Home > Analysis, Opinion, Philosophy, politics > Eric X. Li’s “Counterpoint” Op-Ed in the New York Times – Debunking Myths About China

Eric X. Li’s “Counterpoint” Op-Ed in the New York Times – Debunking Myths About China

Eric X. Li had a wonderful op-ed in the NY Times.  I really don’t know how he got a piece through, especially since all mine have been rejected. Anyways, hats off to him!  Here is his op-ed, with some of my thoughts scribbled throughout.

Counterpoint: Debunking Myths About China

 

The Chinese Communist Party has been running the largest country in the world for 62 years. How has it done?

We all know the facts: In 1949 when the Communist Party took over, China had been mired in civil wars and dismembered by foreign aggressions; its people had suffered widespread famine; average life-expectancy was a mere 41 years. Today, it is the second largest economy in the world, a great power with global influence, and its people live in increasing prosperity; average life expectancy has reached 74 years.

But the assessment has to go deeper than that, for reasons none other than the apparent discomfort, if not outright disapproval, Western political and intellectual elites feel toward the Communist Party’s leadership. Five misconceptions dominate the Western media’s discourse on China. These misunderstandings need to be debunked by realities.

• China does not hold elections, therefore its rulers do not have the consent of the ruled. According to the Pew Research Center, the Chinese government enjoys popular support that is among the highest in the world. The Chinese people’s satisfaction with the direction of their country was at 87 percent in 2010 and has been consistently above 80 percent in recent years. Sixty-six percent perceive progress in their lives in the last five years. A whopping 74 percent are optimistic about the next five years.

We need to ask: How do most governments produced by elections compare with these numbers? Are elections the only viable way to validate consent and the legitimacy it brings?

China is an authoritarian state in which the party’s political power is concentrated and self-perpetuating. The Communist Party’s Politburo, the highest ruling body, consists of 25 members. Currently, only seven of them come from any background of wealth or power, the so-called princelings. The rest of them, including the president and the prime minister, come from ordinary backgrounds with no special advantages. They worked and competed all the way to the top. In the larger Central Committee, those with privileged backgrounds are even scarcer.

A visit to any top university campus in China would make it obvious to anyone that the Communist Party continues to attract the best and the brightest of the country’s youth. In fact, China’s Communist Party may be one of the most meritocratic and upwardly mobile major political organizations in the world — far more meritocratic than the ruling elites of most Western countries and the vast majority of developing countries. What is wrong with self-perpetuation through merits?

Are elections the only viable way to validate consent and legitimacy? That’s the one million dollar question.

As many may know, I have long held a deep cynicism about whether results of elections truly  reflect the voice of the people. Today the phrase “a government of the people, by the people, for the people” seems to be take as the de facto – the only – definition of a democracy – as if any government “of the people” – voted by the people – is automatically one “of the people” and “for the people.” That is absurd!

Democracy in its most basic form is merely a form of rule by mob. A government by the people needs extensive checks – such as that expressed through the U.S. Constitution – to restrain the impulses of the people, to protect the people from the people. But even a Constitutionally checked government can still be very unjust – as I alluded to in this post.

It’s not that I do not believe that the people should have a right to vote, but modern elections – run on a large scale, through news media, drawing on partisan passion, targeted at a populace imbued with a short attention span, many illiterate about math, science, history, economics, and international relations –  appear to be at best a pompous reality T.V.-style popularity contest and at worst a mass opiate for the masses that fools the masses into believing they have a voice when they don’t.

In the end, it is important to note that democracy is but an experiment.” It is at best a conviction to be tried, practiced, continually demonstrated and validated, not a value or ideology or religion to be preached and imposed.”  Voting is not happiness; it is but a tool to empower human beings.

The Chinese democratic system represents another path at drawing on and harnessing the people’s energy to create a prosperous, peaceful and just society. Instead of depending on elections every few years, running campaigns that so often come down to who creates the best smears, it is about building a sustainable democratic meritocracy that puts professionals in charge of running the country, who – like judges in the U.S. – is somewhat insulated from the people to work for the long-term benefits of the people.

One thing I’m always amazed at is the extent to which people uncritically advocate the norm of relying on the decisions of the masses to make the most important policy decisions. It’s a most dangerous game of “monday night quarterbacking” carried to the extreme. For a electoral democracy to work, it is not sufficient to have elections … or a Constitution (see this post); “many other stars have to align: the media has to be fair and objective to generate good public debates; the people have to be educated enough, well fed enough, and to care enough about the political process to participate in meaningful speech; the public needs to also have a healthy sense of social awareness and public duty to exercise speech toward the good of society – not just for themselves.” (see this post) To brush this aspect of democracy under the rug is akin to asking me to uncritically trust a layman to conduct surgery on me  – a fallacy when offered in the form of unsolicited advice – or demand as the case may be – smacks of insincerity, even ill will.

Of course, a democratic meritocracy per se does not guarantee a government that works for the people, either. There is always the possibility that the entrenched elite will hijack the process and manipulate the masses for the benefits of the few. We can argue to no end on which form of government is better. But I think it’s fair to say that all government structures – democratic meritocracies or electoral democracies – are but experiments in the grand noble journey of humanity to empower the masses. Let’s focus on what government today can do, and not – alluding to Deng’s famous parable – on whether the cat is black or white.

• China’s restriction on freedom of expression stifles innovation. China no doubt restricts freedom of expression, especially political speech. But does that impede innovation in Chinese society?

Some of the most successful IPO’s of Internet companies on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq have been Chinese startups. Chinese businesses are well on their way to dominating the global alternative-energy industries. Breakthroughs in public policy have taken private home ownership from near zero in 1990 to at least 80 percent today — among the world’s highest, in this relatively still poor country.

The Royal Society in London reports that China’s share of scientific research papers published in recognized international journals went from 4.4 percent in the period between 1999-2003 to 10.2 percent in the period between 2004-2008, now just behind the United States. In 2008, China overtook France as the world’s number three in contemporary art auction revenues. Fifteen out of 35 living artists worldwide who command seven-digit sales for their work are Chinese. If these facts do not demonstrate innovation, what does?

It is only 30 or so years since China finally escaped from its the shadow of political chaos caused by foreign invasions, civil wars, and internal turmoils. Yes, the CCP way of censorship can sometimes be crude and can suppress innovation. But to the extent CCP does do that, I would not worry too much. It is to the competitive disadvantage of China for the government to suppress its people’s energy and ability. Mark my word, to the extent CCP censorship hampers the development of the Chinese people, CCP censorship will change. But to the extent freedom of speech in China represent the values of a people, let the Chinese people find their own identity – and let them grow or fall with it.

