The Emperor is Dead

November 5, 2010

In a Republic, everyone “does not” have the right to vote and that’s the way it was in the United States until 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act and created a democracy.

In 1776, when the US was a Republic, only white men with property had the right to vote, and the electorate consisted of perhaps only 10 to 20 percent of the population.

In fact, “”This made the country (America) far more stable than places that did not have this tradition and later went through dozens of constitutions and revolutions. In short, when it came to government and voting, Americans had a model to build on.” Source: History – Voting in Early America

Since America took almost two centuries to become the chaotic democracy it is today where almost everyone may vote but many don’t, why should China be rushed.

In China, members of the Communist Party make up the electorate, which is about 5% of the population. If the Communist Youth League were added, it would be closer to 10 percent. Regardless of how this electorate makes decisions, they do have a voice.

However, the consensus (rather than a majority vote) of that electorate still decides the direction China is moving.

China’s Central Committee has about 300 members (connected by a hot line) and nominally appoints the current 25 Politburo members, who select the Standing Committee of 5 to 9 men who select the President and Prime Minister.

Before 1911, only one man had a vote and that was the emperor. China has no emperor today. Today, China’s leaders may only serve two, five-year terms and there are also age limits, which the US doesn’t have. In fact, China’s next leader will not be the son of an emperor.

At its birth, the United States was not a democratic nation—far from it. The very word “democracy” had pejorative overtones, summoning up images of disorder, government by the unfit, even mob rule — considering the run up to the 2010 election, which sounds about right.

The explanation for the pressure from the “so-called” free world that China throw away the more stable Republic that has led to a steady, controlled modernization, improved health care and lifestyles and stumble quickly into a chaotic democracy is that misery loves company.

In 1950, the average life expectancy in China was 32.  Today life expectancy at birth is 73 (78 in the US). The infant mortality rate in 1950 was about 200 for 1,000 live births. Today that number is 20 (6 in the US).

If you want to see what happens to a country that became a Democracy before it was ready, study India carefully.

In India, the infant mortality rate is 51 for 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth is 66.

So far, since 1982 (which marks the end of Mao’s era and the birth of China’s new Constitution), China has avoided many of India’s mistakes, and India has been a democracy since 1947.

The learn more about India, see Comparing India and China’s Economic Engines, India Falling Short and The India, China battle to eliminate poverty and illiteracy.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.