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News :: Globalization : International : Politics
Zhibin Gu: probing China's bureaucratic corruption: history, cults, culture, politics and society
by global politics forum
16 Aug 2010
Is Chinese century realistic? Could the Chinese Communist Party rock the boat? What has gone wrong with China's Communist revolution? Puzzle 1: why does China have a totally corrupt government? Puzze 2: Is China's bureaucratic corruption going to ruin the nation and economy in light of global financial crisis? How should one understand the Chinese Communist bureaucracy and its wild corruptive practice? Get realistic analysis and knowledge on Chinese economy, politics, and society from provocative Chinese thinker George Zhibin Gu of World Association of International Studies at Stanford University (5 parts)
Onground probe by George Zhibin Gu of China (5 parts):
China's unfinished revolution: how to get rid of universal rights of government vs corruption
Part I. origins of China's political corruption: political-economy, self-appointed government and development in light of history and globalization
(George Zhibin Gu is an author of several new books on China and globalization, including: China's global reach, China and the new world order, and Made in China)
It has been interesting to read the comments by WAISers on Confucius and other classic Chinese writings. To me, there is a great need to study the circumstances in which these ideas emerged.
Indeed, Confucius or Mencius intellectually responded to the urgent issues their eras faced, along with other influential thinkers. Now, the old eras are little understood, while Confucius and Mencius have become doctrines as well as political cults for political bodies for ages until the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911.
From an intellectual point of view, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi are more exciting and challenging. Again, their ideas are a direct response to a cruel political environment in which self-appointed, self-serving political bodies preyed on society and the people. These thinkers offered challenging advice on how to escape the cruel environment people faced in their eras, along with other ideas for the rulers. Their ideas are greatly relevant today, for China's self-appointed political body remains. What is more, this self-appointed government body remains inherently self-serving and stands as an oppressor politically, and a squeezer economically (without knowing this basic
issue, there is no way to understand today's China or its past history).
Furthermore, in the government's point of view, the Legalist group of thinkers has been most influential, which is little understood even today. The legalist thinkers were basically political consultants who offered concrete methods for the rulers on how to control people and how to extract wealth from society without causing unwanted troubles for the rulers. Their ideas are little analysed and challenged, which is part of the fact that China's universal rights of government has never been truly challenged. On the contrary, those people who aid government's expansion of power over the society and people are rewarded.
Since early 1900s, Marxism has become a new slogan for political bodies and social life. But it has remained a set of slogans, a cult to be more precise, for the latest self-appointed government to employ. In reality, even without this new cult, the Communist government would have existed in the same manner in its relations with society and the people--no more, no less. In essence, China's communist power is no more than another self-appointed, self-serving dynastic government in China's long dynastic history, and therefore faces the same type of built-in problems as before.
What is more, this Communist power has pushed the worst things of the past dynastic rulers to the extreme: it has hardly invented anything new in its relations with society and the people as well as its internal world (which is greatly explored in my books).
In short, all these challenging ideas should be best studied in a context of historical evolution in relation to society, government, people and life. What is more, in a globalized world today, they must be placed in a global, intellectual context, which would be more meaningful as well as needed.
Part II. Origins of China's corrupt government
George Zhibin Gu of China writes further on the method of terror adopted by "Legalists" vs. Communists and therefore pinpoints on the origins of China's corrupt political system of today:
1. Using terror as a means of governance for the rulers is a basic practice of the "Legalists." One of the most famous Legalists is Li Si, prime minister of Qin dynasty that unified China over 2,200 years ago, after five centuries of chaos and civil wars, but collapsed
within a decade after establishing the first most powerful centralized bureaucracy over the entire nation.
2. Li's basic method was to produce a common terror to be uniformly applied to the citizen body, therefore a set of "law." It includes the following:
1. Ban all free travel.
2. Burn all provocative books.
3. Kill learning, thinking and scholars.
4. Guilt by association: a person's guilt implies that his loved ones, relatives, friends, colleagues, and even neighbors and students are equally guilty. So that no citizen dared to speak up freely against
5. Ban all independent associations and organizations: so that the government has become the only thing in the society.
The above methods of terror were widely used in the era and ever since, but Li and his fellow Legalists gave them a philosophical argument in support of it.
3. Li was promoted to the highest post by the "first emperor" of Qin, but the next emperor wanted to get rid of him. He ran away. Yet, he could not travel far, as travelers must hold a government permit. What
is more, all his family members, many relatives, students, personal staffs, and even servants were killed along with him, a result of his "invention" of guilt by association.
4. In China's communist era, the same built-in problems persist. Let me focus on the differences between Mao and Liu Shaoqi, the second most
powerful communist in 1943-66, as an example.
For example, Liu favored allowing capitalists to exist longer, to ensure that their skills could deliver more eggs to the government, which was the very motive of the government in the first place.
But Mao favored eliminating all capitalists and managerial people, so that the Communists could most directly extract eggs from the population.
Mao won. For example, within 13 days of the Communist victory in Shanghai in May 1949, the new regime destroyed the Shanghai Stock Exchange and arrested over 2,000 bankers and investors in just one raid.
How many eggs did such raids produce for the rulers? Not to mention other things, Jiang Qing, wife of Mao, got four mansions in Shanghai alone, though her principal residence was in Beijing. But the Communist monopoly over China's wealth, markets, organizations and institutions immediately gave rise to a record famine, killing some 50 million people, not to mention about the record number of deaths by
violence. What is more, this grand economic failure led to three rounds of bureaucratic wars for the next two decades.
