Sunday, February 24, 2008

Indian Environmental Scientist Declares Opposition to Economic Freedom and Technological Innovation; Support for 'Negative' Sustainable Development

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The US Neoliberal Invasion of India

"Vandana Shiva on Wal-Mart in India"

Vandana Shiva with Amy Goodman

Democracy Now (a partisan editorial, not journalism-based organization promoting multilateralism at the expense of individualism, free enterprise and private property rights)

[ORIGINAL ARTICLE WAS RELEASED ON DECEMBER 13, 2006, & WAS ENTITLED, Vandana Shiva on Farmer Suicides, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal, Wal-Mart in India and More.


We speak with world-renowned environmental leader and thinker, VandanaShiva. A physicist and ecologist, Shiva is author of many books, herlatest is "Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace."


In India, more than three hundred farmers climbed water tanks in thecountry's central Vidarbha region, many of them threatening to commit suicide unless the government fulfilled their demands to lift them outof poverty. Throughout India, more and more troubled farmers arekilling themselves. Up to three farmers a day swallow pesticides, hangthemselves from trees, drown themselves in rivers, set themselves onfire or jump down wells. Many of them are plagued by debt, poor cropsand hopelessness.

Vandana Shiva, world-renowned environmental leader and thinker. She is also a physicist and ecologist and the Director of the ResearchFoundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is the founder of Navdanya–"nine seeds", a [NATURE] movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds. Dr. Shiva was the 1993 recipient of the AlternativeNobel Peace Prize [??] The Right Livelihood Award. And she is the author ofmany books, her latest is "Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability,and Peace."

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva remains with us, physicist; ecologist;director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, andEcology; in `93, awarded the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, the RightLivelihood Award; her latest book, Earth Democracy: Justice,Sustainability, and Peace. There is an epidemic you write about in India of farmer suicides. Can you explain what's happening and where this is happening?

VANDANA SHIVA: Indian farmers have never committed suicide on a largescale. It's something totally new. It's linked to the last decade ofglobalization, trade liberalization under a corporate-driven economy.The seed sector was liberalized to allow corporations like Cargill andMonsanto to sell unregulated, untested seed. They began with hybrids,which can't be saved, and moved on to genetically engineered Btcotton. The cotton belt is where the suicides are taking place on avery, very large scale. It is the suicide belt of India.

And the high cost of seed is linked to high cost of chemicals, because these seeds need chemicals. [THIS IS NEWS TO US] In addition, these costly seeds need to be bought every year, because their very design is to make seeds nonrenewable, seed that isn't renewable by its very nature, butwhether it's through patenting systems, intellectual property rightsor technologically through hybridization, nonrenewable seed is beingsold to farmers so they must buy every year.

There's a case going on in the Supreme Court of India right now on the monopoly practices of Monsanto. An antitrust court ruled against Monsanto, because the price is so high, farmers necessarily get into a debt trap, which is why I was talking about credit, for the wrongthing, could actually be a problem and not a solution.


In addition, the price of cotton is collapsing under the huge $4billion subsidies given to agribusiness in the United States, which then dumps cotton on a world market with 50% reduction of price artificially. This is what led to the Cancun failure of WTO, but this is what is killing Indian farmers. Just three days ago, farmers wereprotesting against the low prices of cotton. They went to thegovernment agency, which before globalization used to buy cotton at afair price. One farmer was shot dead. So we're not just seeing suicides, we're also seeing farmers' protests treated as a new threat to the regime.

AMY GOODMAN: These descriptions of desperation, up to three farmers aday swallow pesticides, hang themselves from trees, drown themselvesin rivers, set themselves on fire, or jump down wells, many of themplagued by debt, poor crops and hopelessness?

VANDANA SHIVA: 90% of the farmer suicides—we've studied it. Every year we bring out a report called "Seeds of Suicide." We started the first report in '97, which was the first suicide in the district of Warangalin Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh—

AMY GOODMAN: Where is it in India?

VANDANA SHIVA: Andhra Pradesh is kind of southern India. But AndhraPradesh had a government that responded [TO FARMERS INSPIRED BY ENVIRONMENTAL NGO ACTIVIST CAMPAIGNS & HARRASSMENT OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS], and that's the government that took Monsanto to court. Vidarbha in Maharashtra has emerged asthe epicenter. This is where the Prime Minister visited, because the suicide issue had become so intense. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister offered exactly the same package, more of the same, as a solution. Included in this package is a 20 billion rupee seed replacement package, which means what seed farmers has gets further destroyed, so they have no renewable seed, no affordable seed. They must buy on the market every year. Farmer suicides in Vidarbha are now eight per day.

A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides whohave lost their land, are having to bring up children as landlessworkers on others' land. And yet, the system does not respond to it,because there's only one response: get Monsanto out of the seedsector—they are part of this genocide—and ensure WTO rules are notbringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States,in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest. I don't think weneed to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk abouthonest trade. Today's trade system, especially in agriculture, isdishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It's become a genocide. [NOW THIS IS CREATIVE ADVOCACY AND SUBJECTIVE JOURNALISM!!]

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the water tower protests?

VANDANA SHIVA: In the state of Rajasthan, which is the capital of the production of mustard—and mustard in India is very symbolic. It's the color of our spring. When spring comes, we dress in the yellow of the mustard flower. It's our staple oil, and we love the pungency of it.

1998, Monsanto and Cargill managed to get a ban on indigenous oils in order to create a market for soya oil, something we've never eaten before. We led a movement of women to bring back the mustard. But today, 70% of the oil India is eating, edible oil—and India was the capital of edible oil production—mustard, sesame, linseed, coconut,wonderful healthy oils—today, 70% of our edible oil market is soya oil dumped on us, palm oil dumped on us. And, as you know, today soya is being cultivated in cutting the Amazon, and palm oil is being cultivated cutting the rain forest of Borneo.

When the farmers can't sell their mustard—nobody's buying it—they'vehad protests. Twelve farmers were killed in Central India. And therewas a farmer who climbed onto the water tower a few months ago,mimicking a Bollywood film, but basically saying he would jump tosuicide if the farmer's mustard was not bought. This hijacking of the market for agriculture by a handful of agribusiness, which is what the rules of WTO are—the Agreement on Agriculture is basically putting all of agriculture into the hands of ADM, ConAgra and Cargill, and all the seed sector into the hands of Monsanto—it must necessarily destroy more and more farms, more and more farming, and push more farmers to suicide for a while, unless we get a change.


We work for the change, and our work in Navdanya shows that farmerscan double their incomes by using their own seeds, doing organicfarming. All they need is a joining of hands with urban consumers anddefinitely a change in the rules of trade, which have treated therights of Cargill as fundamental rights.


