By Larry Romanoff, October 29, 2022
One of the greatest things about the United States of America is that it is truly a land of unlimited political opportunity, a country where a man with no education, training or experience, a man bereft of both intelligence and ability, a man with a character eminently corruptible, can rise to become the President of the United States. And many do. And not only in America.
One of the most blindingly-obvious flaws in the Western democratic model is that elected government officials require no credentials of any kind whatsoever to qualify for their positions. For this essay, I had a conversation with an HR executive at 7-11, who informed me that when filling a position as a store manager, they look for years of successful retail marketing experience and very much prefer an undergraduate university degree in all applicants. But to become the President or Prime Minister of a Western democracy, there are no prerequisites. Surely, I am not the only person who sees this as lunacy. It is a serious indictment of the democratic system that even the manager of a 7-11 must have minimum credentials of some nature, but the President of the US or the Prime Minister of Canada or any other Western democracy need have none.
In a multi-party electoral system (a “democracy”) anyone can ‘try his hand’ at running the country. If he fails, the economy may suffer, millions may lose their jobs or their homes (or their lives), but he loses nothing. In no other part of life is it possible to have so much power and take on so much responsibility, with so few consequences for incompetence or bad judgment. Surely there is something very wrong here that Westerners appear unable and unwilling to face. How is it possible for us as intelligent people, to tell ourselves this is the best of all systems? On this basis alone it cannot possibly be the best of anything; all indications are that it could well be the worst.
There is something disturbingly perverse here, an attitude suggesting that schools, hospitals, corporations, even charities, are somehow ‘real’ things with real purposes and with potentially serious consequences if mismanaged, but that government in some perverted way is not real, but a game where participation has no requirements and gross mismanagement has no consequences. Government – the strategic managing of an entire country – is treated like some kind of team sport where inexperience and incompetence are not determining factors in obtaining a position. Doesn’t it seem to you that something is wrong with this picture? Something is indeed perversely wrong; “government” has been replaced by “politics”.
Let’s try to make something clear: managing a country, deciding and implementing a strategic direction for a nation of tens or hundreds of millions of people, is a big job with grave responsibilities. Being the leader of such a management team is more than nothing. The Prime Minister or President of a country is responsible for the well-being of all citizens, for the economy, for the country’s foreign affairs policies and its relations with all other countries, for the military and related decisions. This person’s decisions can cost millions of lives, can improve or degrade world peace and security. The responsibilities are formidable and I’m sure we will all agree this is not a place for a child, for the ignorant, inexperienced and untrained.
To fully appreciate this fatal deficiency in the Western model of selecting government leaders, it will be easiest if we compare it to another kind of model. In spite of the anticipated avalanche of accusations of my being a shill for the Chinese government, let’s look at the way China does it. We will return to the Western model at the end.
Selecting China’s Government Leaders
A Bit of Background
Many Westerners have at least a dim awareness of China’s Gaokao, the system of annual university entrance examinations, taken by about 10 million students each year. This set of examinations is quite stiff and perhaps even harsh, covering many subjects and occupying three days. The tests require broad understanding, deep knowledge and high intelligence, if one is to do well. These examinations are entirely merit-based and favoritism is impossible. Students who produce the highest grades in these examinations are in the top 1% of a pool of 1.5 billion people. Obtaining a high mark qualifies a student to enter one of the top two or three universities, which will virtually guarantee a great job on graduation, a high salary and a good life. Moving down the scale of results, the prospects become increasingly meager.
Few Westerners are aware that China also has a system of bar examinations which every graduate lawyer must pass in order to practice law in China. For these, we can bypass “stiff” and “harsh” and go directly to “severe”. These examinations require not only high intelligence but deep knowledge of the laws and a broad understanding of all matters legal, and are so difficult that many refuse to even attempt them. Of about 250,000 graduate lawyers who sit the exam, only about 20,000 will pass and obtain qualifications to actually practice law in China. If you meet a Chinese lawyer, you can be assured you are dealing with someone from top 0.1% of that same pool of 1.5 billion people.
I mention these two items only to introduce a third – the Civil Service Examinations.
