Democracy vs. Autocracy: USA vs. China

Tuesday, 6 November, 2012

Today, millions of people of the USA will elect a swathe of public representatives, from sheriff to president, in an open process that, despite its imperfections, is without equal in the world. On Thursday, China opens its 18th party congress, designed to usher in the next generation of Communist party officials who will govern the country into the 2020s. The outcome, decided in advance by the leadership in Beijing, will be revealed later this month. The contrasts between democracy and autocracy couldn’t be clearer, yet the BBC feels the need right now to pose the question: “Is China more legitimate than the West?” The person asking is the notorious proponent of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, a day that cannot come quickly enough in his alternative universe.

x What will our world be like when it’s ruled by China? An inkling is provided by Tianjin, one of China’s many, almost anonymous megacities. The 11 million people living there busily churn out goods for the world market, but in an attempt to add international profile, the city’s leaders rebranding the megalopolis with projects such as the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city. This 30 square-kilometre development built with the latest green technologies is designed to serve as a model for future eco-cities in developing countries. Another booming Tianjin industry is censorship.

Tianjin’s party secretary, Zhang Gaoli, is one of the seven men tipped to get a seat on the politburo standing committee, and if he does, Tianjin will likely become China’s capital of internet censorship. In the Financial Times yesterday, Kathrin Hille noted: “The censorship departments of Sina Weibo, China’s leading Twitter equivalent, and the online video website Sohu have already been moved to Tianjin. When users of Sina Weibo post content deemed offensive or subversive, a virtual ‘little secretary’ deletes their posts, blocks searches for keywords or admonishes them to back off.”

China’s New Manhattan’ Becomes Censorship Capital” is the title of Kathrin Hille’s article and it contains the following sobering observation: “The Chinese government requires the private companies that run internet services such as search engines and social media to censor. Censorship has intensified ahead of the party congress in an effort to muzzle discussion of the party’s internal power struggle and corruption.”

This will be the reality “When China Rules the World”. The best hope of preventing this from ever happening is the more than 130 million voters exercising their democratic rights today in the USA.

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