Rulers of 1.2 billion



The Catholic Church and the Chinese government, within a 24 hour space, both finalized their leaders. The church chose and anointed Pope Francis. The party completed its leadership succession by appointing Xi Jinping as president of China, the third and last position he needed to become the new ruler of the Middle Kingdom.

The number of Catholics and Chinese in the world are roughly the same: they are each around 1.2 billion strong. And they overlap by a few tens of millions, depending on exactly how many Catholic Christians there are. After that, however, the two institutions are about as far apart as human organisations come. And that difference is why the expectations of Pope Francis and President Xi have so much distance between them.

The church is, in effect, a networked global civil society. Beijing is a super-state, a remarkably control freaky government. The pope offers guidance and then tries to keep his scattered flock walking down the path he has offered. Xi has to get his party leadership behind him, but he effectively rules by collective diktat.

Yet Pope Francis, like most popes in recent times, will face no threat of overthrow and whatever dissent he faces will be small ripples on otherwise placid ocean. Xi, like all his predecessors, will fret about social unrest and challenges to the party authority. China is cracking down on something or another pretty much all the time.

The difference I ascribe to the pope’s having a greater legitimacy than a Chinese president. Authority is about the exercise of power without violence — the greater the authority, the less the violence. The secret sauce is legitimacy. If people believe a government or person is exercising legitimate power, most of them will obey, even if they grumble.

A lack of legitimacy requires authority that has to often be coercive in nature. People will be prone to disobey or even revolt if they believe the power behind the orders is questionable.

A pope, being the intermediary between his followers and the word of god, is pretty hard to beat when it comes to legitimacy. There is little unanimity within the Catholic about a host of issues. But no one is calling for the overthrow of the pope.

Xi will emerge arguably the strongest Chinese leaders since Deng Xiaoping. But he will obsesses with internal security as much as his predecessors. If he is to carry out second generation economic reforms in Chine, the mandate of heaven will become uneasy as the social pain of the reforms bites.

But Pope Francis will be hard put to do root and branch change in his sprawling organisation. Assuming, of course, that he even wants to do so. Chinese reform, going by past record, will be relatively rapid, top down and will not lack for political will.

Xi is already shoring up his legitimacy by loudly broadcasting austerity and trying to portray himself as “a man of the people.” The pope doesn’t have to — that was already built into his lifestyle and, in any case, he doesn’t need that sort of public relations gimmickry.

China’s political legitimacy has traditionally derived from a small elite ruling through the application of “correct ideology.” Right now, the ideological content of Beijing’s rule is very thin. The church, for all its internal rows, is still quite coherent. It’s almost self-defining: if you lose your faith, you cease to be part of the flock.

Beijing congratulated Pope Francis and then warned him against interfering in the Chinese Catholic Church’s internal runnings — a long running feud between the two. The Vatican is not known to have responded. All the cards lie in China’s hands. But the lesson of the Dalai Lama is that a moral dissident can remain very powerful if he or she can continue to hold the high ground. Religious leaders lack power, but they have legitimacy in spades. And this gives them the strength to quietly wait out temporal opponents.

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  • SAMIR

    good article.

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  • Ritesh

    This is an intelligent and well reasoned rant, I am ashamed that while we have people in power, there are no leaders in India.

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  • Jaichands of India

    The bitter fact is that both Centre and the Maharashtra governments failed dismally; yet India rewarded them with a resounding win in 2009. Therefore, the people of India actually do deserve what they get. Tough, but unavoidable. The reality is also that at that time the Vir Sanghvi’s (later day Jaichands) were singing paens of the rotten governments and now come up with the facts that they always knew to be the truth. These traitors are equally culpable.

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  • Mythbreaker

    we are a soft state question is can we survive as a soft state in 21 century you loose security you loose it all there should be no compromise on internal security that means no appeasement of any community
    India does need a right wing nationalist moment

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001904292850 Raj Singh

    Dude well written and good research work.

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  • Cheryllne

    Thank you for this timely piece. Exquisitely and thoughtfully written.

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  • Akash Satyawali

    I really don`t understand what was meant to be conveyed by the article. Let me start with the last line where you say, it took the nation to handle those terrorists, and the price was paid by Bombay. You seem to toe the line of Shiv Sena here. And the part on the authorities should have informed the media o not cover it, didn`t the media have that sense? At places you narrate it like you were there present when everything took place. I mean what do you exactly think this is? A movie? Whatever happened should surely not be repeated, another thing that does not need to be repeated is an article as such. Just dont understand why people have voted it 5 on5, when other posts happen to be better.

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  • SK

    Hindsight is 20-20, which is what Vir is harping on. It possibly could have been prevented, as was 9/11, but that is an irrelevant question today. Today the question that needs to be asked is what has changed to prevent something like this from happening again? Is there better coordination in place between the intelligence agencies, and how fast is the reaction time once there is an intelligence input. What organisational changes are in place to intercept the next terror attack, whether home grown or from across the border.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jyothi.shankaran.1 Jyothi Shankaran

    How true. So much information and nobody acted. What a shame! And we were acting as if we were taken by surprise! So, how did the govt come back to power in 2009?

