Oriental Democracy

The removal of Thailand’s Prime Minister and arrest of Taiwan’s former President should give pause to those who insist on democracy as a near- or medium- way forward for the new core economies of the far east.

Building democracy is an important goal, and China is making significant achievemetns to that end. A stable economy is built on a stable middle class integrated into the world. Democracy as a political system makes sense if an even worse system must be avoided, or if democracy can allow the people to fire ineffective rulers without disrupting the system,.

The unfortunate news from Taiwan, and not Thailand, shows the potentially destabilizing effects of free elections. If China can continue to strengthen its economy and ‘build democracy’ without elections, then China is doing her share to contributing to the world and helping construct a peaceful future.

6 thoughts on “Oriental Democracy”

  1. This post might entail Pakistan, Palestine and a number of countries as well. In terms of “spreading democracy” I’d say be careful what you wish for.

  2. if china can follow the south korean model, i agree. knowledge-based economies (US, eur, japan, and now korea) decentralize power, while resource-based economies (russia, KSA, others) accrete power to the center. china could start by allowing elections for local posts. the mix of command-economy and local autonomy may stave off the need to abolish one-party top-level control for a decade or two. it’s either that (manage the decline of the communist party) or revert/continue it’s resource-based approach and stay poor.) unfortunately, china’s resource isn’t commodities, but 1.5b near-slaves.

  3. Jay,

    This post might entail Pakistan, Palestine and a number of countries as well.

    True. Though the Islamic world, unlike East Asia, seems to be suffering from a civilizational collapse. The oriental states’ problems, by contrast, may be relatively technical, as little political will seems to exist at high levels for strong regional institutions [1].


    One of the most interesting ideas I’ve come across is a gradual transformation of the Revolutionary Committee of the KMT [1] into the mainland branch of the KMT [2]. Both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party are corrupt, capitalist, conservative, nationalist, and bureaucratic enough to understand each other. An evolution of Chinese politics into a Japan-style soft one party state [3] may be in everyone’s interests.

    I don’t think it’s fair to describe Chinese worker’s as ‘slaves’ or ‘near-slaves.’ That is the rhetoric used by the South to deny the North was ‘free.’ Rather, China’s a country with no social safety net and a tremendous disparity in wealth between 900 million peasants, 300 million workers, and 200 million bourgeois.

    [1] http://www.amazon.com/Certain-Cornell-Studies-Political-Economy/dp/0801440866
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang
    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democratic_Party_(Japan)

  4. After watching the electoral shenanigans in GANGS OF NEW YORK, I found myself becoming a lot more philosophical about mishaps in newer democracies.

    Interesting experiment for one of your classes, Dan: Start a new class with an autocratic government, toned down for safety (government by armwrestling?). After a suitable period of time, tell the class big shots they have to run for election.

  5. I think that there is a lot to be said for allowing only local elections for a generation or so. Democracy is a skill that has to be learned by the electorate as well as the governing officials. The pain of living with the consequences of the guy you voted for screwing up is an important part of the process. It is better if the only thing they are screwing up is the local school district or the local sewage treatment plant.

  6. Michael,

    I had not thought of increasing the democracy as the class goes on…

    As it is now, it is an interesting lesson for students that they prefer a benevolent despotism to actual empowerment…

    Mark in Texas,

    If it is true that emerging democracies are the most likely to go to war [1,2], then we should hope democratic decision making with regard to foreign policy in China is delayed until 2040 or so, when the Chinese population becomes as old as Florida is now.

    [1] http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/1964/electing_to_fight.html
    [2] http://www.amazon.com/Electing-Fight-Emerging-Democracies-International/dp/0262134497

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