Consensus building in China and America (3)

14:21, March 12, 2010      

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American policymakers, who do not respect China's right to self-determination or its successful political and legal systems, want China to quickly adopt America's political and legal systems and definitions of human rights. But which is better for the 1,300,000,000 people in China: an American style winner takes all majority-rule democracy or a Chinese style scientific management consensus democracy? Could China have become or continue to be successful with American style political and legal systems? According to the New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, "There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today. One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China's leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market and middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down. Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying 'no.' Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he's a centrist. But if he's forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions. 'China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy — an industry that we largely invented — and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don't have and don't want.'"

In his book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, President Obama stated "What is needed is a broad majority of Americans-Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill-Who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interest of others. I am under no illusion that the task of building such a working majority will be easy. But it is what we must do, precisely because the task of solving America's problems will be hard. It will require tough choices, and it will require sacrifices. Unless political leaders are open to new ideas and not just new packaging, we won't change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy policy or tame the deficit. We won't have the popular support to craft a foreign policy that meets the challenges of globalization.…I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we're in. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose….For its precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. It's what keeps us locked in 'either/or' thinking…."

American policymakers need to achieve the consensus building and problem solving required to fix what is not working in America's political system instead of seeking to change China's political system that is working. Imagine the even bigger mess mankind would be in if the two largest economies in the world both were failing simultaneously. Diversity and consensus building are innate in mankind and both are essential in human evolution.

John Milligan-Whyte has been called the "new Edgar Snow" and "21st century Kissinger" and is the winner of Social Responsibility Award from the 2010 Summit of China Business Leaders. John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min are co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series, founders of the Center for America-China Partnership, recognized as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century," and the authors of the America-China Partnership Book Series that created a "New School of America-China Relations."
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

The article represents the author's views only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.
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