Counterpoint: Debunking Myths About China

At the New York Times, following earlier articles by David Shambaugh and Minxin Pei to mark the CCP’s 90th birthday, Eric X. Li takes on five common and, he argues, misguided views of China and its government.

China’s restriction on freedom of expression stifles innovation. China no doubt restricts freedom of expression, especially political speech. But does that impede innovation in Chinese society?

… The Royal Society in London reports that China’s share of scientific research papers published in recognized international journals went from 4.4 percent in the period between 1999-2003 to 10.2 percent in the period between 2004-2008, now just behind the United States. In 2008, China overtook France as the world’s number three in contemporary art auction revenues. Fifteen out of 35 living artists worldwide who command seven-digit sales for their work are Chinese. If these facts do not demonstrate innovation, what does?

The Communist Party’s authoritarian rule leads to widespread corruption. No one, not least the party itself, disputes that corruption is a significant problem in China. But does authoritarian rule have anything to do with it?

According to Transparency International, the top 20 cleanest (least corrupt) places worldwide include only four non-Western governments: Singapore, Hong Kong, Qatar and Japan — three of the four are authoritarian regimes; the same three are the only ones that belong to the developing world. By Transparency International’s account, China (78) ranks higher than India (87), Philippines (134), Indonesia (110), Argentina (105) and many more, and tied with Greece (78), barely below Italy (67) — all electoral democracies. Apparently, China’s one-party system is less corrupt than many democratic countries.

He concludes:

Hypotheses that do not stand up to facts and yet still dominate people’s consciousness are specious and harmful. It is especially dangerous in this case because one cannot imagine a peaceful world order when the political and intellectual establishment of today’s world powers holds views that are built on falsehoods.

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