France lacks cohesion to advance reform

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/10 19:08:40

France has had another chaotic weekend. Through a massive deployment of police, big losses were prevented in major cities including Paris and the number of protesters decreased slightly. But that doesn't mean the yellow vest protests are waning. The anger of people hasn't fizzled out. The country's problems remain unsolved. It's very likely that protests will break out again next weekend. 

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said it was a social and democratic crisis as well as a "crisis of the nation" with "territorial fractures." His remarks really struck home.

A total of 1,723 protesters were arrested across France on Saturday. Belgian police detained more than 450 people on the same day. The demands of protesters include sustaining social welfare for the poor and reducing the wealth gap. A stagnant economy prevents Europe devoting much to really fixing the problems while the constant protests have further jeopardized the social environment upon which economic development depends: a vicious circle. 

France and many other European countries need to deepen reforms to revive their economies. But with democratic polarization on the rise, such reforms are hard to advance. French President Emmanuel Macron is ambitious about reform. He pushed through rail, postal and other reforms, but didn't expect the fuel tax hikes to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Criticized for being "president of the rich," Macron has had to retreat, seemingly too late. European countries lack political forces able to lead people, advance reform and overcome difficulties. The ruling authorities are struggling with political division and factional interests.

At the same time as France was hit by protests, China punished 10 people who smashed vehicles and disturbed public order in the name of veteran soldiers. A gathering of veterans in Pingdu, Shandong Province, was exploited by a small number of rioters in early October. The incident was finally put under control in line with the public expectation. 

Though these two incidents are not comparable, the harm caused by a chaotic society in any case is the same for civilians. Which system is more stable? Which does better at handling problems and challenges in the process of social development? Comparisons between China and the West can be made.

In general, China's system is sensitive and proactive in solving problems. China firmly believes that economic development and improving living standards are the top priorities of the nation. In contrast, European countries have a strong tolerance for disturbances, with France an example. If the yellow vest movement took place in developing countries, a "color revolution" might be triggered sooner or later. For France, however, the problem can be delayed by changing the administration.

The development and governance logic of China and of the West are considerably different. Countries like France have more freedom, but lack cohesion. On the contrary, China has strong cohesiveness to make great achievements, but its vitality and flexibility within society are somewhat inadequate.

At least in theory, it is way harder to unite a community-centered society to solve major problems than to improve democracy in a cohesive and hard-working society. In this era full of uncertainty and unpredictable competition, cohesion is a scarce political resource and countries with this resource naturally hold the initiative.

China should appreciate and cherish the well-developed cohesiveness of the country. Our country should foster strengths and circumvent weaknesses, and continue to consolidate cohesiveness. Meanwhile, we must commit to exploring effective ways to expand the vitality of society without fear of such exploration. After all, compared with these efforts, building cohesiveness is much more difficult for European countries.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

blog comments powered by Disqus