January 19, 2010

OF COURSE, THE FIRST THING A CHINESE PINOCHET WOULD DO IS ROUND UP THE PRC:

The Authoritarian Temptation: Tom Friedman gushes over the Chinese dictatorship. (John Derbyshire, 1/18/10, National Review)


[H]ere’s Ol’ Tom yet again on January 16, sighing that “visiting the greater China region always leaves me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants.”

Much more distressing to Tom’s liberal Times colleagues and readers, I should think, are the immigration-restrictionist hot flushes our columnist seems to be having. Unless the people of the Middle East face up to their own problems, he says, there is not much we can hope to do about those problems. “We’d be better off just building a higher wall.” Hey, it worked for Imperial China!

How long before Tom dons a silk robe, takes up brush calligraphy, and starts growing his fingernails long? [...]

The most that can reasonably be claimed for autocracy — I don’t claim it, but it can reasonably be claimed — is that it is a necessary phase of modernization under some circumstances, such as those that once prevailed in Taiwan and South Korea. That is not susceptible to empirical proof, though; the circumstances were local and peculiar; and there is not a trace of a shadow of a hint of evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has any such temporary transition in mind.

The authoritarian temptation is always with us. It has been strongest on the left, and Tom Friedman has shown symptoms before. (I note in passing that the Left’s infatuation with Fidel Castro has just entered its seventh decade: from the 1950s to the 2010s. What a run this show has had!)

Friedman has generally been at the more sensible end of the liberal spectrum, though, as the qualifications he adds to that Castro comment demonstrate. This repetitive nodding of approval at the five-year-plan-style technocratic projects of the ChiComs is therefore worrying. Where Tom leads, can the rest of the left-liberal punditocracy be far behind?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2010 6:45 AM
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