Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not guilty until arrested

Keep in mind that the Chinese criminal law system is much more an inquisitorial system than an adversarial one. A person doesn't go on trial until those in power are convinced of the accused's guilt. And, remember, those in power are not always those with legal authority.

Is this rule of law with Chinese characteristics?

Presumed Guilty in China’s War on Corruption, Targets Suffer Abuses
China is in the midst of a scorching campaign against government corruption, one that has netted more than 50 high-ranking officials and tens of thousands of workaday bureaucrats as part of President Xi Jinping’s effort to restore public confidence in the ruling Communist Party. In the first half of this year, prosecutors opened more than 6,000 investigations of party officials, according to government statistics released in July…

But admirers of Mr. Xi’s antigraft blitz largely overlook a key paradox of the campaign, critics say: Waged in the name of law and accountability, the war on corruption often operates beyond the law in a secretive realm of party-run agencies…

In more than a dozen interviews, legal scholars and lawyers who have represented fallen officials said defending them was especially difficult, even by the standards of a judicial system tightly controlled by the party.

The biggest challenge, they say, begins the moment an accused official disappears into the custody of party investigators for a monthslong period during which interrogators seek to extract confessions, sometimes through torture.

Known as shuanggui, it is a secretive, extralegal process that leaves detainees cut off from lawyers, associates and relatives…

Guilty verdicts are rarely in doubt. Of the 8,110 officials who received court verdicts on bribery and graft charges in the first half of this year, 99.8 percent were convicted…

Even as they cheer Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign, defense lawyers and advocates of legal reform are raising red flags about the lack of due process for those accused of official wrongdoing. They say without systemic change — chiefly a depoliticized, independent judiciary — the party’s twin goals of rooting out corruption and winning back public trust will ultimately founder.

This week, when hundreds of members of the party’s influential Central Committee meet in the nation’s capital, they will undoubtedly endorse the main item on Mr. Xi’s agenda, “governing the country according to law.”

But most analysts agree that any reform proposals are likely to be incremental, and several lawyers expressed pessimism that party leaders would relinquish the power to engineer the outcome of cases that they believe might threaten their authority or the financial fortunes of kin and cronies…

For all its zealousness, and the growing roster of the fallen, the party’s campaign against graft operates under its own set of mysterious rules.

Given the endemic corruption among Chinese officials and the opacity of the legal system, it remains unclear whether those targeted by party investigators are the most corrupt, or just the ones unlucky enough to have chosen the wrong side in an unseen factional battle…

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










What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rule of law with Chinese characteristics

You'd think that Chinese press secretaries had been studying the list of concepts for the Comparative Gov Pol course. They keep talking about rule of law, transparency, power, and independent judiciary.

Two things to keep in mind: rule of law in the Chinese political culture might not be the same thing as rule of law in other political cultures or textbooks. And, rule of law in commercial (business) law might not extend to criminal or civil liberties law.

CPC "rule of law" meeting key to reform, fairness
Seeking greater social fairness and justice is high on the agenda in China as the central committee of the ruling party is set to discuss rule of law issues.

Arrangements to promote rule of law are expected to be unveiled at the fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing…

The key meeting is held at a historic juncture when the Party and the nation are working to deepen reforms in such fields as the economy and administration with the goal of building an "all-round well-off society" by 2020.

It also takes place at a time when Chinese citizens are expecting more fairness and justice…

In 1997, the Party decided to make "rule of law" a basic strategy and "building a socialist country under the rule of law" an important goal for socialist modernization.

Significant progress has since been made in the legal sector. In 2010, the country announced it had established a socialist system of laws. Greater judicial transparency is seen as a result of reforms.

Yet the implementation of laws is not ideal. In the minds of some grassroots leading officials, power is above the law. Government intervention in judicial cases still exists in some areas…

The current Party leadership is trying to give a more important role to the market with a series of economic and administrative reforms, in a bid to improve the quality and efficiency of economic growth…

With the meeting, a wider consensus will be reached and more reforms can be expected for rule of law in China.

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










What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What would George Orwell say?

When the news gets tough, the tough take control. No, that's not quite it.

Russia’s Putin signs law extending Kremlin’s grip over media
In a move that will significantly constrict Russia’s fast-shrinking space for independent reporting, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed into law a measure that will curtail foreign ownership of media outlets in his country.

