Tag Archives: Two Sessions

To the People of China:

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

On the occasion of the “two sessions” legislative conferences recently convened in Beijing, China, government officials reviewed the accomplishments of the past and the challenges and the opportunities that lay ahead for the people of China. As an American businessman who lived and worked in China for nine years (2007-2016), I would like to offer my humble advice for consideration by the people of China observing this discussion. Specifically, my thoughts relate to the American experience and what China can and should not learn from it. I will limit my comments to five critical areas.

Democracy versus Socialism

Americans refer to their political system as a democracy and insist that this is the only form of governance that leads to long-term economic development and the protection of human rights. History does not bear this out.

If, by democracy, we mean one person, one vote, America is a democracy. But voting is only a process. If, by democracy, we mean that the interests of all people are represented, America is not a democracy. It is an oligopoly controlled by, and operated for the benefit of, the commercial class of corporations and banks and the people who manage them and/or benefit from their wealth.

America has two political parties—the Republican and the Democratic parties—but both are built on an ideological foundation of individualism. The Republicans emphasize competition among individuals while the Democrats emphasize inclusion among individuals. Both, however, are defined by individualism and both, as a result, require a hierarchy that is ultimately controlled by individuals of wealth.

Socialism, by contrast, is a form of collectivism, built around the ideal of the common good. As a single party, the Communist Party of China (CPC) must assume responsibility for all Chinese; rich and poor, old and young, man and woman, Han or minority.

Capitalism versus Socialism

Americans believe we live and work in a free market economy. This, too, is a false conviction. The American economy is heavily regulated. The government sets the minimum wage and applies rules for overtime pay, child employment, and other labor issues. It also sets standards for worker health, safety, and environmental protection and strictly controls who can practice what profession.

The supreme economic regulator in the US, however, is Wall Street. It is the large private banks and the other owners of capital who ultimately regulate the US economy for their benefit. Washington, as a practical matter, provides little more than office space for the capital class to perpetuate the charade that the economy is regulated in the interests of all Americans.

The Chinese economy, of course, is also regulated. All hierarchies are. In China, however, the state is both the regulator of record and fact. Beyond the obvious benefit of transparency, the Chinese approach to economic regulation has two distinct advantages. The first is the fact that the government maintains a national industrial policy that guides economic development in a direction that maximizes the benefit for all Chinese. And the government provides specific regulatory representation for workers in an effort to protect their individual rights and adjudicate when any worker believes he or she has been mistreated or harmed.

The biggest difference is not in the amount of regulation, but its purpose. In China, companies are regulated for the benefit of the common good. In the US, while there are some minimal regulations to protect the environment and the workers, most regulations, including those that make it extremely difficult for workers to organize into collective unions for their personal protection, exist for the benefit of management and investors.

The First Amendment

Public information flows are famously unregulated in the US. In China, by contrast, they are openly regulated and censored by the government.

Information is power. Of that there is little doubt. But is all power good? And, if not, who gets to decide which is good and which is not? Is political disinformation good? Are fake news or alternative facts good? Is cyber-bullying good? Is revenge porn good? Does digital anonymity ultimately serve progress or destruction?

In China, at least, everyone knows who is censoring information and why (i.e. a perceived threat to political or social stability). In the US, by contrast, we have no idea what goes into the algorithms that Big Tech uses to determine what information actually enters the echo chamber and gets seen, and what information gets buried behind the mask of informational democracy.

Ultimately, information flows in the US follow personal fame, the human face of information. But fame is neither inherently good nor bad. It is, however, arbitrary. Are the famous gatekeepers of American social media any more responsible or informed than government officials? Both can obviously be compromised. But is fame or wealth a defensible source of political legitimacy? History would say not.

Available in paperback and Kindle versions
click here for paperback
click here for electronic

The Rule of Law

This is a double-edged sword. The US boasts the largest population of incarcerated men and women in the world. And African-American and Latino men make up a disproportionate share of that population when, in fact, studies have shown that their involvement in the most common illegal activities, like drug use, are not fundamentally different than that of other ethnic groups.

