Faridoon Qazi

General Manager / Director, Mithra Media Limited

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China's communist party , have invited china's richest person to join its Central Committee, is this the first step towards democracy?

China's communist party, have invited china's richest person to join its powerful Central Committee, what does this mean, is this the first step towards new phase of opening up and democratization of the party? Or China's communist party is abandoning last of its remaining socialist makeover and converting from a socialist movement to a rich men's club?

Will these new rich leaders, promote and allow western style democratization of the of the society and political system or they will choose to keep the existing status que, because it serves their commercial interests?

I beliefe with these new development in the shape of the Chinese communist party, China will enter new phase political development. What do you think?

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    Oct 3 2011: I really wish some of you guys who post about China would actually do a little research (on China!).

    For one, the idea that China is not a democracy is only true if you add the qualifier "Western-style" before the word "democracy."

    No, it is not a Western-style democracy and it likely never will be. (Why the heck would they want to be, when they listen to Westerners complain about ... well, everything.)

    In practice, China is more democratic than most countries I have lived in. In Western-style democracies, we elect officials and relinquish our responsibility to them. "They" make the decisions (and then "we" complain about them.)

    In China "everyone" gets involved with virtually every decision (and, yes, there are times when the government overrides certain decisions - name one country were that does not happen.)

    China's strength is that it "does what works." If it needs to abandon something (anything) it will.

    Remember, Chinese were living in palaces when many in the West were still eating raw meat. Recent history is seen as an anomaly (and for China, the last 200 years is "recent history.") As they emerge as one of the world's greatest nations, they are simply en route to what they see as their rightful place in the cosmos: The greatest civilization on earth: The Celestial Nation.

    It might help if we stopped looking at China through the filters we picked up in some economics or political science courses. Oh yeah, I know about Marx and Mao so I know a lot about China. I don't think so.

    And another thing, the institutional focus in China is not on "power;" the focus is on social stability. Power is seen as a tool to that end. That we in the west focus on the tool says more about us than it does about China.

    Are there things that can be improved here in China (I live here)?

    Yes! Definitely.

    Are there things that can be improved in the West (I'm from there)?

    Yes! Definitely.

    Can we learn from each other?

    Yes! Definitely.
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      Oct 3 2011: Seconded!
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      Oct 3 2011: So you mean, local government having private prison for people protesting against their houses been demolished by them, Children's of the government members and rich been above law, controlling social media, putting any person with different opinion in jail, killing and ethnic cleansing thousands of people and I can continue, are acceptable for sake of social stability. I am not fan of western democracy, but Chinese people are also human beings and they have same rights as any other human being in the world. For least, they should have same right as any other person in their own country, rich, poor or non communist. I understand because of economic reason, lot of western governments and people like to ignore these issues but lack of democracy and human rights is a fact in China.

      I live in China, I know which pressure most people are suffering under, I can see it because, I am living among local middle and working class Chinese families.

      I can agree with you, Chinese are much better off economically, but socially and morally, their situation is much worse then in past. I can also agree that in this new China, small part of population is able to live and show their rich life style openly, but remember in China you can only get rich if you have governamental relationship, not talent.
      I believe China needs system, where all people are equal and have equal rights and this is only possible through democracy and I think it can come through a reformed communist party where everybody is elected publicly to the post. Do you agree?
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        Oct 3 2011: Faridoon,

        You say, "lack of democracy and human rights is a fact in China."

        We see what we want to see. If you believe there is a lack of democracy and human rights in China, this is what you will see. And nothing I can say will change your perception.

        I find it interesting that foreigners tend to make comments such as yours but in the three years I have been here, not a single Chinese person I have met has said anything even remotely similar. It makes sense, we see things through our own value systems.

        I suppose if I told you that over 90% of the population support the government, you would assume they have been "brainwashed" - is that correct?

        And I suppose if I told you that a large number of people, who were raised in the West, assume China would fair better under a Western-style democracy, that you would say, they are being objective (and have not been "brainwashed") - is that correct?

        There is nothing in your first paragraph that is particularly unique to China.

        When you say things like this: "I can agree with you, Chinese are much better off economically, but socially and morally, their situation is much worse then in past," you are applying a value system that is yours. Not theirs.

        I doubt very much that many Chinese would agree with you.

        QUOTE: "I believe China needs system, where all people are equal and have equal rights and this is only possible through democracy and I think it can come through a reformed communist party where everybody is elected publicly to the post. Do you agree?"