The decision extends the Kremlin’s control over some of Russia’s most prominent independent publications…

The move comes as Russia’s powerful state-run media has labored round-the-clock to glorify Putin and denigrate groups perceived to be the nation’s enemies…

Even though Putin long ago consolidated his control over television and many print news outlets, there had been independent options for the smaller set of Russians who sought alternative voices for news, and the Internet was a particularly unregulated space. But over the past year, one news source after another has been blocked, closed or editorially redirected…

The law deals the sharpest blow to Russia’s most prominent independent daily newspaper, Vedomosti, which aspires to Western standards of journalism.

Vedomosti is co-owned by a tri-national consortium — Dow Jones, the Financial Times Group and Sanoma, a Finnish media company — and focuses on business reporting, a sensitive topic given Russia’s tanking economy and dim prospects for the future. The newspaper has chronicled the troubles of Russia’s most powerful companies as the economy has slowed and Western sanctions have taken hold…

For the Kremlin, “in general it’s easier to have controlled media than non-controlled media,” said Elizaveta Osetinskaya, a former editor of Forbes Russia who is now the editor in chief at the RBC Group, a business-focused media consortium owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov. It also seeks to report independent news and was the first national news outlet to report in August about the funerals of Russian soldiers who died fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“Right now society doesn’t think it needs free media,” Osetinskaya said…

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











What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A leader dies. Does it matter?

Head of Iran’s chief clerical body dead at 83
Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani, the head of Iran’s most influential clerical body… has died. He was 83.

Kani was the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics that monitors the supreme leader and picks a successor after his death, making it one of the most powerful institutions in Iran, though it doesn’t involve itself in daily affairs of state…

Kani, a former acting prime minister and interior minister in the 80s, had been in a coma since June. He was considered a moderate conservative.

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

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










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











What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










Labels: ,

Rule of law requires confidence and legitimacy

When a foreign reporter is in the right place those of us outside of China learn about violence that is reportedly common. Would this happen if people had confidence in the legitimacy of the rule of law?

Villagers burn four construction workers to death in China land dispute
Villagers in a bitter standoff with a property developer in rural south-western China burned four construction workers to death in a clash that left eight people dead, authorities have said.

The incident in Yunnan province was one of the most violent land conflicts to strike the country’s vast rural hinterland in recent years, casting a spotlight on the plight and anger of residents who see their livelihoods threatened when their lands are seized by developers with the backing of local governments.

Often villagers left with no means to seek redress have resorted to violence, making land disputes a chief cause of unrest in China. “What can a villager do when he cannot resort to the law, gets no response from the local government and finds it useless to petition the higher authority?” rights advocate Huang Qi said. “So they resist with their lives.”

Alarmed by such violence, the ruling Communist party is expected to grant more independence to local courts in the hope of extending justice and alleviating tensions between members of the public and local governments…
"Armed" villagers at Fuyou village
State media reports said the latest dispute at Fuyou village was over land compensation. Villagers complained about low payments for land seized for a warehouse and logistics centre, a major project backed by the local government…

The violence has not been unconditionally condemned by members of the public, many of whom are instead questioning what led to the conflict. “Neither side trusted the current legal system, and neither was willing to solve disputes within the current political framework, so they took the matter into their own hands,” blogger Liu Buchen wrote. “If the current law can be trusted, there will be significantly fewer cases where violence is used to solve disputes.”…

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









What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










Labels: ,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Defining the limits of power and freedom

Once again, events in Iran demonstrate that there are many centers of power and many challengers to all of them.

Iran’s Jailing of Activist Offers Hint of Liberty Under Rouhani
Ghoncheh Ghavami
In a country that has virtually no tolerance for activism, Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, an Iranian-British national, provided a nearly textbook example of how to get arrested in Tehran, activists say. Yet if Ms. Ghavami, who began a hunger strike last week to protest her indefinite detention, was guilty of anything, activists say, it was a naïve enthusiasm that Iran was changing.

Now, as Ms. Ghavami languishes in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison without charge, her case has raised anew the question of how far the limits of personal expression and rights can be stretched in the Iran of President Hassan Rouhani.

