According to the logical reasoning that has been established by the discourse of Western-style democracy, all problems in developing countries can be attributed to a lack of democracy. The same logic also dictates that many problems in the West, such as political polarization, the alienation of the social elite from the general public, high levels of national debt, irresponsible promises by politicians, falling voter turnout, the monopolization of public opinion, and authoritarian intervention in other countries, are the result of the system of democracy having gone wrong. From the perspective of international relations, Western-style democracy has clashed with people’s hopes for a world order of peace and development since its very inception. Being established on the foundation of exclusive, territorial politics, this system allows Western countries to legitimately discharge the negativities of their domestic political systems into international politics, and show absolutely no regard for the concerns, feelings, and interests of other countries. For this reason, this system is a major source of international conflict, and a domestic obstacle preventing the responsible participation of these countries in global governance. From the perspective of international relations, seeing how the US Federal Reserve has attempted to shift the crisis with round after round of quantitative easing, any observer with a basic understanding of politics will be hard-pressed to go on believing the Wall Street theory that a central bank should form policy independently, or go on believing that the US is a responsible country.

So, scholars of comparative politics in developing countries need to start researching issues such as democratic transition and the retrogression of democracy in countries that practice Western-style democracy. On this basis, they need to provide more rational suggestions with regard to re-democratization movements in these countries—which is by no means impossible—and even establish an agenda for them in the research of democracy. Only then will scholars of comparative politics from developing countries win the respect of the international academic community.  

IV. Shifting the agenda in the study of democracy    

The retrogression and decline of Western-style democracy should come as a warning to developing countries that are still exploring their path of national development. Any country that blindly copies this system will eventually encounter the same difficulties that Western countries are experiencing today. The kind of democracy that is just a game for the rich, that causes constantly falling turnout, that forces the morality out of politics, that makes people feel small and insignificant, that is increasingly used to legally bully people, that creates conflict and division, and that gives rise to more and more “lawful” wars, is absolutely not what the human race aspires towards in the pursuit of fine politics. This kind of democracy is a disaster for human civilization, and under absolutely no circumstances can China embrace it. 

Therefore, we need to rethink the current agenda in the research of democracy, and seek to bring about a change in direction. Chinese scholars must free themselves from meaningless debate over Western-style democracy, and work hard to shift the research of democracy back in the direction of national governance, a classical topic in political science that has more of a bearing on national development.

To do this, it is worth giving more consideration to China’s democratic development on the basis of the political resources that China already boasts. The word “democracy,” which in Chinese is made up of the characters for “people” and “rule,” has its own unique meaning in the political context of China. Breaking the word down, we can see that the word has at least three closely-related meanings. The first is “rule of the country by the people,” also known as “rule by the people,” which represents the foundation of the state. The second is “rule on behalf of the people,” which implies that the government must maintain close ties with the people and rely on the people. Only on the basis of these two conditions can “the position of the people as masters of the country” be truly realized. The notion of “rule on behalf of the people,” which is manifested in a political elite that maintains close ties with the people and serves the public, is an inherent political resource that not all countries can claim to enjoy. Many political elites from developing countries go on about democracy, civil society, NGOs, and elections when they are attending international meetings, but they have little sentiment with regard to “rule on behalf of the people” and “rule by the people.” Severe alienation from the public is a common phenomenon in these countries, and it is not difficult to understand why this leads to political degradation and social unrest. Maintaining close links to the public is an important means for preserving the vitality of democracy. In China, this close bond can be attributed to two things: the spirit of compassion for the people that China’s intellectual elite has preserved since ancient times; and the mass line, a distinct form of democratic practice conceived by the Communist Party of China. In the world’s democracies, if the ruling elite becomes alienated from the people, and if democracy becomes a game for a minority of 1% who show no regard for the wellbeing of the people and who even view the votes of the poor with open contempt, then it is hardly surprising to see this so-called democracy go into decline.

Another word that requires more consideration is “election.” When we research the topic of elections, we seem to devote all our thoughts to the practice of “one person, one vote.” We make the assumption that the word election simply means to hold a popular vote. And we assume that once we have a vote, a great deal of problems will be able to be resolved with great ease. Actually, the word for “election” in Chinese is much deeper in meaning than its English equivalent, being composed of two words, “select,” and “recommend.” China’s national governance, appointments, and policy making activities involve both “selection” as well as “recommendation,” with special emphasis being given to the latter. This is the quintessence of the election system. Of the world’s successful countries, not a single one relies entirely on votes. But if we look at countries gripped in chaos, we can see that every single one demonstrates a dogmatic belief in votes. Researchers of Western politics should be aware that “recommendation” also exists widely in Europe and the US; these countries are not run solely on the basis of votes. I have always thought that we need to thoroughly study the practice of “recommendation” in the American system. There is definitely a great deal that can be learned from this. If we fail to gain a clear understanding of “recommendation,” and instead focus all our attention on the more eye-catching aspect of “votes,” we will succeed only in oversimplifying US politics. Simply learning from the “votes” aspect of politics in the US will do nothing but lead us astray as we pursue our own path of political development.

In summary, in the development of democracy from generation to generation, the role of different peoples is to inherit and then pass on ideas. Even in Africa, there are scholars who believe that Africa once had its own indigenous democracy. However, these indigenous resources were destroyed following the introduction of Western-style democracy. This is something that is worthy of deep thought. 

Contemporary Chinese scholars have the fortune of living in a historic time that is witnessing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Would we not be a laughing stock to foreign observers and our later generations if we were to totally neglect the path and system that are fuelling this drive forwards? 

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.11, 2013)

The author is a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University.

Category : China | Democracy | Elections | Socialism | Blog