May 17, 2004

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India teaching China

The recent Indian electoral surprise win by the Congress party has some interesting lessons for China and the Communist Party (the CCP). India's BJP-led Government had delivered economic prosperity, made progress on peace with Pakistan, asserted India's role on the world stage (that's what nukes will do for a country) and managed to slowly liberate the economy to set-up a China-like boom. Initially the BJP campaigned on an "India Shining" theme, emphasising these achievements. Except the 3/4s of the population that live outside cities hadn't seen any of the supposed benefits. Being a democracy this large slice of the electorate let thei incumbents know what they thought of all of this: they voted them out.

This scenario could be almostly exactly replicated in China, with the proviso that China's economy is more developed and more have moved to the cities. However the rural poor are still a majority and many of the more recent immigrants to cities are simply urban poor instead. While the CCP draws plaudits for its achievements unless they can get the benefits to trickle into the countryside they will continue to be under the same pressure as the forces the threw the BJP out of office.

Except China's not a democracy. Nor is it likely to be any time soon. Because the CCP's supposed "power base", the peasants of rural China, can see only limited gains from the best part of a century of CCP rule. Set against the traumas of times past (the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward to name but two) the cost/benefit balance for rural and poor China remains firmly in the debit side of the ledger.

posted by Simon on 05.17.04 at 11:29 AM in the


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