China’s Next Revolution Is on the Horizon
China’s Next Revolution Is on the Horizon by Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds
The Mandate of Heaven will be withdrawn, and the autocratic regime overthrown.
The absolute confidence that China’s political structure is permanent and forever is reminiscent of the absolute confidence in the 1980s that the USSR’s political structure was permanent and forever. But the social contract that undergirds the Communist Party’s absolute power in China is fast-eroding, and those who understand Chinese history sense the winds of change have shifted and the next revolution in China is already darkening the horizon.
The story starts in the Song Dynasty, which reached its zenith in the mid-1200s.
I’ve been pondering the excellent 1964 history of the Southern Song Dynasty’s capital of Hangzhou, Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276 by Jacques Gernet, in light of the Chinese government’s unprecedented “Social Credit Score” system, which I wrote about in May 2018: Kafka’s Nightmare Emerges: China’s “Social Credit Score”.
The scope of this surveillance is so broad and pervasive that it borders on science fiction: Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams (NY Times)
China has turned Xinjiang into a police state like no other (The Economist)
In the Song Dynasty, arguably China’s high water mark in many ways (before the Mongol conquest changed China’s trajectory), social control required very little force. The power of social control rested in the cultural hierarchy of Confucian values: one obeyed the family’s patriarch, one’s local rulers and ultimately, the Emperor.
Author Edward Luttwak made the distinction between force and power in his fascinating book The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third: power is persuading people to cooperate, force is making them obey.
Power is people choosing of their own accord to comply, for reasons they find sound and that serves their self-interest; there is little need for the application of force.
Power is highly leveraged; a relatively small police/military and judiciary is all that’s needed. Force, in contrast, doesn’t scale: it’s enormously costly in capital and labor to monitor an entire populace and impose control and obedience.
While the Song Dynasty had a police force, a judiciary and an army, the populace generally managed itself via an internalized secular religion that placed the father, civil authorities and the Imperial state at the top of a natural order that enabled the harmony of Heaven and Earth. To disobey would be to threaten the harmony that served everyone.
In the early days of the Communist revolution (1949 to 1965), the majority of China’s populace embraced the values and authority of the Communist regime, despite the hardships and setbacks of the Great Leap Forward (millions dying needlessly of starvation) and other centralized incompetencies.