        No, I do not agree. And, again, I doubt that many Chinese would agree with you.

        But I have no objection if this is what you believe.
        • Oct 4 2011: Thomas,
          I have been devoting some time recently to studying China. Although I have never lived there, I can identify a lot of what I read through your comments. However, the notion that 90% of Chinese approve of their government seems to be a bit of a stretch. I would be more inclined to believe what you express in relation to other topics - that the Chinese are similar to the West - and that those who approve of the government are those whose livelihoods are directly benefited or supported by the government. Therefore, support would be higher in the cities (though not 90%) where the government is centered and thus government employees live, and lower in rural areas, where the people are not directly benefited by the State.

          I also would like to further explore the idea that both the West (particularly America) and China might mutually benefit through an exchange of information and learning from each other. What practices, in particular, ought America adopt from China?

          SEP

          *I think the juxtaposition of America and China is absolutely fascinating. As you say, 200 years is recent history to the Chinese, and yet 200 years is nearly our entire existence. Which means, in order to extract from 200 years the same amount of expertise that the Chinese have from 2200, we must extrapolate from every moment the dynamics of a lifetime. Imagination, is therefore, the resource America must maintain in abundance in order to remain culturally and economically competitive.
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        Oct 4 2011: Hi Seth,

        I have not done a survey (although I have read of several) but, apparently, it is true: 90% of Chinese support the government.

        Based on my personal understanding, I would also say 90% is a reasonable estimate of how many people support the government. If I based my opinion on my experience alone, I would place the estimate closer to 100% - even in the countryside and villages.

        My wife's family lives in a small village (250 people) and they are proud of their national government. (And, by the way, they elect their local government.)

        The relationship between the people and the government in China is completely different than the relationship between the people and the government in most (all?) Western nations. So while "the people" here might be disaffected by "something" (say land expropriation to build a dam) and they may complain about it, they are not complaining about the government, they are complaining about land expropriation - to the government - and they expect some sort of recourse which they eventually receive, usually, to their satisfaction.

        We really need to learn to see China on its own terms; not on "ours." When we learn to do that, I think, China and The West will both benefit.
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          Oct 12 2011: Thomas ,
          "I have not done a survey (although I have read of several) but, apparently, it is true: 90% of Chinese support the government."

          I am not sure about the exact percentage but 90% sounds more than what i expected myself. What i noticed people around me is that younger generations are less supportive that the elder one .i think it might be because the elder experienced what is was like back then and what is like now(dramatic change in terms of resources) while the younger ones didnt go thru that and are more likely to take it for granted.quite a big part are somewhat "disengaged"of the politics thing.

          and personally, i think its a little bit more complicated than just say "i support the GV"or "The GV is bad"cuz if i say i support it then what about the injustice or ugly things that ha
          ve been done or that are happening right now? and if i say the GV is bad then again what about the good things they have done and are doing at precent ? So , its more like a delimma there.

          Also , to Faridoon's "I can agree with you, Chinese are much better off economically, but socially and morally, their situation is much worse then in past. "
          well ,when you say "better" then there's a comparison there and the thing is its hard to tell how moral people were in past .( I dont even know how moral today's people are !)

          yea, just some thoughts.
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        Oct 12 2011: Hi Amily,

        Yes, 90% does sound like a high percentage and I agree with you, the youth of today do seem to be more vocal about what they see as China's shortcomings.

        As I say, I have read of surveys that place the number of supporters at 90% or more ... I think the surveys are cited in Martin Jacques' and/or John Naisbitt's books (those are the ones I have read most recently.)

        My "exposure" to most cultures I encounter is somewhat unique. I don't have to work so I can choose what I do. As a result, I usually do some volunteer work and some business. I also (usually) take some kind of lessons (language, flying, etc.). In this way, I interact with a large cross-section of the society I am living in. So I see wealthy businesspeople, politicians, students, teachers, the poor, and so on.

        My experience in China supports what I have read and does not contradict what you have observed.

        For instance, I taught English here and the young people were critical of, say, corruption and "cronyism" but at the same time, they were immensely proud of China and its place in the world. They expressed concern about the economy, ecology, human rights, and so on but also felt confident that they, in conjunction with the government, would tackle the problems together.

        "The poor" I interact with in the villages here (my students were not poor) express similar concerns and a similar faith in the government. If anything, they are more supportive of the system even though they are acutely aware that many people in power abuse it. They see the problem as an individual failing not as a problem with the system.

