A Great Show but No Fun to Participate in (Huanqiu, People’s Republic of China)
With China in the midst of a leadership transition of its own, is American-style democracy a viable option for the Chinese people? Absolutely not, according to this article by columnist Wang Wen of China's state-run Huanqui' who writes that China's people should 'just say no' to U.S.-style electoral democracy, which Wen argues is far more trouble than its worth, and is more likely to result in less democracy - not more.
Xi Jinping, who will be appointed general secretary of China's Communist Party and take over the presedency, among other things, at the end of the week-long Party Congress. Unlike his U.S. counterpart, he need not stand for public election. Xi has a far narrower constituency: the party. He will serve in this capacity for ten years.
Washington, DC: The curtain has just fallen on the
American presidential election, and Obama is the victor. I should say
congratulations first. This is diplomatic etiquette, and is a courtesy demanded
of a Chinese person living in Washington, DC. I have had to repeatedly remind
myself when meeting Democrats these past few days to say “congratulations.”
But when I see Republican supporters, I don’t know what I am supposed to
say. If you don’t know what party the person you are talking to supports, what
should you say?
Neither have my friends in China been idle: at least five
people have text messaged or e-mailed me about either their excitement or
regrets. Some said that they bet on one outcome; while others said that the
situation was too bad, or asking what Romney would do now - or what about Obama,
etc. The feeling is no different from the mentality that surrounds the World
Cup or European Cup finals every four years after staying up late every night.
But good politics shouldn't seem like a football match, and
should definitely not feel like gambling. During any big championship,
Barcelona and Real Madrid fans eye each other with enmity. And when the team
that should have won loses, they get roaring drunk, act like maniacs, and even
start riots. So as soon as politics becomes entertainment, or just mindless
turn-taking, and its intended purpose of serving society becomes some kind of
complicated emotional release, things have become completely upside down. And
the real essence of democracy is likely to become just a false notion.
When American electoral democracy came into being, its
purpose was to prevent dictatorship. The year that the Mayflower landed on the American mainland, the ultimate aim of
their mutual compact consisted mainly of preventing the establishment of European-style
feudal autocracy. This is the fundamental origin of America’s spirit of
freedom. But when the pursuit of freedom turns society into two major groups, with
each side unwilling to compromise with the other and lacking any real common
denominator, electoral democracy must necessarily concentrate on preventing the
country from splitting apart rather than preventing autocracy.
If people fail to grasp this point, American democracy could
become a bad example, and the countries studying America could become bad
students. In the past half century, there have been many such bad students: the
Philippines, Kenya, Afghanistan, Costa Rica … every continent has one, and
there are more and more all the time.
For the United States, being the planet's “revered teacher”
of democracy is too much responsibility to bear. Right now in Chicago, there
are 8,000 or more supporters excitedly waving the stars and stripes and waiting
for their beloved president to come out and make a speech. In front of the
White House, there is also a gathering of supporters. But I’m afraid that these
people, as excited as they are for Obama’s victory, will have only a single day
of happiness - and maybe not even that much, because the Republicans who
control the House of Representatives have already threatened to severely damage
the economy if Obama doesn’t accede to their demands.
Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner
in economics and Princeton University professor, wrote
in his New York Times column a few
days ago: “it’s reasonable to worry that Republicans will do their best to
make America ungovernable during a second Obama term.” Later, he adds that this
is a form of “protection-racket politics.” The Republicans are practicing
extortion, threatening to become the “party of deadlock.” But that is precisely
what America is becoming. Many problems have already turned into chronic
illnesses of “party politics.”
There are some who say that American-style democracy has resulted
in the irresolvable "3Gs" of Philippine politics: guns, gangs and
gold. But I’m afraid I have to add yet another G - namely gays.
Shootings in America have become commonplace: every year,
30,000 people die in shootings and gun-related violence; every four years, protection-racket
politics turns America into an alternating kingdom of red and blue, causing
political scientists to exclaim that America is in danger of coming apart. As
for gold, this time around, the total cost of political campaigning was $6
billion, causing ever-larger numbers of people to realize that it is a “rich
man’s game” through and through. And gays have become a political issue, which
is an even more accurate portrayal of American political entertainment.
Every time I come to Washington, my friends remind me that I
best not go to the eastern part of the city. The northwest is a wealthy area,
and almost every think tank, business and politician has an address with the
suffix NW (Northwest). The African-American population in the capitol of the
world’s greatest superpower stands at 80 percent or more, but in the northwest
it is almost impossible to find a Black person. But as soon as I reach the
eastern part of town, I can’t find a single, well-dressed White person.
A few year ago, French thinker Bernard Henri-Levy predicted
in his book America’s
Vertigo that American society is becoming segmented. Its political
division is creating a balkanization and tribalization:
America is turning into a multiple countries - a mosaic of communities in which
the rhythm of change among ethnic groups makes the respectable goals embodied
in its founding motto “e pluribus unum” increasingly difficult to achieve.
If this is the way it turns out, just say no to American-style
electoral democracy, and say it firmly. Although in today’s online public
sphere, it takes courage to say so, because American democracy is a great show,
even if it isn't very amusing to participate.
Even so, I need to say again: congratulations to President
Obama, and good luck to America. Because no matter what, democracy is a good
thing, and America is the most successful democratic experiment in modern history.
The United States wants prevent the failure of democracy, and after many years,
I don’t want this earnest advice to be heeded only after years have passed.