Lack of democracy has hampered China's foreign policy

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Updated: Saturday, November 10, 2012, 17:13 [IST]
 
Lack of democracy hit China's FP

Democracy is not perfect. There is no democratic nation in the world that can claim cent per cent perfection in its functioning. Democracies do not deliver like non-democracies in terms of development. But there are two advantages that democracy offer: Accountability and sustainability.

It is true that democratic regimes of the 21st century around the globe are witnessing a reduced stature of their institutions for the stakeholders in power today are too strong to be easily contained but despite the disadvantage, democracies survive for their political classes are held accountable.

Non-democratic regimes, no matter how powerful their political classes are, meet a dead end one day and this is more inevitable in today's environment of sharp-edge communication and media glare.

China's foreign policy has also taken a beating because of its non-democracy

China can still hope to travel the way of history in the way it has been doing for some more time for it is a huge country, economically performing and still has a very strong political leadership unlike small autocracies. A Jasmine revolution still looks a distant possibility on the soils of China but what is actually important is that such tendencies have begun to surface in the Dragonland.

The February 2011 popular protests following the uprising in Tunisia or the fallout of Bo Xilai's exit proved that the Chinese society is not that peaceful as it looks. The Wukan protests against Communist Party officials over land seizure in September 2011 was also a significant development. The perennial Tibet trouble is another headache that Beijing is finding more and more intense. The Tiananmen Square pictures might not hold the fear they had once generated for indefinitely now.

Economically also, the country's gigantic state-owned sector has turned breeding grounds for corruption but given the homogenous political structure, can the new leadership succeed in dismantling the hold of the politically influential families on many of the state-owned enterprises.

According to a western newspaper report, many Chinese economists feel that "the state sector ultimately threatens to choke the country's economic growth and even damage its political stability". If the state control from enterprises, social organisations and public institutions and assets are not withdrawn, China will be in serious trouble.

If China's ghaizi (transforming the system) can work in the sphere of economy, then why not in the political sphere? Moreover, the country's non-democratic internal system has also hampered its external growth. China, compared to countries like the USA or India, is a much isolated country in the globe. Its significance is considered mainly in terms of its economic might but not with regard to say, security, alliance, diplomacy or strategic advantage.

China more friendly with rogue states

Lack of democracy has made China more a friend of 'rogue' states or states that are not considered positive players in today's global affairs. North Korea, Pakistan, Myanmar, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba or Romania and Albania in the past are some of the countries with which China either had or now has friendly terms.

On the other hand, democracies like India, Japan, USA and Australia are not said to be natural allies of Beijing. Neighbours like Mongolia and Myanmar are also tilting towards the West in recent times. The issue of territorial disputes have also made things worse between China and many of its neighbours. Even western economic group like the EU does not have a smooth term with China. Neither does Russia.

The limited scope of China in the foreign affairs suggest the negative consequences of internal non-democracy. This is the age of democracy and most states today prefer to join hands with a democratic regime than a suspicious autocracy, huge economic might notwithstanding. Liberal democracies, no matter how chaotic they are, are trusted much more. This is one area where India scores more than China and is a real gainer in the USA's scheme of things against Beijing in the Asian theatre.

By becoming democratic, China can get rid of US challenge

Beijing's tragedy is that it will have to continue tolerating 'US designs' on its backyard till the time it really embraces democracy and join the more popular league. But will the new Chinese leadership make a step towards the unthinkable?


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