Any Lessons to Learn?
Age bar of 68 for top political posts, appointing ministers for their competence, dismissing under performers, stopping ivory tower life of officials away from harsh life realities, honesty and openness in admitting failures, reinventing democracy to suit India are lessons to learn from China.
Election fever 2014 is on and political parties in India have started feeling the heat and showing it. It gets added significance as it comes after two epoch making elections -- one in US, the oldest democracy few weeks ago and the other quite recently in China, the second beigest economic power today. Comparisons are odious. But it is also a sweet necessity to help people to emulate, take inspiration from and excel in today’s competitive global market.
Our first PM Nehruji initiated the Bhai-Bhai relationship with China our close neighbour, geographically and culturally. That relationship turned sour after the Chinese attack. Ever since, it became one of mutual suspicion, distrust and rivalry, each trying to outsmart the other in military and economic strength. China started with a dictatorial communist regime. During the course it began inventing its own version taking inspiration from capitalist and democratic systems, though not openly. India instead stuck to its democratic socialism.
Second Global Power
Today China is acknowledged as the second global power economically and militarily. It was the fifth in 2001 after US, Japan, Germany and Brittan. That shows the rapid economic strides it made in 12 years. By 2020 China is set to overtake even the US according to political observers. Industrially China has already conquered the world by making its presence felt everywhere through the cheap products -- “made in China” -- it sells in today’s competitive market. In that sense China has become the production factory even for the powerful capitalist countries starting with the US.
“Out Sourcing” is the much loved and hated phrase bandied about by the industrial world keen on making maximum profit at minimum cost. By providing this service China has become the unravelled and most preferred hot spot of destination. But that service is rendered at terrible cost to its own work force made to sweat and toil as in a concentration camp denied of all human rights, is a different pathetic story. As a result it is reported there are today 15 crores who are very poor in China with daily earning of $ 1(Rs, 54) only even when there are 10 lakhs of Crorepathies. Of this 300 are said to be worth more than Rs.5000 crores in assets. No wonder why China is seen now as the most dependable banker ready to bale out even the richest US drowning in a debt of $ Sixteen trillion.
It is in this context that the champions of various political systems and philosophies are forced to sit back and reflect to come up with something better for one’s own country either for world domination at the cost of others or for a saner goal of global well-being, knowing well that change the unchanging law of nature pushes all to chose between hanging together or hanging separately, of supporting one another instead of pulling each other down at a time of ship wreck (today’s economic recession) only to go down to the depths of the sea all together. Hence we see today great deal of talk about crony capitalism of the US, the workers paradise of Russia developing its own distinct features, the Chinese version taking on traits of democracy and crony capitalism and the stagnating democratic socialism of the Nehruvian ideal.
Democracy in China?
Since democracy has the greatest appeal in spite of all its flaws, China also experiments with its own version even when it denies freedom of speech, press and internet. It started in 2001 when private industrialists were permitted to join the party. According to reports, now there are 7 super rich persons in the party congress and they exert their influence. But actual democracy is confined to the seven members of the Standing Committee which wields power like the President in US or the PM with its council of ministers or the High Command in India.
In India actual democracy is short lived as I tried to explain in my last article: Ballot is Bullet. Voters are allowed to exercise their democratic right just for 5 minutes they are in the voting booth, only to be dumped in the dustbin and forgotten. Then it is left to the free for all of the elected representatives to loot or serve and for the PM or the High Command to sit and watch, control or share in the loot in the name of aam aadmi for five years, finally to be thrown out or re-elected by hook or crook by the 5 minute democratic exercise of the citizen in the voting booth.
All political systems have their attractive, enticing aspects, equally their detestable flaws. Flaws are mainly by-products of corruption on the part of those who manage the various systems and of their aloofness from the harsh ground realities of the common folk for whose well being they claim to wield power, while living in ivory towers. It is now openly acknowledge even by the out going and incoming leadership in China that corruption is the biggest threat facing the country.
