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Democracy continues its disturbing retreat

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I enjoyed the article, but I found the map colours very hard to distinguish. I expect Australia and Canada to be democratic, but Saudi Arabia looks nearly the same colour. I can see why you might not want to shade from red to blue, but ...

Sense Seeker in reply to guest-smolmni

"the US, India and SA in the same category"
Yes, hard to accept that the US is at that level now, isn't it. So the study must be wrong. Otherwise, you'd really have to wonder about the direction of the US the last several years.


Is the color coding scheme inspired by president Trump's recent comment, you know, about African countries?


"...the idea of a global “democratic recession”
That assertion is NOT supported by the data accompanying the article, by any statistical metric.
Is it because TE's (un)intelligent unit is stupid? or because it hold the general readership in such a contempt that it didn't even bother to check its own data?


Talk about fake news -- the US, India and SA in the same category -- which anyone who has spent time in those three countries will know is nonsense. You really have to wonder about the direction of the Economist the last several years -- more political pap that is now available for free on the internet and fewer facts. It is too bad.

Godfree Roberts in reply to PS1337

No, it's nothing like the GDR, as you will see if you read 'Selling Democracy to China',

Instead of the futile Western model personality politics, 'Vote for me because, though I have no qualifications beyond willingness to accept bribes, I promise that, if elected, the weather will improve," the Chinese vote on policies.

Parties are inherently anti-democratic, as President George Washington explained: "Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume".

Sense Seeker in reply to Godfree Roberts

"Neither corporations nor the military allow their shareholders or members to publicly vote on their choice of senior executives. Why should we choose our government leaders that way?"
Why indeed. Just that question shows that you have no idea what democracy is about. Hint: it's not about how good people say they feel.
Instead it is more about human rights. And this is what Amnesty International says about China: "The government continued to draft and enact a series of new national security laws that presented serious threats to the protection of human rights. The nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists continued throughout the year. Activists and human rights defenders continued to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention. Police detained increasing numbers of human rights defenders outside of formal detention facilities, sometimes without access to a lawyer for long periods, exposing the detainees to the risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Booksellers, publishers, activists and a journalist who went missing in neighbouring countries in 2015 and 2016 turned up in detention in China, causing concerns about China’s law enforcement agencies acting outside their jurisdiction. Controls on the internet, mass media and academia were significantly strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside of direct state control increased. Religious repression conducted under “anti-separatism” or “counter-terrorism” campaigns remained particularly severe in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas."
That doesn't suggest a vibrant democracy in China.

PS1337 in reply to Godfree Roberts

Yes it's much like in the former GDR or Eastern Germany. People went to the ballot box in droves and the single ruling Party - the SED - enjoyed dream values of 99,5% of votes! It so baffling that this beloved regime would go under, despite people loving it so so much.

Their form of democracy was very simliar to Chinas, a very good system indeed. In this form of democracy you are given the choice to vote for the regime by your own free will! And to make sure you make an informed decision you are supported by state news, which tell you who to vote (of course the regime... duh) and why having more than one party on the ballot is really really bad.

So I fullheartedly agree with your point. Since the military doesn't allow its shareholders to choose their generals, neither should the public be allowed to choose the public administration. I mean... come on, how crazy would that be?!

Godfree Roberts

Is it residual imperialism (surely not racism!) that causes TE to rank China as non-democratic?

If you look under the hood, you'll find that China is probably the most democratic country on earth.

No matter how you slice it–constitutionally, electively, popularly, procedurally, operationally, substantively or financially–China comes out ahead.

In survey after survey, it's the most trusted government in the world and its policies enjoy the highest support. Don't believe me? Read 'Selling Democracy to the Chinese'

It's lazy to deny that China is a democracy just because her application of democracy is different from ours and we can't be bothered looking into it. The Chinese public certainly don't think their votes are worthless: voter turnout there is higher than the US or the UK.

And with good reason: by any measure–constitutionally, electively, popularly, procedurally, operationally, substantively or financially–China comes out ahead in the democracy stakes.

Chinese voters elect 3,000 (their elections overseen by the Carter Center) Congresspeople, who elect a permanent subcommittee that participates in personnel selection.

