China is one of the world’s most fierce dictatorships. An article in The Diplomat by Jiangnan Zhu, Siqin Kang, Weijia Chen, Shitong Lin, and Siqi Wang raises the all important question of choice and questions if mainland Chinese would opt for democracy if they could. The context of this interrogation is the Covid-19 pandemic. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. But whether it has equally shaken people’s confidence in democracy is an open question. Even prior to the pandemic, discussions about the worldwide “democratic recession” had been underway. Many people feel that the expected good governance and the closely related decent material life may not be guaranteed by democracy anymore, as argued by Francis Fukuyama. Different countries’ responses to the pandemic and their vast divergence in “COVID resilience” only complicate the puzzle by showing that strong state capacities – states’ “abilities to plan and execute policies” and mobilize national resources to cope with giant crises – can be independent of whether a regime is democratic or not.
So, to what extent do people living in non-democracies still fancy living a democracy during, and potentially after, the pandemic?
To answer this question, we conducted two rounds of surveys in mainland China and Hong Kong. The former is leading the “resurgence of authoritarianism” and ranks high in “COVID resilience” in the world, and the latter is China’s special administrative region with a Western-oriented ideology. Our surveys took place between April and June 2020, with 1,027 and 292 responses collected respectively from mainland China and Hong Kong. We inquire how people weigh political systems and state capacity in the context of the COVID-19: a democratic system or a strong state capacity, which bears a better premium? We find that Hong Kong respondents value government with a strong state capacity and democracy the most, whereas mainland respondents show preference to states with strong capacities and are indifferent to democracy.
Read the full story here.