May 16

Does democracy cause fiscal irresponsibility?

Written by Nimrod on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 at 4:53 am
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Let’s begin with some maps:

This is the public debt as a percentage of GDP around the world. It was posted by somebody earlier.

The Economist has constructed a 10-point scale “Democracy Index”, where the larger the number, the higher the degree of “democracy”. Lighter colors are more democratic.

In a previous post, a discussion was opened on whether democracy scales. I argued that a direct, large-scale multi-party electoral democracy gave adverse incentives for irresponsible fiscal decisions. I put forth an argument that the electoral process devolved responsibility to people who could not make them well, and to such a degree that a bad outcome was assured. Is there something to this? Let’s see.

I wrote in part:

But we can ask the question, does electoral politics make it easier or harder?

If you were competing for the next election, would you want to take away the punch bowl, or rein in the largess, or would you fail to prop up the failed enterprises? Perhaps you wouldn’t want to do this, if you did not want to end your political career. Once elected, might you just institute some permanent largess or tax cutting that the other party finds politically suicidal to undo? And why would they undo it? The competitive pressure is there, the incentive is there for you to appease the most people as quickly as possible, so you appeal to the basest instincts of people, which are greed and laziness. This never works out well in the long run.

I also made other arguments regarding adverse incentives in a multi-party electoral democracy for engaging the electorate to seek a bigger mandate against compromise on difficult decisions, which is the opposite of what should happen. However, I focus on economic matters in this post.

Wukailong Says:

I tend to think about things this way: if you have a general problem (say, economic depression) and can link all or an overwhelming majority of it to a cause (say, democracy), then you have a strong case. I don’t see how fiscal irresponsibility as such can be linked to democracy as a system, because then we should be seeing failed economies all over Europe and the rest of the Western world (and with failed I do not mean economies that are affected by the crisis, but weren’t a cause of it), and strong economies in China and other authoritarian systems. Do I need to provide stats to show that there is no such simple correlation?

Now, when I made the claims, it was all a hunch, but at Wukailong’s suggestion, I got curious enough to look more carefully. I will now address this by posting a few images and my interpretations. You should also look at the data and give your thoughts.

First a note on the Democracy Index. It is based on these criteria so it’s an inexact proxy for what I’m interested in, but we live with what we have:

“Whether national elections are free and fair”;
“The security of voters”;
“The influence of foreign powers on government”;
“The capability of the civil servants to implement policies”.

For example, 8-10 is considered “full democracy”.

We can similarly collect data on the GDP, tax per unit of GDP, per capita GNI, and population of countries. I did this for 123 countries for which all data was available. The majority of countries left out are very small island states.

Now, four graphs. Let’s start with one that’s not immediately relevant but one that people may be interested in.

Here is a graph of the degree of democracy plotted against average income per person in a country. Income is on a log scale. The red points are countries with more than 50 million people. The red circles are among the 10 most populous countries in the world. There is a definite bifurcation here. There appears to be two models of development. One, a high level of democracy with a high level of personal income. The other, a low level of democracy with high income. The only countries that are poor, are those that fall into “flawed democracies” or “hybrid regimes.”

This shows a country’s tax revenue as a percentage of its GDP, which is a way to measure the tax burden in a country. The data points are further categorized by per capita income. The trend is clear. The more democracy there is, the higher the tax burden. This is seen across all income levels, especially among high income countries.

Here is a graph of public debt to GDP. It is the debt burden of a country. It shows how many years a country has to work (at current levels) to pay off its public debt. The debt/GDP ratio is on a log-scale, so from -1 to 0 would mean a debt burden ten times as high. There is a statistically significant positive correlation between more democracy and more debt burden. The correlation becomes larger and stronger for countries with larger population.

Finally, it may be that the higher taxes collected by highly democratic countries are used to pay its higher debt, so it is possible that they are not as irresponsible as we thought (although remember, there is a limit, since you cannot collect more than 100% of your GDP as tax). To see if it’s true, we have this graph, which shows the ratio of public debt to tax revenue. This is the number of years it would take to pay off the debt if all tax collection went towards debt service. Again it’s on a log scale. This is harder to interpret, but perhaps it stands for how realistic and accountable a country is with regard to its debt load.

