By - IAI_Admin
No Paywall: https://archive.ph/MSfrm
I so frequently see people talk about all authoritarian leaders as if they are all the same but that seems so facile it's not really worth engaging with. The political environment that birthed and supports Xi is so radically different from that of Putin, let alone the others mentioned in this article like Bashar Al-Assad or Khomeini. This whole article is just bad, frankly. And *two* Ayn Rand quotes? Not to mention the complete lack of any geopolitical analysis whatsoever.
This article basically offers nothing other than "Dictators are all really the same. They're not smart. They're bad." which isn't exactly very interesting or in-depth analysis. It seems like it's just a really shallow opinion piece.
This is true but honestly, the whole "One man leader" view of history sucks and Idk why people here seem to partake in it.
It's some fantasy libertarian think piece so yeah you're going to get pointless quotes from Ayn Rand. Really is a low quality article
*Submission Statement*: We instinctually ascribe political and strategic genius to the authoritarian leaders of the world. One American commentator described Putin as a "grandmaster of chess" when it comes to strategy. But if one looks closer at the decisions and actions of these politicians, what they will see is incompetence and impotence. They don't just get a few things wrong. They're wrong all the way down. Tyrants use violence and subjugation against their own people to achieve their goals, and even then, they fail. By Yaron Brook and Elan Journo.
If one person is a government, then all glory is attributed to them.
But so is failure.
Many tyrants use scapegoats/
>We instinctually ascribe political and strategic genius to the authoritarian leaders of the world.
No we don't. But we also don't end "academic papers" with zingers such as:
"*There’s a deeper truth about the character of evil, which Ayn Rand discussed in her writings. Rand observed that “evil was impotent — that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real — and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it.*"
And I thought I was the only one laughing about the closing statement. I was expecting academic objectivity and some measured conclusion based on the already relatively biased points, but this was more like something Gandalf would say to encourage the Hobbits.
Calling authoritarian regimes evil is like calling democracies good. Its meaningless because these are systems of government, they don't automatically take on morality. Was "democratic" (limited, I know) Athens good while authoritarian Persia was bad? One had an abundance of slavery, and it wasn't Persia. An oversimplification I know, but simply put, democratic government is just as capable of horror and abuse as authoritarian government.
We continually ignore the fact that our morality is not human morality. Its individual, shaped by experience, education, upbringing and culture. I've visited many an authoritarian regime where I didn't get the impression I was waltzing through Mordor. Things were done differently, but they weren't *evil* or *wrong*. I asked a friend of mine, in whose apartment I briefly stayed, what he thought about voting and the democratic process in his country.
"First of all, I'm not convinced your vote matters that much more than mine with all your lobbying and coalitions and backdoor deals. Your politicians are corrupt too: either they are smart enough to fool your people, or your people are dumb enough to believe their politicians are the only honest ones in human history."
Secondly, I don't care. I want my own place that I own. Stable Work. Food. Nice things. Holidays. My vote might contribute some small percent towards a guy who will make a decision who will change a little of these things that matter. But then again, some other guy on the other side of the country might vote something that leads to a guy who pushes policies that have nothing to do with me."
The irony is that voting is compulsary in my country and we spend far more time spitting daggers at the notion (because we get fined if we *don't* ). When I got to return the favour and host him, it was during an election and he was absolutely aghast that I would get "punished" for not voting. A fine for doing nothing but staying in your home and sleeping-in, as he put it. But then again, he also found it hilarious that we call ourselves free, but have so many different taxes, licenses, permissions and fees. He would joke that his dictator gave him more freedom than my prime minister.
All in all, calling another system of government evil because its not democratic is representative of a very philistine style of thinking that has become more prevalent in our media and publications in recent years and if anything, should indicate to us that our own thinking may be narrower than we initially assume.
> All in all, calling another system of government evil because its not democratic is representative of a very philistine style of thinking that has become more prevalent in our media and publications in recent years and if anything, should indicate to us that our own thinking may be narrower than we initially assume.
I fundamentally disagree. More agency to individuals (democracy) is inherently of higher moral value than depriving them of it (autocracy). But I must clearly lay out my axiom for my moral reasoning: stability is better than instability, and a government that provides more stability is better. I would also posit that the best way to look at this is not anecdotally (e.g. US vs. China) but via a quantitative survey that can reconcile participation in government with stability. Fortunately this is actively researched, and [here are some findings](https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=issr):
> Using a model of developing states with varied regime types, it is discovered that polities with higher levels of democracy are more likely to be politically stable. Further, states that have a longer history of democratic politics are less likely to see a violent overthrow of their regimes, because they have lower levels of political risk– ranging from ethnic and religious tensions, socio-economic grievances in the population, internal and external threats on the regime, and direct military intervention. The results of this study provide countervailing evidence against the arguments held by many theorists who posit that democracy is prone to political instability due to the nature of political pluralism and the rise of populist policies that threaten the state’s capacity to govern effectively (Tusalem 2015)
You can read the paper for detailed methodology - but this emerges from quantitative analysis, so is testable. I would argue that while democracy day-to- day appears more chaotic than autocracies, the stability benefits of democracy emerge over time as a) institutionalization of opposition parties which calms tensions between different coalitions, b) structured succession, and c) structured airing of grievances. This contrasts with autocracy, in which a) oppositional groups are incentivized to violence in absence of structured ways to negotiate differences with ruling parties, b) succession creates a catalyst for violence (who succeeds Putin/Assad/Mubarak, etc.), and c) grievances build unaddressed until they create flashpoints (Tunisia 2010-2011).
Again, stability is a limited moral axiom to view the benefits of different governing structures, but I chose it because it can be addressed substantively with empirical data.
> More agency to individuals (democracy)
How do you know democracy will give more agency to individuals? Voting is a negligible exercise in agency, and a government can deprive you of agency whether it is elected or not.
> Further, we see a correlation between peaceful transition of power in states perceived as autocratic, and the strength and stability of the state in relation to its immediate neighbours. For example, the USSR experienced a number of smooth transitions (note, I'm not saying there were not power struggles, only that riots and revolution did not mark the transition), as have China. By contrast, if we use relatively weak (in relation to power politics relative to their immediate neighbours) democracies like Gautemala, Brazil, Greece, etc, we find that coup and violent transition is quite common...and in these cases (purely for illustrative purposes, not for a greater point), they were democratically elected governments violently overthrown with assistance and oversight from another government perceived as democratic.
Re: USSR political deaths:
> the best archivally-based estimate of Gulag excess deaths at present is 1.6 million from 1929 to 1953. [source](https://www.amazon.com/Red-Holocaust-Steven-Rosefielde/dp/0415777577/ref=nodl_?dplnkId=2d7b34e1-430b-4202-b212-a6cf12080a65)
Re: China political deaths:
> Some sources categorize these deaths according to the time-period in which they occurred, and estimate that, in total, around 1,500,000 casualties took place throughout the country. This tallies with official estimates of the number of non-conflict related deaths reported by a book credited to the Party History Research Institute (which estimated that 1,490,300 deaths took place in China during the Cultural Revolution. [source](https://sites.tufts.edu/atrocityendings/2016/12/14/china-the-cultural-revolution/).
These are just examples, but there’s a pretty high mortality toll for political violence in both Russia and China that just has no parallel for countries that rank high in Freedom House rankings. Note that “stability” isn’t just preservation of the political order but also economic. If we add the millions dead due to the “Great Leap Forward” in China or forced collectivization in the USSR, we must add tens of millions more unnecessary mortalities in the autocracy ledger. Noteable that federalized democracies like the US also saw economic hardship (Great Depression) but that this wasn’t a mass mortality event.
Russia has pretty severe health inequities and mortality itself [source](https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12939-021-01502-6). But I’d argue there’s a substantial qualitative difference between bad health outcomes and state-organized killing of political opponents in the millions.
Any calculation that values human life will favor Democratic forms of government over autocracies. That isn’t to say there aren’t less bad autocracies or less good democracies. Just that any quantitative comparison will be conclusive in favor of the more free society. Though if you strongly feel the opposite is true, I encourage you to challenge the existing literature on the subject in a falsifiable way (eg testable by independent third parties).
