Meritocracy in China & Authoritarian Democracy
Apr 27, 2019Posted by on
This week on Facebook: I decided to publish a previous post of mine (at least in part), the original has been changed and can be read here. The reason for this reprise being my wish to include the new references at ¹⁄²⁄³ in the post. I’ve also changed an article to one that doesn’t require a subscription or any ‘extra’ reading and made changes to the text, making it compatible with my current posts.
Perhaps the question to ask ourselves is, “Whether or not there is an alternative?”
In Rothbard on Voting the view is held by Murray N. Rothbard that those who vote do so subject to the coercive system imposed by the State. Views which no doubt influenced his introduction to La Boetie’s Discourse, in which it was stated that democracy is of no benefit to those enfranchised. A man may cherish democracy during his time in the majority and worship it when his views are no longer in the majority. But is this freedom? Is liberty nothing more than accepting the majority at all times, under all costs?
A political meritocracy, an authoritarian democracy, or any other political system, would all claim to be democratic. The best political system — however undemocratic it may appear — may be moot to the successful majority who live in them. Globally it seems that whatever system of public administration is implemented by the State, people (the demos) are moving towards a choice of increasingly undemocratic political systems. Whatever political system is chosen by the demos, including those that deem themselves meritocratic or democratic, it is the nature of politics that they all either become autocratic or have wish to behave in an autocratic manner. This is manifest in the increasing suppression of freedom of expression and that of State surveillance, while claiming a legitimacy of being a democracy.
1. Chinese Democracy Isn’t Inevitable: The Chinese government introduced village elections in the late 1980s to maintain social order and combat corruption among local leaders; by 2008, more than 900 million Chinese villagers had exercised the right to vote. Voters don’t choose among political parties; instead, they directly nominate candidates and vote by secret ballot for a committee of candidates who serve three-year terms. Turnout has generally been high, and the conduct of elections has improved over time.
2. The Chinese State, the Uighur people and the world’s biggest prison: There is no doubt, however, about the escalating scale of repression. Since 2009 the state has recruited 90,000 extra police officers in Xinjiang, voted a 356 per cent increase in the security budget and initiated the mass incarceration of Uighur citizens for refusing to drink alcohol or eat pork, having beards or wearing veils, observing Ramadan, having relatives abroad or having been abroad themselves. Civil unrest triggered by state actions such as the destruction of mosques has been conflated with pre-planned acts of terror, and Beijing has rolled out a region-wide programme of collective punishment.
3. The Uncertain Future of Democracy: Trust in political institutions — including the electoral process itself — are at an all-time low. New converts to democracy in Europe and the Middle East are sliding back into authoritarian rule. And populist leaders who are expected to curb certain civil liberties are winning votes. Societies the world over are experiencing a strong backlash to a system of government that has largely been the hallmark of developed nations for generations.
4. China’s Political Meritocracy Under Xi Jinxing: A ruler for life, even one as qualified as Xi, puts to the test the notion that the top of the political hierarchy will always be populated by the best, brightest, and most virtuous. It also jeopardises China’s collective leadership and rotation of power, imperfect but important meritocratic mechanisms nonetheless put in place during the reform period to ensure the country’s disastrous experiment with authoritarian populism never gets repeated.
5. Are China’s Leaders Better Than Ours? We’re very attached to our democratic way of doing things—chainsaws, bacon and all. But how confident are we that we’ve gotten it right? How certain are we that whichever leaders come out of our process, of whatever party and persuasion, can stand on equal footing with whomever comes out of theirs?
²Democracy in Retreat — Freedom In The World 2019 (url/download)Freedom in the World has recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties for an alarming 13 consecutive years, from 2005 to 2018. The global average score has declined each year, and countries with net score declines have consistently outnumbered those with net improvements.
³Democracy Index 2018 (url/download) The eleventh edition of the Democracy Index reveals that political participation is on the rise in almost every region of the world. Whilst clearly disillusioned with formal political institutions, the population has turned anger into action, and turned out to vote, and to protest. The most striking advance has been in the participation of women – in the past decade the indicator has improved more than any other single indicator in our model. This improvement takes place amid a deterioration of trust in democracy, evident in the worsening of most categories in this year’s Index.