Here there is a difference in behavior between large and small countries. For smaller countries, the more democratic, the more fiscally accountable they are (smaller debt to tax ratio). For larger countries, however, increasing democracy does not increase accountability. Another way to look at this is: there are no large, fiscally sound democratic countries.

Discuss away.

There are currently 8 comments highlighted: 68086, 68097, 68133, 68165, 68167, 68171, 68173, 68205.

126 Responses to “Does democracy cause fiscal irresponsibility?”

  1. S. K. Cheung Says:

    First off, that looks like it took a huge amount of work, so thank you for taking the time to produce this to allow for discussion.

    Some comments:
    1. I realize the “democracy index” numbers were the ones available to you, and as you say, you’re limited to what was available and had to make the best of it. That said, it serves as the basis for all your graphs, upon which you draw your conclusions, so this limitation, though unavoidable, is also pervasive and undeniable. Of the 4 criteria used, #3 seems particular subjective. How does one measure and quantify foreign influence? I would also have liked to have known how the 4 criteria were weighted relative to one another, and why.

    2. is there a reason for using log scale on one axis in 3 of the graphs? Log scale graphs tend to make non-linear (hyperbolic or parabolic) relationships appear linear, and can misleadingly suggest a directly proportional relationship where one in fact does not exist. Also, there are many data points for “small” countries, and relatively few for “large” countries. This means that there will be more confidence in conclusions drawn about small countries, but less for large ones.

    3. Please correct me if I’m wrong…this was back-of-napkin stuff. But my plotting of dem index to income per capita looked more akin to y2(ie y squared) = x, in other words, hyperbolic concave down. Beyond a per capita income of around $3500, democracy still increases, but slowly. As you point out though, the outliers with high income but little democracy (I’m presuming these are the Saudi Arabias of the world) remain.

    4. Debt to output ratio vs dem index (without log) also seems like a y2=x parabola, and in countries with dem index >5, the ratio appear to be about 30-50% and the curve appears quite flat. To my eye, without log, there does not appear to be significant difference based on population (though I didn’t plot out the 50-100M data points).

    5. Debt to income vs dem index (without log) is interesting. In small countries, it looks like plot of y=1/x. In large countries, it looks again like y2=x. However, beyond dem index of 4, it looks like debt to income ratio is fairly flat around 2- 3, regardless of whether it’s a small or large country (again, I didn’t plot out mediums).

    I agree with your interpretation graph 2, where more democracy seems to correlate with higher taxes, regardless of income level. Outliers aside, while democracy does increase with income, one can achieve steep gains in democracy with modest increases in income, but to achieve very high levels of democracy does require huge increases in income.

    Debt burden does increase at the lower ends of democracy, but beyond an index of 5, it seems to plateau around 30-50% of output. So beyond a certain point, one can become more democratic without as dramatic an increase in debt.

    Similarly, while ability to pay off debt is different between small and large countries who are relatively undemocratic, once you reach an index of 4, it seems the curves overlap at a ratio of around 2-3.

    Again, I may be way off, so it would help if you had non-log graphs. I also don’t know exactly what a dem index of 4-5 actually means (though it seems Pakistan and Russia might be the ballparks). But it seems to me that there is an incremental cost to get to a certain level of democracy (though it shouldn’t be surprising that something worth having carries a cost), then it’s relatively inexpensive to get considerably more democratic thereafter. And based on the relatively few data points for large countries, the scatter, as well as how it seems to look in non-log scale, I don’t think I’d agree with your concluding statement.

    All of the above notwithstanding, this is essentially retrospective observational data. Certainly food for thought, but doesn’t directly speak to what would happen if you took any given country and made the changes necessary to modify their democracy index.

