An African student in China asked his professor the following question: “Why isn’t China doing anything to change his image abroad, as most of the things people say about China are not true”.
The professor paused, smiled, and with a sterling contempt replied “China doesn’t give a damn”. Then continued “it took us 30 years to build our country, while it took over 400 years for Western countries to reach the same level of development.
The most important thing for China now is stability, so we can focus on our development. That’s the stage where we are.
We are well aware of all the various human freedoms available under other suns, and we desire to have them here in China, and we are conﬁdent that in time we will have the same freedoms here in China. However, for now, at the stage where we are, we need stability to continue our development.”
Indeed, knowing the kind of political organisation a country needs at particular time in its history is very critical for that country’s stability and prosperity.
After Mao died in 1976, the Chinese Communist Party vowed never to let a single person, whatever his position or charisma, to have so much power to lead to the horriﬁc deeds of the Chinese cultural revolution.
From then on, all political decisions and national policies should be discussed and formulated collectively, validated by the party, and Chinese leaders would serve only as good executives hired to implement without questioning the oﬃcial policies.
A strict code of discipline has been put forward, and the “Central Commission for Discipline Inspection” has been revived. From the years 1980s, under Deng Xiaoping, the following principles has been institutionalized:
• – Uniﬁed leadership is paramount. At home or abroad, any Chinese leaders should display total and unconditional loyalty to the country, the party and under any circumstances should not display attitudes or make statement that conﬂict or go against the oﬃcial line of the party.
• – Democratic centralism: Inside the party everything could be discussed, members could ﬁght for their opinion and position, challenge each other. But once a decision is reached after careful consideration of all points of view, the party stresses unity and avoids public conﬂict.
• – State as a work of science or Scientiﬁc development: state’s aﬀairs should not be a matter of opinion, intuition, impulse, emotion, religion, personal preferences or lineage, but based on the scientiﬁc approach of ”seek truth from facts” in political and economic aﬀairs. China became the ﬁrst country in the world, with Germany, which deliberately see ”State as a work of science”, not ideology. The idea of State as a work of science “stems from the basic premise that it is possible for the state to engineer sustainable development through tested and proven methodologies of governance. Such a scientiﬁc approach is said to minimize conﬂict amongst diﬀerent interest groups in society in order to maintain stability on the national level, in turn fostering economic and cultural advancement.” – From Scientiﬁc development
• – No politics in government: the government is not the place for politics, the government is an administration tool for execution and implementation of the party strategy and policies.
• – Unity, Loyalty and Discipline are the 3 most important attitudes required to work in the government. The principle states as follow: “It’s better to hire an honest person in the ﬁrst place, than spending time and money to control and discipline a dishonest person”
• – Damocles or Shuangui: Chinese Party Members face harsh discipline if they fail to live up to the party discipline. According to the Economist, the discipline system is commonly known as shuanggui, a huge surveillance system that monitors the party and the government oﬃcials deeds, and uses a parallel judicial system to punish harshly those who err. Because of widespread disgust over oﬃcial corruption, Chinese seems to appreciate the work of the Commission for discipline.
Overall, what is unique about Chinese focus on discipline is the fact that the Chinese government perceives discipline not just as an attitude or behavior they seek for political reason in the name of power games, but Discipline is perceived as the most important resource the country might develop, cultivate and promote to be able to succeed. This activity of cultivating discipline receives a priority attention, and is assigned to one of the Top 7 Leaders of the country, Wang Qishan.
Currently, 90 % of Top Chinese Government Oﬃcials are Scientists & Engineers. The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, studied Chemical engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the Communist Party graduated from Harbin’s Military Engineering Institute specializing in the design of Automated Missiles. The Premier, Li Keqiang has a PhD in Economics, and the Foreign Aﬀairs Minister, Wang Yi, is a military and civil construction Engineer.
The same sort of ratio of engineers and scientists at top positions could be found at all levels of the Chinese government. Scientists and Engineers are the most admired and respected people in China, and to become politician you better have a degree in science or engineering, and prove that you have a highly disciplined mind.
Africa is struggling to build modern states because of a lack of understanding of the natural evolution of political order and sources of power. Many come to the idea of building state without strategic intent, and proper study of local life conditions and priorities. And in many cases, states in Africa are more replicas of colonial countries political structures.
In this post, I’d try to explain the complex literature on political order by focusing our attention on the 5 common sources of power in modern states.
1. State as the work of God
When the state is considered to be the work of God, power and legitimacy of rulers is believed to come from God, or caused by divine intervention. People in power refer to God as the source of their power and status, and justify their actions in the name of God.
State as the work of God is usually possible when knowledge of nature, environment and external world is very limited. All unanswered questions and topics are therefore entrusted to people who pretend to have received answers from a god, either by revelation or by dreams.
In the modern world, state as the work of God is more linked to populations or countries where individuality is less developed, and where people perceive themselves or are forced to perceive themselves more like a tribe or a clan.
