Resilient Authoritarianism and Soft Power


Last Thursday I was driving into Canberra and had the opportunity to listen to Richard McGregor’s interview with Margaret Throsby on ABC’s Classic FM. Richard McGregor is the author of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers published in June 2010. I had heard an earlier interview with Phillip Adams too.

Both interviews left me with a desire to explore the combination of resilient authoritarianism and soft power as a leadership style relevant to sport contexts. Richard explored both characteristics in his interviews. His study of the Chinese Communist party provides enormous detail about the processes and outcomes of a distinctive, transforming leadership practice. This is a link to a talk Richard gave at the Lowy Institute.

Penguin Australia’s trail for the book is: “It is impossible to understand China without really knowing who is in charge. And this book tackles the subject head on. How did China’s Communists merge Marx, Mao and the market to create a new superpower? How can they maintain such a grip on power in the face of a changing world.”

Resilient Authoritarianism

A lot of the references to ‘resilient authoritarianism’ are linked to China. For example, Andrew Nathan (2006) points out that he describes China’s authoritarian regime as resilient “because it remains robustly authoritarian and securely in power”. He suggests that some signs of the regime’s resilience are:

  • Hu Jintao’s smooth succession to power in 2002-2003 and his consolidation of power since then.
  • The regime’s ability to discern problems in economy and society and to make policy changes to respond to these problems.
  • High levels of support for the regime in public opinion.
  • The inability of social discontent and political dissent to cumulate.

He adds that the roots of the regime’s grip on power include:

  • Economic growth has improved the welfare of most of the population, giving them a stake in the survival of the current regime as long as they continue to benefit from its policies and its stability.
  • The regime has scored real as well as perceived achievements in foreign policy, such as securing the 2008 Olympics for Beijing …
  • The regime maintains a variety of safety-valve institutions which, however ineffective they are, nonetheless offer dissatisfied citizens an alternative to opposing the ruling party.
  • The regime has been able to use repression to prevent the rise of any substantial political opposition.
  • The regime has managed the far-flung and complex propaganda system in such a way that the broad public perceives diversity and significant freedom in the media, while at the same time sensitive political messages are eliminated from the public sphere.
  • The Party has developed the ability to co-opt economic and social elites, so that it is “the only game in town” for ambitious persons.
  • The regime has the necessary policy-making systems in place to respond to economic and social change.
  • Crucial to the resilience of the regime is the elite’s will to power. The leadership hangs together.

Art Hutchinson explores the relationship between resilience and robustness. He notes that ‘resilient authoritarianism’ is:

a strange combination, to be sure, and in fact ‘robustness‘ rather than resilience may be a better term for the Chinese government. The former connotes sheer strength and durability; the latter is more characteristic of a system that’s able to bounce back seamlessly (or nearly so) from a wide array of unanticipated shocks and challenges. It’s a distinction many large organizations should take to heart–and many have.

He argues that the true resilience of highly distributed systems tends to triumph due to:

  1. Greater adaptability (they can deform in extreme ways without disintegrating altogether) and;
  2. The speed with which they can route around ‘failure’.

Soft Power

Joseph Nye (2008) points out that soft power is:

the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion or payment. A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies. A smart power strategy combines hard and soft power resources.

Ernest Wilson (2008) suggests that smart power is defined as:

the capacity of an actor to combine elements of hard power and soft power in ways that are mutually reinforcing such that the actor’s purposes are advanced effectively and efficiently.

It strikes me that attraction and advancing purposes effectively and efficiently are characteristics of good coaching.

Leadership in Sport

The discussion of authoritarianism and soft power in political science resonates for me with discussions about effective coaching. In writing this post I was taken back to Muska Mosston’s work in identifying and discussing The Spectrum of Teaching Styles. The Spectrum builds upon the premise that teaching behavior is a chain of decision making. Every deliberate act of teaching is a result of a previous decision.

Jonathan Doherty (2003) points out that Mosston’s ideas on the interactions between teacher and student have provided a framework for teaching physical education in different contexts all over the world. He notes that in the 1970s it was described as “the most significant advance in the theory of physical education pedagogy in recent history”. (For a recent discussion of the pedagogical approaches in the Spectrum see Sicilia-Camacho and Brown (2008). Jaekwon Na (2009) provides an example of the use of the Spectrum in the teaching of Taekwando. Shirley Gray (2009) and her colleagues look at the teaching of invasive games.

