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Global Viewpoint

China's political system is more flexible than US democracy

Many people believe the Western democracy is superior to a one-party system because the rotation of political power gives government the flexibility to make needed policy changes. But China’s one-party system has proven over time to be remarkably adaptable to changing times.

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Some say that in the hypothetical situation in which the CCP lost popular support, it should step down from power, and only when this is ensured could the support of the people the party currently carries be rendered legitimate. Such an argument, if pushed to its logical conclusion, would mean that if, in a hypothetical situation, the current electoral regime in America lost the people’s support, the US must do away with elections, cancel the Bill of Rights, and install an authoritarian or some other system of governance.

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This, of course, is absurd. Rulers may be succeeded or rotated peacefully within established systems of governance. Political systems themselves cannot be changed on a dime. With few exceptions, political systems change quickly only through revolutions. In America’s short history, it took two violent wars on its soil to establish and consolidate its current governing system.

Many argue that Western democratic regimes are superior because the rotation of political parties by voting allows the flexibility required for the government to make policy changes that meet the demands of changing times and thereby better reflect the will of the people. In contrast, China’s one-party system is rigid, and the CCP’s monopoly on power disconnects it from the people.

The simplest exercise in intellectual diligence would show such argument to be preposterous. Since the party established the People’s Republic in 1949, under the leadership of a single political party, changes in China’s government policies and political environment have covered the widest possible spectrum. From the so-called “New Democratic” coalition at the beginning to the dramatic land reforms of the early 1950s, from the Great Leap Forward to the quasi-privatization of farmland in the early 1960s, from the Cultural Revolution to Deng Xiaopin’s market reform and Jiang Zemin’s redefinition of the Party through his “Theory of Three Represents,” China’s domestic politics are almost unrecognizable from one period to another.

In foreign policy, China moved from a close alliance with the Soviet Union in the 1950s to a virtual alliance with the United States in the 1970s and ’80s to contain the former. Today, its pursuit of an independent course in an increasingly multi-polar world is distinctive among the nations of the world. No one could deny that its leaders, from Mao to Deng, from Jiang to Hu and to Xi next year, differ as widely in political outlooks and policy priorities as those who move in and out of power under any other political systems.

IN PICTURES: Beijing today

Through six decades, there have been many blunders and corresponding course corrections. The Cultural Revolution – a disaster – was outright condemned. And the country went from its shattered state to the China we know today. The facts demonstrate the extraordinary capability of a one-party system for change and self-correction.

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