My argument with many about CCP’s censorship is not censorship per se, but government’s right to regulate speech. Every government regulates speech. In the West, for example, expression is often suppressed – almost always by some means of “law” – in the name of national security (e.g., US Patriot Act, whitehouse characterizing wikileaks “reckless and dangerous“), social welfare (e.g., crimes against hate speech, privacy, libel, slander), economic interests (e.g., intellectual property). But when the Chinese gov’t regulates in the name of promoting “social harmony” – many people snicker – as if the welfare of the Chinese people matters little. Many seem almost antsy for the Chinese people to fail. For me, this crosses the line of arguing whether the CCP is trampling over individual rights to whether the Chinese people have a right to govern themselves.

• The Communist Party’s authoritarian rule leads to widespread corruption. No one, not least the party itself, disputes that corruption is a significant problem in China. But does authoritarian rule have anything to do with it?

According to Transparency International, the top 20 cleanest (least corrupt) places worldwide include only four non-Western governments: Singapore, Hong Kong, Qatar and Japan — three of the four are authoritarian regimes; the same three are the only ones that belong to the developing world. By Transparency International’s account, China (78) ranks higher than India (87), Philippines (134), Indonesia (110), Argentina (105) and many more, and tied with Greece (78), barely below Italy (67) — all electoral democracies. Apparently, China’s one-party system is less corrupt than many democratic countries.

Whenever we speak of Chinese “corruption,” I roll my eyes. It’s not that I don’t think there is no corruption in China, or that corruption is not important, but that people sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. Sure, I have heard of stories of CCP officials grafting money, entering into special business deals, sending their children to live and study abroad using government funds. These are bad. But let’s look at the bigger picture. Ever since time immemorial, those in power have extracted privileges from the commoners. That’s because there is no free lunch. Those who rule has to eat and enjoy the finer things in life: they don’t work for free. Even the most beneficent kings collected taxes earned through the sweat of the workers and the farmers.

It is no different in the most democratic of societies today. Why do people enter politics in democracies? As a group, are politicians really more magnanimous and self-less than others in their will to “serve”? No. people choose politics as a “career,” just as people choose a career in medicine, law, whatever – to maximize their own private welfare. Since most democratic societies today are capitalistic, we can actually be openly unapologetic about it!

It is no coincidence that in the West election is big business – democratic politics in general is big business. It is important to see that corruption does not just come in the form of wayward officials leaching some money here and there. It also comes about systematically in the way we run our government, the way we allow special interests to run our elections and structure our laws – from our tax code, our antitrust regulation, financial laws, IP laws, environmental protection regulations, to food and drug regulations.

Going back to China, yes I agree government should work for the people. There is much CCP needs to reform to better serve the people. But I personally don’t see any conclusive evidence that the Chinese way of meritocratic governance is systematically or inherently more corrupt than the electoral democratic way of governing.

• China’s success to date is all due to the party’s embrace of capitalism and a market economy. According to the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal annual ranking of free economies, China ranks 135. Developing countries that rank above China (showing a stronger embrace of capitalism and a market economy) include Haiti, Algeria, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya, Rwanda — the list goes on. If market economic reform was the only magic China performed, how come many other countries that have implemented a market economy much earlier and deeper than China have not achieved much economic success? What else has China done?

Hypotheses that do not stand up to facts and yet still dominate people’s consciousness are specious and harmful. It is especially dangerous in this case because one cannot imagine a peaceful world order when the political and intellectual establishment of today’s world powers holds views that are built on falsehoods.

In my personal opinion, trying to attribute the source of China’s success is best left to historians. I am sure they can point to many factors, including (but not limited to): the low base of China’s gdp per capita from which China starts its recent development, the always inspiring energy and work ethics of the Chinese people, a respite from wars and internal chaos that have dominated Chinese landscape the last century or two, support from overseas Chinese, global trade, the liberalization of the domestic economy, the leadership of the CCP.  But just as people cannot predict future performance of a stock based on its past performance, so cannot the future of the Chinese government be found in its past.

In my opinion, the most important factor to China’s success is preservation of peace at home. Ever since industrialization swept the world, China has not had a chance to develop … until 30 years ago. By continuing to keep peace and tranquility at home, the future of China – whatever path it chooses – will be bright.

  1. July 23rd, 2011 at 00:06 | #1

    @Eric Li and Allen
    Amen! 说得好!

  2. raventhorn2000
    July 23rd, 2011 at 08:20 | #2

    “We need to ask: How do most governments produced by elections compare with these numbers? Are elections the only viable way to validate consent and the legitimacy it brings?”

    It is the difference between a math solution derived by logic and trial and error, vs. a gameshow that asks audience to vote for the winner.

    The 2nd may be more evident proof of popularity, but it is also more irrelevant, because the voters vote on personality, and not on the merits of the solution.

    What’s the logical point of “popularity”, when it has little to do with the policies??

    It’s what we Chinese call, “Hang up goat head and sell dog meat”.

  3. zack
    July 23rd, 2011 at 08:57 | #3

    the criticism by the west will never change; as time goes on and China becomes steadily outpaces the entire western world, that false sense of moral superiority will be all that the west has to hang on to when their own civil and government incompetance leads them nowhere.

    i’m under no illusion however that there doesn’t exist a class of ruling elites in the united states who monopolise power even in a so called democracy. look at the bush family, the clintons, various WASP groups-they could almost pass for an aristocratic class ruling a class based country, more nepotic than China, that’s for sure.

  4. July 23rd, 2011 at 08:57 | #4

    On Corruption:

    Some would argue that the BILLIONS of $’s spent EVERY YEAR on “elections”, campaigns, lobbying, is a far more dangerous form of corruption, a legalized system of corruption, under the guise of “Free Speech”.

    As even Comedian Stephen Colbert demonstrated with his mock registration for his own “SUPERPAC”, the wealthy elites have now no limits on what they can spend in propagandizing and seizing political influence for themselves.

    (Let’s also not forget the EVIDENT power of the Media corporations, such as Fox, state owned BBC, and the “Guardian”, which even FOARP admitted as had “ENSURED” political election results.)

    Corruption is simply abuse of power for personal gains.