  2. Wukailong Says:

    Wow. Now I almost feel ashamed for writing that comment – this is really impressive and a lot of work on your side, Nimrod. Thanks for taking the time to put all the data together!

    I’m curious about the difference between smaller and larger democracies, so that’s something I’m going to have an extra look at. That in itself is an interesting subject because I don’t believe these things are either/or – it might be better to keep democratic elections on a certain level (say, in areas sized 10-20 million) and have higher leaders selected “indirectly.” When you have hundreds of millions voting for one government, the choices have to cater to a very large group and I’m not sure how representative it is (this goes for both EU and the US, as well as India).

    In the bifurcation, I believe like SKC it shows oil-rich countries (and perhaps Singapore and Hongkong?). They might have less interest in raising taxes because there is one very fixed source of income.

  3. TonyP4 Says:

    It is similar to my simplified ‘natural theory’ as follows. It is my personal thought, so it has no value to most. A wealthy country becomes developed. A developed country’s leaders are elected via votes, so the leaders promise the voters on all the entitlements and become fiscally irresponsible. Do we blame the leaders, the voters, the system or all of the above?

    US, Greece and Iceland are all examples. US has bright policy makers, but will the leader take them seriously without considering the votes in next election? By contrast, CCP routinely accepts the ideas from policy makers and the results are great so far.

    I like pro-business government better. When every one has a job, we do not need entitlement. Leaders appointed by Deng and most current leaders are pro-business.

  4. ChinkTalk Says:


    While driving on the freeway one day, a cabinet minister is tragically hit by a truck and dies.
    His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

    “Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

    “No problem, just let me in,” says the MP.

    “Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

    “Really, I’ve made up my mind I want to be in heaven,” says the MP.

    “I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”

    And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

    Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

    They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

    Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

    Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises. The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

    “Now it’s time to visit heaven.”

    So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

    “Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

    The MP reflects for a minute, then answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”

    So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

    Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

    He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above…

    The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

    “I don’t understand,” stammers the cabinet minister. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

    The devil looks at him, smiles and says …

    Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.



  5. r v Says:

    That’s a good one, ChinaTalk.

    This morning Public Radio raised an interesting point about the current financial crisis. That is, 1 reason why Greece is worse off than Japan, (even though both have pretty high debt ratios), is that Japan’s debt are being held mostly by its own people who are not likely to sell off the bonds even if Japan goes down, (ie. they are national stakeholders, if they sell off the bonds, they hurt their own economy), also if Japan goes down, very few foreign investors are hurt by it. Greece, on the other hand, has bonds that are significantly held by banks from France and Germany. When Greece goes down, the Wave of panic spreads to the rest of the Europe.

    China, by comparison, (on top of very low debt), also has most of its bonds held by Chinese citizens. Thus, it is similar to Japan in that if Chinese economy goes down, Chinese citizens are not likely sell off bonds and hurt their own economy further.

    US has an added factor that most foreign bond investors prefer large economy as stable investment. (That makes some sense, because a large economy has more assets and more buffer room, and is more diversified and less prone to risks in some markets.) However, that is of course the “irrational market” investors who probably also invested into the questionable derivatives. The motive is not rational, and thus far, it is just the prevailing wind. But if US economy slide further or does not recover quickly, the same investors will also run for the hills. (One can also say that China herself is one such investor in the US economy. And currently China is attempting to diversify and reduce her US bond holdings as quickly as she can.)

    I would say, however, these factors and points indicate that US and Europe continue to suffer the effects of their bonds being held by large segments of foreign investors. Thus, they suffer the results of the irrational or rational behaviors of the foreign investors. In good times, foreign investors jump on the bandwagon, increasing speculation. In bad times, foreign investors jump boat, popping the bubble. These waves of extremes undoubtedly cause panic and financial problems for domestic bond holders, and would ripple through the rest of the economy. Thus, I would say, the stability of the Chinese market should be tightly controlled by regulation of the exchangeable financial instruments.

