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As China grows more prosperous, will its political system become more democratic and...

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granny54 | Student, College Freshman | Valedictorian

Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:19 PM via web

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As China grows more prosperous, will its political system become more democratic and open?

In your response, elaborate whether it seems likely that as China grows more prosperous, there will be greater demands for respect of civil rights and political freedoms and whether the power monopoly of the Communist party will eventually erode.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:21 PM (Answer #2)

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So far, there does not seem to be much evidence to suggest that China's growth will automatically lead (as some political theorists suggest) to more democracy.  In the years since the 1989 crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, China has experienced tremendous economic growth.  This has not been accompanied by any significant amounts of political liberalization.

Theoretically, economic growth should lead to democracy.  People who become prosperous should demand more rights once their material needs have been largely satisfied.  However, there does not seem to be any great movement in that direction in China.  Even given how rich China has become there has been little serious resistance to its system from within.

I would argue that democratization is only likely once China has surpassed (if this ever happens) the US as a world power.  Until then, its government will remain very closed and focused on passing the US to the exclusion of other goals.  Its people will continue (until then) to accept repression as the price of progress.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:03 AM (Answer #3)

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I think China's prosperity will inevitably lead to, and is already leading to, increased freedom for the Chinese people.  Whether or not this ever translates into democracy remains to be seen.  There are now more than 130 billionaires in Chinese society, and even in a global recession, their economy continues to grow at a healthy clip.  The economic freedom this brings has led to better education, more mobility, and more interaction with and travel to the outside world.  These freedoms are still carefully limited though, and the sheer size of China makes democratic elections difficult and unwieldy.  They have no democratic tradition to speak of.  It's not clear that economic progress alone can overcome those kinds of powerful obstacles.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:40 PM (Answer #4)

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As China grows, there is more innovation. In order for the government to encourage innovation, it has to allow some freedom. Innovation leads to prosperity, and at this time financial motives are stronger in China than ideologic ones. The government still wants to tightly control what people say though. For some time yet, I believe that oppression will continue.
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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:19 PM (Answer #5)

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I hope that China's economic growth will lead to more human rights and openness, but I do not see much evidence of this occurring at the moment. The recent-ish caving of Google to China's demands to censor its activity in China demonstrates how an increasingly economically prosperous China is not necessarily becoming more democratic. The Beijing Olympics likewise shows how the rights of the individual gave way to the rights of the state, as many people were evicted to make way for building projects.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:06 AM (Answer #6)

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As China becomes more prosperous I do not see it leading to a more Democratic and open political system. We might see less oppression and hopefully more individual rights but I do not anticipate any great ideological change in the government.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 9, 2011 at 9:16 AM (Answer #7)

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I seriously doubt it.  Their government has been communist since the early 1900's.  It's worked for them, and I doubt their rulers will want to give up their present power.  However, as mentioned in earlier posts, it is possible that there will be more freedoms given to the public as the country enjoys greater prosperity and wealth.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:22 AM (Answer #8)

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That is perhaps the most important political question of the 21st century.

The Chinese government learned a lot from the Tienanmen Square protests in 1989. They have softened immensely compared to back then. Perhaps an interesting question is, 'can the Chinese dictatorship learn to be benign?' Plato said a benign dictatorship was better than democracy. And Singapore proved that positive dictatorship is possible. Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore from 1959 - 1990 and transformed it from a 3rd world country into a near-paradise by ignoring any stupid objections. Can China do the same? Maybe, but it will be much much harder. Singapore is a tiny city state, China is the largest population on Earth. They are very different.

When China looks at the awful choices made by 'educated' American voters, I suspect they will be deeply reluctant to allow their people the right to allocate supreme executive power. Why should the Chinese leadership conclude that democracy is the ultimate goal when it produced a double term for the clearly-incompetent George Bush? Do you want a Chinese Michelle Bachmann?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro-dictatorship, but modern democracy is a long long way from perfect, even when your electorate is 'educated'. Generally speaking most Chinese are not educated. Look at Indian 'democracy'; that's what you get with truly uneducated voting. I'm not sure that's what China wants or needs.

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justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 2:59 PM (Answer #9)

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That is perhaps the most important political question of the 21st century.

The Chinese government learned a lot from the Tienanmen Square protests in 1989. They have softened immensely compared to back then. Perhaps an interesting question is, 'can the Chinese dictatorship learn to be benign?' Plato said a benign dictatorship was better than democracy. And Singapore proved that positive dictatorship is possible. Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore from 1959 - 1990 and transformed it from a 3rd world country into a near-paradise by ignoring any stupid objections. Can China do the same? Maybe, but it will be much much harder. Singapore is a tiny city state, China is the largest population on Earth. They are very different.

When China looks at the awful choices made by 'educated' American voters, I suspect they will be deeply reluctant to allow their people the right to allocate supreme executive power. Why should the Chinese leadership conclude that democracy is the ultimate goal when it produced a double term for the clearly-incompetent George Bush? Do you want a Chinese Michelle Bachmann?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro-dictatorship, but modern democracy is a long long way from perfect, even when your electorate is 'educated'. Generally speaking most Chinese are not educated. Look at Indian 'democracy'; that's what you get with truly uneducated voting. I'm not sure that's what China wants or needs.

I can't find one piece of logic used that I wouldn't agree with. The reference to India, brilliant.

Democracy is not a fix-it-all system. A lot of thought into it and I'd say democracy is nothing great. It's just about the views of the majority forced to prevail in everything else that it done. That doesn't make them right, at least not for the minority. And taking about majority and minority you could have a majority with 49% denied from expressing their views.

Singapore is a nation whose political system I wish were implemented in India. A positive dictatorship, hard to come by; but when it does, something you would not want to lose. If the Chinese were to only achieve that instead of converting to a failed democracy like India, there is nothing stopping them from becoming the most powerful nation in the World with the happiest citizens.

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