Tag Archives: complicated

China’s ‘Cake Theory’

‘Cake Theory’ Has Chinese Eating Up Political Debate

by Louisa Lim

What goes on inside China’s leadership is usually played out behind the closed oxblood doors of the compound where the top leaders live. This year, though, a political debate has sprung out in the open — and it has leaders and constituents considering how to move forward politically.

This ideological debate comes as China gears up for a once-in-a-decade political transition. The country’s future top leaders seem almost certain, with Xi Jinping in line for president and Li Keqiang on track for premier. Horse-trading is under way for other leadership positions, however, sparking a debate that could define China’s future.

The Chongqing Model: Equal Slices

In recent months, the streets of the city of Chongqing have been ringing with song. These are not spontaneous outbreaks; they’re government-mandated sessions, requiring employees to “sing the red,” patriotic songs praising China.

This is a leftist vision of China’s future, with powerful echoes of its Maoist past.

It’s the brainchild of Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s party secretary and the son of a revolutionary elder, Bo Yibo, one of the “eight immortals” of Communist China. Bo Xilai has taken a three-pronged approach by “smashing the black,” or attacking corruption and organized crime, with what some say is a disregard for the rule of law. His approach also includes putting in place measures to help those left behind by China’s economic boom.

“The government intervenes to correct the shortcomings of the market economy,” says Yang Fan, a conservative-leaning scholar at China University of Political Science and Law and co-author of a book about the Chongqing model.

“There are projects to improve people’s livelihood by letting migrant workers come to the city, by building them cheap rental places and allowing them to sell their land to come to the city,” he says.

This is where it comes to what’s been dubbed “cake theory.” If the cake is China’s economy, the Chongqing model concentrates on dividing the cake more equally.

The Market-Driven Guangdong Model

The competing vision, based in the province of Guangdong, focuses on making the cake bigger first, not dividing it. In economic terms, the Guangdong model is a more market-driven approach, pushing forward development ahead of addressing inequality.

“The Guangdong model aims to solve the concerns of the middle class,” says Qiu Feng, a liberal academic from the Unirule Institute of Economics. “It’s about building society and rule of law. It wants to give the middle class institutionalized channels to take part in the political process. Its basic thought is co-opting the middle class.”

He says the “Happy Guangdong” approach is aimed not at those left behind, but at those who have profited from the economic boom.

Guangdong’s party secretary, Wang Yang, has criticized the Chongqing model, saying people need to study and review Communist Party history, “rather than just singing of its brilliance.” In political terms, he’s throwing down the gauntlet at his rival, Bo Xilai.

Finding A Way Forward

Both these politicians are fighting for a place — and influence — inside the holiest of holies: the Politburo Standing Committee. This comes against a background of criticism of the current leadership from a surprising quarter.

“The bureaucracy is corrupt. Power has been marketized. Governance has been industrialized,” says Zhang Musheng, a consummate insider. “Local governments are becoming riddled with gangsters.”

Zhang’s father was secretary to China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. This makes him what’s known as a “princeling.” He’s attended a number of meetings held by children of former leaders, where criticism of the current leadership has been aired.

Despite their grievances, they came to one conclusion.

“China’s such a complicated society. Right now, it can’t leave the Communist Party. So the Communist Party must reform and improve,” Zhang says. “Although it’s criticized, right now there is no social force which can replace the Communist Party.”

Those are the key questions: how to reform or even if the Communist Party can reach consensus over which model it follows. ….

Read more » NPR

With bin Laden gone, now’s the time to push Pakistan

By Fareed Zakaria

The killing of Osama bin Laden has produced new waves of commentary on the problem of Pakistan. We could all discuss again its selective policy toward terrorists, its complicated relationship with the United States and its mounting dysfunctions. But there is more to this opportunity than an opening for analysis. This is a time for action, to finally push the country toward moderation and genuine democracy.

