Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Chinese Competency

This TED talk by Eric X. Li describes the Chinese system of government and outlines why he thinks it is meritocratic, adaptable and legitimate. In short it is because the Party develops competency by promoting those that have done well managing at the local level. In addition it uses surveys to gauge public opinion. It provides fascinating insight.
While it's hard to argue with the enormous progress that China has made, I'm not sure it can be attributed to competent political management. It seems to me that it is more likely that a reduction in political management, liberating, empowering and motivating everyone, has lead to success. That's a free market argument. I suspect that economics trumps culture and culture trumps democracy (how else do you avoid a tyranny of the majority if not by a liberal culture?). But a single party may have a singularity of purpose that rarely exists in a democracy or free market. The Party may have a national strategy in support of their goal, whatever it may be. The goal could be egalitarian and transparent, such as raising the quality of life of everyone in China, or combative and opaque, such as taking control of world resources. Transparent democracy wouldn't work for the latter as target countries would take umbrage, but Interactive Democracy could still work in a single party state.

Yet Eric's focus on competency seems virtuous. The problem is, who or how do we decide who is competent? I doubt if the electorate can easily judge: surely you have to be competent yourself to judge if someone else is competent. Liking someone is different. Maybe one answer is to measure key performance indicators - a type of technocratic government that I also have sympathy with. Accurate data is important for good debates, suggestions and innovations and crucial for Interactive Democracy, too; inaccurate data and outright lies degrade democracy.

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