April 24, 2014

"THE TIREDNESS OF THE SYSTEM":

Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse It might take years or even decades, but the cracks are already starting to show (Isaac Stone Fish, April 2014, Foreign Policy)

[B]y obsessing over the USSR, "I think they're looking at the wrong example," says Jorge Guajardo, who served as Mexico's ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013. In hindsight, he told Foreign Policy, "living in China on a daily basis felt like living in Mexico under the PRI."

Guajardo remembers watching the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on Oct. 1, 2009, held on the Avenue of Eternal Peace in central Beijing. The celebrations -- meant to communicate longevity and legitimacy -- featured a military parade of 10,000 troops, where then-Chinese President Hu Jintao declaimed the oft-spoken slogan "gongchandang wansui" -- literally, "Ten thousand years for the CCP." The CCP's confidence -- and that of his fellow ambassadors, who seemed to believe that that the CCP would govern in perpetuity -- reminded Guajardo of the PRI. "Everyone agreed that Mexico was governed by one party, and that it would be that way forever," he said. (In 1995,Guajardo joined the opposition National Action Party [PAN], whose victory in the 2000 elections ended the PRI's monopoly on power.)

The similarities between the widely held assumption that China is the party and the party is China reminded him of a time, in the not-too-distant past, when there was no daylight between the PRI and Mexico. Guajardo, who's now a senior director at McLarty Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy, started noticing other comparisons. The dissatisfaction with the government's handling of a massive earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 helped spur the growth of civil society, which reminded him of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, "which laid bare the PRI's corruption, lack of transparency, and inefficiency," he said in a January 2014 speech.

And just as the PRI fought corruption by going after the "big fish," Xi has vowed to go after "tigers and flies" -- both high-ranking and low-ranking corrupt officials.

"On economic, political, and social dimensions -- in some ways they're very similar," says Li He, a professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts and author of the book From Revolution to Reform: A Comparative Study of China and Mexico. Both countries, Li said, faced wrenching peasant revolutions before a strong, single party unified the country. Both adapted liberal economic reforms both domestically and internationally -- Mexico joined NAFTA in 1994, China entered the WTO in 2001, nearly 25 years after it began its comprehensive Reform and Opening policy.

The PRI lost power in 2000, "but until the 1990s, it was completely laughable to be in the opposition," Guajardo said. "You were seen as a loser who couldn't get a real job. Same in China."

Guajardo recalls a 2008 meeting in Beijing between Enrique Peña Nieto, then a state governor and now the first post-2000 PRI president of Mexico, and an official from China's Communist Party who focused on Latin American affairs: "The first question they asked was, 'Why did the PRI lose power?' Nieto responded, 'The tiredness of the system. Since we were the single party in power, we were blamed for everything.'" (Nieto's spokesperson couldn't be reached for comment.)

Posted by at April 24, 2014 7:04 PM
  

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