Free Speech And China
|Free speech doesn't mean careless talk^ - NARA - 535383 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I don't have a very good idea of what it is like to live inside China. But the impression I get is, as long as you don't criticize the Chinese Communist Party, they leave you alone. So if you don't talk politics, what do you talk about? Sports? Movies?
Is it possible to imagine government work as utility? When was the last time you made comments about electricity? It's just there in the background. You wouldn't even notice unless it's not there. It is not an active part of your mindspace. Is it like that?
I guess the suggestion seems to be, if you want to talk politics, join the party, and rise up the ranks, it is mostly meritocratic. You have to first learn and know what you are talking about.
China grew pretty rapidly from 1990 on for two decades. In 1990 India was slightly ahead of China in per capita income. Look at them now. Is India handicapped for being a democracy? I believe not. And Modi is about to prove it.
China is not a Saddam style dictatorship. The party has pretty sophisticated structures to delve into policy issues. The leadership changes every 10 years like at General Electric.
So is there free speech in commerce, science and technology? China has done impressive work in those spaces, perhaps not possible without free speech.
On the other hand, when you blow up a satellite in space just because and create space debris, or when you genetically engineer in ways that scares people, is that someone riding a motorbike without a helmet on?
Like someone once said, I am a free speech bigot. But the proof is in the pudding.
It is remarkable that China has lifted more people out of poverty than any power in history. And when a country like China finally gets its acts together, it seems to be able to tap into its thousands of years of history with ease and make up for lost time, and end up with some advantages.
But the per capita income in the US is 55K, that in China one seventh of that. That is a pretty huge gap that might take decades to overcome. But could it ever be overcome? Without free speech? Blanket free speech?
China has mostly played catch up. But if China is a legitimate alternate system, could it create the industries of tomorrow before America? If it could then it could suggest, even before achieving per capita income parity, that it is indeed an alternate system that works.
China is the reason the world did not get into a really bad shape in 2008 and 2009. The US and China mostly act like mature powers. There is some military tension here and there, especially around the South China Sea, but then how else would either justify huge military expenditures? That tussle might be internal to China.
In the US the Internet is the newest frontier for free speech where anything goes, and Julia Roberts feels hated, but in China they have managed to use the Internet to curb free speech like never before.
China has become a bigger economy than the US, per capita income aside, and the state owned firms in China exceed $13 trillion in value, and with the political monopoly that the CCP has, does it become harder for the country to truly catch up and move towards a 50K per capita income?
There is the philosophy of free speech, there is the concreteness of the new industries of tomorrow, and there is just bread and butter, basic infrastructure, some of which China has been building far from its borders.
If India were to grow at double digit rates for 20 years, that would make for an interesting comparison. Because India is a rambunctious democracy. Indians have opinions! Indians haggle when they go grocery shopping. Indians will show up for a political rally for no rhyme or reason. Both Microsoft and Google have Indian CEOs.
China will more likely see internal reform than go the Soviet way. But how long before that happens is anyone's guess. Does it happen when the per capita income hits 20K?