CHINA vs the US: Is Corporate China the End of History?

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published “The End of History.” His thesis was simple: social evolution has given us the free market to govern capital and liberal democracy to govern human ambition.

Fukuyama’s idea was that competitive systems evolve by natural selection.  As with Darwin, social evolution optimizes how people behave … the free market optimizes productive capacity in the form of capital and democracy, according to Fukuyama, optimizes ambition and ego. He calls that combination by a Greek root .. THYMOS.

CNN’s Nic Roberson on China’s emergence as the world’s sole superpower .. “Over the next few months, the world’s current and previous superpowers are set to undergo enormous self-harm. The biggest victim could be democracy itself, and the biggest losers the approximately 4 billion people who live in its imperfect embrace. ”  “As London and Washington convulse, China belches along, gobbling up cultures in a way that should alarm us all. This week, China’s future global dominance was on full display as foreign leaders headed to Beijing in the hope of securing lucrative projects as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. ”  “Xi is doing what all aspiring empires do, threading the world in a web of dependency, slowly creating dominion in other powers’ backyards.  Lesson here: Your overlords in the new world order won’t give a fig for your democratic values or your grandchildren’s rights and desires. “It is worth considering that as we embark on democracy’s greatest challenge to date, demonstrating this is not some transient experiment but a cherished, albeit imperfect, life choice for more than half the planet.”

Fukuyama, despite his surname, was and is very much a Eurocentric thinker.  Like Marks, Fukuyama measured history by its European landmarks … beginning with Rome, falling to barbarian chaos, being reborn under feudalism, then monarchy, then the mix of aristocracy and class, and ending up with democracy.  That history ignores the strong political systems that dominated China and the Islamic world for centuries.

When I read his book 30 years ago, Fukuyama never considered that Islam, Buddhism and Confucius created political systems that dealt very well with thymos using principles of culture and management … albeit principle based on Chinese or Muslim history.  Nor did Fukuyama consider how each of these might function in a global world where commerce, that is capital, is controlled by corporations that are never governed by anything resembling liberal democracy.

Now we see a challenge.  China, with roots in Marx and Confucius, is challenging the west.  China’s system is very much like a corporate system where leadership is governed by the administration .. here called the Communist Party.  Moreover,  like Microsoft or General Electric, the Chinese Communist Party sees itself as a meritocracy … pretty much like a classical Confucian state or the court of Harun al Rashid.

The Chinese model is not the only challenge. Iran, despite massive harassment by the US and its Saudi plutocratic allies, is trying to develop a model based on a balance of power between a theocratic leadership and an elected leadership.  In theory, as in the days of the Caliphs, Iran’s mullahs provide oversight similar to that of the communist party leadership in post Mao China. While Iran has a little green book and China has a little red book, both the Iranian model and the Chinese model claim to build on meritocratic traditions.

The debacle of Trump raises the serious question of whether liberal democracy is viable in a corporate world. I do not worry about plutocracies or monarchies.  I also doubt that Buddhist ethics can offer a system that apportions management by ability.  BUT … the history of Islamic and Confucian governments is millennia-long perhaps because both the caliphate and the Chinese empire were built on measures of merit very similar to those of a modern corporation.

The contrast with the US in 2019 is striking.

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  1. Mark Adans #

    First I think Francis Fukuyama’s theory is wrong. It is a misuse of Darwinian theory of natural selection. It ignores as does Marx that systems can devolve as well as evolve.
    If his theory is correct then the end of movies has arrived this weekend with the new Avengers movie. I am sure the genre or movies has not ended and will not end as the very corporate movie industry is not going out of business, though corrupt and eventually Bollywood will take over the industry and 21s ‘Century Fox will meet the dustbin of history (maybe, it already has?).
    Neither the Chinese nor Islamic forms of government as shown a straight line of Darwinian growth and domination. In fact competition between the two has been one factor why neither has risen to global dominance. Corruption in both systems also has greatly limited growth, and neither give good ways of combating corruption, and often in both power is in cahoots with the purveyors of corruption. Democracy however brings corruption to the sunlight, often not soon enough, but it does happen, but there is no cleaner in either the Confucius model nor Islam beyond getting rid of ones opponents. and generally there is denial that any corruption exists in these perfect models of governance. The fact at the beginning of the 19th century both the Islamic and Chinese empire had reached a dead end, and were threatened with extinction is being over looked here. In fact the Ottoman Empire in decline for centuries was broken up, and that China nearly broke up into warring states controlled by a local warlord shows there are holes that can be poked at in the theories given here.
    Free markets and liberal democracy in many ways suck, but when compared to the alternatives have hidden strengths and can serve the average mans needs better than the corporate titans controlled by a Communist or fascist party can or will be willing to do so, as in liberal democracies belief such entities will work to empower themselves and continue their political power, and that is anathema to liberty and freedom.

  2. Mark Adans #

    The government of Taiwan nor the Communist party are a continuation of China. Both the communist and nationalists revolutionists brought an end to that regime. Though the communists usually for propaganda will use the dead body of the empire it destroyed to make claims on territory and culture.

  3. theaveeditor #

    You confuse the empire with Confucious. That would be like equating capitalism to the Holy Roman Empire.

  4. theaveeditor #

    Have you read Fukuyama?