tip off

Chinese democracy? Let’s put it to a vote

Crikey readers have a lot to say about whether China should become a democracy.

Human rights more important than China’s economy

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re: “Why China won’t — and shouldn’t — become a liberal democracy” (yesterday). Mark Triffitt airily dismisses the rights of 1.4 billion Chinese to have a direct say in who governs them and opines that Western political systems “have increasingly become isolated from the world around them”. Perhaps, but the answer is surely to dismantle the EU and other grand statist projects that are suffocating Western political systems, not to tell one-fifth of humanity they can’t ever vote.

Triffitt also argues that “a major program of public participation and grassroots decision-making through town meetings, community-based assemblies and … large-scale focus groups” is China’s answer to directly electing a government. So, to rephrase, the political opinions of 1.4 billion people are best discovered via focus groups and local meetings — all organised by the Communist Party — rather than competitive elections. Well, there is a way to be certain: put the two systems to a vote. Betcha they vote for democracy.

John Aliferis writes: Mark Triffitt’s article was puzzling. No need for a Chinese democracy? Chinese Communism, is, ahem, working? Could someone email Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel laureate, the article?

It would be easy to ignore this as another of those articles written by a former political warrior now political theorist/policy expert/media commentator/blogger about how the [insert country/society] could have been improved/changed/reformed if only one didn’t have to persevere through antiquated/archaic/tired/redundant institutions and processes. Oh, and I almost forgot, add comparison country with benevolent dictator/party and well-performing economy as evidence to support said propositions. But that would be too easy. That would be a continuation of the Australian government’s approach to the Australian-Chinese relationship that has resulted in human rights moved into the abyss of dinner speeches and articles ghost-written for publication in policy/political publications while trade volumes increased.

It is of course pointless to outline the various ironies, hypocrisies and just plain chutzpah in claiming that the current system in the “West” (whatever that tired phrase now means) is tired and, presumably, broken. Perhaps Crikey could publish an article about the institutional actors who have been complicit in undermining democratic systems, say like corporate lobbyists …

PS: Public consultation is not “political innovation”.

Luke Fabish writes: Mark Triffitt suggests that the greatest danger of China adopting liberal democracy is economic stagnation, but he ignores the enormous upside of a political framework that allows a citizenry to remove corrupt and despotic leaders.

Human rights abuses in China are ongoing, and significant. I wonder how many points of Chinese GDP Triffitt would be willing to swap for an end to such abuses.

I actually doubt Triffitt cares that much about the Chinese economy — his real concern is of course the effect a slowing Chinese economy would have on Australia. Making a case to preserve an autocracy over 1.4 billion people in order to maintain the comfort of 23 million people is contemptible.

3
  • 1
    wayne robinson
    Posted Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    A first! Tamas Calderwood actually writes a comment I agree with.

  • 2
    Posted Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Arguably ‘open’ society is a stronger value than democracy - which after all is sliced and diced in many unrepresentative ways, not least money politics. An open society allows democracy to happen, such that the grand synthesis can at least have a chance of brewing up some distilled wisdom (at best) or common denominator (at least).

    But it all depends on an open society - where people get to say what they want, and report what they want. I can’t see China benefiting from the diversity of dissent and debate and variation while for instance protest may not occur in Tianamen Square or be reported.

    That seems to me a society and a governance stuck in 2nd gear. Because there are any number of taboo topics that become orthodoxy and create progress for society as a whole - but not in a closed society where the taboos are crushed as meddlesome, when in fact they are a step ladder to the future.

    Fascism cannot really compete with an open society because it lacks hybrid vigour and organic synthesis. At least IMHO.

  • 3
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Wayne - straight back at ya. But glad we can agree on this.

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