Why China is not close to democratizing

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

It’s also worth thinking through exactly what changes Chinese democracy is supposed to bring. China’s urbanization has been so rapid — it has had more urban than rural residents for less than a decade — that a national election might well reflect the preferences of rural voters, which after all most Chinese were until very recently. If you belong to the Chinese upper class or even middle class along the eastern coast, you may end up asking yourself the following question: Who is more likely to protect my basic economic interests, the current Chinese Communist Party, or a democratic representative of Chinese rural interests? China is also growing rich during a time of extreme economic inequality, which may make many Chinese elites think twice about democratization.

Compare China’s situation to that of Taiwan, which is much smaller, does not have a comparable preponderance of rural population, and started becoming democratic in an era when inequality was not so extreme. There was enough of a sense of a common Taiwanese national interest for democracy to be trusted, and furthermore Taiwan has always been keen to distinguish itself from a non-democratic mainland.

What about social issues? One recent study has shown that Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues of gender equality, political pluralism and openness to international exchange than do the Chinese public at large. Again, if you are an elite among the Chinese citizenry, it is not a sure thing that you will do better with democracy than under the Communist Party.

There are many other points at the link.


Oh the Straussian horror of it all!

I think Tyler has it the wrong way around. The good thing about democracy is not that it reflects some specific set of views. The good thing is that it creates accountability - you can throw the scoundrels out. China seems to have some level of accountability without democracy, and while it's growing perhaps it's working well. But I'd bet that over the long run, over 100s of years, you do want democratic accountability. China is a young country in some ways..

Throwing the scoundrels out just selects for different sources of unaccountability, like the "deep state" and media.

We have arrived at the sad point where honoring one's sworn commitment to the Constitution of the United States is called "deep state" .. because you won't break the rules with the rest of the tribe.

The serious answer is that in a functioning democracy there should be multiple, competing, centers of power, but they should all feel an ethical imperative. Breaking ranks to do the right thing, rather than breaking the law to do the wrong thing.

Here's a nice instance of how far we've fallen on that:

Trump says he will not fire Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act violations

Maybe it's not a huge deal, but it is a clear thumbnail. Trump has brought his party to the point where they will ignore the law openly.

Congratulations, everything you told me in 2016 about "don't worry, checks and balances will hold" was wrong.

after it all comes out in the wash/legalprocess
"disparaging democratic adversaries" on cable tv
might be a pretty creativeframing/new use
of the hatch act

Saying you don't like a law, if that's what you are doing, has never been a legal or ethical defense. Nor can you really make "civil disobedience" work here. This is about the powerful unfairly and illegally leveraging that power, not the little guy trying to be heard.

A law being unjust is always an ethical defense to breaking that law

I think the ethical argument goes with the law. Public servants should clearly separate and define their actions. When they are "on the clock" they are public servants. When they are "campaigning" they are not.

If someone in the justice department thinks KC has violated the Hatch Act, let them bring charges. Otherwise she’s legally innocent.

What do you care about the Constitution, anonmouse? We KNOW you already don’t care about our immigration laws.

He cares deeply about the Constitution. Surely you've seen his massive diatribes against Hillary Clinton's obviously illegal behavior? /sarcasm

we didn't say we didn't like the law
we think this particularly creative hatch act gambit will ultimately fail
because it is aburd

Either you think public servants should follow the law, or you don't.

Or at least that they should try to follow form with stuff like "[owning] up to it, and [taking] the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again"

her position is advisor to the president this means she is gonna push
their policies and they are gonna poop on the democrats policies. it is inherent in the position. and probably not gonna be considered a violation of the hatch act
hasn't this issue been unsuccessfully&expensively
litigated in the past

The constitution does not enshrine your political preferences. And you have to expect a little cynicism about your sincerity when you argue that such-and-such violation is terrible when committed by your political opponents, despite having been ignored and unenforced against your side. Or perhaps you can link us to contemporaneous complaints that you made when violations by Sebelius and Castro were laughed off?

And if I don't have a side, you'll invent one to make that whole argument work.

I hadn't actually heard of those before, but looking it up:

At the time, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest said Castro wouldn’t be disciplined, the Times reported, adding that Earnest said Castro “owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. That’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this.”

That sounds like where the Trump administration might have been a year and a half ago, rather than now, just blowing it off as "blah, blah, blah."

What an odd place to expect political neutrality and decorum. (What an odd piece of legislation?)

On the basis of 'checks and balances' it seems like a weak, almost pathetic argument.

