China’s Democratization: Patterns of a New World Order

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The democratic transition is not the end of history nor a step on a particular upward trend. It is one possibility among many, most of which are related to the nature and state of the political system itself. Each political system has fundamentals that are at work in its policies, both internally and externally. If these elements are lost due to the introduction of new factors that do not conform to its standards and values, it will be in a state of stalemate, rendering it unable to carry out its primary functions relating to the demands of its citizens. The Chinese political regime embodies that situation, with unique characteristics not found in other systems. This uniqueness stems from China’s experience with an open market economy and a range of other factors.

The Chinese political regime has improved governance quality through pragmatic motives, such as the system’s ability to provide essential goods and services (Health, Education, and Food); this has contributed to flexible authoritarianism. As a result, the Chinese’s lack of interest in the mechanism by which their rulers gain power can be explained by their interest in how their demands and basic needs are met. Authoritarian regimes are inherently unstable due to their lack of legitimacy, excessive reliance on coercion, excessive centralization of decision-making, and personal authority’s dominance over institutional norms. In this context, the Chinese controlled regime has proved flexible in its lack of democratization, particularly in light of the many studies that raise the dialectic of the relationship between democracy and economic development. As the dialectic of this relationship deepens, there is a question about the possibility of China’s democratization. Therefore, I will highlight arguments about such dialectic in the following points.

● Economic reforms that began under President Deng Xiaoping have continued to the present day in the absence of political democracy. As a result, China has achieved some economic reform without political reform, which might be called the lame goose case. Some argue that China’s economic success is not due to a market economy despite the absence of democracy as a system of government but to the absence of the same manifestations of democratic life, claiming that lenient central regimes guarantee stability and avoid chaos. Also, large-scale state intervention in the economy is complicated, if not impossible, in a democratic State. The authoritarian political regime increases the rate of economic development, while a democratic political system is a luxury that hinders economic development. The hallmark of the authoritarian development regime is the ability to promote growth and well-being. The Chinese government is reform-oriented and highly independent and controls the State apparatus, which has the bureaucratic and regulatory capacity to promote development and is run by an elite state ideologically committed to promoting economic development.

● China has enormous human resources and more than 50 million Chinese in diaspora worldwide. These elements are at the forefront of business people’s trade, industry, and financial markets. Furthermore, the majority of foreign investment in China by these foreign investors is of western origin. In order to maximize profits from the relative and competitive advantages found in Chinese markets with enormous capacity, low price and wage levels for skilled workers.

● Perhaps the most crucial reason for the success of this experiment, despite the limited political development and reform, is the strategic position occupied by China in terms of its significant workforce, permanent membership in the Security Council, and significant military force.

● The West’s dealings with China are private and for unique reasons that are difficult to replicate. It is a risky transaction, owing to China’s potential role in determining the future of the international order, the size of its domestic market, and the inability to halt its progress. In the long run, China threatens not only the United States of America’s status as a leading power but also the economic advantages and benefits of this situation. Sceptics believe China can gain dominant global political, economic and technological influence, establish comprehensive rules and standards, and create an “Illiberal sphere of influence”.

In this case, the United States will no longer be able to ensure the security and prosperity it has enjoyed. This competition for influence is mixed with ideological hostility. There is no doubt that the human rights situation in China has always caused intermittent friction in U.S.-China relations. As long as there is hope that China will eventually be liberated, China is not seen as an ideological adversary in the U.S.  From the Chinese point of view, this ideological dimension has always been more prominent since Western concepts of liberal democracy and freedom of expression threaten the ideological dominance of the CCP. China’s views on the United States of America and the West remain contradictory.

On the one hand, the United States generates magic for its ability to innovate, its economic power, its universities, its military capabilities and its political system; all of this earns respect and admiration in China. On the other hand, negative experiences in the past create a distance and mistrust towards the democracy of the West. More recently, the global financial crisis, U.S. military interventions in the Middle East and Donald Trump’s erratic style of politics have primarily eroded the West’s reputation. Despite its economic success and status as a superpower, China still considers itself part of the global South. To this day, the political leadership speaks of China as “the largest developing country in the world”. Indeed, the North-South dimension, which emphasizes global development and the power disparity between the West and the rest of the world, maybe more prominent in Chinese discourse than the more ideological east-west divide: China positions itself as a leader and advocate for emerging economies and developing countries, rather than as a systemic adversary of the U.S. and the West.

According to John Mearsheimer, liberal democracy is challenging to persuade in many places around the world because these places will become the embodiment of the “Wild West.” As a result of the risks associated with the democratic transition, many people will prioritize security over individual rights. Despite the close relationship between economic development and democracy, three significant factors prevent China from undergoing a democratic transition: successful economic performance and the state’s role in economic development. Furthermore, the Chinese regime recognizes that the People’s Republic of China’s democratization will imply defeating the United States of America for leadership of the current international order & with a return to Westphalia principles, both the Chinese and liberal models could coexist. Even if the ideological conflict is not the most important class, we should certainly expect that ideological differences of increasing importance will intensify perceptions of the threat, reinforcing the U.S.-China security dilemma, which is largely based on China’s continued threats to democratically transformed Taiwan in tandem with U.S. government officials’ continued praise for the island’s political progress.

In conclusion, it may seem somewhat difficult to say that a country will never become democratic. Not only can the claim be falsified, but there are also counter-examples such as the cases of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

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