And something Americans don't know much about, the nuclear deal withIndia has a twin agreement, and that twin agreement is on agriculture.It's called the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, and on the boardof this agreement are Monsanto, ADM and Wal-Mart. So a grab of theseed sector by Monsanto, of the trade sector by the giantagribusiness, and the retail sector, which is 400 million people inIndia, by Wal-Mart. These are issues that are preoccupying us forabout democracy in India right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva, I want to go back to that deal that justwas announced this weekend, surprised some. The US will send nuclear fuel shipments for civilian use, critics saying it will allow India touse its existing nuclear fuel to build up to 50 nuclear weapons. And then I want to ask you to expand on this corollary that we definitelydidn't know about. [WHERE'S THE BEEF??? NO EVIDENCE???]

VANDANA SHIVA: You know, the nuclear deal with India, in fact, showsthe double standards of US nuclear policy, because for the same thingsthat Iran does—Iran is axis of evil—but India here, through this nuclear agreement, is being told, we will separate civilian use and military use. Military use will be India's sovereign decision. I don't think it will be India's sovereign decision, because I think in thisdeal is a strategic use of India for Asia, for a containment for China. But in addition to that, there is turning India into a nuclear market: a sale of nuclear technologies, of nuclear fuel. [WHERE'S THE EVIDENCE???]

And I think we need to contextualize this in the context of theclimate debates. Climate change has made us recognize that we can'tkeep messing up the atmosphere and pumping more carbon dioxide. But nuclear doesn't become clean automatically just because carbon dioxide has destabilized the climate. Nuclear is being offered as a clean development mechanism [PURSUANT TO THE ILL-FATED KYOTO PROTOCOL]. And not only will it spread nuclear risks and hazards in India, [ADVOCATE OF PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE???] it will also allow corporations, like General Electric and others who pollute with carbon dioxide, as well as them,get quotas through emissions trading and markets for nuclear technology.


You know, I was a nuclear physicist. I left my career in 1972. I wastraining to be a nuclear physicist in India's atomic energy program inthe Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and I left because I realized very clearly nuclear power, as much as nuclear war, are systems where you cannot have democracy. They're inconsistent with democracy. And I lovedemocracy too much. So I went on to do theoretical physics.


AMY GOODMAN: So explain further this corollary that involves these other large multinational corporations. And why is it part of the nuclear deal?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, two days ago the US representative—I think it's Mr. Burns who announced that the nuclear deal is the cutting edge, but what the United States is really seeking is agricultural markets and real estate markets, the land of the poor in India. [WHERE'S THE EVIDENCE??] And if you look at cities like Bombay, you look at cities like Delhi, you look at cities like Bangalore, they're exploding because there's this global hungry finance moving in to take over the land of people, not through a market mechanism, but using the state and an old colonial law of land acquisition to grab the land by force everywhere where this is happening. [WHERE'S THE EVIDENCE?? ARE YOU NOW SUGGESTING YOU SUPPORT FREE MARKETS??] There is a war going on, outside Delhi in Dadri, outside Calcutta in Singur, everywhere. Peasants are being shot and killed in order to take away the last resort and the last asset of the poor.

The agreements, nuclear and agricultural agreements, came out of a July visit of our prime minister in 2005, were then moved forward inthe March visit of President Bush to India, which saw huge protests,by the way—I'm sure it wasn't covered—but huge protests, where these deals, as well as the Iraq war, were the issue in India. And the two are twin programs. They are twin programs about a market grab and a security alignment.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Wal-Mart. They have just announced they'regoing to be opening 500 stores in India, the first to open in Augustof 2007.

VANDANA SHIVA: We've been organizing the unorganized retail sector of India. The retail sector of India, to me, is the ultimate practice of democracy. When you go into a tiny vegetable market, the women put out their mats, they've brought the tomatoes they've grown outside the city, put it down, maybe five kilos of tomatoes, sell it for the day, go back home, feed their children. It's a community market. 400 people dependent on retail, 14 million people dependent on little hawking, you know, a tiny moveable cart, which goes door-to-door. 90% of our vegetables come to our doorstep. We don't have to go anywhere.

Wal-Mart's entry into India, 500 stores, cannot go hand-in-hand with the giant retail economy of India, which is giant not by being one big store, but by having millions of small sellers. And that is what hascreated the vibrance of India's markets, the democracy in India's markets.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much, Vandana Shiva, for joining us. Her new book is Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mr.Obama: Does Your Call for 'Change' Really Mean Malthusian 'Negative' Sustainable Development & Al Gore's 'Wrenching Transformation of Society'??

Sustainable Development: The Root of All Our Problems

By Tom Deweese

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Canada Free Press

In his book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore warned that a “wrenching transformation” must take place to lead America away from the “horrors of the Industrial Revolution.” The process to do that is called Sustainable Development and its’ roots can be traced back to a UN policy document called Agenda 21, adopted at the UN’s Earth Summit in 1992.

Sustainable Development calls for changing the very infrastructure of the nation, away from private ownership and control of property to nothing short of central planning of the entire economy - often referred to as top-down control. Truly, Sustainable Development is designed to change our way of life.

Many are now finding non-elected regional governments and governing councils enforcing policy and regulations. As these policies are implemented, locally-elected officials are actually losing power and decision-making ability in their own communities. Most decisions are now being made behind the scenes in non-elected “sustainability councils” armed with truckloads of federal regulations, guidelines, and grant money.

In fact, a recent study reported that elected city councils and commissioners have lost approximately 10% of their legislative power during the past 10 years, while, through the consensus process, the power of private groups called Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has increased by as much as 300%. It is a wrenching transformation, indeed.

The Three Es

According to its authors, the objective of sustainable development is to integrate economic, social, and environmental policies in order to achieve reduced consumption, social equity, and the preservation and restoration of biodiversity.

The Sustainablists insist that society be transformed into feudal-like governance by making Nature the central organizing principle for our economy and society. As such, every societal decision would first be questioned as to how it might effect the environment. To achieve this, Sustainablist policy focuses on three components; land use, education, and population control and reduction.

The Sustainable Development logo used in most literature on the subject contains three connecting circles labeled Social Equity; Economic Prosperity; and Ecological Integrity (known commonly as the 3 Es).

Social Equity

Sustainable Development’s Social Equity plank is based on a demand for something called “social justice.” It should be noted that the first person to coin the phrase “social justice” was Karl Marx. Today, the phrase is used throughout Sustainablist literature. The Sustainablist system is based on the principle that individuals must give up selfish wants for the needs of the common good, or the “community.” How does this differ from Communism?

This is the same policy behind the push to eliminate our nation’s borders to allow the “migration” of those from other nations into the United States to share our individually-created wealth and our taxpayers-paid government social programs. Say the Sustainablists, “Justice and efficiency go hand in hand.” “Borders,” they say, “are unjust.”