The Imperial civil service examinations were designed many centuries ago to select the best administrative officials for the state’s bureaucracy. They lasted as long as 72 hours, and required a great depth and breadth of knowledge to pass. As one author noted, “It was an eminently fair system in that the exam itself had no qualifications.” Almost anyone, even from the least educated family in the poorest town, could sit the exam and, if that person did well enough, he or she could join the civil service and potentially rise to a senior management position. The modern civil service examination system evolved from the imperial one, and today millions of graduates write these each year. They are extremely difficult. Of perhaps two million candidates only about 10,000 will get a pass. And that pass doesn’t get you a job; all it gets you is an interview. When you meet someone who has entered the civil service in China’s Central Government, you can rest assured you are speaking to a person who is not only unnervingly intelligent but exceptionally well-educated and knowledgeable on a broad range of national issues, and also is in the top 0.01% of a pool of 1.5 billion people.
And the examination is only the beginning of 30 to 40 years of an accumulation of the knowledge and experience necessary to become a member of China’s Central Government. The top 1% of this tiny group will then form the Politburo, with one of these few becoming China’s President. These people who have passed the civil service examinations and will become the senior officials and civil servants in China’s national government, have entered a lifelong career in a formidable meritocracy where promotion and responsibility can be obtained only by demonstrated ability.
We should here consider that the Chinese generally score about 10% higher on standard IQ tests than do Caucasian Westerners. When we couple this with the Chinese process of weeding out the bottom 99.99% from consideration, and add further the prospect of doing the weeding from a pool of 1.5 billion people, you might expect the individuals in China’s Central Government to be rather better qualified than those of most other countries. And they are. The point of this is to bring your attention to the disparity between the quality of “politicians” in Western countries and China’s government officials. The discrepancy is so vast that comparisons are largely meaningless. China’s government officials are all highly-educated and trained engineers, economists, sociologists, scientists, often at a Ph.D. level. A visit to any top university campus in China would make it obvious to anyone that the Communist Party continues to attract the best and the brightest of the country’s youth.
There are some who will tell you that family connections in China can produce a government job for some favored son, a claim that may be true for minor positions at a local level, though extremely difficult beyond that and impossible at the national level. No number of connections will move anyone into senior positions or to the top of decision-making power, those places reserved for persons of deep experience and proven ability. Also noteworthy is that family wealth and influence plays no part in these appointments. Of China’s highest ruling body, the 25-member Politburo, only seven came from any background of wealth or power. The remainder, including China’s President and Prime Minister, came from backgrounds that offered no special advantages and rose to the top based on merit alone. In the larger Central Committee, those with privileged backgrounds are even scarcer. References in the Western media to China’s “Princelings” are merely an offensive and ignorant racial slur.
There is another distinction here of immense importance that is never discussed in the West. In our Western democracies we have “politicians” and we have “civil servants”, who are two entirely different species, the civil servants being those whose jobs require serious credentials because we cannot have elected nincompoops running our National Revenue Service or transportation networks. These people function in spite of the politicians. But because China has only one “party”, the country has nothing that we could refer to as “politicians”; in fact and reality, all Chinese government officials are what we could term “civil servants”. They are all simply managers at various levels. In the West, and using Canada as an example, it is legend that senior civil servants in the Finance or Foreign Affairs Departments generally despise the elected politicians who typically know little if anything about the actual operation of their departments and must refer to the civil servants for knowledge. In China, it is the opposite, where the Minister of Foreign Affairs or Finance is the ultimate reservoir of knowledge. This is essentially the same as we would find in any corporation, where the V-P of Finance is the final authority rather than being an “elected” executive given the Finance Department as a place to “earn while you learn”, which is what we find in an electoral democracy.
The World’s Number One University
It is not widely known in China, and not at all in the West, that hidden in Beijing is an institution that is almost certainly the top university in the world, one unlike any other, and whose qualities in conception and execution put all Western universities to shame. This University, sometimes called “the most mysterious school in China”, is the Central Party University, with a slate of both students and faculty that are an order of magnitude above colleges like Harvard, Cambridge or the Sorbonne. To say that entrance qualifications are extreme, would be an understatement of some magnitude. This is not a place like Harvard where a $5 million donation to an endowment fund will obtain admission for your dim-witted offspring who will be taught primarily by part-time so-called adjunct “professors”.
