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Thread: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

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    Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    From the June 27, 2011 edition of The Washington Post:

    With the approach of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1, the country is being swept up in a wave of orchestrated revolutionary nostalgia. Nowhere is that more so than in Chongqing, this southwestern Chinese mega-city of 32 million people that has become the capital of the “red culture” revival...

    The red culture campaign revival is the pet project of the local Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, a former commerce minister and son of Bo Yibo, a Mao contemporary who was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. In 2007, Bo was appointed to the top job in Chongqing, a sprawling provincial-sized city of almost 32,000 square miles — about the size of South Carolina — that before 1949 served as the wartime capital for the anti-Communist Nationalist (or KMT) regime.
    Southwestern Chinese city leading red revival - The Washington Post

    If this movement is more than a passing commemoration of an historic anniversary, it would not be the first such movement to emerge since Deng Xiaoping launched his reform drive in 1978 that led to China's vast economic resurgence. In an atmosphere following the Tiananmen Square massacre and disintegration of the Soviet Union and East Bloc communist regimes, there was a movement within China's Communist Party that aimed to reverse China's economic liberalization. Deng Xiaoping and his successor Jiang Zemin maintained the path of reform.

    The nascent "red revival" movement could also prove to be little more than a transitory fad. However, under some circumstances, it could gain broader force. Some possible candidates would include the following risks:

    - China's economic reforms fizzle (possibly due to one or more regional real estate bubbles collapsing, difficulties in transitioning from a manufacturing/investment-driven economic model to one that includes a larger consumer component, a U.S. debt crisis, resource scarcity, etc.).
    - It is unable to accommodate the growing expectations of improved living conditions for its population (especially the growing number of college graduates who are facing a challenging employment landscape) leading to a destabilizing gap between the public's expectations and governance results (labor unrest is one symptom of some issues in that area).
    - It has a rocky transition in trying to address the social needs associated with a growing older population.
    - It mishandles attempts at political reforms (likely to be modest and generally at the local/regional level early on where experiments have been ongoing, but with mixed results) or its current single-party framework becomes so rigid that it can no longer adapt to internal and external dynamism.
    - It encounters geopolitical challenges that arise from some of the disputes that exist e.g., in the South China Sea, that damage its regional position. In that context, regional disengagement or even abdication by the U.S. could prove destabilizing.

    Countries that have encountered domestic challenges have sometimes become more aggressive on the international front in a bid to rally popular support. Under such a scenario, China would become more assertive in some of the regional disputes that presently exist. It could even attempt to exercise its growing power to press a resolution in its favor. Its neighbors and also the United States have critical interests at stake, so there would be some risk that things could escalate if they are not managed carefully.

    In addition, nationalism and power, and ideology can become a potent mix. Hence, a crisis could provide the kind of simple narrative that could produce exactly the kind of cocktail of nationalism, power, and ideology boosts the regional red revival movement into a much broader setting. Right now, that is probably not the most likely outcome. With sound leadership (in China, its neighbors, and the U.S.), such an outcome need not be an assured one.

    The challenges and opportunities facing China are complex and overlapping. In the decades ahead, a lot will depend on whether China is able to sustain economic growth that is sufficient to provide for the growing expectations of its population that will, in part, arise from that growth. Social harmony will remain a paramount concern for China's government in the years ahead. Political adaptation that allows for greater flexibility/range of strategic options will also become increasingly important even if the model remains single party dominated for the forseeable future, with the Communist Party not government diversifying.

    A lot will also depend on China's interactions with its neighbors and the world's other great powers, including but not limited to the United States. The region's balance of power, its economic/institutional framework, its history, and how the countries interact with one another/roles they assume will influence the course of events both within China's boundaries and beyond them.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 06-28-11 at 10:15 AM.

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    Re: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    Great post Don. I think while the potential movement may indeed hold many dangers to those abroad, the greatest danger is to China's power.

    I think that those that fear China as a growing threat may very well wish for such a destabilizing threat to arise within the nation. The Communist Party in China now is filled with business men who very much like to accrue wealth and will surely not willingly take China back 30 years economically.

    Thus, perhaps the most certain path would be for China to once again fall into a civil war once again, and this scenario would play quite well if the West and other Asian nations wished to see a weaker China.

    Overall though, I see this as nothing but nostalgia and can certainly have faith that if it is more, you will see Beijing address Bo Xilai swiftly.

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    Re: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    Thanks, Tlmorg02.

    Right now, I don't believe Bo's movement will rise to the level that it pushes China onto a fundamentally different course unless some of the serious risks I cited manifest themselves. Then, the movement could develop a narrative that the post-Mao reforms led to the unsatisfactory outcome and then make the argument that a return to a "true" socialist path would provide the remedy. How that would play out would remain to be seen.

    Although there is little doubt that a rising China presents both challenges and opportunities to its neighbors and the U.S., a China in turmoil would, IMO, represent a far worse outcome than the present situation. Given China's economic significance, such an event could lead to profound and global adverse consequences. It could also destabilize an entire region that has been one of the world's brightest spots during recent decades, possibly reigniting historic rivalries, sapping progress in living standards, etc. It remains within the reach of foresightful leaders to make the choices and decisions necessary to shape a more productive Chinese evolution. Of course, the U.S. will need to make sure that the entire region understands the enduring nature of its commitments to its allies so that there are no miscalculations. There are also large areas of common interest that can and should be pursued. Attempts to isolate or contain China almost certainly would fail, with only a hostile China being the end result.