You can have attack ads, a partisan media, extensive lobbying, 'super PACs' - but the moment a politically appointed adviser primarily engaged in media communications (exactly the sort of person whose office would bleed naturally into defense of the administration), while 'on duty', starts demonstrating a preference for the government of the day and disparaging aspirants to government.... the incumbent becomes too powerful?

Some other motivations for criticizing her action, that she has reduced confidence in political neutrality of executive appointees, seem more salient.

But she must have reduced it from a very low level if so. And that's not new to the Trump era.

There does seem to be an inherent tension between rural voting blocks and more urban liberal ones and this strains institutions. Outcomes of democracy depends on which number is bigger (excepting electoral college systems.)

Brexit - within England London votes remain, outside London votes leave.

Thailand - rural voters vs Bangkok results in endless coups.

Trump - rural voters plus electoral college.

Global phenomenon

Though... the Chinese Communist Party, guardians of bourgeoisie*! How's that for an irony?

*'originally and generally, "those who live in the borough", that is to say, the people of the city (including merchants and craftsmen), as opposed to those of rural areas'

So, a growing middle class wanting a say in the government of their country but with a strong distrust of mob rule? This sounds kind of familiar.

"Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues ... than do the Chinese public at large.

Again, if you are an elite among the Chinese citizenry, it is not a sure thing that you will do better with democracy than under the Communist Party."

That sounds just like the USA! The elite just tried to execute a coup d'etat to remove a president elected by misguided, unsophisticated, deplorable bumpkins from flyover states.

Looks like it may have backfired. I can't wait to see the perp walks.

What fraction of the country think this "coup d'etat" stuff is funny, in a Flat Earth Society kind of way, and what part actually believe it?

Have we truly arrived in a (Mis) Information Age?

Just had a look for news on an attempted coup in the United States. Our media tends to stay on top of these sorts of things on account of the nuclear weapons. However, the latest Australian news on Trump was this:


What fraction of the country knows how many FBI and Justice department employees were fired over the last couple years due to inappropriate political meddling?

Another answer that brushes Poe's law. The answer is "a few" and circumstances for their removal were "indistinct."

So it's clearly crazy to introduce that in support of "coup d'etat."

Are you crazy, or is this a game?

He's gotta be crazy. Every rational American knows Putin stole the election with Fake News posts on the Facebook and Twitter.

Is that another form of the humor, or another form of the craziness?

In it, Jeff inflates known facts in hope to make them seem more ridiculous.

I'm not sure, what does the crazy person think?

Note also the explicit approval of government-enforced “progressive” social views. So much for viewpoint diversity.

Harvard isn't a democracy, it's run rather along the lines of China. It's been doing pretty well for 383 years now.

Yeah but with far fewer executions. And no Cultural Revolution.

Must be the real reason they keep the Chinese out due to "bad personalities"

The problem with this quoted section is that it seems to equate "democratizing" with something like "direct popular election of a very powerful president". But democracy is much, much more than that. China is democratizing in the sense that the courts are getting better, the private economy is growing, and the amount of information available in the public sphere is increasing. There are still massive democratic deficits, but they'll be addressed better by relaxing the controls on information and further improving the justice system rather than leaping directly to popular elections.
(Many Chinese officials are elected, but on a tiered system (a bit like the electoral college) rather than directly. This system is very opaque, which is why China is essentially non-democratic. But it could be made much better with more transparency.)

You are confusing "democracy" with "liberalism"

Information is a requirement of democracy. This is why the democratic part of the Australian Federal Parliamentary Constitution Monarchy is less democratic than it should be. There are no legal penalties for politicians and members of political parties knowingly disseminating lies. I think only one state has protections against it and they are weak.

Information controls have been only getting tighter since the rise of Xi Jinping. I'm not sure what evidence you have that says otherwise.

First and foremost, the Chinese Communist Party is not "popular" nor does it have a "strong brand" in China. When the Chinese were granted a glimmer of freedom in 1989, they took to Tiananmen Square to demand more liberty. Tanks, not the popularity of the CCP, ended the demonstrations. Hence, it's ridiculous to claim that the CCP has enjoyed success (in terms of acquiring popularity) since 1980. They rule by fear, not popularity. Westerners should be aware that, even when Chinese are in the US, they are not free to openly express themselves. Any hint of "counter-revolutionary" attitude can be reported back to the Chinese government, landing the person on a blacklist and endangering relatives that are still in China. When people live in fear, one cannot take their lack of protest as a sign of approval.

