JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Chinese vs. American Authoritarianism? At Least China’s Rulers Are Sane
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[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through]

Here is an email I got from a reader. I'll give it to you straight:

Living in Southeast Asia, I sometimes worry about China's encroachment on my life and the way of life of many others in the region. Then, I read another of your columns. I do not want American values to win out in the world; I do not want them in the country of my residence.

I dislike Chinese authoritarianism. I dislike American authoritarianism and cultural terrorism more. The Chinese retain a more meritocratic system. They maintain a respect for their traditions. I've yet to meet someone from China who is ashamed of being Chinese.

For the sake of civilization and human advancement, I prefer China over the U.S., which seems entirely to be ruled and taught by the mentally ill. Soon, we will need to choose between the two.

Now there's food for thought.

To start where my reader ends: Shall we have to choose between the two soon, or ever?

That I doubt. We're heading to a bipolar world all right, with China and the U.S.A. as lead actors, and other countries in supporting roles. It's unlikely, however, that we'll end up organizing our national affairs in the ChiCom style, or that they will organize their affairs in our style.

It's double unlikely that either thing will come about through invasion and occupation. The ChiComs don't want us as colonial subjects; they just want us buying their goods and keeping out of what they see as their internal affairs.

As for us, I think we shall hold true to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's Two Rules of War:

  • Rule One—Don't invade Russia.
  • Rule Two—Don't invade China.

I do agree with my reader when he says that the U.S.A. has succumbed to government by the mentally ill. Well-nigh every news story I read about the doings of our federal government confirms it.

Random headline from this week's news: Biden releases "gender equity" plan that calls for eliminating cash bail, by Michael Lee, Fox News, October 27, 2021.

I tried to read the story that followed, but couldn't make much sense of it. Yes, it's like listening to the babble of a lunatic.

The word "equity" nowadays means that every social subgroup—women, blacks, homosexuals, and so on—is represented in every social outcome—school test results, home ownership, arrests for crime, et cetera—in the same proportions as it exists in the population as a whole. So if thirteen percent of people at large are black, then thirteen percent of neurologists should be black.

And if fifty percent of people overall are female, then fifty percent of jail inmates should be female.

Is that what the feds are trying for here? I don't think so; but, as I said, it's hard to tell. Quote from the president:

We will work to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system, recognizing the harm these processes cause, particularly for black women and families.

Does that lead us to "equity" somehow? [National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, PDF]

it's not worth bothering to figure out. These are just the incoherent mumblings of a maniac, uttered in between spells of him howling like a dog and throwing his poop at the wall.

So, yes, we’re ruled by the mentally ill. And yes, I agree with the other half of my reader's premise: China is not ruled by the mentally ill.

For a while back there, they were. In the 1960s and 1970s, lunatics were in charge of China.

The memory lingers, and they are not going back there.

You can say all sorts of negative things about the people who rule China today—I've said a lot of them myself—but they are stone cold sane. Not one of them, I am sure, believes that men can get pregnant, or that going easy on criminals will reduce crime, or that a three-trillion-dollar government program will cost nothing.

Having already tried lunacy, the Chinese are not likely to give it another run any time soon. So no, they are not going to adopt our style of governance.

Nor are we going to adopt theirs. Fundamental attitudes are just too different. The principal driving force in American culture today is white ethnomasochism—the hatred felt for their own race by huge numbers of American whites, and the sacralization of other races, especially blacks.

"I've yet to meet someone from China who is ashamed of being Chinese," says my reader. In fifty years of mingling with Chinese people, I have actually encountered a small handful of cases; but no, nothing like enough to have any cultural effect.

Chinese people are happy to be Chinese. There are some ethnic minorities in China, but nobody fawns on them or thinks they are holy. Official Chinese government policy is to keep minorities' ethnic distinctiveness firmly at the level of folk dancing and colorful costumes. Where entire regions are ethnically distinctive—Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia—policy is to flood the regions with Chinese settlers and ruthlessly crush separatism.

So who has the better authoritarianism? My reader prefers the sane, proud, meritocratic Chinese authoritarianism to our crazy, ethnomasochistic one all twisted and perverted by quotas for race, sex, and ideology.

I can see his point, and I find myself wondering a lot, which I never used to do.

I'm not there yet, though.

Beneath the shiny, uniform surface of Chinese authoritarianism there is favoritism and corruption, dysfunction and struggles for power, lies and great cruelty. Beneath the chaos and stupidity of our own public affairs, there is still space for liberty, decency, and truth.

The feds may sic the FBI on parents being unruly at school board meetings; but those parents won't get killed to have their organs harvested, as happens to troublemakers in China [China's real-life Squid Game: Organs harvested from 100,000 political dissidents and prisoners, Daily Mail Online, October 16, 2021]. Our justice system may dismiss charges against rioters and looters of the sanctified race or favored ideology [Charges against hundreds of NYC rioters, looters have been dropped, by Lee Brown and Julia Marsh, NY Post, June 20, 2021]. In Chinese courts the conviction rate is 99.9 percent across the board [He Spent 26 Years in a Chinese Prison. Then He Was Cleared of Murder, NY Times, August 6, 2020]. Our regime may lock up harmless protestors for months without trial; but if one of our public intellectuals were to win the Nobel Peace Prize for protesting the regime, he would not die in jail for it.

