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China’s Russian future? 3, March 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, Russia.
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Simon Elegant over at Time’s China Blog wrote an interesting article suggesting that China might look towards Russia’s blueprint for its political future. Elegant suggests that the CCCP in Beijing would look favourably upon Russia’s current ability to ‘democratically’ guarantee power to the main party. Russia has, after all, all but turned into a one party state with but a fig leaf of democratic cover. This notion of democratically guaranteeing one party rule would surely be the panacea for China’s elite. All the benefits that they currently enjoy of their restrictive system and a modicum of democratic cover: perfect.

Indeed, it has never really mattered if the world believes than an election is fair, far from it. It is manifestly obvious that Medvedev’s election is questionable at best and a travesty of democracy at worst and it certainly didn’t matter to the various despots and dictators who got themselves returned to office with a miraculous 99.9% of the vote in the past. All that matters is that there is the figment, the notion, the light wafting of democracy in their general direction. The rest of the world carps for a while and then must put such notions aside as they need to have a working relationship with the country in question. 

Elegant suggests that there are two ways to achieve such a “managed democracy” result. Firstly, you simply need to emasculate, knee-cap, and generally destroy any opposition parties. Cue absurd arrests on pathetic pre-texts, complete marginalisation of said candidates or parties by your state controlled media, and, if all that fails – just kill them. Secondly, you need to co-opt the people. In Russia’s case, Putin feeds on the notion that Russians crave stability and prestige after the destruction wrought by the 1990’s. Putin fulfils these criteria superbly, particularly addressing the Russian need to feel like a superpower. In China’s case, Elegant suggests that the Chinese people could be co-opted by the desire to keep the economic boom booming. The CCCP could play on the notion that the ‘opposition’ (suitably emasculated, obviously) are a threat to the Chinese economic miracle and can not be trusted. 

Thus, just across the border, China have a ready made system on which they can base their next stage of political evolution if they so choose. The allure of democratic righteousness is surely a powerful one for Beijing, especially with Taiwan expertly (and infuriatingly) showing just how well Chinese characteristics, democracy and economic growth can go together.

 

 

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Feminism and headscarves 3, March 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Never let it be said that I am not in tune with feminists doctrine…here’s an excellent article which, so far as i can see, superbly speaks to one of the touch-stones of feminism: choice. The article is from the Washington Post and tackles the issue of head scarves. The author, Mona Eltahawy, has seen the ebb and flow of general proclivities regarding hard scarves over the years: to wear or not to wear, and now suggests that the general resurgence of Islam (in Egypt for example) is again reducing choice. She also rightly points out the bizarre state of affairs between people demanding to wear scarves in one Muslim country (Turkey) and a relative lack of people demanding that women’s oughtn’t have to wear them in another Muslim country (Saudi Arabia or Iran, for example).