5. By the start of cultural revolution in 1966, the third bureaucratic war, Liu immediately fell to the ground. What is more, Liu's wife, mother-in-law, and brothers-in-law were all arrested. But that was the smallest part of the big picture: over 20,000 additional people, ex-teachers, school mates, colleagues, and neighbors of Liu and his wife were victimized. Many of them simply perished.
6. This group of Communist victims was only a drop in the ocean in view of the record bloodshed of the era.
Part III. China's political theories and classification of Chinese philosophers in light of current affairs
Politically speaking, Chinese philosophical schools can be roughly classified in the following way, which is judged on the grounds of how each of them shows their attitude and political stand towards the interests of society and people vs. government bureaucracy.
At one extreme, the Legalist School seeks to promote the universal rights of government at the expense of society and the people. Using terror is their basic tool of governance.
At the other extreme, the School of Mer Zi stands to promote universal love. At the same time, he advocates a limited government. What is more, he feels the absolute need for personal involvement in promoting peace, love and compassion. So, a student of Mer Zi must have the courage to stop evil acts whenever he sees it.
In between them stand Confucianism and Daoism, represented by Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. The Confucius School aims to limit government power by imposing moral and ethical standards. At the same time, Confucians encourage direct participation in the government’s governance.
Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi offer two basic things: First, they condemn the boundless greed of unlimited government power. Second, they teach the government not to become too busy. For, whenever the government is busy, disasters follow. Why? This unlimited bureaucratic power exists to squeeze society and the people--though Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi did not say directly that China’s self-appointed government is inherently self-serving and stands as an oppressor politically and a squeezer economically. But their hidden rationale assumes this basic reality.
These ideas are all present in today's China, not just in its far past. (There are more things to the above general ideas, which will be put into a future book hopefully. The key to understanding these issues is to get a total picture of Chinese history and evolution.)
JE comments: It's great to hear from George Zhibin Gu after several months (since May, as George mentions in this post). We've come to know George as a prolific writer--I look forward to the announcement of his next book.
Part IV. On China's new economic surge
From China, George Zhibin Gu writes: In your review of my new book, China’s Global Reach - markets, multinationals, and globalization, you made some very interesting remarks about Andre Gunder Frank’s research on China and world history. You further asked about the Chinese view on Frank’s remarks that China was economically ahead of the West even by mid-1850s.
Indeed, when Frank’s book ReOrient 1400-1800 was first published in China five years ago, it created a hot debate in the Chinese intellectual world. Also, according to Joseph Needham, China’s share of global economic output was 30% at around 1820, but declined rapidly until this era. In the minds of many people, Chinese or foreign, this fast developing China is restoring the old prosperity and wealth. That may be so, but the deeper meaning goes beyond it. Indeed, what is happening in China goes beyond restoring the old wealth. Instead, China is moving into a new territory,! unknown throughout history. That is, China is becoming a true member in the global community. This new globalization will reinvent China completely.
In view of Chinese history, the biggest ill of Chinese civilization is the persistent and chronic bureaucratic power, which has constantly limited the potential and wealth-making of the Chinese people. In this reform era, to cure this long-lasting illness of Chinese bureaucracy has become so urgent. The rise of a great private sector shows the progress. Furthermore, the wholehearted engagement of China with the outside world lifts China’s development up to a new level. All this means that our world has entered a new era, the era of convergence of global civilizations.
I wonder if anyone in the outside world, especially in the late developing nations, can share information about what is happening in their region, especially in light of globalization? How do these nations cope with new development in light of past problems?
RH (Ronald Hilton): The Chinese bureaucracy was the creation of Confucius,? Do the Chinese criticize him?
Part V. Universal rights of government vs history
George Gu of China writes further:
This Chinese tradition of an overwhelming bureaucratic power pre-existed the Confucius era. Indeed, the supreme state power in China has never been truly challenged up to this date.
In my new book, China’s Global Reach, I make this point: the Chinese bureaucratic power has increased all the way for some 2,200 years, from the Qin Dynasty to the Mao era. In the period of 1949-76, the traditional bureaucratic power reached its very height (but declined rapidly in this era of globalization.) This new height of bureaucratic power implies that the entire society, economy and people were made exclusively and completely the servant to the government, nothing less. No citizens had any kind of independent life, not even monks or poets.
Then, how does the Confucius school fit into this large picture? In my mind, it has aimed to contain the bureaucratic power with some ethical and moral principles, a! rational approach, regardless how weak it has been. Then, how come the Confucius doctrines have become the official doctrine for some 2,000 years in China? It has been made a tool for the rulers to rule over their court as well as the population at large. Even so, the supreme bureaucratic power has never been truly challenged up to this very date.
Now, the other big question: how could Chinese bureaucracy (or the state power) have gained such a supreme position in the society and for so long? Hardly anyone has given a satisfying answer to it. But in the same context, can one ask this: how could the Western state and church emerge into one unity to provide a supreme political power for thousands of years? Even the Westerners living in Voltaire’s time could hardly escape it. It should be noted that with taking into consideration of the Western church-state power, the West has hardly experienced the supreme Chinese bureaucratic power and its disastrous consequences. They are all evident in the People’s Commune, the state sector, and the Cultural Revolution, among other things.
For information about the World Association of International Studies (WAIS), and its online publication, the World Affairs Report, read its
homepage by simply double-clicking on: http://wais.stanford.edu/
John Eipper, Editor-in-Chief, Adrian College, MI 49221 USA
This work is in the public domain