Every time I am in China, I am asked by Chinese what I think of China, and what could China change? The expected answer is the class-based society, human rights, or some other transient issues. But the answer I give is this: China needs a civil society. Civil society dampers social trouble by providing a response mechanism that is independent of the government. Without a civil society, a corrupt government and an unexepected tragedy can more easily interact to produce a revolution or a revolt. A civil society makes it less likely.
Thus, this good news from China, courtesy of Stephen DeAngelis and Bradd Hayes:
Enterprise Resilience Management Blog: Globalization and Giving — the Rise of Chinese Philanthropy
With the death toll from China’s recent massive earthquake expected to rise to nearly 50,000 people, the world has offered and Chinese leaders have accepted outside assistance. Western experts, for example, are monitoring some Chinese nuclear plants for damage that might have been created during the temblor. Other forms of aid from rescue units to money are also pouring in. One unexpected source of funds has been from the Chinese people themselves [“Chinese Open Wallets for Quake Aid,” by Maureen Fan, Washington Post, 16 May 2008]. That may not sound surprising to outsiders (after all, who doesn’t want to help when they see neighbors in need?), but as the article’s sub-title explains, individual giving is rare “in a Society Long Under Sole Care of the State.” This is not the first large natural disaster that has occurred since the Communists came to power, so why are the Chinese people opening their wallets in record numbers? Because, thanks to globalization, they can.
The Revolutions of 1848 struck most of Europe and even extended into South America. But Canada, England, and the United States were spaired. One reason is that the English speaking countries (except for famine Ireland) possessed civil societies that could channel public agitation to dampen social problems.
When the bad times come, and they will come, China must be ready. From the Olympic Torch /314 fiasco to charity for earthquake victims, the lessons are being learned and the preparations are being made.