        For me, the experience has been very enlightening.

        My experiences in The United States, Kenya, Canada, and other countries have led me to different conclusions about those societies.
    • Oct 4 2011: Thomas,

      "China's strength is that it "does what works."

      For who?

      Correct me if I am wrong - you can collect 3.5% on a bank deposit in China. Inflation is 5.5-6& That certainly works for someone, but it is not the working man making the deposit. Once again, I think your statement is a generalization, which is entirely inappropriate for a nation of 1.35 billion people. The policies which are 'working' are only benefiting some, while many of the policies are damaging for all.

      But do not mistake me - I am not of the opinion that China needs to adopt a 'Western-style' anything, much less a political structure. I simply believe their model is not as advantageous or as popular as you indicate.

      SEP
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        Oct 4 2011: Hi Seth,

        I accept your comments as valid. And I think the Chinese government would as well.

        I suppose when we are talking about a nation of 1.3 billion people it is hard NOT to generalize.

        One of the challenges China is facing is how to achieve more balanced growth for all (their goal is moderate wealth for all.) This is no simple undertaking and they will stumble as they make their way.

        The metaphor they use is: Crossing the river by feeling the stones.

        Personally, I think they are doing an excellent job. (And, yes, there is lots of room for further improvement.)

        Oh, and to answer your question: For China.
        • Oct 4 2011: Thomas,
          I do not wish to go to deeply into this, as I understand you are in a sensitive situation, but it is worth noting that all aristocracies cloak their goals in nationalist intentions, and that lower class (particularly rural) Chinese suffer mightily at the hands of an agenda 'For China.'

          I have to admit that the relationship between the Chinese people and it's national government makes me feel uncomfortable. Of course, I am judging the situation on Western merits. I feel there is a profound difference between 'supporting' an entity, and being beaten into compliance with said entity. My reaction to your claim that 90% of Chinese support their government - What alternative do they have?

          And, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the Party nominate the candidates for local elections, thus preventing the populace any representation from outside of the Party? If this is really the case, I do not think you adding that they happen to elect their local governments actually lends itself to a favorable view of the political structure, nor does it display any democratic motivations.

          SEP
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        Oct 4 2011: Hi Seth,

        Yes, you are judging the situation on Western merits which is understandable, those are the "merits" you know.

        Based on your comments, it is safe to guess you believe a Western-style democracy is superior to whatever it is you think is going on over here in China. And it is also safe to guess you think "the people" here would share your view if they were not "beaten into compliance."

        No offence meant, but this is a typical Western outlook, particularly from Americans (which I would guess you are ... simply based on your comments.)

        It seems hard for Westerners (and, in particular, Americans) to accept that the Chinese embrace their form of governance voluntarily and they support it enthusiastically. It is also difficult for Westerners to understand this is not "a new thing." For example, it has little or nothing to do with Mao or Marx. It is, and has been, a part of the culture for over two millennia. As I said in another post, the relationship between the people and the government here is unlike any in the West. The idea that you would "arm yourself" against your government would be considered absurd. Government is seen more like a "part of the family." (Really.)

        The party does not usually nominate candidates for local elections (although I am sure they sometimes do.) Nonparty members are also invited to participate in governance, even at the highest level (as mentioned in Faridoon Qazi's conversation title.)

        In my experience, the West's view of China is skewed. It is not at all how I expected it to be (and remember, my views were forged in the same crucible as were yours.)

        Even the idea that the rural Chinese suffer mightily is a fallacy. For example, you would be more likely to see the deleterious effects of profound poverty in Detroit than you would in any city or town in China. Yes, there is poverty here but it is poverty with dignity. People care for one another.

        Does the West have anything to teach China?

        Yes.

        But first it must learn.
        • Oct 6 2011: Thomas,

          You seem far too intelligent to either make assumptions or to subscribe to the doctrinaire notion that to criticize Chinese communism is to compliment Western democracy. In truth, they are becoming more and more similar.

          However, they are not the same. The societies and cultures that the two systems preside over are fundamentally different - and thus the dynamic between the government as an institution and the people are fundamentally different. Therefore, for a man in China to 'support' his government, is not the same phenomenon for an American to 'support' his government - the similarity is an illusion created by our sloppy semantics.

