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Democracy in China? by Kyler Hood

Friday, June 3, 2011 @ 03:06 PM khood4208

In 2006, the economist Nicholas Lardy noted, “China’s economy today is ten times larger than it was in 1978, and continues to grow at 10 percent per year.” According to the World Trade Organization in 2005, China was the third largest global trader. With China’s new prominence, concerns arise over what political direction China will take. China’s economic growth supports capitalism, a precursor to democracy, but inadequate medical insurance and education for peasants makes a democratic transition unlikely.

Most of China’s economy is characterized by high levels of competition, openness, and a high savings rate. Only a few state owned enterprises trudge along in the economy, but the highly competitive businesses have managed, for the time being, to counteract most of the negative effects of these inefficient industries in order to sustain an economy with positive growth. Professor of Political Science, Joseph Fewsmith argues, “The development of a market economy acknowledges that people have legitimate individual interests, and the development of a market economy simply requires the development of democracy.” Another pro-democracy condition emerging a result of the developing market economy is the development of a large middle class. A middle class allows an educated group of people to voice concerns about the government unlike lower socioeconomic classes who are primarily concerned with survival. The increased availability of modern technology such as cell phones and computers has also enabled the emerging middle class to mobilize democratic movements more quickly and effectively.

Even though capitalism encourages democracy, farmers’ struggle for adequate health insurance supersedes the struggle for a stable democracy. Medical practitioners often try to increase fees through unnecessary procedures in order to finance a facility that was given insufficient funds by the government. The wealthiest peasants benefit from this system while  poor peasants suffer through their ailments, even to the point of death, rather than risk burdening their families with fees that the minimalist medical insurance could not cover. Most farmers cannot even afford the minimalist insurance because medical insurance takes money from their daily wages in accordance with farm subsidies the farmers never received.

Peasants must also find a way to receive affordable, quality education. Having an educated populace is essential for meaningful participation in a democracy. The Chinese government allocated money so students could have free education. No cost schools, however, have low quality facilities and teachers, but schools are unlikely to improve in the near future  because ineffective bureaucracy absorbs most of the money that could be used to hire better teachers and upgrade school facilities. The cost of higher education is also extremely high for rural peasants, making it unlikely that they will continue their education.

China needs to find a way to provide adequate health care and education for the country’s approximately 700 million peasants. When speaking about the direction of democratic reform, President Hu Jintao said, “China will firmly uphold the fundamental principles of ‘scientific socialism.” The definition of the “principles of scientific socialism” is unclear, but it is clear that democratic transition in China, if it occurs at all, will be gradual.

Works Cited

Cabestan, Jean-Pierre. “The Political and Practical Obstacles to the Reform of the Judiciary and the Establishment of a Rule of Law in China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 10 (2005): 43-64. Academic Search Premier. Foley, Spokane. 15 Oct. 2007.

“China, Beware.” The Economist 385 (2007): 15.

Dickson, Bruce J. “The Future of China’s Party-State.” Current (2007): 244-251.

Fewsmith, Joseph. “Democracy is a Good Thing.” China Leadership Monitor 22 (2007).

Kahn, Joseph and Yardley, Jim. “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes :[Series]. ” New York Times [New York, N.Y.] 26  Aug. 2007, Late Edition (East Coast): A.1.  National Newspapers (5). ProQuest.  Foley, Spokane, Washington.  12 Oct. 2007 <>

Lam, Willy. “Hu Jintao’s Hollow Pledges.” Far Eastern Economic Review (2007): 27-29.

Lardy, Nicholas. “China’s Economy: Problems and Prospects.” Clausen Center for World Business. A History Institute for Teachers, Kenosha. 22 Oct. 2006.

Pei, Minxin. “Corruption Threatens China’s Future.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2007).

Pei, Minxin. “Is China Democratizing?” Foreign Affairs 77 (98): 68.

Scott, Tanner M., and Chen Ke. “Breaking the Viscious Cycles.” 45 (98). Academic Search Premier. Foley, Spokane. 15 Oct. 2007.

Sun, Yan. “Corruption, Growth, and Reform: the Chinese Enigma.” Current History 104 (2005): 257-264. Proquest. Foley, Spokane. 15 Oct. 2007.

Ziegler, Dominic. “Reaching for a Renaissance.” The Economist 382 (2007): 3-6.

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