Only matter of time before authoritarian regimes yield to desire for democracy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am


Your contributor Eric X. Li, the Shanghai-based venture capitalist, often writes pieces seeking to convince us that authoritarian rule similar to that on the mainland is superior to the democratic models of, for example, the US and Europe.

The evidence he points to is largely the immediate financial situation the world is in. I believe this rather short-term perspective does not, and cannot, satisfactorily explain the larger picture.

While Hu Shuli, whom I agree with ('The 'rise' of state capitalism is not a point of pride, but a reason for worry', March 1), argues that the government's heavy hand in competitive industries stifles market growth, it is also true to say that the political heavy hand similarly strangles creative growth.

The rise of liberal democracies and their dominance in the contemporary international order are due to many factors, but a vitally significant one is precisely the freedoms that allow their citizens to criticise, express their opinions, be involved in their political processes and engage in research activities that interest themselves.

This is key to their current power.

And it is why these countries have the most advanced technologies and why this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future; until, that is, similar conditions exist in what are currently the authoritarian political cultures apparently favoured by Mr Xi and others.

If or when that day arrives, I don't believe we will have problems between us that cannot be solved transparently and through the offices of international organisations and other media that we can all respect.

Mr Xi and his ilk misunderstand the concepts of democracy and legitimacy and also underestimate the strength of human desire for emancipation and the public's sense of 'justice'.

Democracies are much less likely to go to war with one another, since they need to have the support of their people. While their people will sometimes support war against dictators, they are very unlikely to do so when it is against another legitimately elected government.

I believe that history has shown, as current events in the Middle East and elsewhere verify, that the empirical evidence against the survival of authoritarian regimes is much stronger than that suggesting their evolutionary superiority.

Jon Fearon-Jones, Macau