Monday, June 23, 2014

Providing a refuge for 50 million plus displaced people

On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2014, the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, better known by its initials, UNHCR,  published its annual report Global Trends 2013: War's Human Cost. 

Contained in its 52 pages are lots of figures about the plight of refugees in the world. The 2013 level of displacement was the highest on record since comprehensive statistics on forced displacement were collected.

Displacement data covers three groups: refugees, asylum-seekers, and the internally displaced. Among them, the number of refugees amounted to 16.7 million people worldwide, 11.7 million of whom are under UNHCR’s care and the remainder are registered with its sister organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.

This report, which is based on data compiled by governments and non-governmental partner organizations, and from the organization's own records, shows that 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013, which was fully 6 million more than the 45.2 million reported the previous year.

This massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees, and produced 6.5 million internally displaced. A major new displacement was also seen in Africa, notably in Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The report notes that 3.5 million refugees, or one-third of the global total,, resided in countries covered by UNHCR’s Asia and Pacific region. Of these, more than 2.4 million were Afghans (69 per cent) who are now living in Pakistan and Iran.

Another one-quarter, or 2.9 million, of all refugees, came from sub-Saharan Africa, primarily from Somalia (778,400), Sudan (605,400), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (470,300), the Central African Republic (251,900), and Eritrea (198,700).

Behind these and the other figures, however, are the untold stories of men, women, and children about how they fled their homes, whether temporarily or permanently, and what their hopes are for the future. Although the report does picture a handful out of these many millions, it does not name them.

Figures can only measure the number of people affected, they do not describe the agony they experience on a daily basis. Nevertheless, this report does permit the world to see how extensive the problem of displaced people is. Also, governments are now no longer able to hide how little they are doing to alleviate the problem.

In addition to refugees, 2013 saw 1.1 million people submitting applications for asylum, the majority of these in developed countries. Germany in 2013 became the largest single recipient of new asylum claims. A record 25,300 asylum applications were from children who were separated from or unaccompanied by parents. Syrians lodged 64,300 claims, more than any other nationality, followed by asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (60,400) and Myanmar (57,400).

People who were forced to flee their homes but stayed within their own country totaled a record 33.3 million, the largest increase of any group in the Global Trends report. For UNHCR and other humanitarian actors, helping these people represents a special challenge as many are in conflict zones, where getting to aid to them is difficult and where they lack the international protection norms afforded to refugees. 

Renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, Mali and the unstable security situation in the north east of Nigeria, all caused enormous numbers of civilians to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere within their own country.

At the same time, some 68,400 refugees were able to return to their homes in DRC last year, according to these statistics. They were among the 414,600 refugees who went back to their homelands, the goal of most refugees and the UN refugee agency. When voluntary return home is not possible, UNHCR seeks long-term solutions for refugees through local integration or resettlement in third countries. During the year, UNHCR submitted 93,200 refugees for resettlement, and some 71,600 departed with UNHCR’s assistance.

The latest conflict in Iraq, where Sunni extremist fighters are advancing southward toward Baghdad, does figure in the report since it covers 2013. But more than 1 million people have been displaced by fighting in Iraq so far this year -- half of them in the past couple of weeks. That's about one in 30 people nationwide who have fled their homes.

The worldwide population of stateless people is not included in the figure of 51.2 million forcibly displaced people, since being stateless does not necessarily correlate to being displaced. Statelessness remains hard to quantify because of the inherent difficulties governments and the UNHCR have in recording people who lack citizenship and related documentation. In addition, some countries do not gather data on populations they do not consider as their citizens. 

For 2013, UNHCR reported a figure of almost 3.5 million stateless people including 750,000 in West Africa, which is about a third of the number of people in the world estimated to be stateless.

By the end of 2013, Pakistan has continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world, 1.6 million, nearly all of whom were from Afghanistan. At the same time, voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan has also been the largest in the world, with 3.8 million having been assisted by UNHCR to return home since 2002.

Developing countries, including many in Africa, now host 86 per cent of the worlds refugees, which is up from 70 per cent 10 years ago. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts about one-quarter of all refugees in the world. Three African countries were among the top 10 refugee-hosting countries in the world: Kenya (534,900 refugees), Chad (434,000) and Ethiopia (433,900).

