The United States and China have chosen their top national leaders at the same time but using very different methods: democracy in this country, secretive party deliberation in China.
America’s political system certainly can be criticized for its nastiness and shallowness, the protracted length of the campaign season and the injection of extraordinary amounts of political cash. Yet the fundamental fact remains: On Election Day the decision was placed in the hands of the American people, and they made the call.
Plus, that election decision came in the wake of months of robust, public debate between the two parties over policies, values and candidates’ capabilities.
While many Americans understandably expressed concern about big-money influence in the elections, the Washington Post reports that huge contributions didn’t guarantee political success: “Sheldon Adelson poured $100 million into six races, and lost them all. Karl Rove’s super PAC put more than $300 million into myriad races; he found success in Indiana — but was shut out everywhere else. And the $91 million Connecticut candidate Linda McMahon spent in two Senate campaigns yielded her exactly zero electoral success.”
Meanwhile in China, the selection of that country’s top political leadership was made within the closed confines of a once-each-decade gathering of the Communist Party elite.
Foreign Policy magazine reported: “Just in time for its once-a-decade leadership handover, the Chinese government appears to have blocked all access to Google and its services, including Gmail, inside China.” Not exactly a transparent political process.
A professor of political science at a Chinese university recently wrote a New York Times opinion column that argued that China’s approach has merit because it means leaders are selected on the basis of competence. “The Communist Party of China may arguably be one of the world’s most meritocratic institutions,” he wrote.
That claim is hard to square with the Chinese public’s growing complaint about rampant corruption as China’s political elite siphons off riches from Chinese enterprises.
Individual countries certainly deserve sovereignty over how they select their own leaders. As for our country, democracy isn’t always pretty or edifying, but it does have one powerful thing going for it:
Come Election Day, the decision rests with the people.