China’s government have faced wave after wave of criticism from the West regarding its authoritarian practices, and many academics point to its style of governance as its Achilles heel. But as Martin Jacques explains, democracy in itself does not guarantee legitimacy.
In the West, multi-party democracy have only provided the foundations for the rich to legitimize their behaviour against the exploited, the revolving door between business and politics continue to distract the government from representing its people.
This is something acknowledged by the political elites in China when discussing the issue of democracy in 1970s, but unfortunately the Tiananmen Square protests caused a crisis of legitimacy which supplanted the party’s moral rationale towards a distinctly economic one. In the words of Deng Xiaoping in 1991:
‘To win the support of the people, economic liberalization must continue for another 100 years.’
This is somewhat paradoxical considering the Tiananmen Square protests originated from problems caused by economic liberalization in the first place, and thus market expansion became the only source legitimacy for the Chinese Communist party-state until recently, when they realized to gain support of the public, they must redirect their attention to society itself. It is with hope that the party continues to focus on serving the people rather than returning to its obessession with economic growth.
Kissinger, Henry (2011) On China. Allene Lane. London.