The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

China: democracy and warlords

September 15, 2009

A reporter for OpenDemocracy spent the month of August touring China, looking for signs of democratization. He finds more than he bargained for:

Indeed, in interviewing people from various organisations and from very different perspectives, I was struck by a consistent undertone of worry about the prospect of a regime change (even a “colour revolution”) along the lines of those in the post-Soviet states in the early 2000s – which culminated in the governing communist or reformed-communist parties being ejected from office. elections China’s clear official aim is to ensure that it doesn’t make the same mistake. But in a country undergoing rapid change, how much of the political course of events and outcome can the party still control?

But that’s the cities. I imagine most of the conversations were with the intelligensia. Out in the countryside, a far different picture emerges:

In China’s northeast, quasi-mafia groups have made entire rural areas their fiefdoms, which they run according to their extensive business interests. In the southeast province of Fujian, similar elite economic groups have established control of villages via local representatives who ruthlessly pursue the groups’ private interests with no regard for broader social goals. In the central provinces of Hunan, Henan and Hebei, most evidence I saw showed a clear battle between party operatives and other increasingly powerful groups (from specific clans in one area, to economic or ethnic or social groups in another). Such tense and uneven situations help put in perspective Hu Jintao’s emphasis, in the aftermath of the Xinjiang disturbances, on the need to have “one law for everyone”.

Lots of luck on that, Hu.

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Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Slippery Rock University. Passionate about liberty, security, foreign policy, political economy.