Democracy, Meritocracy and corruption

Watching the U.S. election and the Chinese transition of power, my friend John has come up with the second guest post to share with us on this blog.


Democracy, Meritocracy and corruption.

Watching the elections in the U.S. and the transition of power in China, it crystallized the thought I had for a while about the current government structure in China and how they compared to the Western democracies.

My understanding of the U.S. government is rudimentary. My understanding of the Chinese government even less. So my observations and analysis are based on information that could be readily obtained from the West. Nevertheless, many experts have done a lot worse over the years. One in particular, Gordon Chang, have been predicting the coming collapse of China since 2001! In fact, he thought China would go down by 2011! Yet, in spite of his records, he still is publishing in Major publications.

I believe that the China model of selecting leaders could have the potential to be far superior to the way the West selects them.

Let me first lay out my understanding of how the Chinese government works. The Chinese government is based on patronage. Officials enter the system of government either recruited from top colleges due to their outstanding performances, or, equally likely, they enter government services by their heritage. Their parents were also communist officials. Once they are in the system, their boss decide where they will go. If they perform well(or if they also have connections from higher up), they rapidly move up. While there are many considerations for a candidate to move up, competency is a major component for moving up. It is based on performance like in a corporation.

So one can think of this as performance based with heavy legacy considerations. Even for those with legacy, rising to the top requires competence. There are many people with fairly ordinary background which were elevated to the top due to their performance. For example, Shen Yueyue, one of the handful of the “sixth generation” leaders, has the following bio from one of the U.S. government reports

“Although she began her career as a shop assistant, she later earned a degree in mathematics and rose to prominence as Vice-Secretary of the Communist Youth League in her native Ningbo. She served as Deputy Secretary and Secretary of the Zhejiang Youth League from 1986 to 1993 and attended the Central Party School in 1996. When she was appointed Vice-Secretary of the Anhui Party Committee in 2001, she was 44 years of age. Long affiliated with the CCYL, she is thought to be aligned with Hu Jintao’s Tuanpai faction.”

She was a shop keeper when she started out! and she may rise to the very top of the Chinese power structure. But she was not someone who was just a community organizer or a junior senator with little achievement to show for. She took various posts in the government and gave an outstanding performance. That is how she moved up. That is how all others moved up.

So, we have a system where some of the people are recruited and promoted based strictly on merit, others are brought in through family background, but at the end, still promoted based on merit as they compete with other princelings for a spot towards the top. The higher they climb, the  more competitive it gets, even if it were just all the princelings competing with each other. In fact, the princelings are not the only ones made it to the top.  If you read the bios, there are many who rise to the top without a pedigree. The current leader, Hu Jintao is one of those. Most likely, he got to the top based on his performance. Near the top, the people are not only capable, they are also seasoned at what they do as they gained various experience.

In the West, we have a case where a man is elected and re-elected to be the president of the United States, yet, by the account of Bill Clinton, someone who had served as a president himself, this person is an “amateur”. Further, he was picked not because of the achievements that he has made, but because he can talk, and a large swath of the population identifies with him.

I am not saying democracy is a failure. It has served this country well over the years. However, democracy succeeds and fails based on the quality of the constituents. Without a quality constituency, the structures of the government matters little. Just take a look at Liberia to see how democracy is working. Liberia was founded by some ex-slaves from the United States. Liberia and the U.S. share very similar governments structures, constitutions and even down to the design of their flags. Yet, unlike the U.S., Liberia is in shambles. The latest CIA report indicated that the per capita GDP is $500. One of the lowest in the world.

There are many arguments against the China meritocracy model. Some say that the endemic corruption represents a failure in their system. Some pointed to the incident with Bo Xilai and the discovery of billions belonging to the current leader Wen Jiaboa as proof that the very top is rotten. Others are says that the Chinese system is not inclusive, that they should promote more women and minorities( yes, there are minorities in China just as there are in the U.,S.). Still others say that the past represented the low hanging fruit and the performance of the past will never be repeated again.

To me, the saga of Bo Xilai shows that the system works. You see, after decades of explosive growth, there are huge dislocation amongst the Chinese today. Many are dissatisfied with their lives and long for a simpler life of the Mao era, especially for many who either have forgotten how bad those years were, or were too young to know first hand. So in a democracy, Bo would still be in power representing these people. It is his base of power. The corruption of the party members also create more people who are not happy. The fact that the system can purge him represent a triumph of the reform ideas over the group that wanted to go back to the past.

