Pessimism on China’s continuing economic growth emerges from, among other reasons on offer, that billion-people economy’s aversion to institutional reform. In this view, China’s governance structures remain irresponsibly distant from liberal democracy; as a result, they hobble economic and political progress. China’s current institutions of governance allow an extractive elite to benefit themselves and to thwart meritocracy, thus crushing the social good.
[Personally, I like the alternative perspective given in Unz (2012) but at this point Unz’s views constitute still only exactly that, an alternative perspective criticizing conventional thinking.]Indeed to confirm this conventional view, the popular consciousness can now recount incident after incident of the excesses of those elites. This month alone there was the high-flying businessman Mr X killed in a confrontation involving armed guards outside a luxury house. The case involved influence over political constituencies covering hundreds of millions of people, the convergence of money and political power, corruption, meal contracts to provide for impoverished school-kids, an ex chief of police, …, and then the final lethal confrontation.
“Some businesses need BlackBerrys; some businesses need guards,” observers remarked wryly.
Mr X “was among the class of businessmen who symbolized the nexus between money and political power. He exerted influence in four regions, home to roughly 200 million people, where he had been awarded monopoly control over the wholesale liquor business and held the contract to provide millions of daily midday meals to poor schoolchildren.”
Critics would say Mr X “bought his influence with bribes, though such charges were never proved”. A former chief of police noted, “It’s a sad reflection on the state of the nation’s politics that a man like him could wield so much clout. He used money power to great advantage.”
In February of this year, Mr X might have finally fallen from grace but although tax inspectors raided his offices, the investigation went nowhere. Finally, Saturday 17 November 2012, Mr X and his rival, accompanied by police officers from the Punjab, squared off and …
Wait. The Punjab? This isn’t about China, the world’s largest non-democracy. The passages in quotes come from the New York Times. The case is that of Gurdeep Singh Chadha, a businessman from India. The world’s largest democracy.
This post also appears on Professor Quah's personal blog.
Unz, R. (2012). China’s Rise, America’s Fall. The American Conservative, 17 April. Retrieved from http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/chinas-rise-americas-fall/
Yardley, J. (2012, November 18). Killing of a Top Magnate, Reportedly by His Brother, Stuns India. The New York Times. New York. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/world/asia/killing-of-businessman-gurdeep-singh-chadha-stuns-india.html