The rule of law is more appropriately thought of as the rule of the courts and the judges that preside over them. There is little question that the judicial class in the US wields far greater power than its Chinese counter-part, which was only recently granted independence from the political hierarchy.

But the rule of law is only accessible to all classes of society in theory. In practice, it serves the interests of the commercial and political elite that largely control access to the courts. While the ‘jury of peers’ is often cited as a fundamental building block of the US judicial system, only 10% of all criminal cases and virtually no civil cases ever go before a jury.

The Fear of Authoritarianism

Americans have been trained to fear authoritarianism. The word itself immediately conjures up images of 20th Century Fascists and the Soviet gulags, images that the Western media is now using to criticize China’s decision to remove term limits for its top political office.

It is a false association. In its most important sense, authoritarianism is an adjective, not a noun. The length of a politician’s term is meaningless; only his or her impact really matters in the end.

The theoretical argument against extended terms of political rule, of course, are the temptations that such certainty creates for the abuse of power. It’s a legitimate point, but nowhere is it more impactful than in the US Congress, whose leaders inevitably rise out of the permanent political class, and the US judiciary, whose most powerful members serve for life.

As demonstrated by the 2016 Democratic primary process, moreover, it is the political establishment, whose power is not subject to the theoretical cleansing of democracy, that ultimately determines which candidates the citizens are given the option to choose between in elections.


My point is not to denigrate or glorify either China or the US. Both systems of governance and economy have their strong points and both have their weaknesses. The potential abuse of power is a universal weakness of all political and economic hierarchies that has plagued humankind since we walked out of the savannas of Africa. And that is unlikely to ever change. It is the nature of the hierarchies that all political and economic systems covering more than a handful of people must adopt.

Those hierarchies, of course, ultimately reside in the asymmetric assignment of power. That was, of course, the power behind the Third Reich and the Soviet gulags. It is, however, the same asymmetric power behind all racism, misogyny, and the oppression of the poor and powerless. And because the problem is not digital or binary, neither is the solution. Each resolves some of the problem some of the time.

But which is better? The simple answer is both and neither.

My advice, therefore, is really quite simple: Don’t listen to your detractors who have ulterior motives to sell newspapers, generate clicks, or sow fear. Pursue your own path.

What China has accomplished over the last three decades is nothing short of miraculous and is unmatched by any country or system of governance in the history of the world. You have every reason to be proud of yourself and your leadership.


My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

China’s Two Sessions & U.S. Presidential Politics

This past week China wrapped up its annual 10-day plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Given the complicated acronyms, much less the names, however, most Chinese simply refer to them as the ‘two sessions.’

These two bodies are the country’s top legislative and political advisory forums, respectively, and are attended by more than 5,000 deputies and members from all walks of life, including artists, movie stars, and sports stars. (Yao Ming attended again this year – he’s hard to miss in a crowd.) All 56 ethnic groups are represented as well and many wear the elaborate traditional clothing and headwear of their ethnic group, giving the meetings an air of traditional Chinese formality and visual richness.

Much of the time is devoted to working reports by the government’s various bureaus and department heads. The delegates do, however, have the opportunity to submit their own ideas for consideration and many do.

One of the benefits of the Chinese legislative process is that the president and premier are appointed for one ten-year term and the legislature and government departments work with five-year plans. This year the two sessions focused on the 13th Five-Year Plan, highlighted by seven key issues:

  1. Poverty alleviation
  2. Supply-side reform
  3. One Belt, One Road Initiative
  4. Charity Law
  5. Reform of the judicial system
  6. Green development
  7. Anti-corruption

A couple of notes in passing. There was no mention of the South China Sea. There was no mention of the Diaoyu Islands. And, thank goodness, there was no mention whatsoever of the U.S. presidential elections. In fact, when asked at the closing press conference what impact the U.S. presidential elections might have on China, Premier Li Keqiang effectively said, ‘none.’

