China Will Get Democracy
Image Credit: Chris Wronski

China Will Get Democracy


Whilst the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all in agreement that Iran shouldn’t be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, there have been clear differences between China and others on how to proceed. Do you see China eventually backing tougher action, and how much of an impact are the current differences having on ties with the US?

I think China’s in a difficult position in some ways because it’s under a lot of diplomatic pressure from the United States to support sanctions and doesn’t want to alienate the US too much. On the other hand, it gets a huge amount of energy from Iran, and it has just made some big investments there in some of its oil fields. Energy is a big priority for the Chinese government and it doesn’t want to alienate a big supplier. This means it has pretty clear political interests with the United States, but pretty clear economic interests with Iran. It’s torn between the ‘head’ of economy and the ‘heart’ of politics.

I think it also doesn’t like to be isolated politically, and if Russia, as another member of the Permanent Five (members of the UN Security Council), is also going to support sanctions, which it seems to hint at, then my hunch is China will want to keep a low profile and not be dragged in. Maybe it will abstain rather than exercising its veto power.

So I think China will leave it until the last moment before it declares its hand, and Iran will try and tempt it into a position in which China is the leader of some sort of developing world group that breaks with America. But at the end of the day, this isn’t anywhere near as enticing as staying on side with the Americans on this and getting benefits elsewhere.

More generally, China has come in for some criticism for failing to play a constructive international role not just on Iran but also, for example, over climate change. Is such criticism fair and how much potential is there for China to become the ‘team player’ some in the West believe it should be?

China has a completely ambiguous image. On the one hand, it’s a developing country, I think 115th in terms of world per capita GDP—it ranks below Namibia for example—and yet, it’s the world’s second largest economy, probably overtaking Japan this year. China has about 7 percent to 8 percent of global GDP; I think the United States stands at about 20 percent, while the EU is at about 22 percent. So China is big and also poor—the world’s first rich poor country. It’s an extraordinary combination.

The parameters of Chinese foreign affairs thinking since the 1980s have been ‘Tao Guang Yang Hui’—keep a low profile and build up our capacity. This is what the Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping apparently said then, and China has stuck with that. It’s tried to build up its economy, with big GDP growth rates every year. And it has also tried not to assert itself internationally. But I think it’s going to be really tough to continue that.

wor men shir may(gwor ren)
November 14, 2012 at 21:22

Stephan has the right idea. There are six elements that construct democracy, and without them, there is no democracy. Abolitionist didn’t fight for half the rights of African Americans. all men are born with certain unalienable rights, and one of these is liberty, whether he be black or Chinese. I for one, will never give the thought up, because even if our efforts fail, we have paved the way for future protesters who may or may not have more success than this generation.

November 14, 2012 at 21:00

Single drops, in a limitless ocean. Yes, you are right, but every movement has to start somewhere. And to imply otherwise would be to imply that an ocean is not but a multitude of drops.

November 14, 2012 at 20:52

China is in a situation that was precedented long before the birth of almost any military power. China is in high demand of energy, (oil) and Iraq has the worlds largest reservoirs of oil. China also understands the pleasantries to be gained by an open alliance with the US. The Chinese have to ask themselves: to whom is my allegiance? their answer will determine the outcome of Chinese politics for as long as that alliance stands. The answer to this problem has always been that whomever of the two competitors could also offer what the other party offered, becomes the obvious decision. George bush had the right idea, but the wrong technique. If we could supply China with oil (or an abundant source of energy) we would “own” them. Right, but also wrong. If we “d-bowed” Iraq’s oil, then yes, China would have to surrender to the mercies of western civilization. But for political and moral reasons, the president of the the United States could not openly declare a seizure of stolen property. G. B. Failed miserably, bringing debt along with his leave of office. The civilized answer is simple, but not so: nuclear power. Let’s say the US worked out a contracted agreement with China, more or less saying that US owned (Chinese operated of course) nuclear power plants would be constructed in China, eliminating the demand for oil. Would we own them? No. Because Iraq would be waiting with open arms on the “rebound”. With Bush’s way of doing it, we could even “cancel out” our debt, and China would have to accept it or figure out some additional form of energy (nuclear power) on their own, and judging by the population in China, wind turbines sound a little impractical. And furthermore, said “alliance” with China would prevent capital conflicts with China in the future.(regardless of our superior weapons technology, China has a military force greater in number than every registered US citizen combined) I predict that until we obtain a competent (Kennedy-like) president, the US with be unable to persuade chose politics to a more democracy-like system, thus benefiting us all. Chinese and American alike.

This is really all bull. I just free styled a bunch of political nonsense that, to those in the know, is disputable content. I’m not a politician, I’m an 18 yo college student. I could really care less about eastern, western alliances of any kind. I’m proud to be an American, but only the depraved of freedom can truly appreciate it. meaning, we could learn something from China: appreciate life and all it entrails.

January 22, 2012 at 02:07

As a chinese, I am sorry to say that I don’t agree democracy will come ture in China.
Just research how chinese people to choose their reprenstative. It’s just like a joke. There exist no possibility to voting the one you really want, even that nobody knows anything about the candidate. Democracy in China is nothing rather than vote.

November 9, 2011 at 16:48

Unrest is not necessary about politics at all. The government can appease most of the interests mentioned in the transcript without democratising China’s political structure. Calls for democracy get a lot of attention in the west but they radiate from a small minority.

August 29, 2011 at 12:16

With regard to Mainland China, democracy has six elements: freedom of expression, conscience (right to independently think and believe in any scientific idea, philosophy or religion), and peaceful assembly; multiparty system; judicial independence; nationalization of the military; universal election; federalism or local autonomy.
I hereby make this prediction: Mainland China will become a democracy with all of the above six elements included by January 1, 2020.

July 17, 2010 at 04:23

I agree that China will become a democracy. But the big question is what type of democracy? The “liberal democracy” championed by the west or another form of democracy with “Chinese characteristics”. Some scholars are already coming up with terms such as “merit democracy” (Singapore model), “Confucian democracy”, “dominant party democracy”, etc.

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