Neither their system nor ours is anything to be happy about; and it's certainly possible that ten years from now, as things are going both here and there, our liberties will be in worse shape than theirs.

As things stand today, though, I'll take our authoritarianism over theirs. No offense to my reader, who may have the last laugh on me.

And please don't let me give you the impression that the ChiComs are totally un-woke. They don't have any black people to swoon over and give preferences to, but they do of course have women. So how's sex diversity over there?

Well, here's an interesting story from the New York Times: She Is Breaking Glass Ceilings in Space, but Facing Sexism on Earth, by Steven Lee Myers, October 23, 2021.

Lead character in the story: Colonel Wang Yaping of the Chinese air force. Col. Wang is 41 years old and female, in fact the mother of a 5-year-old girl. On Friday October 15th (although it was Saturday local time) she went into space for a six-month stay on China's space station, the Tiangong, currently under construction 250 miles above the Earth.

It's not the lady's first trip into space: in 2013 she spent two weeks in orbit on an earlier prototype of the Tiangong.

And Col. Wang wasn't the first Chinese female in space. That was Liu Yang, another air force pilot, in 2012, to that same earlier prototype of the Tiangong.

The Chinese are way behind here, of course. Our own Sally Ride went into space in 1983; and that was twenty years after Valentina Tereshkova went into orbit in a Soviet capsule.

As in other technological spheres, though, while the ChiComs may be behind, they are catching up real fast.

But never mind that boring technology stuff. How woke are they? Is China's astronaut corps fifty-fifty male and female?

Not exactly. Of the pool of 18 astronauts selected for missions to this Tiangong space station, Col. Wang is the lone female. Our own current astronaut corps, by contrast, is almost forty percent female—17 out of 44. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

You might think that 44 astronauts is rather a lot considering that the U.S.A., unlike China, does not actually have a space station of our own to go to. We share the International Space Station with Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada.

Again, though, that's just technology, which isn't important or interesting, except to geeky male types. Our own cadre of geeky male billionaires—Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson—will make sure we keep up with the ChiComs technologically. Equity is what matters!

That New York Times article about Col. Wang is full of sneering little asides about how backward the ChiComs are equity-wise. It notes, for instance, that the Communist Party's Politburo, which actually rules the country, has 25 members, but only one of them is a woman.

Again, however, memories of the Great Cultural Revolution are still warm in the minds of older Chinese like Xi Jinping, whose father was jailed and whose sister committed suicide in those years of lunacy. One of the most prominent of the lunatics in charge back then: Mao Tse-tung's wife, Jiang Qing.

When I think of women with political power I think of Margaret Thatcher, blessed be her memory. When Xi Jinping's thoughts turn that way, he thinks of Jiang Qing.

Back in imperial times, the old Confucian literati were deeply reluctant to give women political power, although women occasionally got it anyway through accidents of palace intrigue. A lot of Chinese today think that Jiang Qing proved the old Confucians were right.

Oh; slight correction there. When I think of women with political power it used to be Margaret Thatcher who came to mind. Now I find it's just as likely to be Nancy Pelosi.

There are actually two things going on here behind the scenes:

  • a long-term shift that's apparent in all modern societies,
  • a recent, more abrupt shift in ChiCom state ideology.

The long-term shift is the one I noted in Chapter Five of my paradigm-shattering book We Are Doomed and has been much written and spoken about by social-science observers and researchers for at least thirty years:

Modern post-industrial society is taking us back to the age of our remote hunter-gatherer ancestors, before agriculture came up. Once again men and women are egalitarian in our treatment of each other; but our inner Mars and Venus are freer to express themselves without restraint than in those laced-up millennia of agricultural-industrial patriarchy.

We used not to let women attend universities. Now we do; in fact women are a majority of college students in the U.S.A. Women now make up almost 60% of college students, by Michael Grothaus, Fast Company, September 9, 2021.

But now take a stroll around your local university in class time, peering in at the composition of classes. Math, computer science, engineering? Not too many females in those classes. Where are they all? Liberal arts, psychology, biology.

When you free people up to pursue their interests, it turns out that males and females have, overall and in the generality, different interests. What. A. Surprise.

That's the long-term modernist shift that's happened in most of the world's nations.

The recent, more abrupt shift in ChiCom state ideology has been towards natalism. They are worried about China's cratering fertility, about the prospect of a dwindling number of working-age adults supporting a vast surplus of geezers. We should worry about this too, but we're too stupid and crazy.

The ChiComs are on it. China's one-child policy is long gone. Current state ideology is pro-natalist now, and looks set to become more so [China’s Coming Pro-Natalist Campaign, by Carl Minzner, National Interest, April 20, 2021]. Thus when the country's astronaut-training program got going in earnest one of the officials in charge said only married women should apply because of possible adverse effects of space travel on female fertility.

It's not likely the ChiComs will walk back their population policies all the way to Kinder, Kirche, Küche and start binding women's feet again; and pro-natalist policies in countries less authoritarian than China—Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hungary—have not really delivered … so to speak.

At least the ChiComs have a population policy, though. Just on a scale of political good sense, that puts them way ahead of us.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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