    *As for Democracy, it is all too obvious that the assumption of “rational market” and “rational voters” has led to lax attitude toward financial regulations and government oversight. Some smaller democratic nations may be shielded from these problems for now, but they are not immune to the effects of the lemming mobs. “Voters”, “representatives” will never go against the lemming mobs, because the system is not designed listen to caution.

    Does the 1 party system suffer the same problem? Theoretically yes. China’s saving grace is actually the CCP’s unwillingness to trust its market totally to the “free will” of the investors, and CCP’s propensity to want to keep some control and monitor on the Chinese market. Afterall, if CCP accepted the free will of the market, and the market tanks in China, CCP would risk lose its mandate to rule. (So, in that sense, the “authoritarian” 1 party power system provided a continued CCP’s effort to regulate the Chinese market, to prevent the type of run away situation in Greece.)

    Those in the “free market” are coming to realize that they need “regulation”, and yet they are hesitant and do not know where to begin or how to recover, because never before has the survival of any political parties depended upon “regulation” of the market. Since none of the parties are really responsible, the parties just play pass the hot potato election after election. Those who tried to regulate are perceived as unpopular or defeatists or alarmists.

    In contrast, in a 1 party system, the party has to regulate the market. Its regulation is tied to its very survival as a ruling party. Along the line, some mistakes are made, (there are bad loans in China, and China does hold too much US bond), however, China kept some of its markets relatively closed, its currency backed and stabilized by the government. Why? China hedged against the volatility of the free market with some cautious management of its economy. (Afterall, China said all along that it was not going to open its market quickly. It was taking Deng’s approach of feeling its way across the river.)

    Does the system matter to fiscal responsibility? Perhaps so.

  6. Raj Says:

    Interesting article, and I appreciate the time and effort put into it.

    As the most democratic countries in the world tend to be the most developed, is the real question whether developed countries have “high” debt and taxation? It’s hard to verify a link between democracy and economic performance/management, as we would need examples of developed countries that were not democratic to compare with the democratic ones.

    Certainly democracy allows the poor (all relative, as it depends on a nation’s average income/lifestyles/etc to define) to demand and secure more easily better public services such as education, health services and so forth. These all cost money. However, would a developing nation (that wasn’t incredibly rich due to a constant bonanza of energy resource revenue) be able to afford such public services? Probably not. So is the answer then to not have borrowing and limit public services to a basic level, essentially letting people sink or swim according to their own ability?

    Arguably a country benefits through the provision of public services such as health care. Borrowing allows this to be provided whether a country is in recession or a period of sustained growth. So how easy is it for developing countries to borrow? If they can’t then and they don’t have lots of income from natural resources, they do what they can with the little they have. That doesn’t mean they’re fiscally responsible.

    Indeed, what is fiscal responsibility? Is it low taxation and low borrowing? Or is it using your resources wisely and avoiding corruption and nepotism? Yemen doesn’t rank too badly on that Wikipedia image, but I’m not sure its corrupt government could be considered fiscually prudent. The irresponsibility of governments that have low debt and taxation due to their income from oil, gas, etc can’t be shown up in such simplistic ways, even if they funnel huge sums of money into their own pockets rather than that of their people.

  7. r v Says:


    I disagree with your comment about corruption and nepotism. Fiscal responsibility is about the responsibility to promote and maintain overall health of the economy through government spending and investment. Economic equality itself is an investment in the people to keep the economy strong. A government can be ZERO in corruption and spend NO money to anyone for social program or infrastructure building, but that would NOT be “fiscally responsible.” A government with zero corruption would also be irresponsible if it merely spends enough to achieve its equation of economic equality. A government, if has money, should spend the money to continue investment for the future. That would be the responsible thing to do.

    Granted, corruption and nepotism will figure into the equation of fiscal responsibility, if the corruption is severe enough to cause significant deficiencies in necessary and proper spending, however, the tipping point is the question of how much corruption will impact the economic health (in some significant ways, such as a stagnation or shortage of resources and technologies). Also granted, every dollar wasted in corruption could have been beneficial to someone, but the point is, merely reducing corruption is not “fiscal responsibility”.

