How to end China’s despair before despair ends the Mao dynasty
The author has chosen to use a nom de plume: an assumed name for reasons addressed in the writing.
The Fulcrum rarely provides content solely focused on the internal affairs of another country since our mission is to inform our readers on the intricacies of our republic and to offer information on how citizens can act to repair our governance while making it live and work in their everyday lives.
We make an exception in this case because the following op-ed is written by a passionate anti-communist whose compassionate observations about the state of the Chinese Communist Party very well could impact the governance of the United States and of the world.
As you read this powerful essay perhaps you will be reminded of these words from Machiavelli:
"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results."
I’m a passionate China lover … and an equally passionate anti-communist. The latter fact explains my use here of a protective nom de plume.
I have enough powerful enemies already, thank you, and do not care to get sideways with the Chinese Communist Party. Moreover, despite my anti-communism, I take a cup of kindness … for the Mao dynasty.
I cherish the obscure honor of being the honorary great-godson of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, republican China’s George Washington. I was, informally, honorarily, adopted, many years ago, by the daughters of Dr. Sun’s godson, Paul M.A. Linebarger, “the Pentagon’s leading practitioner of 'black' and 'gray' propaganda” … as an honorary brother.
Dr. Linebarger allied himself with Chiang Kai-shek, not Mao. Still… Mao prevailed. And the party Chiang led, the Kuomintang, is friendly toward Beijing.
China, after Mao, flourished. Now, China is in trouble.
As The Economist observes in Xi’s Failing Model: Why he won’t fix China’s economy:
“How bad is it? … Our leader argues that things are very bad indeed. The blame lies with Xi Jinping and China’s increasingly autocratic government. Mr Xi’s centralisation of power and his replacement of technocrats with loyalists is leading to damaging policy failures, not least a feeble response to tumbling growth and inflation.”
That may understate matters. Per, The New York Times, “China’s economy, which once seemed unstoppable, is plagued by a series of problems, and a growing lack of faith in the future is verging on despair.” And as public intellectual Noah Smith shrewdly observed, “In a democracy, a recession usually gets the ruling party thrown out of office; in an autocracy, they might get thrown out of a window instead.”
Let’s not root for the Mao dynasty’s fall, which could be traumatic. As Chang Yang-Hao (1269-1329), wrote in Recalling the Past at T’ung Pass:
“Empires rise: people suffer. Empires Fall: people suffer.”
And, in the tradition of Dr. Sun, count me as anti-suffering.
So. How did the Chinese Communist Party gain, and retain, the Mandate of Heaven to rule the mainland for (by Chinese dynastic standards, a relatively brief) three quarters of a century, despite its totalitarian roots? Mao gained the Mandate by restoring national sovereignty to China, expelling the Western, and then Japanese, imperialists. Then he bested his rival, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the Nationalists, for power. The Nationalists then took refuge in Taiwan.
How did Mao win? By representing the peasants rather than the urban elites favored by Chiang. Mao anticipated, in some ways, MAGA … representing the rank and file and making China great, or at least whole, again.
China is fragile. It has spent much of its history broken into warring fiefdoms, suffering from warlords. Sovereign integrity is a precious thing. It provides the infrastructure for security. For prosperity and for dignity.
Thus did Mao secure the Mandate of Heaven. Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao.
Deng’s one of my heroes, right up there with Reagan. Deng observed: “To get rich is glorious.”
Under his leadership China embraced the guidance of one of supply-side’s prime architects, the Nobel Economics Prize-winning Robert Mundell. Deng thus unleashed more than 40 years of epic Chinese economic growth. Let’s note, in passing, that Chinese GDP per capita is still only around a quarter that of Americans. Way up from abject poverty but hardly threatening to our primacy. Let the panda-bashers simmer down.
Deng established “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” e.g., capitalism. That created the most extraordinary mass advance out of penury into prosperity in world history.
As Keyu Jin, a professor at the London School of Economics and author of “The New China Playbook,” recently told The New York Times while “trying to rework the foundation of what she sees as the West’s deeply flawed understanding of China’s economy…”
“China is a country that has done the most economically for the most number of people in the shortest amount of time.”
