Friday, 30 May 2014

The People's Republic of China is not a meritocracy.

Ben Ross (he of the Ben Ross blog) shared the above video, which has been described as "brilliant". I have to agree - as propaganda glossing over a whole slew of issues with China's political system whilst breezily putting down the democratic systems of other countries, it is quite an achievement.

Yesterday I talked about how the Chinese government's various attempts in the past at connecting with the outside world had failed because they too often seemed to be talking to themselves rather than targeting a specific audience which they believed they could convince. The above video, is an example of something that might actually work - targeting those in the west for whom democracy has always seemed a bit "messy" and not sufficiently technocratic, and doing so in a fashion reminiscent of Next Media's popular videos.

At any rate, it should be pointed out that the description of China as a meritocracy in the video is bunk. Here's why:

  • The tests that people have to pass to gain CCP membership are universally treated as a joke - they are merely an exercise in memorising obscure communist and Marxist theory that both the examiners and the examinees are well aware are of zero use. Rather than meritocratic exams, they are more of an exercise in hazing, testing the subjects ability to ingest and repeat meaningless verbiage verbatim.
  • Passing the exams is not the only criteria for membership. Those known to have religious beliefs of any kind are barred from membership, are may be those who are known to come from "unsound" backgrounds. 
  • No-one actually knows what the criteria for selection for promotion actually are. We have at various times been told that they have been expanded to include this-or-that, but there is no openness about who they are applied, the entirely reasonable suspicion is therefore that they are rigged, or at least riggable to select favourites.
  • If China's government was a meritocracy, then it is curious that the current generation features so many members of the so-called "Crown Prince Party" - which is to say the relatives of former high-level officials. Xi Jinping is the son of Xi Zhongcun, Yu Zhengsheng is the son of Yu Qiwei, Wang Qishan is the son-in-law of Yao Yilin. The US equivalent would be a US government where three of the top eight spots were held by a Bush, a Clinton, and a Kennedy.
  • The performance, and level of corruption, of people like Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang in all likelihood differs little from other members of the politburo, at least judging by the reported wealth of (former premier) Wen Jiabao. However, Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang are receiving the show-trial treatment for their crimes. The conclusion has to be that factional politics are the real decider here, not performance.
  • As usual with these things, there's a fair amount of re-writing of history going on here. Hua Guofeng is totally missing. 1989 is missing. 1966-76 is missing. Mao Zedong's entirely unmeritocratic rise to power is missing. 
In reality, far from being a meritocracy, China's political system is exactly the corrupt Game of Thrones that a casual analysis of the day-in day-out news emerging from China's political scene shows it to be.

[Video: "How to become a president". It is unclear whether the outfit that created the video is a government one or a private one]

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