    I believe, fiscal responsibility is more about the proper and necessary use of money to maintain overall health of the economy in the long run, not merely about reducing corruption. As I stated, fiscal spending should be a form of investment by the government.

  8. Raj Says:

    r v, you’ve misunderstood my point – though perhaps I shouldn’t have implied fiscal responsibility is either about taxation/borrowing or fighting corruption. I meant to just use it as an example of how “fiscal responsibility” has many different facets, such as using resources wisely.

  9. r v Says:


    Perhaps I misunderstood your emphasis of corruption. If it is using resources wisely, I believe fiscal responsibility must be for the ultimate goal of using fiscal spending to invest in the long term health of the overall economy. (“Wisely” should be more carefully defined.)

  10. Jason Says:

    Yep it does. Just look at the by-election in Hong Kong. Thanks to the “radical” Dumbocrats, I mean Democrats for wasting $19 million to get a 14.7% voters turnout.

  11. r v Says:

    I really do hope that the Democrats in HK paid $19 million out of their own pockets and not from taxpayers’ money.

  12. Nimrod Says:

    Hi guys,

    Please continue the discussion as well as the healthy dose of skepticism. As they say, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But please also rest assured that I had this danger in mind as I wrote the post. Don’t have much time today but I’ll answer some questions:

    Q: Why use log graphs?
    A: I took logarithms on unbounded “growth” quantities like income, debt, and population, but not on bounded quantities like the level of democracy or percentages that cannot exceed 100%. In particular, aking log on income and population is pretty standard. As a practical matter, unbounded quantities have a huge range that you wouldn’t be able to see without log scaling. On a linear scale, you’d get what you’d expect by doubling the height of every row of grids as you go up vertically.

    Q: How applicable is this to a single country’s development?
    A: I don’t know. Just by looking at these graphs, we wouldn’t know if the world always had this distribution of countries, that it was a static world. But clearly some countries change (while some don’t). I forgot to mention these are 2008 numbers. Theoretically if we found similar data in previous years we could track how countries are moving. Maybe we’ll find justification for the theory that once a country reaches about $5000 in per capita GNI they make a successful transition to “democracy.” Or not. This is around 3.7 on the x-axis of the first graph and I don’t see a string of countries making a bridge between democracy and authoritarian regimes. Or perhaps they make a sudden jump and the gap is too big to jump back, who knows! 🙂

    Q: What are those undemocratic rich countries?
    A: Yes, they are mostly small (population-wise) oil/gas countries, but some democratic countries, e.g. Norway, are also small (population-wise) oil countries. I think it’s not surprising if small resource-rich countries become rich, no matter what system of government they have. On the other hand, the government needs to be stable enough to allow extraction and export of these resources. On the bifucation of the first graph, I think it has more to do with geocultural cluster than anything else (and I include adoptees, e.g. Japan belongs with USA, not China). As we trace the top half curve toward poorer countries, we start in North Europe, then the Anglosphere, then South Europe, Eastern Europe, then the Hispanic world, and we end up in the poor corner with Sub-Saharan Africa. Then we turn the corner to the bottom half cuve toward richer countries, we reach West Africa, then North Africa, the Caucuses, Central Asia, the Sinosphere, and the Middle East.

    The two dots stubbornly in the middle of the gap around an x value of 4.5, by the way, are Singapore and Hong Kong. The red dot above Russia happens to be Turkey, and Russia and Turkey both happen to be between their Eastern and Western neighbors. There are some exceptions to this, but this Democracy Index turns out to be a pretty good marker for Western culture, much more so than a marker for prosperity.