Regarding Taiwan, the two key differences were (1) the Taiwanese regarded the KMT Nationalists from China as outside occupiers and (2) Taiwan relied on US support for defense against China. Because of (1), the Taiwanese were eager to free themselves of one-party KMT rule. While Chiang Ching-Kuo, Chiang Kai-Shek's son, did begin some liberalization reforms, full democracy did not come to Taiwan until Chiang's death. His VP, Lee Tung-Hui, became president, and Lee was originally Taiwanese, i.e., he was not part of the KMT that fled from China (even though he was a KMT party member as one had to be to have a political career). Being Taiwanese, Lee did not have a reason to resist democratization as a means of perpetuating Chinese Nationalist domination over the Taiwanese. The second factor, the influence of the US, limited the degree to which the KMT could oppress the Taiwanese. US influence was one of the main, if not the main, factor that explains the difference between Taiwan and China as well as South Korea vs. North Korea. There were plenty of farmers in Taiwan (and maybe South Korea too) when democratization started in the 80s and 90s.

Rather than ask why people supposedly don't want democracy when they're not even given a choice, better to ask why a particular regime, whether the CCP or the pre-democratic KMT, won't allow it. It's usually because the regime knows that they're illegitimate.

"Hence, it's ridiculous to claim that the CCP has enjoyed success (in terms of acquiring popularity) since 1980. They rule by fear, not popularity."

I scrolled down to see if someone would point out the obvious so that I wouldn't have to. Thanks!


The comment by TC is shocking. I expected the worst and was still let down.

To expand: "Again, if you are an elite among the X citizenry, it is not a sure thing that you will do better with democracy than under the Y Party." for many values of X and Y.

The territorial ambitions of China are relatively modest: Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan. As long as they don't start to talk about some vital space or claim ownership of Vietnam tension will not raise.

The apparent goodness of the rule of the China Communist Party heavily depends on a benevolent General Secretary. Benevolent dictators may be almost perfect (growth, raise of living standards, overall population happiness). However, keeping a dictatorship running implies that the risk of the next dictator being a major criminal is high. On a democracy there are checks and balances, it is not expected that a democracy goes for total war out of the will of an unstable individual.

So, will they keep finding and empowering benevolent dictators? Or is there a chinese Kim Jong-un rising in the party ranks right now?

> "Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan"

And a whopping big chunk of maritime territory.

something you hold with an iron grip is not an "ambition".

Not to mention significant chunks along the border with India.

Xinjiang and Tibet have been internationally recognized possessions of China since the founding of the Republic in, I think, 1912. Only Taiwan is a truly irredentist claim. Hong Kong is, of course, complex (one country, two systems, until 2047 and then what?).

And then the other historically Chinese territories - Vietnam, Outer Mongolia and the Russian Far East. But that‘s it! Oh, and Korea. But then China will be satisfied. And Singapore...

Vietnam is no more historically Chinese than Italy is historically Spanish. Yes, some emperors extended their sway into Vietnam just as the Spanish of their Golden Age held territory in Italy, but it certainly was not a permanent thing, and Vietnam, like Italy vis a vis Spain, was not part of China for the bulk of its history.

Neither was Tibet, by that reckoning.

If you think Xi is "benevolent", I would hate to see who you label totalitarian.

Taiwan had a referendum last November in which voters overwhelmingly voted against gay marriage. The referendum was in response to Taiwan's constitutional court unilaterally deciding that gay marriage was allowed. Despite the overwhelming rejection democratically by voters, Taiwan's parliament decided last month to follow the court and legalize gay marriage.

It looks like actual democracy, like the referendum vote overwhelmingly against gay marriage, has prompted US foreign policy elites to believe that "too much" democracy is a "bad thing" that needs to be suppressed:


Just as with Trump's election and Brexit, this attitude towards Taiwan's referendums shows how "democracy" as promoted by elites refers to a certain elite policy consensus rather than actual democracy.

Legalizing gay marriage might have the effect of triggering the homophobic establishment of the CCP so much that they might want to give Taiwan independence or else they might infect the mainland with their gayness. Beijing might even put a stop to chip manufacturing once they realize the correlation between high tech and progressivism.

High tech wouldn't exist if it correlated with homosexual progressivism, because homosexuality is sterile.

Yes, because only childless people invent things.

Right, there's no correlation between homosexuals and high tech, unlike what anon9 implied.

The Victorian era and the first half of the 20th century were much more "homophobic" than the past 50 years and had much greater high tech advance.

So arguably the most important 'high tech' inventor of all time was a homosexual (Alan Turing).

