The Chinese Are Much Freer Than We Think

Government 'incompetence' means greater freedoms, writes Ian Mills
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 3, 2011 12:29 PM CST
In this Oct. 1, 2009 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the phalanx of the Chinese national flag is inspected during the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of People's Republic of China.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Huang Jingwen, File)

(Newser) – Westerners worry that China is a “politically repressive, secretive new superpower," but in fact, it’s hardly as restrictive as many believe—thanks, in large part, to government “corruption and incompetence.” Before we engage with “the China threat,” we need to understand how the country really works, writes Iain Mills in World Politics Review, and that means acknowledging "the true nature of freedom and repression" there. So here's one truth, writes Mills: China's citizens "may even enjoy greater liberty than their Western counterparts."

The government, for example, struggles to gather basic data about citizens, whose formal, daily interactions with the state are “almost zero.” Closed-circuit video surveillance is used only minimally, and “almost no limitations are placed on criticisms of economic policy.” While certain political statements—such as breaking with the government on Tibet—aren’t tolerated, “the view of a homogenized, blinkered populace is highly misleading,” writes Mills. “Rather, Chinese society is diverse and dynamic, and so is the distribution of freedom and repression within it.”

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