November 09, 2005

Asia Times Letters

Francesco Sisci [Democracy with Chinese characteristics, Nov 9] provides an illuminating summary of the discourses that have recently resurfaced over two individuals who were widely expected during the 1980s to be at the helm of China today – Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. Had Hu and Zhao been in power instead of the likes of Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, China's political economy may well look significantly different today. However, Sisci does not seem to provide an answer to the original question: Does democracy have any prospects in China? He cites [Antonio] Gramsci on the organization of the party, but he excludes Gramsci's most profound contribution to scholarship – that of the power of ideas. In China, these powers are surprisingly small. Therefore, a resurfaced discourse will not achieve anything substantial towards ensuring greater democracy for China. The crucial point expressed by Sisci is that the people will have to "ultimately trust that [the party] will give China what it expects". In other words, the people will have to wait for the right time (as defined by the cadres in Beijing) before they can have the bliss of individual rights, freedom of expression, transparent elections et al. Even then, the delineation of the extent of that democracy will perhaps be "guided" by Beijing. All in all, the Communist Party is preparing to shift its role within the country. That doesn't equate to giving up power, but holding different variants of power.

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