How to legitimize the politics of Beijing both inside and outside of its borders
Today´s China is less isolated than ever, but its absence from international scene continues to be reinforced by the peculiarity of a process that can only be offset by proponents of opportunity and progress. Although more powerful than ever, China´s sociopolitical model and economic interdependence causes it to remain very vulnerable, says the author.
(From Beijing) THROUGHOUT THE CRISIS INITIATED by the Tibetan revolt last march and the controversial running of the olympic torch, an important mobilization has developed in Chinese communities overseas. However, it is not difficult to notice the relatively scant understanding and support that outsiders have for some aspects of Chinese politics.
Several factors contribute to this attitude. “In Beijing, conditions are not right for this urgent liberalization, and one could even say that those who are pushing for an unstandardized political model have significant influence” First is the lack of support for China’s authoritarian government in its endeavors towards development (even among those who have followed a similar process in Asia and elsewhere). In the West, the doubts are more complex since they are influenced not only by political factors, but also fears of the disruption of the economic, social, or strategic order.
In this case, despite the continued existence of huge shortages, the spectacular growth seen in recent decades and the social improvements that followed aren’t worth much when there was seemingly no willingness to effectively democratize the political system or take on greater responsibilities in the international order.
In Beijing, conditions still are not right for this urgent liberalization. One could even say that those who are pushing for an unstandardized political model have significant influence.
AN INFLUENTIAL BUT LIMITED IMPACT
Secondly, there is the crippling ideological confusion inevitable when a nominally communist government affirms the necessity for a free market, generating confusion, if not criticism, in traditional leftist and progressive factions. “The Communist Party of China’s relations with social movements throughout the world, have for years had as an essential characteristic the rich plurality that today is not found in the interior”
It is true that some governments, alike in ideological and formal aspects, have closed ranks around China even though they may disagree with its socioeconomic orientation. However, few have managed to unite to finalize their policies.
In the mobilization of some liberal factions, more weight has been given to the denunciation of media manipulation and the conspiracy devised by the United States and its allies. Less stress has been put on sympathy with China’s policies, which mostly likely would have led to a defense of the journey and symbolism of the Olympic torch. The same could be said for the lack of questioning of Chinese polices regarding nationalities for fear that this could be interpreted as an endorsement of its paratheocratic critics, or worse.
“The opening to the outside world has advanced the promotion of economic relations, but iChina is cautious, even in Africa, of recommending its model to others” The Communist Party of China’s relations with social movements throughout the world, managed through the paradiplomatic action of its international liaison department, have for years had as an essential characteristic the rich plurality that today is not found in the interior. This is because it is not at all limited to contacts with parties that are ideologically related, but rather much more diversified (although they are highly formal and pragmatic–that is, devoid of international obligations). What’s more, China has the support of some voices in academia or in politics (which are dominated by formal notables from different sectors), but well organized lobbies and mobilizing capacity is scarce. The cultivation of individuality seems to be important, but its impact, while still substantial, is limited. China lacks, so to speak, another operational infrastructure besides that of its own nationals and nationalism.
THE LACK OF MESSIANISM AND THE WEAKNESS OF OFFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Thirdly, China lacks optimism. It does not pretend to be the former Soviet Union or the United States. “Beijing finds it difficult to communicate and to be understood, and at the moment cannot find a better solution than the exaltation of their hospitality as an alternative” The opening to the outside world has advanced the promotion of economic relations, but China is cautious, even in Africa, of recommending its model to others. Maoism generated more unswerving loyalty towards Dengism, where ideological factors have yielded to the strength of interest and pragmatism. If in the past, being a friend of China meant being an ally of the regime at the cost of non-recoverable funds, such automaticity lacks validity today.
Fourthly, the weakness of China’s official intelligence is accentuated by the ignorance that exists outside of a culture that is considered exotic, distant. Beijing finds it difficult to communicate and to be understood, and at the moment cannot find a better solution than the exaltation of their hospitality as an alternative – an ineffectual invitation in a society such as the contemporaneous one in which massive mechanisms of loyalty are required.
AS POWERFUL AS THEY ARE VULNERABLE
“With so many serious natural disasters in such a short time, combined with the myth of the mandate of Heaven, the ruling class is amply warned as to the ephemeral nature of its legitimacy” In summary, the China of today is less isolated than the China of other times, but its solitude in the international scene remains, reinforced not only by the overwhelming strength of their individuality, but by the peculiarity of a process that does not admit substantial similarities, and that can only be offset by allies of opportunity.
This China, more powerful each day, is nevertheless very vulnerable, not only for the obvious interdependence of its economy with respect to the outside, but as a result of the new wall that surrounds the mystery of its sociopolitical model. Its dual diplomacy, partisan and state-driven, should be used to tackle this important challenge and transform fear into the solidarity and sympathy which, forgetting the past, has manifested itself throughout the world following the severe earthquake in Sichuan.
With so many serious natural disasters in such a short time, combined with the myth of the mandate of Heaven, the ruling class is amply warned as to the the ephemeral nature of its legitimacy in a society that, traditionally, associates these episodes with misrule.