Back to Navigation

China vs. Liberal Democracy | Munk Debates

EPISODE #31

China vs. Liberal Democracy

Be it resolved, China’s ability to defeat Covid-19 proves its system of governance is a better model than liberal democracy.

Guests
Zhang Weiwei
Timothy Garton Ash

About this episode

City-wide lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of over 400 million people. Mass quarantine centres and surveillance measures using facial recognition technology and drones. And, COVID-19 testing on a scale not achieved by any other nation globally. By combining the strengths of central planning and social order with the dynamism of the market to fight the pandemic, Beijing believes that its model of government has proven itself, once and for all, to be a compelling alternative to traditional liberal democracy. China’s critics respond that China’s success comes at too high a price. They claim that censorship, arbitrary detention, corruption, and denial of core rights and freedoms are weakening China from the inside out and masking its slide into full scale authoritarian government. Rather than being a guide to the future, they argue that exporting the “China model” will give new impetus to autocrats and dictators at a huge cost to human freedom.

Share:

Guests

Zhang Weiwei

"China’s model for fighting COVID-19 is based on the overall idea that people's lives matter most. The Western model is essentially about business and commercial interests."

Zhang Weiwei

"China’s model for fighting COVID-19 is based on the overall idea that people's lives matter most. The Western model is essentially about business and commercial interests."

Zhang Weiwei, a leading thinker from China, is a distinguished professor of international relations and Director of the China Institute at Fudan University, and a board member of China’s National Think Tanks Council. He holds a Ph.D in International Relations from Geneva University. He had worked as a senior English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders in the mid-1980s. He has travelled to over 100 countries.
 
He is the author of the best-selling and award-winning China Trilogy (published by the Shanghai People’s Press) of Zhongguo Chudong (the China Ripple), Zhongguo Zhenhan (the China Wave) and Zhongguo Chaoyue (the China Horizon). The English editions of the latter two were published by World Century, New Jersey, in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
 
He first predicted that the Arab Spring would soon become the Arab winter in a much publicized debate in 2011 with Francis Fukuyama, the author of the End of History and the Last man.
 
His other works include Ideology and Economic Reform under Deng Xiaoping (Kegan Paul, London, 1996), Transforming China: Economic Reform and its Political Implications (Macmillan, London and St. Martins, New York, 2000) and Reshaping Cross-Strait Relations: Ideas and Reflections (CAS, Geneva, 2006).
 
He has written extensively in Chinese and English on China’s political and economic reforms, the China model of development, China’s foreign policy and comparative political governance.

Timothy Garton Ash

"Some of the countries which have handled coronavirus best of all are democracies: South Korea, New Zealand, and most interestingly, Taiwan, a Chinese democracy."

Timothy Garton Ash

"Some of the countries which have handled coronavirus best of all are democracies: South Korea, New Zealand, and most interestingly, Taiwan, a Chinese democracy."

Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of ten books of contemporary history and political writing which have explored many facets of the history of Europe over the last half-century. They include The Polish Revolution: Solidarity, The File: A Personal History, In Europe’s Name: Germany and the Divided Continent, and Facts are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade without a Name. He also writes a column on international affairs in the Guardian, which is widely syndicated, and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, amongst other journals.

From 2001 to 2006, he was Director of the European Studies Centre at St Antony's College, Oxford, where he now directs the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom. Its Free Speech Debate research project, built around the 13 language website freespeechdebate.com, contributed to the writing of his book Free Speech: Ten Principles For a Connected World. The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, & Prague was recently reissued with a new chapter exploring the 30 years since 1989 in post-communist Europe. Prizes he has received for his writing include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Prix Européen de l'Essai and the George Orwell Prize. In 2017, he was awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen, for services to European unity. 

Show Notes

Zhang Weiwei’s 2012 book The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State is available here.
 
Timothy Garton Ash has written numerous books about liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes. You can find them here.
 
The Democracy Perception Index (DPI) is the world’s largest annual study on democracy, conducted by Dalia Research in collaboration with the Alliance of Democracies. Highlights from the 2020 report are available here.
 
Zhang Weiwei also referred to a 2019 IPSOS survey on individual’s perceptions on the direction taken by their nation. Highlights from this survey are available here.  
 
Dr Li Wenliang was the first to alert authorities in Wuhan about the coronavirus and was reprimanded. You can learn more about him here.   
 
You can learn more about how Angela Merkel’s background as a scientist has influenced German’s COVID-19 strategy here.  
 
Read The Secret to Taiwan’s Successful COVID Response by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada to learn more about Taiwan’s strategy. Click here.
 
The long history behind China’s system of national civil service examinations is explained here.

Comments