Canada does not make the list of refugee-hosting countries. Historically, Canada has been one of the most generous countries in the world in accepting refugees for permanent residency and citizenship. But this is no longer the case.

When it comes to actual resettlement, Canada admitted only 12,000 in total from all over the world in 2013. Opposition parties in Canada and groups like Amnesty International as well as the Canadian Council for Refugees have complained that Canada is not doing enough, especially for Syrian refugees. 

In the civil war in Syria more than one million of the refugees are children. How tragic! Something needs to be done urgently to help these young refugees.

Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, has claimed that Canada is "at the top of the list"  in terms of welcoming Syrian refugees globally, although, thus far, the Canadian government has set a target of only 1,300 refugees, and is relying on private individuals to sponsor 1,100 of those. But the number of Syrian refugees who were actually admitted in 2013 was only a handful.

When pressed on the precise figure, the government has refused to answer. A reliable source uses the figure of only 10, which is not only shameful but it is also heartless and cruel. What sort of a government can do this to people?

In addition to government-assisted or privately sponsored refugees, there are thousands of individuals who come to Canada each year seeking asylum. While asylum claims in the EU and Australia have ballooned, in Canada these types of refugee claims actually dropped. 

According to government data, the total number of asylum seekers who entered Canada in 2013 dropped almost 50 per cent, from 2012, to only 10,000. The government attributes this to their pro-active measures to tackle the problem of fraudulent claims, but refugee advocates continue to call these measures unfair. 

Regardless of the government's measures to deal with what they regard as fraudulent asylum claims, Canada should be much more generous when it comes to refugees, in particular Syrians. It is to Canad's shame that one of the richest countries in the world is unwilling to do more to aid their plight. But so many other countries should also do much more.  The UNHCR report proves the necessity of this.

The prayer of the (Roman Catholic) Archdiocese of Toronto on World Refugee Day is surely appropriate. 


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The football god

I have an admission to make: football is my favorite sport. I have always enjoyed watching it ever since my student days in Europe. Today I am still enjoy watching it, especially this year when the 2014 FIFA World Cup is being played in Brazil. I have watched a few games of this tournament in their entirety, as well as snatches of a few others. Nothing can beat football, not even hockey, which is Canada's national sport. One thing that makes football so beautiful is that it only requires a ball to play -- no other equipment is needed.

By football, of course, I do not mean the American or Canadian varieties, which are different sports entirely, but what North Americans call soccer, and the rest of the world describes merely as "the beautiful game."

The love of football can be dangerous. Like all of created things, it can be used for good purposes or for bad; it can be a blessing or a curse. Sadly, it can even become a god, as happens too often today.

Although there is only one God, there are many gods today: money, power, sex, entertainment, and sports -- to name only a few of the more prominent ones. The football god is certainly the most important one for many people all over the world. More nations belong to FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) (209) than to the United Nations (193).

Diego Maradona, the great Argentinian footballer, expresses this idea aptly, "Football isn’t a game or a sport, it’s a religion." Since many religions have a god, it is not inappropriate to speak of a football god.

"Soccer isn’t the same as Bach or Buddhism," concedes Franklin Foer, American author of the book, How Soccer Explains the World. He continues, "But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community’s fabric, a repository of traditions."

Albert Camus, the French philosopher, claimed, "Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football." This helps explain why the idea of switching football clubs seems to many fans to be a form of idolatry, a worship of other gods. It seems that the football god has many guises.

Eric Cantona, the French footballer and occasional philosopher, has observed, “You can change your wife, your politics, your religion… but never, never, can you change your favorite football team.” Football is the greatest god of all, since it takes many different, local forms that demand faithful, obedient worship.

A poll in England confirms this. Three-quarters (74.9%) of football season-ticket holders would sooner change their religion than the team they follow, while only one in 10 (10.2%) feel the opposite. Even among less passionate fans, who attend only one or more games per season, well over half (55.6%) say they are more likely to change their religion than their team, while only 17.9% disagree.