Under the Sustainablist system, private property is an evil that is used simply to create wealth for a few. So too, is business ownership. Instead, “every worker/person will be a direct capital owner.” Property and businesses are to be kept in the name of the owner, keeping them responsible for taxes and other expenses, however control is in the hands of the “community.”

Economic Prosperity

Sustainable Development’s economic policy is based on one overriding premise: that the wealth of the world was made at the expense of the poor. It dictates that, if the conditions of the poor are to be improved, wealth must first be taken from the rich. Consequently, Sustainable Development’s economic policy is based not on private enterprise but on public/private partnerships.

In order to give themselves an advantage over competition, some businesses - particularly large corporations - now find a great advantage in dealing directly with government, actively lobbying for legislation that will inundate smaller companies with regulations that they cannot possibly comply with or even keep up with. This government/big corporation back-scratching has always been a dangerous practice because economic power should be a positive check on government power, and vice versa. If the two should ever become combined, control of such massive power can lead only to tyranny. One of the best examples of this was the Italian model in the first half of the Twentieth Century under Mussolini’s Fascism.

Together, select business leaders who have agreed to help government impose Sustainablist green positions in their business policies, and officials at all levels of government are indeed merging the power of the economy with the force of government in Public/Private Partnerships on the local, state and federal levels.

As a result, Sustainable Development policy is redefining free trade to mean centralized global trade “freely” crossing (or eliminating) national borders. It definitely does not mean people and companies trading freely with each other. Its real effect is to redistribute American manufacturing, wealth, and jobs out of our borders and to lock away American natural resources. After the regulations have been put in place, literally destroying whole industries, new “green” industries created with federal grants bring newfound wealth to the “partners.” This is what Sustainablists refer to as economic prosperity.

Ecological Integrity

“Nature has an integral set of different values (cultural, spiritual and material) where humans are one strand in nature’s web and all living creatures are considered equal. Therefore the natural way is the right way and human activities should be molded along nature’s rhythms.”

From the UN’s Biodiversity Treaty presented at the 1992 UN Earth Summit.

This quote lays down the ground rules for the entire Sustainable Development agenda. It says humans are nothing special - just one strand in the nature of things or, put another way, humans are simply biological resources. Sustainablist policy is to oversee any issue in which man reacts with nature - which, of course, is literally everything. And because the environment always comes first, there must be great restrictions over private property ownership and control. This is necessary, Sustainablists say, because humans only defile nature. In fact, the report from the 1976 UN Habitat I conference said: “Land ...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, therefore, contributes to social injustice.

Under Sustainable Development there can be no concern over individual rights - as we must all sacrifice for the sake of the environment. Individual human wants, needs, and desires are to be conformed to the views and dictates of social planners. The UN’s Commission on Global Governance said in its 1995 report: “Human activity...combined with unprecedented increases in human numbers...are impinging on the planet’s basic life support system. Action must be taken now to control the human activities that produce these risks.”

Under Sustainable Development there can be no limited government, as advocated by our Founding Fathers, because, we are told, the real or perceived environmental crisis is too great. Maurice Strong, Chairman of the 1992 UN Earth Summit said: “A shift is necessary toward lifestyles less geared to environmentally-damaging consumption patterns. The shift will require a vast strengthening of the multilateral system, including the United Nations.”

The politically based environmental movement provides Sustainablists camouflage as they work to transform the American systems of government, justice, and economics. It is a masterful mixture of socialism (with its top down control of the tools of the economy) and fascism (where property is owned in name only - with no control). Sustainable Development is the worst of both the left and the right. It is not liberal, nor is it conservative. It is a new kind of tyranny that, if not stopped, will surely lead us to a new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind.

Posted 01/8 at 08:56 AM Email (Permalink)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Only An International Order Based On Classical Liberalism and US Constitutionalism Can Ensure Economic & Political Freedom

Individualism & world order

John O. McGinnis

The National Interest, Winter, 2004

DISAGREEMENT about world order is a continuation of disagreement about domestic order. At its heart are the same questions. How much power should be given to centralized decision-making as opposed to decentralized decision-making and markets? Should regulatory authority be exercised through democratically accountable mechanisms or elite and bureaucratic ones? What is really at stake thus becomes much clearer when more traditional political concepts are used to elucidate such relatively opaque terms as sovereignty, multilateralism, global governance and customary international law.

Classical liberalism--the philosophy of limited and accountable government--provides an appropriate framework for analyzing the foundation of global order because liberalism actually began in discussion of international matters. After all, Adam Smith and David Ricardo initiated the case for classical liberalism two centuries ago when they attacked nation states' restrictions on international trade.

This same framework of ideas provides coherent and consistent answers to the two most salient questions of international legal order. First, what kinds of international organizations and agreements are justified? Classical liberalism provides a principled framework that approves of trade agreements that keep capital markets open, because these agreements create a market for governance for competing sovereigns. It is more skeptical of other global multilateral agreements, be they environmental accords, human rights conventions or an agreement on an international criminal court, because the bureaucracies needed to run them may create new centers of unaccountable powers.

Second, by what process should agreements be reached and interpreted? What role should non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play in generating international law? Before the rise of classical liberalism, specific factions, like the aristocracy, or self-appointed interpreters of natural and divine law, such as augurs or kings, generated law. The classical liberal project has advanced through replacing this structure with representative government and careful checks and balances. Treaties have the potential to make full use of these processes, and a world of increasingly democratic nations is beginning to realize that potential. In contrast, reliance on a customary international law shaped by NGOs and law professors is anachronistic--a return to generating norms by narrow factions and a secular priestly caste.

Agreements & Institutions

CLASSICAL liberalism proceeds from two principles. First, individuals should be free to interact with one another as they choose, subject to the proviso that they cannot harm others through force or fraud. Second, government's object is to protect these freedoms and the property they generate. The dilemma for the latter objective is that a government powerful enough to achieve this goal can also threaten freedom and property. Thus, another objective of classical liberalism is to restrain the exercise of official power and assure that it is confined to its proper function of providing public goods--those that the market and family cannot supply.

Thus, the classical liberal international order should advance freedom by breaking down barriers to exchange and other voluntary interactions among people of various nations. And it should welcome ways of restraining governments from acting beyond their legitimate purposes, so long as these restraints do not unduly empower international bureaucracies.

It might be thought that classical liberalism thus simply translates in international matters to a Wilsonian concern with advancing democracy at every turn. But even in a democracy large and diverse enough to inhibit majority tyranny, minority factions in the form of special interests can use their greater leverage to gain government resources at the expense of the public. Mechanisms beyond simple democracy are therefore needed to assure, in the political scientist Mancur Olson's phrase, that a nation is governed by an "encompassing interest" rather than by special interests. Such an encompassing interest--the diffuse majority or supermajority of citizens-has less incentive than special interests to engage in the expropriation of resources through government action. It would then be extracting resources largely from itself. The best international mechanisms thus do not promote simple democracy but instead promote governance by the encompassing interest within various nation-states.

