By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online
What is a real democracy? It is nothing but a system which arouses in its people a common feeling of security and content. And what is in the most need of ordinary people? It is none other than a peaceful and stable environment in which they can pursue their business unperturbed. In times of peace, people tend to forget cherishing what they have actually possessed, and reflecting on what they are missing at the very moment. But once their quiet and possibly banal life is broken all of a sudden by the outburst of deadly violence or bloodletting riots, shuddering in panic, the helpless commoners will either flee the havoc and find shelter wherever they can for a safe stay, or struggle fiercely to stand up for their life and property, apparently the only alternative to fleeing for life.
However, neither does good to ordinary people, as they both are negative choices to be made at the expense of life and livelihood. Therefore, the greatest blessing interpreted by the ordinary public is the undisturbed continuing of their simple but happy life. Even if life for them could be a perpetual struggle against poverty, the common Davids will never like it to be dislocated and destroyed by any force. That can partially explain why it was beyond some Westerners when a report, released July 4 by New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, ranked the poverty-stricken Vietnam No.1 in Asia with the highest Happiness Index, considering its low per capita GDP with less than US$ 1,000, backward infrastructure facilities and substandard public education level, and more important, insufficient democracy accessible to the Vietnam public, judging by the Western standards. How could Vietnam turn out to be a happy nation? They may wonder.
Customarily, some Western governments and media use the level of democracy as the sole yardstick to assess whether a nation is agreeable enough to accommodate its people. In view of this, they roughly divide the world into two distinct blocs—one composed of so-called democratic countries, the other made up of authoritarian regimes, covering all those excluded by the Western standards from the democratic bloc. In so doing, they have virtually neglected the important facts that standards of democracy could vary according to different national conditions and cultures; and people's expectation for democracy is decided by their actual living conditions. To many of the developing countries and regions, the core essence of democracy is the immediate undertaking to stay away from war and turbulences in order to better the economy and feed its people.
Perhaps, a rather fascinating study of how democracy is faring in East Asia, published late last year, deserves a closer look, especially at this time of global economic recession, when socialist countries like China and Vietnam are doing relatively well after turning to market economy, but governments in the capitalist countries are busy taking over banks and other private enterprises to reverse the worsening downtrend.
The study was later published by Columbia University Press as a book entitled 'How East Asians View Democracy,' in which the data on China are considered most interesting to the Western readers and perhaps far beyond their understanding. It was revealed that the Chinese people are more supportive of their government than people in any other country. In answer to the question, 'Do you agree or disagree: Our form of government is the best for us?' 94.4 percent of respondents in China answered 'Yes,' compared to only 24.3 percent in Japan. When asked if they were satisfied with the way democracy was working in their country, a substantial majority of Chinese—81.7 percent—again answered 'Yes,' while South Korea was seen a low of 36 percent.
Indeed, the understanding of democracy may be different from people to people, and nation to nation. But the findings also ring an alarm to those who like to impose upon others their accepted values and ideas, or force others to believe what they believe is right or wrong.
Like any other people, the Chinese remain their uniqueness in culture and traditional values and also have their own understanding of freedom and democracy, 'If you feel happy, you are happy,' as a popular saying goes. The Chinese people of all ethnicities are savoring the most satisfactory moment in decades as a result of a booming economy and a stable political environment. They are bent on creating more wealth and happiness at the time and, therefore, will value more than ever a prosperous and harmonious society, with nary others' meddling.