Friday, August 22, 2014
5

¿Valores chinos?

BERLÍN – Actualmente no cabe la menor duda de que la República Popular de China tendrá una posición preponderante en el mundo del siglo XXI. El rápido crecimiento, el potencial estratégico, el enorme mercado interior y las inmensas inversiones en infraestructuras, educación e investigación e innovación de este país, además de su acumulación de capacidad militar en gran escala, contribuirán a ello. Eso significa que, desde el punto de vista económico y político, estamos entrando en un siglo del Asia oriental y sudoriental.

Para que no se olvide, hemos de decir que el resultado para el mundo habría sido mucho peor, si el ascenso de China hubiera fracasado, pero, ¿cómo será ese mundo? Podemos prever el poder que modelará su geopolítica, pero, ¿qué valores subyacerán a su ejercicio de dicho poder?

La política oficial de “Cuatro modernizaciones” (industrial, agrícola, militar y científico-tecnológica) que ha sostenido el ascenso de China desde finales del decenio de 1970 no ha dado una respuesta a esa pregunta, porque la “quinta modernización” –el surgimiento de la democracia y del Estado de derecho– sigue sin hacerse realidad. De hecho, la modernización política afronta una oposición en masa del Partido Comunista chino, que no está interesado en abandonar su monopolio del poder. Además, la transición a un sistema pluralista que canalice, en lugar de reprimir, el conflicto político sería en verdad peligrosa, si bien el riesgo aumentará cuanto más persista el gobierno de un solo partido (y la corrupción endémica que lo acompaña).

Ideológicamente, el rechazo por parte de la dirección china de los derechos humanos, la democracia y el Estado de derecho se basa en la tesis de que esos valores, supuestamente universales, son una simple tapadera de los valores occidentales y que, por tanto, se debe considerar su repudio un asunto de autorrespeto. China no volverá a someterse a Occidente militarmente, por lo que tampoco debe someterse a sus normas.

Y así volvemos al concepto de “valores asiáticos”, originalmente formulado en Singapur y Malasia, pero hasta ahora, tres decenios después, su significado sigue siendo obscuro. Esencialmente, dicho concepto ha servido para justificar el gobierno colectivista y autoritario al emparentarlo con la tradición y la cultura locales, con una autonomía definida como otredad, es decir, diferenciación de Occidente y sus valores. Así, pues, los “valores asiáticos” no son normas universales, sino una estrategia de autopreservación íntimamente unida a la política identitaria.

Dada la historia del colonialismo occidental en Asia, el deseo de mantener una clara identidad distinta es legítimo y comprensible, como también la creencia en muchos países asiáticos –y muy en particular en China– de que ha llegado el momento de saldar cuentas antiguas, pero el esfuerzo de preservar el poder propio, la necesidad de una identidad “asiática” clara y el deseo de saldar cuentas históricas no resolverán la cuestión normativa que plantea el ascenso de China como potencia preponderante del siglo.

La forma como se responda a esa pregunta reviste importancia decisiva, porque determinará el carácter de una potencia mundial y, por tanto, cómo se relaciona con otros países más débiles. Un Estado llega a ser una potencia mundial cuando su importancia y su potencial estratégicos le confieren alcance mundial y, por lo general, semejantes Estados intentan salvaguardar sus intereses imponiendo su preponderancia (hegemonía), lo que es una receta para el conflicto peligroso, si se basa en la coerción y no en la cooperación.

La adaptación del mundo a una estructura hegemónica mundial, en la que las potencias mundiales garantizan un orden internacional, sobrevivió a la Guerra Fría. La Unión Soviética no era ideológicamente antioccidental, porque el comunismo y el socialismo fueron invenciones occidentales, pero era antioccidental desde el punto de vista político. Y fracasó no sólo por razones económicas, sino también porque su comportamiento interior y exterior se basaba en la compulsión y no en el consentimiento.