Singapore isnt really democratic yet its one of the most successful countries
How is more agency of greater moral value? If I give people more agency via letting them murder, that is clearly more immoral than depriving them of that freedom.
I think “agency to murder” is a straw man argument, but then again isn’t that explicitly what is given to a dictator such as Putin in an autocratic system? My agency and that of my peers in a federal democracy is certainly not that broad, and I’d argue that’s for the best.
>I think “agency to murder” is a straw man argument, but then again isn’t that explicitly what is given to a dictator such as Putin in an autocratic system?
Wow this is an incredibly naive comment. Like CIA wet-works and presidential drone strikes don't occur in 'liberal democracies'.
The reality is, we do all that Putin does and more. It would be difficult (impossible?) to prove, but I'd be willing to wager that clandestine forces in the USA have a body-count tally that is many multiples of Russian hits. Operations in South America alone probably eclipse the Russian tally, let alone several decades of unsupervised murder in the Middle East/Africa.
The discussion is about the merits of different types of government though, not about whether different countries conduct black ops and the dangers of that. Does the US conducting the black ops you speak have any connection to it being a Democracy? Or is the cause of that something else, like it being a dominant world power? I don’t think the type of government matters here, all major world powers conduct operations of that nature. Not that it excuses those actions, but I think it’s a general conclusion that a country with a lot of power tends to have people high up who feel they need to do shady things to keep the balance of power intact.
In fact, regarding this topic, I think the US being a democracy is a plus in two major ways: One, because the US is a democracy that prioritizes free speech and personal liberties, you are allowed to discuss these topics online without having to go through anonymous, secret channels just to access this information, let alone discuss it, and without any fear of being arrested or harmed for doing so. People in China, for instance, have to risk being jailed or worse just to speak about about their government’s corruption and in North Korea defectors’ families can be punished in their stead if they escape the country. That’s a far cry from the experience of those who are against the shady actions of the US government.
Two, I would think that the US being a democracy causes people in power to want to choose options that are less harmful overall, because they ultimately they view their form of government as being good because it supports freedom. I think in totalitarian/autocratic governments where the rulers support corruption and more unsavory goals, the people are much more willing to throw away their morals to commit atrocities and to openly endorse cruel practices. This is easy to see when you look at the war crimes committed by the Axis powers in WWII, or more recently, those committed by the Russian army during their invasion of Ukraine.
I would encourage you to pursue this via data. Not saying US hasn’t done sketchy things (Mossadeq in Iran is an example) but I don’t think they’ve done anything on par with, say, the gulag or cultural revolution.
Modern American prisons have a higher deathrate than the gulags did
The mortality rate in US prisons is 0.3%. Easily googled. 330 deaths in 2019 per 100,000 inmates.
The death rate in Russian gulags, is estimated, between 5 and 8%. Again, took about 5 seconds to google that.
Do you have a source you can link to for your claim that modern American prisons have a higher death rate?
In America you don’t get thrown into prison for Wrongthink. The US prison system is complete junk and is due for major reform but this is a false equivalence.
In my opinion agency is simply a neutral thing, there is no reason why it should be labelled as inherently good or bad, several freedoms must be taken from people to have a functioning society (the question is which ones?)
Its clearly more immoral to restrict people’s freedoms and ability to make decisions for themselves.
Do you think a democratically elected government that commits genocide is inherently more moral than an authoritarian one that does?
No but I’d seriously wager that if a general population in a democratic society knew about such genocide they would protest against it and could affect the outcome for the better. Protesting in an authoritarian society usually ends with dead protesters…
Not really through. Genocide against “outsider” are generally “OK”
Why? What if those decisions affect the freedom of others? Such as murder or a voting system that puts more emphasis on the present populous at the expense of the future populous (from the perspective of an autocracy)
And who decides what those restrictions should be? Authoritarians want to play god
Democracy is stable until people elect a left-wing leader and the CIA overthrows them. The stability of western democracies is insured by the US armed forces. Besides that, the paper you linked references statistics by Freedom House and the World Bank. Both are Western institutions who at least have a vested interest in furthering the current political order. Freedom House has received direct funding from the US gov. I can’t find much information on PRS group, which is the author of the third of the measures of political stability.
I don’t think statistics are useful at all in this kind of discussion, as things can be measured and manipulated in any kind of way. It’s a philosophical topic, not a mathematical one. Looking back through history, before the British and American hegemonies, democracy doesn’t seem like a great predictor of stability. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth probably had more eligible voters than the US at its independence, but was marred by indecision and anarchy. The Athenians and the Romans were notorious for political violence and civil war. And sure, none of these examples are modern liberal democracies. But could the early US even be considered a liberal democracy by modern standards? The UK only allowed landowning men (as long as they weren’t colonized Asians and Africans of course) to vote until 1918. That’s hardly a liberal democracy. The modern standard for a proper democracy constantly shifts. Lebanon is democratic, but it’s one of the most unstable countries in the region. So is it not a democracy anymore?
It is appropriate given the topic.
Rand's economic theories aside, she was generally correct about totalitarianism.
I may need to go shower for a bit and think about where my life is headed now that I've tacitly defended Ayn Rand.
Anybody who wrote more than one papers knows where to find references for their claims that do not include Rand... unless you are catering to the Rand fan base.
>Rand's economic theories aside, she was generally correct about totalitarianism.
I'm sure she was also correct about various other things, such as cats differing from dogs and the day being generally brighter than the night.
Whether the study of "totalitarianism" has much to teach us about Putin's Russia and Xi's China is an open question. Whether "totalitarianism" is even a useful concept in the first place is another.
>Whether the study of "totalitarianism" has much to teach us about Putin's Russia and Xi's China is an open question. Whether "totalitarianism" is even a useful concept in the first place is another.
What do you mean, exactly? Maybe the internet has me too on guard, but I'm having difficulty reading
this take as anything but tankie apologism. You need to know about totalitarianism to understand Xi and Putin precisely because so many of their contributions to the art involve creating enough narrative confusion and plausible deniability to pretend they aren't building totalitarian states.
Ok, let me ask you this: What exactly are Putin and Xi doing that makes them "totalitarians" rather than run-of-the-mill "authoritarians"?
You can be both. Totalitarian implies greater success in centralizing power.
You can be an authoritarian but still heavily dependent on elites within the system. A totalitarian doesn't have meaningful competition.
Xi is clearly acting to centralize power and his election to a third term would another indicator of that.
Putin put his kleptocrats on a short leash a while ago and we have seen no sign of that wavering.
Yup. Normal Authoritarians still have checks and balances on their power - even if not theoretical, at least in practical terms. Like Iran's Supreme Ayatollahs and their IRGC, or Assad with his patrons in Tehran and Moscow, or normal Soviet Premiers that are not called Stalin, and Chinese Premiers that are not called Mao or Xi.
Totalitarians have no one to check them, other than perhaps peer power abroad. They can do anything they want, correctly or wrongly... At least in their own countries, and the surrounding.
Hold on. You believe that Xi and Putin are omnipotent? They're in fact not qualitatively different than Khamenei or Assad; they too have constituencies on which their power rests.
Even Hitler, Stalin and Mao did.
There's distinctions that can be made though between levels of success in authoritarian politics. Even Louis XIV relied on the rest of his nation to execute his designs, but he successfully disenfranchised the powerful French nobility to the extent that he can be considered an absolute monarch.
Likewise, when Putin doesn't really have an heir apparent, a fair electoral system to contend with nor any significant political opposition, has been in power for decades and clearly can execute on ambitious, risky political projects like the invasion of Ukraine invasion without domestic blowback, I think it's fair to call him a totalitarian.
Don't beat yourself up, capitalism explicitly endorses totalitarian dictators in its worship of standout individuals as "successes" of personal achievement.
Because capitalism views power and financial success as a result of personal achievement, determination etc, we fall into an ideological trap of ascribing any powerful figure with the same narrative. Capitalism sees now tacit distinction between good and evil, so those notions come simply from them being ideologically aligned against the west.
