Monday, 16 November 2009

Is Democracy Really Necessary for Economic & Social Progress? - China & Russia challenge the Conventional Wisdom

By Sikander Hayat


Is democracy really necessary for the development of a country and if that is the case than why China and Russia are surging ahead. China is set to become the 2nd largest economy of the world after United States by 2010 and Russia is no longer the weak country it was in the early 90s. Vast oil & gas revenues have changed the face of Russia in over a decade and one man who oversaw this transformation is Vladimir Putin. Putin is now serving as the prime minister of
Russia and may come back as the President of the country he once ruled with an iron fist. Mind you, he is not far from the corridors of power while being the prime minister of Russia, he still has connection with the oligarchy/establishment of the country. He chose the current president Medvedev himself and campaigned for him in the presidential elections which West regards as fraudulent and far from free.
Similarly, China in the last sixty years has surged ahead and especially in
the last twenty years or so, its development has been breath taking to say the least. On average the gross national product has increased by 10% over the last 20 years or so. China is exporting everything from a needle to high tech software all over the world. On the geopolitical front, China has made huge strides with Hong Kong & Macau back with the mother country, Taiwan isolated and United States emerging as the biggest debtor of China.

Chinese leadership does talk about the theory of peaceful rise but the established order in the West does feel threatened & intimidated hence the support of Tibetan & Uighur separatist by the West and its client states in the region like India.
My point is that hopefully one day, Russia & China will become the democratic countries but for the moment they are anything but. Still, they are developing rapidly. Their economies are booming ( although Russia
is feeling a bit of pressure due to present economic crisis but then who isn’t ) , they are getting stronger geopolitically as we saw in Georgian war. Georgia did start this war in the false confidence that it will be supported by the West but when the crunch came there was no but Georgia itself and was found wanting in front of huge Russian war machine.
China is no different, although it
is not using the weapon of war. It is using trade as the tool to attract countries under its umbrella. China Africa summits are a great way to look at the changing geopolitical landscape. China is even enticing South & Central America to its model and every country want to emulate China’s economic success showing considerable desire to do business with this country of 1.5 billion people.
There is a danger that these big players will show the world that economic success can be achieved without democracy and I leave it to my readers to suggest if this will change the way countries think about there future paths. How the world will behave where the biggest economy of the world and richest country in the world will be an undemocratic China with Russia the biggest country by area not lagging far behind.


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5 comments:

  1. All the developed nation are democracy(baring Russia in true sense).Most backward nation and third world countries are dictatorship or have despotic regimes for ages.

    China of late has become exception.Democracy is not a necessary condition,but certainly desirable one.More ever its not the political system that detrmines the economy of nation.Its the vison and desire of its leaders to deliver development.

    As long as visionary leaders are at the helm of affairs,a country will do well.Be it democracy,be it totalitarian.


    Having said that I dont forsee any chnage in opinion of the world regarding democracy.Communism is dead the world over,did not deliver in any country.China is owes it current status because it has started following Capitalism for all practicle purpose.And there you go,that says all about communism.

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  2. "Fighter Jet", thanks for your comments. I agree that communism is dead but what about this new form of state controlled hyper capitalism which is being practised in China & Russia. Surely, capitalism without democracy could be really fatal for the practitioners and the countries who get inspired from it.

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  3. I think Russia has already lost its vigour,its economy totally based on selling resources,which is not a healthy way,and it's needless to mention that the country hasn't join WTO,an aspect shows one nation's freedom in economy .Comparing to the Soviet times,its influency has decreased sharply.

    Speaking of china,I must say,as a chinese,I can see there are lots of problems in the inside social structure,such as increasingly gap between rich and poor,and corruptions in bureaucracy.I believe the boost in economy for these 30 years is due to 1.cheap labor 2.free market policy.After about 20 years ,these labors and immigrants in cities will lead to huge and serious probelms,such as their house needs,their health cares,their children'education,and most importantly,by that time,no vigorous labors anymore.What are we gonna to do then?I insist,in this day and age,one nation's prosperity without democracy,will never lasts long.

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  4. Democracy is a by-product of the economic success of the middle class. Witness the European democracy (France, Britain, all due to the enlargement of affluent middle class). So is the case with America (Women as middle-class who got voting right of its own in 1920s, and the African American in 1960s after achieving critical mass of middle class population).

    The fastest way to achieve a stable democracy - has always been through dictatorial regime (France, Britain, most of europe), even Japan and the 4 asian tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore). These countries were largely controlled by a one party system in their "boost phase" before they achieve a large enough middle class population that they truely achieve democracy. Some are still not exactly democracy (Singapore for example - which is still "authoritarian autocracy")

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  5. Dear "concerned tenant" & "子晖",

    Thanks for insight into this issue. The reason I wrote the original piece was to understand why so many democracies in third world countries fail to deliver economic progress? Why as soon as the democracy arrives on the scene, there is usually rampant corruptions which spreads disillusionment among the general populace towards democracy. There are many examples where populations are sick & tired of their politically elected masters and look towards the Chinese model of controlled one party system as a more viable form of government for their countries. Has there been ever any serious research done on alternative systems of government and why it is considered almost an offence in the western media to even say out loud that democracy is not always the best form of government for all countries at all times. In my view democracy is the ultimate goal but different countries should have to right to get their in their own time so that they can ensure economic progress for their people and then introduce full democracy in a mostly educated country.

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