How do football fans worship? Thousands of people congregate in large cathedral-like buildings. They sing songs and anthems, and unfurl banners. The actual worship begins as the players run onto the field of play at the start of the match. The great Scottish footballer, Bill Shankly, has said, "Some people think football's a matter of life and death. I can assure them it is much more serious than that." What a god they worship!

In addition to these cathedrals, or stadiums, as football fans call them, there is further evidence of worship of a divinity. Promising or proven managers are labelled "messiahs." Players become idolized and are referred to, not entirely ironically, as "God." But the same players who controversially sign for a rival club are literally branded as "Judas." Violence is yet another trait that football shares with at least some religions.

Once every four years the football world goes mad. When religion and nationalism are combined, the result is explosive. This year, with the World Cup being played in Brazil, these traits are not only more evident but they are intensified in what is arguably the most football-crazed country in the world.

Brazil has built seven new venues and renovated five others in twelve cities located in all the main regions of the country. The total cost to Brazil is estimated to be $14 billion, but much of this money could have been better spent on other, much more needed infrastructure projects.

The social cost has been enormous. A huge chunk of the budget has been used on building the stadiums -- at the cost of improved highways, subway systems, airports and ports. In addition, 30,000 families in Rio de Janeiro were reportedly forced to move for the games, and the overall number of displaced people country-wide is reported to be 170,000. The number of displaced people from what are often very poor areas of cities was enormous. There have been complaints as well over the compensation offered for people's homes, while many of the areas designated for relocation have been both distant and incomplete.

Both the financial and social costs indicate the priority of Brazil. It is a nation that worships at the feet of the football god. The country has spared no expense in order to impress the world with these stadiums. Moreover, it expects to win the World Cup. Anything less, would be regarded as failure.

If any further evidence for Brazilian football worship is needed, one need look no further than the devotion of most Brazilians offer to their local team. This apparently exceeds that of their devotion to their national team. Their love for their clubs is unconditional, enduring even great hardship. Fans will stick by their teams even more strongly when teams risk being relegated to the second division.

And if football is a religion to Brazilians, the Maracana is their favorite church. The famed stadium in Rio, which hosts the Cup championship match, is where many fanatics flock to on Sundays to worship their clubs at play. People claim that there is nothing like watching a match at a packed Maracana.

Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

The football god is a false god that developed in Christian soil. In this respect, it is much like Marxism, which also makes great promises, but cannot deliver. One cannot disentangle football from the culture from which it emerged.

Perhaps the pervasiveness of the football god in Brazil should not be surprising. This is a country that is noted for its syncretism -- the ability to blend elements from various religions and create something new. The football god is an example. Many other countries have done the same.

Unfortunately, when this god fails to deliver, an entire nation will not only be disappointed but may despair and lose its faith, at least temporarily. Spain, the World Cup Champion in 2010, has already suffered this fate a this year's tournament. More nations will experience the same fate when the new champion is crowned.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the corruption associated with football, especially the FIFA World Cup. In every tournament there are charges about referees who favor a country for personal or financial reasons, because they were bribed. This year many expect the referees to favor Brazil, the expected winner. There is also controversy about how Qatar was awarded the World Cup tournament for 2022.

This year I am cheering for the Netherlands, the country where I was born. Although I now live in Canada, I am a dual citizen. I cannot cheer for Canada, since it failed to qualify among the 32 nations that are competing this time. I pray that the country of my birth will not be among the 31 nations that are doomed to fail in 2014. But I am afraid that many of these countries will blame the football god that so many worship.

It is just a game, after all. But what a game!

One of these countries will win the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Piketty and inequality

God may have created us as equals, but soon we realize that we are not. Inequality confronts us everywhere in our genes, our gender, and -- most crucially today -- our wealth, because that is perhaps the most important  measure for many people. Now along comes a French economist, Thomas Piketty (pronounced: pick a TEA), who claims that this last inequality is getting worse in his newly published work, Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century.

Up until early this year, few people anywhere, even in France, had heard of Piketty, whose 927-page French version of his book came out in August 2013. The English edition, however, which appeared in March 2014, is only 577 pages, but it has already made him a celebrity everywhere. Amazon now lists it as the top-selling book, fiction included.