    And in the West’s “election” systems, there are plenty of that, legitimized and even accepted as MULTI-Billion dollar industries.

    *Influence, power, are naturally corrupting, REGARDLESS of political systems.

  5. July 23rd, 2011 at 09:17 | #5

    Hey gents. I’ve been banned apparently — I guess a few F-bombs are a ban-worthy offense, yet perspectivehere’s stereotyped, offensive suggestions about my actual personal life are cool.

    Anyway, just dropped in to say that the reason I’m not responding to your comments is not because you “won”, it’s because I can’t. Well, OK, I can — obviously I can get around the ban — but it’s clear you don’t want me here and, like I said before, I could certainly be using my time more productively.

    I hope whoever moderates this space will allow me time for a final thought though: go to China. Move to China for a while, travel around, talk to people. Really get to know some regular people (hint: travel outside cities, talk to people in rural areas, etc). I think that some of you will be quite surprised with what you find. And even if things are exactly like you think they are, what’s the harm? It’s all just more ammunition for your arguments, n’est-ce pas?

    Anyway, feel free to let me know if you need a place to crash in Beijing. You may find this hard to believe, but I don’t take this stuff personally, and I do have a very comfortable couch. 😉

  6. July 23rd, 2011 at 09:18 | #6

    On attributing China’s success to embracing Capitalism:

    I agree with the Author that it’s NOT the sole reason. Indeed, I would say that China’s economic success was due to a “pragmatic BALANCE” of Capitalism and other -isms, including very savvy market protectionism.

    China, unlike MANY of those other more enthusiastic embracers of Capitalism, was early on VERY tactical and pragmatic, in realizing that it should NOT allow a “free for all” open market and allow foreign companies to come in and dominate every market segment.

    China, indeed, opened the market domestically first and very controlled in small steps.

    This gave time for domestic companies to build up and prepare for global competition effectively.

    *
    A “no-hold bar” approach to Capitalism, would have been the worst possible thing for China back in the 1970’s.

    It would have just opened China up to be sucked dry by foreign companies eager to exploit China.

  7. July 23rd, 2011 at 09:26 | #7

    I have relatives in China. I’m from China, my wife is from China.

    You were “quite surprised” at what you find in China? WOW! (Now, I “SUSPECT” you found nothing at all, and just ACTED all “surprised”, because you don’t really say much about what you found, only what you try to TELL Chinese but failed to do. (like the Chinese media editorial, and your travel permits. you were not very good at finding your way to Tibet, were you?))

    You would be equally “surprised” to find that there are Chinese OUTSIDE of China who KNOW more about China than you do!! They actually speak Mandarin “fluently”, and read/write Chinese, and speak/read/write English too!!

  8. July 23rd, 2011 at 09:48 | #8

    People should travel to learn, but people should NOT read travel reviews by some who have no real life experiences.

    Reading trashy travel reviews only ruins the REAL experiences.

    It’s like talking to that 1 guy on the airplane who is constantly whining. Don’t do it. It ruins your trip from the very beginning!! (Yes, you may eventually find out that he’s full of BS, but you would have already wasted time).

  9. July 23rd, 2011 at 09:53 | #9

    China is actually not immune to this problem. Anybody who knows Chinese politics will tell you that the most corrupted govn’t in China is in the local village/township level. As it is also uses a direct suffrage election, money politics and vote buying is common. I read some reports that in some towns that have important industries, millions of RMB is also needed for campaigning to win elections. Unfortunately, human nature is the same everywhere. If direct suffrage system is a cure all, countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand etc would be far ahead of China but they are not. The only four non-western and non-Japanese states to achieve developed status all achieved modernization under near dictatorial rule. Is it a coincident that all are East Asian with Confucian style govn’t? HK, Taiwan, Singapore, S.Korea all achieved modernization by a combination of govn’t policy, and above all the industry of the people. Japan was also under one party rule for fifty years after WWII.

    And did the European and North American achieved modernization under a free and fair election system? No, they achieved it through the same combination of govn’t policy and the will of the top people. Throughout much of the 18th to 19th century only 20-30% of their adult population are able to vote under their system. (women, the poor, the minority do not have the same rights). Frankly they are not much better than the Roman empire which achieved great wealth through plunder. The people under their rule, pretty much 2/3 of humanity were treated as mere conquered subjects. WWI and WWII is not a war between the good vs evil, it is basically a war among imperial powers fighting over the spoils. More like lesser evil beating evil. And their direct suffrage system worked after they have achieved pre-eminence in wealth, science and technology. There is not a single country that has achieved modern and rich status after introduction of a direct suffrage system.

    China today uses a combination of a few systems. At the lower level, it is the direct suffrage system. And from reality, it is obvious that it cannot be apply to the provincial let alone the federal level. Let’s face it, China has over 1300 million people, one member of parliament or congressman representing 1 million people will require 1300 representatives. Any discussion of national policy will take weeks if each were to have 10 minutes talk time. Even if we divide the number by three, we will still have 433 representatives. I seriously doubt a representative representing 3 million people is any form of democracy.

    China currently has two levels of representation at the federal level. Whenever I read about them in western press it is simply dubbed a rubber stamp organization. However, does the writers ever bother to explain how the system work? Almost never. In fact, the discussion of national policy were conducted year long with pretty much no hold barred bluntness. The talked of sensitive subject like abolishing the household registry system, introducing property taxes, changes in the personal tax system, the role of state own enterprises, one child policy etc are always on the table. The major advantage I see in this system is that it completely bypassed inter-party rivalry. Basically, all debates are about how to improve upon the present system. It is not perfect, but is current western system superior? Far from it, with an economy that is 10 times more advanced then China, thus almost 10 times more resources per capita the western system does not show that it will work for a large and poor country like China, India, Indonesia, Mexico etc.

    Modern China uses a system more akin to the bar council or medical association where the lower rank officials are gradually promoted through peer review. Unfortunately, connection and influence also plagued this system but most of the time the candidate promoted will have to show his performance from his previous posting. Again, it is not a perfect system but so far it has proven to work better than direct suffrage system compare to ALL countries of similar social economic development. Unless, a scientific and proven method can be found to replace it. Reformed can only come slowly. China is still a work in progress. Like many has pointed out the current suffrage system we see in many parts of the world are more like a popularity contest selecting the prom king and queen. Is this system free and fair, and are those selected really the most popular and qualify? You be the judge.

