This has been an unusually busy electoral year across the globe. And
still two important power changes are yet to take place. In China, we
think we know what leadership change will occur at the Communist
Party's 18th National Congress, which is expected to take place Nov.
9. In the U.S., pollsters think they know who will win on that
country's election day, Nov. 6.
In both instances we, the public, will not see the outcomes until
after the event. The Chinese process is opaque, though rumors abound,
while the U.S. approach sees the characteristics of each key candidate
splashed across the media landscape at a cost of at least $1 billion.
It is just that the two systems are so noticeably different that it
opens up speculation about their methods.
What is clear, in all nations, is that the permanent staffs of
government continue through all elections or leadership changes.
These are the obscure people who are rarely exposed to the media but
whose daily task it is to advise the front-office guys - the elected
leaders who represent their people nationally and internationally. In
many developed nations the working population is about 50-60% of the
total, and of this, between one-10th to a half percent work for the
government as advisers in various capacities. The latter percentage
varies considerably as the definition of civil servant varies, even
across nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development. Herein Germany might have as many government workers as
China, though in proportion to population.
What I am trying to say is that relatively few people act as a
constraint against statements by politicians who may be fresh to their
job. The officials are supposed to analyze data without political bias
then inform their ministers.
Often an objective report is analyzed by "close advisers" who create
an appropriate political statement for ministerial consumption. It
seems that it does not matter whether the government is formed by a
democratic process, a hidden process or a military putsch; leaders
will surround themselves by a bevy of unelected advisers -
conveniently called "spin doctors" by the media. Generally I think
that Machiavellian skill can achieve change far more easily than
It is particularly important for each community to uncover the secret
advisers and make them accountable. Political tension across the globe
is too high with real conflict taking place in many areas, and
standoffs are also achieving media prominence. Spin doctors suggest,
and their mouthpieces speak; the media respond and people become
misinformed and inflamed. This heated state is worsened by politicians
becoming enticed to join the social-media revolution. I have no issue
with their tweeting, but as analysts say, "There is meaning in every
word uttered and in those left unsaid." Once incautious words are
circulated and probably distorted (who can express complexity in less
than 140 letters?) it becomes impossible for an official to instantly
clean up the mess.
We must therefore be thankful for our hidden government servants.
Presently several European nations hope to govern austerely by
reducing their civil servant numbers. This is dangerous; reduced
staffing will not be able to complete effective data and policy
analyses. In China, two million or so government officials strive to
keep up with two sides of their task - to collect reliable data and to
understand the nature of new policies received from the top tier of
government. Perhaps it is advantageous everywhere to be a little slow
in promoting change.
However, too slow an acceptance of change by the lower levels of
officialdom will lead to conflict within the sophisticated modern
globalized society. As always, balance is needed.
Therefore, we expect change to be slow in the U.S. and China. It will
take several weeks for both nations to appoint their new official
hierarchies, and then there is the holiday season of Christmas and
Chinese New Year's to be absorbed. My guess is that it will be some
six months before significant policy change is seen. Meanwhile, we
must rely on the permanent government officials to maintain the
Frank-Jürgen Richter is founder and chairman of Horasis, which hosts
annual meetings for entrepreneurs from emerging economies.
Horasis is a global visions community committed to enact visions for a sustainable future. (http://www.horasis.org)
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