China places stability, strength above all

China places stability, strength above all
# 04 March 2011 04:38 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Compared to the conflict and chaos spilling into the streets of north Africa and the Middle East, the scene that will unfold Saturday at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People promises to be positively sublime, APA reports quoting thestar.com website.
The opening of the National People’s Congress — China’s rubber-stamp legislature — is a festive, annual rite of spring in the Chinese capital, providing a platform for the country’s rulers to highlight successes of the past year and to lay out plans for more.
It’s as close as one gets to a binding political moment in China — part state of the union, part throne speech.
With the advisory People’s Consultative Conference also meeting, Beijing will host 10 days of Communist Party hoopla and policy discussion.
But this year’s conferences are likely to be more: a forum to reflect on the fruits of China’s stability.
As riots rock successive countries abroad and economies go up in smoke, China remains comparatively calm and — its leaders assert — prosperity has been the result.
In the Communist Party playbook stability trumps all; with it, China’s leaders have been able to deliver the goods in the form of decades of double-digit growth.
On Saturday Premier Wen Jiabao is likely to introduce a new five-year plan that will aim to moderate growth and stimulate spending.
But the real significance of the gathering goes far beyond spreadsheets and spending plans: it’s a stage from which to trumpet the success of the Chinese Model, one that puts economics before any notion of individual rights.
As much as anything else, this week’s conferences will project the power and competence of the Communist Party of China.
As American power and international status wanes and other countries find themselves embroiled in homegrown uprisings, China continues to gather strength — and so, of course, does its ruling party.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this — at least according to Western thinking.
Academics and politicians have long predicted that China will eventually turn toward Western democracy. But that hasn’t happened — not yet. Today, such predictions seem to be receding into the landscape and might be approaching the vanishing point.
In today’s China, according to author Richard McGregor, whose recent book The Party is the definitive work on China’s rulers, “the freedom to consume . . . is much more attractive than vague notions of democracy.”
China’s rulers have been able to provide what McGregor and others call “market Leninism,” an innovative mix of market principles — and Leninist control.
People are given enough space to get ahead, he points out, provided they steer clear of any notion of democratic politics.
“The idea that China would one day become a democracy was always a Western notion, born of theories about how political systems evolve,” McGregor wrote recently in Foreign Policy. “Yet all evidence so far suggests these theories are wrong.”
The international financial crisis of 2008 ultimately proved to be a shot in the arm for the party, McGregor said in a telephone interview Thursday.
“The financial crisis was just a killer for the western brand in China and a godsend for the party leadership because, essentially, all their propaganda about the West came through.”
Since then, the party hasn’t looked back.
“Today it is stronger and more powerful than ever,” McGregor says. “But they are also still deeply, deeply insecure.”
Some of that insecurity was on display Sunday when the Chinese government sent legions of police into the streets of central Beijing to quell what they thought could be serious anti-government rally, triggered by an online call for the Chinese to emulate Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution.
The rally never really materialized, but numbers of foreign journalists were roughed up, knocked to the ground, detained and a couple seriously beaten.
It might have been a “massive overreaction,” McGregor observes, “but I guess that’s part of their strength.”
There are many other strengths underlining the party’s intention not just to survive, but thrive.
Over the years the party has built what appears to be an insurmountable bulwark against all comers, says McGregor.
As he sees it, they have emasculated all political rivals, eliminated the independence of the courts and the media, reined in religion and civil society, denigrated other versions of nationhood, consolidated all political power, expanded the security policy and put dissidents behind bars.
One might call these the Seven Steps to Invincibility.
Will the Chinese Communist Party rule forever, McGregor is asked?
“Certainly for the foreseeable future,” he says.
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