Sunday, September 7, 2008

Are Chinese Satisfied?

I was blind-sided in the midst of a conversation on autocracies the other day by a couple of who believed , despite evidence to the contrary, that it was impossible for the Chinese, living in China, to be happy. Although I couldn’t get them to make sense, I am guessing that they believed that only in the U.S. could one be truly happy.

Now as I’ve said elsewhere, I think America is the best nation in the world, but our forte is opportunity and freedom, not happiness. I’ve been reading Edward Larson’s A Magnificent Catastrophe and Jefferson specifically wrote “pursuit of happiness.” We have the freedom and the opportunity to pursue happiness, but happiness isn’t “provided to us.” Happiness isn’t guaranteed.

The Chinese on the other hand, being a modern Autocracy are more in the business of “providing happiness.” As long as the people are happy, the leaders will be in power.

Here is an article about the survey a recent Pew Survey , written July 28, 2008,

The writer of the article, Brendan O’Neill, writes, “In 2002, only 48% of Chinese people surveyed were "satisfied" with it; today, 86% are. In 2002, 52% rated the Chinese economy as "good"; today, 82% do.”

I have always believed that Liberal Democracy would be a hard sell to the Chinese traditionalists – I believe the same thing about the Islamic traditionalists. I cannot visualize the steps to get from these ancient traditions all the way up to a Liberal Democracy. Some would rather read Natan Sharansky than Chinese history. Sharansky argues that everyone wants Democracy. I can see why he does, and I can see why those in Eastern Europe do, but I think we need a different argument for China and the Middle East.

I wonder what such people would say about another element in the Pew survey. As has been said, the Chinese were at the top of a 24 nation survey, scoring the happiest with the direction of their country. The U.S. on the other hand was fifth from the bottom. What say you to that, knee-jerk-Chinese-happiness haters? “Americans appear far more downbeat about the USA, placing fifth from last in the 24-nation survey by the Pew Research Center.”

Here is the survey itself:

I continue to consider this matter a tangent and a quibble. It isn’t something I am primarily interested in. It was merely something I assumed. The Chinese and Russian autocracies are doing well. Does their doing well impact the Fukuyama thesis (something I am interested in). Does their doing well mean that we will be more likely to have Huntington-type clashes with them (something else I’m interested in).

Lawrence Helm

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