The title clearly alludes to Karl Marx's Das Kapital, which appeared in 1867 in German and was not translated into English for two decades, but took five years to sell the first 1000 copies in the original language.

Since I am not an economist. I have had to rely heavily on several articles the The Economist has written on Piketty and his theories on inequality. He uses many charts, many of which are not easy to understand.

Piketty, who is a pioneer in using tax statistics to measure inequality, painstakingly documents the evolution of income and wealth over the past 300 years, particularly in Europe and America. He shows that the period from about 1914 to the 1970s was an historical anomaly in which both income inequality and the stock of wealth relative to annual national income fell dramatically. Since then, however, both wealth and income gaps have been rising back towards their pre-20th-century norms.

Piketty’s has come up with a theory of capitalism that explains these facts, and offers a prediction of where wealth distribution is heading -- the wrong way. He claims that the free-market system has a natural tendency towards increasing the concentration of wealth, because the rate of return on property and investments has consistently been higher than the rate of economic growth.

Two world wars, the Great Depression and high taxes have pushed down the return on wealth in the 20th century, while rapid productivity and population rises have pushed up growth. Without these countervailing factors, however, higher returns on capital will concentrate wealth, especially when, as now, an ageing population means that growth should slow. The current recession is an additional factor that slows growth.

The surge in inequality has economists today wondering, as Karl Marx and David Ricardo did, which forces may stopping the fruits of capitalism from being more widely distributed. Inequality does not appear to ebb as economies mature nor does the share of income flowing to capital stay roughly constant over time.

Piketty argues that there is no reason to think that capitalism will “naturally” reverse rising inequality. There are too many factors that influence inequality and cause it to ebb and flow.

The centerpiece of Piketty’s analysis, as The Economist explains it, is the ratio of an economy’s capital or its wealth to its annual output. From 1700 until the first world war, the stock of wealth in Western Europe hovered at around 700% of national income. Over time the composition of wealth changed; agricultural land declined in importance while industrial capital --  factories, machinery and intellectual property -- gained prominence. Yet wealth held steady at a high level (see above chart, first panel).

Pre-1914 economies were very unequal. In 1910 the top 10% of European households controlled almost 90% of all wealth. The flow of rents and dividends from capital contributed to high inequality of income; the top 10% captured more than 45% of all income. Piketty’s work suggests there was little sign of any natural decline in inequality on the outbreak of the first world war.

The wars and depressions between 1914 and 1950 dragged the wealthy back to earth. Wars brought physical destruction of capital, nationalization, taxation and inflation, while the Great Depression destroyed fortunes through capital losses and bankruptcy. Yet capital has been rebuilt, and the owners of capital have prospered once more. From the 1970s the ratio of wealth to income has grown along with income inequality, and levels of wealth concentration are approaching those of the pre-war era.

Piketty describes these trends through what he calls two “fundamental laws of capitalism”. The first explains variations in capital’s share of income (as opposed to the share going to wages). The rate of return is the sum of all income flowing to capital -- rents, dividends and profits -- as a percentage of the value of all capital.

Piketty second law is that over long periods and under the right circumstances the stock of capital, as a percentage of national income, should approach the ratio of the national-savings rate to the economic growth rate. Whether this is a “law” or not, the important point is that a lower growth rate is conducive to higher concentrations of wealth.

You see now why I have relied on The Economist to explain Piketty's arguments, which involve a lot of economic jargon. I want to introduce Piketty to any readers who may be unfamiliar with his thought, yet I do not want to misrepresent him. 

His claim that inequality is increasing has profound implications today, even if not everyone is agreed with his premises nor his conclusions. Everyone does concede that Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century is an impressive piece of scholarship.

There has been a lot of criticism of Piketty. He has been criticized especially for his misuse of statistics and for his policy proposals. Space does not permit a detailed analysis of this criticism, but one example of each may be helpful in assessing Piketty's contribution to the inequality debate.

Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times, claims Piketty’s statistics on wealth distribution are undermined by a series of problems. Some numbers, he says, "appear simply to be constructed out of thin air.".He questions Piketty's use of his own sources. And he adds: "The conclusions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century do not appear to be backed by the book’s own sources."

