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June 8 "China’s Political System" with Robert Sutter, National Intelligence Officer, East Asia, National Intelligence Council.
Using the question of whether or not China is a threat as a framework, Dr. Robert Sutter spoke about China’s political system. Much of the debate surrounding China focuses on warnings about China as a major power. In order to move past the warnings one must look behind the scenes at the political system. Sutter reviewed the background of Chinese politics and society, from the successful bureaucratic systems, its eventual breakdown, and the "victim mentality" that exists today. Much of this mentality is tied to what Sutter described as the hundred years of humiliation. This breakdown and resulting humiliation that was felt set the stage for the Communist Revolution in China and the rise of Mao Zedong. Mao essentially had used organization and ideology to bring the nation out of chaos. Sutter argues that it is the successes and the failures of this system that the leaders of China in the post-Mao era have to deal with. It is the 30,000 people who died during the Great Leap Forward, the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, and the consistent corruption that permeates the system as a whole that are the context for the future leaders of China. Essentially, the leadership within China wants to stay in power, but they cannot use the tools that were used in the past. Therefore, they use new tools, specifically nationalism and economic success. The current and future Chinese leadership must work to keep economic growth on a steady course while maintaining political consensus. After talking about several challenges facing the current regime, Sutter elaborated on the impending change of power in China and the struggle and possible rift within the party consensus that could occur. Finally Sutter reiterated that we should not forget to look at the dynamics of the political system when hearing the "warnings" concerning China.
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