While working in China, I often heard officials say and read in the media that democracy is not suitable for China. That always puzzled me. It felt like Chinese racism against Chinese people.
I found this article on the FT Chinese website by wangchdq of Heilongjiang Province, the author of two other short comment-article I shared recently here on my blog. FTChinese has many intriguing articles and comments from China about China.
As a Twitter colleague warned me today, people who go to the FTChinese website are Chinese intellectuals and some five-centers (Party running dog web agitprop folks paid a pittance for their patriotic services) and not a representative sample of the Chinese nation. FT的中文讀者群是知識分子居多，外加一些五毛黨。在中國社會的標本意義不大。中下階層不會看FT。 Certainly true, still trying some ideas on for size can enlighten even if they are not necessarily representative.
As the article concludes Wangchdq favors a gradual opening up of the state to political participation. Perhaps something like what Taiwan did — in the 50s opponents were executed; in the 60s they were merely given long prison terms; in the late 70s some independent candidates were allowed and then in the 80s ending of martial law and multiparty democracy and press freedom.
The Taiwan political situation was different from what it is now on the mainland — in Taiwan, the KMT “mainlanders” were only a small part of the population and of the military relative to the ethnic Taiwans who had been their for generations, so the pressure to democratize must have been more urgent to those in power because of those special circumstances different from those of the PRC on mainland China today.
Wangchdq’s comment-article reminded me of Chengdu writer Ran Yunfei’s article of ten years ago 2008: Ran Yunfei: “Where Will the Fear End? A Talk that Could Not Be Delivered”.
The Biggest Lie: Democracy is Not Suitable for China
by wangchdq of Heilongjiang Province, PRC
Chinese officials’ biggest lie over the past century is that the democratic system is not suitable for China. Their biggest lie is that only dictatorship is suitable for China. In order to preserve her position and personal advantages, the Empress Dowager Cixi rejected constitutional monarchy; in order to preserve his position and personal advantages, Yuan Shikai restored the monarchy; in order to protect his position and personal advantage, Sun Yat-sen created his theory of the stages of military government, tutelage government, and constitutional government; in order to protect his position and personal advantage, Chiang Kai-shek created “one political party, one leader, one ideology, and one army”; in order to protect his position and personal advantages, Mao Zedong established socialism; in order to protect his position and personal advantage, Deng Xiaoping created the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics; in order to protect their positions and personal advantages, the leaders of the generation of educated youth sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution got rid of term limits for top leaders.
In order to demonize and oppose the democratic system, Chinese officials use the excuse that the democratic system will cause social chaos as an argument against democracy. Chinese officials dare not say that because they did not establish a democratic system, ordinary people cannot elect officials, and therefore officials do not speak for and act for the benefit of ordinary people.
Moreover, the cost of maintaining social stability under socialism with Chinese characteristics has actually surpassed military expenditures. The ordinary people have always suffered hardships. The ordinary people have been oppressed by officials. The ordinary people cannot even say whatever they like. The ordinary people have not yet been able to live in justice and freedom.
Sun Yat-sen believed of the poor education and character of Chinese people in his time that they were temporarily unable to exercise their right to be masters of the state. As a result, the Nationalist government led by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was needed to educate the people and improve their characters in order to develop the minds of the people. The ultimate goal of the training was to achieve the stage of building the Republic of China into a democratic country, that is, “constitutional government.” On January 29, 1923, Sun Yat-sen published a “The History of the Chinese Revolution” in the special issue of the 50th Anniversary of the “Declaration”, saying: “In the Revolution, in addition to destroying the enemy’s forces, one must pay attention to the cultivation of the capacity of the nation’s citizens. In essence, the strategy of the Revolution has three stages: the first is the military government period, the second is the tutelage stage during which the capacity of the citizen is built up, and the third is the constitutional period.”
When Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government issued the first constitutional document, it became clear that the principles were that party takes on the role of government and that the highest authority of the Nationalist Party was thus the highest authority of the government. The Party directly organized the government. The leaders of all government agencies in the central government were chosen by the by the KMT Central Executive Committee. The power to formulate, amend and interpret the law, and the decision-making power of all legislative principles were all exercised by the party’s institutions. Party decisions were legally binding. The state administrative decision-making power was also a party institution. The central government itself has no right to decide major issues. Everything was subject to the party’s institutions; the government itself was just a tool for the one-party dictatorship.
However, at the same time, the law also clearly guarantees the people’s rights and freedoms of religion, free association, speech, to petition, and privacy communications. It was a big improvement over the previous “political program.” Although the Kuomintang took the responsibility being “the nanny of the tutelage government”, the Kuomintang’s theory of political tutelage was strongly attacked from the beginning. The voices of people opposed to “one-party dictatorship” and “the Party ruling the state” and demanding “returning government to the people” were heard throughout the period.
The three-stage theory of military government, a period of tutelage, and full constitutionalism was very controversial. Supporters believed that it was the only way for China to democratize. Because of the lack of democratic experience, the China might have a constitution in name only, but they could not effectively implement the constitution. The constitution would be taken advantage of by a particular political faction or strongman.
A representative voice of the opponents was Hu Shih: “We can understand that Mr. Sun Yat-sen’s claims that a period of tutelage is necessary because he does not trust the Chinese people’s ability to participate in politics;” “The training the people need is civic life under the Constitution. The government and the party departments need training under in political life under the rule of law. ”
If a small number of people control politics, they will never allow the people to get training in modern politics. The most effective political training is to gradually open up political power and let the people get some experience in politics. To be blunt, if someone wants to learn how to swim, they must first go into the water. Those who learn to play the piano must first have a piano. Constitutionalism is the best training for constitutionalism. It turns out that Hu Shih was right. Sun Yat-sen merely used the military and political constitutional government as an excuse to oppose democratic reform. Chiang Kai-shek also used the theory of the three stage of military government, tutelage and then full constitutional government as an excuse to oppose democratic reform.
They did this to preserve the positions and personal advantages of Sun Yat-sen and of Chiang Kai-shek. Today the purpose of Chinese officials’ opposition to democratic reform is the same as that of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek – in order to preserve their own positions and benefits. The poor education and character of ordinary people is also a good excuse for Chinese officials to oppose reforms that would establish a democratic system of government. Compared with the Chinese officials, Sun Yat-sen and even Chiang Kai-shek’s thinking was more progressive.
In socialist China, the people with have power, have money and have education rush to emigrate to the United States. The poor and the ignorant believe in Mao Zedong-style socialist equality make a pilgrimage to his Memorial Hall, believe that China’s wise leaders can solve their problems and so bring their petitions to the Petitioning Bureaus. Experts and scholars who support socialism traffick their lies on television and in the newspapers. Official official websites forbid netizens who support Western-style democracy and democratic institutions from speaking out. These websites do not display postings supporting Western-style democracy and democratic institutions. They only display statements in support of Chinese officials and of socialism.
Chinese officials say, on behalf of ordinary people, that only socialism is suitable for China, and Chinese officials say, again on behalf of ordinary people, that democracy is not suitable for China.
From the Financial Times Chinese language website http://www.ftchinese.com/profiles/wangchdq/comments