Looking down the road

Woman-with-dog

Christina Zhou, ‘Chinese cities enforce their own versions of the Social Credit System to target issues in their area’, ABC News, 15.11.18

…In Jinan, a city in eastern Shandong province, authorities have rolled out a credit scoring system to enforce responsible dog ownership.

After enforcing the system in January last year, recently released figures show some 1430 owners have been penalised, with more than 120 temporarily surrendering their beloved pooch after losing all their points, according to a CCTV news article on Jinan’s SCS website.

Just like an Australian driver’s licence, the pet demerit system gives every registered dog owner a licence with 12 points, and penalises owners for every infraction.

First-time offenders who walked their dog without a leash or tag, or didn’t clean up after their pet, or were reported for a disturbance, were docked three points.

Second-time offenders were fined 200 to 500 yuan ($40 to $100) and penalised six points, and those offending for a third time would lose all 12 points and be forced to surrender their dog, the provincial SCS website states.

Meanwhile, pet owners who failed to renew their dog registration every year would also have their dog temporarily taken to a kennel until they passed an exam on dog-keeping regulations.

A China Daily report published this year said complaints about owners walking dogs without a leash dropped by 43 per cent as a result of the credit system, while state media Legal Daily commended the “effectiveness” of the system and argued for it to be rolled out across the country. …

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A fundamental difference between China and Australia: vision and the lack of it

Sydney-light-rail1

‘Light rail construction in the CBD. Secret document warns vision for Sydney’s light rail ignored realities.’

Sydney-light-rail2

Chinese-passenger-drone

2018-Range-Rover

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Images: 1st/2nd/3rd ‘China Watch’/China Daily, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26.10.18/4th

 

Comment on ‘The Suicidal Empire’ and the rise of China

Deng_Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping in 1979

I disagree with ‘salvaging the principle of empire’ (Dmitry Orlov, ‘The Suicidal Empire’, Desultory Heroics) as a solution to the problems discussed by the author above. To do that would be to remain entrenched in them, under the name of another nation.

Engels predicted in 1894 that the development of capitalism in China would force millions from that country and, given the size of China and the number of Chinese, would force the US and Europe to become socialist – in order to continue competing with China. He wrote ‘thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’ (Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451)

China is not capitalist and it carries the lessons of socialism – learned at immense cost both from its own history and from that of its revolutionary precursor the Soviet Union. Where Lenin, while acutely aware of the problems in developing from an impoverished base, failed with his limited NEP because of his hatred for the bourgeoisie, the Chinese, in also developing from an impoverished base, have learnt a crucial lesson – to relax an obsession with Marxist theory and a hatred for anything bourgeois and to recognise the necessity of incorporating financial reward for individual initiative as a key driver for economic development. The benefits of this have shown clearly since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping.

Those reforms have resulted in hundreds of millions being rapidly lifted into a degree of wealth referred to in the West as ‘the middle class’ – a development still very much underway. The middle class in the West, on the basis of its wealth, education and common values has had and continues to have (despite the present ongoing depletion of that class) a powerful political voice and I expect the Chinese with that same degree of wealth to want that as well. 

And this in a state governed by and with the benefits of a single party (without the wasteful stupidity of obligatory opposition) which shows not only great sensitivity to what is taking place in China and its position of leadership (e.g. their continuing crackdown on corruption) but a flexibility and a willingness to experiment with socialism.

The Chinese Communist Party is doing what the Communist Party in the Soviet Union would not and could not do. The significance of this sensitivity, flexibility and willingness by the Chinese Communist Party can’t be overstated.

In my view, the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and this rapidly growing number of millions with wealth in China, in particular, will develop such that not only may Engels be proven correct in his prognostication that the development of China will motivate the advance of Europe and the United States (and hence the rest of the West) to socialism, but this process in China will also generate economic, political and social forms of organisation that will be models for the world.

