In the recent local Taiwan elections, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a big defeat. The people had decided that the DPP was failing to serve Taiwan’s best interests. Unfortunately, people in China do not have this luxury — they are essentially stuck with following the communist government.
This difference in governance structure between the two nations, democracy in Taiwan and authoritarianism in China, has had a significant impact on how both these countries have evolved and how they are perceived internationally. While China is seen as having an oppressive society with a government that cannot be trusted, Taiwan is viewed as an open-minded culture that evokes trust.
By shifting to democracy, China can have the same benefits that Taiwan and other democracies in the West enjoy.
Open markets and innovation
Democracy in China can make the society shift from protectionism to open markets. This change in economic structure can also bring about an innovative mindset among entrepreneurs.
In the current system, the Chinese government has full control over every aspect of society. The Communist Party can force businesses to do anything they want, including handing over their technologies, shutting them down, making them share resources with other state businesses, and so on.
No matter what theCommunist Party does to a business, the entrepreneur literally has no legal recourse. Such an economic climate will obviously prevent people from investing and innovating. After all, if there is no guarantee that your business will own the full rights of an innovation or that your enterprise will not be unjustly shut down by the government, why would you spend money on it in the first place?
With democracy and open markets, the concept of private property strengthens. A democratic government simply cannot take away an innovative technology from a business. The legal system ensures that such situations never happen. This protection, guaranteed to one’s assets, will provide enough confidence in businesses to invest in innovation.
Gain international trust
Being a democracy will also impact China’s trust factor among other nations. Right now, very few countries actually trust China since the nation is ruled by an authoritarian government. As a consequence, most of the actions taken by the Chinese government are viewed negatively.
For instance, the Belt and Road initiative, known as the modern Silk Road, has gained very little support from major countries out of fear that the Communist Party will use the project against them. Sri Lanka had to lease their Hambantota Port to China after the island nation was unable to repay their loans. Malaysia canceled a few Belt and Road projects after it became clear that the country would fall into Beijing’s debt trap.
However, once China has a democratically elected government that respects people’s privacy and a proper legal system to which it is obligated, the Belt and Road initiative will be much smoother to implement as countries across the world will trust China more.
Increase soft power
China has a rich, deep history. Its achievements in arts, music, religion, philosophy, etc. span millennia. Yet, the country today has virtually no cultural soft power. How did this happen?
When the communists took hold of power in China, they initiated a purge of Chinese culture believing it to be “backward” and an impediment to progress. Since then, the communist government has been strictly censoring the Chinese society, deciding how people should think and act. As a consequence, Chinese society devolved from a free-spirited artistic culture into a paranoid one where people are afraid of fully expressing themselves.
In contrast, China’s neighbors like Japan and South Korea have much more cultural influence across the world. While Japanese culture gained prominence through anime, South Korean culture is gaining popularity with their pop music and dramas. Notice that both these countries have far less population than China. Yet they beat China when it comes to global cultural influence. Why? Because they are both democracies where individuals can freely explore any topic under the sun.
By moving away from the authoritarian regime, China will unlock the creative potential in the people and become a stronger cultural influencer in the world. And this soft power will give the Chinese much more clout globally, like in the past.
Plus, having a publicly-elected government in China, instead of a totalitarian Communist Party, would mean that the country could improve relations with Taiwan, ending the multi-decade tension between the two.