Nipping Democracy in the Bud

On August 24, 2011, Guangzhou citizen, Communist Party member and “independent” people’s congress candidate Liang Shuxin (梁树新) was notified by local authorities in Guangzhou’s Panyu District that his eligibility had been denied because “campaigning when one has not yet formally become a candidate is a violation of procedure.” Over a period of two months, Liang Shuxin, the founder of a local charity organization, had received widespread support for his candidacy and actively used social media to introduce himself and his views. In this cartoon, posted by artist Kuang Biao (邝飚) to his blog at, a pair of gloved hands snip away a new green sprout growing out of the soil of two large Chinese characters for “democracy.”

11 Comments to “Nipping Democracy in the Bud”

  1. ltlee says:

    Consider the numeral “222”. Of course a two is a two is a two. Most people, however will know that 222 means two hundred and twenty two. The context of “2” makes each “2” different. Same for the term decmocracy. I would prefer the substance of democracy, i.e meeting most need of the people most of the rather than the sham of democracy. How about you?

  2. steve says:

    itlee, you’re going to have trouble simultaniously claiming that china has been a democracy for the last 30 years while also claiming that nipping proto-democratic activity in the bud as in this cartoon is not ‘necessarily a bad thing’. No amount of redefining what ‘democracy’ means is going to resolve the contradiction. Choose one.

  3. ltlee says:

    Is the UK really a democracy given it still has a monarch with residual monarchical power?
    Operationally speaking, a system is only democratic to the degree that it meet the needs and/or desires of most citizens most of the time. “Rule by the people” would be utterly meaningless if the people’s needs and/or desires are not sufficiently taken care of. According to this definition, China is democratic during the last 2-3 decades.

  4. steve says:

    Well, let’s see, depends which part of the “west” you’re talking about, there’s a lot of variation. There’s a big difference between the American and British systems, with the prime miniser playing a bit of a different role to the president. The American-style election campaigns are totally alien to Australian politics, and there’s more breathing-space for small parties under the Australian preference system for counting votes. New Zealand goes even further with its direct representation system, which pretty much always leads to hung parliments, and even to independent prime ministers with no party affiliation! Amazing. Taiwan’s 5-way separation of powers rather than 3 is unheard of in the west, but I’d suggest that not even this non-western Hua-ren homebrew democratic system is really exactly right for the People’s Republic. The 1.3 million people who are smarter than itlee will have to make up a new system, and I have no doubt it will be unique, just like every other existing democracy. Tough as it is to predict what this system might look like, isn’t it a safe bet that under it there will be no question of vetos by fiat standing between a citizen and their country?

  5. ltlee says:

    Thank you for your clarification.
    I always get the feeling that many westerners truly believe that the Chinese people are incapable to discuss issues intelligently and hence cannot be relied on to solve their own problems.
    Western democracy is a common expression. In general, it means the kind of democracy in which politicians who can best exploit emotions of people and promises to meet wishes of most powerful blocks of people would be selected and elected. Not a fair description?

  6. David says:


    It should be obvious I don’t think Chinese lack the intelligence to discuss what is of vital interest to them . . . That’s why I raised this rhetorical question in the first place. And that’s why I devote my time to giving the fullest view I can (with all the real limitations I have) of the discussion going on in China — and also of course the very real factors that inhibit that discussion (” correct guidance of public opinion”, etc.)

    This is why the right of Chinese to access information, be informed and speak their minds — with all the responsibility that implies too — is so important. That’s part of what democracy means, of course.

    So let’s not talk childishly about “Western democracy” — as though democracy in China would somehow mean electing Americans or Norwegians to office in the PRC — and focus on HOW the intelligent and creative people of China can more fully participate in the affairs of their own country.


  7. ltlee says:

    “Or is it that you think so lowly of other Chinese that you assume they lack the intelligence to determine their own best interests? ”
    Of course, I do not assume the other Chinese people lack the intelligence. Let me indulge myself and assume that I am of 1 in 1000 intelligence. Still, 1.3 million people will be smarter than me. At the same time, there is nothing wrong for a Chinese to disagree with another Chinese on whatever issues.
    How about you? Do you think the Chinese people as a whole lack the intelligence to discuss what is of vital interest to them?

  8. Hua Qiao says:

    @ Itlee,
    Hope you spend your 50 cents wisely.

  9. David says:


    You’re jumping to conclusions once again based on your preexisting prejudices. This cartoon by Kuang Biao is not about “western democracy.” Nor is the debate about greater political participation in China about “western democracy.” That is a charge leveled by Party conservatives who want to black-wash democracy as something alien and threatening, something pushed by “hostile forces.”

    As someone who clearly tries to think about issues and apparently treasures (as you should) the right to speak your mind, I wonder why the idea of participating in the decision-making process in your own country should be so anathema to you. Do you think you’re not intelligent enough to inform the policies made in your own country, or in your local district? Or is it that you think so lowly of other Chinese that you assume they lack the intelligence to determine their own best interests?


  10. ltlee says:

    Not necessarily a bad thing. It could save the Chinese people the trouble of “Renegotiating Democracy” as the people of India have found out western democracy is frequently “selling a goat’s head to sell dog meat.”

  11. Bill Rich says:

    Excellent turn of events. This will sure prune the hope of Chinese people to reform the CPC with internal change.

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