Customs, and traditions inherited from a state as work of God could later be dissociated from any kind of religion, but would still play the same role in the society.
When the individual is weak, God prospers. And states as the work of God are generally organised in tribal order, driven by the need of safety, and cohesion.
Like any modern state, corruption among the rulers, and the continuous awakening of the individual, and wider spread of basic education usually lead to growing mistrust and more people would start demanding reform or change.
2. State as the work of Men
In a State conceived as the work of Men or heroes, rulers usually believe that they are legitimate to rule because they possess uncommon human aptitudes and forces, and therefore think that these uncommon features they possesses predispose them to rule a state or a territory.
State as the work of men usually lead to feudalism and constitutes in most cases an exploitive order where few warriors, and nobles collide to seek and protect self-interests, acting mostly on impulse, directed by the rule of the strongest, and motivated by instant reward and vanity.
When God is weak, Heroes prospers. And state as the work of Men usually leads to the statement ”a man is wolf for man”, and ultimately to Machiavellianism, where the state exists only in appearance to protect people, but is mainly misdirected toward the manipulation of the people and the maximisation of the power and status of the princes, the nobles, etc.
In such a state, trust is very limited, and people slowly recluse and seek refuge in developing their inner life, their domestic aﬀair, and focus their eﬀorts on doing business by crafting or trade.
3. State as the work of Art
The failure of the state as of the work of God, and the state as the work of heroes or powerful men usually leads to the birth of individualism, but further more to the loss of faith in rulers of any kind.
People would usually start looking for ways to express their individual talents, and would spend more time introspecting and seeking sensual or material pleasures. In turn, rulers would start building the states as work of art: grandiose palace, grandiose speeches, city and building decoration with impressive art pieces, national songs and anthems, gigantic public parades, all with the intention to catch up with people withdraw from public life.
In a state as the work of art, Rulers believe their legitimacy comes from their ability to please, seduce, and impress the people.
When Men are weak, nature ﬂourishes. One single word characterises a state as the work of art: achievement. People and rulers are very adventurous, dreaming about grandiose expeditions, grandiose gardens, uncommon pleasures, etc.
A state as the work of Art usually ends with economic collapse or economic expansion depends on the fortune of the nation’s adventures. In any of both cases, any society that went through a state as the work of art, usually become complex and challenging to rule without structural changes.
4. State as the work of Reason
With the age of reason, more and more people would start asking question starting with ”why”. This usually results into killing the Kings and the Nobles, and/or the introduction of parliamentary monarchy or republic.
Power therefore should come from a social compact, and derive from laws and regulations. State as work of rea- son gives birth to the ”rule of law”. Its main advantage is that it frees people from worrying on daily basis about safety, and shih all that energy into industry, and the maximisation of eﬃciency with machines and tools.
When Nature is weak, Industries prosper. State of the work of reason is the most sought after in the world cur- rently, but in countries with more than a century of industrialisation, such a state is now questioned and put under scrutiny.
Corruption of the elite, manipulation of legal systems, and pervasive social and economic injustice are the usual worms that sabotages a state as the work of reason.
5. State as the work of Science
State as the work of science is the most recent development in modern political organisation, and is only known and practiced in very few countries in the world, like China, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Iran, Scandinavian countries, and partially the United States.
State as the work of science starts with the acknowledgement that God has nothing to do with politics, Men are too fallible to be trusted with power, laws could be biased or corrupted, and vanity and art should be leh to artists and celebrities.
In contrary, political decisions should be based on data, quantitative, comparative or historical.
Like in the ﬁelds of science, everything is a mere opinion or hypothesis unless enough evidence is brought up in front of peers to convince them of their veracity or fallacy. Decisions are made only after a methodical review of evidences evaluated by peers who have demonstrated enough discipline in critical thinking.
When everything is relative, Science becomes the new religion. Surprisingly, state as the work of science could pro- poser in communist, capitalist, Islamist, or Judaic society. That’s the reason why this kind of state is an exciting new frontier in social and political organisation around the world.
Above 5 kinds of states are not exclusive. They could be sometime antagonist, but in most cases they are cumulative. In the United Stated for example you still ﬁnd all ﬁve sources of legitimacy in one state:
• God is omnipresent, the president is sworn in with a hand on the Bible (State as the work of God)
• All the political and economic game is about ﬁnding and cultivating heroes, men larger than life, above ordinary people (State as the work of Men)
• America is less a ”state as the work of art”, because it’s born after the ”enlightenment” and out of a ”social compact”. Reason why American like so much the “Old Europe” with all its artiﬁce and pompous display of futility. Still, we could witness a desire for art in politics with the cult of the American ﬂag, excessive political rhetoric, and the idea of American exceptionalism.
• – America is the country of lawyers and business (State a the work of Reason).
• – America is the country which produces the most data in the world, and where (expect in political discourse) decision are data-driven and fact checking is already an industry with hundreds of millions in revenue annually.
