Daily Archives: July 12, 2011

As the debt negotiators square off in Congress, much attention will focus on the size of the ten-year deal they come up with. As almost everyone agrees, there is much more risk of doing too little than too much given the scale of America’s fiscal challenge.

With the US economy as weak as it is, what is most important is that any budget deal be pushed forward as soon as possible – it is likely to be revised and adjusted following next year’s election anyway. We should not underestimate how big an impact decisions about spending and taxing made over the next year or two will have on job creation over the next year, the economy over the next decade, and on the path of US national debt over an even longer horizon. 

The Chinese Communist Party celebrated its 90th birthday on July 1. In the days prior to this event, the airwaves were full of historical dramas depicting heroic People’s Liberation Army soldiers and party cadres struggling against a variety of enemies. There is a new, neo-Maoist faction within the party that has began promoting the singing of classic Communist songs like “The East is Red” throughout the country. This “red culture” revival has nothing to do with the party’s original ideals of equality and social justice. Rather, it is being promoted by national leaders as a means of strengthening stability in a country that has seen a massive rise in inequality in recent years.

But Chinese history did not, of course, begin with the Communist victory in 1949. In a fascinating turn, an older alternative historical narrative is being formulated alongside the Communist one through a revival of serious study of classical Chinese philosophy, literature, and history. Mao attacked Confucius as a reactionary, but today Chinese dynastic history is once again being taught in the school system.

Contemporary China has two alternative sources of tradition to look back on, a neo-Maoist one and a neo-Confucian one. Both are being promoted as alternatives to democracy. That the Chinese need to find their own way to modernity seems incontrovertible. Whether either of these ideas will bear the weight of regime legitimation, or indeed whether they can ultimately co-exist with one another, is something yet to be seen.