          As you say, the Chinese look towards their government as a member of the family - the parameters of the relationship being predefined and extremely rigid. Americans tend to view government more like a friend - to be appreciated when doing well, chastised when doing wrong, and dismissed when seen an unable to live up to the general demands of the role.

          I have not elevated one above the other - as both offer unique advantages. But I must clarify the different psychological nuances inherent in 'supporting' the two different forms of government.

          Allow this Pew poll to illustrate what I mean -
          http://www.pewglobal.org/2008/07/22/the-chinese-celebrate-their-roaring-economy-as-they-struggle-with-its-costs/

          In America, if 97% of people were adamantly opposed to the effects of a government economic policy (and inflation in China IS a result of policy) then you would not see 86% support the government on economic matters. Yet, in China, this is the case.

          CONTINUED BELOW
        • Oct 6 2011: This would seem to indicate cognitive dissonance, the excessive use of propaganda and/or a completely different form of 'support' than that which is given by American citizens to American government.

          Once again, i am not placing one above the other but noting that they must be different.

          "In my experience, the West's view of China is skewed"

          Yes, and with good reason. China's relationship with the West (from it's inception to the present day) can be summarized in three words: charade, pageantry, misrepresentation. Plus, the modern Party, just as governing Chinese authorities before it, has a problem with the free flow of information. I feel your statement is an indictment of China just as much as it is of the West.

          "Even the idea that the rural Chinese suffer mightily is a fallacy"

          Displacement, anemia, general malnutrition. I do not know how to describe experiencing such things other than 'suffering mightily' and to claim you are more likely to witness such things in Detroit truly obfuscates the point. In 2003, 120 million Chinese suffered from malnutrition. There are not that many people in the Midwest, much less Detroit.

          "The party does not usually nominate candidates for local elections "

          Compare with - http://www.citymayors.com/government/china_locgov.html#Anchor-Local-49575 - "For every 400,000 people, a province elects a representative to a five-year term in the NPC, all of them members of the CCP or having the CCP’s blessing. (There are eight other political parties, but they all defer to the CCP.)"

          It seems that the Party DOES nominate local official and are thus in control of that level of government as well.

          SEP
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        Oct 6 2011: Hi Seth,

        I'm not sure I understand your point (although you do say you are going to continue below ... and I see no continuation.)

        It seems to me you are making an assumption that when an American "supports" his or her government it is somehow more "genuine" than when a Chinese person supports his or her government.

        Is that correct?

        You make and interesting comment: "Americans tend to view government more like a friend."

        Do you believe that to be true?

        In my observation, many Americans tend to view their government more like a corrupt, incompetent despot they need to, and have the right to, arm themselves against. The ideal may be high but the execution falls far short.

        Of course, that stance changes if the "form of government" is criticized by anyone, especially an outsider. Then the rhetoric becomes, "We have the greatest form of government in the world."

        I am not arguing that the form is or isn't great, only commenting that America's relationship to it's own government seems somewhat schizoid.

        ----

        By the way, I am apolitical. Always have been.

        Which is not to say I am disinterested.

        -----

        I'm off for a cruise and will be gone for several days.
        • Oct 7 2011: Thomas,
          As I was typing the continuation of my post I experiences a few interruptions. You can now see the continuation.

          "It seems to me you are making an assumption that when an American "supports" his or her government it is somehow more "genuine" than when a Chinese person supports his or her government.

          Is that correct?"

          No. I am merely saying that they are different. I hope the Pew poll and my analysis explain my point once you get a chance to read it.

          "You make and interesting comment: "Americans tend to view government more like a friend."

          Do you believe that to be true?"

          Yes, in the sense that we feel it should be " appreciated when doing well, chastised when doing wrong, and dismissed when seen as unable to live up to the general demands of the role. "

          "In my observation, many Americans tend to view their government more like a corrupt, incompetent despot they need to, and have the right to, arm themselves against. The ideal may be high but the execution falls far short."

          Damnit, Thomas. Do you know how ridiculous one looks when laughing out loud at their computer? Funny, but you can file those sentiments under "dismissed when seen as unable to live up to the general demands of the role." That is, unfortunately, all too often the case.

          "Of course, that stance changes if the "form of government" is criticized by anyone, especially an outsider. Then the rhetoric becomes, "We have the greatest form of government in the world."

          I do not believe I have illustrated any such behavior.

          "America's relationship to it's own government seems somewhat schizoid."

          My point being - So is China's

          Now if you might answer my initial inquiry - What practices, in particular, ought America adopt from China?