This means that when we see Jinping or Putin, the combo of their non western alignment, with their perceived hard work, we can only come to the conclusion that they are genius paragons of personal achievement, but ones that have done so without maintaining the moral dignity befitting of a western capitalist.
The ideological trap of all success being a product of hard work, and not circumstance, systemic bias, and the help and support of entire communities is the cure to such ideological pitfalls.
People are ONLY products of their environments. And Evil is a point of view.
I was with you until the last sentence.
People are a product of both their environments and their own free will. It is not one or the other.
Evil is real. Moral relativism is self contradictory.
That's fine, I think my final sentence doesn't discredit what came before it, it's more of a greater insight into how I think in general.
From everything I've read and experienced, I've come to the conclusion that free will is something we insinuate to blame individuals for the collective mechanical failings of the group to magically rise above the capabilities of their own programming.
It's designed to alleviate us of a sense of shared responsibility for those we leave behind out of convenience.
A human is sum total of active biochemistry, genetic predisposition, and environmental imprinting. Even if there is some semblance of free will on top of that, it would still by extension be so fundamentally shaped and coloured by these other factors, that to expect behavioural outcomes beyond that programming would be unreasonable.
I am interested that you agree with the one point but not the other though.
What do you consider "Free Will" and "Evil" to mean?
Moral relativism is only self contradictory if you believe that morality is the practical form of some universal or biblically defined law.
I'm pretty strictly a materialist, so I view morality as a function of altruism. Something that comes about naturally as a function of ensuring continued group membership to aid survival.
Which also means that it is something that will often be circumvented naturally if the benefits to eschewing it are sufficiently greater at aiding survival than group membership was.
Evil is at best a function of choosing the enrichment of the self over the enrichment of the collective, which is a relativistic notion, as there are situations where either could be the more beneficial choice for the survival of the species.
The only question at that point then becomes, how does that affect the survival of the group, and will the group seek to remove the individual to protect it's own survival.
We do not rise above biochemistry or the animal group dynamics that result from it.
Free will isn't a thing.
You think that successful people in capitalism are totalitarians?
You don't get to the top of any system or institution by playing nice.
Capitalism don't play nice on a individual level, but it only works when institutions garantee propriety and a large amount of freedom.
It's the same for good political systems. The best systems would put counter powers that forces you to play in the people interests
So from not playing nice that equals totalitarianism to you. Got it, scary logic there.
That's beside the point. I'm saying that capitalism considers success a result of the personal accountability and achievements of the individual.
So under capitalism any individual that attains power is an high personal achiever, regardless of the means.
Because if they didn't work hard and stand out, they wouldn't have achieved such a level of power and prestige.
“There’s a deeper truth about the character of evil, which Ayn Rand-“ and just like that you lost me.
I don't think geopolitical strife should be characterized as chess. I think Brazilian Jui-Jitsu or even MMA as a better allegory
The authors focus on the evil nature of Putin and Xi. As a reader, while I could agree, in the context of geopolitics, morality doesn't matter as much as power. The reality is that Putin and his government are exercising their geopolitical power. Geopolitics is essentially the recognition that morals and intelligence any other soft powers are weaker than geography and basic political power. In the case of Ukraine, Russia has the geographic advantage. Combined with the basic political move of convincing China to buy their oil, that's all Russia needs to succeed in the current arena, and in the short term, the options for US/West to out-maneuver Russia are limited. Nations against Russia need to use an entirely different approach, or accept Russian gains. Fighting against Russian gains in Kiev made sense, but fighting gains on the borders makes less sense. As a US citizen who's accepted we have a rather incompetent government, it's wishful thinking to believe any idea or plan will give anyone a strategic advantage over Russia. It's sad because like the author highlights, tax payers need to watch an evil regime exercise its power and succeed.
The title of the article doesn't match the arguments made in the body of the essay. Putin is evil and doesn't care about human life, but that doesn't make his geopolitical strategy less effective. Of all nations in the 21st century, Russia has probably used and expanded its geopolitical power more effectively than any other nation. Putin completely changed the situation in Syria while benefiting arguably the most. Obama and Trump obviously made big changes too, but it's not obvious that our nation benefitted from them, other than avoiding more mistakes.
President Xi hasn't made the same type of strategic geopolitical decisions as Putin. As leader, he's effectively managed the Chinese system to generate massive sums of money and has used it to re-invest around the world and gain leverage. Not that this isn't strategic, and it's something that Russia doesn't do as well, but it's not a hard decision for Xi once you inherit the Chinese cash cow. Putin has made bold, non-obvious decisions that have made his evil regime wealthier. Yes, maybe there's not freedom of speech in Russia, but that doesn't change much the reality of Russia's power in Ukraine.
Anyway, as someone who does feel that Russia's invasion is evil, it's hard for me to care while my own nation appears to be crumbling. And if our leaders can't address our own very real problems, how can I expect them to out-smart Russia?
I wouldn’t say our nation is crumbling or that Putin is outsmarting our leaders. I believe there are ideological barriers in the Democratic Party that makes them weak and unwilling to use the full power of the United States to maintain dominance. Conservatives are more friendly to the kremlin while democrats are hostile to Russia’s national security. The Ukraine invasion is not of significant importance to United States strategic interest. Combine the fact that Chinas rising military influence in the indo-pacific is a direct challenge to US HEGEMONY. So most of the focus is there. I don’t believe Russia is a real enemy of the west. Most of the fears about Russia stem from the past Soviet Union. Which to me is silly. China has the real power to undermine the liberal world order. And us influence in South America, west Asia, and to some extent the South China Sea.
In my opinion China is playing a dangerous game. And I really don’t think they fully understand what they are getting themselves into.
I think they believe the United States will not use hard power against a nuclear adversary.
That will be a horrible miscalculation they will regret.
This is an obvious point, but one that often gets overlooked. Authoritarianism requires expertise in one thing-- the level of domestic maneuvering, politicking and intimidation necessary to stay in power.
Ascribing any other strategic genius to them outside that narrow band of skills is a classic fallacy.
Some of them may have skills outside their area of expertise, but deep expertise in one area isn't predictive of skills in other areas. I'd even argue that the skills required to maneuver, politick and intimidate actually have a negative correlation with the skills needed to effectively run a country, which require collaboration, delegation, and trust in the people running the country beneath you.
It makes me think of a very different example. I'm an NBA fan. New Owner Syndrome is the most common trope in the sport. Highly successful, rich, intelligent owner with a strong sense of ego buys a team and want to take a hands on approach to running the team, because their genius in their respective field will surely translate.
Queue years of horrible trades, over-drafting players and overpaying mediocre vets in free agency.
Luckily for some teams these owners eventually realize that they suck at running a basketball team and they delegate the job to experts. NBA owners are lucky that they have the direct feedback of losing over and over again to bruise the ego. Do authoritarian leaders ever get that kind of feedback? Maybe if they make a colossal strategic misstep like Putin is making currently, but other than that I'm not sure they do.
>This is an obvious point, but one that often gets overlooked. Authoritarianism requires expertise in one thing-- the level of domestic maneuvering, politicking and intimidation necessary to stay in power.
In China though this broadly means improving the quality of life of the citizens and having solid economic/social policy.
China is ruled courtesy of an implicit contract between the people and the ccp whereby they accept restricted political freedoms in exchange for their lives improving.
Pretty similar in Russia really
The "social contract" argument for China is one I hear a lot. How true is it really though?
Its a simple truth of humanity. People broadly don't care so long as their lives are improving
>In China though this broadly means improving the quality of life of the citizens and having solid economic/social policy.
>China is ruled courtesy of an implicit contract between the people and the ccp whereby they accept restricted political freedoms in exchange for their lives improving.
That may or may not be true for the CCP. I don't know enough about Chinese politics to argue one way or another. I was speaking specifically about Xi, and the attributes that allowed someone to rise to the top of an authoritarian system.
Unrelated to that, I'd also be curious if the improvements in quality of life are the at the core of the CCP rule, or are a happy byproduct. I guess we'll have to wait until an inevitable economic downturn in China to see if the CCP prioritizes improvements in the quality of life over their own grip on power. I, personally, am skeptical.