So far, Pakistan’s military has approached this crisis as it has every one in the past, using its old tricks and hoping to ride out the storm. It is leaking stories to favored journalists, unleashing activists and politicians, all with the aim of stoking anti-Americanism. Having been caught in a situation that suggests either complicity with al-Qaeda or gross incompetence — and the reality is probably a bit of both — it is furiously trying to change the subject. Senior generals angrily denounce America for entering the country. “It’s like a person, caught in bed with another man’s wife, who is indignant that someone entered his house,” one Pakistani scholar, who preferred not to be named for fear of repercussions, told me.

This strategy has worked in the past. In 2009, the Obama administration joined forces with Sens. Richard Lugar and John Kerry to triple American aid to Pakistan’s civilian government and civil society — to $7.5 billion over five years — but with measures designed to strengthen democracy and civilian control over the military. The military reacted by unleashing an anti-American campaign, using its proxies in the media and parliament to denounce “violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty” — the same phrase that’s being hurled about now. The result was that the United States backed off and has conceded that, in practice, none of the strictures in the Lugar-Kerry bill will be implemented.

The military has also, once again, been able to cow the civilian government. According to Pakistani sources, the speech that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani gave at a recent news conference was drafted by the military. President Asif Ali Zardari continues to appease the military rather than confront the generals. Having come to power hoping to clip the military’s wings, Pakistan’s democratically elected government has been reduced to mouthing talking points written for it by the intelligence services.

There have been almost no marches to protest bin Laden’s death or the American operation, although one 500-person march in Lahore was replayed endlessly on television. The fundamental issue for Pakistan is surely not how America entered the country. The United States has been involved in counterterrorism operations in Pakistan for years, using drones and people. Rather, the fundamental question is, how was it that the world’s leading terrorist was living in Pakistan, with some kind of support network that must have included elements of the Pakistani government? How is it that every major al-Qaeda official who has been captured since 2002 has been comfortably ensconced in a Pakistani city? And how is it that any time these issues are raised, they get drowned out by an organized campaign of anti-Americanism or religious fanaticism?

Washington has given in to the Pakistani military time and again, on the theory that we need the generals badly and that they could go elsewhere for support — to the Chinese, for instance. In fact, the United States has considerable leverage with Islamabad. The Pakistanis need American aid, arms and training to sustain their army. If they are going to receive those benefits, they must become part of Pakistan’s solution and not its problem. With some urgency, Washington should:

l Demand a major national commission in Pakistan — headed by a Supreme Court justice, not an army apparatchik — to investigate whether bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders have been supported and sustained by elements of the Pakistani state.

l Demand that the provisions of the Lugar-Kerry bill on civilian control of the military be strictly followed or aid will be withheld.

l Develop a plan to go after the major untouched terror networks in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani faction, the Quetta Shura and Lashkar-i-Taiba.

In the longer run, as the United States scales back its military presence in Afghanistan, it will need the Pakistani military less and less to supply its troops in theater.

Pakistan’s civilian government, business class and intellectuals have an ever-larger role in this struggle. They should not get distracted by empty anti-American slogans or hypernationalism. This is Pakistan’s moment of truth, its chance to break with its dysfunctions and become a normal, modern country. The opportunity might not come again.

Courtesy: The Washington Post

The End (of Religion) Is Near, Scientists Say

Scientists often have a funny way of talking about religion.

By Louis Ruprecht

A case in point concerns a new study that was discussed at the American Physical Society meetings in Dallas, Texas, in late March. Religion, it seems, is going extinct. You heard me: extinct. Dead and gone. Like the dinosaurs.

The data that a team of mathematicians used to reach this rather surprising conclusion were census reports of religious affiliation. Using a complicated means of mathematical analysis called “nonlinear dynamics”—complicated, ironically, because its purpose is to make complicated things simpler by reducing them to one variable—the team attempted to extrapolate from data on religious affiliation in nine countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Turns out, every case of self-reported religious affiliation is trending downward: 40% self-identify as religiously non-affiliated in the Netherlands, as do 60% in the Czech Republic. The mathematicians seem far more surprised by these numbers than most religionists would be. ….

Read more : Alternet.org