Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chinese political culture

Over the weekend, I read Enigma of China, An Inspector Chen Novel by Qiu Xiaolong. (Mystery novels are one of my hobbies.)

Qiu Xiaolong, born in Shanghai, is a poet who writes mysteries from his home in St. Louis, MO.

I mention this here because his book is rife with examples of the workings of guanxi. You and your students don't have to know the Chinese term, but you should be aware of the important role that political connections (guanxi) play in Chinese government and politics.

The main character in Enigma of China is Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department. As well as rising in the department, Chen is a rising cadre in the Communist Party. His father was a well-known scholar before being persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. All those things mean that Chen has connections to many people in many different positions.

guanxi
Every chapter illustrates a connection or two that Chen has. These connections help him find out how to evade some of the Chinese restrictions on internet activity, what plans someone in the Central Committee has for his future job assignment, how to get his mother admitted to a hospital usually reserved for top Party officials, how to reserve a private dining room in a very upscale restaurant, where a Shanghai official (who might have committed suicide) hid evidence that incriminated other officials, and where to hide a copy of that information to protect himself after he revealed it his bosses.

If summer wasn't "over," I might suggest this as summer reading for teachers and students, but it's a little late for that. The assignment might be to describe each of the guanxi connections described in the book and explain how the obligations and benefits are mutually beneficial.

On the downside of assigning this book, the story moves along quite slowly and it helps a great deal to know 20th century Chinese history to understand some of the subtleties in the story. If you enjoy good mysteries, you might read it just to find out if there had been a couple murders or only a suicide and a traffic accident. There are also details about Shanghai cuisine and Chinese poetry. There are also a couple of women (a reporter and a lawyer) who try to get Chen interested in relationships. At the end of the book, both relationships are only guanxi.

If you search this blog for guanxi, you'll find several previous postings about this bit of political culture in China.

For instance, Behind the scenes, from July 2012.


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

And the title goes to…

Who knew there were national teams?

And The No. 1 Scrabble Nation In The World Is ...
Nigeria is the English-speaking world's Scrabble superpower. Africa's most populous nation is home not only to the global Scrabble champion, but team Nigeria ranks as the world's top Scrabble playing nation…

Wellington Jighere
The Scrabble world champion is Wellington Jighere. He's 33, has a soft voice, a slow smile and a penchant for fedoras, earning him the nickname "the Cat in the Hat."…

Jighere was crowned the world Scrabble champ last year in a grueling 32-round competition in Australia. Up to 30 of the top 100 global players are from Nigeria, which has the highest percentage of any country in the top 200…

So why Scrabble? "Ah, I didn't exactly choose Scrabble," says Jightere. "I ran into some friends who were tournament players and I beat them. They told me 'Ah, if I could do this well against them, that means I should come to the next tournament.' " He adds, "And I was like, "Ah, you mean they play this in tournaments? OK, let's go. And the rest, as they say, is history." And he laughs.

That was in 2002. Today, Jighere sits atop the global Scrabble tournament ladder…

Angela Osaigbovo
And yet Scrabble has caught on in Nigeria in a big way, among veterans and youth. There are scores of clubs up and down the 36 states of a nation of 180 million people. Daylong and weekend tournaments are held regularly and young players, like 10-year-old Angela Osaigbovo, are champions in their own right.

She's been playing Scrabble since she was 5 and began competing at age 6. "Scrabble for me is a fun way of using my academics, to help me in my hobbies and afterschool life," says Angela with a big smile…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: ,

Monday, August 29, 2016

History as a backdrop

Political science (as in comparative government and politics) is not history. But sometimes history is a useful backdrop to understanding politics. Here's an example. I offer only bits and pieces of Nathan Vanderklippe's analysis from The Globe and Mail. If you go to the original, you might find more useful examples.

