Saturday, October 9, 2010

China's Nobel nightmare, and lessons for India

It finally happened. Despite aggressive posturing by China over the past few months, the Nobel Prize Committee decided in favour of granting this year's Nobel Peace prize to Mr Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident.

What's the story?

Well, in the year 2008, before the Beijing Olympics were to be held, a group of prominent Chinese intellectuals and dissidents met to discuss and debate the issue of "Universal Human Values" and whether these truly are universal (and hence worth pursuing) or - as the Chinese Communist Party likes to put it - a Western plot to push its own values onto the unsuspecting East.

The meeting ended with the creation of a Charter called the Charter 08 - which was a declaration that certain values like freedom of speech and democracy are indeed worth pursuing, are universal, and hence even in China, they must have a possibility of democratic debate and ultimately, a democratic government system.

This was enough to enrage the Chinese government. Obviously! So they did what they are best at - a rapid crackdown saw most of these intellectuals behind bars, Mr Liu included. The charges were 'revolt against the state'. But what Mr Liu had done was not unique. This was the feeling in the minds of a large number of Chinese, although not many openly speak up in the Chinese system of perpetual repression of free speech.

This incident opens up a lot of issues worth pondering.
  • How long can the Chinese trick of posturing (aggressively) before various world governments continue? Every time some head of state wants to meet the Dalai Lama, there is a stern warning issued by Beijing warning them of dire consequences. Even Norway was issued a similar warning recently (that relations will sour between the nations if the peace award was indeed given to Mr Liu). But Norway went ahead and did it. It's another matter that the Norwegian government is now trying to project that the Prize Committee and the Government are two distinct entities!
  • What is the "Chinese model of growth" that so many of us in India are also enamoured of? Put simply, it is a model of forced growth, where one central planning body takes all the decisions, and simply puts them into execution. They do not seek anyone's views, permission or dissidence! They just go ahead and do it, Nike style! There are no courts to interfere, and definitely no free media to slow them down. This model has created an amazing material prosperity for large parts of the Chinese mainland, and has been touted as perhaps a model that India would be better off with. In short, this is a model that does not value democracy, and believes firmly in "ends justifying the means".
  • A lot of Indians too have a feeling that perhaps this "Chinese model" may be better for India. They are lulled into thinking so because what we see around us is a lot of poverty, illiteracy and decadence. They see corruption, debilitating delays in the judicial machinery and horrendous inefficiencies. And they come to a simple conclusion - "Democracy is the main cause of India's backwardness".
  • I beg to differ. I strongly feel that democracy is a better system and must be followed by India always. I feel that democracy is the only way the universal value of freedom can truly be practised in a practical format. So where's the catch then?
  • Democracy is not responsible for our poverty and backwardness. The corruption and lethargy of the State apparatus is responsible for all this. We have to learn to differentiate between these two extremely different issues. If the State machinery is corrupt, inefficient and insensitive, that does not mean that democracy is responsible for it. It may mean the opposite - that despite democracy, the citizens are not taking these problems seriously enough to effect a large scale long-lasting change in the society.
  • In fact, the Indian State has become a parasite - feeding off its own people, demotivating the honest & the enterprising. Ominous portents. Problem with large part of Indian media too - can't genuinely differentiate between the goodness of democracy (as a model) and the badness of our State's apparatus. They automatically equate the two - because we have so many poor, hence democracy is bad. How wrong a logic this is! I repeat my conviction - we are poor because our State does not perform efficiently, not because we are democratic.
  • A final argument in favour of Indian democracy - it is a fantastic system of checks-and-balances, and generally is able to keep absolute power from falling into any one hand. And since absolute power corrupts absolutely, perhaps we are spared the tyranny arising from the same!
So my fellow Indians, the luxury of democracy is something we can surely live with! But the decadence of a deteriorating State apparatus is something we should all cry hoarse about.

Inefficient babus, corrupt netas, slow office procedures, lack of vision in project design and  implementation, amazingly slow judiciary... all these are eating into the vibrant democratic freedom that we have offered ourselves.

Let wisdom prevail. Let change come.



Dr.Rachna Bohrey said...

Dear Sandeep Sir,

Perfect analysis of China's nightmare, a true blow needed for them .I totally agree with you , democracy is the only system which can be followed .But after all the turbulent years in India, democracy still exists in its unique forms. Arguably it is the best form of government. But whatever the contradictions democracy may offers, Indian democracy will continue in spite of its paradoxical and surprising history.

For Indians it also means freedom to do any thing like destroying the public property, spitting, shitting or urinating anywhere, abusing to any one etc etc.they take it luxury (absolutely)of democracy for granted. Today it is subjected to Divisive tendencies ,Parochialism, Corruption and nepotism.
Bureaucratic high handedness, political and official corruption, judicial apathy and so on, create unjust conditions for the unprivileged people who feel helpless in the system where discrimination has become a rule. In these conditions the democratic system is highly paralyzed and can not be able to produce the desired results.. voices are still throttled
Uncompromising to fight against corruption. In India today, the media is big business – relying on corporate advertising and the spending of the middle class – and it is hard to claim that it is a public good that reaches most citizens. The fact that the media is primarily a profit driven industry limits the scope of what it is likely to report and at times promotes trashy sensationalism in the name of news.
our MEDIA is suffering from Catract.....

“Democracy is not just a form of
government, but also a way of life”.

democracy provides impulse towards change

Long live our Democracy....


Shravan Gupta said...

Respected Sir
Amazing blog sir. I concur to the viewpoint that democracy is not the crawling wheel which retards our development. But the entrenched corruption and prevailing inefficiencies are the main culprits.It should be wiped out from the system. And the current lure of Chinese model is just the narrow-sighted of ours. Soon this point would be validated when china would fall apart into thousand pieces.
Shravan Gupta

Shravan Gupta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rhishikesh said...

Respected sir,
I have always followed ur view points on this. u have always valued democracy over chinese model. we indians always are high thinkers. we give more importance to ways and means rather then end result. we think of life more then the result we get from life. ur view point supports this concept. why cant we be more result oriented rather then being thinking of modest ways!! why cant we be stern, firm, brutal, practical?? why it is to be so emotional? why ve think of high values? we r more interested in processe...rather then output!! if we change we might get greater reults..but thn we will have to compromoise...which is not well acceptable to our blood. in the end this is how it is to be...cheers for being indians...

Unknown said...

Understood & Agreed, Not Democracy but Inefficiency, corruption & lack of vision are our Problems. But these problems have grown up to an extent that it is no more a problem at an individual level but at system level (CWG is an example ); strengthening its roots in the individuals & spreading branches all over the system. Although in a country like India – which is one of the most Holy places on earth, where human values are given highest priority, which is country of Saints & birthplace of spirituality, ideally people should be self motivated honest & conduct reputable behavior, but this doesn’t seem to be happening. Especially, I Believe that corruption takes a top-down approach in any system, and people at the top are the ones who are educated, capable and with sound reasoning power, if they are not conducting themselves of high regard, I am compelled to say that they are taking undue advantage of democracy and our system, and there should be a way out to teach them a lesson, may be something which is a way between Democracy & Communism…………………….


Shoaib Qureshi said...

Dear Sir,

I think the internet has a huge role to play now especially in a country like China where a citizen does not have the freedom of speech. They have messed with Google & the recent issue of the Economist talks about China's tussle with Twitter. Even free web hosting services like Yahoo! Geocities (it is now permanently closed by Yahoo!) was always banned in China. It will be interesting to see how far can "The Great Firewall" stop people from forming communities online & discussing such issues. I am sure a few decades down the line we are bound to see general elections in China.

Shoaib Qureshi