  10. July 23rd, 2011 at 10:12 | #10

    raventhorn2000 :On attributing China’s success to embracing Capitalism:
    I agree with the Author that it’s NOT the sole reason. Indeed, I would say that China’s economic success was due to a “pragmatic BALANCE” of Capitalism and other -isms, including very savvy market protectionism.
    China, unlike MANY of those other more enthusiastic embracers of Capitalism, was early on VERY tactical and pragmatic, in realizing that it should NOT allow a “free for all” open market and allow foreign companies to come in and dominate every market segment.
    China, indeed, opened the market domestically first and very controlled in small steps.
    This gave time for domestic companies to build up and prepare for global competition effectively.
    *A “no-hold bar” approach to Capitalism, would have been the worst possible thing for China back in the 1970′s.
    It would have just opened China up to be sucked dry by foreign companies eager to exploit China.

    China is actually modelling itself somewhat on the Japanese, S.Korean, Taiwanese, HK and Singapore models. The only reason those states are able to modernize is that the govn’t that has found a niche to compete in and provide funding to develope those sectors.

    Let’s face it in 1980, China is still 80% rural and much much poorer, so obviously a lot of different rules have to be applied. Even in 2011, China is barely 50% urbanized. The reason the majority of China is still poor is because the majority are farmers with only 1 acre of land to cultivate! To simply blame the govn’t is stupid. China has already grown at 10% for 30 yrs, to achieve even a level of development like Malaysia today would requires China to grow at 20% for 30 yrs!

    I totally agree that “no-hold bar” approach to Capitalism will be disastrous for all. China’s development today was more a result of its openess rather than protectionalism. China’s economic structure is also much more complex than any country in the world. Writing about it will require a book. There are so many armchair pundits who like to comment about it with superficial understanding, however, most of them can’t even balance the books in their own economies!

  11. July 23rd, 2011 at 10:12 | #11

    I read an article from a Western media about a real life example of a Chinese travel guide who got her job from connection of her aunt who worked for the State Travel side of the government, as a proof of the corruption in China.

    But the article doesn’t say anything about the Chinese woman’s competitions, the 1000’s of travel guides who all have connections in the government. (Hell, if I look hard enough, I have connections in the government for travel guides).

    *When I was looking for a job as a lawyer, it was about connections. (I know very well that some of my school friends got better connections and so they got their jobs very easily).

    People talk about Guanxi as if it is ONLY in China.

    You don’t need to look too far to Murdoch to see how the Guanxi runs deep in the UK government. It’s the same old “scratch my back and scratch your back” in the West.

    Find something “surprising”?? It would be surprising for Westerners who didn’t realize how similar things are in the West.

    It’s like Bush Jr. proclaiming how he was “surprised” by the failure to find WMD.

    I have found, Westerners are EASILY “surprised”, because they start out with willful ignorance of themselves.

    That they are “surprised” to find Guanxi in China, when they don’t really know the corruption in their own governments.

    I’m not surprised, because I have seen both in action. I live in DC, I know 1st hand the mountains of money being shoveled to the Congress as “lobbying”.

  12. July 23rd, 2011 at 10:23 | #12

    “The Communist Party’s Politburo, the highest ruling body, consists of 25 members. Currently, only seven of them come from any background of wealth or power, the so-called princelings. The rest of them, including the president and the prime minister, come from ordinary backgrounds with no special advantages. They worked and competed all the way to the top. In the larger Central Committee, those with privileged backgrounds are even scarcer.
    A visit to any top university campus in China would make it obvious to anyone that the Communist Party continues to attract the best and the brightest of the country’s youth. In fact, China’s Communist Party may be one of the most meritocratic and upwardly mobile major political organizations in the world — far more meritocratic than the ruling elites of most Western countries and the vast majority of developing countries. What is wrong with self-perpetuation through merits?”

    EXACTLY.

    The CCP is now 80 million in membership, intra-party competition is fierce. Membership has its privileges but ultimately, 80 million are competing for privileges and must prove their own merits.

    What’s wrong with privileges for merits? Nothing. That’s the definition of “meritocracy”.

  13. July 23rd, 2011 at 10:25 | #13

    @ChinaGeeks #5,

    Every now and then, people claim they’ve been banned here. The only person I’ve ever banned in all of history is SKC – and only for a week or so – for making inflammatory, childish, and crude (as in bad words) remarks. If you think I banned you, let me refer you to this comment again (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/07/perspectivehere-chimes-in-on-anti-china-propaganda/#comment-42453). As long as you are up to sincere, constructive discussion (and I know you definitely are!), you are ALWAYS welcomed here…

  14. July 23rd, 2011 at 20:04 | #14

    Allen :
    @ChinaGeeks #5,
    Every now and then, people claim they’ve been banned here. The only person I’ve ever banned in all of history is SKC – and only for a week or so – for making inflammatory, childish, and crude (as in bad words) remarks. If you think I banned you, let me refer you to this comment again (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/07/perspectivehere-chimes-in-on-anti-china-propaganda/#comment-42453). As long as you are up to sincere, constructive discussion (and I know you definitely are!), you are ALWAYS welcomed here…

    Well, I found last night that I was repeatedly unable to post a variety of comments in different threads. I changed my IP from the one I’ve been using to visit this site, and suddenly I was able to post again. It would seem to be quite a coincidence if that was not, in fact, an IP ban.

  15. July 23rd, 2011 at 20:07 | #15

    @ Allen: Regardless, it seems quite clear that the IP I have been using to access this site is banned from commenting. Last night, I was unable to comment using it; today, it is the same. Changing my IP allows me to post again; I can only assume that it’s an IP block. If you didn’t do it, who else has admin-level access to your WordPress account?

  16. July 23rd, 2011 at 20:58 | #16

    @ChinaGeeks ,

    YinYang just left a comment in the open forum (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2010/02/open-forum/#comment-42614) explaining what happened.

    We recently upgraded our server. Raventhorn2000 has had some problems recently with comments, too. It may or may not be related.

    In any case, we have disabled certain components. Hopefully this won’t happen again.

    In the future, if you don’t see your comments immediately, send me an email (allen @ hiddenharmonies.org). Don’t assume you are banned. It’s very, very rare anyone earns that honor from us. Partly it’s because we don’t like banning, partly because it’s too much work (you can change your ip, change your name, and continue to comment, etc., etc.)!

    Anyways, I do visit your blog from time to time. When I do find time (comes and goes), I’ll try to leave some thoughtful comments there….

