Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Does Democracy or Communism Pick Better Leaders? The Case of China

By Shlomo Maital


  Xi Jinping 

This is a trick question.   Does democracy pick better leaders, or Communism?  Democracy is an intrinsic value, regardless.  But lately it has been tossing real refuse onto our shores, to serve as our leaders. And we the people pay the price.   In contrast, next year, China will pick its 9-man Politburo, including a new Prime Minister and new President.  The process is secret and highly undemocratic.  So let’s compare America and China.

  In America, the Republican Party offers Rick Perry, Texas governor who does not believe in evolution and hates Social Security.  The incumbent President is great at rhetoric, but his entire management experience was as a community organizer – not exactly IBM.  At the moment, his approval rating among people under 30 is less than 50 % — and they’re the ones who elected him.    

   In China, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiao Bao have navigated China successfully through the global crisis.  They are both trained engineers.  The new President will be Xi Jinping, 58. He has an engineering degree from China’s elite Tsinghua University, and he also has a doctorate.   The new Prime Minister will be Li Kequiang, 56, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in economics.  Both men have long experience in government.  Li Kequiang comes from a very poor background, from Anhui Province, and was China’s youngest governor of Henan Province at the age of 43. 

   Why, then, does America’s democratic system, which is alleged to leverage the wisdom of crowds to pick the leaders people love and trust, fail to do so,  and continually produces leaders who fail and disappoint?  And why does China’s non-democratic system seem to pick leaders with wisdom, education, experience and pragmatism?  Why does Western democracy produce leaders like Berlusconi, or Sarkozy?

   The leading Republican candidate at the moment is Herman Cain, a self-made entrepreneur whose slogan is 999. He wants to cut income tax rates to 9 percent, at a time when America is battling to reduce its deficits.  His main appeal is that he has a lovely voice and sings gospel songs during his campaign speeches.  And hey, remember Sarah Palin, candidate for Vice President? 

  There is a very strong American leader, with a proven track record – Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York.   But he has opted out of the Presidential race, even though he has the money and the brains to succeed.  In China, he would have been picked for President. In America, he won’t even run.