Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will China be more Democratic than America?

A brutal and saddening truth that needs no WikiLeaks to reveal it is that democratic sentiment is more powerfully held in China these days than it is in America and other democratic nations.

It took columns of tanks and merciless infantry in 1989 to stop the pro-democracy protesters in their tracks. But all it will take is duly constituted action by democratic institutions to quietly quell and kill off the peaceful blooming of Internet inspired democracy on its yet green vine.

The Chinese government is so frightened of underlying democratic sentiment that it has responded in no uncertain terms to the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to one of its own citizens Liu Xiaobo. Many countries (approx 19) were "persuaded" to not attend the award ceremony, Liu Xiaobo is behind bars, and his wife was put under house arrest. The government is clearly worried.

And where did those sentiments come from? Western democracies beginning with the ancient Greeks, flowering in England, America, France, and many other nations. And in recent times thanks to Ronald Reagan and the United States winning the Cold War and unfreezing the latent democratic instincts of Poland and other Eastern Bloc nations.

The Statue of Liberty and the "soft power" of American culture (fortunately it's not all hamburgers and drug culture) inspire those abroad who aspire to freedom and justice and democracy in their institutions of government and society. Can you think of a better way to discourage democracy in the USA and elsewhere than by going after WikiLeaks?

The thing is, the democratic sentiment in our very own democratic nations is weaker than in places like China and Burma. Going after WikiLeaks may be discouraging to the Chinese democracy movement, but when you've faced down tanks, that's not going to stop it.

But it will dampen democracy, and in particular investigative journalism, in our own democratic countries. Our proud Western history of progress against the darkness of feudalism, poverty, censorship, patriarchy, slavery, prejudice and wrongful punishment and imprisonment will be tarnished for all the non-democratic governments to see and cheer and toast our pitiful downfall with glasses of vodka and jasmine tea. They have their intelligence services to pass on diplomatic "secrets". It's we the people who will be left in the dark.

Who would have thought in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping launched the Four Modernizations, that two decades later China would have a vibrant state run capitalist economy that some believe could eclipse the USA in twenty or thirty years? The natural market affinity of Chinese peasants (where many of the reforms began) was alive and well after thirty years of Communist rule.

We can be confident that the hard-won democracy of Taiwan just across the Straits from mainland China will continue to be a beacon of democracy for the many Chinese who travel between the two for commerce and family visits. Two or three decades hence, the great irony will be that America was once a great moral and materiel supporter of Taiwanese democracy.

Is it unthinkable that China in two or three decades might be more democratic than America?

That would be good for China and the Chinese. But not for America and the rest of the Western democracies. It's no longer unthinkable.

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