  17. July 24th, 2011 at 01:46 | #17

    Let’s see if this works.

  18. Common Tater
    July 24th, 2011 at 10:58 | #18

    At Allen:

    Who said:
    “Sure, I have heard of stories of CCP officials grafting money, entering into special business deals, sending their children to live and study abroad using government funds. These are bad. But let’s look at the bigger picture. Ever since time immemorial, those in power have extracted privileges from the commoners. That’s because there is no free lunch. Those who rule has to eat and enjoy the finer things in life: they don’t work for free. Even the most beneficent kings collected taxes earned through the sweat of the workers and the farmers.”

    Nice little whitewash job there on corruption in China. I’m sure the people in the CCP who would agree with that POV are the corrupt ones.

    Corruption in China is a huge problem. The CCP is aware of this, as are the Chinese people. Your silly little whitewash only underlines the seriousness of the problem, which has seen high ranking officials executed as their corrupt actions are considered a huge threat to CCP legitimacy.

    One of the advantages of a free press is that it allows journos to expose corruption.

    I suggest that if you really love China (Taiwan guy) that you consider how to deal with corruption, not whitewash it.

  19. Common Tater
    July 24th, 2011 at 10:59 | #19

    But that little issue aside, the editorial is interesting.

    It shows that maybe the NYT is learning how to be more balanced in its coverage of China.

    It is evolving.

    How about you?

  20. July 24th, 2011 at 11:37 | #20

    “more balanced” is relative.

    For example, Allen’s commentaries are more balanced than generalizations. 🙂

  21. July 24th, 2011 at 12:27 | #21

    I don’t think Allen is defending corruption. China currently has a tougher corruption law than pretty much all countries in the world. Tackling it after it happened is already too late, the only way is to stop it before it happened.

    The Chinese govn’t is coming up with new laws to combat it. They discovered that nobody likes to give bribe to get a contract or a business deal. The congress is formulating a new law that will grant immunity to those who give bribe then reported it. The law will make sure the corrupt officials are punished. Secondly, a new “whistle blower” ammendment is also being formulated, this is to allow lower ranked officials to report their supperiors. I believe the proactive working of the Chinese govn’t will bring about a complete revamp of the system ala the ICAC did for HK.

    I believe China will be successful due to will of the people to stamp out corruption. The sad reality is easily tens of thousands of these corrupted officials are hiding in the west.

  22. July 24th, 2011 at 12:33 | #22

    Corruption is a “huge problem” for any political system.

    I’m sure people who want to highlight China’s corruptions are the corrupt ones.

  23. July 24th, 2011 at 12:33 | #23

    ie. NED who receive gobs of public money for doing nothing at all.

  24. July 24th, 2011 at 12:55 | #24

    4 out of 7 last governor of Illinois were convicted of corruption, the last one was actually selling the office of US Senator left vacant by President Obama.

    Despite conviction/crackdowns, apparently, some are still daring enough to do this type of corruption.

    Governor Rod R. Blagojevich still maintains that he did nothing wrong. And loads of his supporters still believe him.

    Now, call me crazy, but I think “Popular personalities” often mask corruptions, Hence, “elections” mask corruptions too. Afterall, it is common for devotees of popular personalities to overlook the faults of their idols.

    Who needs “coverup”, when your fans won’t believe that they could be wrong about you??

    An “election” system merely legitimizes “Cults of Personalities” and allow perpetuation of corruptions. (Consider Bush era corruptions, how much do we know about all the Bubbles?)

  25. July 24th, 2011 at 14:39 | #25

    @Ray

    Indeed – if more Western countries have extradition treaties with China, it will help clamp down corruption in China.

    Xinhua has reported Lai Changxing is finally being deported back to China after fled to Canada.

    http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-07/23/content_12969609.htm

  26. July 24th, 2011 at 15:53 | #26

    It only took Canada 10 years to do it.

    Apparently, 10 years ago, China didn’t give Canada enough reasons (I mean trade leverage) to get an extradition.

    🙂

  27. July 24th, 2011 at 16:29 | #27

    raventhorn2000 :Corruption is a “huge problem” for any political system.
    I’m sure people who want to highlight China’s corruptions are the corrupt ones.

    I actually think highliting China’s corruption problem is good in some ways. How often have you heard of corrupted officials fleeing from Phillipines, Malaysia, Indonesia etc or for that matter, countries in Africa and S.America? It showed that China is tackling the problem. Corruption in China costs at least 1% in GDP growth, that would be around $5 billion per year.

    By being kind on corruption in India, the west is actually doing Indian an even bigger disservice. The western banking system is the biggest accessory to third world corruption. All those ill gotten wealth numbered in billions are all sitting in western banks, but they are too corrupted to do anything.

  28. July 24th, 2011 at 19:21 | #28

    “It showed that China is tackling the problem.”

    I don’t think that’s the conclusion that the Western Media is reaching.

    I also don’t mind exposing corruptions in any country. But I’m not interesting in talking about corruptions in China from people who have no understanding of corruption, or people who are only interested in using any issues in China to milk public money, like the NED.

    To me, NED is a much bigger corruption, the corruption of people take money for issues that they don’t really care about, other than to blab about.

    I don’t mind talking about corruption in China, I don’t want to talk about it with corrupted people in Western Media, who are making money by sensationalizing the issue, (and that includes bloggers who are using China as a story to increase their blog popularity).

  29. July 24th, 2011 at 20:05 | #29

    @Common Tater #18

    Nice little whitewash job there on corruption in China. I’m sure the people in the CCP who would agree with that POV are the corrupt ones.

    Corruption in China is a huge problem. The CCP is aware of this, as are the Chinese people. Your silly little whitewash only underlines the seriousness of the problem, which has seen high ranking officials executed as their corrupt actions are considered a huge threat to CCP legitimacy.

    One of the advantages of a free press is that it allows journos to expose corruption.

    I do not mean to be whitewashing corruption. Corruption – more than any other since issue – has the potential to plunder China into political civil strife – setting China further back – breaking apart China as we know it. So I – as someone who cares about China – would have no interest in whitewashing it and courting disaster.

    My point is to merely say that when others call out China’s corruption problem as if corruption is unique to China, as if the Western democracies are “clean” – I want to offer a different perspective and offer also the structural corruption – aka sellout we see so commonly democracies – as corruption, too. Now if you don’t want to like it – fine. I tried my best…

    As for your comment about free press, please bear with me. I will write a piece on that – on naked transparency – soon.