    Q: Does debt relative to tax burden have anything to do with fiscal responsibility?
    I should point out that in today’s great debt game, people act as if it’s the interest payment, and not the principal that matters. This is perhaps true so long as you can borrow. So it may be possible that large democracies in particular get a low interest rate on the market and so the present value of their debt is relatively smaller, hence relative to tax collection their debt is not larger. I don’t have this data, but it sounds plausible. But, this is exactly the debt crisis we may be facing: interest rate demanded for new debt can rise. I also mentiond that you can’t collect more than 100% of your GDP as tax, and democracies (large and small) already collect the highest rate of tax anywhere. Increasing it further to service debt decreases economic activity, making the problem worse. So I think it’s correct to say a high debt-to-tax ratio combined with a high tax burden is a sign of past and continuing fiscal imprudence.

  13. Crystal Tao Says:

    On the second map the Somalian pirates are just fathers of democracy )))

  14. Nimrod Says:

    Crystal, I think that’s a gray spot with no data.

  15. S. K. Cheung Says:

    To Nimrod,
    thanks for your answers.

    Do you think there are other questions/criteria that would better evaluate “democracy” as it is manifested in an eastern culture, in addition to or in replacement of some of the criteria used in the current index?

    Your last answer seems to get into the topic of credit ratings for countries. Admittedly, interest rate on debt will be determined by this credit rating. But I don’t know exactly what goes into determining this rating. However, debt financing is included as an expenditure in annual budgets. So a nation’s debt at any given time will not change even if their rating changes; a nation’s debt will increase with ongoing deficit budgets starting from any given point in time. This seems to make intuitive sense: debt from the past reflects on past fiscal performance; debt incurred now reflects current fiscal performance. The caveats of course are that previously enacted policies may have ongoing effects both in the present and in the future, as will currently implemented policies.

  16. r v Says:

    In the line of fiscal responsibility as wise spending for the goal of investing for the future of the economy, perhaps it would be useful to determine the % of budget for each country going toward infrastructure, business and people investment. I think that data would be hard to come by, but it would be most enlightening.

  17. Wahaha Says:

    Irresponsibility is a disease. It starts with very few, then those very few infect hundreds times, thousands time of people.

    Even 48 of 50 states in USA are in debt, that doesnt mean most american people were born irresponsible. But there were few irresponsible, they demanded unreasonably, no1 dared to say anything as it was legalized under the name of human rights.

    Result ? well, if other people didnt follow, it would be unfair to them, therefore they were infected.

    Some Katrina victims asked for 3 trillion dollars compensation, of course the claim was absurd and ignored. But if some can ask 3 trillion, then asking 3 billion becomes acceptable and reasonable, doesnt it ?

    Because greediness is accepted as part of human rights, the goverment would never come up with the money needed, unless the country has been industrialized(high productivity), plus vast majority are middle class, plus very few poor.

    Result ? to help people, teh government has to borrow the money from the rich. But if the profit from a project is 10%, will the rich accept 5% ? of course they wont. So building a project for the poor is like building an ATM machine for the rich. Therefore to help people, the ELECTED government has to work for the rich. Borrowing money ? well, it is like loaning the money from bank to buy a house for yourself.

    Result ? a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich (even if the elected only care for people, put people above himself and his families). Now think of the fact that most of the elected politicians are from rich families, what kind of government is it ?

  18. Rhan Says:

    “a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich ”
    I don’t see how a none elected government would be different. Any concrete evidence?

  19. r v Says:


    I would argue that social mobility in a society and representativeness of the all classes of people in a government is more key to the issue than how the representatives are selected/elected. The key problem in a typical non-elected government (or even elected government) is entrenchment of established elite class of politicians who hold majority of the power. A non-elected government would seem to be more prone to this problem, because the selection process of such a government seems arbitrary.

    But, I would further argue that that is because we do not categorize in detail all the “non-elected governments”. By lumping all government systems that do not have “election” systems that resembles the West, we use a far too generic category of “non-elected governments”.

    Afterall, China has some elections. US has some non-elections (appointment) process for selecting officials. So what is “elected government” vs. “non-elected government”?

