October 11, 2013


ROC centennial highlights the miracle of democracy (The China Post, October 8, 2011)

During the next decade, in both nations, the push for industrialization and development gathered and then lost steam, as lives were also lost, to cultural crusades and martial law. Both Mao and Chiang Kai-shek refused to transition to anything like a democratic system. Though still an authoritarian state, the R.O.C. began economic reforms and well-planned infrastructure projects -- the first steps on the road to stability. In China this same process took decades longer, and it was not until Deng Xiaoping that real progress was made. By that time, the R.O.C. had already won praise as one of the Four Asian Tigers, and was preparing to win further plaudits for its burgeoning democracy.

We all know the story since then. A miracle has occurred before our very eyes -- an economic miracle. Chinese people have been lifted from poverty by the tens of millions, all by the invisible hand of almost-capitalism. Incomes have shot up in time with skyscrapers as GDP growth raced ahead in double-digits. In fear of missing the bandwagon, the rest of the world jumped on it. In February this year, China overtook Japan as the world's second largest economy. Commentators, especially in the Chinese media, pointed to this as further proof of the economic miracle. But this is not a miracle. It is exactly what should have been expected.

What else would be expected when opening up a poverty-stricken, undeveloped, agriculture-based country of over a billion people to trade and investment? Of course the world will take advantage of cheap wages and tens of millions of migrant workers looking for factory jobs. Of course hedonistic investors will funnel money into Chinese companies, either unaware or apathetic to their corrupt, opaque roots.
Becoming the No. 2 economy was not miraculous -- it is the least that should have been expected. Imagine if, instead of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, special economic zones were introduced 20 years earlier. Imagine if, instead of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, officials and leaders were chosen by free and fair elections. These are the things which have led Taiwan to the very top tier of the U.N.'s Human Development Index, while the mainland is still quite far behind.

If the PRC had made the same reforms at the same times as the R.O.C., imagine how much further ahead it could be. Instead of 73.47 years, life expectancy could be over 78, like in Taiwan. The infant mortality rate per thousand live births could be closer to Taiwan's 6.29 deaths, instead of the current 22.12. In this light surely China is an underachiever.

Posted by at October 11, 2013 4:17 AM

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