    But if you want a preview – you can read this article by a very well-regarded legal scholar. The article has crystallized a few things that have been on mind mind in light of the recent wikileaks controversies.

  30. silentvoice
    July 25th, 2011 at 06:14 | #30

    Here’s another myth: “Democracies do not start wars.”

    England was operating more or less as a democracy when it invaded China to sell Opium, twice. The United states was a democracy when it invaded Mexico, when it invaded Panama more recently, and toppled governments from Nicaragua to Brazil.

  31. July 25th, 2011 at 14:33 | #31

    @silentvoice #30,

    The democratic peace theory – advancing the proposition that “democracies do not go to war with each other” – is a hot area of research and is a topic that is deeply divisive.

    The problem is that without a clear definition of “democracy” – and without controlling for other factors that contribute to peace that may be prevalent in any epoch or era – the assertion is practically meaningless.

    Serious academics have actually written about how democratic ideals lead to more strife between ethnic groups and classes within a society (see e.g. http://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Exporting-Democracy-Instability/dp/0385503024).

    Here is one guy who has gathered a list of wars, of potential historical counter examples to the democratic peace theory. Don’t take it on his word (he’s not an academic – just doing this on the side); I’d double check all the info before citing this as source for any argument.

    • Greek Wars, 5th and 4th Centuries BCE
    • Democracies: City-states such as Athens, Syracuse et. al.
    • Rebuttal: Citizenship was limited to an elite minority which excluded women, slaves, foreigners, etc.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Among the citizenry, all voices were equal.
    • Quote: From The Wars of the Ancient Greeks by V. D. Hanson: “[D]emocratic practices abroad meant nothing at home when it was a question of Athenian self-interest — the Assembly might …readily fight to exterminate democracies like Syracuse (415-413)…. Athenians … fought for two years against [Syracuse,] the only other large democracy in the Greek World.”


    • Punic Wars, 2nd and 3rd Centuries BCE
    • Democracies: Rome vs. Carthage.
    • Rebuttal, Counter-rebuttal: Same as for the Greek democracies.


    • American Revolution, 1775-1783
    • Democracies: United States vs. Great Britain
    • Rebuttal: On the one hand, Great Britain was more liberal than most monarchies and it had a reasonably independent parliament, but on the the other hand, the franchise was quite restricted until the Reform Bill of 1832. Also, the United States was run by a provisional coalition during the war, and the country did not become a working democracy until after independence.
    • Counter-rebuttal: One of the most frequently stated goals of the American rebels was that they were entitled to enjoy all the civil rights quaranteed to native-born Englishmen (e.g. parliamentary representation, due process of law), but denied to the colonists. This certainly sounds like the Americans themselves recognized England as a model for their own democratic hopes.


    • American Indian Wars, 1776-1890
    • Democracies: United States vs. various Native American Indian tribes.
    • Rebuttal: The tribes did not have enough formal structure to be considered real democracies.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Well, just for starters, the Iroqouian Confederation was rather complex.


    • French Revolutionary Wars, 1793-1799
    • Democracies: France vs. Great Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands
    • Rebuttal: For Britain, see the comments for 1775. Also, France at this time was lurching left and right, with bloody purges each time, so it hardly qualifies as a stable democracy.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Under the Directory, 1795-99, France was a relatively stable republic.


    • Franco-American Naval War, 1797-1799
    • Democracies: United States vs. France
    • Rebuttal: It was a Quasi War, for God’s sake; even historians call it that. It was little more than a trade war with sporadic ritualized broadsides.
    • Counter-rebuttal: According to official Navy statistics (http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq56-1.htm), the US lost 20 sailors and marines in the Quasi War. Relative to the numbers involved, it was bloodier than the Gulf War.


    • Anglo-American War, 1812-1815
    • Democracies: United States vs. Great Britain
    • Rebuttal: For Britain, use the same two hands as with the 1st Anglo-American War of 1775.


    • Franco-Roman War, 1849
    • Democracies: France vs. the Roman Republic.
    • Rebuttal: Both democratic regimes were less than a year old, and therefore don’t count as stable democracies.
    • Counter-rebuttal: C’mon, that’s just cheating. You’re redefining your terms in order to exclude an awkward exception.


    • American Civil War, 1861-65
    • Democracies: United States vs. Confederate States
    • Rebuttal: The Confederacy was a slave-holding nation and therefore definitely not a democracy — and while we’re at it, the same could be said for the Union as well. Also, “[t]he South was not a sovereign democracy at that time… President Jefferson Davis was not elected, but appointed by representatives selected by confederate states. There was an election in 1861, but it was not competitive.” [Rummel]
    • Counterrebuttal: Both nations used almost identical Constitutions, which were easily the most democratic in the world at the time. Both nations conducted state and congressional elections on schedule, despite the difficulties of wartime. They both allowed substantial dissent within their Congresses, even if the opposition in the South never quite formalized into a two party sytem. Every major policy decision in both nations was enacted and approved by elected officials. (And since when is being “appointed by representatives selected by [individual] states” undemocratic? Technically, that’s how every American president has been chosen.)


    • Occupation of Veracruz, 1861-62
    • Democracies: Great Britain vs. Mexico
    • Rebuttal: Yes, democratic Britain assisted France and Spain in seizing Veracruz from democratic Mexico (Juarez had been properly elected.), but this was achieved without fighting. As soon as their French allies geared up for military conquest of the whole country, the British pulled out.
    • Counterrebuttal: An invasion is war, even if the defenders don’t fight back.


    • Spanish-American War, 1898
    • Democracies: United States vs. Spain
    • Rebuttal: In Spain, “the two major political parties alternated in power, not by election but by arrangement preceding elections.” [Rummel]
    • Counterrebuttal: It’s hardly unknown for rival parties in a democracy to make a time-sharing agreement or grand coalition. In one form or another, it has happened in Austria (1955-66), Columbia (1958-74), Switzerland (from 1959), UK (1931-45). More importantly, when Spain lost the war, prime minister Sagasta resigned, and national leadership passed to his parliamentary opponents, exactly the same as we would expect in any other constitutional monarchy.


    • Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1901
    • Democracies: Great Britain vs. Transvaal and the Orange Free State
    • Rebuttal: The franchise in the Boer Republics was limited to the white male elite.


