Human technology

Cai Xia explains why China’s one-party system is holding the country back


The By Invitation section posts commentary from outside thinkers from a wide range of perspectives. For a view critical of liberal democracy and in favor of Chinese governance, read a commentary by Eric Li. On the evil that comes from the absence of liberal democracy, read a commentary by Toomas Hendrik Ilves. More invitational pieces are here.

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CHINA HAS “completed a process of industrialization” which has produced both economic growth and social stability, the Chinese Communist Party boasted in a “historic resolution” on Nov. 11. The party trumpeted that it was “the pioneer of a uniquely Chinese path to modernization, creating a new model of human progress.”

While China’s economy is indeed impressive, people around the world should not be misled by its outward appearance. The reality is that Chinese society is fragile due to the country’s one-party dictatorship, and adopting democratic practices would strengthen it.

The “only Chinese way”, as the party calls it, is nothing more than unfettered economic growth based on little respect for human rights and a lot of pollution. This predatory development has depleted China’s resources, from its environment to its people. The economic miracle is only temporary, not lasting. In the long run, the one-party system, by not allowing alternative views to be expressed openly, will be a disaster for China’s development and human society.

The party’s objective in developing the economy is not really to benefit the people, but to use rapid growth to maintain internal stability. He bestows favors and advantages to conquer the public while enslaving them, in order to keep his grip on power. At the same time, the party has strengthened its military capabilities and preparedness for war, to compete with America for world hegemony and achieve the ambitions of its leader, Xi Jinping.

The party and the government have looted private property without cause. Corruption is rampant among party officials. This makes China one of the countries with the largest gaps between rich and poor. All this will lead to more tensions between the party and the people who will hold the country back.

Pathologies of the one-party regime

After China launched its reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, it received strong support from America, Japan, Europe, and the Four Asian Tiger economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan. , Singapore and South Korea. Many of their companies entered China, bringing advanced technology and sophisticated management practices, thereby helping China cultivate the technology and talent it needed to modernize. The World Trade Organization opened its doors to China in 2001, providing easier access to a large global market.

Future economic development, driven by technology, requires China to strengthen its friendly trade with countries around the world, especially developed countries. But the hegemonic nature of the one-party dictatorial system and its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, coupled with China’s unscrupulous theft of intellectual property, make many countries suspicious, causing them to unite to resist the expansion. external and bullying. It leaves China in a situation of relatively isolated in the international community and lacking the external environment it needs for economic growth.

China’s growth itself has entailed heavy social costs that democratic practices could have prevented. In order to develop rapidly, the party did not hesitate to seriously pollute the environment. This has caused the emergence of “cancer villages” in many parts of the country. The number of patients with serious illnesses due to environmental degradation has increased sharply. Many people have become impoverished because of the disease.

The party also used its powers of government to deprive Chinese workers of their bargaining rights, resulting in low labor costs. It was bad for people. Qin Hui, an outspoken Chinese historian, refers to to this as a “comparative advantage” [that] is not reproducible without an iron rule “. The interests of the vast majority of the people in China have been seriously damaged, while the party has reaped enormous benefits.

Farmers move to cities to work, leaving their children behind, resulting in more than 60 million poor and helpless “children left behind” in rural China. Their psychological and personality problems, as well as the lack of healthy and normal lifestyles and good educational opportunities, cause enormous difficulties. This makes it difficult to improve the skills of the younger generation so that they can meet the needs of the country.

Then there is innovation, the basis for future growth. An essential precondition for creativity is respect for human dignity, the protection of fundamental human rights and the defense of freedom of thought and expression. In order for China’s economic development to continue, the country must follow the general trend of freedom and democracy in the world. However, the one-party system is fundamentally opposed to freedom and democracy. This is not only a huge obstacle to China’s development, but a disaster in terms of civil liberties.

The pillars of China’s one-party dictatorship are violence and terror, lies and deception, coupled with strict surveillance. Since Mr. Xi took office, he has made greater use of digital technologies to strengthen the party’s grip on the country. Authorities have carried out a form of large-scale genocide in ethnic regions such as Xinjiang, the Tibetan Plateau and Inner Mongolia.

In the rest of In China, they have severely cracked down on citizens who resist the totalitarian regime, sentencing them to imprisonment and torturing them. Under such violent terror, human free will is suppressed and individual creativity is stifled. How can China be successful in the future if it crushes the minds of its people today?

A need for democracy in China

In order to strengthen its control over society, intellectual life and culture, the party has strengthened the political and ideological standards that are required at all levels of education, from primary school to higher education. As during the Qin dynasty, around 200 BC.

The party confiscates academic works published abroad and prohibits discussion of foreign academic ideas. Some universities do not even allow foreign language departments to use foreign language textbooks. This cut off from the achievements of human civilization will undoubtedly block the knowledge and intellectual horizons of Chinese youth, and make it more difficult for the cultivation of creative thinking. As a result, China will not have the talents it needs to lead in the future.

One-party dictatorship is a major obstacle for China. It can even trigger unforeseen social or political disasters. It is only by putting an end to this totalitarian system of governance and by moving towards a constitutional democracy that the country will be on the path of good and sustainable economic and social development.


Cai Xia was a professor of political theory at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing from 1998 to 2012. Since 2019, she has lived in exile in America.

Read more:

This article is part of a series of By-invitation comments on the future of democracy. Others include:

Toomas Hendrik Ilves explains why liberal democracy matters

Eric Li on the failure of liberal democracy and the rise of the Chinese path

Also read The EconomistChaguan’s column on “China says it’s more democratic than America”