December 06, 2005

Does China really need to be a democracy?

The democratization of the world by the US and UK forcefully in most respects is seen with a negative view in a lot of Asian countries. I am from the world's largest democracy, and I respect it but I think that in a lot of situations it just fails to achieve anything.

China in my view is a more stable country than any of its neighbours. yes people may argue about it not being a people of the government – but look at what it has acheieved. It has had splendid economic growth, it economically freer than most Asian countries and is also now a superpower, America's biggest rival.
You see, democracy in a poor country encourages corruption, instability and lack of direction. I am not saying they should not be democratic, but rather democracy does not seem to work. take the case of indonesia – in Suharto's times it was a burgeoning economy, people had jobs and poverty was on the decline. After he was forced to resign, and yes the people had every right to throw him out, Indonesia has been on a downward trend, it also has had a huge growth in terrorism. India can acheives so much more, but its dmeocratrically elected socialist part has seriosuly stifled much needed economic reford more so under the pretext of its harming jobs even though in reality it will only help alleviate poverty

Fact of the matter is, people in power take decisions for themselves (our students union for example), democracy only establishes who is in power., The greater majority someone has the more power they have and the more they are able to shape the country. Even a democratic country with a strong party is better off than one with a coalition…..of course only if these people do actually want something good done for their country. So a benevolent dictatorship might not actually be too bad (like Brunei….)

Once these countries get richer, peple become more educated and poverty is on an irreversible path of decline, then democracy seems to work better.

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  1. I agree with you, especially in Africa where the Western powers don't seem to understand that democracy = corruption.

    Kenya is my own prime example – there's a stable democratic government, but nothing seems to be moving forward.

    06 Dec 2005, 14:42

  2. Mathew Mannion

    China is probably the worst example. Great economic freedom with zero personal freedom

    06 Dec 2005, 15:09

  3. Michael

    RE Africa

    Democracy = corruption
    Dictatorship = even greater corruption.

    Just look at Africa's record under the two systems. Always marred by corruption. Many people in power seem to view it as an opportunity to fill their own pockets as well as those of the people immediately surrounding them.

    In my opinion it goes back to before European intervention, when countries did not exist within Africa, it was a continent consisting of thousands of individual tribes, each with their own customs, laws, small territories etc. Trying to put one group in charge of everyone is going to be difficult. Furthermore, many of the countries are so poor, that any opportunity to make money is taken.

    06 Dec 2005, 17:12

  4. I think democracy can only flourish properly when it's combined with the rule of law. By this, I mean:-

    – Nobody being above the Law – police, politicians, bureaucrats have to keep to it as much as you or me
    – No arbitary arrest (i.e. charges have to be presented, you have to be tried in public, etc)
    – Property rights – we know what's mine, what's yours and any disputes are resolved quickly by an impartial judge. This is extremely important in protecting the little guy
    – The courts having the final say on everything – and making their decisions public/

    There may be some I've missed. It's actually quite a difficult concept to define.

    Now, in Iraq, there's a democratic system but no rule of law whatsoever. Britain, the United States (?) 150 years ago were the opposite.

    Does the rule of law exist in China? I think the Chinese government is more keen on the phrase 'rule by law'.

    07 Dec 2005, 00:09

  5. Edward I agree with you, but because in poor countries people really need the money, they are always willing to side-step a law. if you ever come down to a SE asian country like Indonesia, orThailand or South Asian country such as India you can always bribe the police, bribe anyone in the govt you want. Yes you may think democracy means making it more open but it often does not do so.
    I am not saying dictatorship is necessarily good, but a strong leader who at least wishes to do more harm than good does make it better for a poorer country.
    With regards to China – I think they have to open up with all the international presence in the country, they have come a huge way with regards to Human rights and by no means is a democratic state like US any better – take the CIA prison scandal for example.

    07 Dec 2005, 03:26


    I think it's important to bring into the argument more of what Mr. Cooper started: never mind the word or status of 'democracy', it's the underlying structure that is crucial, including his four magnificent points. About courts having the final say, remember that the law is not a hard and fast rule: for example, the prosperity that Americans started to enjoy at the start of the 20th century was partly because the first Chief Justice of the USA, John Marshall, balanced justice with progress: when people brought cases against firms polluting or illegal dumping or whatever, unless the injustice vastly outweighed the need for progress, Marshall found in favour of business to allow progress.

