Dan S. Wang on Wed, 15 May 2013 09:05:18 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Digital Politics <--> Digital Economics

Mark, Flick:

On the question of whether and how is ³democracy² relevant to an
understanding of Chinese politics, I lean towards Mark¹s views.

To add to them, Flick¹s characterization of the CCP as a ³supreme² ruler, I
must say, is far from the reality (and as for its ³legitimacy,² at the level
of the citizenry most Chinese people got over that a couple of generations
ago?they haven¹t even been able to buy it back). The CCP bans Facebook,
fights with Google, dictates to Yahoo, and stages their elections precisely
because their actual control over the society is so tenuous and slippery.
When the power of the Chinese authorities shows itself in terms of
suppression of the citizenry, it is invariably blunt-force, clumsy, and
indiscriminate. One might say the brutality is a culture of their
government, but understand that the domestic sphere is in non-stop crisis
mode. It¹s called the Art of Governing 1.3 (more likely 1.5, based on food
consumption stats) billion: stomp it out, whatever it is.

I have access to Facebook in China; anybody with a VPN does, ie lots and
lots of people. It¹s a leaky society. Wu Hung told me that he and his
schoolmates listened to Beatles records during the 1966-69 period of the
Cultural Revolution, while ³foreign² and ³old² stuff all around them was
being smashed and burned, because China is so big and unruly that they can¹t
keep everything out. Shortly after, he and his mates were sent down to the
country...again, leakage and then blunt force.

It¹s not about understanding and tolerating their different values, but
rather acknowledging that China has its own historical trajectory (that we
all are now tied to), and that for them and their problems parliamentary
democracy may not be the most relevant political system. And no, you don¹t
need a PhD in Eastern Philosophy to understand Tiananmen...but the Western
framework of human rights is not going to give you the full picture, either.
What you do need is an understanding of neo-liberal globalization, and how
China¹s market reforms fit into that. That provides a much deeper
explanation of what happened in China in 1989 (and since) than any
fantasies about Chinese people longing for democracy.

Not that the fantasy never shows up, online. Where, after the initial
novelty, the fantasy quickly dissatisfies as just another impoverished
system that is probably better off for not being the reality. Where,
finally, the mock electoral map somehow and profoundly mocks the so-called
democracy we enjoy here in the US?a system we accept and participate in to
the extent that we can stomach, but that we also know deep down is utterly
inadequate to the crises at hand.


Dan w.


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