Great improvements! Thanks Bell Curve!
Recently, events in Iraq and the United States have drawn my attention away from the great mass of the world's population. Perhaps I should be forgiven since I am an American after all. But here is a little something about the two biggest countries on Earth: China and India.
China First: I recently got into a little argument with a good friend of mine about the effect of Chinese public opinion on Chinese foreign policy. This posting will probably start another argument. Oh well, he knows I'm still his loyal friend.
This past April, the Chinese Communist party unilaterally enacted a controversial scaling back of Democratic reforms in Hong Kong. Many in Hong Kong had expected to be allowed to vote directly for the Governor of Hong Kong by now. They also had expected universal suffrage and multi party elections for the Hong Kong legislature. The Guardian quotes,Qiao Xiaoyang, the Chinese Deputy Secretary General of the People's Congress as saying "Governments who are led by the nose by public opinion are irresponsible," (so much for the constraining effect of Chinese public opinion on Chinese government policy). This was not a reaction to some populist uprising in response to a temporary shift in public opinion. This gentleman was commenting on the idea of elections themselves.
I have two things to say to Mr. Qiao. First, he's demonstrably incorrect about the relationship between public accountability of government and effective or "responsible" government. Second, I would warn him of the eternal truth of Virginia's state motto: "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus Always to Tyrants)! He should pay close attention to the mood of the 500,000 odd protestors who hit the streets in Hong Kong after the announced limits on democratic reforms. Hong Kong has a total population of 6.8 million. Keep in mind that when the entire US population generates a demonstration with 500,000 people it is a protest of historic proportions (like MLK's March on Washington).
Now on to India: India is a marked contrast to the highly centralized, undemocratic, authoritarian regime in China. India is a functioning multi-party democracy with universal suffrage and federal administrative system. Governments tend to be coalitions of several parties which leads to policies based on compromise. For the past several years, India has been ruled by a coalition led by the BJP. The BJP is a Hindu-Nationalist party that wants India to reject its secular, multi-cultural traditions and move towards a society based on conformity with Hindu culture. The leader of this party, Mr. Vajpayee, have accomplished some good things: started some needed economic reforms, made moves towards a shaky detente with Pakistan. However, there have been dark sides to this government as well. BJP supporters were largely blamed for anti-Muslim massacres in the state of Gujarat.
Over the last several weeks this enormous democracy (650 million + voters!!) has been conducting an election with admirable order and calm by the standards of most developing countries. The results are now in and the BJP has been soundly defeated by the Congress Party. "Congress" was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandis K. Ghandi (who was assassinated by a member of a precursor of the BJP).
Comparison: I suggest that China's leaders look seriously at India. Not as they usually do, as a military threat and potential rival in the region, but as an example from which they can learn quite a lot. India is just as huge as China. India faces many of the same problems that China faces. But India manages to operate under a functional democracy with many parties, universal suffrage and federal administrative structures. Ultimately, China will have no choice to be become more like India. The question is how will it become like India. Will the Communist Party of China gradually - but steadily - increase the participation and accountability in Chinese political/governmental affairs? Or will they dig in their heals - as they seem to have done in Hong Kong - and try to keep the lid tight on the pot as the water comes to a boil.
India can in turn learn something from China. China has managed to do quite a bit to solve problems that India still struggles with. First, China is much more active economically (although this week's Economist suggests that China's high growth rates are bubble-like and unsustainable - a "hard landing" recession would be VERY bad for China, Asia and the world). Second, China's population is growing much slower than is India's. Granted, I doubt a democratic society could achieve that goal using some of the more draconian methods adopted by China but don't throw the baby out with the bath water (sorry for the pun).
Friday, May 14, 2004
Great improvements! Thanks Bell Curve!
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 6:41 PM