Mostly Free to be Poor

February 15, 2011

Riz Khan hosts a program for Al Jazeera English and in this twenty-two minute segment, he leads a discussion about the possibility that democracy hinders economic growth.

Khan asks, “Is a centralized system, such as China’s one party, better than democracy for growth?”

Both India and China became countries about the same time.  In 2008, India’s GDP was $1.16 trillion and China’s was about three times larger at $4.33 trillion.

There is a debate in India that China’s one party political system has allowed China to modernize and improve lifestyles easier and faster than India’s democracy.

His first guest speaker is Tarun Khanna, a professor of the Harvard School of Business, who does not agree with the argument that India’s democracy is the cause of slow growth.

His opinion is that democracy may be a faulty option but it is the best of the faulty options we have. However, he says it is true that India’s democracy has underperformed.

Then MIT Professor Yasheng Huang says in the last thirty years, the leadership in China has improved its decision-making and made many correct decisions regarding productivity.

A listener to the program sends a message from Facebook.  “All a country needs is purposeful leadership, security, vision, and justice for all. China has demonstrated all this, unlike India.”

Professor Huang disagrees with the Facebook comment.

Kahanna says that China’s strong leadership has been an asset and that even in the Communist Party there is a meritocracy of sorts, which is a system of advancement based on individual ability or achievement—something that India’s political system lacks at this time.

Regarding a dictatorship, Huang says a dictatorship wouldn’t work in India. The culture is too complex.

Kahanna agrees that a dictatorship wouldn’t work in India and says India has to improve its democracy.

Huang feels if China doesn’t change its economic structure and put more emphasis on private companies, India will be the better place to do business in regards to long-term growth.

Kahanna says India’s biggest challenge is to include as many people as possible to share in the economic growth and more than half of its population has been left in poverty.  He says the biggest challenge will be basic health care and education and there has to be more opportunities in India for more people. The caste system in India is also a problem. India’s politicians must stop politicizing the cast system.

Professor Huang then says that democracy is not a solution to solve all of society’s problems. There has to be more than free elections. However, an authoritarian system is also not the answer. He says, take the strengths of both India and China and figure a way to take advantage of them—to make them work.

Learn more at India Falling Short


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.

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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.

Growing Cautiously Into a Modern Republic – Part 2/7

October 23, 2010

In Part 1, I talked about how Sun Yat-sen was the father of China’s republic and how Chiang Kai-shek destroyed any chance of having a two-party republic after Sun died.

Even after the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, it would take decades to prepare the people so Sun Yat-sen’s dream becomes a reality.

By reading India Falling Short, you will discover what happens when a democracy or republic moves too fast from a feudal society to a modern one.

For a republic or a democracy to survive, people must be educated and literate.

In fact, literacy in the US is listed at 99 percent. However, studies assert that 46% to 51% of U.S. adults read so poorly that they earn “significantly” below the threshold poverty level for an individual. This means that the chances of the US surviving as a republic or democracy are grim.

In 1949, when the Communists came to power about 32% of the people above the age of 12 could read.

By 1976, literacy was 20% when Mao died. The reason literacy had dropped so much was because of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution, which the nine top leaders of the Communist Party voted against.

Mao had those men eliminated or removed from power one at a time and went ahead with The Cultural Revolution.

Today, literacy in China is more than 90%. See China’s Literacy Policies

During the Tiananmen Square incident, Deng Xiaoping said that the Party wanted democracy for China, but Western style democracy would bring the economic growth to a grinding halt because the country (as India still is) wasn’t ready yet to become a democracy or the kind of republic Sun Yat-sen envisioned.

In 1989, China’s literacy program was in its infancy. Almost a billion people in rural China lived in conditions similar to serfs during Europe’s Dark Ages.  China’s cities had not been rebuilt.

Return to Growing Cautiously Into a Modern Republic – Part 1


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.

Comparing India and China’s Economic Engines

October 13, 2010

The cover for The Economist of October 2 – 8, 2010, is betting on a race that cannot be won by India.

I opened the magazine and read the two pieces that the cover was about.  One is about India’s surprising economic miracle and the second piece was A bumpier but freer road.

On page 11, I read, “many observers think China has done a better job than India of curbing corruption…”

On page 77, a Western banker was quoted saying, “It’s much easier to deal with the well-understood ‘org chart’ of China Inc than the freewheeling chaos of India.”

After reading both pieces comparing China with India, it was obvious that India would never beat China economically.

The Economist wants India to win this race, because it is called a democracy as is the U.S., but what isn’t mentioned is that China is becoming a republic with a Chinese twist, which is what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted.

The reason The Economist is wrong about India is because America’s Founding Fathers hated democracy and they had a good reason.

The Live Journal goes into detail on this topic.  To quote the Live Journal, “It would be an understatement to say that the (U.S.) Founding Fathers hated democracy. They warned against it vehemently and relentlessly. They equated it – properly – with mob rule.

“in a democracy, two wolves and a sheep take a majority vote on what’s for supper, while in a constitutional republic (which China is becoming), the wolves are forbidden on voting on what’s for supper and the sheep are well armed.…

“The Founders, who hated democracy, gave us a free country (a republic). Our (meaning many Americans) ignorance of history, which has lead to a love of democracy, is causing us to surrender our freedoms at an alarming rate.”

Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866 – 1925), known as the father of modern China, said he wanted to model China’s government after America but by combining Western thought with Chinese tradition.

When he said this, it was 1910, and America, by definition, was still a republic. Once you read the two pieces in The Economist, you may understand why India’s democracy cannot beat China’s evolving republic.

This topic is continued (with more details and facts) at India Falling Short


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. 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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