Peaceful competition among sovereign nations furnishes a primary mechanism for empowering the "encompassing interest" of a nation and for reducing the ability of interest groups to take resources from the government. Under what political scientists term "jurisdictional competition", sovereigns compete by providing efficient levels of public goods. If they do not, investment will dissipate and companies will flee the jurisdiction. Such competition thereby restrains leaders from unduly rewarding themselves or their supporters and encourages policies that will make their people prosperous. Competition also permits each nation the opportunity to learn from good policies that others adopt.

Decentralized lawmaking by sovereign nations also has the virtue of allowing different nation-states to satisfy the preferences of diverse peoples in the world. It is not too much to say that jurisdictional competition and the satisfaction of diverse human needs are the defining virtues of modern sovereignty. In sharp contrast, centralized power exercised in the international sphere has the potential over time to become even more vexatious than domestic centralized power, for three reasons.

First, the international arena is opaque to most citizens, and this lack of transparency empowers leaders and the factions that support them. Concrete examples of the difficulty that citizens have in controlling international organizations abound. Brussels-based bureaucrats are more distant than those in the EU's home nations. It is thus not surprising that they engage in all sorts of financial shenanigans, including the recent expense-account abuses, that would never be tolerated at home. Second, more is at stake in formulating international rules. If a faction or interest group succeeds in obtaining a regulation that disadvantages competitors on a global scale, it can gain a world's worth of monopoly profits.

Finally, international regulations can extinguish jurisdictional competition that restrains overreaching behavior by domestic agencies.

From these considerations flow three general criteria to determine whether international agreements and organizations concerning trade, human rights, regulation and an international criminal court are justified.

Mutuality of Gains. Internationalizing structures of regulatory authority are generally appropriate only when the gains could not be realized by the nations acting on their own. This flows from a basic principle of subsidiarity. Localized institutions are generally easier to control and are more likely to reflect diverse preferences.

Facilitating the Encompassing Interest: International agreements and institutions should facilitate the governance of participating nations by an encompassing interest. Thus, agreements that intensify international jurisdictional competition are always welcome. In contrast, in areas where jurisdictional competition is not possible, establishing international rules can sometimes be more desirable.

Light Elaboration Mechanisms: The final criterion concerns the substantiality of the mechanism needed to make international agreements work. If complex international mechanisms creating substantial regulatory authority are needed to sustain the agreement, they run a higher risk of capture by special interest groups, because such institutions are distant from the citizens affected by them. Accordingly, even when nations have the possibility of realizing mutual gains from an international framework, these gains may be outweighed by the costs generated by the international framework itself. For instance, nations may lack incentives to control a particular kind of cross-border pollution unless they act together, but the utility of an international pollution control agreement nevertheless depends on comparing all the costs of enforcement, including the costs of special interest capture, with the gains from pollution control.

Specific Global Agreements

HAVING established the general criteria, let us proceed to examine the classical liberal approach to agreements and institutions concerning international trade, human rights, regulation of such matters as health, safety and the environment, and a criminal court.

Global Trade Agreements: Trade agreements, including agreements to permit free trade in goods and services and to preserve open capital markets, are the international agreements easiest to defend. First, they create wealth among all nations that are parties to them. According to the well-established theory of comparative advantage, nations prosper when they specialize in the goods and services they can produce most efficiently. Thus, the mutuality of wealth creation gives all nations a stake in sustaining these agreements.

It is true that unilateral free trade is beneficial, but multilateral free trade creates even greater benefits. The more fundamental reason for trade multilateralism, however, lies in domestic political economy. Protectionist interest groups in modern democracies can get politicians to create obstacles to trade by exchanging their political support for high tariffs. But by offering the possibility of reduced tariff barriers in other countries in exchange for lower tariffs at home, global trade agreements mobilize exporter groups to fight protectionist groups on behalf of free trade. Thus, not only does free trade permit mutual gains, but as a political matter these mutual gains are contingent on the actions of other states. The political contingency of tariff reductions in one country on tariff reductions in other countries provides the best rationale for trade policies to be pursued through a world structure, like the World Trade Organization.

The second advantage of trade agreements is that they need relatively simple elaboration mechanisms that are unlikely to be captured by interest groups. Reducing tariffs takes no positive regulation at all. It is true that some nations may seek to replace tariff barriers with discriminatory health and safety regulation. But eliminating such non-tariff barriers to trade does not require a huge administrative apparatus either, because the WTO can police them by requiring that nations not discriminate in their rules against foreign imports. The WTO does not need an elaborate bureaucracy to formulate substantive health and safety regulations itself.

Other elements of global economic integration also empower the encompassing interest within nations by facilitating jurisdictional competition. For instance, multilateral agreements on capital flows increase the mobility of capital. Mobile capital, in turn, increases the pressures of jurisdictional competition among nations, because people tend to invest in nations with sensible regulatory and tax burdens and with respect for the rule of law. While such agreements sometimes require regulatory changes in a nation's legal system, their overall thrust is deregulatory and therefore they do not require substantial international regulatory structures. Thus, open capital markets and investment agreements help make sovereignty work on behalf of the encompassing interest of society even though individuals cannot easily move from one nation to another.

Such multilateral economic agreements might ultimately create a world constitutive mechanism that resembles aspects of the original Constitution of the United States. The Constitution promotes decentralized order by creating a market for governance where open capital markets and free trade force state governments to deliver good and efficient government. As the economist Barry Weingast has noted, this system sustained very substantial growth and limited governmental expenditures through much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Similarly, the jurisdictional competition afforded by the world trading system in the era of globalization performs these same beneficial functions today.

Human Rights: The term "human rights" covers a variety of very disparate matters from property rights to welfare rights to civil rights. The advisability of international rules on human rights depends upon the substance of the rights protected. Unfortunately, some international agreements, like the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, include welfare rights, and many internationalists wish to expand them. These are the worst kind of rights to frame at the international level.

First, they violate principles of subsidiarity
. Even assuming that government should guarantee some kind of welfare rights, it is clear that the particular guarantees must depend upon the budgetary constraints of individual nations. But if welfare rights are to take account of the differing circumstances of various nations and their traditions, substantial discretion must be given to international institutions that would enforce them. This discretion, in turn, empowers international bureaucrats and other elites who will determine the appropriate level of guarantees. Second, international agreements should not lock in specific economic and social policies that are likely to change with the political winds.

Civil rights connected to democracy, like voting, and the panoply of rights connected to the criminal justice system are more plausible for inclusion in international agreements than welfare rights but less plausible than international trading rights. Unlike international trade agreements, civil rights agreements lack the strongly contingent nature that provides the best justification for multilateralism. The international elaboration of civil rights by a multilateral mechanism in one nation does not directly generate civil rights in another.

