China and Political Name Calling

May 26, 2008

I pride myself on being open and honest, and I therefore readily admit that I detest Michael Ledeen, one of the chief foreign policy chest-thumpers at the American Enterprise Institute. It therefore saddens me to no end when I reluctantly say that his latest article in FEER, although kinda scary, has some elements of truth to it. He starts off with the following:

In 2002, I speculated that China may be something we have never seen before: a mature fascist state. Recent events there, especially the mass rage in response to Western criticism, seem to confirm that theory. More significantly, over the intervening six years China’s leaders have consolidated their hold on the organs of control—political, economic and cultural. Instead of gradually embracing pluralism as many expected, China’s corporatist elite has become even more entrenched.

OK, use of the term "fascist" is a bad thing, right? Well, yes, but only if you buy into the layman’s definition of the term (frightening images of inter-war Europe come to mind). On the other hand, if we look at the term as descriptive of a certain kind of economic and political system (value neutral), then we can use it to talk about any country without freaking out about Nazis and so forth.

To the extent that Ledeen points out that large corporations are gaining power in the PRC, which still remains a closed political system in a variety of ways, then he has a point. He goes a bit too far in his article (he is a nut-case, after all – check out his earlier stuff on China), but I can’t argue with some of the basics. Whether the system here as it evolves turns out to be stable, unstable, good, bad, or whatever – that’s a debate for another day. Just for the record, Ledeen thinks everyone here is evil.

Do I win any points for being reasonable in the face of extreme Right-wing whack-jobs?