The answer, many here say, is not that far. The judiciary and Parliament remain firmly in the control of hard-liners, and they can come down unexpectedly on those seemingly not involved in opposition politics…

Iran can also be deceptive, activists here say, especially for people like Ms. Ghavami who spend most of their lives abroad. The return to the motherland can feel warm and surprisingly safe, but dangers lurk, especially for those who return with the idea of promoting change…

“Within four months she burned herself up in Iran, she fell victim to her own optimism,” one of her friends said, identifying himself only as Ali to avoid reprisals from the authorities. “Ghoncheh seriously thought Iran was opening up and saw no danger.”…

There had been some changes after Mr. Rouhani took office. The uniformed men who had been posted on almost every busy square under his outspoken predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, disappeared. The Internet, still under intense scrutiny, had been allowed some higher bandwidth speeds.

“Around that time, people, including myself, were enthusiastic and hopeful about the improvement of social and civil activities,” said Mojghan Faraji, a journalist. “We all thought there would be change. Now, we are no longer hopeful.”…

Why the authorities have come down so hard on Ms. Ghavami remains something of a mystery, though many activists believe her British citizenship has something to do with it.

Historically, Iran holds a deep grudge against the country, which for decades pumped Iranian oil in exchange for pennies and maintained an imperialist grip on the government. Currently, Iran’s leaders view Britain as a center of opposition, home to a pair of Persian-language satellite channels: the Persian service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is paid for by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Manoto, a private undertaking. Both are critical of the Islamic republic’s policies…

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 SIXTH edition has been updated and is ready to help.










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










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











Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Presentations (or Pedagogy II)

One of the things I noticed about Lawrence Stroud's lectures was something that I, and nearly all of us do: we read the visual that's on the screen.

After all, we've done the research, organized the content, and now want to present it in an understandable and coherent way. We've put words together and tried to ensure we haven't left anything out.

But if you're in the audience of someone who reads words off the visual to you, it's difficult to simultaneously read the words and hear what's being said. And sometimes it's hard to stay awake.(I advocate handing out the visuals before the presentation so students can take notes on the handouts.)

If you haven't seen Don McMillan's Life After Death by Powerpoint, it's probably worth 10 minutes of your time.



If you'd like a shorter, more serious set of suggestions, check out WienotFilms'
Powerful Presentations.


Then there's Guy Kawaski's "10-20-30" rule for presentations.




Dr. Carl Wieman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, claims that the human brain "can hold a maximum of about seven different items in its short-term working memory and can process no more than about four ideas at once…" Thus presentations should include no more than four ideas (concepts) and seven facts.

All right, you say. None of those things takes into account the demands and circumstances of the classroom and an Advanced Placement curriculum.

I agree. You have to "monitor and adjust," as my colleague Ken MacDonald used to chant. You have to adapt to your schedule, your population, your school culture, and your abilities.

But it's really worth thinking about. As the Weinot Films presentation points out, planning and thinking through this kind of presentation takes time and effort. But the results are often amazing.

Don't read your visuals. Don't complicate your presentations. Don't make them very long (even if you have a block). If you class is longer than 20 minutes, plan several 20 minute activities.

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 SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










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











Labels: ,

Pedagogy

Ken Halla, on his confusingly named usgovteducatorsblog recently posted links to the "flipped" AP Comparative GovPol lectures of one of his colleagues, Larry Stroud. There are 10 of Larry Stroud's lectures for comparative plus about a dozen for US GovPol.

Lawrence Stroud
The list of topics includes
  • The EU
  • Mexico: Political Institutions
  • Iran (two lectures)
  • Less Developed and Newly Industrializing Countries
  • China: Political Institutions
  • Communist-Post Communist Countries
  • China: Political and Economic Change
  • Russian Political Institutions (two lectures)
  • Advanced Democracies: UK
  • UK: Political Institutions

This is the result of great planning and effort and great generosity on Mr. Stroud's part.

I've watched two of them so far and would pick at some nits of details. Those are probably bits of disagreement rather than factual errors.

Thanks, Lawrence Stroud. And thanks to Ken Halla too. He does include good things about AP Comparative Gov Pol in his blog once in awhile.

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









What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.









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










Labels: ,

When rule of law isn't rule of law

When people from different political cultures use the same words, they don't always mean the same thing. (One of the many ambiguities of comparative politics.)

Leader Taps Into Chinese Classics in Seeking to Cement Power
When China’s leader, Xi Jinping, recently warned officials to ward off the temptations of corruption and Western ideas of democracy, he cited Han Fei, a Chinese nobleman renowned for his stark advocacy of autocratic rule more than 2,200 years ago.