    So justice is crucial, but sometimes it stands in the way of progress – take the case of Dred Scott v Sandford: Dred Scott was an American slave – his master took him through a free territory (i.e. – where slavery was illegal), so he sued for his freedom, saying that passage through a free state means he can leave; he won. But the decision was reversed by the Missouri Supreme Court, citing constitutional and how it is not to be ridden over roughshod (this Judge was considered a moderate!).
    So, the Judge placed a blow against liberty to preserve the sanctity of a glorious document. Crazy, right?

    07 Dec 2005, 23:03


    What I'm getting at is that democracy is a very broad term, requiring attitudes in the host country to be in a certain way, and once they get in that certain way, i.e., respect for property, liberty, a functioning economic system, democracy actually becomes irrelevant because no matter what system that country uses, in all probability, it will be atleast somewhat successful. But then it may be argued that mentality only comes round to this way once people are forced to respect other people’s rights, etc.
    What comes first, attitude or legislation?

    Take a look at the United Arab Emirates – it is a dictatorship, but no-one cares. Why? People are generally free to do what they want, make money, etc etc, as long as they keep their nose out of politics. Wahey!

    But therein is a crucial point: the 'benevolent dictatorship’ can only really happen in either a homogenous nation or, as in this case, a tiny nation.

    Countries like France and UK just ‘work’ because political parties work together on crucial issues like national security, certain economic reforms, etc. Just today we had David Cameron, new leader of Conservative party, saying he would work with the govt. on issues like pensions. It is easy for the opposition in a lot of cases to stymie the govt and nothing would ever get done!

    China is unusual because it is making a compromise – marrying capitalism with communism. Now THAT'S crazy. The respect for expression and freedom may come in time, but note that this is the crucial reason it is forging ahead of, say, India (yes, I’m Indian…), because it can enact legislation relatively easily, without having to go through a convoluted political process like in India, where it seems every good policy has an equal and opposite reaction. That’s actually a very popular gripe in India…

    P.S. – Well done Udayan, a fascinating entry and a vast improvement from the usual bollocks!

    07 Dec 2005, 23:09

  8. Thanks Ankit – I'm happy you aren't asking me to go out a bit more again!

    08 Dec 2005, 08:11

  9. I think corruption is in part the result of poverty. Policemen in Buenos Aires get paid US$100/month, and so one of them was quite happy to accept a $10 bribe my friend offered him for drunk-driving.

    But corruption exists among the very rich and the reasonably well-to-do as well. My friends and I had to bribe some airline workers $100 in total to let us change our flight dates. These people were not poor at all. So I think poverty is part of the problem, but attitude is more important.

    There is, in many parts of the world, considered to be no difference between an official's public duties and his private interests. I think if you can change this – if you can make corruption socially unacceptable – you're a long way to beating it.

    Unfortunately, this is a cultural change, which is almost impossible to effect from the top.

    08 Dec 2005, 11:50

  10. On China: I think (I hope) that as people get wealthier, and stop worrying about where their next meal will come from and begin to have more time for discussion, protest, reading, etc, change will slowly come about. Unfortunately, the opposite could happen, whereby wealth makes people lazy and content with the current situation.

    It will be very interesting to see which path China takes. Frankly, I'd be worried if the most powerful country in 40 years' time is still a dictatorship. However, China may follow the route of South Korea and Chile, which saw economic freedom lead to political freedom.

    08 Dec 2005, 11:55

  11. I don't know why you so it is unfortunate for a country to not be democratic. It can be the case that people actually like the Chinese government as it is…....Even MNC's prefer such a govt because of its stability and ability to take action when needed.
    Take Brunei for example – I would say people are happy with the King, and they have no problems in general, they certainly would not call themselves unfortunate.

    09 Dec 2005, 04:32

  12. Yes, but Brunei's tiny…

    09 Dec 2005, 17:18

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