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Gurry Julien Blouin November 7th 2011

China: The Exception to

China, because of its rapid economic growth and unique political structure, is at the heart of contemporary international relations discussions. The country has intensified the debate of the existence of an inevitable path from economic capitalism to democratic liberalism. This theory that liberal economic practices neccesarily lead to democratization of politics is labeled Inevitability Theory. Though idealists, often proponents of Fukuyamas democratic-liberalist finality theory, argue that this link is fixed in nature, the contentious events in recent history, the very same events that they view to the advantage of correlation (the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War) as well as the current direction of Chinas development, suggest the existence of an alternative structure in the form of autocratic capitalism.

WWI and WWII show how smaller nation-states can, by the effectiveness of centralized power, rival much larger nation states. In their essay, The Myth of the Autocratic Revival: Why Liberal Democracy Will Prevail, Deudney and Ikenberry, who support the existence of a link between capital economics and democratic politics, argue that the German failures in both World Wars were due to deep-rooted structural flaws; contributing to strategic blunders in assessing adversaries and initiating military campaigns. Although these factors did produce much of Germanys challenges, these factors are not problems that are essentially autocratic. The United States, throughout the

World Wars and its involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East, suffered from the same problems. During WWII, The United States was able to afford the blunders of an indecisive democratic system because of its superior size compared to both Germany and Japan. In his essay "Democracy's Victory is Not Preordained", Azar Gat argues that without the support of "the colossal of the United States" the democracies (France and the United Kingdom) would have suffered defeats in both World Wars against Germany. If such had been the outcome, Gat proposes, "the constructed grand narrative of the twentieth century would have emphasized the superior cohesiveness of authoritarian regimes, not the triumph of freedom. For grand narratives, like history, are written by the victors." Accordingly, our modern understanding of the viability of democracy as a political system results from a winner's view of the events. Germany had the upper hand on both the democracies of France and the United Kingdom, and ultimately came up short against the larger United-States that had more resources at its disposal.

Yet, this explanation of the victories of democracy over competing autocracies as a result of territorial imbalances in recent history does not fully explain what occurred during the Cold War. To many supporters of Fukuyamas End of History theory (which forecast that democracy is the final stage of history), the conclusion of the Cold War was proof of their case. Democracy had beaten the last of its rival ideologies. On the surface, this belief seems to be supported by sound logic; while Germany and Japan lacked size, Cold War communism (principally the Soviet Union and China) enjoyed a combined territorial advantage (including an advantage in resources) over the U.S. It is tempting, as a result of this oversimplified comparison, to view the outcome of this confrontation as

proof that autocracies are not a viable alternative to democracies. Where this proposal fails is in its faulty assumption that Cold War communism represents the fulfilled potential of autocracy. Rather than showing the failure of an autocratic system this struggle of ideologies revealed the structural problems specific to communism as practiced by the Soviet-Union and China. This early stage of communism was never intended to rival democracy, but rather it was from the very beginning and at its very core an alternative to capitalism. Thus, in the discussion of the link between capitalism and liberalism in politics, the failure of Cold War communism in its inability to keep up with the economic might of capitalism- merely emphasizes the assumption of the inevitability of capitalism. Moreover, in considering the viability of autocracy, the Cold War emphasizes the importance for any such regime of understanding and implementing capitalism for its own survival. It is in this study of great autocratic regimes that we are led to modern day China.

China, because of its unique cultural/historical emphasis on sovereignty, is characterized by a population unlikely to rise up and demand liberal democracy. In fact, quite the opposite, the Chinese population is likely to support the authoritarian system which has released them from their power insecurities of the late 19th century and early 20th century and into a 21st century with the promise of renewed economic primacy. The arguments advanced by those who adhere to the theory of the inevitable link between capitalism and democratic liberalism, posit that China's economic ascendancy is a precursor to the opening up of its political structure. Such views of democracy being inevitable discount the characteristics of the Chinese people and the Chinese government.

In order to understand how Chinas government might both embrace capitalist economics while retaining its autocratic political regime, one must look at the issues that have confronted the Chinese People over the last few centuries. Historically the Chinese people viewed sovereign rulers with greater regard than any other people. China, according to their view of the world, was the superior territory and thus its rulers, throughout time, represented the highest authority in the universe. The late 19th and 20th centuries however forced the Chinese people to question and eventually abandon this view. It was as if, all of a sudden, the nation that had generated the greatest GDP during 18 of the previous 20 centuries was suddenly forced to view those it had always judged as barbarian foreigners (Westerners) as superior states1. China was forced to recognize its military weakness and its obsolete economic structure since it was unable to discourage Western invasions. It was unable to turn trade with foreigners into efficient economic development. It is precisely in this manner that the theory of inevitable association between capitalism and democracy is problematic: it does not provide a timeframe for the proposed structural transition. Thus, it fails to provide reasons for Chinas hesitancy in democratizing despite being more effective in capitalist economics than many democratized nations. A Western proponent of Inevitability theory might propose that the modern day Chinese majority desires democracy, and will eventually achieve it, but is presently unable to escape the suppressive stranglehold of the communist party. However, the reality is that the majority of the Chinese people are satisfied with the countrys current economic development. The communist party has been credited with

Kissinger, Henry. On China , p.11-12

the countrys developing excellence in capitalist practices (a mastery that arguably surpasses even that of the United States). Due to a historical emphasis on the importance of sovereignty and a satisfaction with the nations renewed claim of primacy on the international stage, the Chinese People view autocracy in a more favorable light than other countries. These factors are crucial explanations behind Deudney and Ikenberrys inaccurate predictions in their essay The Myth of the Autocratic Revival: Why Liberal Democracy Will Prevail; arguing that the emerging Chinese middle class would necessarily seek to radically alter the countrys political structure. The government, for its part, has dealt with the growing demand for coordination goods those goods which allow the strategic coordination of opposition to autocracy- with a strategy of give and take, to curb protest and maintain economic growth. As Mesquitas and Downs explain in their essay Development and Democracy, the argument of the believers of the Inevitability Theory that the emergence of coordination goods will necessarily lead to democratization does not take into account the growing sophistication of authoritarian governments. For many, the Arab spring represented indisputable evidence that these coordinating goods will necessarily lead suppressed people to denounce authoritarian regimes. However, the Arab spring should rather be viewed as a warning against the imprudent handling of coordination goods. Prompted by desperation, Egyptian and Libyan regimes' shut down the Internet; this represents an example of the unwise handling of coordination goods. The demise of these regimes can thus be viewed as evidence of the inevitability of the demise of unsophisticated autocracies. The Chinese middle-class, upon which Deudney and Ikenberrys theory depends as stimulators of change, does not seek change.

China has disproven (and will continue to do so) the theory stating that economic capitalism inevitably leads to poltical democracy because its government represents an improvement on earlier forms of autocracy. The Chinese Communist Party has the territorial capacity (lacking in the german model), the mastery of capitalist economics (which failed it and the Soviet-Union during the Cold-War), and it succesfuly balances the support inherent to its Chinese tradition and the new pursuits of self-expression brought on by liberalist economics.