Authoritarianism vs. stagnation

By Frank Ching

China, the stellar developmental record of which over the last three decades has astonished the world, has been modest, even prudish, in pushing its growth model on other countries. Premier Wen Jiabao has said more than once that there is no such thing as a “China model” but that each country should choose its own developmental path. But this seems to be changing, especially as the democratic countries of the West continue to reel from one crisis to another, unable to get to the root of their problems. “In a democracy like the United States, tax increases and spending cuts, the exact dose of medicine needed to cure its chronic debt disease, have long proved hugely unpopular among voters,” observed the Xinhua News Agency. “So the politicians have chosen to kick the can down the road again and again.” That is to say, the inability of the United States to successfully wrestle with its problems is due to the democratic system. Xinhua pointed out that the can kicked down the road will never disappear. And, while the United States has averted a fiscal cliff, it may well fall into an abyss that it can never climb out of.

China is exuding confidence. Its new Communist party leader, Xi Jinping, affirmed over the weekend that China had chosen the road to socialism, albeit one with “Chinese characteristics.” According to Xi, this was the only route for the country to take to “complete the building of a moderately prosperous society and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” As for other countries in the world, what route should they choose in their quest for power and strength? This was the question posed by a commentary in the online edition of the People’s Daily last weekend. While the richest people in the world continue to be those living in the developed countries of the west, the People’s Daily commentary pointed out that there are only about 20 such countries, while about 190 countries that are “implementing Western capitalism” remain largely unchanged and may, in fact, have become “poorer and more unstable.”