I see an important link between deliberate acts of teaching and the underlying approach to authority and control. Ian Pickup (2010) explores some of the factors that impact on teaching in his discussion of teaching young children.

Resilient behaviour in coaching for me is a fascinating mix of world view (big picture understanding) and pedagogical practice that frames deliberate acts of knowledge reproduction and production. In professional sport it requires a lot of political will too.

Richard McGregor’s insights provide an interesting guide as to how coaches might manage all three elements.

Photo Credits

Bank of China

Gentle Caress of Light

Coach 01

Social Media Sharing

I have been posting some #worldcup updates to Twitter this week. In passing I have accessed a number of links to social media resources through the serendipity of being online at just the right time. A read of Danny Brown’s 52 Cool facts About Social Media started my journey.

I delighted in finding these resources to grow my awareness of social media (driven partly by research for a paper on cloud computing and coaching).

Aggregations of Social Media Links and Guides

Jane Hart shared a great introductory guide to Social Media this week. I am constantly in awe of her awareness of social media and her energy in sharing her discoveries. This week she notes that “This is a social resource as it also provides the opportunity for you to provide your own experiences of using social tools for learning”. This is the link to the contents page of the guide.

I caught up with Darcy Moore’s Prezi presentation on Cool Online Tools too. I enjoyed reading his reflections on personal learning environments in education. “Year 11 will have virtually no opportunity, in their day at school, to use a computer or the many tools available online. During this presentation, I acknowledged that the student delegates will just have to use all this stuff at home. One kid pointed out, that even if they had DERNSW laptops, software could not be installed and many of the sites, especially social media and collaboration tools, would be blocked anyway. I was surprised at how little they knew of the tools discussed. The students were unfamiliar with all the tools, except iGoogle.”

Personal Learning Environments

David Hopkins’ post (from December 2009) shares a collection of PLE diagrams. his own is included:

I liked Skip’s video Personal Learning networks for Educators and thought it was an excellent introduction made all the better by creative editing.

After viewing Skip’s video I followed up on the The Educator’s PLN Ning site.


At the end of the week, Stephen Downes’ OLDaily led me to Teemu Leinonen’s fascinating post about the EduFeedr project (an educationally enhanced feed reader for blog-based courses). Teemu’s blog post provides some background to this project:

In spring 2008 the authors organized a course on composing free and open educational resources (in the Wikiversity). It was officially a master’s course at the University of Art and Design Helsinki. The authors decided to make the course available with an open enrollment through the Wikiversity and promoted it in their blogs. As a result about 70 people from 20 countries signed up for the course on the Wikiversity page.

The course was organized as a weekly blogging seminar. In each week the facilitators posted a weekly theme and links to related readings on the course blog. The participants reflected on the weekly theme in their personal blogs and commented their peers.

One of the challenges in a large blog-based course is to follow all the communication. Typically this communication takes place not only in blogs but also in other environments such as Delicious, Twitter, etc. Most of these environments provide RSS feeds but typical RSS readers are not very suitable for following this kind of courses. Most of the RSS readers such as Google Reader are designed for personal use. In a Wikiversity course it would be important to have a shared feed reader that all the participants could use.

EduFeedr is a web-based feed reader that is designed specifically for following and supporting learners in open blog-based courses. The design process of EduFeedr is based on the research-based design methodology. We have organized several Wikiversity courses where we have tried out various online tools to manage the course. The initial user needs for EduFeedr came out from this contextual inquiry. Interaction design methods such as scenario-based design, user stories and paper prototyping have been used in the process.

I wondered what role Livefyre might play in stimulating other types of conversation in blog based courses. I think it my have a role to play as another communication channel and I have signed up for the Beta version scheduled for launch on 14 July. From the Livefyre blog:

Livefyre is an embeddable live commenting and conversation platform that turns comment sections into live conversations, increases the quality of those conversations, and drives traffic to content around the web. Livefyre is introducing a number of firsts into the conversation ecosystem, including conversation check-ins, real-time game mechanics, and a revolutionary moderation and reputation system. The Livefyre platform quickly and easily replaces legacy commenting systems on any site.


Dodie Ainslie shared a wide range of links and resources this week in her discussion of student publishing sites. This post is part of a wider series of posts about Writing Digitally.


