Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why shouldn't the Chinese people fight for Democracy? A question on Quora.

Over a thousand people on quora voted for an answer to this question that concludes: "If you think democracy is good, that is okay. Revolutionizing the entire system requires real urgency, when the society is ready to pay the cost. But now, the Chinese system works just fine."

An engineer has written the answer to this question. Hundreds of people have upvoted the answer. In the answer, the engineer compares the government of China to an internet protocol. This is a very bad analogy.

The consequences of continuing an operable though inferior protocol are negligible in terms of human rights or quality of life. The consequences of continuing a Communist system of government are huge. 

Communism is a form of oligarchy. As with all oligarchies, the ruling class gets many privileges while everyone else looks the other way. When it comes time to vote, as with the answer upvoted here, everyone says, yes, this is a fine system. The oligarchy does not look kindly on anyone who tries to oppose its power in any way, no matter how insignificant. So your vote doesn't count, except that if you vote against the oligarchy, you could suffer serious consequences. This is why, when elections are held in an oligarchy, everyone says the government is just fine.

The Chinese government gives great advantages to the people who run the industrial organizations, the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs acquire great wealth and privilege. So you have a country where the rural population makes 1/3 as much per capita as the urban population and the top 1 per cent own 1/3 of the wealth. See Income inequality in China for details.

Surprise! The result of the economic system in China is almost exactly the same as the result in the US: A small number of people own most of the wealth. Both these countries are oligarchies, so the outcomes are inevitably the same. 

There are many reasons why the people living in an oligarchy do not rise up to throw off their masters. In China, the government watches the people very closely for any signs of rebellion. The oligarchy there pays special attention to any groups trying to organize for any reason. The oligarchy knows that any group that tries to challenge its power must first organize.

As a result, the Chinese government imposes strict press censorship. The penalties for printing anything against the government are severe. The government imposes the death penalty for 55 crimes, including white-collar crimes like embezzlement. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Chinese government executed more people than the rest of the world combined. See Human rights in China.

Human rights organizations have accused the Chinese oligarchy of denying basic human rights to its people. The Chinese oligarchy responds that, since there are differences between people, there should be differences in human rights that are given to the people. This practice is an example of Chinese claiming the existence of Chinese exceptionalism, just as Americans claim American exceptionalism excuses many of their violations of international human rights treaties, such as when they invaded Iraq without provocation, or when they tortured prisoners of war.

Given the absolute control by the Chinese oligarchy over its people, and its denial of basic rights like the right of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom from torture (guaranteed by the fifth amendment in the US constitution), the likelihood of any uprising against the Chinese government is very small. So the answer to the question, Why shouldn't Chinese people fight for democracy, is that the oligarchic system of government in China prevents any organized resistance and punishes any perceived resistance severely.

Whether the Chinese are really happy with their present government is a completely different question. Let me answer it with another question: Assuming that you are not a member of the ruling oligarchy, would you be happy in a country where the oligarchy routinely commits human rights abuses and your chances of escaping poverty are almost nil?

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