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Post China vs US Systems; Democracy Index 2020
Created by John Eipper on 07/09/21 4:06 AM

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China vs US Systems; Democracy Index 2020 (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 07/09/21 4:06 am)

As always, I have read with interest the latest post by Tor Guimaraes, in which he compares the Chinese and US democracies. I am not entirely sure if I agree with Tor's conclusions, as he seems to favor the first to the detriment of the second.

Of course, Tor's critical views on the US and its economic performance have solid argumentative bases, but from the social and political perspectives, I am very doubtful about Tor's appraisal.

Consider that China lacks institutions or a democratic body of laws in the Western sense, and that there is much less separation of powers, no free and transparent electoral system, elected representatives, or political parties with competing ideologies.  Moreover, a diversity of ideas or free political participation is not allowed, there is no freedom of expression or press, and a judicial system without sufficient objectivity and sense of justice.  Finally, China has repressive mechanisms against any opponent of the regime. If all these are compared to the fundamental democratic ingredients in the United States, it seems clear which of the two nations has a more solid and true democracy. 

Now, if the prosperity and well-being of its citizens are taken into account exclusively, it also seems clear that China has made very important progress, despite the fact that in large rural regions of China there is still a lot of poverty and misery. Furthermore, even without knowing the social structure in China very well, I doubt that there is a large consolidated middle class, which is perhaps representative of a population's well-being; possibly social inequalities are much more pronounced than in the US. 

I maintain that despite its possible progressive decline as a capitalist country, and an imperfect democratic regime, it is obvious that the United States remains a much more consolidated democracy than China. From the above argument it seems evident that for a country's economic growth it is not essential to have a democratic regime, but a free market production system, capitalist if you like, is much better for these purposes than a system of socialist production.

Incidentally, just yesterday I received the annual report Democracy Index 2020, from The Economist. Here are some conclusions that I find interesting to share:

To begin with, this index tries to measure the level of democracy in more than 160 countries in the world, through a set of criteria that have been used repeatedly for this index since 1970.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of the meaning of democracy, it is used permanently in politics to differentiate itself from autocratic or dictatorial regimes and it is generally given a limited meaning, in the sense of being a political system where the people freely choose their political representatives.  But as we have seen repeatedly on WAIS, democracy is more than that, and the criteria used to measure it in this report illustrate this idea.

The methodology used is based on 60 questions in five categories, rated on a 1-10 scale, answered by experts in the field.  The five criteria are:

--Electoral Process

--Ideological pluralism

--Civil liberties

--Functioning of government

--Political participation

Particularly, scores are adjusted according to the following critical aspects in the methodology:·      

--Whether national elections are free and fair

--Voter security

--The influence of foreign powers on governments

--The capability of the civil service to implement policies

For those curious Waisers, the full results can be found in the report attached below.  I will mention some of the them which seem interesting.

First, it is no surprise the Scandinavian countries are worldwide rated first in this order, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Finland and Denmark. No surprise except my own, because I know Norway a bit, and I always found that its people are commonly indifferent to politics and consequently I doubt their political participation is enthusiastic or very active.

Other results are also very revealing, for instance US democracy is rated 25th in the world, and China is 151st, among 167 countries. This result should the settle the debate on the US-China comparison. In Europe, Germany 15, United Kingdom 16, Spain 22, France 24, Italy 29, Poland 50, etc.

Of course among the lowest-scoring nations are Venezuela 143, Iran 152, and North Korea 167. It is no surprise that the Muslim countries are poorly rated for democracy.

This last comment about the results in Muslim countries should not be taken as racist or supremacist, because I am referring to the indisputable fact that for these cultures it may be more difficult to adopt and implement the same democratic principles that perhaps are more typical of our own Western culture.

JE comments:  Click below to download the Democracy Index 2020.  The subtitle, "In Sickness and in Health" says a lot:  2020 will forever be an asterisk year due to the pandemic.  The US is now firmly entrenched in the second tier of "flawed democracies."  Not an achievement to gloat about, although I note after checking the 2019 and 2018 reports, that the US has maintained its ranking at #25.  In 2016, the year Trump was elected, the US was a few spots higher, at #21.


Next in this discussion, Tor Guimaraes responds to my earlier comments.

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