Opinion / Web Comments

2012 is one big year

By Chen Yanqi (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2012-12-03 22:45

For one reason or another, 2012 will be remembered as a big year. Four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council have experienced change of leadership. The United Kingdom, not surprisingly, given its track record of being "different", is the only exception.

A close look at the political landscape of the major powers can tell a lot. The US election is beyond any question the most watched and longest-stretched battle. It goes back to the mid-term election 2 years ago, maybe even more. With a bill of 6 billion dollars - the size of Nicaragua's economy, it is the most expensive election too. However, beneath the drama of a tough battle, the difference between the rivals is anything but dramatic.

Elections in Europe have a lot to do with the debt problem the Eurozone is struggling with. Europe’s welfare states are famous for their generosity, and over time it has generated a spoiled public appetite for more and a class of political elites too ready to make promises till the state faces almost certainty of bankruptcy. It does happen in some European countries that son follows father's footsteps in assuming the top job of the government, not necessary back to back though.  In one heavily-indebted Southern European country, we see a leader forced to step down because of his father's generosity when in power.

Between themselves, Western elites from time to time have second thoughts about their system, now more than ever before. They are aware that too many elections can come at a hefty price, not only in terms of the money spent, but also due to the cost of "doing nothing" in between the elections. Politicians, over-consumed by the election agenda, can no longer afford the luxury of big designs and long-term visions. They are aware; they are worried, but only between themselves. When they go public, it's all about "my system is the best and you must follow or suffer" all over again.

China has suffered more than its share of finger-pointing. But the orderly transfer of leadership this time has made some difference. It is noted that some mainstream Western media, while still holding tight to their values, are now beginning to carry positive comments about the Chinese way of leadership and governance.

It may be still only a start. Many a time positive comments are "balanced", or even shadowed by reckless attacks. But it is a start nevertheless. At the very least, when Westerners marvel at China's many accomplishments over the decades in contrast to the plight they have on hand, it may dawn on them that there might be other ways that can work, possibly even better.

Over the decades, we have absorbed and applied many Western experiences along the way. Many have worked, some even very well, not because they are Western, but because they have been properly localized in light of Chinese reality. With the West we will continue to engage, and from the West we may continue to learn. But as always, all our efforts have to be firmly anchored in who we are as a nation. Now as much as ever, there is neither ultimate solution, nor a uniform model that fits all. We Chinese have made it thus far and China will continue to deliver.

The author is a Beijing-based scholar of international relations.

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