Originally founded in 1933, the University’s purpose is to educate and mature those individuals having passed the civil service examinations and to prepare them both in their career development and in the responsibilities of governing the world’s most populous nation. It is the training ground for future leaders of the country, and whose headmaster is usually the President of China. To date, this university has trained perhaps 100,000 government leaders and high officials. The school is not normally open to the general public, but in the past few decades this university has offered some very high-level postgraduate and doctoral programs for about 500 non-official students, focusing on philosophy, economics, law, politics and history.
“The 100-hectare leafy campus is extremely quiet and here, unlike all other universities in China, we see no bicycles but instead the roads outside school buildings are lined with black Audis. The gates are under armed guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the security necessary for those who study there – provincial governors and ministers, young and middle-aged officials, their guest speakers and sometimes the country’s top leaders.”
Not only are the admitted students the best and brightest of the top 0.01% who passed the Civil Service examinations, but the professors at this Central Party University are unique in the world, a far cry from the adjunct lecturers at most American universities. The professors here are exclusively the most competent in the nation. Guest lecturers include high-level Chinese officials and, in important topics of debate, the school has no hesitation in bringing in the world’s most renowned experts from any country on everything from economics and international finance to social policy, foreign policy, industrial policy and even military matters. Further, the frequent guest lecturers are often national leaders of other countries and other high-level foreign dignitaries, this to give Chinese officials not only a firm grounding in the knowledge and skills necessary to govern China, but also a wider horizon and better understanding of different cultures, values and political systems.
The cornerstone of the school’s educational policy is that everything is on the table. There are no forbidden topics, and even reactionary, revolutionary or just plain whacky positions are discussed, analysed and debated to resolution. If, for example, the topic is national health care, all manner of planning, problems, solutions, alternatives, will be discussed, examined, debated, explained, with any number of prominent experts available as reference material. When these sessions are completed, all students will have an MBA-level or better appreciation of the entire subject. And this is only one subject of many they will encounter.
When you consider that these officials entered the government with an already high level of education, and with an already demonstrated broad level of understanding and exceptional intelligence, these additional layers of training and education cannot help but produce an impressive level of overall knowledge and ability throughout the government. Nothing like this system exists in the West.
The general process is that at various intervals the most promising young and middle-aged officials attend this university for up to a year at a time, to expand their knowledge and understanding of all issues relating to China and government, usually followed by a promotion. Stints at the Central Party University will alternate with rotating assignments in all manner of government Departments at the local, provincial and national levels, as well as with assignments in various state-owned commercial enterprises, both domestic and foreign. In most cases, these work and experience assignments are alternated with classroom time at this university, the students assimilating what they have learned in their prior assignment and receiving preparation for their next posting.
An individual might potentially rotate through a small local government, a corporate finance department, work as a local health care executive, a provincial education head, become the mayor of a small city, the head of another corporate department, the mayor of a larger city, the governor of a province, a senior executive or CEO of a major state corporation, and so on, perhaps each time returning to the university for additional education and training. These people are not learning how to be better “politicians”; they are learning how to “manage” all aspects of a country.
At each stage, with each government or corporate posting, the incumbents are evaluated on a vast array of criteria. Those who continue to shine will continue to progress to postings of increased vision and responsibility. Those who appear to have reached their limit will be sidelined. They won’t be removed or fired, but will be given postings commensurate with their abilities, above which level they cannot rise. From all this, China has the only government system in the world that ensures competence at the top.
