The Chinese are getting richer – but not necessarily democratic.
Hu Jintao, the outgoing President of the Republic of China, has had few surprises in his farewell address. The core message was: continued rapid economic growth and one-party rule. And by 2020, the average income is doubled.
Will the Chinese Communist Party manage to continue the existing course in the next ten years?
There are two contrary opinions. One side believes that the PRC follows a different path than the West and might be transformed more into a large Singapore. This means: the per capita income will reach Western levels, without changing the form of government much. Maybe the party is no longer as repressive against the opposition, but basically they can continue to rule by authoritarian grip if the citizens are too saucy.
The other side believes that democracy is inevitable. The standard of comparison is not the West, but South Korea and Taiwan. Both are countries, which have long been under dictatorial rule but have moved beyond a certain level of prosperity to a democratic system under the pressure of the road. In South Korea, there were free and direct presidential elections in 1987 and in Taiwan in 1996.
Comparing the relationship between prosperity and democracy there is a fact that in South Korea, the democracy movement gained momentum as the average income per person went over the threshold of $ 5,000 (precisely: 1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars, an international reference value).
In Taiwan, this process began somewhat later, i.e. only from about 10,000 U.S. dollars annual income per capita.
China has exceeded the threshold of $5,000 long ago. There is a middle class demanding more freedom and participation and it will fight the party rule. According to this thesis, in China a powerful pro-democracy movement should come in the next ten years .
Who is right? That’s hard to say, because the PRC is much bigger than South Korea and Taiwan. The comparison is tricky. In addition, South Korea and Taiwan have long been under the influence of the United States. At the end of the Cold War the US even approved or forced political reforms. The PRC is a world unto itself.
On the other hand, it is difficult to understand why other historical laws apply to the PRC. Just because the country is so big, there is a high chance that the governance of the Communist Party of China is too difficult sometimes.
And if there is an oblique comparison, it’s the one with Singapore: The Republic of China has 1.3 billion inhabitants; Singapore’s population is just over 5 million.
And then the famous rule that worldwide so far, no party has ruled the policy of a country for more than 74 years. The record comes from the CPSU, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which ruled from 1917 to 1991 alone, uninterrupted.
If the Chinese Communist Party wants to equal that record, it must hold at least until 2023. That could be eleven long years.
Source: Tagesanzeiger “Wird China bald demokratisch?” (Translated from German by nomade51)
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