Thursday, May 22, 2008


The rapid reaction by China's government to the earthquake, along with media -- much of it state-run -- that has spotlighted the best aspects of that response to a newly unified public, have all helped enhance the central government's image as responsive and effective. The strong world-wide expression of sympathy, meanwhile, has quieted -- at least for now -- criticism of Beijing's policies in Tibet and elsewhere that had threatened to overshadow its hosting of the Summer Olympics in August.(...) overall, the government's response appears likely to give a meaningful, and potentially lasting, boost in support for China's leadership, analysts said. That is a stark contrast to the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was widely criticized in the U.S. as slow and ineffective. The resulting public backlash helped send President Bush's approval ratings, already suffering from economic concerns and the war in Iraq, to their current lows. In China's response last week, the most visible figure was Premier Wen, who has become a populist hero as a result of his actions. While Mr. Bush waited until two days after Katrina made landfall to travel to stricken New Orleans -- and then flew over it without landing -- Mr. Wen arrived in quake-battered Sichuan province within hours after the quake struck on May 12. He spent the next four days traveling from one devastated town to the next, often by helicopter when roads were blocked, comforting the victims and promising more help. Wall Street Journal
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I think it's time to give some serious study and analysis as to what exactly the Communist Party of China really is.

The recent earthquake is China put this huge organization to a brutal test, it responded
humanely, with efficiency, flexibility and imagination in taking care of the victims and simultaneously getting the maximum political benefit from the catastrophe both at home and abroad.

Many people, all over the world, have drawn unfavorable comparisons with the American government's handling of Katrina, a far less damaging crisis, where government at all levels: local, state and federal, showed a bumbling, autistic indifference to the suffering of their fellow countrymen. The much vaunted private sector certainly didn't "step up",
not one leader emerged from that crisis, from the President on down... This in a country that prides itself as no other on the quality of its management science, techniques that are exported to every corner of the earth, to MBA students who learn them and recite them with the devotion of little Muslim boys in a madrassa.

As a management team, the Communist Party of China is obviously agile, responsive and intelligent. Anyone with experience in large collective endeavors knows how difficult it is for such a massive organization to embody any of those qualities. I truly wish that Peter Drucker was still with us to analyze this dancing elephant!

We are looking at something truly formidable: massive and yet flexible. A listening organization and a learning organization.

How does it work? How are decisions taken?
How does it collect information and process it? How does information move within it?

Everything that I read about this organization is colored by politics. What I am interested in is understanding a triumph of management practice, that has taken a feudal country, overrun by foreigners, gained its independence and sovereignty, unified a thousand million people, organized them, and then has shown supreme, pragmatic, flexibility in transforming Really Existing Socialism into dizzyingly successful capitalism.... all without losing control.

What philosophy has remained constant in all of this? Certainly I am going to be looking for books to read this summer, but I don't think I'll find anything written from the angle that interests me. If any of my readers know of any text that would enlighten me I would be very grateful. DS


Everett Volk said...

Presumably, the philosophy that as long as you keep a billion people a) happy and b) totally under your thumb, you can run a country however you want. I would imagine that the excellent response to the earthquake is the "keeping them happy" part of that equation.

RC said...

They kind of screwed around there for a good long time until the post Gang of Four era, although the early Mao years of the Long March were admirable. It is true that the Chinese Government may now be part of the solution for China rather than being The Problem which is what it was for a 30 year period ending in the nineties. That doesn't mean that all is wonderful there nor does it mean that the government is exceptional.
America under the Bush Regime is hardly a bar anyone would be challenged to leap over. China has immense problems and has a very long way to go to address all of them.
You are correct however, David, in pointing out that they have pulled way ahead of the US on the International Public Relations of Show of Competency Scale, and just in time for the Olympics.
The US meanwhile is still not even aware they are in a competition.
I believe in a certain sick way that you might find the Richard Daley Guide to Manipulation and Successful Corruption {either the Padre or the Hijo version}instructive as to how the Chinese do it. I am convinced they have studied the Daley Canon and have learned. Corruption and Pragmatism make a lovely couple in all ages and in all izums.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"Black cat, white cat, as long as it catches mice"

Anonymous said...

Given the PR coup that the earthquake has afforded the Chinese government at a convenient time, and the often posited geological/tectonic effect of one billion chinese jumping from chair to ground at the same moment - is it time we considered conspiracy theories?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I like that theory, I like it very much.

oldfatherwilliam said...

I tend to savor language rather more than theory, and this is in appreciation of "bumbling, autistic indifference".

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

You are a man after my own heart Father William, mind you, mind the stairs

Anonymous said...

The Chinese long ago developed a permanent apolitical civil service that persists despite regime changes. The reason Bushco is so ineffectual is that it politicizes everything.

Charles of MercuryRising

RC said...

Yes David, "It's the Pragmatism, stupid". My favorite Izum. Ideology gives me hives and I often imagine a certain sector of hell that Dante forgot to describe where the condemned enter a restaurant, and instead of taking the order, the diners are forced to listen to interminable verbal descriptions of all the marvelous specials. This goes on for hours, and then, finally the ordering. But no dinner, not even the appetizer is even served. Then, the waiter re-emerges and the specials list is repeated, as the kitchen hasn't available what the diners ordered.
Ad infinitum. Ideologists spend eternity there. Perhaps Mao is the maitre'd.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

According to Deng Xiaoping, Mao was "only 30% bad". Mao was a great pragmatist, the results are here right now, he created the CPC (whatever it is) and it runs like a Swiss watch.

It is better to read Mao after reading Sun Tzu and Lao Tze. Where the western Maoists, who all have become right wing by now, went wrong was to read Mao without having read those gentlemen first.

Ideology is actually pragmatic if it gives rise to doctrine that guides successful execution. The key word is "successful".

RC said...

I thought to tell you Lao Tze but I thought that would be too obvious. It is valid however.