Nevertheless, the case for global decentralization is weaker for civil rights than for economic matters. The relative immobility of persons in a world with relatively strict immigration laws inhibits jurisdictional competition in civil rights, whereas the relative mobility of companies and capital aids jurisdictional competition in economic regulations. Because of the inefficacy of jurisdictional competition in this area, internationalizing core civil rights, including the right to be free from torture or genocide, is beneficial.

But there are alternative ways of promoting civil rights more generally that carry less risk of international structures that may impose mistaken or ill-fitting conceptions of rights on particular countries. International trade agreements may themselves provide a mechanism. These agreements facilitate the expansion of civil rights not through flat but through encouraging the wealth creation that will generate pressure for such rights internally. Historically, this theory accords with the evidence that a rising middle class demands civil and political rights to help secure its swelling wealth against the dangers of tyrannical government and political instability.

Moreover, a bottom-up model of diffusing human rights through economic growth will lead to a bundle of rights that better fits the needs of each nation. Rights generated internally are more likely to take account of the particular preferences and traditions of individual countries. They are also likely to be more resistant to political backlashes, because they will be more securely rooted in the soil of these countries.

The potential of international trade agreements to cascade into civil rights has one other important advantage over the direct international pursuit of human rights, since the most glaring defect of human rights agreements is that they often do not help the peoples who are most oppressed. In fact, a recent study by Oona Hathaway of Yale Law School has shown that nations that signed human rights treaties sometimes had worse human rights practices than would otherwise be predicted, because they used their accession to deflect criticism of their actions.

In contrast, despots are more likely to honor trade agreements because expanding trade will make their nations richer and therefore redound to their personal advantage by permitting them to increase their tax revenues, not to mention their personal wealth. By offering attractive bait to hook despotic regimes, trade agreements may actually provide a more effective, if circuitous, route to securing civil and political rights than civil and political rights conventions themselves.

International Regulatory Agreements: The push for new international regulatory regimes often goes by the name of "harmonization." This term conjures up an image of citizens of many nations happily singing in harmony. But nations, like individuals, differ in their circumstances and endowments, and therefore the process of imposing similar regulations is likely to give rise to the opportunity for some nations to take resources from others. Some domestic groups will also systematically benefit from harmonization because they will be in a position to influence them to their advantage. For this reason, regulatory harmonization is always in danger of becoming the song of the oligarchs.

Accordingly, with one important exception, international agreements on regulatory issues are more problematic than trade agreements because they require many more complex institutions of elaboration that give additional leverage to special interests. First, mutual gains are unlikely to arise from international multilateral regulations in such circumstances. Countries differ in their level of development, traditions and preferences of their people and are likely to choose different regulations. While it is true that a multilateral regulatory regime could theoretically permit different nations to forge different regulations, the principle of subsidiarity suggests one jurisdiction should not frame and potentially distort another jurisdiction's regulatory regime.

Second, unlike the case of international agreements on trade, international regulation interferes with the operation of markets. This feature also necessarily makes its enforcement more bureaucratic, because the relevant agreements will need to formulate regulations rather than simply remove barriers. International regulatory regimes also may reduce jurisdictional competition among sovereign nations. Thus, if trade agreements have the virtues of the original Constitution, then regulatory multilateralism has all the dangers of command and control regulation with the added disadvantage of distance from citizens.

The one area in which the welfare gains from coordinating a uniform standard might outweigh the losses concerns cases of externalities or spillovers--where one nation, for instance, pollutes the territory of another. That is the justification given for the Kyoto agreement on climate change. Because of such spillovers, no nation in the absence of an international agreement has the appropriate incentives to control pollution: Since each country does not pay the full cost of its pollution, each country lacks the appropriate incentives to reduce pollution to reflect its real costs and benefits.

Nevertheless, even in such circumstances multilateral regulatory agreements do not always provide the proper solution. International regulatory regimes create the potential for political externalities, costs that one faction imposes on others through manipulating the regime. For instance, newly emerging industries may see particular kinds of pollution regulations as a way of driving up the costs of their rivals in other nations. Such political externalities are potentially very vexing in the case of international agreements, because the public cannot easily control international bureaucracies.

International agreements on regulations thus should meet four conditions. First, the externalities or spillovers from one nation to another must be clear. Second, the agreements must offer a real prospect of solving the externality problem. Third, other less centralized mechanisms fail to accomplish the job. Fourth, the regulatory regime must devise restraints to prevent multilateral institutions addressing externalities from becoming an engine of interest group power. Even under these conditions, however, global regulatory multilateralism does not reinforce the decentralized order and generate the cascading benefits of global trade agreements.

International Criminal Court: While the United States has not yet acceded to treaties establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC), most nations of the world have agreed to it. While limited in jurisdiction to certain heinous crimes, the ICC suffers from many of the same problems as other international regulatory regimes because criminal law is a species of regulation. The apparatus for enforcing international criminal law, like that for enforcing international regulations, will prove less accountable than criminal law enforcement in nations with democratic and accountable governments.

In particular, the ICC necessarily contemplates, like other systems of criminal justice, lodging substantial discretion in a prosecutor. A domestic prosecutor--himself elected or appointed by an elected leader--faces constraints that make it easier for the public to monitor his conduct. Moreover, his performance naturally interests the public whose happiness is acutely affected by their local crime rate.

In contrast, the lack of effective constraints on an international prosecutor is striking. While governments would appoint him through consensus, he would be accountable to no particular official. Because his docket would consist of cases that, for all their moral importance, would not be likely to affect the crime rates in many jurisdictions, he will come under less popular scrutiny. Nevertheless, ethnic and ideological interest groups will intensely focus on the symbolic value of prosecutions in the areas over which the court has been given jurisdiction.

In this way, the ICC may become a threat to the very rule of law its advocates want to inculcate in the international order. Its multilateral structure is not amenable to the control by the encompassing interest of citizens in the nations that are a party to it. It is surprising that enthusiasm for an international criminal prosecutor continues unabated in many quarters of the United States when we have become disillusioned with our own institution of the independent counsel. The lack of accountability and risk to neutral principles that an international criminal prosecutor poses are very similar to those created by the office of independent counsel, except this time the potential scope of abuse is global.

Concern about empowering a global prosecutor does not mean that the world legal order should not find innovative means to prosecute such crimes as genocide. Particular international tribunals, like the Rwanda tribunals, established for particular crimes in nations that lack democratic and accountable governments, can deter some of the worst crimes without creating an open-ended mechanism more subject to abuse. The touchstone here, as elsewhere, should be the creation of international structures that preserve accountability.

Generating International Law

BEYOND ADDRESSING the substantive shape of international rules, classical liberalism offers guidance on how best to create them. There are, broadly speaking, two ways of generating international rules. One is through express global agreements among the nations of the world. Another is through customary international law. Customary international law consists of rules that courts, international or domestic, or "publicists"--that is, international law professors--create based on their own assessment of what are widespread state practices.