The editors of The Economist conclude that while Piketty may be guilty of sloppiness in his use of statistics, his findings on the concentration of wealth has not been undermined: "He has pulled them together in what remains an impressive piece of scholarship.".

Piketty has provided a detailed response to the critique of Giles, but The Economist suspects that Giles will not be satisfied with the response, thus the discussion is likely to continue. But increasingly the battle seems to be one over methodological choices and data interpretation rather than major data errors or fabrications, as the initial FT work suggested.

In terms of policy proposals, Piketty has also been criticized for his prescription of a progressive global tax on capital, an annual levy that could start at 0.1% and hit a maximum of perhaps 10% on the largest fortunes. He also suggests a punitive 80% tax rate on incomes above $500,000 or so.

The Economist has dismissed this prescription as "socialist ideology" and his book as "a poor blueprint for action." Yet this conclusion is hardly surprising considering the liberal bias of that newspaper. Yet they have tried to provide a fair analysis of Piketty's ideas

What are we left with after the dust has settled? Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century is a fine piece of scholarship which, while not without its flaws, has effectively used statistics to bolster its claim about the increasing inequality in many parts of the world. Whether its prescription is feasible, is something that is not easy to decide.

Nevertheless, Piketty's warning is valid. If his premises are correct, after several decades of free market mania, the world is headed to superinequality, something that has possibly never been seen before. Increasingly, more and more wealth will be gained off the backs of the 99 percent, and less and less will be earned through hard work.

Is that what we want? Emphatically not!. But what can we do? First of all, I suggest that all those who are concerned about the growing inequality acquaint themselves with Piketty's magnum opus. I admit that I have not yet read the book, but I have tried to read as much as I could about it in order to learn more about the problem of inequality. Now, perhaps, I should put my money where my mouth is and buy this best-seller.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A retrospective on Tiananmen Square: Will China ever become a democracy?

On June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square, democracy in China was crushed under the treads of tanks. While the goals of the student protesters included corruption and nepotism, democracy was very much on their minds during the seven weeks that the protests continued until brutal force was used to end them.

Much has been written about the June 4 or Tiananmem Square Massacre, but there is much that the Chinese people and the outside world still does not know about what happened that day. For one thing, the name of the single pedestrian who stopped a line of tanks near Tiananmen Square remains unknown, yet for Westerners his courage is the iconic image that persists of this protest that took place 25 years ago.

In China, "Tank Man," as he is known, is a nobody from a non-event. "Young people have very little idea what happened in 1989 and very little curiosity or interest," says Louisa Lim, an NPR correspondent and the author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia (published June 4), which vividly describes the horror of 1989 and its aftermath through the eyes of eyewitnesses.

She writes that in four top Beijing universities, just 15 out of 100 students shown the "Tank Man" photo last year could identify it. To those who watched it unfold an overturning of Chinese Communist rule seemed genuinely possible in 1989. Then, on the night of June 3, the People’s Liberation Army turned its guns on the people. The iconic image of "Tank Man" was made on June 5, but many deaths happened the previous day.

A long shot of "Tank Man" and the tanks on Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989

Today, the exact death toll from the protests also remains unknown. The crackdown left an estimated 500 to 2,600 dead,  China's official death toll is 246. About 5000 soldiers as well as 2000 civilians were injured.

The pro-democracy movement and massacre are not even taught in Chinese schools, and images and information about the event have been scrubbed from the Internet. All web searches for "June 4, 1989" are denied by Chinese servers, as as the numerous ways to circumvent this, such as a search for "May 35."

The writer Paul French has described the protests and their denouement as “the most pivotal moment in modern China’s history." In 1989, for the first time in the history of the People’s Republic of China, “people power” threatened to defeat the iron fist of the state. 

On May 20, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had imposed martial law and truckloads of soldiers began travelling into Beijing, with orders to secure Tiananmen Square. But only a few miles into their mission throngs of civilians hemmed in the trucks. 

They explained why they were protesting and asked the army to “go home”; a few days later, the troops retreated. “You might have said that our army was big and powerful,” one of the soldiers later told Lim, “but at that time… we felt very useless.”

Protesters around replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square,  June 2, 1989
In order to reassert authority over the capital in early June, the government needed to mobilize armed divisions that were personally loyal to the country’s veteran leader, Deng Xiaoping.