Han Fei
“When those who uphold the law are strong, the state is strong,” Mr. Xi said, quoting advice that Han Fei offered monarchs attempting to tame disorder. “When they are weak, the state is weak.”

Seeking to decipher Mr. Xi… China watchers have focused on… his many admiring references to Chinese sages and statesmen from millenniums past…

“This is about finding some kind of traditionalist basis of legitimacy for the regime,” said Sam Crane, a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts who studies ancient Chinese thought and its contemporary uses. “It says, ‘We don’t need Western models.’ Ultimately, it is all filtered through the exigencies of maintaining party power.”…

China’s modern leaders have often sought to justify their policies by bowing to their Communist forebears, and so has Mr. Xi. But he has reached much farther back than his predecessors into a rich trove of ancient statecraft for vindication and guidance…

“He who rules by virtue is like the North Star,” he said at a meeting of officials last year, quoting Confucius. “It maintains its place, and the multitude of stars pay homage.”…

Mr. Xi has also shown his familiarity with “Legalist” thinkers who more than 23 centuries ago argued that people should submit to clean, uncompromising order maintained by a strong ruler, much as Mr. Xi appears to see himself. He has quoted Han Fei, the most famous Legalist, whose hardheaded advice from the Warring States era made Machiavelli seem fainthearted…

Their [the Legalists] influence on Mr. Xi is likely to become clearer when a meeting of party leaders starting in just over a week endorses his proposals for “rule of law.” Quite unlike the Western liberal version, Mr. Xi’s “rule of law” looks more like the “rule by law” advocated by the Legalists…

Mr. Xi wants party power to be applied more equitably and cleanly, but he does not want law to circumscribe that power… This has created an “enormous amount of misinterpretation in the West that thinks ‘rule of law’ is rule of law in a very Western Enlightenment sense of the term,” [said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York]…

“When Xi is putting on a political performance, he uses Marxist-Leninist rhetoric and even Mao’s words,” said Kang Xiaoguang, a professor of public administration at Renmin University in Beijing. “But in his bones, what really influences him is not those things but intellectual resources from the traditional classics.”

This restoration of tradition has been encouraged by the party, eager to inoculate citizens against Western liberal ideas, which are deemed a decadent recipe for chaos…

“As China grows stronger, this force for restoring tradition will also grow stronger,” said Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing and author of Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power.

“Where can China’s leaders find their ideas?” he said. “They can’t possibly find them nowadays from Western liberal thought, and so the only source they can look to is ancient Chinese political thinking.”…

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 SIXTH edition has been updated and is ready to help.










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










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











Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wishful thinking and some statistics

President Xi announces the end of a mass line campaign. Goals, he said, were achieved and he offered some statistics as proof. The language of the speech sounds like propaganda that the leaders want to believe.

Xi says "mass-line" campaign just the start
Chinese President Xi Jinping said… that the "mass line" campaign had played an important role in the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) drive to tighten Party discipline.

The significance of the campaign would manifest itself in time…

"Mass line" refers to a guideline under which CPC officials and members are required to prioritize the interests of the people and exercise power on their behalf. Based on arrangements made at the 18th National Congress of the CPC in November 2012, the campaign began in June 2013 with an aim of cultivating closer ties with the people.

As promised, there was a thorough cleanup of undesirable work styles, with officials required to reflect on their own work and correct any bad practice.

President Xi
Xi said the… campaign enhanced the Party's prestige and image among the populace; Party members and the people become more cohesive. The campaign had realized its desired goals and concluded with great achievements.

Through the campaign, official meetings were reduced by 586,000, almost 25 percent fewer than in the period before the campaign began. Over 160,000 phantom staff were removed from the government payroll and almost 115,000 vehicles taken out of illicit private use and returned to exclusive regular government affairs. Construction of 2,580 unnecessary official buildings was stopped.

Systems to solidify those results are in place to ensure the effects of the campaign last. In the past year, spending on officials' travel, use of government vehicles, and construction of official buildings have been strictly regulated.

"The close of the campaign is not the end of good work styles," Xi told the meeting… He called for the "mass line" to be a continuing aspect the Party's ties with the people.

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 SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










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











Labels: , ,