Corruption Biggest Threat
The out going Secretary Hu Jintao is reported to have warned: “if we fail to handle this issue (corruption) well, it could even cause the collapse of the party and the state” even when he stressed that China “would never copy a Western political system.” And Xi Jinping the incoming Secretary while airing similar views highlights that the fact of party officials being increasingly “out of touch with the people,” as one of the “many pressing problems” to be remedied.
This is also the challenge India faces today as highlighted by Anna Hazare and Kejriwal teams. At the same time it is also reported that over 6 lakh party workers and govt. officials were punished for corruption in the last 5 years. Root cause of corruption is traced to “Red Royalty” of the rich and socially influential princely class or nobles in China who have a family background of having made sacrifices for the party
But how does change of power take place in China? According to information I could gather from various publications, while the life span of a government is five years at a stretch in India, it is two terms of four years or a total of eight years in US if the incumbent gets re-elected after the first four years. But it is for two terms of five years (totally ten) or till he completes 68 years of age that a Secretary General rules in China. The present one is the fifth generation government after Mao. It will be officially sworn in next March with Xi Jinping 59, having triple powers: 1, Party General Secretary, 2, President of the Country and 3, Head of the military having a strength of 23 lakhs, the largest in the world. Xi will be assisted by Li Keqiang, 57, as PM and five others who form the standing Committee of seven (it used to be 9 till now) which is the core of power centre in China.
Age bar of 68 for top Offices
There are three striking traits to be noted in this Chinese version of government. First is ban for those above 68 to hold top offices. This rule was brought long ago in l980s by Deg Siavo, the second Secretary General. Second is executive power. It is said to be handled collectively by the Standing Committee of seven, the only place where democracy functions to some extent. Third is the mode of selection, whether to standing committee of 7 or Polite Bureau of 24 or Central Committee of 371. It is made on the basis of proven merits -- professional expertise, know-how, experience and ability to get tings done besides one’s honesty and probity in public life to uphold party ideals and vision.
After the Central Committee comes the Party Congress consisting 2270 which assembled in the Great Hall recently to elect the new government. This party congress is said to represent card carrying Party members said to be 8.3 crore. At the very bottom of the hierarchical ladder are the Chinese people numbering 134 crore who practically have no say in Government formation and it’s functioning.
One Party Rule for 63 years
Though China is known as a country ruled by one party only, reportedly there are eight other independent parties which are allowed function as pressure groups only without any role in government formation and its conduct. In fact the one country which boasted of one party rule for 74 years at a stretch was the now defunct Soviet Union. China is now close behind with a record of 63 years of one party rule. Weather it will break the Russian record depends on how and when the independent parties will succeed to gain equal status with the main one party in China.
As far as things like corruption, nepotism, dynastic succession in high places and crony capitalism masquerading growing nexus between the super rich and the political heavy weights for mutual benefit are concerned there are close similarities between China and India. For example Xi the new Party secretary is the son of former deputy PM. According to some media reports even Xi and his family members have amassed crores using power and influence. The striking contrast is that these are being publicly acknowledged by the present generation of Chinese leaders, while the ruling class in India is reluctant to admit it openly even when there is a hue and cry against it from the electorate.
Lessons to Learn
Finally what lessons are we to learn from the Chinese experiment? The first one definitely is the urgency to bar those above 68 from active politics. Second is the need to promote meritocracy in selecting candidates for various ministries. Third is to make the ruling class to frankly and urgently admit it that the present system is steeped in corruption, which is the first step towards any action to remedy it partially or totally. Fourth is speedy application and execution of law specially against the high and mighty who loot the nation but go scot free often due to their political, financial and family connections.
Fifth is enforcing transparency in the conduct of all public officials instead of blunting the teeth of RTI, CAG and the Internet. Sixth is to reinvent democracy to suit Indian situations – a benevolent dictatorship for the illiterates and self regulated freedom for the well educated. Seventh is to encourage and promote public debate on all issues affecting the lives of the common man through mass media, especially in the vernacular to make the less educated know what is at stake for him, since our political class blocks out all parliamentary debates on burning issues.
The one sure path to cleansing the nation is empowering the aam aadmi with at least secondary grade education inculcating vigorously ethical values in social and political life and proficiency in handling the internet. It is a tall order but nothing short of it can save our country.
The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org