Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 20, 2009

Socialism with Chinese characteristics

Socialism with Chinese characteristics (they called it Communism in the past) used to have a very different meaning.

You see, I still remember that in the '60s the only way to identify officers in the PLA was that they often had retractable ball point pens in their pockets. And powerful Party leaders, if you didn't know their faces, could be spotted wearing wrist watches. Everyone was wearing uniforms or Mao jackets and riding a standard model bicycle that was made in factories all over the county. Not so much today.

The Chinese characteristics of socialism today look very different. It seems there's a new duty during the NPC meetings: shopping.

Chinese Grease the Wheels of Power With Luxury Gifts

"Last week, a finely dressed Chinese man walked into Louis Vuitton’s flagship store here, seeking the perfect gift for that special someone: a senior government official.

"'I tell you, he is at the top,' the man told the sales clerk, as his bodyguard stood nearby. 'So what kind of handbag do you think is suitable for him?'

"Purchases like this one are part of a two-week shopping spree every March, when up to 5,000 Communist Party delegates from China’s provinces and regions gather in the capital for two annual meetings: the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Their mission is to assess the nation’s progress and debate public policy.

"But while here, the delegates also seek to curry favor with their superiors, the nation’s top leaders, often by showering them with expensive gifts: Gucci handbags, Hermès scarves, Montblanc pens and $30,000 diamond-studded Swiss watches.

"Though sales spike in March during the national congresses, executives of luxury goods companies say that lavishing government officials with such products is a year-round practice that reflects China’s culture of gift-giving and tradition of basing business decisions on personal relationships. They admit to having special accounts for government officials, their relatives and even their mistresses, often with code names like Dr. No and Miss K...

"When lower level government officials are the gift-givers, the purchases are usually made with state money, or are paid for by private entrepreneurs..."


What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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