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Best opening line ever 17, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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Time Magazine’s China Blog quotes what has to be the most gripping and intriguing opening line for a story. It is taken from Emma Graham-Harrison’s article for Reuters and is really rather remarkable.

Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting’s eyes in old age — the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

What to read on? Of course you do…

(Poor guy; he had his bits whipped off by his father with no anaesthetic, was unconscious for three days, could hardly move for months, finally ‘recovered’ sufficiently and was about to go to the palace to take on a Eunuch-type role when he discovered that the Emperor had just abdicated….how annoying.)

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.