Chinese Democracy

The first time I realised that danger is very close was when, in 2008, we were asked to evacuate the office building due to a bomb threat which later turned out to be a hoax. The entire office evacuated and assembled in the “safety” zone, which was outside the office premise on the main street! If the terrorists felt too lazy to storm the office building, nearly 1500 employees were now lined up along the street waiting to be sprayed with bullets and grenades. It was the most idiotic moment of my life. Since then, the world has gotten more dangerous. News is rampant about Somalian pirates, situation in India and Pakistan, Russia’s peripherals and multiple warzones of US and the enemy does not have a face in any of the case.

Recently, we presented to the MBA class, a summary of the book called the long tail. I was intrigued when my team mate choose to present how the long tail affected warfare. Here’s an excerpt from “the dark side of long tail” which explains why the enemy does not have a face:

Traditionally, warfare (the ability to change society through violence) has been limited to nation-states (except in rare cases).  States had a monopoly on violence.  The result was a limited, truncated distribution of violence (a power law). That monopoly is on the skids due to three trends:


  • A democratization of the tools of warfare.  Niche producers (for example: gangs) are made possible by the dislocation of globalization.  All it takes to participate is a few men, some box cutters, and a plane (as an example of simple tools combined with leverage from ubiquitous economic infrastructure).
  • An amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare.  The magic of global guerrilla systems disruption which turns inexpensive attacks into major economic and social events.
  • The acceleration of word of mouth.  New groups can more easily find/train recruits, convey their message to a wide audience, and find/coordinate their activities with other groups (allies).

Following this logic, I think it is safe to assume that the violence will grow in the coming years.

In this context, I wonder if it is wise to obsess with democracy as the only governance model for the entire world. The main threats of 21st Century arise from failed democracy, unlike from dictatorship or communism in 20th Century. When the tools of production and distribution of violence are democratised and the power of law enforcement agency dwarfs the collective power of terrorists in their ability to create violence, the governance model should adapt to the change in a way that the balance of power shifts back to the law enforcement agencies. Democracy unfortunately does not seem to be the answer here. 

Freedom of expression is the most fundamental human right which needs to be upheld, but clearly there are parts of the world where this freedom is simply unaffordable today. What is the purpose of freedom to express if the guy next door is uncontrollable and is successfully exporting meaningless murder! Democracy is not a sustainable governance model in such situations.

For the past 20 years, the most successful economy in the world in terms of growth is China, a communist country. Russia which is still in a transition phase does not mess around its security either. When I visited Moscow, it was not unusual to see police with automatic weapons patrolling the main streets. Frankly, it did not feel intimidating; it felt rather safe to see such show of power.

Maybe a hybrid of capital markets and totalitarian political powers is what we need for the new century; Chinese democracy could be the answer because it is one thing to empower an individual to become an overnight superstar on YouTube and another to empower him to spray bullets in a train station.


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