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East vs West: governments

Politics do not reflect the country directly – but indirectly, since they reflect the culture and the people.
Sometimes a politician is liked because he is able to do something his or her voters cannot do themselves.
Sometimes a politician is voted because there are no other options.
Sometimes a politician uses trickery and false promises to get more votes without being able to satisfy the needs of his or her people.
Sometimes a politician forgets he or she is a servant (as per the origin of the word “minister”, servant) of the people and not the opposite.
That political activity is the way to satisfy the needs of their citizens, and not one’s own.
But in theory, being a politician is not a goal. It’s a tool to achieve greatness for the common benefit of your country.
Also we need to remember: the citizens of a country are represented by their Prime Minister, but that does not mean they are exactly the same like the Prime Minister. And probably many of those citizens may not appreciate each single thing done by the Prime Minister, but still give their vote for the general output. Not all citizens of China support the politics of One Belt, One Road, not all Italians agree with staying inside European Union, but most of both people care about the national values of their respective countries. Which means that a politician who is able to follow and protect those values is able to earn the respect of fellow citizens. And those values are very slow to change over time, so it is good to be aware of them. Of course, the opposition to the politician may use the same logic to attack and slow down the progress of the government – by saying that their reforming is just going against the values, or something like that – so we can say that being a politician is like walking on a narrow path made of the values of the population. A misstep may void all that was done before.
But let’s try to see the differences between Eastern and Western civilizations, with specific examples.


Italy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is conte.jpg
Giuseppe Conte, 58th Prime Minister of Italy. On the background, a picture of Sergio Mattarella, 12th President of Italy.

Italian politics are kind of a mess. Each government since a long time is destined to end abruptly due to lack of agreement within the internal coalition as well as attacks from the opposition.
Italian values, like family, self-reliance, safety and friendship permeate the politics, and many political parties owe their popularity to a single person who was able to sway enough favor from the people, especially by leveraging on those values.
Current politicians work on their popularity through social networking and accurately selecting their own social staff to make sure they publish the right thing, at the right time, with the right description. It’s not just a matter of selecting the hashtag: it is like playing stocks. One minute later your post will be useless, but two minutes later it is going to be a boom.
The current Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has been brought to politics through a compromise of power among the most popular party and the leading party of the most popular coalition. Although his first part of politics was mostly working in the shadow of two political leaders, formally being his “second in command”, but in practice each doing their own thing, he got grip of the situation once it shifted: first, by letting out the leading party of the most popular coalition from the government and letting the second most popular coalition join the government; second, by taking over the situation during the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy and saying words that Italians, at least italian politicians, forgot the existence of: “I’m taking responsibility”. After this, Giuseppe Conte’s popularity increased and whether the party he comes from will keep being popular or not, it does not matter: he is being described as a man who grew up through his experience. It makes sense that in a period where politics are made by deep and cold calculators, a person who cares not about the next elections but about trying to do the right thing (at least in the intentions, because it is technically hard for his competences as a lawyer to know how to handle a disease outbreak) is extremely appreciated by many who had lost faith in politics and politicians.
The support of president Mattarella, who, although a figurehead, was able to support Italians even when government was done by less capable people, is another important aspect of italian politics.

A recent quote from Conte: Quando si difende il proprio Paese non si fanno calcoli. Io sono convinto, lo dico con tutta la prudenza che mi contraddistingue, che la storia è con noi. E vedremo alla fine quale piega prenderà.
Translated as:
When defending one’s own Nation there is no calculation to be made. I’m convinced, I’m saying it regardless of my typical caution, that history is with us. And we shall see, at the end, what direction (history) will take.


China

Xi Jinping, 7th President of The People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China

China boasts a very unique government. The only big country still having a communist party ruling, the current government is actually a “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, and it should not be confused with communism, because China is stressing more and more the idea of making their own road than following the footsteps of others since its early years. China’s way can be only thought and realized by Chinese, and it is not possible to extend this approach to other countries, either.
Chinese values include meritocracy, hardworking, respect for others, cultural assimilation, collectivism and learning from past mistakes.
While Chinese people have been taught that they need to improve, and learn from others – especially from the same foreigners who once managed to beat China due to Qing dynasty’s poor judgement – most of them also have a genuine and strong love for their country and they are inheriting a plurimillennial culture and history. In this aspect, they are similar to Italians: proud of their history, proud of their country. Inside their own country the tend to criticize a lot, but outside many of them would defend as they can – sometimes by pointing out another country’s own mistakes.
As a matter of fact, while inside Chinese socials you may find criticism (not always constructive) of the choices of the government, outside Chinese socials there is an extremely small minority of Chinese who would criticize China (especially when attacked by others).
The current Chairman of China, Xi Jinping, came out of a long career in politics. Starting from zero and at a young age, reaching the top leading positions by working from behind and avoiding to take too much attention on himself and on his thought, his popularity exploded once he reached the position of Chairman. What was supposed to be a moderate figurehead, unable to modify the status quo, became a prevalent leader able to change China forever.
A recent quote from Xi Jinping: 中华民族历经磨难, 但从未被压垮过.
Translated as: The Chinese nation has experienced hardships, but it has never been crushed.

So, from the two countries we went through, what can we understand?
First, that governments all over the world are pretty unique, and their position in the world map does not really matter: you can find resemblances between Italy and China, for example, because of their history – being occupied by foreign powers while having been a great power in the past, and trying to achieve again past greatness.
Second, that there are politicians that, regardless of how they got to power, will do their best to serve their people and have their country prosper. As well as the opposite. Some of them work on the short term – perhaps to get a better recognition – while others like to work from behind to ensure long term prosperity. Depending on the context, short term prosperity may be more important than the long term one, and viceversa.
Third, that without a deep understanding of the culture and values behind each country, and knowing well their recent as well as their remote history, it is not right to judge the decisions of a population to vote for a specific person – or to not mass revolt or protest.
Fourth, that internal affairs of each country can be, usually, understood only by who lives there, and not even everybody. Although expressing an opinion is free for all to do, taking charge of a country and acting without knowing exactly what is going on is going to create problems for sure, especially in international relations, which are really delicate because it requires both sides to have a mutual understanding of each’s problems and a willingness to solve them, while to fight it out is much more simple – just need one side to stop caring about the other one, and show military strength.
Fifth, the words used by the leaders of similar countries may also be similar. Notice how both Giuseppe Conte and Xi Jinping speak about the past greatness of their country, and how they are sure will overcome anything: this can be found also before COVID-19 period. Of course, Giuseppe Conte and Xi Jinping are totally different individuals: the way they talk, their political career, their studies – but the country they represent, the people they serve, the values they protect may not be that different after all.

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