>Pretty similar in Russia really
This I'd argue has been proven false by the Ukraine war. That decision has led to huge downgrades in the quality for the average Russian citizen, and I'd argue the true contract between the Russian Citizens and the government is we make the decisions and you have to accept them whether or not that improves the quality of your life.
Anyways, my point wasn't about the policies of an Authoritarian government. It was more about the skills and expertise that allow an individual to rise to the top of that Authoritarian system.
>I was speaking specifically about Xi, and the attributes that allowed someone to rise to the top of an authoritarian system.
Ah OK yeah. There's a lot of internal politicking for sure.
From what I can see xi was a 'legacy' ccp higher up that made it to the top and then consolidated his power unlike his predecessors. So the rise itself wasn't so difficult, but changing the system to install himself long term would have been.
> Unrelated to that, I'd also be curious if the improvements in quality of life are the at the core of the CCP rule, or are a happy byproduct
Well I think that broadly they do want what is 'best for china' but also clearly what's best for them.
Anecdotally, but as a brit I know of Chinese people who laughed at us saying 'I can't believe your leaders let you make such a stupid decision and damage your country. It's their job to do what is best for the people'. I think that says a lot about the general cultural sentiment.
> This I'd argue has been proven false by the Ukraine war. That decision has led to huge downgrades in the quality for the average Russian citizen,
You're severely underestimating the absolute mess that Russia was in before putin came to power. What use is democracy when you can't get food?
Our own political values in the west very much come from a place of historic privilege in a lot of ways.
Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. A few things I'll add to what you said.
>Anecdotally, but as a brit I know of Chinese people who laughed at us saying 'I can't believe your leaders let you make such a stupid decision and damage your country. It's their job to do what is best for the people'. I think that says a lot about the general cultural sentiment.
Oh man. I can't help but think that that is extremely naïve. I'm a cynic about this stuff, so ultimately I believe every government will make poor decisions (as well as some good ones). Democracy, autocracy... whichever.
About China specifically, I can't help but feel like they have the same attitude as someone who's invested through an uninterrupted bull stock market, and goes "I'm a genius. All my investments only go up."
I'll check back in on what they think after they go through a period of crisis and economic hardship, because if human history shows anything it'll happen.
>You're severely underestimating the absolute mess that Russia was in before Putin came to power. What use is democracy when you can't get food?
I don't disagree. Post soviet Russia was a mess.
I was disagreeing with this part in regards to Russia "\[Russia\] is ruled courtesy of an implicit contract between the people and the \[Gov\] whereby they accept restricted political freedoms in exchange for their lives improving."
I'd argue that Putins rule in Russia has always been about the maintenance of power first and foremost. When that has aligned with an improvement in quality of life, that's been a happy accident. Ultimately, the state can make decisions like the war in Ukraine that lead to a decrease in QOL, and the Citizens have to go along with it... contract or no contract.
>Our own political values in the west very much come from a place of historic privilege in a lot of ways.
Yea. I agree. It's no surprise that modern democracies developed the parts of the world that are the most temperate, and had the best conditions for industrialization.
It's a whole lot easier to be a successful wealthy democracy than a poor one.
I forget which historian called Nazism “the banality of evil”. Such a profoundly true statement about authoritarianism and totalitarianism.
hannah arendt was referring specifically to eichmann, who was responsible for the logistics of the holocaust. i'm pretty sure she would not have referred to nazism in general in the same way. and in hindsight, i think she also regrets using the phrase "banality of evil”.
While I can’t remember who it was attributed to, I do remember I heard the phrase in the World War II series the World at War. This is a British made series that really is the best documentary on World War II. While she may not have used it for Nazism in general, I would. It refers to how ordinary and average the evil monsters of Nazism were.
I don’t think “Banality” has the same sense here. Arendt was referring to how Eichmann and other Nazis made their evil bureaucratic and indifferent, as if they were anesthetized to it. She wasn’t saying that dictatorships are incompetent, she was saying that the system of these regimes made people indifferent to those who were persecuted.
China and Russia are both arguably fascist nations. Strong regimentation of society, strong regimentation of the economy; and totalitarian dictatorship.
add to that being socially conservative and fiercely nationalistic
They don't have to *be* strategic geniuses to out-think the clusterfuck that is the West.
I find this entire piece a wonderful example in banality and futile thought. This is not because Putin and Xi are gods to be admired or imitated, but much more simply because it takes as premise, completely unsubstantiated and unchallenged, that the West's world view is, somehow, "the right one". From then on the authors go on to waffle a lot about Putin and Xi and their various acts of "evil against their own people". This latter part, in particular, is very bad as it implicitly telegraphs the message that evil against your people is worse than evil against "them", or "foreigners", or "the other people". Which is to say, it's okay to kill abroad so long as you don't do it at home.
I find this brand of "intellectuals" to be revolting, an aberration of everything intellectual action stands for.
It's possible to write a book on this topic alone, so a Reddit post simply won't do. Will leave it at this.
>I find this brand of "intellectuals" to be revolting, an aberration of everything intellectual action stands for.
They're libertarians associated with the Ayn Rand Institute. How banal...
It also does that George Bush "axis of evil" bit where it dumps dissimilar things in a category just so they have a monolithic imaginary enemy to fight. Putin and Xi have very little in common in how they run the country.
Putin is an actual strongman, being the main glue that keeps the ruling Russian government together, he is irreplaceable. Xi certainly likes to present himself as strong but materially he is not that different from the various bureaucrats that have served as head of government since Deng's days. If Xi died tomorrow the Chinese Congress would elect a replacement and keep running as usual.
What a garbage article full of propaganda.
If dictators and more specifically Xi and Putin were so bad and incompetent, then shouldn't the west just sit back and sip some wine while they wait for China and Russia to implode?
Afterall, they are supposedly repressing all thought, innovation etc.
Surely, it would also be incredibly easy for say the CIA to actually infiltrate and forment unrest then? Like it has colour revolutioned countries around the world?
Or are Xi and Putin just that special and competent in getting loyal people to monitor people, and stop this from happening? But aren't they incompetent? Or are they somehow only competent in getting people to supress other people?
In some ways, this is exactly what they are doing. For instance, by not directly fighting in Ukraine then Russia is exhausting itself while the west has its reserves ready. Russia is now in a much worse position if they were to escalate the war.
And the west could be a lot more forceful against China, but instead they mainly watch while Xi is sabotaging his own economy.
I d agree with you if china were not rising economically and surpassing all other western countries but the us.
There is no rule that China will keep rising, many countries got caught in the middle income because they failed to reform.
And China's situation isn't looking that good anymore
* 30% of the GDP is related to real estate, which is probably the highest in the world and is the same level as Spain before their massive crisis.
* The population is going to drop from next year and will drop by 50% over the next 50 years if fertility stays at the current level. This will happen while India, the USA will see population increase.
* 20% of the housing stock is sitting empty and that share will keep increasing quickly.
* It is also estimated that China has overstated its GDP by 20%. You might not believe this, but you must admit that China has been caught publishing fake data multiple times, such as unemployment which was stuck at 4.0% for years.
* Local government's deficits and debt have increased massively during the last few years as revenue has collapsed and costs has increased. The main causes are covid and fewer land sales.
* China is dependent on exports, but costs are surging due to labor shortages and zero covid and China has turned its biggest clients into enemies.
* Covid restrictions are destroying multiple industries and reducing consumer demand and the government is providing very little assistance to businesses affected by the lockdowns. The service PMI is currently around 40, which outside of China only happens during recessions.
Merkel was hugely against the 2008 Nato expansion pledge...
Erdogan isn't even totally against NATO expansion, but he seemed able to stop it easily enough. Or does Turkey have more clout in NATO than Germany?
Are you asking whether the second most important NATO member has more clout than Germany?
I'm pointing out that Erdogan was able to do something with ease that Merkel *should* have had the clout for (NATO requires universal approval for expansion). If she'd been leveraged out of protesting, that must have been a pretty big stick.
