Our guest Youzi has given us a kernel for further discussion in one of his comments:
And even within China, between different provinces and peoples are tremendous psychological differences, perhaps even greater than those between two countries. As time has passed, as the people’s living standards have grown and as awareness of personal rights has woken… if the traditional methods of political pressure and thought control are used, it’s already become very difficult to maintain the China unity and a sense of belong to the Chinese people. The government has observed this point, but unless it implements effective political reform that respects and tolerates the interests of different groups of people, it will not resolve this fundamental problem simply by waving the worn-down flags of patriotism and nationalism.
I don’t think we disagree on this point, but I think Youzi goes a bit far to berate some of us for suggesting that an “awareness of personal rights” alone and a shallow understanding of “fighting for personal rights” without civic values and respect for law is a recipe for disaster. It’s a two way street. What makes “Western-style democracy” tick isn’t the prescription of “freedom, democracy, and rule of law”, but the deeply ingrained sense in every single citizen that their interests lie in their responsibility to and stewardship of the country, its institutions, and values, of which such rights are a part — in short, true patriotism. That prevents people from ripping the constitution apart when they don’t get their way. Sad to say, China isn’t there yet.
So what are “effective political reform that respects and tolerates the interests of different groups of people” at this stage? Well, there is a model and there is dynamics. Nobody is sitting idly on their hands. I want to direct our readers to this article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year titled
I posted it weeks ago in a comment but it really deserves its own highlight here.
It’s a very very interesting article.
Abstract: Is China democratizing? The country’s leaders do not think of democracy as people in the West generally do, but they are increasingly backing local elections, judicial independence, and oversight of Chinese Communist Party officials. How far China’s liberalization will ultimately go and what Chinese politics will look like when it stops are open questions.
As many of you know, China has elections. Not only in various levels of People’s Congresses up to the NPC but also more genuinely in village-level direct elections. Beyond that, there is a lot more to it than elections. This article tells a little about the state of affairs, as well as the direction and vision going forward as planned by the government itself. The author is John Thornton, a well educated scholar certainly, but what is more valuable is his analysis based on his interactions on the ground in China.
Read it, and you may be surprised by what democracy (or “Chinese-style democracy” or let’s just call it “the Chinese model”) means to the Chinese leadership, and for China and its people.