The China Convergence

The China Convergence. By N.S. Lyons. This is the most important and penetrating article for years, but is book-length. Here’s the first excerpt. (The second is here.)

When it comes to the most fundamental political questions, China and the United States are not diverging but converging to become more alike. …

Who is this, China or America?

Despite a rhetorical commitment to egalitarianism and “democracy,” the elite class deeply distrusts and fears the people over whom it rules. These elites have concentrated themselves into a separate oligarchic political body focused on prioritizing and preserving their rule and their own overlapping set of shared interests.

Wracked by anxiety, they strive constantly to maximize their control over the masses, rationalizing a need to forcefully maintain stability in the face of dangerous threats, foreign and domestic. Everything is treated as an emergency. “Safety” and “security” have become be the watchwords of the state, and of society generally.

This elite obsession with control is accelerated by a belief in “scientific management,” or the ability to understand, organize, and run all the complex systems of society like a machine, through scientific principles and technologies. The expert knowledge of how to do so is considered the unique and proprietary possession of the elite vanguard.

Ideologically, this elite is deeply materialist, and openly hostile to organized religion, which inhibits and resists state control. They view human beings themselves as machines to be programmed, and, believing the common man to be an unpredictable creature too stupid, irrational, and violent to rule himself, they endeavor to steadily condition and replace him with a better model through engineering, whether social or biological.

Complex systems of surveillance, propaganda, and coercion are implemented to help firmly nudge (or shove) the common man into line. Communities and cultural traditions that resist this project are dismantled. Harmfully contrary ideas are systematically censored, lest they lead to dangerous exposure. Governing power has been steadily elevated, centralized, and distributed to a technocratic bureaucracy unconstrained by any accountability to the public.

All of this is justified by a utopian ideological dialectic of historical progress and inevitability. Those more in tune with the tide of history (i.e. elite interests) are held to be morally and intellectually superior, as a class, to backwards reactionary elements. Only certain views are stamped “scientific” and “correct,” although these may change on a political whim. … The individual is encouraged to fulfill his assigned role as a docile consumer and cog in the regime’s machine, not that of a self-governing citizen. …

Cronyism is rampant. …

Culture is largely stagnant. Uprooted, corralled, and hounded, the people are atomized, and social trust is very low. Reality itself often feels obscured and uncertain. Demoralized, some gratefully accept any security offered by the state as a blessing. At the same time, many citizens automatically assume everything the regime says is a lie. Officialdom in general is a Kafkaesque tragi-comedy of the absurd, something only to be stoically endured by normal people. Yet year by year the pressure to conform only continues to be ratcheted higher…

Did you guess correctly?

Which country does this describe? If you can’t quite tell, well, that’s the point. …

I’m going to argue that commonalities are indeed growing, and that this is no illusion, coincidence, or conspiracy, but the product of the same deep systemic forces and underlying ideological roots.

To claim that we’re the same as China, or even just that we’re turning into China (as I’ve admittedly implied with the title) would really just be political clickbait. The reality is more complicated, but no less unsettling: both China and the West, in their own ways and at their own pace, but for the same reasons, are converging from different directions on the same point – the same not-yet-fully-realized system of totalizing techno-administrative governance.

Though they remain different, theirs is no longer a difference of kind, only of degree. China is just already a bit further down the path towards the same future.

But how should we describe this form of government that has already begun to wrap its tentacles around the world today, including here in the United States? Many of us recognize by now that whatever it is we now live under, it sure isn’t “liberal democracy.” So what is it?

To be continued.

hat-tip David Archibald