Why James P. Rubin is Not Optimistic About China’s Democracy

The Transom recently sat down with James P. Rubin, a Vice President of American University in Washington, D.C., to discuss current world events. There are the obvious international issues — North Korea, China, NATO,…

Why James P. Rubin is Not Optimistic About China’s Democracy

The Transom recently sat down with James P. Rubin, a Vice President of American University in Washington, D.C., to discuss current world events. There are the obvious international issues — North Korea, China, NATO, terrorism, Iran — but the conversation eventually got to China.

Rubin agrees that China’s integration into the global economy has been beneficial to all countries, but he’s not sure the results have always been positive in China.

The Transom: But isn’t that one of the biggest political flaws of China, is their government rule essentially undemocratic?

Rubin: There’s no question China’s government rules essentially undemocratically. It’s not necessarily the government’s fault, though. I think Chinese people are hugely alienated from the political apparatus. The differences in political system are this: One, you don’t have political parties; two, you don’t allow citizen initiative or opinion polling. And the Chinese government has now attempted to remake those things to solve that problem, but it hasn’t.

The Transom: So, what is the true extent of Chinese democracy?

Rubin: I think it’s pretty far down the road. But, it’s not what you think of as democracy at all. Of course, a dictatorship is not a democracy.

The Transom: But I thought our one-party system would also be an example of what is — to some degree — democracy.

Rubin: It’s far from it, but think of the importance of having a deliberative process, in our system. Chinese people pay more attention to whether their leader is in fact worth their votes. If they feel like they don’t like him, they don’t go out to vote.

The Transom: So you’re not that optimistic?

Rubin: I don’t think democracy — over all — is better than China’s, and I don’t think either is worse. But neither does that mean there’s not a lot to improve about China.

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About The Transom

Our Showtime interview is one in a series of timely conversations with political and intellectual elites that The Transom produces with leading media outlets. We regularly look into the psyches of the players in the news and ask why they behave the way they do. Our podcast can be found at TheTransomShow.com and iTunes. Follow The Transom on Twitter and Facebook.

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