En cambio, el modelo económico y político de los Estados Unidos y el de Occidente, con sus derechos individuales y sociedad abierta, demostraron ser las armas más eficaces en la Guerra Fría. Los EE.UU. no prevalecieron por su superioridad militar, sino por su poder blando y porque su hegemonía no se basaba en la coerción (aunque algo había de eso también), sino en gran medida en el consentimiento.

¿Qué vía elegirá China? Si bien China no cambiará su antigua y admirable civilización, debe su nuevo ascenso a su adopción del modelo occidental contemporáneo de modernización: el gran logro de Deng Xiaoping, quien internó al país por su vía actual hace más de tres decenios, pero la decisiva pregunta por la modernización política sigue sin respuesta.

Está claro que los intereses nacionales y a veces el poder puro desempeñan un papel en cómo los EE.UU. y otros países occidentales aplican valores como los derechos humanos, el Estado de derecho, la democracia y el pluralismo, pero esos valores no son una simple fachada para los intereses occidentales; en realidad, apenas lo son en medida alguna. Son en verdad universales y con mayor razón en una época de mundialización total.

La contribución de Asia –y de China, en particular– al desarrollo de ese conjunto de valores universales no se puede prever aún, pero llegará sin lugar a dudas, si la “quinta modernización” propicia la transformación política de China. El rumbo de China como potencia mundial irá determinado en gran medida por la forma como afronte esa cuestión.

Traducido del inglés por Carlos Manzano.

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  1. CommentedJakub Słowiński

    Starting with human rights and the rule of law, as early as in the Han dynasty period, in its first phase, sometime before the begining of Christian era in Europe, there was a set of laws developed, which couldn't be changed even by the emperor, of course it applied only to upper classes, but comparing to where was Western civilization in accordance to human rights and the rule of law at that time, Chinese are pioneers. Democracy was actually invented much earlier, in the Warring States period, by Mencius, who said that the emperor should be choosed by the people. Of course, by the people Mencius meant upper classes, but Western democracy started in the same point, chronologically hunreds of years later. And lastly, pluralism, China was always marked by existence of many cliques and parties, struggling with each other in order to achieve more power. Are they not there, because we don't see them in the evening debates? Actually, political establishment in Western countries is more uniform than Chinese, the difference is that Chinese establishment is united in terms of holding power, but divided in terms of views on certain issues, and Western is divided in struggle to gain power, but every time more and more uniform in views in order to be as electable (sorry for a word) as possible.
    Don't blame China it don't want to follow patterns it already checked, because you claim them as universal.

  2. CommentedStephen Pain

    I believe that many of the problems facing China - and there are problems undoubtedly has been due to the country being effectively divided by manufacturing for and against itself. We see today an enormous trade imbalance between China and other countries. Obviously the subprime fiasco and hedging helped to bring about this imbalance. The demand for goods shot up as the apparent liquidity rose. People were using the property equity to buy as if there were no tomorrow. The financial institutions were pumped up to massive bubbles through the repackaging of debt into credit – and their wealth led to an increase of expenditure in the service industry. Added value philosophy reigned supreme as cheap imports were bought from China. So much of manufacturing was now carried out in China – even Veblen goods. The consequence of the speculation in the West was that China had managed to catch up quickly. She was becoming increasingly more technologically advanced. The West had become dependent upon China – a dependency that would be costly to both partners. In the boom years China overheated and her factories were overworked. They were manufacturing for the West and manufacturing their own cheaper products too. In some insane way China was competing against herself. On the one hand she had the Western companies demanding quality (Veblen goods), while on the other hand she sought to manufacture domestic products (Giffen goods) that could in quantity match the quality. In other words you can buy five pair of socks for the price of one quality pair – and in terms of utility, durability, longevity they would be the same, however if we were to examine the corporate social responsibility and green issues, then they are far more costly. Unfortunately, after the economic paradigm shifted from the “added value” philosophy of Starbucks to the Wal-Mart discount approach, there has been a tendency to seek to reduce costs in the Veblen goods, which means that they are being manufactured more like Giffen goods with cheaper materials and their utility, durability and longevity have been effectively compromised, this tying in with the built-in obsolescence of electronic products which have today due to neophilic drives very short lives. The fact the top-end Veblen goods producers have with those in the middle quality range opted to go down the quantitative road has led to a deplorable state of affairs for all concerned.
    The only remedy to help both the West and China is to bring into effect stringent quality controls through taxation. Often pollution taxes had been placed on the manufacturers. Here we can place taxes on products themselves. The idea would be that products which are Giffen goods would not be bought if they were taxed on grounds of utility, durability, longevity as well as CSR and Green factors. This would restore craft into products, ensuring that all involved in manufacture would be of a higher quality. It would also reduce the trade deficit and motivate the West and others to return to manufacturing – and as a result decreasing dependency on China . China for her part would need to reform its manufacturing and the context of production, leading to a better environment and healthier and happier population.

