Saturday, 16 June 2012

Legitimate Democracy in China

Whenever I go on a prolonged journey by rail or plane, I decide to treat myself to the glory that is TIME Magazine. I like to think my publication selection gives me a sophisticated air; plus the front pages are pretty.

Funnily enough, when these long trips occur, more often than not a China Special will be plastered on the cover. This will often tell us how China is going to eat us all, the country's rise symbolised by a picture of a dragon, a flag or something else equally non-personal. As a sino-file, I of course lap this up. It's also very nice of them to coincide their editorial decisions with my trips, thank you TIME.

In this week's Special the author of "China in Ten Words", YuHua wrote a short piece calling for political reform if China wants there to be continued economic growth.

Interestingly, YuHua never mentions the word democracy, only reform and more transparency. Part of me finds it refreshing that he declined to call for a Democratic People's Republic of China but also a little annoyed at the wishy-washy suggestions that modern China is like a junction with faulty traffic lights.

The fact is, the Chinese Communist Party is internally seen as a legitimate government by the people. They have lifted 500 million people out of poverty in the past 30 years and are providing an economy that is still growing, albeit at a slower pace now. Why would you put your prosperity into jeopardy by calling for an the implementation of an ideology (democracy) that won't necessarily work?

Honestly, if there were a referendum for a democratic government in the PRC, it probably wouldn't pass.

There have been moves to democratisation that are often cited in western literature, namely the community elections in rural villages. But this is simply to provide a different form of legitimacy. Economic growth has not reached these communities, and so they have less reason to support the Party. How do you stop these people feeling disenfranchised and left behind? Give them a say (no matter how small) in how they are governed.

Legitimate your power by giving the masses more money, property and the chance to buy Louis Vuitton. Keep the rest happy by distracting them with sudo-democracy. Get on with overtaking the USA.

Bugger all this democracy bollocks, it didn't work for the Greeks!