Thus, the Mandate of Heaven secured by Mao by restoring China’s sovereignty was perpetuated for generations by the equitable prosperity-inducing policies introduced by Deng and maintained by his immediate successors.
Now, a terrible stagnation besets China. This in part derives from the People’s Republic catastrophic one child policy, with terrible, irreversible, consequences. It derives from the reimposition of central command and control, which never ends well. And it derives, in part, from a huge bad bet by CCP leadership on real estate.
So? What next?
The West frets about a possible invasion of the Republic of China by the People’s Republic. Could happen. Yet there is another, implausible but not impossible, scenario. One of the most common motifs in Chinese art and craft is that of the (in lore, benevolent) dragon pursuing a pearl (of wisdom). Think of mainland China as the dragon. Taiwan as the pearl.
What if the pearl captivated the dragon, rather than the dragon devouring the pearl? And what if that pearl was Taiwanese Vice President (and likely soon future president) Lai Ching-te precipitating, or even leading, an equitable- prosperity-policies-revolution across the strait without a single shot being fired.
Josh Rogan writes for The Washington Post in Why is China so afraid of Taiwan’s vice president?
“According to Beijing authorities (and some Taipei opposition figures), the potential election of current Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te as president in January could spark the biggest crisis yet in cross-strait relations — and potentially lead to war. But Lai’s recent visit to the United States showed that these warnings are overblown. China is attacking Lai because he is reasonable, not because he’s a hothead. That makes him much harder for Beijing to undermine.”
“The narrative about Lai being dangerously pro-independence is also obsolete because, as Lai explained, the Taiwanese independence movement has evolved over decades. Taiwan’s de facto independence is something younger Taiwanese were born into and see no need to jettison.”
Taiwan has mastered a modern form of nationalism. It has elections. And it is doing a better job in providing for the “people’s livelihood.” The Chinese of Taiwan are more than twice as affluent as those of the mainland.
The Chinese people are among the most pragmatic in the world. Prosperity generates legitimacy.
To get rich, indeed, is glorious. Dr. Sun to the rescue?
Sun Yat-sen led many failed initiatives leading up to the successful Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and the attendant overthrow of the decadent Qing Dynasty. Thus ended 2,132 years of imperial rule in China. Sun installed proto-republicanism in the People’s Republic of China and in Taiwan, the Republic of China. Dr. Sun provided a solid blueprint for securing the Mandate of Heaven in his San Man Chu I: The Three Principles of the People.
As summarized by the Britannica:
“The first principle, minzu zhuyi, or “nationalism,” earlier had meant opposition to the Qing (Manchu) dynasty and to foreign imperialism; now Sun explained the phrase as denoting self-determination for the Chinese people as a whole and also for the minority groups within China. The second principle, minquan, or the “rights of the people,” sometimes translated as “democracy,” could be achieved, Sun explained, by allowing the Chinese people to control their own government through such devices as election, initiative, referendum, and recall. The last principle was minsheng, or “people’s livelihood,” which is often translated as “socialism.” This was the most vague of the three principles, but by it Sun seemed to have in mind the idea of equalization of land ownership through a just system of taxation.”
Minsheng, I submit, would be better described as “anti-feudalism,” even populism, than socialism, i.e., state ownership of the means of production.
The Three principles sound to me very like … Taiwan’s ethos.
Dr. Sun is at least as great a figure in the history of anti-imperialism as was Mohandas Gandhi. Sun is rightly revered by all Chinese, at home, across the strait, and abroad. Gandhi’s heroic crusade, against England, was much prosecuted in English. Sun’s fight against imperialism was internal, largely conducted in Mandarin, although he was in the United States when the fatal blow against the Qing was landed.
Thus, Sun is much less known in the West.
Let China’s current or future leadership embrace the Three Principles of the People thereby keeping, per Mao, China’s nationhood intact, providing more mechanisms, yes, elections, to anchor the legitimacy deriving from “the consent of the governed…” while continuing the course of rising equitable prosperity unleashed by Deng and reasonably expected by the people of China.
Make China Great Again! How? Through nationalism, free elections, and the people’s livelihood.
If the Mao Dynasty fails to grasp the pearl of wisdom’s blueprint, the San Man Chu I, forfeiting the Mandate of Heaven, a new dynasty will become inevitable.
Let China’s future be guided by Sun Thought!