Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2009 starts of with a bang

The traditional Chinese calendar has us at year's end, not its beginning. Still, even those who will celebrate the Chinese New Year later this month generally focus on January 1 as much as the rest of us. From that perspective the New Year is already off to a rocky start for the Chinese Communist Party - and not just because of the widespread acknowledgment of the Anniversary Syndrome (McClatchy via Yahoo).

The initial blow came from the Party itself, albeit in an attempt to mitigate the damage. The Communists' elite mouthpiece (Outlook) put job losses in the "People's Republic" in the eight-figure range (Agence France Presse via Yahoo), i.e., at ten million. Apparently, Beijing sent this out as an all-hands-on-deck warning to cadres high and low (plus all the dependent minions).

At the very least, the Communists area acknowledging they have a problem. Outsiders were aware of this for weeks (Bloomberg, the Australian Age, and the Times of London) - although Newsweek and Citi (Marketwatch) seemed to have missed the memo. They may want to talk to Bank of America, which has begun divesting its holdings in the Communist banking sector (Dow Jones via CNN).

Whether the cadres will actually do anything about it is another question.

After all, the regime isn't about to seriously fix one of the biggest drains on the economy: corruption. As Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times put it (Otago Daily Times), "local officials regard their position as a licence to steal" (hey, where have I heard that before?). Aside from symbolic gestures (Bloomberg), the cadres aren't about to do anything to upset that apple cart.

Thus the regime will likely do what it always does when it's in trouble: crackdown on dissidents (AFP via Yahoo and WebProNews), rattle its sabre (Strategy Page), and steal what it can, when it can (AFP via Yahoo and Bloomberg).

Will it work this time? I'm not so sure. While I tend to be skeptical about the assertions that the world is facing its toughest economic situation since the Great Depression, this really is an unprecedented situation for the CCP. The last time it face economic problems like this, it deliberately caused them in the Great Leap Backward (which was far worse, BTW). While economic growth ceased being sufficient for the regime to maintain power after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, it has made it easier for the regime to recruit cadres (see above, licenses to steal are always worth more if there's plenty to take) and buy off the parts of society that would usually start tyranny-replacing dissident movements.

If anything, the economic doldrums will make the regime more reliant on the radical nationalism it has used as its raison d'etre for twenty years, which is bad news in the short run for Taiwan, India, Japan, the United States, and the rest of the democratic world.

However, if the free world is ready, willing, and able to resist the CCP's efforts to preserve itself at the expense of everyone else, it could lead to the regime's collapse. We can only hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With the West weakened economically and militarily over recent years, the distraction of events in the Middle East might embolden the Beijing regime into dangerous military confrontations in order to divert attention from a domestic employment disaster. I hope Mr Obama will be strong and determined in his dealings with this evil regime. Message from Sandy in Australia.