Monday, February 09, 2009

The "center" loses its grip

Hardly anyone remembers William Butler Yeats these days - at least outside of Ireland that is. However, one phrase from "Second Coming":
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.

Now, the Chinese Communist Party didn't even exist when Yeats wrote this (the Soviet Communists were maneuvering for control of China through the Nationalist Party back then), but I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few cadres in Zhongnanhai were wondering about the ability of the "center" (themselves) to keep a firm hold on events.

Given the current global recession, the CCP desperately needs its Party members to dial down the graft. Yet for lower-level cadres (and middle-level cadres, and a good chunk of the higher-ranking cadres), the License to Steal was the first, last, and only incentive to Party membership in the first place. Can the CCP really change a behavior it was using as an incentive to boost its numbers for a generation?

Two pieces of evidence from this weekend suggest the answer is "No" - a former vice president of a regime-run bank busted for taking $1.5 million in bribes (Agence France Presse via Yahoo) and the head of the regime's credit export insurer nabbed doing the same thing. That these two corrupt officials were caught in the most sensitive areas of the economy - exports and bank lending - tells us all we need to know about the failure of the CCP to root out corruption.

If that wasn't bad enough, a new nightmare arose for the cadres - evidence that they themselves caused the Sichuan earthquake (London Telegraph):

The 511ft-high Zipingpu dam holds 315 million tonnes of water and lies just 550 yards from the fault line, and three miles from the epicentre, of the Sichuan earthquake.

Now scientists in China and the United States believe the weight of water, and the effect of it penetrating into the rock, could have affected the pressure on the fault line underneath, possibly unleashing a chain of ruptures that led to the quake.

Fan Xiao, the chief engineer of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in Chengdu, said it was "very likely" that the construction and filling of the reservoir in 2004 had led to the disaster.

"There have been many cases in which a water reservoir has triggered an earthquake," said Mr Fan. "This earthquake was very unusual for this area.

As an aside, we might want to keep an eye on Mr. Fan himself.

If word of this reaches the Chinese people (in Sichuan especially) it could get very ugly for the regime. In fact, the CCP may be preparing themselves for the worst; its latest report to UN on human rights deliberately skipped over several incidents of repression (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, its promises of being more open to the press - made in the run-up to the Olympics - have been exposed as fraudulent (Bloomberg).

Of course, the Communists are responding as all Communists do - by trying to project more power abroad and prevent the democratic world from noticing what's going on at home. However, even this is beginning to cause problems.

The cadres have clearly succeeded in building a blue-water naval force (AFP via Yahoo). However, rather than earn the respect of the United States (or engender weakness in the same), it has fueled the revival of anti-Communism in India (Indian Express). Meanwhile, recent comments by American Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about the CCP's deliberate currency devaluation got an unexpected boost from Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty - not previously known to be part of the anti-Communist force within the Great White North's Conservative government.

In fact, the only place where the elected party in power is consumed by the "engagement" nonsense is on Taiwan (AFP via Yahoo), and even there, talk is moving to concern that President Ma Ying-jeou - who has a bridge to sell, literally - "has no idea what he is doing and is compromising the nation’s security" (Taipei Times).

Now, all of this put together hardly spells the CCP's doom - for now. The center can still "hold" a while longer. However, if the anger of the Chinese people were ever to combine with a clear-eyed and sober free world recognizing the threat from Beijing, the cadres would suddenly be in very deep trouble. A similar combination that defeated European Communism, and the CCP has been trying to prevent it ever since.

Over the weekend, the CCP Doomsday continued to come closer. The center still holds, but its grip is weakening.

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