A Chinese dynasty with a 21st-century outlook
Under the clear blue sky his country had manufactured for the occasion (by closing factories for miles), Xi Jinping stood stony-faced on an enormous red carpet to receive a clutch of world leaders. One by one, statesmen from near and far walked up to the Chinese President to shake hands on the occasion of his first military parade last September. Standing next to his wife, Peng Liyuan, Mr. Xi barely spoke, his face opening into only the thinnest of smiles…

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, tried to capture the spirit of the moment: “China will not be bullied again, and the dream of national rejuvenation is coming true.” For decades, China scrupulously followed the maxim of former leader Deng Xiaoping to “hide your strength, bide your time.” Even as they orchestrated an economic revolution at home, its leaders trod softly on the world stage.
Xi (on posters in Beijing)
But things have changed. Under Mr. Xi in recent years, China has struck an increasingly assertive posture, demanding that the world bend to its interests in diplomacy, corporate affairs and the drawing of international borders. When they gather here for G20 meetings next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other foreign leaders will encounter a Chinese leadership newly eager to shape the outside world to its own needs.

For the better part of 2,000 years, China was ruled by imperial dynasties… Emperors saw themselves in command of… "all under heaven."...

Imperial China saw itself as the centre of the civilized world, a step above the barbarians on its flanks who could not match its technological, cultural or military prowess, and it demanded others acknowledge the same. Scholars call it a form of “ethnocentric hegemony.”

Then it all crumbled, the victim of Western incursions and a sclerotic governance system that could not keep pace with modernization…

Into that humiliation stepped the Communist Party, which… ruled by a single party, governed by elite consensus.

Mr. Xi is different. He has assembled a collection of titles that give him personal leverage over many instruments of internal power…

[T]he country's extraordinary rise in economic power… has underpinned a view inside China that history the gap with the U.S., has underpinned a view inside China that history gave it a rightful place in the world, one it will soon retake…

Liu Mingfu, a Chinese military commentator… [writes], "China's emperors treated the kings of smaller nations like little brothers… Kingliness is China's national character… "

Mr. Xi has mobilized a sweeping set of ambitions to make Beijing a central seat of influence…

The steps China is taking suggest a desire to replicate, if not replace, the U.S. role [in the world]…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Catching up with technology

Decentralized technology makes it more and more difficult to exercise control over people's behavior. China's ruling CPC keeps trying.

China demands stricter rules for live streaming
China's internet regulator has demanded stricter controls over the popular practice of live streaming, as part of a range of new requirements for sites.

As well as asking sites to step up control of live broadcasts, the Cyberspace Administration of China wants the content monitored full-time…

There are an an estimated 80 platforms in use around the country, with some gaining notoriety for hosting live broadcasts of stunts that have gone viral.

The People's Daily reported that the CAC statement asked sites to "strengthen security evaluation of new products like live broadcast". It also said the the new requirements would apply to "bullet-screens" - where online user comments pop-up on top of live videos.

It is just one of a range of new requirements placed on websites to better regulate themselves, including putting the onus on them to set up 24-hour monitoring of their online content…

In April… one of China's biggest internet stars, comedian and vlogger, Papi Jiang promised to "correct" herself, after warnings from government officials over her foul language…

Xia Keke
The content is monetized by allowing viewers to purchase virtual gifts for real money and send them to the host of any stream they particularly like. The revenue coming in from those gifts is then shared between the host and the streaming site.

One of China's biggest live streaming stars is Xia Keke, a 22-year old woman, who by chatting, singing and dancing has reportedly managed to earn more than $700,000 last year…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 22, 2016

Judicial restraint in China

In China, judicial restraint sometimes means restraining people subject to the court's jurisdiction. Sometimes it means taking less action than the judges could.

Suppress and support: The Communist Party cracks down on political activists, even as it eases up on some less sensitive legal cases

A HUMAN-RIGHTS lawyer and three activists have been found guilty of “subverting state power”… they are the latest part of a crackdown on Western ideas and social and political activism that began in earnest after Xi Jinping became Communist Party chief in 2012…

Yet the crackdown on rights lawyers and political activists is not the whole story. It comes as incremental judicial reforms are taking place for less sensitive cases at a local level which mean that some citizens are making modest progress seeking redress through the courts. These two contradictory dynamics—old-style, top-down political pressure alongside some bottom-up legal empowerment—are part of the party’s carrot-and-stick approach to maintaining stability…