I always thought he was a bit overhyped. The movie made it ridiculously so.

Protection of civil rights does not require a democratic consensus. That's why republics exist in lieu of direct democracies.

Exactly. "Civil rights" and "human rights" ideology is not democratic. It's an elite policy agenda or a pretext for a particular elite policy agenda. It pays lip service to democracy, but is not actually democratic.

It's too big to be run by a democratic system. Cut off chunks of it and the story is different.

An independent Guangdong, integrated with HK, could likely make democracy work. 70% urbanization and strong communities (with long histories) in most of the Anglophone (democratic) developed world. And of course the HK link would play an important role.

Maybe this is the destiny of the Greater Bay Area? Pulling the rest of Guangdong into HK's orbit instead of the other way around?

"Too big" is such a copout. Japan, India, US, Indonesia, etc. are all very large countries that are democratic, and the latter 3 are much more heterogenous than China is.

What specifically about largeness makes it incompatible with democracy? There's no reason you can't have local governments to exercise autonomy over local affairs, and all large democracies do.

It doesn't take many people to make a place "too big" for faux democracy. Any one individual has a personal knowledge of a limited number of other individuals about whom he can make an informed decision about the other's fitness for office. In a country of 320 million dopes only a very few can have a valid personal opinion of the merits of a single individual. In an election votes are either determined by party membership or in accordance with media recommendations. In the case of Obama, for instance, who didn't have his own television program and was totally unfamiliar to the overwhelming majority of Americans, votes for him came from devoted Democrats, misguided African-Americans (pretty much the same thing) and people who thought that a kind of black person that didn't look like Sonny Liston would make a good president.

When the axe came into the forest,
the trees said, "at least the handle is one of us."

Thank you for this excerpt. I do not have the $9.99 a month Bloomberg subscription needed to see the entire piece.

Isn't it time to come up with a word to replace democracy as it's currently used? The US isn't a democracy and China isn't likely to become one either. Both have powerful, well-financed governments that brook no real domestic opposition. The US has an economy that provides comforts and gimcracks to most of the population, especially if they show up for work and pay their taxes. The citizens don't have any meaningful choice in their leadership. A similar situation is no doubt the goal of Chinese leaders.

One recent study has shown that Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues of gender equality, political pluralism and openness to international exchange than do the Chinese public at large. Then the non-Communist Chinese are in touch with reality, since there is no such thing as gender equality. What's so great about political plurality? Casting the world in binary terms makes no sense, there's more than two ways to view politics and plurality, US version, leaves out all but the political psychopaths. The tweedle-dum, tweedle-dee politics of the US is exactly what enables a deep state that actually runs the country, as is probably also the case in China.

Our own founders distrusted democracy: there is no right to vote in the constitution. And so do the elites in the Republican Party. Why else would they go to such great lengths to disenfranchise large segments of the population. There has always been tension in America between different groups, whether black and white, rural and urban, north and south, Christians and Jews or Muslims, old and young, rich and poor. At times, a single national identity has brought Americans together, but today national identity is used to divide not unite. At times, economic aspirations for our children have been something everyone shared, but today the divide between rich and poor is large and growing and economic mobility is unlikely. In times past, the promise of America was a sufficient inducement for owners of capital to invest in productive capital and to support investment in public goods, which lifts all boats. Not so today, as trillions in tax cuts aimed at the wealthy have fallen flat, the promise of America no longer a sufficient inducement. One has to ask, is our system broken? Can it be fixed?

As Cowen sets out in his essay, many of the challenges in China are mirror images of the challenges in America, yet China seems to cope with its top-down political system, which can dictate how capital is distributed, from tech to industry, from private enterprise to advanced public transportation. Even as our investment in productive capital and public goods wanes, China's grows, thereby increasing productivity and promoting economic growth. Would we be willing to sacrifice our seemingly broken system for China's?

Charles Reich has died. He was the author of The Greening of America, which was published in 1970. His belief in the goodness of America and optimism for America's future was something to behold in 1970, as the War in Vietnam continued to rage along with riots in the streets of America, the killing of students by police at an American university, and Richard Nixon in the White House. Amidst it all, Reich could see an awakening, a new consciousness, emerging in America. It was both naive and very American. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/books/charles-reich-dead.html

"Democracy" meant something different in the 18th century than it means today. Back then it meant Direct Democracy, a la ancient Athens, and the Founders, with justification, derided that as "mob rule". Modern Anerican democracy is constitutional government with popular participation and guarantees of basic rights, which is what the Founders created.

Then give it a different name.

