Political scientist Bruce Gilley waxes optimistic about the future of democracy in China. Writing in the Asian Wall Street Journal, he argues that the crackdown in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago today was actually the beginning of the end of the Chinese Communist Party.
Since 1989, the CCP has been engaged in a constant struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of China's people. That dynamic is the most important one in the politics of China.
It is a relatively legitimate state that is not under immediate pressure to introduce democratic reforms. But does this imply democracy is not in the offing? Absolutely not, and for two related reasons.
His conclusion is the most rousing I've read.
Last Saturday, I met with about a dozen highly engaged law school students to discuss opinion writing (mainly the writing of editorials) and online journalism. I used Inquirer editorials from the last two months as examples — it helped that the Supreme Court decision on the Neri case was then very much in the air; the examples proved doubly relevant. Herewith, some notes.
Published on June 3, 2008
Three years ago I was part of a small group of Asian journalists who marked the birthday of a colleague from Sri Lanka with an impromptu pizza party in a hotel room in Austin, Texas. There may have been a slice or two left in the box when A gave thanks—and stumped us with his closing words. He did not celebrate his birthday, he said, although it was good to mark its passage in the company of new friends. For “life is suffering.”
I understood him to mean there were more important things to care about than the passage of time. Indeed, as he explained in an e-mail the following month: “When you know that life is suffering, you can reduce the dimension of sorrow, frustration or whatever you call it—the aftermath of ‘down and out’ in your daily life.”
Last week he responded to emailed greetings from our group with an update on the situation in his war-torn country. “Though I do not celebrate my birthday, I engaged in many religious activities this time. As you know, the political turmoil as well as the natural disasters beating Asia, the carnage, agony and unrest have become the order of the day here. War is being waged between the security forces and the LTTE [the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] in the north and terrorists who target VIPs as well as civilians indiscriminately explode bombs blowing innocent people in buses, trains, offices, markets to smithereens in a split second. Politicians are playing games in numbers to maintain power, and no solution is seen in the offing.”
His next words worried me: “I take all care while traveling, as I am compelled to commute over five hours a day to office and back home. I also try to avoid danger-prone areas and events, and I take care not to send my reporters too to the wrong places at the wrong time. Terrorists have infiltrated the outstations and they use local criminals to place bombs in schools and buses running to rural areas. I am worried as my children use such buses to go to tuition.”
Published on May 27, 2008
It could be that, in a pluralist political culture, the fundamental civic virtue is learning how to disagree without being disagreeable. At least that is how discourse on the Wild, Wild Web appears to me.
To be sure, incivility may be as common or even more bruising in off-line life. But something about the nature of the Internet both encourages more discussion and attracts verbal abuse.