Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 24, 2017

Media integration in China

I suspect that media integration as conceived by leaders of the Communist Party of China means something very different from that imagined by Westerners.

Senior CPC leader calls for media integration
A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leader, on Wednesday called for media integration and creating favorable public opinion for the upcoming party congress.

Liu Yunshan
Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection tour of the People's Daily.

Liu urged staff on the newspaper to make more new media products and extend their influence to the Internet. He also stressed that new media should shoulder social responsibility and guide online public opinion.

"Media integration needs to abide the CPC's ideology and the Marxist idea of the press," Liu said. "Content is the key to the development of media integration, and more new media workers must be trained."…

Liu said the most important issue for the Chinese media this year was preparing for the 19th National Congress of the CPC.

He called for strengthening political responsibility, enhancing representation of mainstream public opinion, and providing opinion for the stability of the economy and society.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Does China need more than criminal law?

The more things change in China, the more obvious is the need for civil law.

China finally starts to write a proper civil code
THE National People’s Congress (NPC)… wrapped up its annual session… Usually its business is unremarkable. This year, however, a piece of legislation that was passed on the final day may prove unusually important. It is known by the unlovely name of the General Principles of Civil Law. It sets the stage for China to pass its first civil code, an overarching law governing legal disputes other than those involving crimes…

[U]nder Communist rule, China has muddled through without a unified civil code. It has bits of one. It passed an inheritance law in 1985, a contract law in 1999 and a property law in 2007. But there are big gaps and inconsistencies…

China’s current leaders… hope [a civil code] will provide a stable legal framework for a rapidly evolving society racked by increasingly complex disputes. In 2014 they decided to try again, aiming to write one by 2020. This week’s approval of the code’s general principles is the first fruit. It covers everything from individual rights and the statute of limitations to whether fetuses can own property (they can).

Some of the new principles have been set out before. Privacy rights, for example, are in the tort bill of 2009. But their inclusion in the revised preamble gives them more authority.

Not all the changes are for the better. In a section on protecting personal reputations, the new preamble makes it an offence to defame “heroes and martyrs”. That is likely to have a chilling effect on historical inquiry…

A civil code—embracing laws of property, contract, inheritance, family and marriage—will not guarantee fairness. The Communist Party will continue to ignore the law when it wants to. But for all the legal system’s flaws, many people still use it. The code may make it less opaque and outdated, and judges’ lives easier.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mexico's next president?

It's been asked before. Now it's being asked again.

Mexico’s populist would-be president
WHEN Andrés Manuel López Obrador winds up a stump speech in the main square of Jilotepec, a small town in the eastern state of Veracruz, the crowd surges forward. It takes him 15 minutes to pass through the commotion of backslapping, selfies and jabbing microphones to reach the car parked outside the tent where he spoke. The point of the rally is to promote Mr López Obrador’s party, Morena, in municipal elections to be held in Veracruz in June. But his main goal is much bigger: to win Mexico’s presidency on his third attempt, in 2018.

López Obrador
That is a prospect that thrills some Mexicans and terrifies others. A figure of national consequence for more than 20 years, AMLO, as he is often called, has fulminated against privilege, corruption and the political establishment. Sweep away all that, he tells poor Mexicans, and their lives will improve…

Mexico, like some richer countries, may now want more drastic politics. Voters are enraged by corruption, crime, which is rising again after a drop, and feeble economic growth…

AMLO proposes to answer graft with his own incorruptibility, and Donald Trump’s nationalism with a fiery nationalism of his own…

Mr López Obrador is the early front-runner for next year’s election… In a one-round election, he could win with as little as 30% of the vote. If that happens, Mexico will embark on a perilous political experiment.

He began his political career in the southern state of Tabasco as an operative of the PRI… As an official of the National Indigenous Institute he spent five years living with the Chontal, an Indian community. Hence his preoccupation with the poorest Mexicans…

His talent for political showmanship helped make him mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. He ran twice for the presidency, in 2006 and 2012, losing to Mr Peña in the second contest. In 2014 he split from the PRD over its support for Mr Peña’s economic reforms and founded Morena, the Movement of National Regeneration…

As Mexico City’s mayor, Mr López Obrador caused less mayhem than his image suggested he might. He built roads and introduced a small universal pension… He left office with an approval rating of 84%…

For now, Mr López Obrador has the political field to himself. Morena is basically a one-man party, which means its quota of party-propaganda broadcasts can focus on promoting him. Other parties have to divide their resources among various politicians…

The PRI’s nominee for president, whoever it is, will be tainted by association with the current government. The likeliest PAN candidate, Margarita Zavala, is popular, but she is the wife of a former president, Felipe Calderón, who is widely blamed for an upsurge of violence provoked by his inept crackdown on crime. The PRD has little support…

His victory is no sure thing. His momentum would be slowed if Morena does badly in the governor’s election in the State of Mexico in June. Anybody-but-AMLO voters could unite behind one candidate; nearly half of voters have a negative view of him, a much higher share than for any other potential candidate. He has a talent for self-destruction. In 2006 his 16-point lead vanished after he refused to participate in the first televised debate and called the president, Vicente Fox, chachalaca, a bird noted for its loud cackle.

