Connect with us

China’s perspective: Democracy can’t taste the same across the world

China is a force to reckon with in the world’s economic space, with most narrations painting a cold war with the United States of America. Being a powerful player in world affairs has attracted more scrutiny into China as a state. Whilst its confrontations with other world powers centre on economic issues, critics have found an easy way to poke at China.

They say it is undemocratic; hence its system of governance borders on authoritarianism. However, China offers a different perspective. This discussion focuses on the central question, the actual meaning of ‘democracy’, and the finding is that an agreement still seems far away. Most political theorists have by now given up hope and have moved on to more promising areas of inquiry. Effectively, this paper suggests that democracies are varied, and in most instances, influenced by the culture and socio-economic factors of different environments.

Let’s go by the Merriam-Webster (1828) definition of democracy: ‘a democratic system of government is a form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections’. Based on this definition, very little suggests that China does not qualify as a democracy. China’s worry with the democracy narrative tends to be assessed using the ‘western template’, a complaint shared by many of Africa’s so-called undemocratic states.

Since 1978, China has experienced economic marketisation and a degree of political liberalization LuChunlong (2011). Ignoring this development, some commentators, out of narrow intentions, have tried to portray China’s relations with the West as a competition between democracy and authoritarianism, seeking to draw the line along with ideology and pin labels on countries. Lu (2011) further notes, “recent studies on political culture, while not comprehensive, have suggested the emergence of democratic values, thus presenting a picture of hope for the prospect of Chinese democracy”.

This demonstrates that China appreciates the principle of democracy. However, leaders in the Asian giant have argued that China’s socialist democracy is a whole-process, most representative democracy. According to documents linked to the Communist Party of China (CPC), the country’s democracy embodies the will of the people, fits the country’s realities and is endorsed by the people. China has consistently argued that it is undemocratic in itself to label China as “authoritarian” or “dictatorship” simply because China’s democracy takes a different form than that of the West.

Admittedly, China’s reforms, however, are evolving very rapidly. Her unique political development model is distinct from the traditional Soviet Union Socialist model and diverges from the Western liberal democratic style. Unger and Chan (1995) argue that the Chinese political model challenges Western literature’s classic liberal democratic theory and raises questions: Is democracy a standard value for all humankind? Does a non-liberal form of democracy exist?

These concerns also attract the most heated debates about Chinese democratic reform within China since the founding of the nation in 1949. In their view, Unger and Chan (1995) submit that this political discourse in China is concentrated on questions like, What is the relationship between democracy and social modernisation? Does western-style democracy also apply in China? Is there a Chinese model of democracy? Is democracy an opportunity or a challenge for China?

Studies continue to suggest the emergence of democratic values in China. One of such studies by Lu Chunlong (2004) based its conclusions on public opinion surveys and suggested that Chinese political culture is in transition. For example, Ogden (2002) suggests, “China has inklings of a democratic political culture in certain respects and not in others”. Ogden is optimistic about the prospect of Chinese democracy. Huntington (2002) concludes that Chinese political culture will move closer to the patterns characteristic of democratic countries as the economy grows.

In a more recent study, Shi (2012) also finds that higher education and income levels play a significant role in making people transcend their traditional culture. Various studies suggest that people with higher education and income tend to perceive their relationship with authority as reciprocal but are also more willing to enter into conflict with others to assert their interests this is a characteristic of China today.

After presenting that well-educated and wealthy Chinese people are more likely to possess democratic values, Chu and Chang (2008) conclude: “socio-economic development is positively correlated with demand for democratic principles, suggesting that modernisation generally facilitates the growth in democratic-value orientation”. This theory emphasises the importance of the middle class as a friend of democracy. With a massive population of over 1.4 billion people, China certainly has one of the most significant middle-class demographics, an inherent ingredient for a democracy.

With China’s economic development, so the country’s middle class has grown significantly, both in absolute number and in percentage relative to the whole population (Ogden, 2002). This social class owns most of the economic and cultural capital; therefore, this discussion finds that China’s leaders will have to accustom their government system to the aspirations of this influential group. Moreover, Huntington (2002) finds that at a time when the Chinese government is more ready to talk about “socialist democracy”, “democracy” has thus become a legitimate and popular word, even though the meaning may differ from that applied to the word and the concept as used in the Western world. “Thus, when Chinese citizens express support for democracy, it may be that support is for a meaning different to that understood by a citizen of an established, advanced industrial democracy” (Huntington, 2002).

