A Mencken Moment

For some, it’s democratic process that matters. The outcome … maybe not so much.

British MP: “The biggest problem with China is that the government doesn’t even trust their own people to vote them in. China badly needs to become a democracy.”

Noob: “But if you think the Chinese government has so much control, according to Pew surveys, 87% of China’s people approve of the direction their government is taking the country. And that fraction has exceeded 80% for a decade now.”

Same British MP: “Yeah, well, that just shows 87% of China’s people are fools. They have absolutely no clue.”

So, let me get this straight: You reckon a billion Chinese are idiots. And you figure China’s biggest problem is that these billion people don’t get to directly choose their nation’s leader.


PS It’s of course reasonable and right to be suspicious of such 2015.11-Pew-Global-Attitudes-China-US-DQdata, in general. But on the specific point regarding pressure to support the government, the China approval rating in these Pew surveys did go as low as 48% in 2002. So it’s not impossible for the survey to produce considerable variation.

PPS I might have been generous when I said “For some, it’s democratic process that matters”.

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Danny Quah

I am Dean and Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS. I work on economic principles for world order and on empirics for a shifting global economy.

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