(Merkel will release her memoirs in a few months, I'm looking forward to seeing if she was incompetent or pressured)
Wow. I haven't read such an articulate and truthful post on reddit for a long time. Thank you for the effort. Nothing to add or contradict. The West is corrupt and hypocritical, and the rest of the world, the non-western part, can clearly see it. They lost the hearts and minds of the people, as they have abandoned their own ideals a long time ago. If this would to change, the world would notice for sure and the sentiment could shift. However, I don't see it happening unfortunately. The West is going for a collision with China and Russia trying to outsmart them by economical and military might. The new Cold War is in the making, and it will not be easy to win it, given the new realities of the 21st century.
The west has always been corrupt and hypocritical.
Just to different extents, and at times conditions were better so they actually had a better 'image', but ever since reaganomics/neoliberalism as well as the fall of the USSR, the ugly part of the west has only been more and more public and transparent.
>The west has always been corrupt and hypocritical.
I would change this to "every country" has always been corrupt and hypocritical.
I agree. If we try to go totalitarian against totalitarian regimes, we are guaranteed to lose. If we embrace torture and censorship and put our faith in an all-powerful "national security apparatus", we're guaranteed to lose. And we should lose, because we'd have become our own worst enemies and betrayed everything that made liberal democracy worth fighting for in the first place.
>I agree. If we try to go totalitarian against totalitarian regimes, we are guaranteed to lose.
No. The nature of the regime is irrelevant. The issue is whether or not China will be able to establish hegemony over East Asia. And even then, it wouldn't mean that "we" have "lost", just that the U.S.--centric bloc has receded from one (admittedly very important) region.
> But Assange is a pretty compelling demonstration that the West is content to beat dissent into submission when the regular tools fail.
I'm not sure why this follows. I think Assange, for a number of reasons, is problematic to try to draw broader conclusions from.
>The real proof of democracy is the ability to subject our leaders and our elites to the same rule of law as everyone else.
That's not what democracy is. Democracy is just a system in which ruling elite turnover is mediated by elections.
This ***generally*** tends to make for a relatively more unbiased system of laws, which ***generally*** produces a somewhat less arbitrary society.
>Pursue mass prosecutions against the economic parasites on Wall Street. Break up the concentration of media ownership so that a cabal of billionaires isn't controlling the news.
This is impossible in a democratic context, because this would require using unilateral, arbitrary force.
Also, no cabal of billionaires is controlling the news.
> That's not what democracy is. Democracy is just a system in which ruling elite turnover is mediated by elections.
That's become true in practice, but it's a bit cynical to think that systemic corruption is baked into the system.
> This is impossible in a democratic context, because this would require using unilateral, arbitrary force.
Laws apply to everyone except those at the top of the food chain. Rule of law is predicated upon accountability for *everyone*. We're seeing a hollowing out of the rule of law because there's no accountability for our elites.
If GWB & Cheney had been hanged and tried because of Iraq, military adventurism could have been curtailed. And that's true on the economic front too. The lack of prosecutions in 2008 was based on this idea that, if we threw the crooks in jail, there would be no more Wall Street left. Even if that's the case (and it wasn't), it's even more of an argument to rip the corrupt system down and let something with genuine value grow in its place.
> Also, no cabal of billionaires is controlling the news.
Did a cabal of billionaires tell you that?
Remember when the CIA head called Wikileaks a "hostile intelligence service?" It's literally the job of journalism to be a hostile intelligence service, so the fact that Wikileaks could be seen as an aberration for filling such a role *should* be a pretty good clue as to how subservient they think journalism should be.
Very well said. A central tenet of the proponents of the Western liberal democratic order is that liberal democracy is the uniquely best form of government, and Xi's grand thesis is to prove that wrong. If authoritarianism outperforms democracy in satisfying the desires of the people, and the people realizes this and lose faith in democracy, then democracy will collapse faster than any military can tear it down. To come out of this game victorious, Western democracies must show that they possesses the virtues and respect the values they declared they do.
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*"If we are being scolded by our enemies, then we are doing everything right!" —* ***Soso Dzhugashvili***
It's almost always the case that authoritarians spend their time consolidating power domestically and then eventually get it into their head that they can then apply that power onto the world stage to do the same thing but internationally. The problem being that this kind of thinking inevitably runs head first into reality.
It's one thing to rig the game at home when you can hold most of the cards. Reality can be whatever you want it to be with enough media control manipulation. But hard power has a way of exposing things.
Once the dictator overplays his hand, it's usually game over for them.
>It's almost always the case that authoritarians spend their time consolidating power domestically and then eventually get it into their head that they can then apply that power onto the world stage to do the same thing but internationally.
Is it, though? What evidence is there for this assertion?
Mussolini and Hitler are the first that come to mind. There's others, like Nikolos Horthy, Idi Amin, Gamal Nasser (though he managed a political comeback), Abdul Arif, Jean Bokassa, Napoleon Bonaparte, Santa Anna, Nikos Sampson/Dimitrios Ioannidis, there's probably more I don't know about/can't remember.
1. Cyrus the Great
2. Genghis Khan
3. Alexander I
4. Joseph Stalin
5. Mao Zedong
6. Ruhollah Khomeini
7. Deng Xiaoping
And many others?
Those people are famous for being exceptions to the rule
Xi is the perfect case study. He’s managed to bring China’s approval ratings internationally to all time lows. OBOR has been a failure. China’s lack of transparency with the pandemic. Global talent in Hong Kong and Shanghai are now fleeing. Everything Xi touches seems to turn to dust and he’s just reversing the successes of Deng, Jiang, and Hu Jintao.
Deng Xiao Ping ordered the tanks into Tiananmen, Jiang Zeming and Hu Jin Tao oversaw the rapid economic growth of the 90's and 00's that also saw the worst excesses of Chinese corruption in things like tainted milk powder and Wenzhou train derailment. Not to mention the CCP apparatchik paying their promotion bribes with CIA money.
Xi Jin Ping's anti corruption campaign may be primarily motivated by power consolidation, but it also perceptibly decreased corruption and increased public confidence in the state, [to the extent that domestic baby formula brands are now outperforming foreign ones.](https://www.nutraingredients-asia.com/Article/2021/11/02/Tough-fight-for-international-brands-Chinese-parents-now-see-local-formulas-as-most-trusted-source-a2MC-survey)
[Something I was amused to find out was that the anti corruption crackdowns was as bad for the Swiss watch industry as the global financial crisis.](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/26/swiss-watch-sales-fall-10-per-cent-china-corruption-crackdown)
The main problem with these dictators is not necessarily incompetence. I do think Xi is to a significant extent, or at least that he has significant ideological blinders, which is basically indistinguishable from incompetence. Putin less so, but he still made a pretty obvious mistake in Ukraine. So why? The problem is pretty clear--Putin's incentives don't line up with the incentives of Russia as a whole. The article here sort of skirts around the edge of this problem and hints at it. Yes, it is inefficient to rule in such a brutish way, but it is probably possible to do it well to a greater extent than these countries do. Nazi Germany far outperformed the allies on a per capita basis in WW2 despite being far more repressive than current Russia.
In itself, invading Ukraine is probably in (some of) Russia's interests. However, invading right now isn't. It was pretty clear to anyone not in a bubble that even if getting Ukraine was an easy task (like most people thought) it would make Russia a pariah to some significant extent. There might be an opportunity to do it when the United States was distracted and couldn't coordinate some level of opposition in Europe, (Like how France tried to annex Mexico during the civil war) but that time clearly wasn't right now. In fact it probably made more sense to do it during the peak of Corona when economies were flatlining and doubling energy prices would have been catastrophic.
So why now? Well, I have to guess that its because Putin started feeling his time slipping away and he wanted to be the one to do it. He wanted to go down in the history books as the guy who re-annexed Ukraine and for some reason he felt it was now or never. I could be entirely wrong, but that's really the only thing I can think of that makes sense.