And, I believe, that was more of a practical observation than a personal or ideological one. With the advent of the 24/7/365 media cycle, and no corresponding adjustment to the U.S. political calendar, the practical effect is non-stop electioneering. And that, of course, results in a non-stop stalemate. If Americans are frustrated, and Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are certainly proving that they are, their angst can be summed up in one word – nothing.

It’s not that people don’t like what’s happening. It’s not even that they have a strong preference for doing something else. It’s their frustration with the fact that in the world of politics the new normal is – well, do nothing.

That’s particularly unfortunate because as the activity cycle has shortened, the necessary action cycle has elongated. Nobody expects we are going to fix climate change overnight. Nobody expects we are going to eliminate poverty in one election cycle. No one thinks for a minute that one administration is going to have the kind of impact on the world that might have been the case in the era of Lincoln or Roosevelt.

I personally believe that #3 above, the One Belt, One Road Initiative may be the most brilliant idea yet. If you’re not familiar with it the basic idea is to revive the old Silk Road, bringing economic prosperity to the western provinces of China and the western countries of the old Soviet Union and the eastern countries of Europe.

This bloc could easily, over time, rival NAFTA in terms of economic power and, not coincidentally, is home to a lot of people who don’t particularly like the West. That’s not to suggest, for a minute, that is why China is pursuing this very long-term strategy. It is merely to say that the Chinese are pragmatists. Whatever else you hear on the nightly news, they stand less on ideology than the West does.

For me the most overriding aspect of the Two Sessions this year was the degree to which the agendas were inwardly focused. They talked about China and the Chinese people. There was no grandstanding about this despot and that tyrant and their backroom deal to end life as we Westerners know it. There was only talk about how do we improve people’s lives – economically, environmentally, and in terms of social and judicial justice.

Not bad.

The point really hit home for me the other day when I was Face Timing with my daughter, now 15, and living in the U.S. She has never voted in a presidential election. She has no memory of the Clintons or the Bushs or even the Trumps. But her unsolicited opinion was that America has lost its mind and that the best vote this time around would be the person who will do the least harm to the world.

Me? I don’t do politics. But I do like Bernie. He gets it and he has heart and that still counts for something in my book.

But, in the end, I agree with Premier Li – it really doesn’t matter. We’re arguing over building big walls to keep out the immigrants and China is laying plans for a new Silk Road. We’re wondering what the going rate for a 20-minute speech to Goldman Sachs should be (nothing, in my opinion) for a former government official who was paid by the taxpayers while building her speaking resume, and the Chinese have put poverty alleviation at the top of their latest five-year agenda.

Go figure.


Some early praise for the author’s latest book, “Understanding China – There is reason for the difference”

“An insightful, compelling introduction to the intricacies of Chinese business and life.” – Kirkus Review

To see the full review from this prestigious literary company, please click on this direct link:


“Understanding China is a “must-read” for anyone interested in culture, working with Asian businesses, visiting China or simply if you enjoy a well-written book! I worked in China in the 90’s and while I eventually understood the differences, I never understood “why” until now. Moreau does a great job explaining the “why”. Well done!!”

(Not a relative!)

“Having done business and gone on personal journeys through the Asia Pacific region, I wish I’d read a book like this first. The premise is that being happy and effective in China requires more than just learning how things operate and working within the established system. This will bring frustration and leave you ineffective because you, the Westerner, will still be looking at these cultural differences as irrational. Mr. Moreau contends that only by understanding why things are the way they are in China and in the West can a Westerner actually influence outcome in China.

The author proceeds to explain the differences with very engaging writing that made me say, “Of, of course! It all makes sense now.”

(Also not a relative!)

Copyright © 2016 Gary Moreau

Gary Moreau Beijing, China
Gary Moreau
Beijing, China

Note: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.

You may contact the author at glassmakerinchina@gmail.com

The Two Sessions

This past week China held the annual 10-day plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Given the complicated acronyms, much less the names, however, most Chinese simply refer to them as the ‘two sessions.’

Together the two sessions are attended by more than 5,000 deputies and members from all walks of life, including artists, movie stars, and sports stars. (Yao Ming attended this year.) All 56 ethnic groups are represented as well and many wear the elaborate traditional clothing and headwear of their ethnic group, giving the meetings an air of traditional Chinese formality and visual richness.

