Mike Bloomberg said China isn’t a dictatorship. Is he right? – Washington Post

China’s CCP does listen to the people — as long as they aren’t independent-minded

Bloomberg is right in one regard. The CCP has a big stake in learning what the Chinese public thinks and providing some of what it wants. The government encourages Chinese citizens to monitor local officials, file complaints and even provide input in policy planning. In a recent book on Chinese governance, my co-authors and I document how these limited forms of public engagement can help reduce corruption and improve compliance with regulations.

At the same time, the CCP is uncomfortable with having the Chinese people think, feel or act for themselves. Pervasive government censorship and targeted repression are symptoms of the leadership’s deep-seated insecurity. Naturally, it is harder for the regime to engage and understand the public if it limits what the public can say.

But Beijing is getting better at figuring out what the Chinese people are saying and thinking. In a current book manuscript, I show how technology helps the government see and understand what the Chinese public wants — in a controlled manner. While the system underpinning this technology is dystopian, it helps the regime harness and optimize competing public interests when making policy.

This capacity to listen, process and respond is perhaps what Bloomberg is alluding to. The Chinese public, for instance, wants cleaner air without compromising economic opportunity. The CCP and its leader are working to make that happen, even if it means blowing up dirty factories and relocating entire communities. Xi Jinping and the CCP are delivering a paternalistic version of “soft authoritarianism,” whereby collective well-being is more important than individual liberties, and national development is more important than political rights.

China is still a dictatorship

Here’s where Bloomberg gets things wrong: Yes, Xi Jinping is a dictator. The CCP is generally popular, the governing system is often effective, and Xi Jinping does (as Bloomberg points out) have “constituents.” But a popular dictatorship is still a dictatorship. Even political scientists who disagree over whether the contrast between dictatorship and democracy is a spectrum, taxonomy or dichotomy, would rank China as a dictatorship.

Instead, liberal democracy is about allowing the people to make important political decisions for themselves and contest their differences in an open forum. Ideally, a democratic system generates positive returns for those involved, but good outcomes are not guaranteed.

And China is likely to remain a dictatorship

Even if the CCP refined its technology of public inclusion to the point where it could rationalize the collective preference of the public and respond to it, China would remain a dictatorship. As historian Yuval Harari puts it, democracy is more about “feelings” than rational preferences and the democratic enterprise is based on trusting those feelings, even when they might be wrong, inefficient or outdated.

Dictatorships like the CCP have opted for meticulous control over brute violence, but they still don’t trust their people to choose for themselves. This is why Beijing remains unwilling to let the people of Hong Kong elect their executives, and why citizens across China are not free to form independent organizations, whether they be civil, religious, professional or otherwise. It is not that CCP leaders are averse to the notion of public participation — China’s leadership simply wants any such moves to happen in a controlled manner. When authoritarian systems falter and when members of the public try to circumvent the controls, reverting to tyranny is the most likely course of action.

Today, about half the world’s population (nearly 4 billion people) lives under some form of dictatorship. For many, the main concern is food, shelter and opportunity for themselves and for their children. Dictators understand this — and they are getting better at delivering what the people want.

But democracy is not the same thing as providing for the population’s needs. As Bloomberg points out, the CCP listens to the Chinese public carefully. Yet the CCP will never commit to trusting the public over its own political interests. It will resort to force when necessary, as it has in the past, and this use of force is the very essence of dictatorship.

Dimitar Gueorguiev is an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. He is the co-author (with Jonathan Stromseth and Edmund Malesky) of “China’s Governance Puzzle.” His current book manuscript, “Retrofitting Leninism,” concerns the complementarities between Leninist organization structures and information technology in China.

I left Venezuela fleeing from a dictator, only to find another one in America | Opinion – Sun Sentinel

I fled from a dictator in Venezuela, only to witness the rise of another one here in the United States.

I moved to the U.S. in 2011 after a dictator forced me to leave my country, my family, my friends, and my whole life. In Venezuela, I fought, marched, protested and voted, but the dictator won the fight.

