Yeo is wrong, China is not a democracy

Yeo: People are surprised that the PAP has been able to govern Singapore through election after election, staying in power and looking after the welfare of Singaporeans. It is not a communist party, it’s a democratic party, but its organizational structure has Leninist roots

Reply: It is not so much PAP looking after the welfare of Singaporeans but PAP riding on the backs of Singaporeans and accumulating more than its fair share of wealth.

PAP’s so called Leninist roots were all but rooted out very early on when the Leftists left to form Barisan Socialis. PAP’s DNA had been through and through capitalist pretty much from the start because even at PAP’s founding, the Leftists never called the shots.

You wonder where Yeo finds the cheek to claim Leninist roots when the PAP went into overdrive to wipe out the Leftists without trial.

Yeo: My view of democracy goes back to the essence of democracy, to the Greek origin of what democracy is – which is the people as master. Abraham Lincoln talked about government of the people, by the people, for the people. By this definition, China is a democracy.

Reply: It was reported today (15 Aug 2022) that Shanghai shoppers at Ikea were forcefully locked down in Ikea itself. The Chinese people were cheated of their bank savings and prevented from withdrawing their money by CCP tanks. Earlier on, Shanghai people were house arrested by CCP and prevented from buying groceries leading many to starve to near death. The collectivisation of farms by the CCP during the Cultural Revolution led to the death of 30 million Chinese people by starvation. These are all clear evidences that the Chinese people are at the mercy of the CCP and are by no means masters of their own country.

So going by Yeo’s Greek definition, China is not a democracy. The people are not at the apex of the Chinese society, the CCP is.

Yeo: China’s philosophy about the moral basis of centralized governance goes back to Confucius and Laozi. How to govern is always at the center of Chinese philosophical thought. China will find its own way toward achieving the democratic idea.

Reply: The essence of Laozi’s teachings is to let nature take its course. This is diametrically opposite to the CCP way of forcing its will onto the people with policies like the Great Leap Forward, the forceful lockdown of big cities, the use of tanks to crush people who just want to get back their life savings.

The essence of Confucius’ teachings is courtesy and politeness. The forceful lockdown of cities, the use of tanks on the people, the forceful collection of farm produce during the Great Leap Forward are hardly courteous or polite.

Yeo: But the debate of a democracy in the West is not about its essence, but by the way it is implemented. In Western system, voting is very important. The separation of powers, the executive judiciary… these are very important considerations in Western democratic forms.

China’s philosophy about the moral basis of centralized governance goes back to Confucius and Laozi. How to govern is always at the center of Chinese philosophical thought. China will find its own way toward achieving the democratic idea.

Reply: Yeo is wrong to think that the essence of democracy can be easily attained without voting or the separation of powers. It is too easy for a ruler who has no fear of being replaced to degenerate into autocracy. Confucianism and Taoism had never been able to prevent misrule by Chinese Emperors and the fall of Imperial dynasties. Similarly, they will not be able to prevent misrule by CCP or the fall of modern China.

Yeo: The best democracy is the one which is for the people, of the people and by the people, according to its history and culture. Even in Western democracy, there are wide variations. US federal system is not direct democracy. In the UK, you don’t vote for the prime minister, you vote for members of parliament. In Singapore and Australia, there’s compulsory voting. If you have compulsory voting in the US, the politics will change dramatically. So it is not as if there is one Western system. There is a multiplicity of Western systems.

Reply: Regardless of variations, all Western systems have one thing in common – the people have the right to vote out the government. That is the essence of democracy. China’s system doesn’t have this.

Yeo: What is democracy? In the end, we go back to its essence – governance of the people, by the people for the people. We go back beneath the structures and the systems. You can have the best structure and systems. You can still have a democracy controlled by a small group of people who are very wealthy. Or you can be like the Swiss, which is a confederation, where many decisions are taken at the level of the canton through referendums. This is very different from European democracy.

Reply: Governance for the people and by the people is very alien to the Chinese system. The use of tanks on people who merely wanted to withdraw their life savings is for the CCP, not for the people. The soldiers who drove those tanks serve the CCP. They do not serve the people. The people have no control over the CCP.

While the best structure and systems do not guarantee democracy, without them, democracy is simply impossible.

There is no such thing as a democracy controlled by a small group of wealthy people or Yeo would have been able to easily name it.

The Swiss system is the best. In this modern technological age, there is no need for a member of parliament to vote for a policy on our behalf.

Yeo: It is impossible for a US-style democratic system to work for East and Southeast Asian countries.

Reply: There is no need for democratic systems to be 100% US style for them to work well. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have all prospered under democratic systems. They are living proof that democratic systems do work well for East Asian nations.