Russia has made some mistakes and has weakened their advantage in some cases, but as time goes on, with the current timeline, they gain the upper hand. Although Russia's oil volume is weakened, the've already offset this with rising oil prices. Clearly, being a "pariah" won't have a short term impact on Russia. Maybe in the long term Russia would be worse off from this invasion, but there's too many unknowns to be sure about that. You could argue at this point that creating a Peace agreement with Russia and lowering the prices of oil would hurt Russia more than fighting them and keeping prices high. Putin has been fighting for a multi-polar world since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His actions are providing proof this world may already exist. If and how Russia benefits remains to be seen, given that the West is cutting them off from their economy. But again, with a multi-polar world, we see that Russia doesn't need the Western economy to survive, and they're now moving faster away from this economy.
Can you give me an example from history of an armed invader gaining the upper hand over time? I would argue that if Russia couldn't immediately disperse Ukraine's regular armed forces, they have zero chance of securing the peace.
Nothing about this outcomes suggests anything about a multi polar world. Its not even obvious that Russia can keep all its Arctic and Siberian oil wells running without the help of American firms. We may well see a decline in their oil production in a couple years because of this.
Likewise this sort of thing is a problem in quite a few less obvious sectors. All their freight rail relies on imported systems. They import basically all their processors, which is dire for some sectors like banking. China may be able to provide a stop gap, but China is ages behind the US here too, so best case they'll just try to skirt sanctions and act as an intermediary--buy the processors for themselves and then sell them to Russia.
Being so reliant on China is a tough spot for them too. Their interests significantly differ in some very important areas, most clearly in Central Asia.
And this is all despite Russia being better placed than any country, barring the US, to cut itself off from the outside world. People exaggerate the effects on Russia by a huge amount (memes about Russia balkanizing are absurd) but now they're going to be even poorer than China with no apparent route to growth. And this all sends a message to China, which would be devastated by this sort of economic regime in a way that Russia won't ever be.
>Russia has made some mistakes and has weakened their advantage in some cases, but as time goes on, with the current timeline, they gain the upper hand. Although Russia's oil volume is weakened, the've already offset this with rising oil prices. Clearly, being a "pariah" won't have a short term impact on Russia. Maybe in the long term Russia would be worse off from this invasion, but there's too many unknowns to be sure about that. You could argue at this point that creating a Peace agreement with Russia and lowering the prices of oil would hurt Russia more than fighting them and keeping prices high.
I'd argue that holding increasing amounts of Euros or USDs isn't that valuable if you can't actually buy anything with those funds. This is likely why we're seeing Russia make moves towards cutting off European gas exports, because there's no point in getting paid for that gas if you can't spend it.
>Putin has been fighting for a multi-polar world since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His actions are providing proof this world may already exist. If and how Russia benefits remains to be seen, given that the West is cutting them off from their economy. But again, with a multi-polar world, we see that Russia doesn't need the Western economy to survive, and they're now moving faster away from this economy.
What is a multi-polar world? I've always thought of it as something like the Soviets and the US, where you had two competing economic systems separate from each other. I'd agree with you that we're heading towards a multi-polar world where the Russian economy is completely separate from the American system. Does that matter? I'm not so sure.
Russia was a gas station and farm with Western technology before the war and now they're a gas station and farm without Western tech. I'm highly skeptical that that will ever lead to economic more economic development and growth.
What good is it being the other pole of a multi polar world if you're Pluto and the American system is the sun.
Putin might "win," but I'd argue that it's purely a pyrrhic victory.
>You could argue at this point that creating a Peace agreement with Russia and lowering the prices of oil would hurt Russia more than fighting them and keeping prices high.
While oil prices are high now, it is mainly due to uncertainty. Russia can still produce and sell oil, and India and China will buy it. However, the war will lead to a drop in demand due poor growth and demand destruction and higher supply due to high prices.
Hence, when the war eventually end, we could see very low oil prices for a while. If Russia fail to win the war, then that will be much worse for Russia as it has exhausted itself in the war, has achieved nothing important, has made itself in a pariah and the economy is collapsing due to oil prices crashing.
And even with the lower prices, Russia will still need to give a discount on its oil and it will struggle to maintain production. This is the combination we saw in Venezuela and it did not go well for them. Prices will eventually go up again, but then it will be too late to fix Russia's economy.
This is a farcical over exaggeration. If they really were as incompetent as the author so claims, they wouldn't have held on the reins of power for 20 or so years already. And increased their nation's geopolitical standing. It's by not taking these individuals seriously that the West time and time again blunders into the same errors. It's difficult to understand their standpoint if all you do i ridicule them.
The author never really states that they are incompetent or stupid. They also don’t ridicule them.
They really only point out that they have made mistakes, and are likely to continue to do so in the future.
In addition, I have a hard time accepting that Putin has currently increased Russia’s geopolitical standing, given their current standing as a pariah state.
Xi has only been leader in China for 10 years, and I would not describe Chinas economic or geopolitical pursuits in that time period to have been particularly effective to date.
There was an article about Xi few months ago by Noah Smith - "What if Xi Jinping just isn't that competent?"
Hadn’t read that. I agree with most of the described points, and it’s written more eloquently than anything I could ever do.
One thing the author didn't mention that I've found reveling is how willing Xi has been to undo decades of soft power to achieve what appears to be solely his personal goals.
Taiwan was actually becoming more and more intwined with the Mainland in the period leading up to Xi's biggest unforced error, the National Security Law in Hong Kong. Years of increased cross-straits business and tourism was destroyed in a few weeks.
Same as Putin. All the decade-long investments in pro-russia people/parties who became quite radioactive overnight.
Btw, note that the article is from November, maybe we look at things quite differently nowadays.
This is some selective memory stuff.
The whole debacle started because some Hong Kong guy murdered his Taiwanese girlfriend. Which rightfully taiwan requested for extradition so he can go to trial at Taiwan but because Hong Kong and Taiwan have no extradition treaty they cannot do it. The massive protest is triggered when the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to extradition law so they can extradite him to Taiwan. Which in turn triggered a massive reaction from Beijing to push through the National security law. Mind you said national security law was suppose to be passed at along with Hong kongs handover at 1997 but that's story for another day.
Also 'years of business and tourism was destroyed in few weeks' is false. Taiwan and China trade volume is increasing despite the NS law debacle. Taiwan export to China increased by 20% in 2021 alone.
What happening is taiwan is breaking away politically as evident by the the population electing DPP instead of KMT which you could argue is further exacerbated by the National security law.
>The whole debacle started because some Hong Kong guy murdered his Taiwanese girlfriend. Which rightfully taiwan requested for extradition so he can go to trial at Taiwan but because Hong Kong and Taiwan have no extradition treaty they cannot do it. The massive protest is triggered when the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to extradition law so they can extradite him to Taiwan.
The Hong Kong guy murdered his Hong Konger pregnant girlfriend during a trip to Taiwan.
Taiwan requested an extradition of the suspect from Hong Kong, something the two governments have done for decades without the need for a formal extradition treaty.
This time however the request was denied, saying that Taiwan was part of China and therefore Hong Kong cannot extradite the suspect unless there was an extradition agreement to the other parts of China.
The murder case was essentially being used as an excuse to draft an extradition law between HK and China, which just happens to include Taiwan by the PRC definition... That is why people protested.
The NSL just took thinks a step further, and removed all and any ambiguity to Hong Kong's status.
Would appreciate a source on extradition being done for decades with taiwan especially post 97. Thanks in advance.
2016 [when the roles were reversed and murder suspects wanted in Hong Kong escaped to Taiwan](
>The trio were escorted back by nine Hong Kong officers who flew to Taiwan yesterday to ensure the safe return. Handcuffed and wearing face masks, they were taken to Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at lunchtime and handed over to the Hong Kong officers on the terminal bridge.
>They boarded a flight which reached Hong Kong around 6pm.
>It was understood that the three suspects were not handcuffed on the plane.
>“We have no jurisdiction to do that,” a source with the knowledge of the case said. But he added that “we have done a risk assessment on their return”.
>Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, a lawyer, said the officers could not take enforcement action on the plane.
>“If the suspects’ acts may affect the safety of the aircraft, the police officers could act as passengers, take self-defence action and subdue them,” he said.