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  • Anonymous

    It’s always easy to do post analysis and blame. Given the Indian geography, population composition, maturing democracy and very many other factors, it’s very difficult to draw certain strategies. We also suffer from enemy within, which make life even more difficult. It’s probably only the time which will make us more responsible in tackling such terror related problems.
    By the way lets also respect the fact that Bombay was renamed to it’s original name Mumbai. If journalist like Vir doesn’t follow the protocol, how do you expect ordinary people of India would?

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  • patriot

    You can not really say all failed Bombay on 26/11 but blame it on poor adminstration and police who is nothing but”Nikami”Please watch Farid Zakaria HBO made documentry on 26/11.Many of our problems are because of Congress party who has appeased all along muslims and that is why we have some enemies within.Corruption is another evil ailment which is part and parcel of Congress party and if you look honestly we have chaos every where.Surprisingly this party is winning again and again because of solid muslims and majority Christian votes.We need immediate change and new honest educated party otherwised we are doomed and there will be no end like Bombay carnage.After 26/11 our Government is doing business with Pakistan as usual like nothing has happened.

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  • raj

    ok, we had intel about this, but when polic start investigation, so called secular brigade will shout innocent slims harassed. when police hv proof of bombs, again secular brigade will shout, police don’t know about bombs, and even its a bomb it was not exploded. after explosion, what use in catching terrorist, when they work from pakistan, so we should improve relationship with pakistan to get culprits. you are alos member of this brigade , mr vir… stop this crocodile tears.
    its reading articles like this which makes me angry.

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  • Ramesh Kumar

    First of all ,instead of attack on Mumbai ,we must say it was attack on India.THe biggest tragedy of the nation is ,we talk as if it was a local incident.IT WAS NOT ATTACK OM MUMBAI BUT ON INDIA.
    Remember initial reactions of pm and other congress leaders.what happened after few months ,we were sending dossiers to pakistan.IS THIS THE WAY TO DEAL ATTACK ON SOVERGNITY OF A NATION.
    Media was playing its role.You could hear sentences like ,how fast life in mumbai became normal.What do we expect from those who are not dead,not to work ,not to eat or live.
    People after cremating even their dear ones has to become normal.
    I feel sad on whole approach.

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  • KSAM

    I am sad to read the story and he is right that our force could save the people but i think this was a planned attack on Mumbai and some big shots were involved. in one sentence i will say This was happened to eliminate The Great Karkare the ATS chief.For this shameful attack we will blame our Leaders(Both from congress and BJP RSS ShivSena) those are selling the country for their selfishness.At that time where were our bravo Shiv Sainiks those say they are nationalist.

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  • Asifiya

    We can expect this from our politicians but Muslims who call Islam a religion of peace can carry this massacre of civilians in name of Islam is more shocking. Besides 26/11, Mumbai has been hit many times by terrorists- all Indian Muslims- acting in name of Islam. This is something we need to debate as well.

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  • http://twitter.com/aumshanti1 aum shanti

    veer sanchvi is kayar sanghvi who is anti national congress’s paid anti national who is hired by hindustan times to get more advertisements

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  • Raj Nath

    For this Dalal, every one can fail, but the only infallible is the Corrupt Party and its Italian ex-maid, University-drop out “hope of the nation” etc etc.
    Sure we know how inept our Police are: didn’t Haji Mastaan, Karim Lala and then Dawood ibrahim build huge fortunes and operate “large-scale operations” with impunity for decades?
    Who are to blame, the police officials whose hands get tied by our beloved Gandhian Congress-men, and inured into protecting the turfs of their political masters or the political leaders who have not only emasculated our police and Army. Our judiciary that permits anti-nationals to conspire against our nation and go hammer and tongs against political rivals, who are out of power?
    There is a large-scale systematic conspiracy of weakening the nation and looting of the treasury, just pointing at the police who are at the receiving end and have to fend for themselves and expecting them to give up their lives when they have paid huge amounts to secure a job, obtained sans merit, is expecting a potato to do the work of a sword in that crucial moment of test of character.

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  • sandeep deshmukh

    Mr. veera Sangvi article is nothing bt the same pompous trumpeting about all that is under the sun and hw he has the best knowledge about it. the fact of the matter is Veera Sanghvi is urban coctail drinking and 5star seelping urchin who never sees how the rest have FAILES MUMBAI, but yeah, VEERA SANGVHI is up in arms when something remotest happens to the neo-rich.

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  • patriot

    Why telling all failed Bombay on 26/11 when it was adminstration and “Nikammi”police responsible for it.But our Government is doing business with terrorist country Pakistan as usual like nothing happened on 26/11 and LeT is now threatning to attack on Vishno Devi temple in Jammu.Untill and unless appeasement by our Government will not stop to muslims we will be always in trouble.It was big mistake to keep muslims after partition.Please see documentry on Mumbai terror narrated by Farid Zakaria and produced by HBO.

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  • Girish Kumar

    Why Sanghvi has not spoken a word against the media, which was broadcasting the events live and giving out details on the location of hostages, the placement of snipers, the movement of the police and commandos? Apart from the government, the media is equally culpable in its amateur handling of the 26/11 events.

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  • KP

    sensible comparison

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