One of the documents belonging to the Communist Party of China (CPC) states thus: “the CPC was established with the mission to pursue happiness for the people. With the slogans of anti-dictatorship, anti-autocracy and anti-oppression, it enabled the people to become master of their own country and won the people’s hearts. As the governing party, it has remained faithful to its founding mission: people-centred and serving the people whole-heartedly. What China today is whole-process democracy.

According to law, the people have the right to an election, and they can be broadly involved in national governance. They exercise state power through the National People’s Congress and local people’s congresses at different levels.”

The key reason the CPC could defeat the Kuomintang (the Nationalists) during the last Civil War was a democracy (Lu Chunlong, 2004). According to literature, the founding fathers and leaders of the CPC stressed the importance of democracy, especially Chen Duxiu, who was one of the famous democratic movement”the May 4th Movement of 1919″in modern Chinese history. Chairman Mao Zedong was also a feverish advocator of Chinese democratic politics.

In his masterpiece “On New Democracy,” he systematically illustrated the CPC‘s guiding principle on Chinese development (Unger and Chan, 1995). The CPC, led by Mao, founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, which was a milestone in the history of Chinese democracy. Mao Zedong explicitly declared that only through democracy could a government survive from being overthrown, and democracy could also bring about the Chinese national goal of “great rejuvenation”. After 1949, the CPC made tremendous exploration into promoting democracy in China, which led to several outstanding achievements. Examples include: abolishing feudalistic hierarchy and privilege, equalising gender differences, and enabling poor workers and farmers to be involved in national administration (Lu Chunlong, 2004).

Numerous Chinese diplomats who have served in Botswana have remarked that China also has a unique political consultation system and affiliated institutions, similar to Ntlo ya Dikgosi in Botswana, which gives citizens the platform to exercise democracy. One of the diplomats argued that most issues and conflicts of interests are resolved and suggestions accepted in such consultation forums, which also makes the implementation of the policies easier, a process inherent with democracy.

China believes its economic prosperity is a result of positive political reform gravitating towards democratic ideals. China has become the world’s second-largest economy and biggest trading nation. According to official Chinese data, 16,000 companies are created in China every day, and over 120 foreign enterprises are rushing to China, one of the biggest consumer markets and the top investment destination in the world. In addition, 1.4 billion people have basic medical insurance and old-age pension insurance.

Green and low-carbon living has become a new fashion, Chinese media has reported. The Chinese are driving 50% of the world’s new-energy vehicles on the most extensive expressways in the world. Every year, 10% of its population, which means almost 150 million Chinese, have visited other countries to open their eyes and contentedly returned to China. One billion Chinese netizens get connected with the world for information and engagement at the click of a mouse. Recently China reported that COVID-19 had been put under control in China, with 1.1 billion people fully vaccinated. The leadership in China submits that all these demonstrate that the Constitution fully protects the rights and freedoms of the Chinese.

Undoubtedly, the reforms that started in 1978 allowed the Chinese economy to boom exceptionally rapidly, which created a miracle in modern world economic history. Huntington (2002) observes that during the 30 years from 1978 to 2008, Chinese GDP grew from 364.5billion yuan (approximately 50.1 billion USD at 2010 exchange rate) to 30.067 trillion yuan (about 4.295 trillion USD). Additionally, the average annual growth rate exceeded 9%, and the GDP per capita also increased from 381 yuan (about 54.3 USD) to 22,600 yuan (approx.3,228.57 USD). The nation’s comprehensive strength also leapt forward to third place in the world.

But many Western scholars believed that China’s reform and opening-up policy only achieved great success concerning economic modernisation, with no significant progress in political democratisation (Ogden, 2002). Some even went so far as to claim the reason for the successful Chinese economic modernisation was precisely because China did not have any accompanying democratic reforms. As a matter of fact, Chinese modernisation is an integrated, multi-level social change process, which includes enormous economic progress and tremendous political and cultural improvement (Lu Chunlong, 2004).

