Will the “Internet revolution” occurring in Tunisia and Egypt happen in China? Not for decades.
The primary reason is that Chinese people have to face the opportunity cost. They need to choose from two options: making money or having a revolution. The growing “economic pie” of China has benefited millions of people in different ways such as income, health care and education. To this extent, everyone in China is more a beneficiary, even though some might be dissatisfied beneficiaries.
Nowadays, those who are discontented are focused on the lack of a fair chance to get their share of “the economic pie.” The Chinese people must hope that the mechanism for wealth distribution would be just, that the people’s will would be respected and that corruption would be eliminated. But the bottom line is that everyone should still have an equal chance to get his or her share of “the economic pie” while these problems are being solved.
However, if the Chinese choose to have a revolution, the “economic pie” may be destroyed and we will be left with nothing. The Chinese people are not confident that we can build a better administrative and legislative system that keeps growing the economy if we choose to revolt. It is far more likely that China would not be able to reorganize itself nor operate efficiently after a revolution. This is the opportunity cost if we choose revolution and obviously, we do not want to pay the price.
Second, the Communist Party of China wields powerful control over the government and the army. People who serve in these institutions are stakeholders in the communist party. They will stand with the communist party unless the Chinese Communist Party becomes hopeless.
In all fairness, apart from its economic contribution, the Communist Party of China has made political progress. Elections in rural areas and information disclosure have been implemented in recent years. Many people, not only officials but also professors, students, businesspeople, workers and farmers in China, still count on self-improvement of the Communist Party of China to achieve fairness and justice for all.
Third, the tradition of democracy in China is weaker than that in Tunisia. According to statistics, about eight percent of Tunisians are living in European democracies. Some are union leaders and are in touch with Tunisians who live in Tunisia. Their democratic experience is more tangible.
However, in China, a totalitarian tradition is stronger and a pluralistic society is just beginning to take shape. We have just recently realized that a democratic contract is more attractive than one that only offers material rewards. In my humble opinion, what we are pursuing is a democracy with Chinese characteristics rather than an American democracy because in Chinese eyes, a democracy promoted worldwide by force is not a perfect one.
Some Americans might wonder why millions of immigrants, including many Chinese, flood their country even though their government is not perfect. My answer is that because America has the biggest attraction- a relatively fair way to guarantee people’s share of “the economic pie.”
Qingshu Meng is majoring in international relations.