The differences between these ways of generating international law may at first seem technical. But placed in a more general political context, they capture two very different views of the sources of political legitimacy--roughly corresponding to those now prevalent in the United States and "Old Europe." Creating international law through global treaties like the GATT suggests that contracts reached through express bargaining among nation-states will constitute the international order. Under this paradigm, solutions to international problems are particularistic with roots in the political legitimacy of sovereign nations. Government officials give assent to the written terms by which their people will be bound. The United States, with its view that the nation-state is still key to international relations, inclines to this view.

In contrast, modern customary international law depends on inferences about state behavior that jurists and publicists make. Moreover, because the principles it generates are not embedded in the context of actual agreements, customary international law has a tendency toward generating principles that become independent of context. In short, customary law can become a kind of ersatz natural law. Europe, which has a less happy history of the nation-state, not surprisingly has a preference for a method of international-rule generation less rooted in sovereignty. (1)

The debate about how to generate international law is also a debate about the centralization and the accountability of power--key issues for classical liberalism. Agreement to specific terms by a large number of nations--increasingly nations with representative forms of government--provides some, albeit not conclusive, indication that the treaty is beneficent. In contrast, customary international law provides far less firm evidence of consensus, because professional and judicial elites rather than sovereign states have substantial influence in framing such rules. Because there is as yet no global demos--no disciplined political structure for measuring global sentiment--those who want to fashion rules outside of the treaty context will necessarily have to make decisions with relatively little democratic input. They will be making discretionary decisions, more than occasionally relying on themselves as the prophets of international virtue.

IN THE increasingly democratic modern world, multilateral treaties have several advantages in representing the consensus of the peoples of the world and limiting the discretion of unaccountable elites. The first advantage of global international agreements over customary international law is the precision of a written text. This clarity is important. If a large number of nations with representative governments reaches a consensus, the agreement has a certain presumption of beneficence. Of course, a residue of ambiguity infects all written texts, but at least there is something in writing, in contrast to customary international law, which generates no text. Thus, the scope of customary principles is often less clear and more subject to manipulation.

Second, multilateral treaties provide assurance that states have actually agreed upon their requirements as obligatory under international law. In contrast, it is difficult to tell whether states have accepted a rule of customary international law. Customary law principles are traditionally created only when states both widely follow a practice and widely accept it as law. But substantial debate exists over what can constitute evidence of state practice. For instance, some scholars suggest that only acts of states can constitute state practice, while others suggest that statements, like UN resolutions, can also be evidence of state practice.

Furthermore, it has always been understood that the ubiquity of a state practice does not necessarily mean nations are engaging in a practice because they believe it is law. Accordingly, scholars frequently debate whether a practice reflects a sense of national obligation or merely prudence or some other motive. This kind of uncertainty also offers room for elites to shape the rules to their liking. Happily, such uncertainty does not exist with multilateral agreements, because by signing them nations show what provisions they accept as international obligations.

Third, treaties reduce what economists would call the "agency costs" of international lawmaking--the difficulty of making sure that the rules to which rulers agree reflect the interests of their citizens. In the growing number of states that have representative forms of government, the representative branch must ratify the treaty, thus providing better assurance that the agreement reflects popular consensus. In contrast, bureaucrats and judges, rather than officials accountable to voters, determine the content of customary international law.

Worse still, those responsible for determining the content of customary international law are in fact radically unrepresentative. Law professors--the modern publicists responsible for the development of customary international law--are predominantly from the developed rather than developing world. Second, even within their own nations, law professors, like intellectuals generally, have distinctly unrepresentative views--very often to the left of the society as a whole. In the United States, for instance, Democratic-leaning law professors outnumber Republican-leaning law professors by about five to one.

The combination of these two biases can be quite powerful. Because academics come from countries that are already wealthy, they profit less from growth than the average global citizen, who may be more willing to take some risks to better his relatively low standard of living. Because academics lean to the left side of the political spectrum they are also less sympathetic to entrepreneurial ideas. Thus, modern customary international law rules are likely to have built-in biases against free markets and other classical liberal ideas. For instance, many scholars have tried to argue that customary international law contains something called the precautionary principle--a rule that prohibits the introduction of new technology unless all risks from the technology can be ruled out.

This principle obviously would have more appeal to those who are already well off than to those for whom new technology may be life saving. It also represents a departure from the cost-benefit analysis that the United States for the most part applies to its own domestic regulations, further suggesting that principle does not reflect the practice of the democratic nations. (2)

The problem of unrepresentativeness affects other groups with power to create customary international law. International Court of Justice judges are always lawyers and share the characteristic biases of the legal class generally--an interest in "fair" process, rather than economic growth. Moreover, institutionally they possess a vested interest in expanding the power of international law, which is likely to mean a bias in favor of finding evidence of widespread acceptance of a practice among states even when one does not exist.

Some have conceded that treaties should have priority over customary law when the two conflict, but suggest that customary international law still plays a useful role in generating new rules in addition to treaties. But in the modern world, customary law can achieve little new that treaties cannot do better. In the past, when it was difficult for officials of nations to meet because of information and transportation costs, it was sometimes useful for scholars and courts to hypothesize what rules all nations would agree to, if their representatives had the opportunity to meet and deliberate. But with jet planes and the Internet, no such barriers prevent any set of nations from reaching agreement.

Others have argued that modern customary law is more likely today to represent a popular consensus--because NGOs are taking a greater role in framing and interpreting it. But permitting NGOs, rather than increasingly democratic nation-states, to shape international law in fact makes it more likely that international law will represent the views of a particular set of factions rather than the consensus of citizens of nation-states. NGOs are interest groups often extremely unrepresentative of the average citizen. Greenpeace, for instance, no doubt cares passionately about the environment and would like to press for the precautionary principle, but Greenpeace is a predominantly Western organization whose views are unrepresentative even of many citizens in the West.

To be sure, unrepresentative factions also often have disproportionate power in domestic polities as well. But the problems are worse at the international level. First, the cost of organizing an international faction is higher, and this higher expense screens out many groups who can counterbalance narrow interests. Even more fundamentally, domestic mechanisms, like the separation of powers and bicameralism, make it harder for unrepresentative factions to control policy. Finally, because of elections, democratic states take into account the preferences of citizens even when not tied to any faction. For all these reasons, NGOs' influence on the content of international law often undermines rather than enhances the likelihood that it will represent popular consensus.

