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The Forum > Article Comments > China from the inside out > Comments

China from the inside out : Comments

By Brian Hennessy, published 15/2/2012

20 per cent of the world's population; 56 ethnic minority peoples; multiple borders with other countries; and a humiliating history of foreign occupation mean no democracy soon.

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Nice piece, i hope your optimistic long-term view of China prevails. I am sure that most Chinese people are decent people, like everywhere.

I also agree that China will probably not be a Western-style democracy; have always thought of it as a giant version of Singapore at best.
Posted by Chris Lewis, Wednesday, 15 February 2012 6:50:26 AM
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Always good to hear from you. After several visits to China I must acknowledge that it was only when I was able to get to the provinces away from the main cities of China that I saw how different the reality was compared to the media portrayal.
Posted by Country girl, Wednesday, 15 February 2012 9:27:28 AM
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Great article.

I lived and worked in China for a year and fell in love with the place. Wonderful people, and a rich culture.

Your point about the Western media's treatment of China's political landscape is an excellent one. The Chinese people, from my experience, are more than happy with their Government. Many of them don't want democracy.

There are a number of reasons for this. You touched on a good one when you talked about the success of the CCP at raising the standards of living in China. My Chinese friend remembers a time when you got a new pair of clothes every Spring, and you wore them until the next Spring. He remembers when they were forced to eat the leaves off trees. He now owns three successful businesses.

The other reason is cultural. This is something many in the West can't seem to get their head around. The project of exporting Western democracy is at best doomed to years of messy implementation and at worst doomed to failure and civil war. Why? Because a nation's political institutions can't be imposed top down. They have to develop from within, over time, in order to be flexible and adaptable to the cultural nuances of a people. That's the only way they'll be robust. We need to get away from this idea that every nation should have our model. It's not only rubbish, it's dangerous rubbish when we try and enforce it with bombs.

As another Chinese friend told me when I asked her why she didn't want demoracy, "In China we like unity." The story of the bloody era of the Three Kingdoms is one still very much embedded in the Chinese psyche.

Thanks for a great read.

Posted by Grayzie, Wednesday, 15 February 2012 3:46:08 PM
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>>Point: China walks along the edge of a precipice. It's a dangerous journey. We (the West) need to understand how easy it would be for the Chinese state to collapse and disintegrate. A look at history should explain why this is an ever-present worry for China's leadership. >>

To me this is the bottom line. China has a long and often violent history. The Chinese state looks quite fragile.

Trouble is, fragile states can be wild cards. I think few people understand how fragile was the state of the German economy in 1939. We all know Hitler's answer to the economic quandary the Nazis faced.

>>That's why more money is spent on internal security than on external defence.>>

If you believe official figures that may appear to be true. The reality is probably different.

However there will probably be no war provided we all remember Vegetius's wise words of 17 centuries ago.

>>Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you wish for peace, prepare for war)>>

Brian Hennessy failed to mention demography.

China is a rapidly aging society. That's all to the good. Aging societies are rarely aggressive.

Another factor that Hennessy failed to mention is the Chinese brain drain. Many of the brightest and best are getting their education in the US. Some return to China after completing their university education but most remain in America.

Incidentally, Xi Jinping, the man who will probably be the next president of China, has a daughter studying at Harvard.

Another interesting factor is a vast largely empty country called Russia to the north of China. Russia is experiencing demographic collapse. I doubt the Russian state will be able to retain control of the whole of that enormous country.

Could China find itself expanding into what is in effect a vacuum? I'm not talking about an invasion; more a case of Chinese people simply migrating to an emptying Russia until they form the majority in parts of it.

Maybe a second Chinese state will arise in parts of what is now Russian territory.
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Thursday, 16 February 2012 2:24:31 PM
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