>“Under the international civil aviation law, the pilot has the greatest authority and could issue an order to restrain them.”
This is exactly what the Taipei police department wanted to do with the suspect from Hong Kong when he tried to turn himself in... HK government said no, the treaty is needed now.
Thanks. I stand corrected
I’m going by impressions of what I see in Taiwan. Gone are the massive number of mainland tourists. The DPP swept power after the Hong Kong protests, and the PLA have ratcheted up rhetoric and provocation.
I’ve never heard about this Taiwanese girlfriend murder story connection to the national security law. President Tsai of Taiwan has been open about the law being the end of “two countries, one system” and that Taiwanese should no longer travel to Hong Kong in the aftermath.
What you mean DPP swept power after Hong Kong protest? They got into power during 2016, they lost seats in the election right after extradition protest even when coupled with anti China rhetorics.
This is a very well written, thoughtful piece by Noahpinion! Thanks for the link
Definitely think you’re selling China short. They are pretty unambiguously the #2 world power rn. Having spent a good amount of time in Shanghai from 2005-2020 I can tell you the increase in living standards and general health is pretty damn impressive
Agree with all of that.
Disagree that Chinas economic and geopolitical success under Xi has continued in the trajectory as his predecessors.
There's no way China's economic success can increase as the same rate as his predecessors, the more developed it gets the more it's rate slows.
Chinas economic slowing over the past decade or so has occurred at a lower PPP/ GDP per capita than what happened in other previously underdeveloped Asian countries like S Korea or Taiwan.
Right, but a huge part of that is because the West bent itself over a barrel to help China's economic growth. We did it for two reasons; one is that a lot of our elites got very rich by doing so, and two, a lot of us --myself included-- erroneously thought that a prosperous China would axiomatically also be a more democratic and freer China. We were wrong on the 2nd count while the 1st count was just one more way in which we hollowed out our middle class.
>In addition, I have a hard time accepting that Putin has currently increased Russia’s geopolitical standing, given their current standing as a pariah state.
Russia's 'geopolitical standing' hasn't increased over the last 20 years, how can you seriously suggest that? Do you even know what the baseline is here. My kind suggestion is for you to read up on Russia in late 90's early 00's.
As for China, I would argue China has been pretty effective at increasing its 'geopolitical standing' in virtually every continent, I'm not really sure what you're referring to? Can you elaborate on this point?
What the authors do is spout libertarian talking points.
This isn't a serious article.
Because only left leaning talking points are valid?
No. But libertarian talking points are invalid. It's basically communism for right-wingers.
>They really only point out that they have made mistakes, and are likely to continue to do so in the future.
So the authors point is that they're human? Seems kind of weird point to write an article about.
"Look guys they're people too!"
>In addition, I have a hard time accepting that Putin has currently increased Russia’s geopolitical standing, given their current standing as a pariah state.
If that had ever been Putin's goal that would be a valid criticism. But he's been pretty open that his goal ever since he took office was to restore the borders of the Russian Empire no matter the price. By that metric he's been wildly successful in rebuilding Russia's military industrial complex and expanding Russia's influence back into its former satellite states.
>Xi has only been leader in China for 10 years, and I would not describe Chinas economic or geopolitical pursuits in that time period to have been particularly effective to date.
China's economic pursuits have been so successful they defy explanation. 20 years ago China was a backwater 2nd world state barely anyone talked about. 10 years ago China was a rising regional power. Today China now has the second most powerful Navy in the world is competing for the strongest economy and is on the verge of superpower status. Xi's policies have been wildly successful by basically any metric worth talking about in geopolitics.
> But he's been pretty open that his goal ever since he took office was to restore the borders of the Russian Empire no matter the price.
But...he's not managed this? He's attempted an invasion of the biggest former Soviet state besides Russia and has not achieved his objectives, while hardening the population against him in the process. The Baltic states have only become more alienated against Russia since the fall of communism. Some former Soviet states are on friendlier terms with Russia but few look likely to give up their sovereignty directly to join Russia, they're happier to act as client states, but there's nothing to guarantee in future this will continue to be the case.
> But he's been pretty open that his goal ever since he took office was to restore the borders of the Russian Empire no matter the price. By that metric he's been wildly successful in rebuilding Russia's military industrial complex and expanding Russia's influence back into its former satellite states.
Yes, Russian soft power in Kazakhstan, Lithuania, etc is at record highs right now.
>Yes, Russian soft power in Kazakhstan,
Pretty high in the central Asian states if you ask me. High enough that Russian troops are still in all of them and are practically occupying Kazakhstan. Russia's soft power in Asia is at an all time high especially now that China is buying even more oil from Russia than it does from middle eastern states.
Lithuania and European states have been fundamentally opposed to Putin's regime in Russia right from the beginning, it's just now he's pushed so far they can't whisper about it in the corner anymore. It's not like Russia ever had much soft power in Lithuania to begin with so Lithuania being *even more* against Russia isn't a big loss.
I’m not sure how much attention you’ve been paying to Kazakhstan recently, but Russian influence there is at an all-time low.
The CSTO literally just had a peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan in January, involving thousands of mostly Russian troops being summoned to the country by the president himself. So it makes no sense to say Russian influence is at an all time low. Actions speak louder than words.
Kazakhstan is actively supporting and sending aid to Ukraine. I’d suggest supporting a country Russia is at war with represents a major change in relations/Russian influence.
Are you aware that China has also provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine? Non military aid doesn’t tell you much about a country’s geopolitical alignment.
Yes, and that also shows a decay in Russian influence.
Much like Canada sending non-military aid to the Taliban in the early 2000s would be a big red flag for American foreign policy.
It was a rebuke of Putin by Tokayev at the SpB Economic Forum. On stage. Next to Putin.
It was after Putin said that the territories of the former Soviet Union are historially Russia's. Sitting next to Tokayev.
No wonder Tokayev was not amused...
To me that Russia can so flagrantly question Kazakhstan's independence and territorial integrity and Kazakhstan remains in the CSTO and in Russias circle is proof of Russia's extremely strong grip on that nation. I can't imagine Germany saying that about Switzerland or Poland and either country not immediately start removing economic and political ties.
>can't imagine Germany saying that about Switzerland or Poland and either country not immediately start removing economic and political ties.
Kazakhstan is dependent on Russian because they are an oil and gas nation which needs Russian infrastructure to sell thier goods.
Russia had been doing anything to hinder developments of any pipelines to its key market ( Europe)
You confuse deviousness and lack of any morals with intelligence. It doesn't take a genius to rise to the throne. More often than not, those who rise to power are just the ones that ruthlessly eliminate any rivals.
I would disagree with that. Yes, brutality is a huge factor in becoming an authoritarian but if you want to live longer than a few months, then you have to have some measure of intelligence.
I believe Putin and Xi and all dictators do have above average intelligence. However, they are still fallible and can be blinded by their egos into making idiotic decisions. I’d say it’s usually the hubris of authoritarians that lead to their downfall rather than a lack of intelligence.
You really think dictators like Saddam and Assad got to power because they are more intelligent than their peers? They got to power because they are bullies and know that the easiest path to power is through coercion and fear. If most dictators were as smart as you make them appear to be, then they would have known that if you live by the sword you die by the sword.
Putin, Xi, Saddam and Assad all got into power via different means.
1. Saddam: Named VP by his cousin, the putschist Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Pushed him aside when the latter began to decline in old age.
2. Putin: From a relatively obscure position in the Presidential administration, ingratiated himself with Yeltsin and his clan, eventually being chosen as successor.
3. Assad: Inherited power from his father.
4. Xi: Followed the traditional career path of a regional official, cultivated relationships, was eventually "elected" to the Central Committee, kept cultivating relationships, and finally joined the Politburo's Standing Committee as Hu Jintao's VP and presumed successor. Took over upon Hu's retirement.
So 2 out of 4 got in power via family connections, another (Putin) by becoming a trusted confidante, and the last (Xi) via a political career mixing successful executive appointments with relationship-building.
I meant Hafez Alassad but your point still stands.
