Monday, April 26, 2004

THE FACE OF CHINA TO COME


To those who believe free markets create democracy, behold the future of China. At its 1997 handover to the Reds, Hong Kong was one of the most economically liberal countries in the world. Hong Kong is nothing if not a political-economic harbinger of what is to come as mainland China develops. Beijing continues to push Hong Kong backwards on the path to democracy. Despite middle class citizens burgeoning aspirations for electoral democracy, Beijing will not let Hong Kong directly elect its next leader in 2007, some ten years later.

As a rule, governments resist democracy for the threat it presents to entrenched powers, no matter what the political system (witness Florida 2000). Economic actors often have no incentive or interest in ceding powers they hold under undemocratic political systems or other power structures. In Hong Kong, for example, the Chief Executive of the "semi-autonomous region," Tung Chee-Hwa, a former international shipping tycoon, was hand picked by Beijing to advance the interests of the Reds in China's Politburo. When economic actors in a free market, undemocratic society already enjoy access to the political influence they need to conduct their economic affairs, democratice reform is elusive.

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