    • First World War, 1914-18
    • Democracies: France, Belgium, Great Britain, the USA, et. al. vs. Germany.
    • Rebuttal: Well, yes, the Imperial Reichtag was democratically elected by universal manhood suffrage, but it was a largely powerless body, like the UN. The real power in the German federation was in the hands of the Emperor who appointed the Chancellor and commanded the Army, and in the hands of the Junkers running the undemocratic parliament of the Kingdom of Prussia, which made up around half the federation.
    • Counterrebuttal: Sure, there were aristocratic privileges and traditions that were inconsistent with one-man-one-vote and full equality under the law, but Germany was every bit as democratic as the United Kingdom (cf. the House of Lords and English dominance over the indigenous peoples of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.) And the Reichtag controlled the budget, which is not exactly “powerless”.


    • Occupation of the Ruhr, 1923
    • Democracies: France vs. Germany.
    • Rebuttal: Germany didn’t fight back.
    • Counterrebuttal: The same counterrebuttal as with the 1861 occupation of Veracruz.


    • Second World War, 1940-45
    • Democracies: Great Britain, United States, et al. vs. Finland.
    • Rebuttal: Finland fought on the same side as the Nazis against the Soviet Union, not against the democratic Allies.
    • Counterrebuttal: Well, the British bombed Finland; that sounds like being at war. And 69 Finnish merchants ships were sunk outside of the Baltic Sea. [n.9] Also, every Finnish soldier fighting the USSR meant that one German soldier could be sent west to fight the Allies. Every Russian soldier killed by the Finns weakened the Allied war effort.


    • First Indo-Pak War, 1947-49
    • Democracies: India vs. Pakistan.
    • Rebuttal: These regimes hadn’t been around long enough to qualify as a stable democracies.


    • Iran, Guatemala and Chile, 1953, 1954 and 1973 respectively.
    • Democracies: United-States-backed coups in Iran, Guatemala and Chile.
    • Rebuttals: It’s not certain how deeply the CIA was involved in overthrowing these democratically elected governments, but even if it was in up to its neck, these were coups and not wars. Covert operations by shadowy, bureaucratic elites are not democratic. They are not publicly debated and approved beforehand by the citizenry.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Technically, every military operation in the modern world is enacted by secretive bureacracies without public debate. (Was D-Day put to a vote?) If using the CIA is undemocratic, then so is using the Army; and if using the Army is undemocratic, then democracies can’t fight wars, period. QED.


    • Lebanese Civil War, 1978, 1982
    • Democracies: Israel vs. Lebanon.
    • Rebuttal: Lebanon hardly counts as a stable democracy.


    • Croatian War of Independence, 1991-92
    • Democracies: Croatia vs. Yugoslavia.
    • Rebuttal: These regimes hadn’t been around long enough to qualify as a stable democracies.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Even so, both nations had government that had been put in place through free elections. Even Weart admits that.


    • Border War, 1995
    • Democracies: Ecuador vs. Peru.
    • Rebuttal: President Fujimori of Peru had suspended the constitution in 1992, making himself a virtual dictator.
    • Counter-rebuttal: Just as virtual reality isn’t reality, so a virtual dictator isn’t a dictator. It is usually considered legal for a democratic leader to exercise emergency powers in an emergency, isn’t it? Also, when Fujimori lost parliamentary support in 2000, he quit/was fired. Isn’t the peaceful surrender of power one of the major tests of true democracy? [see also the 1898 Spanish-American War and the 1999 Kosovo War for similar applications of this test.]


    • Kosovo War, 1999
    • Democracies: The countries of NATO vs. Yugoslavia.
    • Rebuttal: Milosovic was a dictator.
    • Counter-rebuttal: In the legislative elections of Nov. 1996, Milosovic’s supporters won a mere 64 out of 138 seats in parliament, and control of government probably would have gone to the opposition had not infighting and internal divisions prevented them from claiming their place at the helm. In 1997, Milosovic was re-elected president by a plausible margin of 59% to 38% [n.1] which suggests that these elections were not entirely rigged either. In October 2000, a soundly beaten Milosovic actually conceded defeat after an apparently free presidential election. Sure it took a week or so of prodding to get him to vacate the presidential palace, but a concession is a concession nonetheless. (and he gave in quicker than Al Gore.)


    • Fourth Indo-Pak War (Kargil War) 1999
    • Democracies: India vs. Pakistan.
    • Rebuttal: Those weren’t Pakistanis. They were independent, volunteer guerrilla forces operating out of Pakistan, not regular troops.
    • Counter-Rebuttal: A technicality, at best. A cover story at worst. According to CNN [n.2], the insurgents were stiffened by Pakistani regulars, and supported by Pakistani artillery firing over the border into the neighboring democracy of India. The nations’ air forces raided back and forth regularly.
    • Bad Rebuttal: And Pakistan wasn’t even a democracy anyway. I seem to recall that they had a military coup sometime around then
    • Counter-Rebuttal in the form of a brief summary of a rather obscure war: That came later. The Pakistanis were driven back to the de facto international border on 17 July after two months of war. The civilian Prime Minister was deposed in October. The 2-month death toll was 1100, according to CNN.


    • Israel-Lebanon War 2006
    • Democracies: Israel vs. Lebanon
    • Rebuttal: Lebanon is hardly a democracy.
    • Counter-Rebuttal: “A 100-member European Union (EU) delegation monitored voter registration, campaigns, and voting, and approved the [2005] election as free of foreign influence and fair” (Council on Foreign Relations)

  32. July 25th, 2011 at 21:38 | #32

    A foreign policy class I took while in college (okay, a long time ago) pushed that theory also – “democracies do not go to war with each other.” I remember the professor offered it as a matter of fact. Might be more applicable during the Cold War when the U.S. is trying to coalesce the West behind her to confront the Soviet Union.

    But that theory is flawed, because Russia is ‘democratic’ today. We would expect the U.S. and Russia to honor treaties from the Soviet Union days to reduce their nuclear arsenal. The U.S. is also expanding NATO and encroaching ever closer towards Russia.

    @Allen
    silentvoice’s quoting of “Democracies do not start wars” is probably meant to say there are in the West who thinks ‘democracies’ are inherently ‘good.’ Like the claim that ‘freedom’ is inherently ‘good’ and incapable of invading and killing foreigners. Delusional madness.

    “free” press is better able to expose corruption, AND, at the same time, better able to lie or to a whole bunch of other unsavory things.

