One thought on the Chinese leadership transition.

Just watched the Chinese unveil the new Politburo. What I’m reading now suggests its a more conservative group than hoped for. Doesn’t appear to be much reform in the future. It did lead to a stray thoughts. First, a Foreign Policy article on the change in Chinese leadership (just happened, in fact),

Deng, the victor of the Mao succession battle, decided not only to appoint a successor but to lay down a plan that he hoped would institutionalize succession, at least for a few generations of leaders. Deng named the then Shanghai Party Secretary Jiang Zemin, who had successfully managed his city during the nationwide student protests that culminated in the June 4th massacre in Beijing, to general secretary, and named Hu Jintao, who was from a different interest group within the power elite, to succeed Jiang. The distinguished Chinese novelist and blogger Wang Lixiong, noting that Hu’s apparent successor Xi Jinping is allied with the Jiang camp, has written a shrewd analysis of Deng’s long-term plan: Two elite groups, one originating with Jiang and the other with Hu, will exchange 10-year periods of center stage while the other waits in the wings. Each group — knowing that the other will get a turn later — will have an incentive to be civil. With luck, long-term stability will result.

And Tom Ricks on American generals:

These corrosive tendencies were reinforced by a new policy of officer rotation after six months in command, which encouraged many leaders to simply keep their heads down until they could move on—and likewise encouraged superior officers to wait out the tours of bad officers serving beneath them. Instead of weeding out bad officers, senior leaders tended to closely supervise them, encouraging habits of micromanagement that plague the Army to this day. Mediocrity also led to mendacity: Almost forgotten now is that an Army investigation of the 1968 massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese villagers by troops of the 23rd “Americal” Division concluded that 28 officers, including four colonels and two generals, appeared to have committed offenses in covering up the incident. Even after the extent of the massacre and the subsequent cover-up were revealed, Major General Samuel Koster, who had commanded the Americal and who had been implicated in the cover-up, was allowed to remain in uniform for another 23 months, and was never brought to trial (although he was eventually demoted).

Emphasis mine in both cases. One of the criticisms of the outgoing Chinese leadership is that they shunted off needed reforms and just handed them off for the next group to do.

Rotation to keep people happy doesn’t seem like a great policy for choosing leaders. There are differences between the two situations, but I don’t think this works in either case.


The Cult of Rationality

This post on the GOP’s shock at their failure to win leads to an interesting place:

Yes, but we should note the revolution in rationalist expertise and its rising popularity are a phenomenon in part of computers, but even more of the internet and blogosphere.

There are lots of experts – many with tenure – who think of expertise as an ineffable quality of understanding. Even now we might say that Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft get geopolitics. We can dimly glen their vision through reading there books, but at the end of the day, there is no substitute for going to see the old master.

Nate Silver is not clearly master of anything. His methodology is transparent. His predictions rely on taking data other people have collected, downloading it and cranking it through computer model. By conventional terms he is fairly young, but there is little about what he does that could not be replicated by an interested and bright seven year-old.

But, this is the rationalist view of the world. The most miraculous of phenomena are simply clockwork ducks. Magic does not exist. A mystery is when you don’t know the right question. The answer itself is always trivial, though it could involve an enormous amount of arithmetic to get to it.

This view fell from grace in the 1960s for lots of reasons. Yet, its staging a massive comeback on the internet.

If it fell from grace back in the 60s, why is it coming back now? Also, why did it fall from grace? For some reason this seems vaguely familiar, but I’m still missing something.


The GOP in California

Two quick thoughts about this article.

  1. If the Democrats do end up with a supermajority in both houses, it’ll be interesting to see how effective they are and what they make their priorities. Judging by this, it the objective that they can tackle best at the state level seems to be prison overcrowding. It’s listed in the same bullet as death penalty repeal, which voters turned down, so I’m not sure how they’ll tackle that.
  2. For Republicans to regain relevance in California, it seems that they’ll have to appeal to some group that is currently part of the Democratic coalition. Given demographic trends, immigration would be the issue I’d guess they’d move on (on the national level, there is some hint of this already occurring). But as far as California specific policies, I don’t know.

Sunday Morning Reads

I’m coming to the realization that I may turning into a morning person, and I’m not sure what to make of this.

  • China too is going through a leadership transition. Here are Foreign Policy’s articles on it.
  • In addition, a New Yorker article on corruption in China, focusing on high-speed rail.
  • On the (Rapid!) march of gay rights. It was only 4 years ago that Prop 8 passed in California saying that the state would only recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. Last Tuesday, 3 states pass marriage equality by referendum, and another to define marriage as between a man and a woman was defeated.

Sunday Morning Reads

As scholars translated the texts from Coptic, early Christians whose views had fallen out of favor—or were silenced—began speaking again, across the ages, in their own voices. A picture began to take shape of long-ago Christians, scattered across the Eastern Mediterranean, who derived sometimes contradictory teachings from the life of Jesus Christ. Was it possible that Judas was not a turncoat but a favored disciple? Did Christ’s body really rise, or just his soul? Was the crucifixion—and human suffering, more broadly—a prerequisite for salvation?

  • A Jane Mayer piece about the man behind the thrust of the voter fraud movement (emphasis mine).

But Robert Brandon, the president of the Fair Elections Legal Network and a longtime reformer, says that the current debate, “which is about people impersonating another voter, is silly.” He adds, “You can’t steal an election one person at a time. You can by stuffing ballot boxes—but voter I.D.s won’t stop that.”

A Southern Nevada woman was arrested Friday for allegedly attempting to vote twice at two different polling locations this week.

Roxanne Rubin, 56, was taken into custody by investigators after arriving for work at the Riviera hotel. The Clark County Registrar has revealed that Rubin is a registered Republican who lives in Henderson.


Links from today

I’ve stopped blogging since I got to Madison, and I need to change that I do have drafts of stuff, but well, I’ll post them when I finish them.

  • A letter from HG Wells to Joyce on a work in progress of Finnegan’s Wake. I doubt I’ll ever read it (I have enough trouble with Ulysses), but I have to say (again) that Dubliners is really good, especially the short story The Dead. In any case this is a hell of a letter:

Your training has been Catholic, Irish, insurrectionary; mine, such as it was, was scientific, constructive and, I suppose, English. The frame of my mind is a world wherein a big unifying and concentrating process is possible (increase of power and range by economy and concentration of effort), a progress not inevitable but interesting and possible. That game attracted and holds me. For it, I want a language and statement as simple and clear as possible. You began Catholic, that is to say you began with a system of values in stark opposition to reality. Your mental existence is obsessed by a monstrous system of contradictions. You may believe in chastity, purity and the personal God and that is why you are always breaking out into cries of cunt, shit and hell. As I don’t believe in these things except as quite personal values my mind has never been shocked to outcries by the existence of water closets and menstrual bandages — and undeserved misfortunes.