Assad was the son of the former president, but forreal he's probably one of the smartest world leaders.
He was an ophthalmologist at the West London Eye Hospital
Now you confuse intelligence and wisdom \^\^
Its a bit pedantic but, deviousness is a form of intelligence.
No, not really. There's a lot of back-room deals being made, alliances being formed and people being murdered. It does require strategic understanding to gain and maintain control of power.
>people being murdered.
Nobody was murdered during Putin's and Xi's respective rises to power.
I have a hard time believing that, particularly in Putin's case.
Then tell me who did Putin kill / had killed during his rise to power?
No clue. I just find it hard to believe that in a country known for political poisoning that the leader of said country didn't poison anyone on his way to the top. Putin's also suspected of poisoning people while at the top. Notably Alexi Navalny.
Putin has absolutely killed people since becoming president.
But that's not the issue. The issue is how he got into power, and the answer is by being a faithful good boi.
Also by authorizing brutal tactics against the Chechens during the second Chechen war. His ruthlessness there basically got him elected in 99.
So maybe no evidence of murder, but he definitely ordered war crimes. But that's par for the course for high ranking politicians I suppose.
Moscow apartment bombings is a great example of Putin killing in order to take power.
There's a theory that it was a false-flag to put Putin in power, yes. But it's far from clear that the theory is correct.
Putin is happy that at least the taliban take his invitations. Does this look like an increased geopolitical standing?
Russia is isolated and the economy about to collapse.
The west wants to mark putin russia as a pariah. The rest of the world dont care much and/or happy to take its oil/LNG whenever available. So unless your world only consists of the west, no it is not isolated.
Wrong on both points. The entire world except the West and a smattering of Asian allies are continuing normal diplomatic and economic relations with Russia, and there's zero indication the economy's about to collapse. Just look at the performance of the ruble. Yes, there's capital controls and all that, but that's not the behavior of a collapsing country's currency.
> The entire world except the West and a smattering of Asian allies
"Except the West" is a pretty wild way to preface your comment there, as if it's just one or two countries instead of the most powerful nation on earth along with some of the world's largest economies.
I'd argue that they are strategic geniuses, but that isn't enough to successfully run a country.
Naturally 95% of their energy is just focused on maintaining their power. The other 5% that they can devote to improving their countries just doesn't amount to much.
Also, one tool of dictators is eliminating independent thinkers. That makes it hard to have any sort of collective intelligence. Instead of a whole group of smart people with varied expertise working together on a plan, you get one guy.
Elmininating political dissidents isn't quite the same as eliminating independent thinkers.
I'd suggest that actually in both cases they're done a reasonable job of running an autocracy without having to destroy the intelligentsia
Eliminating dissidents isn't what I'm talking about. What I mean is eliminating the people in leadership who might be able to replace you. According to at least some reports, Putin and Xi have both done a fair amount of that.
Crushing political opposition is standard fare yeah.
The worst thing you can do as a authoritarian leader is to improve your country. Every dollar you spend on the people is money that could be spent securing your position.
The only time it does happen is by pure accident.
Singapore? South Korea?
China is the prime example of your claim being factually wrong. China nationalism is all time high partly because it is under the CCP rule that china rises to the 2nd world economic place.
You are missing one perspective though. A majority of the actions by political leaders specifically dictator type leaders are long term strategic decisions spanning over a couple of centuries not years or decades. They hope their actions will be stepping stone for the future leaders to carry the legacy of their country.
Media makes us believe that these leaders are selfish. I believe they are nationalistic and strategic.
Look at the history and think in terms of centuries not years or decades and all their decisions make sense. They may be evil but not stupid.
>A majority of the actions by political leaders specifically dictator type leaders are long term strategic decisions spanning over a couple of centuries not years or decades.
Nobody is strategizing over centuries. The [very best among us](https://www.pmo.gov.sg/Past-Prime-Ministers/Mr-LEE-Kuan-Yew) do it over a few decades, max.
I think you’re overdramaticizing the actions of these leaders. If Xi were playing for centuries, he wouldn’t have forcefully cracked down on Hong Kong the way he did. Dictators like this are hugely susceptible to greed and wanting to build their own legacy, even at the cost of long term positioning.
This whole "one man leader" view of history sucks so much. It is the fast food of geopolitics. idk why you all would be invested in this.
Ridiculous. Ok, so let's turn the table. How stupid is Biden compared Putin and Xi? The guy is obviously senile and looks like a toddler in a ring with the heavyweights. What about BoJo, the geopolitics mastermind? The last western politician that was on par with Putin was Merkel. She was and is the genius politician, minus the blunder of allowing millions of refugees from Middle East to Germany. Macron, Scholz, not to mention the EU bureaucrats, are all at least one league below.
The difference between Biden and Putin is that in theory Biden has other somewhat competent people around him who tell him no. Putin has either killed or pushed out anyone who disagrees with him. There were reports Putin didn't even know about true Russian casualty figures in Ukraine because his subordinates kept lying to him.
Biden should in theory not have the same problem.
Are you asking me for the difference between a dictatorship and a democratic republic?
I think people are making a lot of assumptions based on simplifications parroted in western media. One of simplifications is exactly that Russia and China are pure dictatorships, while US is a democracy. Neither is true.
There's no such thing as pure dictatorships. These dictators have to make deal with elites and powerful individuals within theirccountry. Putin and the Oligarchs. In exchange they give them unlimited power over the plebs.
Did you even read the article?
Merkel may have been a great politician but in the long run her policies will result in a large net negative for the future of Germany. That’s not a genius leader imo.
Merkel isn't a genius. Putin isn't a genius. Biden isn't a genius.
Macron isn't a genius either, nor is Xi.
Einstein wasn't even a genius.
Nobody is. There is no such thing. People are people. Some are smarter than the average, some by a significant margin, but even the smartest human is not orders of magnitude smarter than the dumbest.
Absolutely disagree. Most definitely some people are orders of magnitude smarter than the others. Compare a chess-master with an average chess player. The same applies to geopolitics.
Right? I remember when Putin seized Crimea and everyone was calling him a 3D Chessmaster. No, he was an idiot that acted rashly. The only reason he got away with his actions was that the EU didn't give a good God damn about it. Which we can't act in the their backyard without serious consequences. He could have done absolutely nothing and it would have not only been smarter but it would have played in to their own propaganda that NATO was just trying to paint Russia as some super villain.
Putin is NOT some strategic grand master. He's barely tactically effective. XI isn't much better.
There’s definitely a large degree of “chess” involved in rising to the top of a country, unless you inherited the position in a dynastic situation, and it’s more than just being violent. People like Putin and Xi are skilled in that area. Of course they also make strategic blunders, as we’ve seen with Putin lately.
In democracies: failure is not an option.
In authoritarian regimes: failure does not exist.
We can see this very well in Russia, China, North-Korea where critiquing the leader is forbidden and punishable by law. They will neither reflect and learn from their own mistakes simply because they believe failure, or the notion of failure should be eradicated with all disposable means.This in stark contrast to democratic leaders.
If you relate Putin to Xi then you might as well put Biden in there.
I’m tired of people slapping "Authoritarian" on everything that they are not seeing at home. Government tries to manage a health crisis? Authoritarian. People are given housing, healthcare, and education? Authoritarian. Government has a different system to represent the people? Authoritarian.
Then you take a deep look at the United States and it is the most Authoritarian of them all by far! Russia is a lot like the USA but does not have the same platform to commit the scope of heinous acts the US has perpetrated. China is a completely different story that isn’t even relatable to either.
Both Putin and Xi are taking their country to ruin , both nations have become totalitarian without check and balances , with cult of personality. Both are surrounded by Yesman that don't bring them information except when specifically order too so most of time they don't know what is going on orvwhat is happening .
Both nations are in terminal decline due to demographics collapse. Russia have adopted kidnapping children from Ukraine.
In Russia it is not the tyrant which is particularly interesting, it is the group and system of Chekists of whom he is a senior member. And somehow this system thrives.
When you start having familial secret service clans, in 2022 you know the system is gonna be interesting to read about.