Is China more democratic than the West?

John Rentoul

PartyCongress 300x186 Is China more democratic than the West?Monster Question To Which The Answer Is No, asked by my former colleague Martin Jacques* on the BBC News website. That is number 872 in my classic series, now a book, an e-book and a competition.

Extra marks to the BBC for Jacques’s question’s being included in a series called “A Point of View”. So, it is a point of view, but such a controversial one that it has to be phrased as a question to soften the blow. The BBC instinct for so-called balance runs deep.

Thanks, as so often, to Oliver Kamm, who saw it first.

Number 864 in the QTWTAIN series was asked by Channel 4 News, but I am only now catching up:

Scarlett Johansson: Obama’s secret weapon?

That will be “secret” as in “Hollywood Democrat on stage in front of large audience and audience of millions on television endorses Democratic candidate”.

Number 863 was asked by Judy K, after I noted Kevin Maguire’s report that Nick Clegg spoke to Herman van Rompuy in Dutch in order to frustrate a civil servant from No 10 sitting in on the meeting:

Wasn’t Clegg obliged by ministerial rules to have his talk with Rompuy noted? Serious breach of ministerial Code?

Judy K also drew my attention to the first in a new series, of QTWTAINe (Neither), asked by Slate:

Are You an Ann or a Michelle?

*Jacques was an executive at The Independent in the mid-1990s, when I was a political correspondent.

jacques 275x300 Is China more democratic than the West?Update: Some time after I posted this, the BBC changed the headline on this article to “Is China more legitimate than the West?” which is a nonsensical question, shortened from, “Is the Chinese government more legitimate than governments in the West?” Fortunately, I had kept a screen print of the original (right).

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  • Sylvia Thomson

    May I submit a new QTWTAIN?
    The Guardian today: “The nasty babble which stigmatises depression
    Mental health debate is like a pre-Enlightenment scream in its ignorance. Will Ed Miliband’s words have any effect?”

  • creggancowboy

    No China is not more democratic than the west. It is on par with the UK where a massive police cover up on kiddy fiddling went on.

  • stonedwolf

    “That is number 872 in my classic series…”

    Good F God.

  • Alistair Cameron

    I’ve just finished listening to Martin Jacques POV series on BBC Radio 4. Though the previous episodes were interesting, the last just smacked of near propaganda. The tortuous explanation on how the “Chinese state” enjoys a greater legitimacy than a “Western state” is a feat of logic contortionism.
    His argument seems to boil down to; The bigger the Chinese state bank account, the more legitimate the state is. Any discussion that legitimacy is derivative of the process of consent is batted away with “That’s western style, China is different”

  • Toocleverbyhalf

    Martin Jacques’s four talks about China in the “Point of View” series on Radio Four are well worth listening to. Nowhere does he claim that China is more democratic than the west, the question he asks is about a state’s legitimacy – do try to pay attention!

    In the final episode he makes the point that its state has been more effective than ours over the last half-century and that it isn’t despised by the population in the way that ours has been since the 1980s. He suggests there are lessons for the west but only hints at what those might involve.

    There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

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