After being called the “sleeping giant”, China is undergoing both recent and rapid changes, especially in the economic sector. Mao’s rule which consisted of significant cultural changes and alteration to Marx’s ideas of communism including liberal economic policies has lead people to believe that Chinese society has weakened the authoritarian regime. China’s Communist Party (CCP) has direct control of the government with a parallel organization of the CCP and the Chinese government.1
At age 101, the man who was able to criticize both current leader Xi Jinping as well as former leader Mao while being a member of the Communist Party, passed away. Li Rui cautioned that Xi’s ideas resembled Mao’s suppression of individual thought. Rui compared them saying they both attempted to establish a cult of personality. In 1958 he was selected by Mao to be his personal secretary. Soon after Rui was imprisoned for voicing his criticism of the party. Despite his imprisonment, Rui usual went untouched after criticizing the party. Many believed his role of being one of the original revolutionaries as well as his close relationship to Xi gave him a “get out of jail free card” when criticizing the regime.2
What strategies do both democratic and authoritarian regimes use to ensure their legitimacy by keeping the people happy?
In China there is a parallel organization of the Communist Party and the Chinese government with roles in the government reflected roles of the party. This structure has allowed to the Communist party to have total control of the government. With many authoritarian regimes giving elites release valves to ensure their support of the regime, China gives high ranking members of the party this privilege. Li Rui was able to voice his concerns and criticism freely solely because of his association with the current leader Xi Jinping. In democratic regimes, pleasing elites isn’t a strategy used to establish the regimes legitimacy, however, federalism is. In countries such as Nigeria, federalism has been used to suppress factions of people from rising up against the government. In Nigeria they attempted to please their multi-national population by moving the capital to a more central location as well as giving the northern region the ability to follow Sharia Law.
Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, and Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics, 6th ed. (New York ; London: W.W. Norton Et Company, 2018), 387-424.
Following the Arab Spring, a similar group of outbursts occurred in China. They was carried out by civilians and police. As soon as they started, the protests seemed to die out. The author then goes into detail about the suppression the Chinese government implements against activists and protests, such as these, in their own country. The controlled media began broadcasting the dangers of the Arab Spring riots, warning against similar ones from occurring in China. Seen in the VPN disruption, the Chinese government does not outright stop loopholes or protests, but rather ceases them from working in a way that cannot be traced back to them. It is believed that the government is worried because of the predicted economic troubles ahead. (1)
The New York Times posted an article regarding the people that have been recently punished by the Chinese government for posting on Twitter. Although most social media apps are banned in China, people circumvent the Golden Firewall and post on them as a way of speaking their minds. Those who post on Twitter or other accounts risk serious punishment from the government. Many people claim their tweets get mysteriously deleted. (2)
How do authoritarian regimes maintain control of the media without retaliation from their people?
An authoritarian regime is one which has high autonomy and often one party consistently rules the government. It is important for an authoritarian regime that the people of the country have faith in the government because the leaders do not listen to the voice of the people often. Similar themes of media regulation can be seen in Russia where there is only one news station, and what is produced on this station is under the control of their leader, Putin.
The annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress will meet to discuss multiple issues. These issues include the financial opportunities of the upcoming year, the defense budget, a crackdown on corruption, free speech, the question on international affairs, and new leadership within the presidential council. At this meeting, 3,000 elected members delegate over these problems that they believe are the most pressing for China. This congress is similar to a parliament but includes communist members. Overall, this meeting helps the Chinese Government set goals and a guide for the coming year.
Although this problem was not a planned major point of discussion, China’s current trade war with the United States is one of the most important complications they are facing. In the National People’s Congress, a few questions are going to be raised about the Chinese Government’s relationship with President Trump. However, members of Congress rarely take unscripted questions and are unlikely to answer any conflicting question. Since the meeting of the National People’s Congress, this trade war has escalated. According to CNBC, the United States and China are expected to remain in a trade war for a long time. With more tariffs surfacing in 2019, analysts are expecting the United States and China to not resume trade talks. Also, it has surfaced that the two sides have yet to find common ground or agreement.
How can a modern communist state respect and take into account all of their people’s needs?
For a communist state to thrive in today’s world, the government must establish some form of a parliamentary system like the National People’s Congress. This would allow people to bring up issues that they believe require the government’s attention.
In Lance Wallace’s The Importance of Critical Thinking he discusses the difficulty groups with differing opinions have when engaging in meaningful conversation. Wallace believes the reason for this is that people often think in the black and white rather in the more difficult grey area. In addition not everyone is comfortable with the skill of critical thinking. The solution Wallace suggests to this problem is that people need to be more open-minded.
While the internet has created the ideal space for free speech to prosper with sites like Wikipedia, reports show that free speech may be under attack. Governments have taken control of several news outlets and increased the censorship within social media. Corruption has also taken its toll on free speech with reporters and journalist from countries like Mexico being assassinated for speaking their mind. As well as corruption and government interference in media, the difficulty people have with indifference and opposing opinions has also affected the freedom of speech. Many western democracies thrive on free speech which pushes authoritarian regimes to cripple it.
Why is critical thinking essential to a democratic society and how can be used to protect free speech?
According to the procedural definition of democracy, there is a set of political rights and civil liberties that determine if a democratic society is truly democratic. Although the political rights mostly have to do with elections, civil liberties address that strong democracies need to allow freedom of speech, access to information, and the ability to assemble. If a democracy increases the restrictions of these freedoms it would be considered democratic breakdown. This freedom of opinion and the expression of that opinion is what allows the multiple party aspect of a democracy to be successful. Critical thinking and an open mindedness allows there parties to debate and coexist peacefully.
Lance Wallace, “The Importance of Critical Thinking,” The Atlantic, (May 9, 2009).
In Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”, he addresses the concern of overpopulation in regards to the limited resources and ask is there is a way to avoid the damage caused by overpopulation without giving up the privileges humans are able to enjoy. He explains how humans seek to “maximize their own gain” without taking into consideration how they are impacting the greater population. Hardin connects his “tragedy of the commons” to environmental issues such as pollution and seeks to find a solution to this “no technical solution problem.”1
Over the past two decades, several countries have adopted the practice of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions with the hopes to reduce pollution in a world where climate change is a significant problem. Several European countries as well as Canada, Mexico, and Australia have put a price on these emissions however the charge doesn’t seem to be making a large impact rather just adding another payment for these companies. Canada’s new emission program is the most ambitious charging $15-$30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. However, if China passes their new program they will surpass Canada to have the largest carbon program in the world.2
Is a democratic or authoritarian regime more motivated to combat the issue of climate change and which is more effective with their efforts?
While putting a price on carbon emissions may be effective in raising awareness for global warming, it doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to the rapidly increasing problem. In authoritarian countries such as Russia, the government has established corporatist relationships and many of the large companies are owned by Putin’s friends. Putin is probably less inclined to tax people who he handed a business to making a solution such as carbon pricing ineffective for a large number of countries. In Britain on the other hand, being a leader in the industrial revolution which lead to a significant portion of the current pollution, has been able to lower their emission with such pricing programs.
Garrett Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).