Had China democratized in 1989, what would the last 30 years have looked like for China?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,701
SoCal
#1
Had China democratized in 1989 (due to its leadership folding and agreeing to democracy just like Eastern Europe's leaderships did during this time), what would the last 30 years have looked like for China?
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,023
Connecticut
#2
I don’t think a democratic China would’ve been as successful; it might’ve disintegrated into chaos. I’m not a Sinologist but recall hearing that in Chinese history there is either strong leadership or chaos.
Had China democratized in ‘89, it wouldn’t have been possible to maintain the one child policy. It’s also likely Chinese goods wouldn’t have become so competitive since in a democracy the masses would’ve demanded and gotten higher wages.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,386
#4
Too many variables really, but hey, it's a what-if...

The argument that China wouldn't survive the shift to democracy is a bit of a red herring. "Don't do a bad job of it" might be decent counter. (Whether people are bitter about a glorious future that turned out lackluster and blame democracy, or simply don't like democracy on principle might vary.)

What happened was that the CCP felt it was forced to make a choice. Up to 1989 it had been a double process of economic AND social and political reform under party leadership. The choice that ended up being made was to ditch political and social reform, and go hell for leather towards economic reform to compensate.

It probably was and is a realistic understanding of the political challenges of maintaining a one-party state rule. It's not combinable with democracy.

Otherwise the proposition would seem to be that China embarks on a process of gradual democratization under Chinese Communist Party leadership. Do it well enough, and the CCP would continue to win elections for the forseeable future.

The only downside might be that it would be forced to accept the free formation of opinion, plurality of it, and actually do something about corruption. Economically, yes there would likely have been some trade offs slowing economic development – since you can't just shove empowered and enfranchised citizens – protected, along with their private property, by the rule-of-law – out of the way quoting expediency. Who knows, maybe that might have cost China the odd single % in annual GDP growth? Sure in the end the meteoric rise of China's economy would have been a tad less meteoric – but it would still have been meteoric, and no one would actually notice the reduced growth. (Was it worth is?)

Otherwise Poland actually still says political reforms can work alongside economic reform. (Russia could have to, but then just chose not to.) India says democracy can in fact work in society of a billion individuals so the size argument sometimes raised against democracy in China is also a bit hollow.
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2011
6,427
#5
India is probably still a good comparison during the early 1980s due to similar levels of population. At this time China surpassed India but not by an insurmountable degree and India still had hope of catching up at the time. It's not the same now:



The corruption perception index of both countries are around the same, averaging around 40, which is pretty average globally.

Or you can look at what happened to the Soviet Union under Gorbachev's Demokratizatsiya in terms of policy changes, with Boris Yeltsin winning Russia's first Presidential election in 1991:



Boris resigned in 1999 and named Vladmir Putin as acting president.

Current Russia's Corruption Perception Index is not that great at 28.
 
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Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,486
India
#6
China shift to democracy would come up with a huge cost, even shift from KMT to communism came with huge economic and human cost. China may have faced acute economic hardship like Russia.
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,486
India
#7
India is probably still a good comparison during the early 1980s due to similar levels of population. At this time China surpassed India but not by an insurmountable degree and India still had hope of catching up at the time. It's not the same now:



The corruption perception index of both countries are around the same, averaging around 40, which is pretty average globally.

Or you can look at what happened to the Soviet Union under Gorbachev's Demokratizatsiya in terms of policy changes:




Current Russia's Corruption Perception Index is not that great at 28.
India lagged behind China because India has too much socialism when compared to China.
 
Likes: Futurist

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,486
India
#8
I don’t think a democratic China would’ve been as successful; it might’ve disintegrated into chaos. I’m not a Sinologist but recall hearing that in Chinese history there is either strong leadership or chaos.
Had China democratized in ‘89, it wouldn’t have been possible to maintain the one child policy. It’s also likely Chinese goods wouldn’t have become so competitive since in a democracy the masses would’ve demanded and gotten higher wages.
Grooming democracy and adjusting with conflicting political views/ideologies need a long period of time and not every country groom democracy. Entire middle East ended up in chaos after the Arab spring, same with many former communist countries.
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,386
#9
China shift to democracy would come up with a huge cost, even shift from KMT to communism came with huge economic and human cost. China may have faced acute economic hardship like Russia.
One distinct possibility is that all the CCP has managed is to delay paying that cost...

Unless of course what it currently does seem to be proposing under Xi Jinping works out – and that's to make the future safe for autocracy. It might – still a big "if" – be a relatively affluent autocracy, if working as hoped, but still a model of autocracy to spread globally.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,386
#10
Grooming democracy and adjusting with conflicting political views/ideologies need a long period of time and not every country groom democracy. Entire middle East ended up in chaos after the Arab spring, same with many former communist countries.
Mostly because the powers of repression struck back very forcibly.

Assad could have negotiated a reform agenda, as was how the Syrian protests started and what they were looking for. He chose to just kill a lot of people instead. That works too, for a certain value of "works"...
 

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