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Why China will lead the world and why the West will become socialist

Konstantin Yuon

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

The West:

‘…it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born – so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 6-7

1280px-A_maglev_train_coming_out,_Pudong_International_Airport,_Shanghai

Shanghai maglev train

China:

‘What, particularly, makes old capitalism so far prevail over young socialism? It is not because of the riches it possesses, nor the gold it keeps in cellars, nor the volume of accumulated and stolen wealth. Past accumulations of wealth may have their importance, but they are not the determining factors. A living society cannot exist on old accumulations; it feeds on the products of living labour. Despite all her riches, ancient Rome could not withstand the onslaught of the ‘barbarians’, when they developed a higher productive capacity than that of her decaying regime of slavery. The bourgeois society of France, roused by the Great Revolution, simply looted the wealth accumulated from the Middle Ages by the aristocratic town communities of France. Were output in America to fall below the European standard, the nine milliards of gold kept in the cellars of her banks, would not help her. The economic superiority of bourgeois states lies in the fact that so far capitalism produces cheaper goods than socialism and of a better quality. In other words, the output, so far, is still much higher in countries living by the inertia of old capitalist civilisation than in a country which has only just begun to adopt socialist methods under inherited uncivilised conditions.

We know the fundamental law of history – in the end that regime will conquer which ensures human society a higher economic standard. …

A State which possesses nationalised industries, a monopoly of foreign trade, the monopoly of attracting foreign capital to one or other branch of its economy, has at its disposal a vast arsenal of resources by means of which it can speed up the rate of economic development.’

Leon Trotsky, Towards Socialism or Capitalism, 1925, New Park Publications, London, 1976, 29, 47

The result:

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451

Engels was wrong when he wrote that China would become capitalist, but he was correct in recognising that the more developed China became (particularly given Trotsky’s words above), the greater the pressure on the West in competing with it, such that the West would have to become socialist.

The Chinese have learnt from their own history and from the failures of the Soviet Union, particularly the importance of individual initiative and financial reward for that initiative in a developing economy. The result of the Chinese Communist Party’s employment of this lesson has enabled it to rapidly lift millions into that stratum of wealth being hollowed out in the West. These millions are consumers of an increasing range of goods of high quality being made in their own country. The Party has shown a willingness to take the reforms of Deng Xiaoping further. Their current crackdown on corruption is also very significant. The dynamic between Party and people will continue to evolve.

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Top image: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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The moon, my shadow, and I

GreatWallMoonlightAudet1024

 

Alone and Drinking Under the Moon

by Li Bai (Li Po) 701-762

Amongst the flowers I

am alone with my pot of wine

drinking by myself; then lifting

my cup I asked the moon

to drink with me, its reflection

and mine in the wine cup, just

the three of us; then I sigh

for the moon cannot drink,

and my shadow goes emptily along

with me never saying a word;

with no other friends here, I can

but use these two for company;

in the time of happiness, I

too must be happy with all

around me; I sit and sing

and it is as if the moon

accompanies me; then if I

dance, it is my shadow that

dances along with me; while

still not drunk, I am glad

to make the moon and my shadow

into friends, but then when

I have drunk too much, we

all part; yet these are

friends I can always count on

these who have no emotion

whatsoever; I hope that one day

we three will meet again,

deep in the Milky Way.

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The country impatient for its future and the fearful lucky country

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 3.30.54 pm

Ross Gittins, ‘China thinks big, while Australia waits for luck to strike’The Sydney Morning Herald, 03.08.16

Sorry if I sound wide-eyed, but I was mightily impressed when I visited China as a guest of the Australia-China Relations Institute. Obviously, we were directed to the best rather than the worst but, even allowing for that, it was still impressive. Those guys are going places.

In a hurry. I was struck by how fast-moving the place is – in several senses. We argue interminably about getting a high-speed rail link, while the Chinese just get on with it.

We took the bullet train from Beijing to its nearest port, Tianjin, 140 kilometres away. So smooth you didn’t really notice how fast it was going.

The government-run China Daily announced while we were there the plan to have 30,000 kilometres of high-speed track built by 2020. You could be sceptical – except they already have 19,000 kilometres installed. …

Of course, we tell ourselves, any technology they use has come from foreigners, sometimes without proper recompense.

