Song Luzheng (宋鲁郑) is a journalist and (semi-)official living in France. The following are excerpts from an article published by Guanchazhe, a Shanghai-based website, on Thursday, and republished by the nationalist Huanqiu Shibao (online), also on Thursday. The article also appears on his regular blog.
Quotes made by Song Luzheng within the excerpts and translations underneath are my translations from Chinese to English. The wordings of the actual English-language originals (including book titles) by Niall Ferguson and Thomas Friedman may be different.
The bloody way in which the Egyptian military cracked down on the Morsi supporters has shocked the world. One after another, European countries condemned the “big terrorist massacre”, but Kerry, the secretary of state in charge of America’s diplomacy, of the world’s most developed democracy, with a surprising smile on his face on a press conference, didn’t condemn the military massacre in the least, and only uttered that this was “deplorable”, that “violence was no solution and only brought about more instability and economic disaster” (but who used violence? The protesters?). Also, the only “sanction” the Obama administration imposes is “the military exercises with Egypt may be cancelled”. This is completely different from condemning the situation in Syria and taking action. Apparently, public intellectuals under American influence, abroad and at home, are in a hurry to stand on the side of the military which massacres peaceful Egyptian citizens.
埃及军方如此残酷的血腥镇压穆尔西的支持者， 举世震惊。欧洲各国纷纷表态谴责这起“恐怖大屠杀”，而世界上最发达的民主国家美国，其主管外交的国务卿克里竟然笑容满面地出席记者会，对埃及军方主导的 大屠杀毫无谴责，仅仅说了一句“悲惨的”，并不痛不痒地说“暴力不是解决方案，通向暴力的道路只能带来更大的不稳定、经济灾难”（但谁在使用暴力？抗议者 吗？）。与此同时，奥巴马政府的官员提出的唯一“制裁”措施竟然是：“可能取消与埃及的军事演习”。这和美国谴责叙利亚的态度和采取的行动完全不同。看 来，受美国影响，海内外的不少公知们很快也要站在屠杀埃及平民的军方一边了。
Most of today’s developed countries, with the exception of Britain, went through times of destruction, writes Song, and adds:
In fact, China went through a similar experience, only at a higher cost. This was the Republic of China, founded in 1912. Simply-put, the Republic of China didn’t bring China independence, nor did it bring China unity, let alone an era of strength, prosperity and dignity. In its short 37 years, the economy went into bancruptcy, there was warlordism, large-scale civil war, invasions by foreign enemies, territorial disintegration, corruption from the top to the bottom etc., and until it [the ROC] withdraw from the stage of history, China had almost reached the status of a savage nation. Life expectancy was at 35 years, illiteracy up to 80 percent. The only time in several thousands of years that China fell behind India was at that time. Not even the Cultural Revolution managed to do that. China at the end of the Qing dynasty faced three challenges: extreme poverty and weakness and encirclement by big powers, national disintegration, and military split by warlordism, and the Republic of China not only failed to provide solutions, but worsened even further. If one says that the Qing dynasty was a big collapsing building, the Republic of China not only failed to work on the Qing dynasty’s foundations, but even lost that foundation. It was at that time that Outer Mongolia was lost without a war, as the first territory in China’s history.
其实中国自己也曾有过类似的经历，只是代价更为不菲。这就是 1912年建立的中华民国。简言之中华民国是一个既没有带给中国独立、也没有带来统一，更没有带来富强与尊严的时代。在其短短的三十七年间，经济陷入破 产，军阀混战，大规模的内战，外敌入侵，国土分裂，从上到下的完全腐败，等到它退出历史舞台的时候，中国已几乎到了“蛮荒亡国”的地步：人均寿命不足35 岁，文盲高达80%。中国几千年唯一一次落后于印度就在此时，甚至文革都未能做到一点。清末中国面临的三大挑战：极端的贫困和积弱不振、列强环伺的生存危 机、国家的分裂和军队的军阀化，中华民国不但一个都没有解决，反而更加恶化。如果说清朝是倒塌的大厦，中华民国则不但连清理地基的工作都未能做到，而且把 地基都丢掉了。外蒙古也就是这个时期，成为中国历史上首个不是因为战败而丧失的领土。
Although a high price for democratic transition was a historical law [anyway], there were still more special factors at work in Egypt, according to Song: it was particularly poor, it was under the impact of the global economic crisis and of revolution at home, an unemployment rate of 31 percent (only nine percent before the revolution), and adding to that, illiteracy was at 27 percent, with female illiteracy at 69 percent. A well-performing democracy needed an economic base and universal education. Lacking secularism in the Islamic world is also cited as a factor.
Also, some Muslim societies have long lacked a spirit of compromise and tolerance. This national character displays itself in a firm position and no concessions. This led to a situation where, when a ruler [Muarak] made concessions, prepared to move toward democracy, the country missed out on this top-down transition model which would have come at rather low costs, and even after a democratic success, and used extreme methods to solve conflicts. This happened both in Tunisia and in Egypt. When Muarak announced that he wouldn’t stay in office for another term and that his sons wouldn’t participate in elections, and that after his current term, there would be comprehensive, free and fair elections, the masses rejected this. As a result, power was transferred to the military, thus extending the transition period. And after one year of rule by Morsi, the first president elected by the people was pushed off the stage by another street revolution, causing nation-wide confrontation and resulting in an unprecedented bloody tragedy. This kind of lack of compromise has already strangled Egypt’s democracy in its cradle. History shows again and again that what is born in a pool of blood is only violent, not democratic.