Similarly, Ogden (2002) observed that the political impetus to economic prosperity was more significant in China’s reform than in many Western countries. Mao Zedong, who deeply understood the Chinese social and historical traditions, clearly stated: “Politics is the commander, the soul, and the bloodline of all economic tasks.” If there had been no political reform, China’s modernisation would have never succeeded.

In conclusion, it would have been impossible to attain later achievement in economic structural change without this political reform. Some Western scholars use their democratic standards, such as a multi-party system, universal suffrage, and checks and balances, to evaluate Chinese political development in the reform era and conclude that Chinese reform is more economical than political. However, China argues that this is an unnecessary bias and misunderstanding.

Concurrent with the fundamental change of economic structure, most Asian scholars argue that the Chinese political system also experiences a profound reform. They conclude that the impact of the political system on economic development is much more powerful in China than that in Western countries. “Without political structural reform, there would be no systematic economic change. This is a basic experience gained during the Chinese reform era” (Lu Chunlong, 2002). Deng Xiaoping, the designer and leader of Chinese reform, deeply understood this point.

He articulated: “If we fail to do that [political reform], we shall be unable to preserve the gains we have made in the economic reform.” “Without political reform, economic reform cannot succeed … So in the final analysis, the success of all our other reforms depends on the success of the political reform.” Yanjie (2002) agrees with the observation when he writes, “As it turned out, the process of Chinese reform and opening-up is an integral and comprehensive process of social changes, including economic, political, and cultural dimensions in Chinese society”.China holds on to the notorious adage that democracy is not Coca-Cola, which tastes the same worldwide. The world will be lifeless and dull if there is only one single model and one single civilisation.


Alexis de Tocqueville. (1966). Democracy in America. New York: Harper and Row, esp. Vol. I.

Bian Yanjie. (2002). Chinese Social Stratification and Social Mobility, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 28, pp. 91-116

Robert W. Jackman and Ross A. Miller. (1996) A Renaissance of Political Culture? American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 632-659.

Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba. (1963). The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

James L. Gibson, Raymond M. Duch, and Kent L. Tedin. (1992). Democratic Values and the Transformation of the Soviet Union, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 329-371.

Jonathan Unger and Anita Chan. (1995). China, Corporatism, and the East Asian Model, The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, Vol. 33, pp. 29-53.

Martin King Whyte. (1995). The Changing Role of Workers, in Merle Goldman and Roderick MacFarquhar (eds.), The Paradox of Chinas Post-Mao Reforms, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, pp. 173-196.

Samuel P. Huntington. (2002). Democracys Third Wave, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 2, 1992, pp. 12-35;

Suzanne Ogden. (2002). Inklings of Democracy in China, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center.

Robert Putnam. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Lee Ching Kwan. (2000). Pathways of Labor Insurgency, in Elizabeth J. Perry and Mark Selden (eds.), Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance, London, Routledge, pp. 41-61.

Continue Reading


Local tennis team upbeat ahead of Billie Jean King cup

29th May 2023

With almost two weeks until the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup, which will be staged in Kenya from June 12-17, 2023, the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) ladies’ team coach, Ernest Seleke, is optimistic about reaching greater heights.

Billie Jean King Cup, or the BJK Cup, is a premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched as the Federation Cup to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The BJK Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition in terms of the number of nations that compete.

The finals will feature 12 teams (Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) competing in the four round-robin groups of three. The four group winners will qualify for the semifinals, and the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup will be crowned after the completion of the knockout phase.

Closer to home, the BW Tennis team is comprised of Thato Madikwe, Leungo Monnayoo, Chelsea Chakanyuka, and Kelebogile Monnayoo. However, according to Seleke, they have not assembled the team yet as some of the players are still engaged.

“At the moment, we are depending on the players and their respective coaches in terms of training. However, I will meet up with Botswana-based players in the coming week, while the United States of America (USA) based player Madikwe will probably meet us in Kenya. Furthermore, Ekua Youri and Naledi Raguin, who are based in Spain and France respectively, will not be joining us as they will be writing their examinations,” said Seleke.

Seleke further highlighted the significance of this competition and how competitive it is. “It is a massive platform for our players to showcase their talent in tennis, and it is very competitive as countries target to get promoted to the world categories where they get to face big nations such as Spain, France, USA, and Italy. Though we are going to this tournament as underdogs because it is our second time participating, I’m confident that the girls will put in a good showing and emerge with results despite the odds,” highlighted Seleke.

