The Fat Years

[photocommons file=”Jasmine_Revolution_in_China_-_Beijing_11_02_20_police.jpg” width=180]I’ve been reading a book The Fat Years, a book by a Chinese author that seems to posit a transition from Orwellian control to Huxlean control.

I just finished reading the following bit and had to share:

Lao Chen then considered a new concept: “90 percent freedom.” We are already very free now: 90 percent, or even more, of subjects can be freely discussed, and 90 percent, or even more, of all activities are no longer subject to government control. Isn’t that enough? The vast majority of the population cannot even handle 90 percent freedom, they think it’s too much. Aren’t they complaining about information overload and being entertained too much?

And furthermore, when the national situation permits, the state can always relax its restrictions and permit up to 95 percent freedom. Maybe we already have 95 percent? This would be very little less than in the West. Western nations also have some restrictions on freedom of speech and action. The German government restricts neo-Nazi organisations, and many states in the United States deny homosexuals the freedom to marry. The only disparity is that, theoretically, the power of Western governments is given to them by the people, while in China the people’s freedom is given to them by the government. Is this distinction really that important?

The more time goes by, the closer China and the U.S. become. China is on track to pass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2020. When that time comes, what is the real difference between our democratic free market capitalism and their state-controlled economy? I’m hopeful that we can still claim “rule of law” as a distinctive feature, but even that is disappearing. We can still watch the trial of Bo Xilai’s wife smugly, but how long will our smugness last?

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