Now let’s take look at a second example of a state as the work of science: Switzerland has 7 Presidents as Head of State.
Yes, Switzerland doesn’t have a President or Prime Minister acting as a Head of State nor a Head of Government like in USA, UK, Nigeria, or Zimbabwe. The country is managed by a seven-members Council which is considered as a collective Head of State.
One member of the council is considered the President of the Confederation (whom you can ﬁguratively call President of Switzerland) but he is just a «primus inter pares», which means “ﬁrst among equals” 7 members of the Federal Council.
He acts in that role for 1 year, and the duty of presidency rotates among the members in order of seniority, then the previous year’s Vice President becomes President.
The President of the Confederation is not considered the head of State, rather the entire Federal Council is considered a collective Head of State. The President main role is to assume special representational duties. He has no powers above the other Councilors and continues to head his or her department.
“Because the Swiss have no single Head of State, the country also carries out no state visits. When traveling abroad, the President does so only as an ordinary Minister of a government Department.
Visiting heads of state are received by the seven members of the Federal Council together, rather than by the President of the Confederation. Treaties are signed on behalf of the full Council, with all Federal Council members signing letters of credence and other documents of the kind.” –Wikipedia
Why is this a good model of governance for Africa?
Switzerland is a multicultural country with 4 diﬀerent ethnics groups: Germanic, French, Italian, and Rhaeto- Romansh (65 % of the population is German; 18 % French; 10 % Italian; 1 % was Romansh; and 6 % comprises of various other groups).
Tough Germans made 2/3 of the population, and that ethnic group could easily win all democratic elections based on the rule of the majority, the country adopted a federal model that in fact gives enough power to each ethnic group to manage their local aﬀairs, speak and administrate in their language, and at the top executive level the collective nature of the federal council works well to reinforce the sense of community of destiny.
Here are the main advantages of the Swiss model:
• 1. It’s integrative and minimize ethnic conﬂicts in the context a multi-ethnic country
• 2. Seven heads of state, all equal in opinion and power, make it diﬃcult to take impulsive decision, and minimize the risk of dictatorship
• 3. It also minimizes corruption of leadership in the sense that any top level decision could not be taken without sound review by the Seven members of the council
• 4. Additionally, as all seven members have to sign top level decisions to be valid, foreign pressure on one or two members of the council will not be enough to move a decision ahead.
• 5. Finally, leadership based on showmanship and cult of personality is severely limited, and the leaders are more focused on delivering results in their department.
In The Prince, Machiavelli said, the weakest form of government for any nation is dictatorship or one-powerful-man at top, because it’s easy to conquer such nations. Once you succeed to cut the head, the whole falls into panic and concede defeat. In the other hand, the most resilient nations are those with multiple, strong, and independence local princes. Even after the central government of such nations would fall, any conqueror would have to ba5le all individual princes to win over the country.
In summary, here are the main advantages of building a state as the work of science:
• In the ﬁelds of science a Muslim scientist from Pakistan would work with a Hindu scientist from India. Chinese scientists work with Japanese scientists. Russian scientists work with American scientists. Regardless of the people background, science has a unique way of thinking, and methodology for presenting ideas, and an approach to reach conclusion that make it possible for people, even those opposed by their religion and ideology to work together.
For Africa, building ”states as work of science” would give us the right tools to move our countries beyond ethnicities, regional divides, ideological background, etc.
• Data driven decision making and paranoid fact checking would also help minimise excessive empty political rhetoric, and the people manipulation trough appeal to emotions and ethnicities. Additionally, the scientiﬁc methodology will strengthen our leaders’ ability to take better decision and minimise decision making based on charisma, majority, or media manipulations.
One story, Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, used to teach his followers about the limitations of democracy was about a ship in the middle of the ocean. On this ship was a gruﬀ, burly captain who was rather shortsighted and slightly deaf. He and his crew followed the principles of majority rule on decisions about navigational direction. They had a very skilled navigator who knew how to read the stars on voyages, but the navigator was not very popular and was rather introverted. In the panic of being lost, the captain and crew made a decision to follow the most charismatic, eloquent, and persuasive of the crew members. They ignored and ridiculed the navigator’s suggestions, remained lost and ultimately starved to death at sea.
Africa came too late to the game of democracy which has become the most cynical and the most easily corruptible political system in our modern time. If we don’t ﬁnd better ways of governing ourselves or making decision, we will continue starving and failing.
• Selection of leaders should be based on data and fact checking, not on media appearances, diploma, oratory prowess or haircut.
Africa needs more leaders with proven records of disciplined and cold mind, disciplined in thought and actions. Africa should avoid rhetorician leaders, celebrity seeking politician, and look more ﬁeld Marshal as leaders.
• State as the work of science also hold the promise of minimising the risk of war, conﬂicts, and properly applied could help ﬁght racism, bigotry for more peace in the world.