While it is true that it is easier to start off growth from a low base, it is never the less very tough to change a large system going in a different direction. The Chinese joined the WTO  in 2001. While there are many ways to shield competition and favor the state sector, it still represented a major jolt to the system. Many of the decrepit state firms were going to be put out of business. Millions would lose their jobs. Imagine Detroit, in the seventies and eighties, with the Japanese invasion in full swing, sign a treaty to open the city to more competition from Japan instead of smashing Hondas in front of reporters. China joining WTO was a far-sighted decision that entails a great deal of pain. Something that the West would have a hard time executing.  Many China hands pointed out the big problems that China is facing today. I would argue that the problems that China faced twenty years ago were much more severe compared to the ones they face today. The fact that they managed to navigate through so many crisis which might sink a lesser government says something about the quality of the people running the show there.

Finally, we come to the issue of corruption. There is no doubt in my mind that every single one of the leadership is on the take. However, there is corruption, then there is corruption. In China, things get done even in face of corruption. The right decisions are made by the leadership to move the country forward. Contrast this with the corruption in India, where the Common Wealth Games, an event that is a small fraction of the Olympics, was badly mishandled. In fact, many of the foreign contractors, who were brought in to help save the day, were not paid when they sent the bill. That is right, the government stiffed these guys. Something unimaginable either in the U.S. or in China. You can think of corruption as integral to the functioning of the Chinese system. In the private sector, the motivating force for someone to climb the corporate ladder is to be rewarded financially. If you are a stock boy at Waltmart, you are making $10 an hour. If you become a CEO of WaltMart, you make tens of millions a year. If you are highly capable and have a good shot at becoming the CEO of a company, making millions, why would you want to join the government? In China, apparently, you join the government because you can make a lot of money through corruption. This brings in more capable people who would otherwise stay in the private sector. As long as there is work to keep the corruption in check and a system to promote based on one’s performance, corruption should not impact progress. Each of the top leaders making a couple of billion here and there over a decade does not damage an economy which produced 11 Trillion a year.

In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew instituted a system of salaries to the people running for public office based on their private sector pay. If you are a surgeon and wanted to run for an office, the office will pay you what an average surgeon would make. This way, you are not losing out financially if you wanted to serve the country. I think that corruption in China serves a similar goal.

In summary, I think that the Chinese way of selecting their leaders potentially are far superior to the way the U.S. select ours. They promote more competent people and give them the operational experience to succeed as they arrive at the top. Much like a corporation. Where as in a democracy, the leaders are as good as the constituents.


John’s Journey to the HBD world

As I am pretty occupied with the new environment and new business in China, there’s little time for me to calm down and start collecting my miscellaneous thoughts into an orderly post or two. Luckily I am honored to have John, a friend who I began to get familiar with via this blog, who offered to give a piece of his mind as a guest post on my blog.


My journey to the HBD world.

I immigrated to a small town in the Pacific Northwest in late seventies from southern China. The population of my town was mainly white people. Though in retrospect, they were very nice and tried very hard to accept me, I felt a sense of alienation. This alienation went along with the identity politics and equality meme of the democratic party.  though I was always a fiscal conservative coming from China where one does not spend money that one does not have.

It was not until I came out to California in the late nineties that opened my eye to a different world. What struck me as odd and puzzling was the division of labor along racial and ethnic lines. The Chinese and the Indians are the engineers. Whites were generally the managers. Vietnamese dominated the hair salon business. The Cambodians were big in doughnut shops. The Sikhs were taking over the hotel and taxi businesses. The other puzzle was the permanent inability of the black people to get out of the slums and the amount of coddling that was given to them by the society in large.

Being an engineer, I can’t help but observed that Asians made up a large share of the engineering staff, but few management were Asian. I initially blamed the glass ceiling for the lack of Asians in management, but then I saw other immigrant groups, such as the Persians which did much better at cracking the “glass ceiling”. The publication of the Bell Curve and the subsequent controversy opened my eye to a different dimension and a different perspective. Then I stumbled on to other HBD type blogs like isteve which opened my eyes further. For the first time, all the puzzles that I had could be explained in a coherent way. Though the HBD theory that I formed still had a lot of question marks.

