Chi­nese Dream and China’s gov­er­nance

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Ken­neth Lieberthal, se­nior fel­low in for­eign pol­icy and global econ­omy and de­vel­op­ment at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion

China’s new lead­er­ship has sought to in­spire the coun­try with its call to re­al­ize the Chi­nese Dream, which is col­lec­tive and re­spon­sive to deep his­tor­i­cal sen­ti­ments in China. China’s lead­ers face an ex­traor­di­nar­ily com­pli­cated set of ob­sta­cles in try­ing to achieve the goals that are cen­tral com­po­nents of suc­cess­fully pur­su­ing the Chi­nese Dream. Most of th­ese are well known, such as:

The most rapid de­mo­graphic tran­si­tion in peace­time his­tory, and the first that will pro­duce a coun­try whose pop­u­la­tion is old be­fore the coun­try in per capita terms is rich;

Re­source scarcity — es­pe­cially the scarcity of us­able wa­ter in the North China Plain, but ex­tend­ing on a per capita ba­sis to most types of nat­u­ral re­sources — that is of stag­ger­ing di­men­sions;

A rev­o­lu­tion in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy that is pro­duc­ing rapid changes in so­ci­ety, whose reper­cus­sions for gov­er­nance are in­evitably un­cer­tain but po­ten­tially very con­se­quen­tial.

The sheer mag­ni­tude of the so­cial strains gen­er­ated by si­mul­ta­ne­ous mas­sive changes in terms of ur­ban­iza­tion, mar­ke­ti­za­tion, glob­al­iza­tion, growth of the non-State sec­tor, and the in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion. All are nec­es­sary for long-term suc­cess as a mod­ern state and so­ci­ety, but each in the short run is a chal­lenge to so­cial sta­bil­ity.

The Party’s Third Plenum res­o­lu­tion lays out a sub­stan­tive con­cep­tion of di­rec­tions of change in Chi­nese pol­icy be­tween now and 2020 that are ex­cep­tion­ally wide-rang­ing and com­pli­cated. On bal­ance, th­ese changes seek to en­hance the im­por­tance of mar­ket forces in de­ter­min­ing the al­lo­ca­tion and uti­liza­tion of re­sources, the le­gal sys­tem in as­sur­ing ba­sic rights and fair out­comes, bu­reau­cratic re­forms, and mone­tary and fis­cal pol­icy changes to shift in­cen­tives through­out the econ­omy in or­der to cre­ate a more ef­fi­cient, pro­duc­tive, fair, and sus­tain­able set of eco­nomic and so­cial out­comes. The im­pli­ca­tions for gov­er­nance of th­ese changes are very com­pli­cated and in many cases po­ten­tially con­tra­dic­tory.

The suc­cess of a more mod­ern, well-ed­u­cated, wealthy, in­ter­nally and in­ter­na­tion­ally con­nected Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion will de­pend on the wis­dom, ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and in­cor­rupt­ibil­ity of Party cadres at all lev­els.

This is a ma­jor chal­lenge. It will re­quire huge changes to the cur­rent re­al­i­ties within the Party, the cur­rent dis­tri­bu­tion of power within the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, and the cur­rent in­cen­tives and prac­tices through­out the polity.

But the polity is al­ready mas­sive, with com­plex in­ter­nal struc­tures, norms, in­cen­tives, prin­ci­ples, and ex­ist­ing poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions.

Nav­i­gat­ing this ter­rain to pro­duce the mas­sive changes iden­ti­fied will re­quire tremen­dous po­lit­i­cal skill and will in­evitably gen­er­ate many crises that will need to be man­aged and re­solved.

And the mar­ket it­self will pro­duce un­pre­dictable and at times very un­wel­come out­comes that will also re­quire skill­ful po­lit­i­cal ad­just­ments to keep things mov­ing in the de­sired di­rec­tion.

It will re­quire ex­tra­or­di­nary skill to man­age the pol­i­tics of turn­ing this broad Dream into op­er­a­tional pro­grams that can suc­cess­fully be im­ple­mented.

And the im­pli­ca­tions for fu­ture gov­er­nance will be de­ter­mined not only by the strat­egy for im­ple­ment­ing the Dream but also by the forces that de­velop as China’s econ­omy and so­ci­ety are them­selves trans­formed. re­futes the for­eign stereo­type that China sac­ri­fices in­di­vid­u­als to serve the pur­poses of the col­lec­tive.

The his­tor­i­cal Chi­nese Dream rec­og­nizes that China’s rich mil­len­nia-long civ­i­liza­tion with its high cul­ture and sem­i­nal achieve­ments, as­pi­ra­tion and ex­pec­ta­tion, tur­moil and trauma, chal­lenge and tri­umph, and China’s more re­cent de­vel­op­ment of its po­lit­i­cal the­ory. A uni­fied, sta­ble, sov­er­eign and peace­ful China has long been the goal of the Chi­nese peo­ple and of Chi­nese lead­ers.

The global Chi­nese Dream can be de­scribed as how the world ben­e­fits from the Chi­nese Dream and why the world wor­ries about the Chi­nese Dream. That the en­tire world de­rives ma­te­rial ad­van­tages from the Chi­nese Dream is ap­par­ent in the glob­al­ized econ­omy. The higher the stan­dard of liv­ing of the Chi­nese peo­ple, the greater their do­mes­tic con­sump­tion, which means that more prod­ucts are im­ported, cre­at­ing jobs and pros­per­ity with a mul­ti­plier ef­fect world­wide.

Fur­ther­more, as China ad­vances in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, the more the world can share in the ben­e­fits of China’s suc­cess by get­ting needed prod­ucts at af­ford­able prices.

The an­ti­thet­i­cal Chi­nese Dream takes a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, fo­cus­ing on the ten­sions or con­tra­dic­tions among the var­i­ous kinds of Chi­nese Dreams. Th­ese are the nor­mal trade­offs that all so­ci­eties must con­tin­u­ously con­sider.

There are sev­eral nat­u­ral ten­sions im­plicit in the Chi­nese Dream: eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ver­sus en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age; eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ver­sus so­cial im­bal­ances (i.e. it is usu­ally more ef­fi­cient to in­vest in de­vel­oped ar­eas, but that would make so­cial im­bal­ances worse); na­tional ver­sus per­sonal (in­vest­ment trade­offs be­tween na­tional projects such as ba­sic sci­ence re­search, the space pro­gram, de­fense needs, and the like, and the im­me­di­ate needs of the peo­ple, such as health­care); na­tional ver­sus global (bal­anc­ing China’s vi­tal sovereignty over dis­puted bor­ders or mar­itime ter­ri­to­ries with the con­cerns of neigh­bors, and pro­tect­ing the na­tional with­out dis­turb­ing the global); long-term ver­sus short-term (in­vest­ment trade­offs be­tween long-term projects such as the South-to-North Wa­ter Di­ver­sion Project and the many short-term needs such as sub­si­dies for poor or ru­ral cit­i­zens).

By re­ju­ve­nat­ing China, the Chi­nese Dream will ben­e­fit the en­tire world.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.