Crises highlight common need for change in two very different systems

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2011, 12:00am


The recent Wenzhou railway incident reflected the usual mainland way of dealing with administrative problems - hushing things up. Hong Kong residents have protested against the cover-up of the truth. However, while the government actions are not wholly acceptable, it is a necessary political act for a communist country.

China has long been following its communist policy in political administration. Everything is for the country, and individualism is placed far behind nationalism. A long history of social instability, decentralisation of power and rebellions taught the ruling party in China that differentiation among its citizens is fatal to the country's survival, and therefore the government could only forcefully cover up disagreements. The central government's strict control over events and media ensured a stable society despite occasional riots. Because of this indisputable central policy, the development of the whole country is economically efficient at the cost of human rights.

On the other hand, is democracy the best form of government in times of crisis? In the United States, for example, people elect their president, but his authority is checked by Congress and is therefore not absolute. Although this political system is fair and allows the public to affect major decisions through voting, there is one far-reaching consequence - inefficiency.

Everyone's opinion is taken into account, and every thought can sway the outcome. Adding together freedom of expression and everyone's different animosities, small wonder that decisions are frequently stalled. At crucial times, the inefficiency can devastate America, whether in economics or social policies such as the fiasco over health care reform.

The potent consequence of democracy can be explained better in the recently resolved debt crisis in America. Republicans and Democrats held their respective stances firm for days despite President Barack Obama's request for co-operation. In an effort to compromise, the president had to make use of public pressure to solve the 'drama' at the last minute. In short, divided power creates inefficiency, which in turn affects social stability.

Is there a perfect form of government? Every type has its strengths and weaknesses. Whether it is for the people or the country, there are unavoidable consequences. It seems that the present political systems all require some modifications, for the sake of their respective people.

Marco Sondjaja, Quarry Bay