Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China’s CCP: What makes it tick [Straits Times]


Here is a critique of China’s ruling party by Australian China-watcher Richard McGregor, who asserts a few points with his book – ‘The Chinese people themselves, many of them are global citizens. They are not going to bend for some sort of peasant from Hunan.’

He points out the models China relies on to build its own framework for updating its governance, i.e. Singapore (both one-partied very largely) and maybe more pertinently, Taiwan (I see them as being simply, Chinese with a democratic worldview). It was also interesting that despite his pointing out of the most resounding reality of all – that the Chinese model currently works.

‘…the system has also proved to be flexible and protean enough to absorb everything that has been thrown at it, to the surprise and horror of many in the West.’ Richard McGregor

– – –

China’s CCP: What makes it tick
By Ho Ai Li, Taiwan Correspondent
Source – Straits Times, published June 27, 2010

Taipei: While titans like Mao Zedong bestrode the China of yesteryear, the country has grown too sophisticated for the rule of strongmen, says China-watcher Richard McGregor.

‘It’s a big, complex global economy. You can’t have people like Mao making ridiculous demands on the production of grain or steel,’ he told The Sunday Times.

‘The Chinese people themselves, many of them are global citizens. They are not going to bend for some sort of peasant from Hunan,’ said Mr McGregor, the author of a recently released book on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The 52-year-old Australian spent more than a decade as a correspondent in China. A former Beijing bureau chief for The Financial Times, he is now based in London as the paper’s deputy news editor.

Mr McGregor said given that the CCP was involved in everything in China, basing his book on the party was ‘the obvious thing’.

There is nothing obvious, however, about how the party pulls the strings behind the scenes. Not only does the CCP not have a website, but it also cannot be sued as it is not registered as an organisation, he noted. Hence, his aptly titled book, The Party: The Secret World Of Chinese Communist Rulers.

As Mr McGregor tells it, the China story is not just about an economic miracle but also a political one: the survival of the CCP despite threats to its rule such as the Tiananmen protests of 1989.

In the book, he spells out how the CCP defied doomsayers by keeping a tight grip on personnel, propaganda and the army, even as it eased controls on the economy.

Far from declining, he said, the party has seen its legitimacy boosted by 30 years of growth.

Its survival was bolstered by its successful management of the economy, helped by competitive local economies, capital controls and the increasingly competent cadres in its ranks.

‘China has bred a whole generation of technocratic economic managers. Increasingly, these people aren’t just cronies, but they are also expected to perform, so the bureaucracy has a large degree of meritocracy in it,’ he said.

He noted, too, that China is a great admirer of how Singapore can combine tough laws with good governance and business stability.

It also admires Singapore’s model of a single-party state with an efficient and transparent bureaucracy, which attracts a high-quality calibre of officials who create great prosperity, he said.

While some have even dubbed China ‘Singapore on steroids’, Mr McGregor does not see Singapore as a real model for China, which is ‘just too big and varied’.

On the other hand, he believes that Taiwan, which has gone through two peaceful transitions of power, may influence how China’s politics evolves in future.

‘There are many people in China who secretly admire what Taiwan has managed – in other words, a transition from being authoritarian to democratic,’ he said.

But it’s a love that dares not speak its name, he said, quoting writer Oscar Wilde.

For the near future, though, he does not see the CCP losing its predominance.

The party has been pretty smart and successful in making sure that there is no political competition to it inside China, he said.

As Mr McGregor concludes in his book: ‘The Chinese communist system is, in many ways, rotten, costly, corrupt and often dysfunctional. The financial crisis has added a dangerous dash of hubris to the mix.

‘But the system has also proved to be flexible and protean enough to absorb everything that has been thrown at it, to the surprise and horror of many in the West.’

hoaili@sph.com.sg

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Filed under: Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Nationalism, Politics, Singapore, Straits Times, Taiwan, The Chinese Identity

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