Many Chinese themselves are confused about the intent of these meetings, so the state news agency, Xinhua, provided a helpful Q&A to clear up some of the confusion.

The NPC is China’s top legislative body but Xinhua suggests it is much more than that as it has many functions and powers, including the enforcement of the Chinese constitution and appoints key positions including the chief justice and chief prosecutor.

Township and county level deputies are appointed through direct elections, while the deputies at the prefecture, provincial, and national levels are elected by the lower level deputies. None are paid, although subsidies are provided to those with no other fixed income.

On balance it appears to be an opportunity for the Party and the government to tout the accomplishments of the past year and announce its agenda for the year through high-level work reports. In essence it seems to work in the inverse of a normal legislature. Instead of developing legislation for the executive branch to consider, it considers the legislative agenda developed by the executive branch. And this year, at least, endorses it wholeheartedly.

Perhaps most importantly it is at this meeting that the Premier announces the country’s economic growth target for the year. This year Premier Li Keqiang announced that China would seek GDP growth of 7% in 2015, the lowest level in 25 years, emphasizing that the government was more interested in the quality of growth – improving people’s lives – than the growth of China’s trade imbalance and foreign currency reserves.

One of the more interesting work reports was provided by Cao Jianming, the procurator general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), the agency responsible for the new administration’s attack on corruption.

Cao reported that 28 officials at the provincial, ministerial, and higher level were placed under judicial investigation for corruption last year, an increase of 8 ‘tigers’, as they are known, from the prior year. The group included Zhou Yongkang, a member of the powerful Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the head of the People’s Liberation Army and the enforcement arm of the CPC itself.

In total, according to Cao’s report, 14,062 public servants were punished last year for embezzlement and abusing power. A total of 55,101 people were investigated for duty-related crimes and 7,827 bribers themselves faced prosecution.

For me, the most amazing statistic cited was that 749 fugitive officials suspected of corruption were forcibly repatriated from 17 countries and regions, including the United States and Canada. This is perhaps one of the strongest indications yet of China’s growing global power and influence. I dare say that China would not have received this level of diplomatic and legal support from the Western democracies a decade ago given the lack of appropriate treaties between China and these countries.

The delegates didn’t just listen to reports, however. The delegates submitted a total of 522 motions for consideration, an increase of 54 motions over the prior year. The vast majority, according to China Daily, related to economic and judicial reform, the foundation of the CPC’s current legislative platform.

Pollution, of course, was also a hot topic and Premier Li once again pledged unwavering government action. It has been amply noted by the foreign press that Chai Jing’s documentary, Under the Dome, has been taken down from the Chinese Internet after receiving 200 million hits, but unlike most foreign journalists, I don’t see that so much as a sign of hypocritical censorship as an understandable effort not to take the spotlight off the important work of the two sessions. Politicians around the world often play to the media news cycle.

President Xi and Premier Li, I believe, have amply demonstrated their acceptance of the reality that providing higher salaries is not enough. The Chinese people want a better quality of life and I believe the Chinese government sincerely ‘gets it’. We’ll see how sincere the people really are if jobs start to become scarce but the government and the people are truly aligned.

There are not many countries on the planet that you can honestly say that about these days.

The simple truth is that the Chinese government is far more aligned with its citizens than most Western democracies.  If there is concern to be had, and I don't think there is, this should be far more alarming than the double-digit growth in China's military spending announced at the two sessions.  If we want China to take global responsibilities it must build the infrastructure to do so.
The simple truth is that the Chinese government is far more aligned with its citizens than most Western democracies. If there is concern to be had, and I don’t think there is, this should be far more alarming than the double-digit growth in China’s military spending announced at the two sessions. If we want China to take global responsibilities it must build the infrastructure to do so.

The author’s newest literary novel is now available in paperback on Amazon worldwide. Click on the link below to take a look. It’s a very personal and thought-provoking tale.

The Bomb Shelter by Avam Hale

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.