A Look at China…

A Look at China’s ‘Political Meritocracy’

Can the democratic United States draw lessons from one-party China to improve the American political system? Yes, says Tsinghua University professor Daniel A. Bell, writing for The Christian Science Monitor. Put simply, his argument is that (a) “political meritocracy” is in many ways a superior system to liberal democracy; (b) the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which runs the Chinese government, is a meritocratic system; and (c) by the transitive property, China’s political system is in many ways superior to America’s. “Democracy is a flawed political system,” Bell writes, “and meritocracy can help to remedy some of its flaws.”
While Bell is unfair, I would argue, in comparing his ideal of meritocracy to real-world democracy (which he disdains as “one dollar, one vote”), I will leave theoretical arguments about the relative merits of each system to political scientists. Bell’s positive characterization of the Chinese system, however, deserves closer inspection.
Bell defines political meritocracy as follows:

Political meritocracy is the idea that a political system is designed with the aim of selecting political leaders with above-average ability to make morally informed political judgments. That is, political meritocracy has two key components: 1) The political leaders have above-average ability and virtue; and 2) the selection mechanism is designed to choose such leaders.

And political meritocracy, Bell goes on, is “central to Chinese political culture.” He supports this contention by citing Confucius, by referencing political surveys that demonstrate support for the system “in East Asian societies with a Confucian heritage,” and by describing the selection process (in which politics play no role, if Bell’s CCP interlocutor is to be believed) for the secretary general of the CCP Central Committee’s Organization Department. (Oddly, Bell completely ignores the concept of guanxi—the unique role that connections and relationships play in all facets of Chinese life—which is also central to Chinese political culture.)

Read more: http://www.american.com/archive/2012/august/a-look-at-chinas-political-meritocracy

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