On less sensitive cases… popular anger has pushed the judicial system to try to be more accountable. China’s most senior legal figure, Zhou Qiang, appointed president of the Supreme People’s Court in 2013, is widely believed to want to use judicial reform to stop people taking their anger onto the streets—an increasingly widespread phenomenon…
Chinese courtroom
In the past year, the number of cases accepted by courts relating to the rights of socially marginalised groups has surged, even though few have won. They include a lesbian student suing the education ministry for textbooks calling homosexuality a disorder; the country’s first transgender employment discrimination case; and dozens of food-safety and environmental-protection suits that challenged large companies…

Yet the courts are still under the thumb of the Communist Party. Officials approve the hearing of many cases and sometimes determine the verdict and sentence, too. There is no way for plaintiffs to know whether a case will cause them trouble or not…

It will take a lot more effort to educate the broader public on their legal rights and to train enough legal officials. Judges, especially those in lower courts, are poorly paid and have little formal legal training. Many have been jailed for taking bribes. This generates deep resentment, and is the reason why thousands of petitioners journey to Beijing each year to complain to the central government rather than bother using the local courts…

Experts say reforms are trying hard to reduce corruption at local levels, not least to limit the damage it does to the party’s reputation nationally. But the possibility of any kind of institutional, independent checks and balances is still a long way off…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 19, 2016

Morality enforcers

Nigerian President Buhari wants to restart his "war against indiscipline." He started that war back when he was the military dictator back in the 1980s.

Iran has its Guidance Patrols and Basij militia. Saudi Arabia has its Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Sudan has its Public Order Police. Malaysia has its "religious officers" who can arrest people for violations of Sharia (who are tried in Sharia courts).

All of these are special law enforcement agencies aimed at promoting proper behavior (as defined by some interpretation of religion or polite society.

It's as though we in the USA granted religious conservatives the power to supervise and arrest people who publicly violated their sense of decency. On another side of the equation, it might be like giving similar powers to members of the Libertarian Party.

Nigeria relaunches controversial 'war on indiscipline' brigade
The Nigerian government has announced it is relaunching the controversial “war against indiscipline” task force, more than 32 years after it was first introduced during a military dictatorship.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected last year after running a campaign promising to fight corruption, first established the brigade in 1984 and charged it with maintaining public order.

Pledging that it would once again fight for “orderliness in our society, both in private and public life”, the 170,000-strong force made up mostly of volunteers will be redeployed across Nigeria. When operating under Buhari, the force was able to hand out fines for offences such as littering or “not queuing correctly” at bus stops…

The minister of information, Lai Mohammed… said that the brigade will help to address the “lack of ethics and values” in Nigerian society.

“Many Nigerians are worried about the erosion of values, widespread indiscipline, dwindling integrity and poor attitude to work,” he told reporters when plans for the WAI’s return were first announced in May…
WAI Brigade

Though it is unlikely to be as aggressive as it was in 1984, there is little clarity on the powers that will be granted to the modernised force, leading some citizens to fear a return of the brutality of the public order campaign of the 1980s, a period of beatings and human rights abuses that came to characterise Buhari’s military regime…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What happens when a dominant party loses power?

The People's Democratic Party won national elections in Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. A combination of publicized corruption and determined organization by the All Progressives Congress brought an end to the PDP's power. Now the party is trying to reorganize and the internal politics look messy. How does this compare with what happened in Mexico when the PRI lost a presidential election? How does it compare with the leadership contest in the UK's Labour Party?

Nigeria's PDP in disarray: Two leaders, two court rulings
Nigeria’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be in as much disarray as the Labour party in UK with splits and court cases in the battle for leadership of the beleaguered opposition party.

The situation in Nigeria seems even more chaotic – as two federal high courts have given two different rulings on whether party’s annual convention tomorrow in the southern city of Port Harcourt should go ahead…
Colorful umbrellas, a PDP symbol

The party also has two leaders, both of whom are powerful former governors:

Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna – his faction is in favour of the convention.

Ali Sheriff, a former governor of Borno – his faction is against it and he views it as an attempt to oust him after falling out with some key players in the party.

All efforts to reconcile the two powerful camps have so far failed.

It is a sad state of affairs for a party which ruled Nigeria for 16 years until losing elections last year.

It also means that with so much infighting, the country’s main opposition is not focused in its job of holding President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to account.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











Labels: , , ,