Published: 00:44, April 20, 2021 | Updated: 18:46, June 4, 2023
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Political security essential to national development
By Ho Lok-sang

The social unrest in Hong Kong in the last few years has much to do with Hong Kong people failing to understand the political system on the Chinese mainland. As Prof. Lau Siu-kai’s recent article in China Daily pointed out, “The oppositionists in Hong Kong have been arguing vociferously and wrongly that only with the end of the rule of CCP will Hongkongers be able to really enjoy a high degree of autonomy and have their freedoms, rights and rule of law protected”. Many people still think that only a popularly elected government has legitimacy. Unfortunately, the political propaganda of the West has indeed gained the upper hand, and many youngsters have even resorted to violence attempting a “revolution” to “free” Hong Kong from “Chinese rule”. 

In an earlier article I pointed out that even though we all subscribe to the same universal values, people do have different judgments on how to achieve such universal values as equality and freedom. Unfortunately, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confused means with ends, and effectively dictates the Western form of political system based on the ballot box as a basic human right and a universal value. Developments around the world over the past half-century have alerted many objective observers that multi-party ballot box politics may not necessarily serve the best interests of the people. Jason Brennan’s two books The Ethics of Voting, and Against Democracy, argue that “(electoral) democracy is the rule of the ignorant and the irrational, and it all too often falls short”, and that “a wide range of social science research shows that political participation and democratic deliberation actually tend to make people worse — more irrational, biased, and mean” (excerpts from a review). “Thus epistocracy, i.e., the rule of the knowledgeable, may be better than democracy”. In Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It, authors Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens “marshal an unprecedented array of evidence to show that while other countries have responded to a rapidly changing economy by helping people who’ve been left behind, the United States has failed to do so. Instead, we have actually exacerbated inequality, enriching corporations and the wealthy while leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves.” 

How did China achieve all this when the rest of the world is struggling? Hong Kong people need to learn that China’s CCP-led political system and strong leadership has played a key role in all this

Whereas ballot box democracy has not served people well, China’s system of meritocracy has worked wonders. Not only has it delivered 750 million to 850 million people from extreme poverty in the past 40 years, ensured people’s rights to adequate food and clothing, and protected people’s needs for health care, housing, and education; it has also achieved continuous growth at truly impressive rates without any major economic crises. In the past decade, China has also devoted a lot of effort in protecting the environment and the ecological system. China has built excellent infrastructure: It boasts the world’s largest speed rail network, the world’s most impressive network of highways and roads, the world’s tallest and longest bridges. China has brought electric power and tap water to the remotest human settlement in the country. China, with a population of 1.4 billion, is the only big country that succeeded in containing the COVID-19 epidemic, thus protecting the lives of its people. China has become not only “the factory of the world” but also a top innovator in modern science and technology. China’s life expectancy has been rising rapidly, thanks to greatly improved public hygiene, a low crime rate, and inclusive economic growth. Equally important is that China has not waged a war against any country, and instead of bullying other countries, through the Belt and Road Initiative is helping many other countries to build a better future. 

How did China achieve all this when the rest of the world is struggling? Hong Kong people need to learn that China’s CCP-led political system and strong leadership has played a key role in all this. Some people say it is authoritarian because the entire country has to follow what the Party dictates. But the CCP never makes policies in a vacuum and then dictates it to the country. Major policy initiatives are typically first subject to consultation and then experimented in trials before they are implemented. Moreover, there has been a peaceful transition of the leadership for decades, with new leaders being chosen against contenders’ track records and qualifications. Although leadership at the top is not based on the popular vote, even grassroots factory workers have managed to rise to the very top. For example, Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang was a factory worker, and Vice-Premier Han Zheng was a warehouse worker. So in a very substantive sense, the Chinese do have equal political rights which cannot be inherited. Today the CCP has more than 90 million members, and since Deng Xiaoping advised that whatever works well is a good policy, the CCP is not beholden to any ideology in policymaking. In any case, the CCP does not belong to any one or any group. It belongs to all the Chinese people.

If the CCP-led political system has proven to serve the country well, we need to protect it. There is no problem in criticizing a particular policy, but subverting the CCP-led political system will only bring chaos and hardships to our countrymen.

The author is a senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.