After reading work by Philippe Rushton, Richard Lynn and others, I was able to fill most of the gaps I had on my HBD theory. At the same time, I was saddened to see that the leading civilization in our time, the West, is on a slow road to oblivion. In the U.S., the demographic trend is such that the die has already been cast. Europe is not far behind and hobbled by fragmentation and the flawed concept of a European Union. The impulse to help the weak and disadvantaged, which started off with good intentions, has now veered off into the absurd. The brutal suppression of any HBD discussions (Larry Summers, James Watson) made me realize that even in a supposedly free and democratic society, the media is incredibly managed. The truth is often sacrificed at the altar of dogma. Our public discourse given to the fears and prejudices of the masses. Given the democratic system we have in place,  a spoil system along racial and sexual lines is inevitable and indeed, it is being born even as we speak. I owned some homes in the San Jose area after the prices plummeted during the housing melt down. The other day, I was renting one out, a black lady came to apply. The government is paying most of her rent. She showed up in a black late Mercedes SUV! It was worth more than the car that I drove.  We are seeing people with their government food vouchers at Wholefoods buying luxury items that many hard working middle class choose to forgo, often sporting expensive handbags and such. But these kinds of scenes will be child’s play compared to the injustices that my kids will see when they started contributing to society.

I went down this road originally burdened by the weakness of my fellow Asians in America. Ironically, as I learned that Asians are not as weak as I thought, I am seeing the beginning of the end for the West, and it brings me no pleasure to find the answer that I was looking for.

Should have taken the blue pill.

Chinese ladies

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So when I get back to China, I’d go out just like others here to explore what is happening with my own country fellas. Of course the most baffling experience is to deal with the girls here.

I consider myself a fairly outgoing dude with my own game learned from my wild days in Hong Kong and Holland. Talking to girls is always a great pleasure of mine and it usually makes girls think the same as well. Looking backwards, maybe I was spoiled a bit by the feminist women from the West who would put just as much restraint on her body as the other gender. I never pushed too much, nor I have to boast too much with silly stories. Then I read The Game and found out how this thing really works. So I started to consciously pick up girls and try all those theories I read from the book. Most worked like a charm, just like its description. But that was before I moved back to China. Being in China, it is quite easy to stand out of the crowd here for me, and I do get a lot of ladies attention easily. But when it comes to get closer to the aim those golden rules I learned in the past unexpectedly all failed to deliver the goods here (of course if you are white it’s completely different story here, which I’d mention later). No one would give you a “fuck-me” look just because you talk charming, even if you got their full attention and overwhelmingly exerted your masculine dominance in the interaction. Nobody would accept your invitation for a dance, even if you are pretty sure she is absolutely on the hook and it just needs a bit physical trigger, unless she is overly hammered of course, which is not that hard, but the consequence is terrible enough to make you behave well. The worst part is that the young generation in the city lack interpersonal skills. Even at the clubs the only thing they’d do is to play some lame dice game for drinking and flipping their boring trifling Weibo pages on their iPhone. Having said that, I still managed to get connected with three girls from my infrequent local clubs visiting. Got their number, and asked their out.

Turned out it’s even lamer than my clubbing encountering. Of course they are normal girls. Sluts are lowly and sleazy here, definitely not what I am looking for. Those girls, though however they got impressed by your appearance and temperament, they wouldn’t give you a hint for anything further (In their words, being accepted for next date is a great progress I made). What they care the most are your status. This of course fits the description of The Game. But girls here put that characteristic to an extreme level. I have long heard that in China girls judge guys with their social status, financial status before checking if he’s a retard or handicap. Now I have seen it myself. What interested those girls the most was the story of my past (signalling) and the story of what I am doing financially now (financial status). They’d take some ugly girlfriend out on a date with you just to have a second opinion on you. Of course when you ask them out you gotta pay for everything. And she thinks that’s a normal entry fee for keeping my ass from the being kicked out of her potential list…

Of course I am generalizing, of course there are hidden gems somewhere out there. But that the majority of young girls in China get spoiled by Beta-male stinky courtship and they are utterly rational sending their pants invitation under their petty principle of money and status (very strict) are something that happened on 9 out of 10 normal girls you’d meet here. I’ve seen skinny tiny rich dudes with lousy taste for clothes with amazing women (multiple) in the club playing some lame dice, and I ‘ve seen more disgusting betas on the street over-treating their not-so-pretty girlfriends. My understanding is, either you act like a darn beta to please the girl at all cost for some sympathy golden pussy, or you get some dough and that’s all good enough for the game here, regardless how you look, what you dress, how you talk, and how little is your thing. But that applies for a Chinese dude like myself. Whites are different coz girls associate them naturally with wealth and the chance for living abroad already before knowing the dude. And we know almost every Chinese think it’s better abroad. But I ain’t white, and frankly I am a bit complaining about the shriveled booty of the chicks here. So guess I am gonna make some dough first.

