Google and the Limits of "Cyber-Democratization"
An unidentified cracker, while the Chinese government is strongly suspected, attacked the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights artists late last year. In response to this incident, Google has decided to stop self-imposed censorship on search results in China. The world's largest web search engine corporation has stated that it might withdraw the business in China unless Chinese government abandons its strict access control imposed on the Internet of its territory.
Sigh. How many times have I sighed thinking of the Chinese government's repressive policies on its freedom of speech?
An article titled "China Threat" or a "Peaceful Rise of China"? analyzes why the West often considers China as a threat. According to the author, there are three reasons:
(1) ideological and cultural factors
(2) geopolitical and geoeconomic factors
(3) possibility of the collapse of China
The issue (1) concerns difference of the values between the West and China. The issue (2) has to do with China's sharply rising economic and political power which potentially overshadows the American hegemony. The issue (3) is related to the Soviet Union-type sudden breakdown of China and enormous confusion thereafter.
In my opinion, the fundamental reason why many citizens in the West feel eerie about China is the issue (1) - especially China's reluctance toward democratization and negligence on human rights including the freedom of speech.
Personally, I understand that the Chinese government is standing on a very shaky ground in the midst of social upheavals coupled with its rapid economic development. There are so many domestic problems both economic and political in China, anyway.
Still, I strongly wish China would be a democratic country. OK, maybe it does not have to have general elections like in the West for now. The real problem is weakness of the governance structure of the Chinese government. The government policy is not controlled by the parliament whose members are chosen through a general election. Nobody has accountability of what they are doing. No activities are checked and corrected in a coherent and transparent manner. This is a fearful situation for both Chinese people and outsiders.
This concern leads to the issue (3) above, which involves the potential collapse of the China regime.
I think that the Chinese government does not need to introduce full-fledged election system from the beginning - like elections for the National Assembly members and even its Prime Minister. In order to avoid the social unrest, the government should start with elections for some important positions within the Communist Party. Voters will be only Communist Party members which make up of only a few percentages of the whole Chinese population. After they feel confident in electing important positions, they should gradually move onto larger-scale elections whose voters are normal Chinese citizens.
This is not exciting at all. But I believe that this way will be the most practical and the most probable scenario to democratization of China.