Don’t be so sure. We visited Shenzhen which, until 36 years ago, was a fishing village just across the water from Hong Kong, before someone made it a special economic zone. …

Today it’s a city of 10 million, with income per person of about $29,000 a year. It has maintained 45 per cent of its area as parks and forest by the simple expedient of having housing go up rather than out. …

China is big; we think of ourselves as small. China is confident, impatiently pushing towards a better future; we are fearful, waiting for more luck to turn up.

***

Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the  Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

14 ‘Australians love a “battler”, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under. At work – among the unambitious – the feeling for underdogs runs very strong.’

18 ‘Australians like people to be ordinary…To be different is considered an affectation.’

18-19 Horne believes that Australians embody ‘a complex of resentments against difference…It is only when a difference stares them in the face that ordinary Australians become truculent; and then only in a personal way.’

26-27 ‘This cynicism beneath purpose feeds our notorious philistinism…This deeply inlaid scepticism is a genuine philosophy of life, a national style determining individual and group actions. Its influence can be detected throughout Australian society. It may be the most pervasive single influence operating on Australians.’

27 ‘What (Australians) find it difficult to do is to imagine the new for themselves.’

32 ‘The passion for egalitarianism may combine with the passion for scepticism to hide and often frustrate talent.’

32 ‘Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia.’

56 Horne paraphrased the diary entry of Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere, chairperson of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to a sermon titled “I Have a Dream” ’ – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’ (Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on 28.08.1963)

76 ‘On 27 December 1941, John Curtin made the single most significant statement ever made by an Australian Prime Minister: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America”.’

83 Australians are suspicious of all idealism: ‘ “What’s in it for him?” ’

88 ‘In the past Australia has also displayed the other side of provincialism: the boastfulness and arrogance of the liberated province, parading its very provincialism as if it were homegrown.’

101 ‘Despite its internal democracy, Australia plays an aristocratic role in the society of Asia – rich, self-centred, frivolous, blind’

107 The words ‘White Australia Policy’ were removed from the Labor Party platform in 1965.

112 ‘if Australia is to play a more forceful role in Asia the change must be dramatic enough to impress Asians that it is a change. It would seem a comparatively simple method to enter into migration agreements with Asian countries that might meet any of their own fears and that would set up clear public standards of assimilability – of language, education and working capacity…My own view is that the future holds dramatic possibilities for Australia which may necessarily include racial change, that this is Australia’s ‘destiny’. It is going to happen one way or the other. It is a task that will be undertaken either by Australians, or by someone else.’

121 ‘Not that Australia has ever spent much on research and development anyway…This indifference to research and development goes beyond the question of foreign ownership.’

The Big Merino, Goulburn

The Big Merino, Goulburn

130 ‘Several generations of Australians were taught to venerate not lions or eagles or other aggressive symbols of nationalism; they were taught to venerate sheep.’

136 ‘the things modern Australians are really interested in – getting homes, raising their children, going on holidays.’

190 Against the justification that ‘we are only a small nation’:

Horne, quoting Irving Kristol’s review of the first edition of The Lucky Country, emphasised the importance of leadership that could enable a people to create ‘better than they know’ and of appreciating their creation, without which that people would not only be far poorer in their self-definition but would be blissfully unaware of their poverty. Leadership enables the discernment of a promise and a potentiality that becomes integral to their way of life.

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A capitalist journalist on China

Chinese_President_Xi_Jinping

‘Why the Chinese are cheerful about the future’, Peter Hartcher, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26.02.18

In survey after survey, China’s people are full of bounce. In comparisons with the people of other countries, the Chinese show an optimism and a confidence that puts them among the most positive on the planet.

Chinese consumers are brimful of confidence, outdone by only those in India, Indonesia and Iceland. China’s people are the most optimistic in the world that they will have better living conditions in the future.

And among the world’s young people, it’s the Chinese and the Indians who feel most positive that the world is becoming a better place. One reason is that their economies are booming, But they also have great faith in the power of technology to do good.