Enforcement of World Order

THE ENFORCEMENT of international agreements also should respect the sovereignty of nation-states both to preserve government accountability and to limit the power of international elites. First, the agreements must be enforced in accordance with their terms. It might be thought this would go without saying, but many scholars now espouse using the mechanisms designed to enforce a specific agreement, like the WTO, as a vehicle for enforcing more general international law principles, including customary international law. But new rules of customary international law are not likely to be as beneficent as treaty provisions and thus certainly have a weaker claim to enforcement. Moreover, even if nations have tacitly consented to some principle of customary international law, they have not consented to its enforcement by a mechanism established for enforcing a completely different set of obligations. Thus, to maintain accountability, an international enforcement regime should enforce obligations only under its own regime.

Second, decisions of international judicial bodies interpreting international law should not generally be given "direct effect." Direct effect is a term of art in international law that means that the decision of the international tribunal is binding as a matter of a nation's domestic law and is thus implemented directly without any intervening action of a domestic legal authority. The problem with direct effect is that it weakens the accountability of government for its decisions and thus over time will make those decisions less likely to be good ones. Judges on domestic tribunals like the United States Supreme Court are generally appointed or elected. Thus, representatives of the people or the people themselves are at least indirectly accountable for their decisions. In contrast, the representatives and people of a nation affected by an international law decision will not be accountable for the majority, if any, of the judges on international tribunals.

Moreover, citizens in nation-states cannot easily control international bureaucracies and thus international tribunals may exceed their authority. One way of keeping such a tribunals on a short leash is to prevent their decisions from taking automatic effect and requiring that they be implemented by affected nation-states. The tribunals will then be more cautious in their interpretation, holding nations to account only when they are in manifest violation of their international agreements.

Indirect enforcement can nevertheless be effective. For instance, if a nation does not comply with a WTO tribunal ruling, the WTO now authorizes the offended nations to withdraw trade concessions from the offending nation. As Mark Movsesian of Hofstra University has shown, the withdrawal of concessions in turn can mobilize the exporters who are harmed by the withdrawal to lobby their government to comply. For example, when the WTO tribunal held that President Bush's imposition of additional tariffs on steel was illegal, Europeans were authorized to withdraw concessions that would have harmed exporters in states key to the President's re-election chances. President Bush complied with the decision and rescinded the tariffs.

This indirect enforcement makes use of the decentralized economic order of a nation rather than centralized power to promote compliance with international law. It has the additional virtue of providing a check on the potential overreaching of those charged with interpreting international law. Thus, like the substantive structures of international trade and the procedural processes of treaty ratification, this kind of international enforcement helps assure accountability under international law.

New technologies have so radically lowered the costs of information and transportation that globalization of some form is inevitable. But the issues of political structure that globalization raises are not novel, because new technology has not changed human nature. Thus, there is no need for a radically new philosophy of international governance--just the adaptation to the international order of principles that previously succeeded domestically.

Globalization can create both economic prosperity and better governance by sovereign states. But we can succeed in that goal only by creating international structures and organizations with the accountability, checks and balances, and decentralized rule-making that have marked the progress of liberty and prosperity in the domestic sphere. Otherwise globalization may usher in an era where global governance is a mask for uncontrolled power that will inevitably contract the scope of human freedom.

(1) For a discussion of the different general viewpoints of Europe and the United States in international relations that parallels file legal differences described here, see Francis Fukuyama, "Has History Restarted After Sept. 11?", John Bonython Lecture (August 8, 2002).

(2) For more on the precautionary principle, see Lawrence A. Kogan, "Exporting Europe's Protectionism", The National Interest (Fall 2004); and Roger Scruton, "The Cult of Precaution", The National Interest (Summer 2004).

John O. McGinnis is professor of constitutional and international law at Northwestern University. This article is based upon a paper given at a conference in Rome this June sponsored by The National Interest, the Federalist Society, the Ave Maria Law School, the Culture of Life Foundation, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

COPYRIGHT 2004 The National Interest, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yearning for [Political AND Economic] Reform and the 17th CPC Congress

Yearning for Reform and the 17th CPC Congress

Caijing Magazine

The issues of greatest concern to the public are creating checks and balances against abuse of power, extirpating corruption, sustaining a high employment rate, building a social security network and establishing a fair and equal income distribution system. The first two are the core of policital reform and the latter two are directly related to it.

By Hu Shuli

As the current issue of Caijing reaches our readers, the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is getting under way, opening October 15 in Beijing. We previously noted that 2007 was “a year for waiting,” and we tried to predict trends in all domestic fields before this year’s Spring Festival in February. October 15 was the day we had been waiting for.

A new round of reshuffling within the party leadership is now drawing attention in China and from abroad. The Congress will elect a new Central Committee, Politburo and Standing Committee of the Politburo, which is tightly connected to China’s upcoming power structure.

Many who are concerned about China’s future, including people in the business community, overseas observers and the general public, are anticipating newer and more profound guidelines for political reform from this Congress. For example, a poll conducted by the official Xinhuanet Web site shows that the issues of greatest concern to the public are creating checks and balances against abuse of power, extirpating corruption, sustaining a high employment rate, building a social security network and establishing a fair and equal income distribution system. The first two are the core of policital reform and the latter two are directly related to it. These results evidently shows that the public is yearning for reform.

China’s reform process has spanned the past 30 years, starting in 1978. Political reform is making progress by, for example, replacing lifelong rule for leaders with limited terms, dividing government and party functions, launching trials for grassroots democratic elections, and considering a proposal to institute the “rule of law”. It is fair to say that China’s political reforms have accomplished a lot. However, compared with the forceful and well-paced economic reform, political reform is obviously lagging behind, which results in a gap that strains the society.

Currently, the public’s top concern is the rampant corruption and an imbalanced power system, while intellectuals are worried about the trend toward monopoly in the market.

Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of the reforms that opened up China, pointed out in the 1980s that “political reform and economic reform should depend on each other and cooperate. Economic reform will not work if political reform is not keeping pace.” He concluded that “whether our reform is able to succeed ultimately depends on a reform of the political system.” Deng’s remarks have been quoted again and again, but the tide has yet to turn toward political and economic reforms that “depend on each other and cooperate.” China’s economic development has scored tremendous achievements, and its positive experience with economic transition has been acknowledged by the world. However, political reform still has a long way to go.

Political reform results are relatively lagging not only because of the inherent complexity and sensitivity of reform, but also because some groups with vested interests in the status quo have purposely hindered reform. Reform is also being negatively influenced by certain misunderstandings and an excessively cautious stance.

For example, some argue that pushing forward with political reform will be destablizing. Yet, in fact, maintaining the status quo without any reform creates a hotbed for social turbulence. Some consider “democracy” and “constitutional government” as capitalistic attributes. Yet these are not only fruits of civilization shared by all humans but also the commitments that China should fulfill according to UN human rights conventions. Some think political reform should be conducted silently, which is against a principle of democracy that requires public participation in decision-making.

In the face of all these established roadblocks, political reform becomes a sensitive issue, and some efforts in this arena are filed under other titles to divert pubic attention. In this way, overall planning for political reform becomes improbable. Clearing away misunderstandings, updating concepts and reiterating purposes are necessary steps toward reform.