EduDemic provides a guide to the 30 newest ways to use Twitter in the classroom. Later in the week Sue Waters published her Twitterholic’s guide to tweets, hashtags and all things Twitter. Sue, like Jane Hart, has a wonderful way to share ideas and practice. Her advice is “for those of you who have heard of twitter and have dismissed it thinking ‘”Twitter is for people with too much time on their hands” — think again :) Educators are connecting with each other on Twitter and using it like a big teachers lunch room that’s open 24/7 whenever they need help, assistance or just want to connect with others.”


I have been slow on the uptake of Foursquare. This week I found a guide that might help me in a post on the Accredited Online Colleges blog. The post observes that “Unlike other social networks, Foursquare encourages people to get out and enjoy their city by sharing check-ins, tips and to-dos while earning points and badges as they explore new venues and favorite hang-outs. Foursquare can also be used in education, though, for online students, lower education teachers, and in campus communities.” Thanks to this post I have 30+ ways to build my practice. A colleague is helping me with this uptake.

Bibliographic Tool

This Zotero Guide for undergraduates jumped out at me.

Cloud Opportunities

I mentioned at the start of this post that I have been writing up a paper on cloud computing and coaching. This is the abstract of my paper, Cloud Computing and Ubiquitous Support for Coaches:

Cloud computing is transforming the ways in which coaches work with athletes and enrich their own professional development. Cloud computing enables “convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction” (NIST, 2009). The pace of change in cloud computing is such that many coaches need access to and the support of educational technologists to manage their engagement with the opportunities the Internet provides. This paper presents examples of coaches’ use of cloud computing.  It explores how the openness of the cloud raises risk management issues for providers of institutional networks. The paper concludes with a discussion of the transformation of cloud resources by coaches through the use of iterative ‘good enough’ approaches to digital repositories (Lund, 2009).

References for the abstract:

Lund, T.B. (2009). Standards and Interoperability. Accessed 8 March 2010.

NIST (2009). NIST Definition of Cloud Computing v 15. Accessed 8 March 2010.

Each week I am aware of the enormous opportunities to learn about and share experiences of social media. This week I have accessed Twitter more than usual to post links to my World Cup analysis. I realise that the items noted here are a very small part of a weekly sharing that goes on in and through social media tools.

Photo Credit

How fast do you want to go?

Vale Coach Wooden

John Robert Wooden died on 4 June 2010 aged ninety-nine. The entry about him in Wikipedia celebrates his life.

This web site has wonderful information about Coach Wooden and includes his Pyramid of Success

This is a TED video from 2001 when John Wooden was ninety-one.

In one of the many obituaries written to celebrate John Wooden’s life, Peter Kerasotis notes that:

In 1948, when Wooden accepted UCLA’s head coaching job, he did so after he thought that Minnesota, which was his first choice for a head job, didn’t get back with him. It turns out, though, that bad weather had downed phone lines, which prevented Minnesota’s officials from contacting him. When they finally did, and offered him a job, Wooden had already told UCLA yes, and he couldn’t go back on his word.

In another Bill Dwyre observes of an event a decade ago:

He got a call recently from somebody who wanted a copy of his new book, “WOODEN: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.” The caller said he needed the book right away, so Wooden got one off the shelf, stuffed some padding in the envelope, packaged it up, taped it shut and went out and mailed it. The man had given Wooden a collect Federal Express number, but Wooden fretted that sending the book that way would be much too costly for the caller. It never occurred to him that few Hall of Fame sports figures prepare mailings for strangers.

Bill Dwyre concludes his reminiscences thus:

On Oct. 14, 2000, he will be 90 years old. Yet he walks me out, shuffling alongside and making sure the gate is open and that I can find my way comfortably. My comfort is his. As I drive away, I remember something he told me weeks ago, a quote from Mother Teresa that he found meaningful: “A life not lived for others is not a life.” And I find myself wondering if there really is another one like him out there, or if this really is as good as it gets.

There are many Coach Wooden stories celebrated in the last week. Many of these are pervaded by his humanity and his profound commitment to education. Mike Krzyzewski‘s eloquence seems to have captured many people’s thoughts:

Today, we’ve lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of Coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the ‘gold standard’ of coaches. I believe he was the ‘gold standard’ of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden’s name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders – in any profession – of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefitted from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

Photo Credit

Basketball Hall of Fame