I’m in the middle of writing a book on French democracy, and not for the first time I’m wondering if I have the wrong country. Most of the time in recent months I feel like I could be writing about America or the UK, but the unrest is growing in Iran, and then, surprisingly, we have political, widespread and angry protests in China. It may be bold to say that the recession of democracy is over or over, but the ‘Spring’ in independent countries can be a welcome development, as long as it is successful (please note that 15 out of 16 countries in the world can be brave. in the ’16’ round of the World Cup is a democracy’).
China is important and interesting here. After crowning himself as leader for ‘a very long time’ and initiating the transition from a group to a single person, Xi Jinping’s image could not have been greater (see earlier post ‘The Red Curtain’), and this was followed by calls for him to step down.
Having had two easy years when the rest of the world suffered greatly, China is now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the government’s brutal and brutal crackdown on the worst. In some ways it was inevitable. Chinese vaccines are not as effective as Western ones and many older Chinese people have not had the booster jab.
China also has no health infrastructure in the West. It has, per capita, one in seven of Germany’s nurses, and one-tenth of Germany’s “emergency” hospital beds (although, life expectancy in China surpassed that of the US this year, it is still behind EU. ). It couldn’t handle the emergency – based on America’s reaction to COVID, China could die 4 million, or 2.3 million using Taiwan as a benchmark. In fact, a tight fit makes sense.
What is new, is that the lockdown has given many people in China a bitter taste
autocracy. Sometimes, factory workers are treated in a way that makes the trials of Oliver Twist seem like a classic holiday. Granted that the shutdown may not end immediately and will have to endure until spring in one form or another, there are two important, long-term questions to be answered.
The first is whether the demonstration of Xi Jinping’s independent approach breaks the patience of the Chinese people, and the relationship between the people and the government (CCP). Second and related, is whether autocracy is bad for production, and if so China will hit a productivity wall and regress. In my opinion, in the grand scheme of intellectual competition between China and the US, this is a more important issue than a potential invasion of Taiwan.
China’s growth is slowing and like many other countries it may be at risk. In reality, the growth rate is very low (3%) and due to population growth, more growth is the only way to achieve high growth. This is why autocracy is a problem.
To explain academic work in this context, national governance and productivity growth can go hand in hand in economic development, but as the different strategies of North and South Korea show, the development of strong institutions and democracy, pays more. part.
There is a lot of evidence that political instability or drastic, negative institutional change can damage productivity. Turkey is another good example of a thriving economy that declined due to growing autocracy and corruption.
At the other end of the spectrum, the most productive and advanced countries are the countries (for example, the Nordics, Ireland, Switzerland) with the best “culture” and democracy. They offer examples of open economies and free communities.
Cracks are now beginning to appear in China. That Jack Ma feels safe in Tokyo shows that there are limits to business leadership in China. Asset and shadow banks are under stress and China’s isolation from the rest of the world (diplomatically, people’s movement) is one of the factors that will reduce innovation, risk-taking and productivity in China.
Any talk of China’s ‘rise’ is wrong, and Taiwan’s position is not essential to China’s progress. However, if it wants to become more powerful its economy must develop systematically, and this is where autocracy may be the biggest obstacle China faces.