What would be interesting is if, at some point in this century, the government in China took on more democratic leanings. I’m not holding my breath, though. China with its history of having emperors falls naturally into the communist and totalitarian framework, that is, total control by a centralized government that suffers little influence from purely popular opinion.

So one has to consider what is the downside to such a government. What comes to mind immediately is the Stalinist repression that took place when Stalin became this hyper-paranoid leader. Then it was routine for people and whole families to simply disappear in the night, never to be seen or heard from again — erased from existence. We are already seeing something like this in the treatment by the Chinese government of everything Islamic — their “re-education centers” look strikingly like concentration camps to Westerners.

The good news about totalitarian regimes is that they can impose strict control quickly, and this pays off in terms of controlling such things as pandemics or re-directing a national economy in an entirely different direction. Witness the miracle of the Chinese economy in the last two decades, which has brought so many Chinese out of dire poverty into clear prosperity, but at what cost to their personal freedom, one might ask?

If the current totalitarian regime were really smart, it would create some kind of democratic vehicle, if only to stay abreast of current popular sentiment, so that it might be in a position to ameliorate such sentiment if it were headed in a dangerous direction. The ancient Roman government was tightly controlled by its Senate, but the Romans were smart enough to give a voice to popular opinion through Tribunes. Will China emulate this practice at some point in this century? That would be wise and exhibit flexibility, and as we are taught in Taoism, flexible things last, while rigid things, inevitably, crack and crumble.

Hong Kong

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