American Presidential Race Turns Chinese Off Democracy
BEIJING — Americans aren’t the only ones disillusioned by the vitriolic presidential race this year. New research shows that a large number of Chinese citizens who previously supported democratic reforms are now questioning the intelligence of a system that allows politicians to spend nearly two years trying to become president instead of doing the jobs for which they were elected.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, the number of Chinese who said they admire American-style democracy declined by 64% since the beginning of the 2012 campaign season, with the sharpest drop during the Republican primaries.
“Chinese people don’t like to see right-wing nutjobs arguing on television,” explained Peking University professor Yang Zhilan. “That’s why PLA meetings are never televised.”
Yang went on to say that perhaps most despairing for Chinese citizens, who are used to revering political leaders, are the presidential debates, where the two candidates spend an hour and a half dodging questions and calling each other a liar.
“Because the ideas ‘America’ and ‘democracy’ are so entwined in Chinese minds, this election cycle threatens to discredit not only America, but representative democracy as a legitimate form of government,” Yang said.
As outspoken activist Cai Ming put it, “I used to think American-style democracy was the way forward but after seeing candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars on misleading attack ads that cynically prey on the ignorance of the electorate, I wonder if that’s what China really needs.”
Responding to the recent data, the People’s Daily published an op-ed that admonishes pro-democracy activists: “Take a good look at American democracy and ask yourself: is this what you want? A stable of power-hungry demagogues squabbling for power to satisfy a Napoleonic complex they’ve felt since childhood? News flash: China already has that. But the Communist Party has the decency not to broadcast that shit on national television.”
The op-ed goes on to say that, indeed, “China already has many of the hallmarks of American democracy, including an uninformed electorate, news channels that promote ideology rather than truth, and the shadowy cabal of nine individuals with almost unlimited power, bound to no one, who serve lengthy terms and unilaterally choose leaders even though that power is not granted to them by any recorded law. Of course in China they are called the Politburo Standing Committee instead of the Supreme Court.”
Professor Yang sees this as proof that China doesn’t need political reform to become more like America. “If you look at the last thirty years, the Chinese government has caught up to its American counterpart in several key areas—level of corruption, ineffectiveness of government, wealth and income disparity—without anyone casting a single vote,” he said.
“All of this proves that you don’t need civic participation to fuck up a country. Sometimes the leaders do just fine on their own.”