Riot Pussy

I am sure I am not the only one enjoy reading the news about the 2-year sentence of those imbecile whackos in rapture. Your grand-grand pa was still a darn illiterate serf when your Bolshevik comrades used the same claptrap that fucked up Russia for good. And we all know you don’t really care or understand what the heck is going on, we know you just like to follow what’s cool and signal yourself. Well, serves right for your ignorance and stupidity.

Up yours? Serve you right!

Being in China

After almost 10 years of flowing around the world like a tiny seed of dandelion, I have recently come back to the places where I was born: China.

China, as we all know, is an odd place. It’s a country that could easily polarize the crowd: either you like it or hate it. Talking about modern China of course. The first impression that came into my mind was how the hell a country with such magnitude could transform itself so much in so little time. It is simply insane. The city I am staying now, Changsha, used to have a cozy little population of 1 million people (including all the peasants around the actual city), where you could still find lots of wooden houses connected by the narrow streets of granite, where people would go to work on their bicycles, and the tallest building was the railway station. But now, it is a massive jungle of 6 million souls with big-ass roads radiating into every corner of the city with heavy congestion, and high-rise buildings spawning everywhere. What else but a sheer torrential creation of wealth! Such epic speed would simply make the the German efforts in the 19th century look laughable. Needless to mention the marcoeconomic data, everything emerged out of nothing in just one single generation. I used to sneer at average Chinese’s petty obsession with money, accusing them of short-sighted and impetuous. But now it all makes sense. Situating onto such a flooding tide in an unprecedented velocity and scale, it is too hard not to focus on the money, on the grabbing, on the stuff you could touch right in front of you. That is the zeitgeist of China.

It seems Deng got it alright after all. He well knew that by teasing the basic instinct of mankind with a relatively free market the progress would be must faster than one could imagine. With couple thousand years of agrarian-oriented drilling, few Chinese got what it takes to out-stand the mass for his own comprehension of what’s on earth under the heaven. 99% of the people are bothered by their petty little business of how to get gold and lead the glamorous materialistic life like my neighbor, leaving the rest 1% caring about how to fool the 99% gullible for more gold. In other words, modern Chinese are die-hard collectivists who are credulous and timid yet care a lot about signalling within the crowd. Everybody here would only think of what’s right visible in front of their eyes, while lacking the interest to seek the ideas and concepts behind the pragmatic actions. So once we got a kick-ass leader who happened also to be a not-so-shallow thinker, introducing some heretic idea like communism, capitalism, commercialism, everyone else would just wholeheartedly flock to follow without really understanding what that means and the consequences would be. All they could see is communism suck because we are poor and hungry, free market rocks because I see my neighbor got rich and so can I. Essentially, I have to admit we are a people with very high IQ but sucks at philosophizing and conceptualizing reality. The Confucian drilling must have contributed to this particular ethnic trait of the Chinese. But this is also the biggest advantage we got in keeping everything in one piece still after such drastic societal changes. Sometimes I wonder if Whites could get some sense of pragmatism from the Chinese and the Chinese get some sense of speculative thinking from the White people, things could have been much smoother for both sides. But I am no Romanticist, and I read Brave New World. Shit’s gonna hit the fan anyway.

The good thing about this country is that there is full of opportunity for the gold-rush, provided that you got the guts and the wits. Life could be super sweet like the 19th American west combined with smartphones and automatic-geared automobiles. But it’s never going to be a place for novel epiphany and philosophy. If you don’t have it yet, you are never going to get it in China. And that also means the chances that you would find someone who would not despise you because you do not care about signaling, signaling, and signaling with money and networking are quite hopelessly slim. This reminds me of my jungle days in Laos. Just get the damn data, then I’d tap some sleazy backpacking girls at the Mekong river border. For those who want to make a fortunate, either just for the sake of being rich or other higher objectives, China is your place.

Balkan Trip in June

I will be travelling to Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria for the whole June and early July. Though the decision was mainly driven by my genuine admiration of the mellow history that associates with the region, it would definitely be very interesting to observe what is going to happen to the country with the deepest financial trouble in Europe and how the Greek election would turn out in mid-June. Hopefully I will update the blog for some specious stories that occur in the next travelling month.

