Thursday, August 07, 2008


Jim Yardley's article in the New York Times yesterday strives to be a definitive account of what the Chinese Communist Party adds up to on the eve of the Olympics. He does a pretty good job on the whole---actually, a very good job---though I think his treatment of the issue of popular nationalism could do with a tad more nuance and he curiously omits the (slight) leftward turn of the Chinese leadership in recent years.

One thing that stands out is Yardley's assertion that "the party has absorbed entrepreneurs, urban professionals and university students into an elite class that is invested in the political status quo, if not necessarily enthralled with it." Bruce Dickson, quoted in the article, has done an especially good job of documenting this phenomenon, starting with his book Red Capitalists in China. David Brooks made a similar observation to Yardley's a while back in a column titled "The Dictatorship of Talent" and I, unusually, found myself roughly in agreement with him.

This party-as-technocratic-elite thing is hardly new, of course. Mao criticized Kruschev's U.S.S.R. for creating just that. And, on the right-wing side, Taiwan, Singapore and plenty of other places tried the same set-up, with the KMT or PAP subbing in for the CCP. But it is interesting as a place on a party's arc of development.

Now, to make a jump---I hope not too big of a jump---I am worried about the Democratic Party of the United States making the same transition. Don't get me wrong, in an election year I am happy for every Northern Virginia tech worker and anxious Wall Street type the Democrats can get. But I don't want those kids to come near to dominating the atmosphere of the party.

For now, the Democrats have a better advantage in the working class than you'd know from the news. Obama holds a 2-1 advantage over McCain among low-wage workers and leads McCain by 10 percent among working class white voters. I just hope they don't forget that after November.

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