And, surprisingly perhaps in a dictatorship, Chinese have confidence in their government. This is not just a piece of Communist Party propaganda. It’s a consistent result from surveys by credible international organisations.

A survey of people in 34 countries by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre five years ago found that 66 per cent of Chinese citizens expressed “confidence” in their government. That was the fifth highest in the world, almost double the level in America and equal to that in Norway. Interestingly, Indonesia also had a very high rating on this measure.

And in the annual Edelman Trust Barometer published last month measuring sentiment internationally, a whopping 84 per cent of respondents in China said that they had “trust” in government. That was an increase of 8 percentage points over the course of a year. And it was the highest among the 28 countries surveyed.

Should we be suspicious of polls conducted in a one-party state where criticism of the national leaders is rigorously censored and where dissidents are arrested? Yes, we should be.

And yet there are clues that it’s probably broadly true that the Chinese have high trust in government. One reason is that, again, India and Indonesia, democracies both, show similarly high levels. There seems to be a correlation of broad confidence among the three big, thrusting, emerging countries, all headed by leaders with a sense of purpose and a rockstar aura.

And another is the consistency of findings across different areas of Chinese life, measured by different outfits. The country is on the rise, its ordinary people are better off than they’ve been in centuries, and their government is waging a vigorous campaign against the problem that Chinese have long nominated as their biggest concern – corruption.

As the BBC’s Beijing correspondent Stephen McDonell commented a year and a half ago: “Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.”

And if the people’s trust is earned, above all else, by sheer results, then the Chinese people’s trust in government is no surprise. A new World Bank report, which went online without fanfare a few days ago, sets out some remarkable results. Here are just three.

The world has a rough grasp of the fact that China has made great inroads on its poverty problem. But the World Bank report makes an extraordinary finding. Using the international poverty line adopted in 2011 of income of $US1.90 ($2.40) a person a day, adjusted for a country’s cost of living, it says: “The share of the population living in poverty fell from 88.3 per cent in 1981 to 66.6 per cent in 1990 and 1.9 per cent in 2013.”

The number of people lifted out of poverty in that span? A total of 850 million. That’s two-and-a-half times the population of the US.

It’s the equivalent of the entire number of humans on the planet until the 19th century. The World Bank observes that of all the people in the world who managed to escape poverty in the last four decades, seven of every 10 were Chinese. It describes the scale and speed of this achievement as “unprecedented in scope and scale”. Undeniably.

China has about 25 million citizens still living under the poverty line, and the bank predicts that it will make further progress.

China’s breakneck economic growth made this transformation possible, but while it was necessary it was not sufficient. Many countries in history have managed bursts of rapid growth; very few have lifted such a broad swath of its people out of poverty. Because it’s not just how much money a country makes but how it’s used to the benefit of its people that’s crucial.

And this is point two. China has leapfrogged other wealthier countries in offering a social safety net to its people. “Since the 1990s, China has introduced an array of social protection programs at a speed that is unprecedented internationally,” the World Bank remarks.

Among its reforms are pension and health insurance programs, unemployment benefits, sickness and workplace injury assistance, and maternity insurance for women working in formal job sectors in the cities.

Weaving such a broad safety net so quickly “is a feat that took decades to achieve in OECD countries, and one that many middle-income countries have not realised” the bank observes. Health and education services have been much improved.

China still has shocking inequality and rural areas suffer most. But while it was worsening for decades and became as severe as US experience, the inequality gap has started gradually to close since 2008, according to the World Bank.

Point three helps explain how China managed to deliver so much growth with such broad benefit so quickly. The World Bank assesses China’s institutions as well-functioning. Interestingly, it finds that Communist Party political loyalties among officialdom has not corroded the effectiveness of its institutions.

It says that the party has shaped the “core of a high-performing bureaucracy by integrating features of party loyalty with professionalisation of the civil service in a unique way”. It has “provided incentives through promotion and rewards to bureaucrats and local officials in return for their attainment of growth and job creation targets”.