Much of Mexico’s elite prays that such buffoonery will again prove his undoing. But he has become smoother and more disciplined. The danger is that, even if he is shrewder about obtaining power, he may be no wiser about how to exercise it.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Procedural elections

Three Norwegian political scientists try to explain why dictators hold elections. Does what they say apply to China? to Iran? to Mexico? to Russia? to Nigeria?

You’d think dictators would avoid elections. Here’s why they don’t.
Elections are a hallmark of democracy. So why do dictatorships around the world also hold them? While autocratic elections are often characterized as “sham elections,” with the official vote winner clear beforehand, elections in fact have systematic and substantial effects on the durability of dictatorships.

In a recent article in World Politics, we examine 389 elections in 259 dictatorships…

Elections often bring regime-threatening protests or coup d’etats — and that’s why they’re so dangerous to autocratic regimes. But autocrats also gain something from holding elections… Elections confer long-term benefits. The regime can co-opt members of the opposition, for instance, or learn more about the strength of the opposition. Elections also help dictators build a strong organizational apparatus and signal their strength to intimidate potential opponents.

The flip side… is that elections also can produce short-term instability by enabling opposition groups to coordinate their actions right around when the election takes place…

We find clear evidence that the period around and right after an autocratic election — and during the election year in particular — is associated with a greatly increased risk of regime breakdown…

There’s also some evidence, although not as clear-cut, that holding elections makes for more stable dictatorships in the long term…

Here’s how these long-term benefits played out in Mexico’s autocratic regimes from 1929 to 2000. The party in power, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, for decades managed to conduct elections without seeing major threats to its grip on power.

In fact, studies by political scientists argue that the PRI used these elections as a device to prolong its rule. The party used elections to selectively co-opt supporters — but deter opponents by displaying organizational strength and broad public appeal. These stabilizing effects continued long past election day…

Our research indicates that opposition actors in autocratic regimes may find a unique window for dissent around election time, when autocratic incumbents are particularly vulnerable…

Authors: Carl Henrik Knutsen is professor of political science at the University of Oslo, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård is a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and Tore Wig is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Sharpen your critical thinking skills

Up until a decade ago, Chinese government propaganda was easy to spot. It was full of stock phrases and awkward English and paranoia. Not so much anymore. PR execs with degrees from American universities?

China's political propaganda gets a digital makeover
China has been trying and failing for years to get its people, especially its young people, to care about its political system. Could it now be close to working out how to do just this?

Every March, the National People Congress (NPC), China's biggest annual political event, goes virtually unnoticed by the vast majority of the Chinese people…

But as the propaganda platform shifted from rice paper to LED screens, the government has developed new tricks.

One of its first big successes was the music video of "Shisanwu", the 13th Five-Year Plan, which came out in 2015. So how do you sell the idea of the 13th five-year social and economic development strategy to young people?
Shisanwu

An animated music video with a foreign band singing in English of course.

It became an instant hit on social media with young people talking about it, sharing it and even learning to sing it…

The Chinese State Council also released a series of newsy digital videos featuring people's wishes in the run-up to the congress.

They even interviewed carefully-chosen celebrities, such as Hu Weiwei, entrepreneur and founder of China's most successful shared electronic bikes and a viral sensation in China…

The propaganda initiative has even stretched as far as a group on WeChat, China's most popular social media app…
WeChat screen

Critics say it's the same old propaganda, just on new platforms.

But they show a desire to innovate on the part of the government and state-run media and engage the public on the platforms where they know people prize such innovation.

They can claim success in one respect: at the very least they are getting young people to talk about the congress.

Five years ago this was not happening.

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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.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Well, if the queen says it's okay…

The final step of making a law in the UK

Brexit: Queen gives Royal Assent to Article 50 bill
Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen has given Royal Assent to the Brexit bill, clearing the way for Theresa May to start talks to leave the European Union.

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed by MPs and peers on Monday.

It allows the prime minister to notify Brussels that the UK is leaving the EU, with a two year process of exit negotiations to follow…

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Scotland to ask for another independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon says it's necessary to protect Scotland's interests.

Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon to seek second referendum
Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed she will ask for permission to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted a vote to be held between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of the following year.

The Scottish first minister said the move was needed to protect Scottish interests in the wake of the UK voting to leave the EU.

She said she would ask the Scottish Parliament next week to request a Section 30 order from Westminster.

The order would be needed to allow a fresh legally-binding referendum on independence to be held.

Prime Minister Theresa May has so far avoided saying whether or not she would grant permission…

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The City of London

If you read British newspapers, you will see references to "the City" and the power it holds in British politics. The power is based on the banking and industrial companies that are headquartered in "the City."

If the previous paragraph is confusing, here are some short videos to help clarify things.

The (Secret) City of London (Part 1)

The (Secret) City of London (Part 2)



The (Secret) City of London (Part 2)


The City of London (a more textbook like description)




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