China, with her thousands of years experience of governance theory and practice, considers it inappropriate to choose personnel by public vote. Instead, they publish the top 1000 candidates' track records in excruciating detail but leave the final recommendations to experts. If you study the candidates' records yourself, you will quickly understand why the top guys are where they are. They earned it the hard way.

Choosing heads of State requires much closer scrutiny, so HR experts and previous heads of state and a Congressional subcommittee carry on many face-to-face interviews before choosing the Final Seven and the Big Two. Once everyone is on the same page, the top positions are put before Congress for their seal of approval. Their customary, almost-unanimous votes here are not a reflection of their alleged 'rubber stamp' function, but of near-consensus in a consensus-driven culture.

(Congress plays a much more active role in policy formation and delays legislation for years until it feels confident that it will achieve the desired effects nationwide. And all legislation must be accompanied by years of field-trial data and first-hand testimony from both the sponsoring officials and their intended publics.

As we can see, this system produces both highly competent leaders and excellent policy outcomes. It also produces very, very happy voters: 96% of Chinese have confidence in their government and 83% say their country is run for everyone’s benefit rather than for a few big interest groups (36% of Americans think the same).

80–90% of Chinese trust their government, the highest trust level of any national government, according to the Edelman 2016 Report, .

And "Nine in ten Chinese are happy with the direction of their country (87%), feel good about the current state of their economy (91%) and are optimistic about China’s economic future (87%)." According to the Pew Charitable Trusts

(Neither corporations nor the military allow their shareholders or members to publicly vote on their choice of senior executives. Why should we choose our government leaders that way?)

rewt66 in reply to PS1337

Yeah. "You can vote for any candidate, as long as it's ours" isn't democracy. "You can get your news from any source, as long as we control it" isn't a free press. And "You can say whatever you want, as long as you don't say anything bad about the Party, the government, or the country" isn't free speech.

Godfree Roberts in reply to T7DazyTDYQ

As I've said, China is the world's leading democracy, no matter how you measure it.

As to only CCP members are eligible to participate in the government, that's simply false. China's recent Minister of Health refused to join the Party.

The only internet sites that are blocked in China are malicious ones, like Facebook and Twitter. Ever wonder why?

Do we have some secret magic information that the Party doesn't want their citizens to know?

Nothing comes to mind.

Or could it be that our media and governments have waged a non-stop, WMD-style disinformation attack on China for 70 years and now they're intensifying it?

Our media and governments are losing control of the narrative so badly that, Gallup says, only 12% of Americans in mid-2017 still trusted the national media.

That's below Pravda's lowest ebb.

Whereas 80% of Chinese, according to Edelman, trust their media.

Maybe they trust their media because it DOESN'T contain the misinformation that ours so unsuccessfully tries to foist on us. The stuff the Chinese government filters out. The toxic stuff that's always advocating and excusing wars everywhere and lying about the environment. Stuff like that.

10 years ago Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube were all freely accessible in China.

Xiaonei was already more popular than Facebook.

Baidu had more searches than Google.

Sina was more popular than Twitter.

Tudou and Youku were each more popular than YouTube.

Paulo Sérgio

Democracy is in trouble everywhere. It seems as if democracy in its current form will not survive the rise of China. China will tread towards democracy while everyone else heads authoritarian.

The use of "fake news" as a basis for this arguement in these matters does not diminish the very serious fact that the President of The United States of America has consistently attacked the press, and what that means for a functioning, healthy democracy going forward. So yes, at least in this regard, the US is in the same ballpark as South Africa. Donald Trump's America is no better than Jacob Zuma's South Africa, all with continued support of the Gupta News (The New Age {print} and ANN7 {24 hour propaganda}) as have been revealed by the Guptaleaks and subsequent collapse of the vile Bell Pottinger.


Is the US a "hybrid"? I'm being serious. We have so many people unable to vote, and the notion that we are one-person-one-vote has been shown to be a myth, given impact of electoral college.


You see, there is a big difference between theory and practice. A country where much of the society believes it is ruled by a closed political elite with no outside influence on them, is NOT a democracy. A country where administration is ineffective and cannot fulfill whatever citizens ask, is NOT a democracy either. Whatever formal attributes of democracy there exist. Erosion of democracy is erosion of the process, not always of formal institutions.