"McCommunism" providing disturbing new model for authoritarian rule
In the many months leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing, the Chinese state has made one thing perfectly clear:
China isn't going to put up with any shit.
The intention to take no shit was underscored decisively yesterday as several Canadian protesters were deported from China. Reportedly, Chinese officials took Steve Andersen's credit card from him in order to purchase his own plane ticket home.
Over the past several days, the Real News Network has been featuring a fascinating series of interviews with Naomi Klein, wherein she discusses precisely how this authoritarian regime -- which Klein dubs "Police State 2.0" has come to fruition:
Klein proposes an interesting thesis: that the record $12 billion expenditure on securing the Beijing Olympic games has been done in order to "advance the goals of global capitalism".
One may agree or disagree with this thesis. In fact, the very ostentatiousness of the opening ceremonies, in particular, seems intended to impress upon the world the grandeur of modern China -- a common attitude within China throughout history (urban legend continues to assert that chopsticks, in particular, were invented for the near-sole purpose of humiliating foreign diplomats).
On the other hand, there's no question that China -- with a population of nearly 1.5 billion people -- has been a tremendous benefactor of capitalism. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party -- with a clear incentive to keep itself in power and clearly having learned the lessons of its former compatriots in Russia -- clearly benefits from the sheer vastness of the resources that eager capitalists have funnelled into populous China.
The bigger question is whether or not the Chinese state is intending to use all this security to create a "consumer cocoon" or whether China's Communist regime (although Communist only in name) has merely used the Olympics, coupled with the current national security culture that has swept the post-9/11 world, as a pretext to give itself the means to sustain itself in power indefinitely.
In Shock Doctrine, Klein argues that post-WWII capitalism has used various disasters -- of one form or another -- to advance itself throughout the world.
In the post-9/11 world, Klein argues, the threat of terrorism has become this disaster -- or rather, potential disaster -- that capitalism has used to promote itself.
Klein notes, however, that a particular threat has long menaced Chinese society -- that of overpopulation. This, coupled with a government-mandated policies limiting the number of children married couples are allowed to have, has given rise to a natural surveillance culture within China. Klein argues that the unparalleled security measures put in place in advance of the 2008 games are simply a "technological upgrade" of this surveillance culture.
Klein notes that the number of migrant Chinese (130 million at most recent count) has posed a challenge to the natural surveillance culture. As such, the "technological upgrade" was necessary just for Beijing to maintain its oppressive grip.
Klein notes that we see many such surveillance systems in western culture, particularly in airports -- although there is a big difference between such surveillance being present in an airport and being present on a public city street.
Klein notes that the Olympics have been a fantastic loophole for China to get its hands on security tools barred from export to China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. This is being done in the name of securing the games for international spectators, athletes and VIPs.
One has to think that Chinese organizers were well aware of this when submitting their bid for the 2008 Olympic games.
There is no question that Democracy has not followed Rupert Murdoch's introduction of Satellite Television into China.
Murdoch likely never contended with the will of western telecommunications firms to do whatever is necessary to gain access to the Chinese market. Klein astutely notes that many of these firms have been complicit in the construction of the police state infrastructure in China.
However, China's bending of the global capitalist economy to its will -- rather than vice versa -- undermines Klein's original thesis.
When the Olympics were awarded to China, it was expected that western civilization would be able to export its ideals into China.
For Naomi Klein, however, the trend has allegedly been the reverse: instead, Chinese-style repression is exporting itself into western society. The arguing points for this remain fairly obvious ones: the widespread legislation of various anti-terror acts that allow governments to curtail civil liberties when they feel it to be necessary.
However, it took 9/11, 7/7 and more than twenty years of terrorist attacks (including Canada's own Air India bombing) for such legislation to even become viable in western civizilation. China, meanwhile, has maintained its current brand of totalitarianism for one year shy of six decades.
And while its interesting to note how Chinese communism has evolved over these 59 years -- for example, Maoism enshrined ruralism, whereas modern China has, as Klein notes, made use of 130 million displaced rural Chinese in order to build its modren prestige cityscapes -- the authoritarian nature of its regime has not changed.
The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre only underscored the regime's intent to never change any more than necessary.
If anything, the 2008 Beijing games risks fomenting tolerance for the authoritarian tendencies of the Chinese state.
The Olympics once stood for something better. The Olympics were once argued to promote peace and acceptance amongst differing countries and cultures. The Olympic Torch was argued to represent human nobility. The spirit of international competition was intended to promote freedom and human rights.
Instead, China has taken up the Olympic Torch as a pretext to impose an ever more oppressive grip on its society.
The 2008 Beijing games will remain a black eye on the face of the Olympic movement. Its legacy will be the further oppression of the citizenry of its host nation, the the fire of the Olympic torch will remain forever diminished.
But not in the name of capitalism, as Naomi Klein insists. Rather, it will be in the name of totalitarianism for the sake of totalitarianism.