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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
A historic debate
    2017-June-26  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Wu Guangqiang

jw368@163.com

ON the afternoon of June 27, 2011, in Shanghai, Zhang Weiwei, a renowned Chinese political scientist and writer, and Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, an American political scientist, economist and author, debated on a wide rage of hot topics centered on the pros and cons of Chinese and Western development models.

The debate is historic for the following reasons. First, Zhang and Fukuyama are respectively representing Chinese and Western ideologies and approaches for political development and governance and their opinions have had profound impact over the past decade.

Second, it’s of great interest to review their arguments in that debate today, as what happened in the past six years both in China and America, as well as the rest of the world, has accumulated sufficient empirical evidence to verify aspects of the two scholars’ judgments, analyses and predictions.

Third, the digestion of their thoughts can enable us to better grasp the trends in the future and further improve the governance of the world.

Fukuyama is known to Chinese chiefly for his book “The End of History and the Last Man” (1992), which argued that humanity’s sociocultural evolution would end with the worldwide adoption of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West, which would become the final form of human government.

In the debate, Zhang’s main points included:

●As the world’s largest laboratory of political, economic, social and legal reforms in the world, China is overtaking the U.S. with a better development model.

●With constant reforms, China has solved the issue of the “bad emperor.” China has established a mature system to appoint officials, who work with fixed tenures, and to make officials accountable for their performances.

●With its inherent flaws, Western democracy is due to decline, most likely like a flash in the pan in the course of history.

●History will put an end to Fukuyama’s hypothesis of the End of History.

Fukuyama’s main points included:

●With its all advantages, the Chinese Model is unlikely sustainable for the following reasons: the lack of a modern accountability system, particularly the lack of downward political accountability, which leaves the problem of the “bad emperor” unsolved.

●China’s export-oriented and high-savings-reliant economy can’t sustain itself.

● Instead of asserting that Western democracy will prevail across the world as he did in his “End of History,” he has become prudent about the prospect of American democracy. “Whether we can change this state of affairs (the long-term fiscal deficits, etc.) over the next few years is important in judging whether the democratic system of the U.S. can be successful in the long run,” he said.

As known to all, history has not evolved as Fukuyama predicted. China’s rise and the West’s decline have revealed an unprecedentedly different prospect in politics and economics. In fact, Fukuyama himself has greatly modified his earlier position to re-examine the institutional flaws in the democratic system.

Over the six years since the interesting dialogue, even greater changes have taken place in China, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Things seem to have been moving in favor of Zhang’s views. The Western democratic system is dysfunctional and deteriorating while China’s social and economic development is gaining more momentum.

Some dramatic developments seem to have made Fukuyama rather embarrassed. After electing the generally acknowledged incompetent president George W. Bush, American democracy elected another problematic president, probably much worse than Bush, Donald Trump. Democracy can’t avoid creating “bad emperors” either. The emergence of another Hitler is very likely.

Ironically, the Trump-led U.S. is giving up its role as the world leader and champion of free trade and environmental protection while China has taken over as free trade advocate.

Like many other Western scholars, Fukuyama’s attempt to apply Western doctrines to all other situations throughout the world has failed. They made the same mistake of metaphysics and scholasticism.

He may be well-versed in Chinese history, but his scant knowledge of China’s current and still-rapidly-changing situations determines his fallacies in commenting and predicting China’s future.

On the other hand, with a solid knowledge of both Chinese and Western histories and values, Zhang’s perspective is more insightful and reliable.

Yet one should be more prudent before predicting the inevitable failure of Western democracy, as more observations and analyses should be made.

(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)

 

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