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Coming from Venezuela, I recognize a populist demagogue promising anything at the expense of a country’s own people. I will never forget Trump’s first campaign speech, it rang an alarm. I saw a man dividing the American people for the sake of his own rise. There is a phrase that summarizes it “Divide y vencerás” (divide and conquer).

When I see a government try to remove judges, destroy democratic institutions, call the media fake news when they expose corruption, a leader trying to punish his political rivals, I remember what I left behind in Venezuela and I see it in the United States with President Trump’s disregard for the rule of law.

Not only did I escape from socialism, I, too, am a victim of a corrupt and cruel regime, and won’t accept the GOP trying to hide Trump’s corruption and failures by distorting what Democrats are doing to help us all. It is outrageous to watch the Republican Party cover their “único líder” (only leader) with excuses for him and leave our democracy in peril.

Luisana Pérez Fernández came to the United States from Venezuela in 2011. She is the Hispanic Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party.

Luisana Pérez Fernández came to the United States from Venezuela in 2011. She is the Hispanic Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party. (Luisana Prez Fernndez / Courtesy)

I remember watching Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez harass people who dissented from his views, calling us “fascists” and “piti yankees.” (little yankees). Now I see Trump and the Republicans call Democrats “socialists” because we defend voting rights; we want to expand access to health care; and, we are making sure that the president is not above the law — as Venezuela’s current president Nicolás Maduro thinks he is.

I will never forget standing in front of our TV in Caracas in 2007, watching in tears the last minutes that Radio Caracas Television — one of the most popular TV channels in Venezuela —was on air before it was shut down by Chávez. He had decided to silence them when months earlier they had exposed the high levels of corruption and the crisis in Venezuela. When a dictator doesn’t like the truth being exposed, they call the media “fake news” and they censor it. If Trump had the power to do the same, you could bet he would shut down CNN and the New York Times.

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Never would I have thought that I would come to the land of the free and see the same nightmare start to play out again. I know very well that with Trump, the United States’ fate may follow that of Venezuela.

I was recently asked how I, as an Hispanic, could be supporting Democrats. The answer is simple. I believe in democracy and democratic values. No matter where I am, no matter how far I am from Venezuela, I will always defend freedom and liberty. I lost democracy once and I am not going to lose it again.

Luisana Pérez Fernández came to the United States from Venezuela in 2011. She is the Hispanic Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party.

Build A New Life In The Country: Derelict House | History Documentary | Reel Truth History

Build A New Life In The Country: Derelict House | History Documentary | Reel Truth History

Architect George Clarke offers advice to a married couple relocating to Ireland, where they plan to live a mortgage-free, self-sufficient existence with their daughter. With a budget of £14,000 to renovate a derelict house that has been empty for more than 30 years, they expect to move into their new home within four months.

Presented by architectural designer Charlie Luxton, Build A New Life follows people leaving the rat-race of the city in pursuit of new lifestyles and new homes in the countryside. The dream houses they are creating are inspiring, architecturally challenging and are all undertaken with a modest budget.

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Welcome to Reel Truth History, the home of gripping and powerful documentaries. Here you can watch both full length documentaries and series that explore some of the most comprehensive pieces of world history.

Restoration Man: Military Towers (Before and After) | History Documentary | Reel Truth History

Restoration Man: Military Towers (Before and After) | History Documentary | Reel Truth History

George Clarke advises two property owners on their plans to convert disused military towers at opposite ends of the country. Artist Sarah McCombie owns a Martello tower in Kent and ex-Army man Barrie Taylor is custodian of a Scottish castle tower, but their restoration dreams remain in limbo as neither has secured planning permission for their schemes.

Each episode features a home owner who is restoring an unusual building by converting it into a residential dwelling. Architect George Clarke tours the British Isles and on his way discovers some of the finest examples of windmills, follies, gate houses, ice houses, towers, and churches. The series focuses heavily on the architectural and historical significance of each of these interesting and mysterious finds.

Welcome to Reel Truth History, the home of gripping and powerful documentaries. Here you can watch both full length documentaries and series that explore some of the most comprehensive pieces of world history.

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How Roman Firefighting Worked

How Roman Firefighting Worked

How did Ancient Rome deal with fires? Did they rely on simply buckets of water, or did they have an organized firefighting brigade?

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