In China’s system, leaders and officials are evaluated by their superiors, not by the unqualified and uninformed ‘man in the street’. Consider the mayor of a city in a Western country. After one term in office, who evaluates this person? The general public, who have neither the training nor experience to perform such evaluations. The “public” do not understand the job or its requirements, and haven’t the facts on which to base an intelligent evaluation, resulting in what becomes essentially a popularity contest, superficialities being the deciding factors. If I were to put the question to you: what does the mayor of a city do, few could provide a coherent response. To say that “he runs the city”, is not an answer. The truth is that, except in vaguely general terms, we have little knowledge or information about a mayor’s job functions and responsibilities; no detail. If the city seems to be doing well, we cannot know if this is due to the mayor’s skill or to circumstances beyond his control. The inconvenient truth is that the local citizens, the voters, have no way to know if a mayor is good or bad, incompetent or corrupt, because they lack the tools and knowledge to perform a sensible evaluation.
In China’s system, (as part of the above ‘educational process’), a city mayor is evaluated by his seniors, men who were mayors of small and large cities before he was born, men who thoroughly understand every aspect of his job and who cannot be duped. It is the same as in a corporation, where for example we evaluate the job performance of a regional sales manager. Who performs this evaluation? The salesmen? The workers on the factory floor? No. They haven’t the knowledge or ability. The man is evaluated by his superiors who know his job intimately and who are able to accurately assess his performance and his potential for promotion.
Provincial government leaders are in the same situation, where their performance is evaluated by their seniors, by men who have immense experience in governing provinces, who again understand the job intimately and cannot be duped. But there is much more here that never reaches Western minds. A man (or woman) who has passed the entrance exams and is now on this lifetime meritocratic process, may be appointed governor of a province, but this is not a reward of prestige for prior good behavior. Instead, it is a test. Typically, this new person will approach his appointment with one question: “How can I double the GDP of this province and thus raise the living standards of all the residents”? And double the GDP, they do.
I will give you here a real-life example that is actually quite common. A new governor sought out the most impoverished location in the province and assigned a huge study team to seek out opportunities for progress. His team discovered that the local climate and soil conditions were excellent for the growing of certain Chinese herbs, and they immediately went to work sourcing plant material, building infrastructure, and conducting the necessary educational programs for the farmers, as well as establishing supply chains and marketing practices. Within five years, all residents of the area owned their own new homes and more than half were driving BMWs. Such economic factors are important, but are only one of many measures applied, and it is on factors such as this, that candidates are evaluated. After his successful experience here, the man would likely return to the party university for further education that would lead to another appointment. After 30 to 40 years of this, and with continuing ability being demonstrated, the man might qualify for membership in China’s National Congress.
Contrast this with the Western system where politicians most often have no useful education and no relevant training or experience.
One of Canada’s recent Prime Ministers, Stephen Harper, had only a minor undergraduate degree and his only job was working in a corporate mail room when he joined the rump of a ruined political party, became the party leader and, by a genuinely cruel fate, eventually became the Prime Minister, irreparably damaging Canada in his ignorance. His successor, Justin Trudeau, was a fired school teacher (do a search; see what you find) whose long-term room-mate was sentenced to ten years in prison for running an enormous child-pornography ring. In Canada’s province of Alberta, a recent Premier was a high-school dropout, a former television news reporter, renowned more for being an obnoxious habitual drunk than for intelligence or governing ability, and who totally destroyed what was arguably the best health care system in Canada. US President George Bush was renowned for boasting that he never read any books, being nearly as painfully unintelligent as Ronald Reagan whose only credential was having been a C-class movie actor.
None of these men had a CV sufficient to qualify as a manager of a 7-11 and none demonstrated signs of either intelligence or governing ability, yet a ludicrous and absurd political system permitted them to become the CEO of nations and provinces.
An examination of the backgrounds and credentials of politicians in any Western nation will reveal mostly a collection of politically-ambitious misfits strikingly lacking in redeeming qualities, and often corrupt to the core. It was widely reported that within two years after the 2008 housing crisis, when a full 50% of the middle class had lost half their assets, the members of the US Congress had dramatically increased their wealth.