It's called a democratic republic. Not a democracy.

Are there republics that aren't democratic? Definition of republic: a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch. I guess that eliminates parliamentary forms that include a prime minister. So how is the supreme power that is held by the people exercised? Apparently by electing representatives, who then do what they wish as long as they're around, since the big advantage is that they can be voted out of office at some point if the people are dissatisfied. Unfortunately the causes of the dissatisfaction usually remain in force long after the rejected electee is gone. Deals made with public employee unions for wages and pensions, for instance.

The "Founders' creation" didn't include the vote for women, native Americans, slaves, etc. Their demos was somewhat circumscribed.

Unable to persuade enough other people to his point of view, rayward longs for a man (or woman) on horseback to start locking them up. Kamala Harris has promised to go that route, rayward; start supporting her.

My intuition says that the rural-urban aspect is probably one of the smaller aspect of Chinese society and the possibility of "democratization" (which probably needs a rather tight definition for the discussion -- universal voting? freedom of speech for political issues? what?). I might think we need to look at the history of it's political structures and it's implementation of Confucianism.

What is the phrase the Chinese use as an epithet roughly translated 'corrupt government thug'?

These sites will learn, one day, that democracy isn't about giving power to the masses. It is about not having the power of the masses removing your head when the discontent bubbles up.

The Chinese Communist party seems to be not afraid enough.

What about social issues? One recent study has shown that Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues of gender equality, political pluralism and openness to international exchange than do the Chinese public at large.

The first and the third are irrelevant to maintaining a constitutional order. As for the 2d, the smart money says the people asking the question defined 'pluralism' as tolerance of things professional-managerial types like, and didn't bother asking the professional-managerial types about tolerance of things ordinary people like. Stanley Rothman noted these biases in survey research 50 years ago.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the majority of the US population was rural. Their interests often differed from those of the urban middle class, and both the Federalists and the Whigs suffered for it. The urban middle class in the US didn't think that one-party dictatorship was a better solution. So far as we can tell from the desperate flow of capital out of China, the urban middle class in China doesn't think so either.

Democracy is just a form of government, and the form of a thing is typically less important than its substance. The real question to ask is whether the Chinese Communist Party as it currently exists has worse substantive policies than a likely alternative government. When I look at the kinds of governments that many democratic developing nations have elected, I think the answer to that question is maybe at best.

Ask a Chinese person who is in jail for speaking what they think it true how those "substantive policies" are going. A system based on lying can't hold up forever.


"A system based on lying can't hold up forever."

There are a lot of us deplorables who think and hope the same.

If you accept Tyler's contention, we could guess that a democratic China would probably focus much more overwhelmingly on rural development.

Now if you care about real continuing poverty reduction in China (not urban coastal dwellers who have solid metrics already by a world standard, and for who further growth in quality of life is probably marginal, and who are far from "developing"), that's a good thing.

We could guess that they probably wouldn't adopt an international strategy aimed at the possibility of ideological conflict with democratic states undermining their legitimacy and hold on power, since there would be little reason to fear that. That itself is a major policy improvement.

We can also guess that, if accountability meant anything, they'd be more likely to mothball the SoEs (although not as a "shock doctrine" you would expect), and the "Belt and Road" contractor pork fiasco, and that they'd invest more in raising consumption levels to keep the public electing them. More broad based consumption (and imports), fewer greasy investment deals for the pals of the connected.

These seem like good things.

What do you think is so bad about democracy, even from an economic point of view? Some evidence suggests democracies tend to outgrow non-democracies, even when poor - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_and_economic_growth.

At worst (even if you believe democratic economic outcomes reflect some shared positive factors that are linked to democratisation) they do no worse - https://voxeu.org/article/democracy-does-not-cause-growth

The comparison with China would seem to be India and Turkey.

Government in India may be massively corrupt, and some find India's resurgent Hindu nationalism threatening, yet so far it's managed to muddle through and, mostly, to prosper.

Turkey seems the counter-example, in that its increasingly authoritarian government seems to retain wide political support. Even though it threatens to discard Ataturk's entire "secular Muslim-majority nation" concept that has sustained Turkey since its creation after WWI.

In any case, although China's leadership has delivered spectacular growth, it is hardly benevolent (esp. to dissenters). Nor can it ever be all that effective in preventing Chinese from seeing the freedoms available in much of the world outside China.

So, if the answer is "Democracy, not not yet" then is not the obvious question, "Then when?"

