It appears that democracies come in several types. According to Democracy Building.info, there are three basic types of democracy—the Direct Democracy [ex. Switzerland], the Presidential Democracy [ex. USA, France] and the Parliamentary Democracy [ex. UK, Germany, Spain, Italy].
As for checks and balances, the parliamentary system offers few effective checks and balances [remember that China doesn’t offer checks and balances either].
In the UK, the Prime Minister, as head of state, is not elected. He or she is the leader of the majority party and may stay in power as long as his or her party is the majority. One of the main criticisms of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in almost all cases not directly elected by the people.
There are two types of parliamentary systems. One is the unicameral system, which means it only has one single house or parliament. Forty-four countries fit this description. Examples are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden and Turkey.
Then there is the bicameral system [thirty-three countries] of a parliamentary government, which has two houses, an upper and a lower chamber. Examples of this form of democracy are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the European Union, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Let’s see how China’s type of government compares and decide if it is a democracy, republic or a dictatorship.
Democracy From the Bottom Up (The Carter Center)
The Carter Center says, “More than 600,000 villages across China are participating in a national movement toward meaningful democracy—democracy from the bottom up—in a communist nation of 1.3 billion people. For more than a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center has aided this effort by helping to standardize election practices among villages and by promoting good governance and citizen participation.”
According to Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com, “the 2010 census [reported that], 51.3 percent of China’s population lives in rural areas. This is down from 63.9 percent in the 2000 census, which used a different counting system, and over 95 percent in the 1920s. There are around 800 million rural peasants and migrant workers—roughly, 500 million farmers and 300 million to 400 million excess unskilled rural laborers… There are around 1 million villages in China, about one third of the world’s total. Each village has an average of 916 people.”
That means about 549.6 million rural Chinese vote in democratic village elections every three years.
By contrast, in the 2010 US national election 37.8% (90.6 million) of the voting-age population turned out, and in 2008 only 56.8% (132.6 million) did. In 2008, the voting age population was 231.2 million and in 2010, it was almost 236 million. If the majority of people do not vote in an election, does that mean the democracy is broken?
I recommend reading Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com. It is well balanced and points out the way it was and the way it is. Although I did not read every word, I didn’t see any China bashing going on. It was not an indictment of China. However, I am sure a critic [read that enemy] of China could easily cherry pick this article and select a few pull quotes to support more misleading mudslinging at the CCP while ignoring what life was like in rural China before 1949.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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