Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Obama's World

A score of years is a long time--a generation in our natural history as a species. In that time, the Chinese Communist Party has recovered from the brink of disaster brought on by its use of tanks to put down unrest that resulted in 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded, according to the official count. Accurate or not, the point is the party recognized the crisis for what it was--legitimate protest with wide support.

For perhaps the only time in history, an absolutist regime looked for and found the real reasons for the protests and, more importantly and critically, did something about it.

The Communist Party of China immediately asked the question: Why did this happen? The Party then launched far-reaching historical-research programs to figure out why political parties eventually fail. Using all available sources, they concluded the primary reason for failure was as simple as it was real: Adapt or else.

Unlike the many failed ideologies, the Party set about bringing true change. In the process, they have arrived today, stronger than ever, both at home and abroad. The tenets of Communism were jettisoned. The party became most of all pragmatic. The party jettisoned the gerontocracy that hobbled the old Soviet Union. The party adopted a free-market economy. The party opted for persuasion and high-level Dialogue as its primary means for making progress and maintaining social order.

As the recent Tibet history shows, they retained iron fists within their velvet gloves of temperance. This is deplorable. But there is much more to complement the party for, and overall, outweighs the negatives..

The nation responded electrically and dramatically to the post-Tiananmen Square affair. China's dramatic industrial growth is just one manifestation. Another is a rising middle class with aspirations that have largely been met. History shows that rising middle classes encourage democratization. We expect this will continue as China marches toward its destiny in the 21st Century.

If the Party runs true to form, it is serious about cutting pollution and green-house gases. Their plans for implementing solar power are among the most ambitious in the world. Their industry is largely home-grown by Chinese entrepreneurs. China welcomes investment from abroad, and it is increasing.

Democratization? Not literally.

Relaxation of overt controls? Yes.

China's leadership is now responsive to their people--for the present at least. Democracy in its most literal sense may never come to China. Responsibility of its rulers to the ruled has.

Some bitterness about the Tienanmen Square massacre remains. This is understandable for families and friends of the students involved. Unarmed students can hardly stand up to tanks, regardless of how justified their cause might be. Yet in view of reforms made since that awful day we are inclined to believe that none of the dead died in vain. They won by losing!

Communism is now a dead horse everywhere. It fails as an ideology as well as a social system or even as the religion some have claimed it to be. We are misguided to continue demonizing its adherents. Communism is a perfect vehicle for sociopathic despots to hijack for their own purposes, never mind the reasoning of Carl Marx. Stalin and his successors up to Gorbachev, being sociopaths, never paid heed to the truism, "adapt or die." For this we can only admire (and be thankful for) what the Chinese Government has accomplished since Tienanmen Square, 3 June 1989.

To be sure, problems remain at the local levels where corruption and sexual harassment remain endemic. But there are glimmers of hope there as well. The case of Deng Yujiao, from the town Yesanguan in Hubei provence is a case in point. Ms Deng killed a man and injured another who allegedly sexually harassed her at their mutual place of work--the health center of a hotel. Ordinarily she would have been hustled off to prison and summarily convicted. Indeed police first accused Ms Deng of murder. But then they backed off and charged her with using excessive force in self defense. Later, the two surviving officials were fired. That the case caused an uproar on the Internet is seen as one main reason for this change in heart. Other similar events are being reported.

We can hope with some confidence that rulers who listen, as the Chinese rulers now seem to, will pave one of the roads to peace. China is moving forward on the peace front. It is time we did likewise. Both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi muted their earlier criticisms substantially in their recent visits to Beijng. Of course China is not yet a democracy in the Western style. But the people power is making a difference.

It was Deng Xiaoping who said:

"I don't care if it is a black cat or a white cat.
As long as it catches mice, it is a good cat."

  • What was the main difference in how the Chinese dealt with the recent earthquake near Cheng Du with how the US handled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? Saving people was their first order of business, not an afterthought.
  • Whose ability to lend is the primary supporter of the US deficit spending? China.
  • Who is coming on strong and who is sliding? This is obvious.
  • How does all this look to the rest of the world? The balance of power is shifting and may be gathering steam.
  • Read the foreign media for some alternate legitimate answers and other tough questions and answers.

The key words codified by the Chinese applies to all of us: Adapt or else. Obama is excellent at this, in marked contrast with the recent administration that was hide-bound in its either-or absolutism.

Will Obama, the master adapter, be able to imprint this fundamental philosophy for survival on the American culture as his legacy?

Will Americans be able to lay down their real guns and metaphors of dominance long enough to make his imprint integral and deeply embedded in our culture?

Will the extremists in America, both right and left, be able to tolerate an adaptive social order?

We can only wait and see. Meanwhile, we can educate our young, vote for true equal opportunity, and actively oppose the maladaptive elements of world societies.

As it happens, none of this is new to Deng or even humanity. ADAPT OR ELSE is exactly how nature itself works. It explains why species come and why species go. What Deng did was to reframe the main tenet of nature in words people on the street, in the bureaucracy and in the ruling group could understand. The ruling class has not changed--its ideology has: from dogma to pragmatism. And with that, hope has returned to China. See George Lakoff for how framing works.

We look forward to the history Obama and his team are writing.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.