  3. CommentedWalter, asg Benjamin

    I admire Joschka Fischer's articles. However most of the comments on this article and this article itself make a fundamental mistake: China is not "outside" the World History. China belongs to the World History. It is not a country which is different by essence from us. There "Western values" don't exist per se, in opposition of "Chinese values". It is absolutely childish to speak like that. Chinese Revolution in the XXth Century is a Marxist Revolution - the Chinese Marxism is part of the Marxism movement - a way to answer to the problems created by the Industrial Evolution of the XIXth century. A way to re-unify China after one century of diverse foreign occupations. It is a non-sense not to consider the contemporary China as a Marxist state and to pretend that China will be like a "Confucian state" - with an unique nationalistic ideology . Then if it is a Marxist state - it is impossible not to consider China as part of our own History. If we accept that Chinese Communist Party is the center of the power in China, it is risible to think that the discussion about democracy is not central in the Chinese politic. What means "democracy" in the context of the developments of Communist Parties around the World during the last 150 years that is the first question to ask. Second what is the weigh of the Chinese State History in the development of the contemporary Chinese Marxist state? Democracy is not a definition , it is a complex political movement. Of course China has also many parts of her political developments which are often more democratic than many countries in the World which pretend to be democratic. The question is more: is it possible to have a democratic state with one party rule? If this one party represents a large part of the Chinese society - why not? A party of 80 millions member plus their family relations is equivalent of 400 millions people connected to this Party - it is a significant part of the Chinese society. The real question is then: are these 400 millions of Chinese involved in the discussions on the solving Chinese political problems? Probably yes - in a way or another. Are they able to influence the political decisions? Probably yes. Are they able to criticize the wrong decisions, to correct them? Probably yes too. Have we - as Europeans - to learn from the Chinese democracy? Of course we have to learn how they have succeeded during centuries to unify their country when we, Europeans, we have failed to maintain the Roman Empire and we have created during centuries wars and barbaric societies. The Chinese Marxism is a lesson for us to meditate because it forces us to consider that the Capitalism as a destructive and creative force is the main question that our "European democracies " need to manage if we want to avoid that new barbaric political movements will appear and push away our weak civilization.

  4. Commentedlt lee

    It is odd that Westerners keep talking about "these supposedly universal values" while they are not embraced by the Chinese people except a handful of dissidents. If Westerners really believe certain values are universal, why can't they let the Chinese people come to the same conclusion without reminding them constantly? To the extent that they don't have sufficient confidence concerning the universality of these values, Chinese leaders and Chinese people are correct in seeing these values as a mere stalking horse for Western interests promoted to harm China's interest.

  5. CommentedPaulo Sérgio

    It may pause there for sometime. China's rapid ascent is lifting quite a lot more than its own out of dire economic conditions and these can now experience many* of these universal values that they definitely would not have previously experienced. If foreign lands in which China remain open, their people may have more freedoms than the Chinese themselves, but the Chinese are likely to be better with their more limited set, because of this immense focus on development.

    In summary, we're still imposing conditions on China, on what it will achieve and how it will come to achieve.

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