Quizzed about their debut performance at the BJK Cup, he said, “I think our performance was fair considering the fact that we were newbies. We came third in our group after losing to North Macedonia and South Africa. We went on to beat Uganda, then Kenya in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play Burundi due to heavy rainfall and settled for the position 9/10,” he said.

For her part, team representative Leungo Monnayoo said they are working hard as they aim to do well at the tourney. “The preparations for the tourney have long begun because we practice each and every day. We want to do well, hence we need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe in my team as we have set ourselves a big target of coming home with the trophy,” she said.

Continue Reading


Pep Stores donates sanitary towels to Popagano JSS

26th May 2023

The Guidance and Counseling unit at Popagano Junior Secondary School received a donation of 790 sanitary towels from Pep stores on Thursday.

When presenting the donation, Mareledi Thebeng, the Dinokaneng Area Manager, highlighted their belief in giving back to the community, as their existence depends on the communities they serve. Thebeng pointed out that research indicates one in four girls miss school every day due to the lack of basic necessities like sanitary towels. Therefore, as a company, they strive to assist in alleviating this situation. She expressed hope that this donation would help ensure uninterrupted learning for girls.

Upon receiving the donation on behalf of the students, Charity Sambire, the President of the Student Representative Council, expressed her gratitude. Sambire specifically thanked Pep Store for their generous gift, speaking on behalf of the students, especially the girl child.

She conveyed their sincere appreciation for Pep Store’s compassion and quoted the adage, “Blessed is the hand that gives.” Sambire expressed the students’ hope for Pep Stores’ prosperity, enabling them to continue supporting the students. As a gesture of gratitude, the students pledged to excel academically.

During her speech, Motlalepula Madome, the Senior Teacher in Guidance and Counseling, highlighted that many students at the school come from disadvantaged backgrounds where parents struggle to provide basic necessities. Consequently, some students miss school when they experience menstruation due to this lack.
Madome emphasized the significance of the donation in preventing the girl child from missing lessons and its potential to improve the school’s overall results. She expressed the school’s gratitude and expressed a desire for continued support from Pep Stores.

Popagano Junior Secondary School, situated in the Okavango District, holds the second position academically in the North West region. Despite its location, the school has been dedicated to achieving excellence since 2017

Continue Reading


Botswana misses out critical PAP committee meeting

23rd May 2023

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) committee on gender, family, youth and people with disability in its sitting considered, adopted and recommended to the plenary session the preliminary report on the framework for the model law on gender equality.

According to the last week’s media release from PAP which is sitting with its various committees until June 2nd,  the committee is following up the PAP initiative to draw up a model law on gender equality to enable national governments to harmonize, modernize and standardize their legislations to address local needs is set to be discussed in Plenary.

However, what is concerning is the fact that Botswana which is a member state missed the deliberations. Kgosi Mosadi Seboko who sat in the committee representing Botswana has since been ejected by parliament and this is a huge blow for a nation that is still battling equity and gender balance.

“Although PAP has no legislative powers it makes model laws for member states to adopt. PAP also develops protocols to be ratified by countries. The input of countries at Committee state is extremely critical. It now means the voice of Botswana is missing the discussions leading up to development of protocols or model laws,” said one of Botswana’s representative at PAP Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang who is attending the current session.

While Botswana is missing, the committee meeting took place on the sidelines of the Sixth PAP second ordinary Session being held under the African Union Theme of the Year for 2023, “The Year of AfCFTA: Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area” in Midrand, South Africa and will run up to 2 June 2023. Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala expressed satisfaction with preliminary processes undertaken so far towards the formulation of the Model Law,” a release from the PAP website reads.

“The law should be suitable to all countries whatever the predominant culture or religion is. The aim is to give an opportunity to women to participate in the economic, political and social development of the continent. Women are not well positioned and face a lot of obstacles. We are introducing the idea of equity in the Law because we cannot talk about equality without equity,” said Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala in the press statement.

The release has stated that among issues to be covered by the Model Law is the migratory movements of women. The Committee proffered that this has to be addressed at the continental level to ensure that migrant women enjoy all their rights and live with dignity in their destination country. The members of the Gender Committee undertook consultations to consolidate the contributions of the various stakeholders that will be the logical framework format for the Model Law.




Continue Reading