2015 February 01 Sunday
Can Communist Party Reform In China And Remain In Power?

Will Xi Jinping's campaign against corruption in China go so far that it will remove the financial incentive to be a communist party member, to protect the communist party from attempts to replace it? Corruption reduces (how much?) China growth potential. But is corruption necessary for the survival of the government? An interview of Harvard history prof Roderick MacFarquhar makes for interesting reading: Q. and A.: Roderick MacFarquhar on Xi Jinpings High-Risk Campaign to Save the Communist Party

You say a successful campaign against corruption. But the point about a successful campaign against corruption is that its all very well to get a few tigers, have cheers from the multitude because youve brought these people down. But its the fleas who are the real danger. The peasants and the workers are afflicted by local cadres. Petty corruption. Some of which results in ecological damage to the neighborhood and therefore health problems for themselves and their kids. Those are the people that are really the threat to the population at large, and if he goes after them, whos going to work for the party? Whos going to be the new cadres?

MacFarquhar makes a number of astute observations. For example, nationalism whipped up against foreigners can lead to expectations that, if not met, will anger the people who were made to feel emotionally worked up. They can then turn against the government. So nationalism is a risky tool to use, especially for a government that has legitimacy problems. On the other hand, since the communist party isn't very communist it is lacking in an ideology to give it legitimacy and to inspire loyalty. How to keep party members and the populace supporting the party?

How can a place as big as China change from the current party to a democracy without chaos and violence in the transition? China doesn't have local or regional democracy to serve as a training ground for leaders to gain skills and demonstrate abilities. How could leaders be chosen for national office in the first national elections? What pool of political personalities could run aside from existing high level party members?

I do not understand China well enough to have any guess about how it will be governed 10 or 20 years hence. Can the communist party survive for decades to come? Will it allow some limited form of democracy? Can it do that without losing control?

China now has the largest economy in the world. Its stability matters more every passing year. Imagine what would happen to the world economy of revolutionary upset in China disrupted factory work and trade. The whole world could fall into recession or worse.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 February 01 09:47 PM 

Jim said at February 2, 2015 7:52 AM:

I don't think democracy is a very likely developmnent in China.

Seth W. said at February 4, 2015 2:38 PM:

Is there democracy anywhere in the world? In america it ceased to exist about 30 years ago or more.

Jim said at February 5, 2015 6:26 AM:

Aristotle noted that democracy tends to exacerbate internal conflict. It works reasonably well in small hommgeneous countries like Iceland where there isn't much internal conflict to begin with but otherwise is generally unstable. In Latin America since that area became independent there has been a general pattern of unstable democracies alternating with periods of dictatorship.

Seth W. said at February 9, 2015 2:22 PM:

@ Jim,

Many of which were imposed by the United States. Some still linger.

Sam said at February 14, 2015 7:35 PM:

"...China doesn't have local or regional democracy..."

I read differently. I can't remember where. It was several years ago. They were said to have competitive elections at the lowest levels of the communist party. If true it would be a similar tactic as starting capitalism at the lower levels first. Maybe this is a lie but it's what wiki says.


Besides who are we to say. We don't have Democracy in America. If we did we wouldn't have mass immigration and movement of the industrial base offshore.

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