By Ridhima Aneja
Edited by Nandini Bhatia, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
As 2014 has drawn to a close, we are witnessing two emerging faces of China, neither of which is extremely reassuring. The first is that of an emergent superpower, enhanced and infused with decades of economic growth and armed with an expanding array of military wherewithal. And then you see the second face – that of a recalcitrant dictator, fearful of its own population and unable to inspire the deference and devotion of its newest citizens. Merged together they hint at what could prove to be a real disaster.
But these surface impressions fail to get to the heart of the matter- the real aggression driving China’s transformation. We must concentrate on what makes these two faces work for a country like China – the decidedly revolutionary struggle to build a modern system of domestic governance. It is upon nothing but this struggle, that not just China’s future but our collective destiny ultimately pivots.
Development with all its constituent elements – rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, technological transformation, together exert upon society a pressure which rebukes of destabilizing and dislocating the country. With increasing levels of standard of living comes the thirst for more material goods, better social welfare and more reliable regulation. And this gives opportunities to collective expressions of dissent. A political success in such circumstances is not about engendering growth, it is about emphasising a political response to growth, wherein a citizen’s demand for material comforts is met with a political voice.
In China it has been the Chinese state that has delivered the infrastructural foundations, the roadways, the high speed rail systems, the new urban metropolis , the mass transit system without which the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation could not have occurred. It has been the Chinese state that has delivered the modern information technology – the nationwide mobile phone networks, the easily accessible markets for consumer electronics and the omnipresent broadband internet access. The State provides these as a core justification for its political legitimacy.
Predictably of course the authoritarian state tries to resist certain forces engendered by modernisation. China’s government today spends more on domestic security suppressing dissent in China’s ethnic minority region and police presence in cities than it does on standard military modernisation. This has not only seen a rise in the private sector enterprises but also at the same time they become magnets for high end entrepreneurial talent attracting people who would not want to waste their dynamic talent in the jobs given out by the State. Today these private entrepreneurs have changed the face of Chinese communication and moulded it in a way the State could not have dreamed of. As a result, citizens are now accustomed to developing their own ideas about a meaningful life and a legitimate political order. Hence China is now not a vessel for one single collective dream but for many different individual dreams.
Xi Jinping speaks of state empowerment and national revitalisation. He also tries to include deliverables for each and every citizen – a decent housing, access to best healthcare and education, clean air and water so on and so forth. Few of these are clearly available today. With support of decent information, citizen’s are well aware of the state’s shortcomings, whether its air quality or corruption. The state often responds by locking up the truth teller and on the other hand has also launched a massive anti – corruption campaign, one that has kicked out and knocked off major officials at the top of the political system. At the same time, as old incumbents are being unseated, new types of individuals – with impressive educational qualifications and considerable experience-are being welcomed in.
The point is not that China has suddenly turned into a benevolent dictatorship or that there is suddenly a new form of societal governance. China’s modernisation process is raw yet ambitious. If China continues on its path, to focus on the domestic and embrace modernisation- it will give birth to countless new entrepreneurs, young politicians and innovators who will emerge from an increasingly vibrant Chinese society. It’s through their creativity that we have our best hope for resolving the challenges of sustainability now facing all of humankind.
Ridhima Aneja is a third year student pursuing B.COM (Hons.) from Sri Venkateswara College, University Of Delhi. She has an eye for perfection and detail and is a girl who never settles for mediocrity. Being an optimist and a work enthusiast, she aims to become habitual to achieving her goals and aspirations even while facing complexities in both professional and personal fronts. An aspiring diplomat and lawyer, blessed with a dauntless personality, she enjoys corporate law but her true interest lies in India’s relations with other countries, especially Pakistan and working for women rights. She aims to be a catalyst in making every Indian household a violence free home. She identifies herself with being a part of an emerging world community and become integral enough that her actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices. A girl who is strictly driven by her passions, she is also a national level debater , a skilled dramatist and a self proclaimed dancer .