Music therapy

Last Saturday was the Liberation Day of the Netherlands in memory of the Canadian army’s effort to end the German occupation in the Netherlands. The final peace treaty was signed on May 5th in a small town called Wageningen. So every year on 5th of May all Dutch people flock to this quiet little town for the celebration. But nowadays in the evening the celebration of Liberation Day has more or less become a music festival for young people in the country. Young people from all over the Netherlands come mostly for party instead of the celebration. The city center was divided into several stages, and everyone is drinking disgusting Heineken and listening to all sorts of music. By music I mean what they call music. There are indeed all sorts of music, but the choices are limited among electronics, trances, techno, and pure lowly industrial noise like the artwork of New Kids.

I was never a fan. In fact I don’t even consider them as music. But I was there and had to go with some friends to maintain my social connections. Being an idiosyncratic smartass among average people means you must withstand the loneliness, I rather lay low and mingle to fulfill my social needs. Anyway, we came to one of those hard-core Dutch techno stage at some point of the night. The place was already packed with loads of young people. Despite it was 5 degree Celsius outside people were still following the beats in rapture with even short-sleeved shirts. This is nuts. The so-called music has no rhythms whatsoever. In every “song” there’s an intro part with a trance tone for about 10 seconds, then all of sudden the stereo pumped the damn heavy industrial beats and beats only with the maximum volume. The damn beats were popping like a gigantic jackhammer at maximum load. The whole ground, along with the flesh of thousands, is  literally trembling vigorously along with it.

Under that horrifying environment, your mental stress would exceed the capacity of your consciousness. And yet this is the most popular “music” that the young Europeans dig, especially in the Netherlands. This is one of the few things about the European youth I really didn’t quite get it. Why would someone overwhelm himself with something that could easily sweep away your consciousness and traumatize your brain? Not to mention how harmful it is to your mental health, physical health, especially at that astounding volume. Maybe this all appears as a genial sound to those who cracked the pills, which are not uncommon at all here. But based on my observation people were more likely to be drunk than drugged. As long as the trance overture ended and the jackhammer beats exploded, the whole stage turned into a land of horror. All people, men and women, fell into a deep state of hypnosis. An exertion of absolute delirium is an understatement for their reflections to the jackhammer stereo. People jumped mechanically like a jackhammer, bumping from left to right with distorted and ecstatic faces, fervently wiggling their stiffened fists in the air as if the DJ had  summoned the demons from the underground and replaced their souls. All eyes were wide open, the kind of eye of a possessed flesh with nothing but evil spirits. On the stage they also built a large display that flashes all sorts of images in sync with the beats of the jackhammer. The dazzling images and lights make it impossible to stay conscious for the deaf ones. One interesting detail caught my attention while observing this massive ecstasy. The display kept flashing off all sorts of unrecognizable images except one line of phrase that popped out every 10 seconds: “Human Rights”. I am positive that you don’t need to be attentive to notice the sign. The flashing effect was so successful together with the jackhammer beats that I am sure the only thing those youth remember consciously afterwards is that damn phrase which flashed off every 10 seconds when they were possessed.

The DJs are most likely dumb jackasses who are never smart enough to deliberately insert subliminal messages to the crowd for any personal purpose (or not?). They mostly did that just to show they are cool and in line with the fashion. But those young Dutchmen would go back home only recalling they had a blast and the only visual memory would be a sign of “human rights’. This is such a chilling effect for indoctrination! How can i ignore the prowess of music?! I have always focused on school drilling and media whitewashing for massive hypnosis. But it seems such “music therapy” would create a much much more profound and swift effects on the people, in particular the young people! Living in an extremely intricate society that are simply too much for an individual to comprehend, it might be natural to see that the youth would swarm to a sanctuary of anesthesia. There you got inexplicably fucked-up post-modern arts and this demonic “music” that would boil any sensible man down to a state of total delirium. Modern life is stressful, dull and confusing, why not just get high all the way to forget the stress? But clearly those electronic music (I assume hard-core rock works the same) is way more formidable than those crappy arts. It possesses the power of mind-control, and no one could escape from it. It didn’t take long that my rational resistance collapsed in favor of a wave of indescribably strong emotion of barbarity that made me do exactly the same as others. This is a perfect opportunity to plant mind bombs among the youth, a damn lethal one.