Friday 6 April 2018

Eric X. Li: compare and contrast

This is what Eric X. Li said in a recent editorial about the elimination of the term limit for Chinese president in the Washington Post:
"Bringing the presidency’s institutional mechanics in line with the office of party general secretary, and for them to be occupied by the same person, will create a more efficient and coherent governing structure and more transparency and predictability in China’s dealings with the world. It lifts the veil of pretense that, somehow, the party and state governance are not one, which is untrue and wholly unnecessary and counterproductive at this stage of China’s development. It signals the maturing of the Chinese political system that shows the world clearly how decisions are made and who is in charge."
 And this is what he said in a 2013 TED talk about term limits:
"...the party self-corrects in rather dramatic fashions. Institutionally new rules get enacted to correct previous dysfunctions.  For example, term limits. Political leaders used to retain their positions for life, and they used that to accumulate power and perpetuate their rules. Mao was the father of modern China, and yet his prolonged rule led to disastrous mistakes. So the party instituted term limits with mandatory retirement age of 68 to 70."
So term limits were apparently necessary rules needed to correct a dysfunction in 2013 but now their elimination is a sign of the maturing of the Chinese political system?

Li seems to seek to solve this conundrum by fixing on the idea that there is still a retirement age that will limit Xi's rule so he will not rule for life. The problem is that (as Li clearly knows) there is no such actual mandatory retirement age for president, merely ages at which it is customary to retire. Xi will have no more problem in breaking these customary norms than he has in breaking any of the other norms of Chinese governance that have stood in his way. The road is therefore open for him to rule for life if he wishes.

[Kudos to Wukailong of Pacific Rim Shots fame for pointing out the WaPo article and Dylan Matthews on Twitter for finding the TED talk]


Ji Xiang said...

I think at this point you would have to be seriously intent on self-deception to still take this kind of propaganda seriously.

You know what strikes me? The removal of the term limits for the Chinese presidency may well have dealt a blow to the reputation of Chinese authoritarianism as a good alternative to liberal democracy. It's going to be very hard to justify. Even within China, people who are generally quite pro-government are annoyed and worried (as Eric X. Li himself admits in the beginning of his piece, when he says that China's "chattering classes" have been in an uproar). In a sense, those of us who dislike authoritarianism could actually celebrate this fact.

justrecently said...

Some renowned author once said that a man in the present tense isn't the man he was seven years earlier. My theory is that Mr. Li became a different man in 2014.

Gilman Grundy said...

You mean, shills are made, not born? Or perhaps he has replaced true belief with knowing mistruth.

justrecently said...

You mean, shills are made, not born?
A man may change, but a believer will hardly turn into a thinker, and an end user of propaganda may never become a creator of propaganda.
(From Confucius' office)