This year, in fact within two days of each other, two hugely important political events will occur. For these two events to feature within the same year is rare indeed. They are also bound to set up an interesting contrast between the authentic way to rule on behalf of the people and the fraudulent way.
I refer, of course, to the US presidential election and the “changing of the guard” during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), when a new set of Chinese leaders will take over.
Current US President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, hit the campaign trail some time ago. The two men have been weaving their way through the country, explaining their policies and lambasting those of their opponent. The current resident of the White House has the advantage, but also has more to defend. The challenger has license to lay into his opponent’s record, to distance himself from his policies and to appeal to the electorate. He faces less pressure.
People in the US have no need for Confucian ideas regarding benevolent rulers. They have the luxury of having the right to vote and a system that allows them to make up their own minds, freely and independently.
The Chinese communists claim that the autocratic system over which they preside is actually democratic; posing and posturing and saying that they are governing on behalf of the people.
When good old Confucius (孔子) was talking about “governing on behalf of the people,” he was talking about the benevolent ruler who was content to be good to the people due to his own magnanimity.
He was not talking about people having the freedom to vote as a fundamental human right.
The handover of power in China is controlled by a small number of people, behind closed doors. The public at large do not get a say in the process, but they do have to deal with the consequences. Representatives of the party merely rubber-stamp the decision and clap their hands to signal their agreement. There is only one name on the list; which they are obliged to choose — and if they are not happy with it? Tough.
If the Chinese communists were really committed to governing on behalf of the people they would follow the US example: Field two candidates and let the Chinese people make a free and fair choice between them.
There could be Xi Jinping (習近平) representing power, privilege and capitalism, allowing the exploitation of workers and creating a poverty gap, contesting the leadership with the Maoist Bo Xilai (薄熙來), with his communist songs and anti-corruption drive.
However, that will not happen. A select few among the communists can keep Bo locked away while they deliver Xi safely to the top spot. All in the interest of creating a “harmonious society” in which the dictates of the ruler are not easily challenged.
US democracy puts the people in the driving seat, while transitions of power within the CCP consist of having a small number of people place the ruler on the throne.
There is a clear distinction between the two.
While China’s online community are envious of the US, the friends of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) talk in the UN of how “the Chinese people” are seeking “unification.”
The misconception is because of the route down which Ma is taking Taiwan.
Taiwanese, after many years of struggle and sacrifice in the fight for freedom and democracy, would surely not choose a road that leads to slavery.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper