9 Apr. 2008

Looking In China's Mirror

"I have heard cynics who say he’s a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes."
- Rupert Murdoch, currying favour with Beijing by ridiculing the Dalai Lama.
Western outrage over Chinese human rights forces us to reflect on our own countries' records. While Western nations may have a long and proud (if somewhat manufactured) history of freedom and equality, we are clearly moving towards more repressive models, even as the Chinese Communist Party moves slowly in the other direction.

For example, compare the Western media's fawning approach to government elites with this description of China's media:
[A]ll newspapers and TV and radio stations are owned by the government and edited by men and women who know where the red lines are drawn. Each time a new issue comes up, the Communist Party propaganda department sends them a directive telling them the line to take.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution. But it is upheld only for those who do not challenge Communist Party rule. Communist Party security agents decide what constitutes a challenge.
In the West, media is owned by Big Business, and news stories are edited by people who know where the company lines are drawn. Political parties distribute the talking points. Freedom of speech is guaranteed in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

Then there are issues like the treatment of protesters, the validity of legal procedures, corrupt business deals, police brutality, the death penalty, land rights, and so forth. You get the idea!

The Chinese People's Armed Police (PAP) are now warning that there will be a massive security operation surrounding the Olympics, including a crackdown on potential "terrorists".
"To judge from the pattern of past Olympics, security must be given top priority."
So what's new?

On all these issues, the West's moral high ground is increasingly diminished, particularly thanks to our disastrous invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush's ridiculous "war" on terrorists.

And all this forces us to question the continued validity of the old "Right versus Left" political duality. You don't get much more "Left" than China these days - at least not on paper - but the Chinese are embracing Western business models in a big hurry.

Similarly, the supposedly "Left" political parties in the USA, UK and Australia are all rabidly pro-business and increasingly indistinguishable from their "Right" wing opponents. Does it really matter to ordinary working citizens whether it is The State or a Big Business Elite that controls the media, the military, and the means of production?

So what makes us different from, or better than, the Chinese? I mean, aside from our soccer team? Does "Right" versus "Left" even matter any more? Maybe it should be "People" versus "Elites"?