  33. Wukailong
    July 25th, 2011 at 21:39 | #33

    I guess I should add, in line with what Allen wrote above, that the theory is that democratic states don’t start wars with each other. If somebody claimed that democracies never start wars, well… that would be very easy to refute. 😉

  34. jxie
    July 25th, 2011 at 23:07 | #34

    With the women’s suffrage issue, the US shouldn’t be considered a democracy until after 1920. Then there is the black vote issue, so arguably the US didn’t turn into a modern democracy until after the 1960s. Actually I can argue the US is still not a democracy, but that’s another story altogether.

    The democratic peace theory is quite possible the worst theory in this ideological narrative. A supplement to this theory is, if two nations previously known as democracies go to war with each other, one nation will stop being labeled as a democracy. So long as the “core” democratic states, i.e. major Western European and North American countries, plus Australia and NZ, but not necessarily countries like India, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa (“flawed” democracies), don’t go to war with each other, the theory isn’t totally dead.

  35. Common Tater
    July 26th, 2011 at 02:02 | #35

    At Allen:

    People talk about corruption in China as if it’s limited to China?

    No where did you get that idea? Articles about corruption in China are about …..wait for it….Corruption in China! Articles about corruption world wide are about that.

    If you zero in on articles about China, then of course they will seem China-centric.

    Google terms related to corruption in other countries and you will see lots of stuff, including the USA. How about the recent phone hacking scandal in the UK? Loads of stuff out there, not even distantly connected to China by the press.

  36. July 26th, 2011 at 05:52 | #36

    @Common Tater

    NO, the article stated, “The Communist Party’s authoritarian rule leads to widespread corruption.”

    It attributes the corruption to the political system, whereas Corruptions in the West are merely brushed off as “bad apples”.

    Hence, the article is obviously biased and limited.

    If it had acknowledged that CORRUPTIONS are every where, then its conclusion of blaming the political system in China would be illogical, because it does NOT to a comparison of political systems and relative corruptions.

    Hey, if you want to blame 1 specific political system for corruption, then you should compare.

    It’s different than merely reporting the extent of corruption in China, and NOT assigning any conclusions.

  37. November 3rd, 2011 at 23:28 | #37

    Well, the corruption is the rot cause of destruction for a state, A state which is run by a corrupt government can not live longer. I think china could not make progress with such a high rate if it was corrupted.
    China has a string history base and they love their traditions..

  38. November 7th, 2011 at 01:52 | #38

    I think the reason China made it this far without democracy is lack of corruption as Arman stated. It’s corruption that eats states from within and turns democracy into a charade. Look at the Arab countries before the Arab Spring, for example, when influenced by the US to adopt a more democratic political system, elections where held, but votes were being sold for money and election boxes were being exchanged by the police.

    I think the real question should be about corruption, not elections. A corrupt regime will never be representative with or without elections.

  39. raventhorn
    November 7th, 2011 at 06:57 | #39

    The Economist and TI (Transparency International) did an interesting “survey”, http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/bribe-payers-index, and http://bpi.transparency.org/, which I take with a huge grain of salt:

    (1) it’s based on questionaires to 3000 businessmen, based on “perceptions”, China had the lowest number of surveyees.

    (2) Bigger problem? Statistically invalid to draw the line. The graph is stretched out horizontally to put in a rough extrapolation line, but the scale is from 6 to 9. If you put the whole graph on the 0-10 scale, the entire graph would look like a single Clump/cluster of data.

    *A friend and I argued about the meaning of such “perception” data on corruption.

    There are some views that “political systems” directly influences “corruption”, but this is entirely Western view. The idea is that Corruptions are due to the system that encourages it.

    In the Long Chinese history, it is the system that is the Victim of Corruption from the populous, particularly merchants and warlords.

    There are “corruptions” that are perfectly legal in the West, and yet everyone knows that those practices, such as Super-PAC, lobbying channels, etc., are corrupt by the layman’s standards.

    If you ask a US businessman, whether he thinks his company’s corporate donations to lobbyists then funneled to US Senators/Congressmen are “corrupt”, what would he say?

    And yet, if you ask the same US businessman, whether he thinks a Chinese business rival’s dinner with a Chinese government official is “corrupt”, would he say differently??

  40. mark chan
    January 25th, 2012 at 01:30 | #40

    During the past 30 year, China has been practicing pragmatic materialism and the West has turned to romantic idealism. Let the experiment continue peacefully for 30 more years and we will be able to see the decisive difference.

  41. ben wing
    February 16th, 2012 at 17:55 | #41

    The basic problem here with evaluating China’s current system is that the country has been on a steady path of economic improvement for several decades. This is not surprising given the miserable state of the country before hand — but it hardly means that you can judge the “success” of the current political system based on the tolerance of the citizens for the system. When life is continually getting better, people will put up with enormous injustices. The real test for China will come when the system stabilizes and people no longer expect each year to be better than the rest. My sense when I visited China a few years ago is that there are enormous unresolved social tensions, which will explode the instant the economy slows down. U.S. democracy may not be perfect but it has survived over 200 years through all sorts of ups and downs. The same cannot be said of China, whose current system (assuming it begins with Deng) has never been tested similarly.

  42. ben wing
    February 16th, 2012 at 17:58 | #42

    @jxie
    This is a weird argument, to say the least. Eric Li tries to make the same claim in today’s NYT op-ed that U.S. was not a “democracy” until after the 1965 Civil Rights act. Interesting that only China-firsters make such claims; you will not find very many other commentators of any stripes who say similarly.

  43. jxie
    February 16th, 2012 at 19:46 | #43

    @ben wing

    Actually you can argue even today the US is not a democracy. For instance, in a classic definition of democracy, a lot, if not all of the duties performed by the judicial system, are voted by the public. California is getting there… but the whole US still isn’t quite there.

    The first president to call the US a democracy was the 6th president Andrew Jackson, who ironically caused the most Native American deaths. The American founding fathers built a republic, not a democracy.

    The modern day definition of democracy can be quite shifty and subjective that sometimes merely serves political purposes. For instance, Russia is called an authoritarian regime, or autocracy. Since the word is abused to the point that often carries very little intelligent contents, I loath to use it without full qualifications.

    If you read carefully the full context, the comment in question was addressing “the democratic peace theory”. If we have to call the pre-Civil Rights Act America a democracy, for sure a lot of the democratic nations have gone to wars against each other.

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