Letter published in the Financial Times
How Far Fetched is the Idea of Democracy in China
Sir – I read Philip Stephens’s insightful article ( “A crisis that opened the gates for China”, September 14) while waiting for a train on Kashgar station in Xinjiang, China, where all of the Financial Times’s recent articles on China are available on a smartphone. While the article is marvellously prescient, there is one point that we need to consider more fully. When Mr Stephens says “we can forget about any notion of democracy with Chinese characteristics”, I would not be so sure.
The word “democracy” appears over 30 times
In Xi Jinping’s landmark speech to the Communist party congress last October, the word “democracy” appears over 30 times. The key passage, which has scarcely been reported in the western press, is “China has seen the basic needs of over a billion people met . . . The needs to be met for the people to live better lives are increasingly broad. Not only have their material and cultural needs grown; their demands for democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security and a better environment, are increasing.”
This does not mean that China will rapidly introduce “one person, one vote” but it is quite possible that they will invent some system for wider participation in decision making that suits their historical background, civilisational value system and stage of development. We should watch very carefully and may learn something of value in solving our own challenges.
September 17, 2018