And instead of finding a deadening political oppressiveness in government departments, the World Bank reports that “the cadre management system and the broader political systems in China have facilitated vigorous contest ability of policy ideas, which promoted policy effectiveness”. The success and durability of the one-party state point to China as a standing challenge to democratic countries.

The World Bank report, with the delightfully evocative title Systematic Country Diagnostic, is not, however, a portrait of a socialist Utopia. The bank finds huge problems. Environmental collapse beckons. Pollution is “an all-encompassing challenge” and climate change is wreaking havoc. Similarly, the levels of debt in the economy pose the danger of acute financial crisis. And the ageing of the population, set to accelerate, will pose new problems of national solvency.

But China’s successes and its people’s surging confidence help explain why President Xi Jinping feels that he can now do what no Chinese leader since Mao has done, something even the autocratic Vladimir Putin has not attempted – rewrite the constitution to make himself emperor for life, as Hong Kong University’s Willy Lam has described it.

There is confidence. And then there is hubris.

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Reply to Philomath

Tiencienwey (Tianjin [‘Heaven’s Ferry']), n.d., Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Tiencienwey (Tianjin [‘Heaven’s Ferry’]), n.d., Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Hi Philomath,

No, I haven’t read Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay.

China is succeeding where the Soviet Union failed.

This makes sense because the first successful socialist revolution, opposed by the ‘Whites’ and invading capitalist nations, was in the Soviet Union.

Lessons, and extremely costly lessons, in both states, had to be learnt first.

Capitalist ideology holds these lessons up as proof that socialism could never work, and of its ‘evils’ (hence, to those who dare to dream, to think of and to want something better, ‘capitalism is your best – and only – option’).

But they are lessons, just as the first and second world wars (and the many other wars), the Great Depression and global warming were and are lessons – that this will always be what you must expect under capitalism, as reflections of its driving motive of profit and its unpreventable crises.

Clockwise from top: Jinwan Square, Tianjin Financial Centre and Hai River, Xikai Church, Panorama of downtown Tianjin, Tianjin Railroad Station, Tianjin Eye

Clockwise from top: Jinwan Square, Tianjin Financial Centre and Hai River, Xikai Church, Panorama of downtown Tianjin, Tianjin Railroad Station, Tianjin Eye

The Chinese have learnt that the motive for profit, which is the basis in consciousness of capitalism, must be incorporated within socialism – i.e. on a socialist base.

Over time, it is entirely reasonable that this profit motive can be modified (i.e. re-oriented from the individual to the society – in other words better utilised for the society).

Socialism, which, even more than capitalism, can only fully function internationally, is, as can be seen in China, very much a work in progress.

As China continues to develop, the capitalist nations will be forced by economic imperative, as Engels recognised in 1894, to follow.

Best wishes, Phil

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Images: Top/bottom

Birds in bamboo

Birds Flying Through Bamboo, Shr Han, silk brocade mat, n.d.

Birds Flying Through Bamboo, Shr Han, silk brocade mat, n.d.

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Image source

The moon, my shadow, and I

Fishing Boat Anchored on a Moonlit Night, by Bai Jin, (1388-1462)

Fishing Boat Anchored on a Moonlit Night, by Dai Jin (Tai Chin, 1388-1462)

*   *   *

Alone and Drinking Under the Moon

by Li Bai (Li Po) 701-762

Amongst the flowers I

am alone with my pot of wine

drinking by myself; then lifting

my cup I asked the moon

to drink with me, its reflection

and mine in the wine cup, just

the three of us; then I sigh

for the moon cannot drink,

and my shadow goes emptily along

with me never saying a word;

with no other friends here, I can

but use these two for company;

in the time of happiness, I

too must be happy with all

around me; I sit and sing

and it is as if the moon

accompanies me; then if I

dance, it is my shadow that

dances along with me; while

still not drunk, I am glad

to make the moon and my shadow

into friends, but then when

I have drunk too much, we

all part; yet these are

friends I can always count on

these who have no emotion

whatsoever; I hope that one day

we three will meet again,

deep in the Milky Way.

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Source