    My guess is that a scenario under which China's Communist Party (CCP) gradually diversifies the range of thought among its membership via a broadening of its membership, is probably at least as likely as any other political pluralism scenarios that might be pursued there. It might even be the most likely one given China's imperial history and also more recent history from Mao onward. Under such an approach, China would maintain "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics," with the more diverse Communist Party providing the content of "Chinese Characteristics" that would also shape China's conception of "Socialism."

    Under such a scenario, Bo could gain a seat at the table. However, his stream of thought would be but one line of thinking among a broadening CCP. As such, his philosophy could be absorbed into a larger framework that actually inhibits his ability to push China on a course that abandons the path forged by Deng Xiaoping, and largely maintained by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

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    Re: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    I agree that the broadening of the CCP will undoubtedly prove to be the likely future for China. It was not that long ago that business men were forbidden to even enter government service, yet now the CCP is riddled with them. I think China will undoubtedly also become the next economic leader of the world, once it deals with its currency issues. China has shown a great ability to adapt when it needs to in a pragmatic way, and I think as the older generations give way to the new, China will indeed evolve into perhaps a socialistic-republic at some point in the future.

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    Re: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    Quote Originally Posted by tlmorg02 View Post
    I agree that the broadening of the CCP will undoubtedly prove to be the likely future for China. It was not that long ago that business men were forbidden to even enter government service, yet now the CCP is riddled with them. I think China will undoubtedly also become the next economic leader of the world, once it deals with its currency issues. China has shown a great ability to adapt when it needs to in a pragmatic way, and I think as the older generations give way to the new, China will indeed evolve into perhaps a socialistic-republic at some point in the future.
    I don't want to minimize the real risks that exist. Societies making the leap from underdeveloped to developed economies have invariably encountered a crisis or even series of crises during their transition. Reforms can bring unintended consequences. Sometimes the crises developing countries have been strictly economic in nature. Sometimes they have been multifaceted with signficant non-economic fallout. IMO, the series of events that led to Tiananmen Square was a mini-crisis of sorts.

    Rising powers have also presented geopolitical challenges that result from a combination of their needs, aspirations, definition of their interests, and their growing relative power. Potential clashes of interests exist in the South China Sea and in the difference between today's regional arrangement and China's historic definitions.

    Careful management will be required to mitigate risks associated with inevitable crises and with regard to the evolving power equation in East Asia. I don't believe hostility and a mutually disadvantageous outcome is the only possibility. With wise leadership in China, among China's neighbors, and in the U.S., that respects differences in critical interests, actively seeks to leverage common interests and the inherent mutual benefits, and is dedicated to maintaining a stabilizing balance of power, a better outcome is attainable. Certainly, I hope for that more favorable course, but recognize that circumstances, miscalculations, and bad leadership could all present obstacles. Certainly, some setbacks have to be expected given historic experience, but good leadership can lead to those setbacks being temporary acts in a longer story of development.

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    Re: Southwestern Chinese city leading ‘red’ revival

    Quote Originally Posted by donsutherland1 View Post
    I don't want to minimize the real risks that exist. Societies making the leap from underdeveloped to developed economies have invariably encountered a crisis or even series of crises during their transition. Reforms can bring unintended consequences. Sometimes the crises developing countries have been strictly economic in nature. Sometimes they have been multifaceted with signficant non-economic fallout. IMO, the series of events that led to Tiananmen Square was a mini-crisis of sorts.

    Rising powers have also presented geopolitical challenges that result from a combination of their needs, aspirations, definition of their interests, and their growing relative power. Potential clashes of interests exist in the South China Sea and in the difference between today's regional arrangement and China's historic definitions.

    Careful management will be required to mitigate risks associated with inevitable crises and with regard to the evolving power equation in East Asia. I don't believe hostility and a mutually disadvantageous outcome is the only possibility. With wise leadership in China, among China's neighbors, and in the U.S., that respects differences in critical interests, actively seeks to leverage common interests and the inherent mutual benefits, and is dedicated to maintaining a stabilizing balance of power, a better outcome is attainable. Certainly, I hope for that more favorable course, but recognize that circumstances, miscalculations, and bad leadership could all present obstacles. Certainly, some setbacks have to be expected given historic experience, but good leadership can lead to those setbacks being temporary acts in a longer story of development.
    Certainly bad leadership could lead to war or "mini-crisis" as you say, however I do hold faith in economic relationships to stay-off many such circumstances. As I have stated before and I believe as have you, the key factor to making any relationship with China work is to establish a balance of power while also establishing a zone or network of cooperation. Any sign or one so construed as containment and the whole region may very well be thrown into aggressive posturing, potential economic turmoil, and in worse case war.
    Last edited by tlmorg02; 06-28-11 at 01:17 PM.

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