Isn't this the exact same dynamic in Thailand? Where the urban middle class rejected Shinawatra? I guess the question is- what is for the greater good? Letting everybody have a greater voice? Or doing what those "in the know" actually think is for the best. It all comes down to your views on autonomy and personal rights.

The elite like being elite. Ya think?

Rural people must not be allowed the vote! Mob rule! They are not progressive enough!

exhibit 6732 in a series, Why Libertarians are Execrable, Miserable Bigots and Will Never Suffer Being Relevant to Anything.

"Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues ... than do the Chinese public at large."

Are mass arrests, imprisonment and executions for political crimes considered progressive? Or considered acceptable as long as a progressive view on abortion and gender equality? I doubt that.

And as to the Chinese leaders being in favor of political pluralism, well that's a very poor statement Tyler. Sure if you put enough caveats you might make that statement squeak by as plausible, but straight up, it's pretty much BS.

"Why China is not close to democratizing"

That's a good head line and I believe you are probably correct Tyler.

But your follow up article fails to mention that the Chinese people correctly fear a military crack down if they protest. This combined with the regular harassment and imprisonment of dissidents thwarts any effective attempts at change. China is run by a fairly effective Communist police state. When you avoid mentioning the elephant in the room, you undermine your entire thesis.

"But democratizing China as a whole? It is important for Westerners to step out of their bubbles and consider exactly why so many Chinese are simply not looking in that direction."

Tyler forgot to link to the opinion poll that shows this...

"Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues ... "

Here's a theory - the commies are wealthier and travel internationally more, so they have greater understanding of how things outside of China work. Give the same opportunities to farmers and it's possible they will be even more progressive. It seems like a really poor survey.

If the CCP had such a good brand, why not let the people vote and gain greater domestic and international legitimacy, a la Russia? Instead, it's been all information crackdown, removal of term limits, and suppressing NGOs. Not at all indicative of a popular movement.

Tyler's theory is that the the Chinese elite preserve a horrible regime because it protects their privileged status and major reforms would risk their privileged status.

It reminds me of certain GMU professors, that advocate for market-competition of everything... except for their towers of privilege in government academia.

Tyler, maybe causation is running the opposite of what you imagine. "One recent study has shown that Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues of gender equality, political pluralism and openness to international exchange than do the Chinese public at large. "

Who joins the communist party? Average joes? or social climbers? or businesspeeople who have already "made it?" High income people who want to send their child abroad?

Yeah, methinks its not a function of being communist that makes them this way. Its that they are a wealthy elite and that's why they became communist party members.

Taiwan used to be rural, too.

Compare China’s situation to that of Taiwan, which is much smaller, does not have a comparable preponderance of rural population, and started becoming democratic in an era when inequality was not so extreme.

I have many CCP friends from years as their teacher and then as a colleague. It is true that many are as sophisticated and international as any New Yorker might want to be. Therein lies the rub. Let us speculate a little. There are about 90 million CCP members. Most have middle class jobs in SOE, government, or schools. With some overlap in families, let us speculate 60 million households. Those households are responsible for three or four, perhaps five or six people (husband, wife, child, a grandparent or two or four and perhaps a sister or brother). It would not be outlandish to suggest that those 60 million households constitute about 250 million individuals, roughly the size of the middle class in China. The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

The general idea about democracy in China has more to do with voice than it does with voting. Voice is available, certainly within CCP. And, as has been pointed out, middle class Chinese have no desire to be ruled by peasants. They don’t want their child going to school with them, either.

From a political perspective, deep family relations are no necessary support for democracy. Democracy only works well in a pluralist, non-tribal state. Civil society, the ability to have alternate ideas about policy and promote them, is necessary, and doesn’t develop overnight. China is a very long way from anything that we would call democracy, even if Mr. Xi announced the end of democratic centralism and simply went with democratic pluralism.

I wrote about this at chinareflections.com - Must China have Democracy, or Die? It is a bit of a long post, but a reader might get some good ideas.

If you belong to the Chinese upper class or even middle class along the eastern coast, you may end up asking yourself the following question: Who is more likely to protect my basic economic interests, the current Chinese Communist Party, or a democratic representative of Chinese rural interests?

One recent study has shown that Communist Party members are more likely to have progressive views on issues of gender equality, political pluralism and openness to international exchange than do the Chinese public at large. Again, if you are an elite among the Chinese citizenry, it is not a sure thing that you will do better with democracy than under the Communist Party.

Indeed. Thus the global elites are pushing Democratic governments to be more like the Chinese model. Whereas the Chinese elite have little interest in the Democratic model.

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