It is not a surprise that Western politicians are ranked lower than used-car salesmen and snakes in terms of both morality and trustworthiness. In one recent US public poll, the politicians of both houses of the entire US Congress were rated as less popular than cockroaches and lice. It is accepted as a truism that all Western politicians will, after being elected, freely abandon the commitments made to the people immediately prior to being elected, political duplicity and cunning accepted as normal in all Western societies. This is so true that one US commentator recently remarked that “Of course, all politicians need to lie, but the Clintons do it with such ease that it’s troubling”. Such a thing is unheard of in China. Outright lying to the people would be fatal but, in the West, dishonesty in government leaders is accepted without a murmur.
In any discussion about government systems, Americans inevitably stake the claim, as a measure of the superiority of their democratic system, that “We have the right to vote out our incompetent politicians”. They cannot imagine how bizarre and foolish such a claim sounds to an intelligent person from another country. If you want to boast about the superiority of your political system, then tell me it is impossible for your country to elect an idiot in the first place. Don’t tell me that you have the right to kick him out afterwards. That’s an open admission of failure.
There is another factor to consider, that of education and training. For Western politicians who exercise the decision power to shape a country, there is in fact no governing education or training available. It is all a kind of “earn while you learn” system, whereas in China entry is impossible without extreme credentials and, once in the system, the education and training are never-ending.
The system is generally well understood within China, and it meshes well with Chinese culture and tradition as well as conforming to the Chinese psyche in their Confucian overview and their desire for social order and (yes) harmony. The Western world understands this dimly, if at all, and inevitably forms incorrect and often absurd conclusions about China and its government. Few Westerners have bothered to learn even the simple basics about the form of China’s government, preferring instead to parrot foolish nonsense about China being a dictatorship or, as one writer recently stated, “a deeply tyrannical regime”. It is of course no such thing; the level of Western ideological blindness and willful ignorance being simply appalling.
If you are an American, consider for a moment how it would be if your country could identify and assemble the 500 most intelligent, wisest, the least corruptible, the most educated and experienced people in the nation, then fill Congress with this group, selecting the best few to be the leaders – the President and Cabinet members. Consider also this group not divided by ideologies but all part of the same team, working together to implement what was best for America and Americans. How would your country be different in five years?
Now, consider something else. Numerous government officials, experts in foreign affairs, think-tank participants, and many academics, have been unanimous in stating in one manner or another:
“Whenever something important occurs in either domestic policies or in international affairs, there are no accidents. When something significant happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
Multi-party electoral systems (democracies) have been with us for several hundred years, but it seems that during all that time, it has never occurred to anyone (except, apparently, the Chinese) that scraping the unwashed and inferior off the streets, was not the ideal method for good government. During those centuries, we have had scores of failed governments, enormous blunders of every description, collapsed economies, repeated recessions and depressions, interminable wars, and more, all caused by “government by the people” run by thousands of incompetent politicians. And yet through all those years and countless hundreds of elections, it seems to not have occurred to anyone that serious credentials of education and ability might be an improvement.
Now, it is obvious to me that to select the best and brightest from the entire nation and to give them extensive education and training, would produce a higher caliber of government official, and it must be just as obvious to you. Are we to believe that during all those centuries, you and I are the only two people to have realised this?
When the European Jewish bankers – the Khazar mafia operating out of the City of London, instigated the series of European revolutions that replaced the monarchs, one of their prime motivations was to construct a form of national government that would make impossible further expulsions of Jews from those countries. To accomplish this, it was necessary to replace the monarchs with a form of government that could be totally controlled from behind the scenes, and our multi-party power-struggle system was the result. It also occurred to them from the start that a politically-ambitious but impecunious, unintelligent, uninformed, and largely incapable man off the street would be much easier to buy, to control and to corrupt, than would have been the best and brightest in the land.
Consider lastly that this blindingly-obvious and fatal defect has never been mentioned in the (Jewish-owned) media, never discussed in our (Jewish-published) history or political science texts, or anywhere else, at least not to my knowledge. Instead, “democracy” has been elevated to a religion so holy that the mere questioning of it constitutes a treasonous blasphemy, and has been incessantly promoted daily from birth as a universal value reflecting the yearnings of all mankind. Do you wonder why?
Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons).
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Copyright © Larry Romanoff, Blue Moon of Shanghai, Moon of Shanghai, 2023