Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Contradictions Among The People

In the Pacific, Democracy is where you find it

Frank Ching on the dilemma of Hong Kong's independence movement - is it truly feasible, or is talk of independence an analogy for preserving HK's system of governance:
From a geopolitical standpoint, Hong Kong's independence is improbable though, ... it would be bigger than either Timor Leste or Singapore... But Hong Kong relies on China for most of its water and for much of its food. Hong Kong can only become independent with China's blessing, which seems highly unlikely. There is little reason for China to decide to expel Hong Kong, as Malaysia expelled Singapore...
So what options are left? Are pro-independence young people, mostly students, willing to go to war with the People's Liberation Army, like East Pakistan took on West Pakistan? East Pakistan had a bigger population and economy than West Pakistan. Hong Kong is tiny compared with the mainland, in all respects. It has no army of its own. 
The only alternative, and a peaceful one, is for China itself to want Hong Kong to be independent. Perhaps that is what the pro-independence advocates should work toward: a scenario in which China is so sick of Hong Kong that it thinks the best thing to do is to expel Hong Kong and its 7.2 million people from the Chinese nation. How's that as a solution...

Hawaii's Democratic Party politics are very much Old Line, steeped in Rust Belt values of loyalty, consensus and patronage, but with an Asian twist. So what happens when it's confronted by the Bernie Sanders movement? Nick Grube finds out:
“The problem with insurgent movements like this is they get discouraged very easily and they often don’t have the resources to sustain themselves,” said Colin Moore, an associate professor of political science at the University of Hawaii. “This is the challenge for that movement. They have to now use that enthusiasm to create a real organization that will nurture these candidates.” The Kuleana Academy might be a good first step, Moore said, to deepen the progressive pool of candidates in Hawaii. But those candidates still must differentiate themselves from established Democratic officeholders. 
Moore said the Democratic establishment will continue to rake in big donations from developers and the business community. It’s also cozy with the labor unions. That doesn’t leave a progressive newcomer a lot of room to work with when it comes to gathering more support.“It can be tough for them to break in,” Moore said of the progressives. “The foundation of Hawaii’s Democratic party is still in this relationship between the unions, the developers and the politicians where everyone gets paid.”

For many observers the recent Right vs. Center-Right election in Peru seemed to further confirm the slow death of the Left in Latin America. But as Lucas Iberico Lozada observes, a new more pragmatic progressive movement is rising in its place:
But even as atrophying, corrupted left parties have helped steer the electorate in other South American countries to the right, Peru—where the Shining Path had long drained leftism of its nostalgic heft—is now home to a party with a real chance to not only exert its influence in opposition, but also to open a space for the left in a region increasingly wary of its standard-bearers. Frente Amplio is a fledgling party that did better than anyone could have reasonably expected it to do, and then turned around and made the kind of clear-eyed political maneuver that guaranteed its survival and laid out a plan for growth. 
Brandon van Dyck is a political scientist at Lafayette College who studies left-wing parties in Latin America. His research suggests that successful left parties share two things in common: years of thankless ground-level organizing and fierce ideological opposition. “It’s a lot easier to build a party when you’re building on polarization and conflict,” he told me by phone. “You have strong attachments, and then the party builds on those attachments.” Both Kuczynski and Fujimori play a convenient ideological foil to Mendoza and Frente Amplio, and the one in power is unlikely to prevent them from expanding their gains. Kuczynski has little popular appeal and seemingly no intention to build his party now that it has served as an electoral vehicle...

Finally, Bruce Dickson on how the experience of evolving governance in mainland China shows how relative freedom really can be:
... In a nationwide survey in 2014, more than 4,000 urban Chinese were asked how democratic they perceived China to be at different points in time. The vast majority view the level of democracy as increasing steadily since the late 1970s. Almost 60% believe China is already somewhat or very democratic today. Remarkably, more than 80% are optimistic that in the near future China will enjoy a level of democracy on par with the United States... 
Survey respondents were given the opportunity to define democracy in their own words ... about one-third of urban Chinese defined democracy in terms of checks and balances or other ways that closely match Western notions.  By contrast, a different 30% of Chinese described democracy in terms of how leaders should run the government, not how they are chosen. Comments such as “the people and the government are interdependent” and “government policies reflect public opinion” get at this notion... The purpose of democracy, as seen by many Chinese, is to make the state strong so that it can better provide for the common well-being of the people and the nation as a whole. It is not a way to hold leaders accountable through elections, limit the state’s authority in order to protect individual rights and freedoms, or adjudicate between competing interests.  
But by far the most popular definition of democracy — given by a third of the urban Chinese respondents — was “I don’t know”!

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