          SEP
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        Oct 11 2011: Hi Seth,

        You ask what practices, in particular, ought America adopt from China?

        I'm not sure. But when you think that China has a political system thousands of years older than Americas and has just orchestrated the largest transition from poverty to wealth in human history (that it is still ongoing,) I think there are some things America could learn from China.

        Off the top of my head:

        - Fiscal responsibility.
        - Willingness to learn from others,
        - Willingness to abandon ideology.
        - Humility.
        - Integration and assimilation.
        - Long-term thinking.
        - Governance (as opposed to politics.)
        - Holistic thinking.

        There are, I'm sure, more.

        And there is, no doubt, a list equally as long of things China can learn from America.

        I think one difference between the two countries is that China already knows this. America doesn't seem to.
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    Oct 4 2011: Dear Thomas, Thank you for you feed back and opened conversation, but unfortunately TED is not very happy about it, because they removed my last posting. I understanding them, they are afraid of been blocked in China similar to Facebook, twitter, youtube and google (partly).
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      Oct 4 2011: Hi Faridoon,

      I have lived "all over the world" and no matter were I am, I always assume "someone" is reading what I write. I hold that assumption to be as true in the USA as when I am in Kenya (or anywhere else.)

      Now, it might not be true at all. I mean who really cares about what I have to say but, by adopting that position, I find I must be less "reactionary" than I might otherwise be.

      I have found that I can say anything I want to say, if I am diplomatic.

      Why not try it?

      It's a great mental exercise.
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    Oct 3 2011: Dear Sabin, to me with this move the Chinese communist party is abandoning all the remaining communist ideas, which were mostly representing the chinese workers and farmer classes. Therefore I am asking this question does it also mean that next step will be to have one party democracy or Instead they will now become more a rich men club?
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    Oct 3 2011: I am afraid I don't understand your point here, Faridoon. Why should inviting China's richest person to the Central Committee be a step towards democracy?

    The only segment in which China abadoned traditional communist ideals is economy. As such, it makes sense that they would seek to improve their relations to big corporations, but this does not mean that democracy is following soon.
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    Oct 2 2011: I've noticed that people with a lot of money usually didn't get rich by caring about other people.
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      Oct 2 2011: can you share some of your experiences about that?
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      Oct 4 2011: HI Timothy,

      You sound a little like a friend of mine. He thinks all rich people are sociopaths (I did say "a little.")

      He gets quite animated about it.

      The interesting thing is he has spent a lot of energy over the last 30 years trying to get rich.

      Once, after a long tirade about the evils of rich people, I asked what would happen if his current investment worked out (as he hoped it would) and he suddenly became very wealthy (which he would have done.)

      He sort of just stopped talking and looked at me like I had asked him an "unfair" question.

      I know lots of people all over the world, many of them are rich and, for the most part, they are very nice, caring people. In fact, I would say the proportion of rich people who are "nice" is higher than the proportion of "nice" people in the general population. (That is not based on any research whatsoever ... just my personal observation.)
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        Oct 4 2011: I do not disagree with what you say. If you read the precise wording of my original reply, you'll see that it isn't a blanket condemnation of the rich.

        Incidentally, one of my best friends was rich once. He's very nice. He actually does care about people, provided they aren't customers. Customers occupy a different mental space for him.

        Money is a weird thing.
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          Oct 4 2011: QUOTE: "He actually does care about people, provided they aren't customers."

          Hmmmm ... maybe this is why he was rich ... once.

          I've actually never seen a study on it - it might be interesting to find out if rich people are, generally speaking, nicer, nastier, or just the same as not rich people.

          In a lot of the material I have read there are unsubstantiated statements, like rich people have larger networks of friends, are more social, look for ways to "make a difference," and so on.

          I did hear about one study that said rich people are usually better looking (!) than people who aren't rich ... and that the rich are getting better looking from generation to generation (they marry other good looking people.)

          As I say, I heard about it, I did not read the study myself.
  • Oct 1 2011: The reason why the communist party is so successful in China is because they don't cling to the past. They are ready to give up just what is necessary to stay in power. What is important is not really the ideology, the primary goal is to stay in power and keep everything under control.

    And that's why I'm still skeptical. Whenever they are throwing you a bone, it's because they expect you to sit and obey. Like Sun Tsu said, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
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    Oct 1 2011: how could that be either a step towards democracy or freedom? it is neither. it is a step toward corporatism.