再者，有些穆斯林社会长期缺乏妥协和宽容精神，这种国民性在革命时可以表现 为立场坚决，绝不退步。却也造成当执政者做出让步，准备走向民主时，国家错过从上而下的、代价较低的转型模式，甚至在民主成功之后，采用极端手段来解决冲 突。这一幕在突尼斯和埃及都反复上演。当穆巴拉克宣布不再连任、自己的儿子也不参选、任期届满之后即进行全面、自由、公正的选举时，却被民众拒绝了。结果 权力被交给军方，大大延长了过渡期。随后又在穆尔西执政一年后，再次以街头革命的方式，将首位民选总统赶下台，造成全国性的对抗，终至演变成空前的血腥悲 剧。实际上，这种不妥协，已经把埃及的民主扼杀在摇篮中。历史已经一而再地证明，在血泊中诞生的只有暴力，而不是民主。
Revolutions like these were most likely to happen in demographically young countries, Song continues. Japanese media had pointed out that therefore, a revolution was unlikely to happen in a country like China, which was older on average, and with only one child per family.
The West itself was equally in trouble, writes Song, enumerating the share of respective national debt as a share of GDP. All of those shares were above the internationally accepted warning line of 60 percent.
The trouble was that democratic systems were based on the expectation that the people were perfect, and wouldn’t allow abuse. Unreasonable public expectations made politicians accept even unreasonable demands:
By using the ballot box in this Western system, people can force politicians to accept unreasonable and even perfectly unreasonable demands. Today’s Western debts come from deficit spending [今天西方国家普遍出现的债台高筑寅吃卯粮], high levels of welfare are hard to sustain and impossible to reform, the masses idly indulge in a life of pleasure and comfort, and falling competitiveness and falling economic growth have their sources here.
西方危机的深层根源就在于它实行的一人一票的民主制度。当今民主制度有一个理论假想：政府是应有 之恶，要进行限权，但对人民却又认为是道德完美、能够做到绝对正确。事实上，人民的全体和个体的人民一样，都有先天性的人性缺憾，比如好逸恶劳贪得无厌、 目光短浅急功近利等等。而任何权力包括民权没有限制都会被滥用。于是在西方这种制度模式下，民众可以通过选票迫使政治人物接受并非理性、甚至完全不合理的 诉求。今天西方国家普遍出现的债台高筑寅吃卯粮、高福利难以为继却无法改革、民众日益懒惰贪图享乐、竞争力下降经济增长乏力的根源就在于此。
When it is said that traditionally socialist countries with absolute public ownership of means of production (and economic equality) has proven a failed utopia, the failure of Western democratic societies as another big Utopia with absolute equality (one man, one vote) is now also being proven.
Song mentions the role of Wall Street’s five largest investment banks in the 2008 U.S. elections:
While collusion between officialdom and business in China still requires secrecy, it happens in broad daylight in the West.
Apparently based on the bestseller “This Town”, Song details his statement about democracy.
This book’s grim conclusion is this: transactions between power and money has become a thorough procedure. America has become exactly the way of the Roman empire in its late stage, before its collapse: Systematic political corruption, evil action as the usual practice, and legal offense in vogue.
In the face of the crisis of Western democracy, more and more scholars are waking up. Niall Ferguson, one of the West’s most renowned and influential historians, called “one of the world’s 100 most influential people” by “Time”, wrote – after writing “Money and Power” and “Civilizaton” – about “The Western Civilization’s four Black Boxes”. In this book he argues that questions about the decline of the West lies in the degeneration of the institutions. Representational government, free markets, the rule of law, and civil society were once western Europe’s and North America’s four pillars, but are now in decay. The root lies in the irresponsibility to which the voting people have turned, living at the costs of future generations.
面对西方民主的危机，越来越多的学者开始醒悟。当代西方声誉最高、影 响力最大的历史学者，被《时代》周刊称为“影响世界的100人”之一的尼尔·弗格森，在《金钱与权力》、《文明》后，又推出一本新作：《西方文明的4个黑 盒子》，在这本书中，他认为西方衰落的答案就在西方的建制正在退化。代议政体、自由市场、法治、公民社会，曾是西欧、北美社会的四大支柱，但在今天这些建 制已败坏变质。根源则在于作为选民的人民变得不负责任，使一代选民得以在牺牲未来数代人利益下过日子。
This is also why the “New York Times'” columnist Thomas Friedman, in his new book “[The World is] Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, goes as far as titling one chapter “If America could be China for one Day”. He gives an example: “If need be, China’s leaders can change the regulatory system, the standards, infrastructure to safeguard the country’s long-term strategic benefit. If such issues get discussed and implemented in Western countries, I’m afraid it takes years or even decades.” [...]
这也是为什么《纽约时报》专栏作家托马斯·费里德曼新书《世界又热又平又挤》有一章的标题竟然是这样的： 假如美国能做一天中国。他举例道：“如果需要的话，中国领导人可以改变规章制度、标准、基础设施，以维护国家长期战略发展的利益。这些议题若换在西方国家 讨论和执行，恐怕要花几年甚至几十年的时间。” [.....]
This is where Song Luzheng gets back to Egypt, as a painfull lesson for Egypt itself, but a fortune for China (埃及的惨痛教训，对于中国实是极为宝贵的财富).
There are the three major human civilizations: Christian civilization, Islamic civilization, and Confucian cvilization. Only the Western democratic system can keep pace with China’s political civilization. But this kind of Western system has developed to today’s dysfunctionality, increasingly unable to adapt to the challenges of globalization. Apparently, Chinese civilization cannot be refused to play an important role among the world’s civilizations!
We can say that the decline of Western democracy and China’s institutional civilization full of vitality are humankind’s greatest and most influential change. In the old days, China’s huge contributions to humankind weren’t only reflected in economics, but more importantly in its institutional civilization. These days, as China is becoming strong and prosperous again, it will also, once again, carve out another height of institutional civilization for humankind.