At the center of political reform is democratization. Just as economic reform cannot divert from the road toward market reform, political reform cannot divert from democratization.

Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has made many comments about democracy in recent years. He has pointed out “there will not be modernization without democratization,” stressing “people’s legal access to democratic elections, decision-making, management and supervision” and proposing “the development of democratic politics with Chinese characteristics through a system of governing for the people, by the people in order to institutionalize, standardize and set procedures for socialist democracy. We should adopt democratic system, forms and measures to ensure that people can be real hosts of their own homeland.” In his “6-25” keynote speech, Hu reiterated the goal of “developing socialist democratic politics.” There are democratic connotations in concepts such as “scientific development,” “people-oriented policy” and “harmonious society.” These have been proposed by a new generation of leaders and have obtained public approval.

Comprehending political reform is hard, and pushing forward even harder. The task is made more difficult by the necessity to consider Chinese culture. Although a prosperous economy provides a sound, external environment for reform, political reform, as a massive project, still requires statesmenship, bold but well-calculated experimentation. People now hope for reform as well as stability; they can face reality and yearn for change. Such hopes spark in the grassroot, which brings challenges, opportunities and a test for the leadership.

The Chinese Are Gradually Learning the Virtues of Political AND Economic Freedom

The Thin Chinese Line

By John Pomfret January/February 2008

Foreign Policy Magazine

Caijing, Issue 196, No. 21, October 15, 2007, Beijing

“Yearning for Reform." It's not exactly the type of headline you'd expect to see on an opinion piece written by the editor of a Chinese publication. But that's what Hu Shuli titled the lead editorial of the October 15 issue of Caijing magazine. Written in the run-up to China's Communist Party Congress, she argued convincingly that China needs democratic changes, and it needs them now. Exactly what the party leadership should do, Caijing left us only to guess. Still, the fact that a mainstream Chinese publication openly embraced democracy means something in today's China.

Although unusual for most Chinese media, Hu's gutsy editorial was typical fare for the readers of Caijing. An amalgam of Forbes, Fortune, and BusinessWeek, with a muckraking edge that makes it hard to categorize, Caijing is China's leading financial magazine. With a circulation of about 100,000, Caijing focuses most of its energy on battling the crony capitalism widespread in China's business world. Occasionally, it takes even bigger risks by tackling Chinese government officials themselves, such as with the magazine's in-depth and influential coverage of the SARS epidemic in 2002.

With the tightening of restrictions on the Chinese media due to the insecurity and lack of vision of Hu Jintao, China's current president, Caijing has often found itself the only media outlet in China that's covering important stories that make headlines in the outside world. It alone profiled Jiang Yanyong, the whistle-blowing doctor who accused Chinese authorities of lying about the extent of the SARS epidemic. In June 2005, it broke the story of Zhang Enzhao, the former chairman of China Construction Bank who had mysteriously "resigned" his post a month earlier and was under investigation for corruption.

That story was revelatory for the Chinese press; the confirmation that Zhang was in trouble came from a court case filed in the United States. Chinese reporters realized, said one former editor, that "even if the Chinese government kept quiet about cross-border scandals and shut up all domestic sources, there's a sea of open information beyond China's borders that is fair game to anybody with good language, investigative, and research skills."

Caijing's investigatory zeal has helped prompt significant change in China. In 2001, the magazine reported that Yinguangxia, the second-largest company on China's stock exchange, had falsely reported hundreds of millions in profits. Although some government officials backed the company and wanted to censor the article, Caijing used a fake cover to trick those officials into thinking the magazine was publishing something else. After the story ran, the Communist Party turned around and embraced the idea that listed companies needed to be regulated; it passed laws to regulate China's stock markets and issued regulations allowing classaction lawsuits. "We focus on the role of watchdog more, thinking about pushing transparency and honoring the public's right to know," says Hu, Caijing's editor. "We'd like to think of ourselves as woodpeckers, chipping away at China, trying to prevent the country from slipping into the trap of crony capitalism."

Hu also has backup. Caijing's publisher is Wang Boming, a garrulous scion of China's Communist aristocracy. Wang's father, Wang Bingnan, was a former deputy foreign minister and worked closely with then Premier Zhou Enlai. Wang is on a firstname basis with many senior Chinese officials; something that can come in handy when Caijing butts its head against China's censorship rules.

A graduate of Columbia Law School, Wang returned to China in 1989 with the dream of founding China's first stock exchange. He succeeded, twice; exchanges were started in Shenzhen and Shanghai. With that work done, Wang started an investment firm and a media company he called seeC and began publishing magazines.

In 2003, Wang engineered to have seeC's advertising and distribution business listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, marking the first time that a Chinese media company had placed its shares abroad. That financial success means that Caijing boasts the country's biggest editorial budget per journalist, giving its staff plenty of time and resources for the investigative long-form journalism that has become its hallmark. It also means Caijing's journalists are paid well enough to avoid the normal practice among Chinese reporters of accepting a payoff in return for favorable coverage.

Thanks in part to Caijing, the range and depth of topics that are regularly explored in the pages of China's press and on its airwaves has increased. Social issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, AIDS, domestic violence, corruption, and illegal land sales by Communist Party functionaries-all taboo in the past-can now be explored with unprecedented candor.

In October's editorial, Hu addressed her argument to China's political and economic elite, among whom the idea of democratic reform has lost traction because many fear losing the enormous gains they've made in recent years. "Some argue that pushing forward with political reform will be destabilizing," she wrote. "Yet, in fact, maintaining the status quo without any reform creates a hotbed for social turbulence."

But is anyone at Party Central listening? I think not. Caijing may have helped contribute to an information revolution in China, but the political revolution is still a long way off. Communist Party censors routinely shutter wayward newspapers, fire gutsy editors, and jail recalcitrant reporters. And though gutsy editors like Hu Shuli occasionally dare mention the need for political reform, there's no sign that the Communists are willing to change their one-party ways.

So far, Caijing has escaped the often cruel fate of a Chinese periodical: a padlocked front gate and a silenced printing press. But Caijing, like other Chinese media, also pulls its punches. The Tiananmen Square crackdown is off-limits. So is reporting about the practices of Falun Gong. And during the SARS epidemic, the magazine killed a major investigation into the failure of the party secretary of Guangdong Province to deal with the disease when it first erupted in November of 2002.

Is the plucky Beijing weekly a sign of China's future, or just pretty window dressing tolerated by a party that understands the uses of a loyal opposition? As a cautious pessimist about the cause of political change in China, I sadly vote for the latter. Caijing pulls its punches because it must. In a country with an eager supply of informants and a journalistic ethos more focused on printing puff pieces for cash, Caijing may be a rare bird, but it's one that seems fated to live caged.