Posted by: David Stewart | September 20, 2008

Why China will never elect a president

Recently I have been conducting an informal poll amongst my friends and co-workers in China on their thoughts of American politics and their idea of who will win the US election in November.

But it has given me a fascinating insight into what the Chinese people think about government in general. Depressingly, it's now much clearer why a western-style democracy is not likely to come here soon, if ever.

And these are basically spiritual discussions as well. Political philosophy is in essence rooted in spiritual philosophy.

At the core of Chinese thinking is the Confucian idea that there is hierarchy in human relationships, or there will be chaos. So the parent is over the child, the boss over the worker. At the very top is the emperor.

If you are in the lower position (child or employee), you need to follow the directives of the person above you and obey. The person in the upper position needs to take care of those under them and provide for them.

At the top of this hierarchy sits the emperor, who would be the wisest and have the best character of anyone to be in that position.

Can you see why this is so different from our thinking in the West? The West believes that there is nobody “better” than anyone else, nobody is above the law. Children are supposed to honor their parents or boss or president, but are trained to show independent thought and action, to take initiative.

I'm truly amazed when the Chinese government will order something like a radical change in national holiday dates or driving schedules, and everyone obeys! According to one friend, the Chinese are accustomed to 5,000 years of strong government. If the government were not strong, then there would be chaos because people would “do their own thing” without control. In the US, we have a relatively weak government according to me friend. It works for us, because we trust people to do the right thing, and society functions well without a lot of external control.

Reread that last paragraph. This is why the people of China really don't want Western-style representative democracy at their core. Yes, the government needs to take care of them and maintain moral authority. But so long as they care for society, they can rule China forever.

There is another, economic values mismatch here as well. I'll talk about that in a future post.



  1. “But so long as they care for society…”, you mean the Chinese gov?
    How would the Chinese know whether or not they really care for society if their media is controlled by the Gov.?

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