Yeo: It is very difficult for the rest of us to understand why so many Americans do not want firearms to be banned. How can you have a society where everyone can own a gun? But don’t forget the US was a frontier society until relatively recently and settlers needed guns at the frontier to protect themselves against all kinds of things. This is a part of America history and tradition.

Reply: That frontier culture is no more and the Red Indians have been so decimated they are now the minority of the minorities. So bringing up the frontier history makes no justifications to widespread gun ownership in US. Yes, widespread gun ownership isn’t right for the US. But that itself doesn’t negate the many positives of US democratic system.

Yeo: But Asian societies are very different. If you have the kind of Western debate in Asia, if people lose face, they don’t go out and say let’s have a drink together afterward. No, they will remember and they want to take revenge. Take ASEAN meetings for example, we never vote, we always find consensus. If we can’t agree, we’ll find a way to delay a decision. We will put pressure but never force a vote.  Voting is not a magic solution. Can you imagine if we make decisions by voting in a family? Small things, yes. Big things, we never do that. It will break up the family.

Reply: So many people voiced disagreement over the casino decision, the sudden jack up of water prices by 30%, the manipulation of presidential selection criteria until there was no choice over our president. PAP never delayed any of these decisions despite major disagreements. It is thus hypocritical for Yeo to claim that Asians delay a decision when there is no consensus.

The biggest decision Singaporeans ever had to make was to separate from Malaysia. You don’t get any decision bigger than that and that decision was made on the basis of a vote by all Singaporeans. It did not break up the Singaporean family at all.

Yeo: Even in Japan, which has the trappings of a Western system, the way Japanese democracy operates is very Japanese. It goes back to their own historical traditions. The idea of factions within the LDP is openly recognized and accepted. You have a chief, you follow the chief, you stay loyal to the chief and Japanese democracy continues taking that into account. This is an inheritance from the daimyo system. When a member of parliament retires, the son or daughter takes over. And people accept it.

Reply: That doesn’t change the fact that the son or daughter has to run for elections and win them in order to take over his or her parent’s seat in parliament. It is not as though the son or daughter is automatically given the parliamentary seat. Yeo should not try to pull a fast one. Japan’s political system is still voting based.

Yeo: China is an old civilization with 5,000 years of history. But China as a republic is very young. China only became a republic in 1911. How does China find consensus? In the old days you had the Chaoting (imperial government). But once you become a republic, how do you choose successors

Reply:  You can say the same about the Europeans. Their Hellenistic civilisation is also thousands of years old while young republics like Germany, Italy, Finland abound. Having an old civilisation is no impediment to the implementation of modern voting based democratic systems.

Yeo: We have the Communist Party who represents the entire population.

Reply: Ruling over the people is not the same as representing the people. Are the Myanmese or Thai military junta that rule over their respective nations representatives of their respective peoples? No. These military junta have been voted out election after election but cling on to power by force. Until the Communist Party has been democratically elected by its population, it cannot claim to represent the people.

Yeo: But even within the Communist Party there are millions of members, there are many layers. At the bottom you have elections at the village level. But beyond that, constant discussion and debate about who are better able to lead.

The problem in Chinese society has always been corruption. If corruption exists, whatever system you have, you no longer govern in the interest of common people. President Xi, by reversing the trend of corruption in China, has done Chinese society a very great favor.

This is to me is his single greatest achievement. If China can continue to control corruption, its future will be very bright. 

But if you look at the history of corruption in China, it is a problem because China is a vast country and there are many layers of government. What goes on at the bottom, the central government may not know for a long time until something big happens.

But today there is hope that with data analytics, you may be able to solve the problem of corruption being covered up at the lower levels. Whatever intermediate levels do, the information can still go to the central government directly. The central government cannot monitor every village, every town, every city. China is too big. But you can have computer systems to tell you whether a town or a city is healthy. The data analytics can enable the central government to discover or uncover the problems at the bottom. And local leaders will then be more careful.

Reply: It is always convenient to point fingers at subordinates. That is the hallmark of a politician, not a leader. The biggest problem is always at the top. The Cultural Revolution wasn’t conjured by some low down officials. It was driven from the very top.

Yeo: I would say the most important factor is not the structure or the system. It is the moral quality of the people and their leaders.

Reply: We had a deputy prime minister claiming foul play at the Punggol East elections which turned out to be false. He was never taken to task, the entire PAP accepts this kind of foul play. What moral quality is there?


2 Responses to “Yeo is wrong, China is not a democracy”

  1. dotseng Says:

    How r u?

  2. dotseng Says:

    I am glad to c that u r thinking and writing still.

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