Mon, May 02, 2011 - Page 8 News List

China’s political system is wilting

By Sushil Seth

Indeed, the ongoing crackdown on dissidents has been widened to include those Chinese Christians who refuse to conform to officially approved religious practice.

On top of it all, the Tibetans in China are once again being rounded up after some monks in a monastery fell afoul of the authorities.

There are so many blemishes in the mirror that China’s oligarchs are starting to see phantoms everywhere.

The Soviet Union is the only large communist country that might offer some explanation for this phenomenon.

Contrary to the belief among China’s leaders, the Soviet Union did not suddenly collapse because of perestroika. It collapsed largely because the system hollowed out from inside — starved of the oxygen of life for a political system.

After former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, his successors died one after the other, literally and metaphorically.

By the time Gorbachev came to rescue the system, the state and the system had already reached a terminal point.

In a collegium of a handful of top leaders deciding the nation’s destiny without any reference to people, a limited political gene pool is bound to lose its vitality.

This is also true of many of China’s economic corporations run by the sons and daughters of CCP leaders at different levels.

There is an incestuous connection between China’s politics and economy, which does not bode well for the country in the medium and long term.

It is true that China’s economic growth is a positive point.

However, it is misdirected and unbalanced, favoring industry over agriculture.

As Lester Brown recently wrote in the Washington Post: “As old deserts [in China] grow, as new ones form and as more and more irrigation wells go dry, Beijing is losing a long battle to feed its growing population on its own.”

“Enter the United States — by far the world’s largest grain exporter. It exports about 90 million tonnes of grain annually, although China requires 80 million tonnes of grain each year to meet just one-fifth of its needs,” he added.

The point to make is that China’s economic growth has its limits, creating sectoral imbalances within manufacturing, as well as between manufacturing and agriculture, a widening rural-urban divide, inflationary pressures, real estate bubbles, improper allocation of resources, top heavy control of the economy, lack of coordination, environmental damage (some of its major rivers are polluted), etc.

On top of it all, the rampant corruption in the country is further skewing an already difficult situation.

No wonder, China’s oligarchs are afraid that the Middle East contagion of popular unrest might catch on and reach China too.

Since China’s dictatorship has no other way of dealing with its critics and people but to use a sledgehammer, even this approach is unlikely to work over a period of time, as all the dictators in the Middle East are finding out to their cost.

Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.

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