Email of the day on revisionist history
Comment of the Day

August 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on revisionist history

This article summarizes neatly the blend of politics and revisionist history present in China today, particularly how the Party is trying to introduce a stylized version of Chinese history and culture in order to paper over the "spiritual vacuum" that resulted from the Revolution. Also interesting is the idea that this could give rise to new economic industries and / or cultural products for export (movies, art, tourism, etc.) Most importantly, it hints at the sweeping power and autonomy that Xi Jinping presently enjoys ... well worth the read. 

Eoin Treacy's view

Thank you for this thought provoking email. An authoritarian regime brooks no questioning of the narrative it crafts to sustain the mantle of legitimacy. If we look around the world today we have ample evidence of history being obviated in service to ideology so what is happening in China is regrettable but unfortunately not unusual.

I’m reminded of Churchill’s quip “history will be kind to me because I intend to write it.” Governance realty is Everything and what shape an administration takes will dictate how events are allowed to be interpreted subsequently. The three pillars of improving governance are respect for property rights, minority shareholder interests and an independent judiciary. When a country has these characteristics, it is unusual that an administration would resort to revisionist history to paper over failings in how the administration achieves the goal of rising living standards. Right now, China is battling the trend of rabid self-interest among is population and finds it needs to rekindle Confucianism to try and get people to think of more than themselves and immediate family.

The great paradox of capitalist societies is that the model is based on self-interest and yet we live on the understanding that we are stronger if we work together and support one another. Communism has exactly the opposite paradox. It is based on the assumption everyone should work together and yet the result is that everyone unabashedly pursues their self-interest. The lesson of course is that if you allow people to make a choice, more often than not they will be altruistic, but if you order them to be altruistic they will rebel against it. That is why constitutional democracy is still the best solution, despite all of its failings. 


Back to top

You need to be logged in to comment.

New members registration