The crackdown of spring 1989 has transformed the destinies of the student leaders, who have had to live with the consequences of their activism in prison terms, exile and political marginalization. But these events have also fundamentally shaped the China during the past two and a half decades.

The bloody suppression of dissent also led directly to contemporary China’s headlong drive for materialism: China’s post-1989 leaders accelerated economic reforms, while slamming the door on political liberalization. The Chinese state’s decision to resort to violence in 1989 was a harsh reminder of the ruthlessness of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The Party’s chief concern was the preservation of its power; that power came out of the barrel of a gun. Popular fear of state violence and preservation of stability have consequently become two of the defining features of post-Tiananmen Chinese politics.

And the protests of 1989  transformed the ideological agenda of the CCP. In order to demonize, and then in order to block the events of 1989 from public memory, one of its most successful post-Mao political crusades, called Patriotic Education, was developed. 

Protesters stand atop government vehicle on Chang'an Boulevard, June 4, 1989

Looking for a new state religion around which the country could rally, the Party reinvented itself as defender of the national interest against Western attempts to contain a rising China.

To dislodge the worship of the West that had helped foment much of the unrest leading to 1989, Patriotic Education campaigns were waged in textbooks, newspapers, films and monuments that emphasized China’s “century of humiliation” (1840-1949) that were inflicted by foreign imperialism, while passing over the CCP’s own acts of violence, such as the man-made famine of the Sixties, the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 crackdown..

Lim's book features an extraordinary array of witnesses: a soldier-turned-artist who observed first hand the planning and implementation of the military crackdown; the parents of victims of the violence; two of the “most wanted” student leaders; and a high-ranking CCP official purged for his liberal stance.

The book also explores the ways the violence has been so successfully deleted from public consciousness, and the social and political costs of this amnesia. The process began with a vigorous propaganda campaign blaming the violence of June 3-4 on counter-revolutionary rioting and Western conspiracies against China. It then went on to erase from history any mention of the massacre, while drawing renewed attention to Western historical crimes against China. 

Bodies of dead protesters and destroyed bicycles filled Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989

According to Lim, nationalism and cynicism have taken over from the political idealism of the Eighties to become the new religions of China. Even young Chinese who have some awareness of what happened in 1989 want to join the Party, since membership is seen as a fast track to wealth. 

Materialism also belong on this list of Chinese religions. Corruption will continue unabated. After the crushing of the protests in 1989, corruption, as already noted, has increased.

Lim’s final chapter, on the less-publicized crackdown in Chengdu, is a case study “in first rewriting history, then excising it altogether.”.The lack of foreign media footage in combination with state repression enabled the authorities to conceal perhaps hundreds of deaths.

According to The Telegraph, for all the suffering and sacrifice generated by the protests of 1989, few tangible reforms have resulted. Chinese people now enjoy a much greater degree of freedom in their personal and economic lives than they did in the Eighties: some 440 million have been lifted out of poverty. 

Yet these new liberties can be abruptly curtailed when the interests of the state are implicated. One of the chief complaints of the 1989 protests was official corruption, which had blossomed as Communist China’s planned economy lurched towards market reforms. 

Hong Kong protests mark 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, June 1, 2014
Elsewhere in China no protests have been permitted, especially this year

In the 25 years since, the problem has grown to staggering proportions. In May this year, for example, more than a ton of cash (literally) was found in one official’s home. This melancholy reality notwithstanding, Lim has courageously battled state-imposed amnesia, forcing us to remember the human cost of China’s 1989.

Will China ever become a democracy? Obviously 1989 did not result in democracy. A quarter of a century later, democracy is still far becoming a reality for China's huge population, but perhaps the next 25 years will see the birth of democracy in China.

Democracy comes in many flavors. The Chinese flavor will be uniquely Chinese. If and when democracy is finally achieved, it will only happen, I suspect, when China  has become the pre-eminent economic power in the world and the CCP no longer feels threatened and may dissolve. 

The first will happen sooner rather than later, but the second not happen for a long time. Thus democracy may have to wait. That is a pity for almost one quarter of the human race.