By Raïssa Robles
This week I learned the stark contrast between the US and China – between western style democracy and Chinese style socialism.
The US elected a new state leader in a democratic exercise conducted across the country that was noisy, almost chaotic and messy.
China is now being introduced to a new leader in a highly exclusive, closed-door gathering of over 2,000 men and women – in a congress conducted with pomp and solemnity, that is almost robotic and elaborately choreographed.
Running for re-election after a four-year term, America’s President Barack Obama emphasized the “you” – the individual – as the ingredient that makes democracy work. Listen to the end portion of his final campaign speech below:
In contrast, while stepping down from office after 10 years at the helm, Chinese President Hu Jintao emphasized “the people”, the “party” and “the system”.
I don’t have a copy of his 12,574-word speech (at least according to the BBC or British Broadcasting Company network). But the BBC uploaded a “word cloud” of his speech in Beijing, China, based on an English translation. It shows the most recurring words in his speech. Here is a copy below:
I also listened in fascination to the live BBC coverage of outgoing President Hu Jintao’s speech, while someone gave a near simultaneous translation into English. I noticed that the word “system” kept recurring in his speech. Hu Jintao also repeated several times the phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to describe China’s model of development.
My newspaper, South China Morning Post, had additional interesting details about Hu Jintao’s speech in China. It quoted him as saying the following:
We have held high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejected both the old and rigid closed-door policy and any attempt to abandon socialism and take an erroneous path… [or the] evil route of changing its color.
As long as we remain true to our ideals and are firm in our conviction, we will surely complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects when the party celebrates its centenary and turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the People’s Republic marks its centenary [in 2020].
On the basis of making China’s development much more balanced, co-ordinated and sustainable, we should double its 2010 GDP and per capita income for both urban and rural residents [by 2020].
While China talks of doubling economic growth for its 1.3 billion population, the US – with 311 million people – is now trying not to fall of a “fiscal cliff”.
In both exercises, both leaders practically gave the same promises: a richer country and a better life to the many.
China vs. the US: Which has the better approach?
Which manner of development will succeed in the long run?
One that emphasizes the individual and the free market like the US? Or one that does the complete opposite like China?
Will China’s 538 million Internet users be able to sway their top leaders to listen more to ordinary voices? In other words, to be more democratic in their approach to development?
Ironically, Obama is being called “a communist” by some quarters while China is being branded a “capitalist”.
Do labels really matter if the system works to improve people’s lives and they welcome the change?
How about the Philippines?
This brings me to our country. Like China, can the Philippines also evolve its own brand of democracy with “Filipino characteristics”?
It’s doing that, but oh so slowly.
Who can recall the fact that 26 years ago in 1986, a Philippine labor minister named Augusto “Bobbit” Sanchez had to be removed from his post because the military branded him a “communist” for daring to propose that private companies undertake profit-sharing schemes for its workers?
Today, profit-sharing is done by a number of Philippine companies.
Last year, no one called President Benigno Aquino III a “communist” for encouraging more profit-sharing during an employers’ conference. Nor did the employers walk out on his speech but instead had their picture taken with Aquino afterward. Here’s the story about Aquino’s appeal.
What I’m trying to say is, let’s not be afraid to evolve our own brand of democracy. Let’s not crucify future innovators who dare to draw from concepts alien to what we hold dear.