    I think again, we should approach the question of how much the government politicians in a system are “entrenched”, and whether the selection process for the officials would produce somewhat fair or provide some equal opportunity for representation of the disadvantaged. I take for example, US, which in theory has an election process that can easily remove incumbent politicians. However, in reality, US politicians are highly dependent upon a system of political patronage, we called campaign financing. Without patronage by the rich and the corporations, very few US politicians can hope to advance to the top of the political echelon.

    In comparison to China, China has a system of patronage as well. Higher ranking politicians give support to their favorite junior politicians for rapid advancement. However, that system is very performance dependent. Namely, the higher ranking politicians, generally cannot outright promote their favorites. Instead, there is a system of “political trial”. Junior politicians in China “earn” support by performing well in their political posts, and the additional support translate to MORE opportunities in higher level positions. It is a “performance ladder” not unlike a typical promotion system within a large US corporation. Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Wen Jiabao all had to go through that system to prove their abilities to perform. If any one of them screwed up badly enough in the performance, there are always competing candidates who would be promoted instead. (Understandably, China take the China Inc. mentality in this promotion system.) Today’s Chinese politicians are very performance and result oriented, eager to manage public projects to generate more wealth, hiring more people to work, build more factories, etc. The senior Chinese politicians tend to support their own favorites, but there are many factions, and no Chinese politician is willing to support a “loser”. The reason for this is, each want to leave their own “legacy” behind in the system, but each also do not want to be remembered as the one who left China to be ruled by a fool. (So there is a fine balance.) And each new generation of leaders want to make his/her own mark, and thus the new generation doesn’t merely copy what was done before, they always try something new to leave their own “legacy” behind.

    In contrast, a typical Western politicians, has to get the backing of the rich and the powerful elites, and then it’s generally a matter of hiring a PR firm to generate some catchy slogans for the campaign ads. Thus, there is too much dependence on the rich and the powerful, and too much influence from the entrenched economic political class in the West.

    As I said, each system’s selection process is unique. It’s not merely “elected” vs. “non-elected”. We must carefully compare the processes to identify weak spots where the rich and the powerful can exert significant influence on the politicians.

  20. r v Says:

    Interesting breakdown on the US federal budget 2010:


    Mandatory spending: $2.184 trillion (+15.6%)
    $695 billion (+4.9%) – Social Security
    $453 billion (+6.6%) – Medicare
    $290 billion (+12.0%) – Medicaid
    $0 billion (−100%) – Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)
    $0 billion (−100%) – Financial stabilization efforts
    $11 billion (+275%) – Potential disaster costs
    $571 billion (−15.2%) – Other mandatory programs
    $164 billion (+18.0%) – Interest on National Debt

    Discretionary spending: $1.368 trillion (+13.1%)
    $663.7 billion (+12.7%) – Department of Defense (including Overseas Contingency Operations)
    $78.7 billion (−1.7%) – Department of Health and Human Services
    $72.5 billion (+2.8%) – Department of Transportation
    $52.5 billion (+10.3%) – Department of Veterans Affairs
    $51.7 billion (+40.9%) – Department of State and Other International Programs
    $47.5 billion (+18.5%) – Department of Housing and Urban Development
    $46.7 billion (+12.8%) – Department of Education
    $42.7 billion (+1.2%) – Department of Homeland Security
    $26.3 billion (−0.4%) – Department of Energy
    $26.0 billion (+8.8%) – Department of Agriculture
    $23.9 billion (−6.3%) – Department of Justice
    $18.7 billion (+5.1%) – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    $13.8 billion (+48.4%) – Department of Commerce
    $13.3 billion (+4.7%) – Department of Labor
    $13.3 billion (+4.7%) – Department of the Treasury
    $12.0 billion (+6.2%) – Department of the Interior
    $10.5 billion (+34.6%) – Environmental Protection Agency
    $9.7 billion (+10.2%) – Social Security Administration
    $7.0 billion (+1.4%) – National Science Foundation
    $5.1 billion (−3.8%) – Corps of Engineers
    $5.0 billion (+100%) – National Infrastructure Bank
    $1.1 billion (+22.2%) – Corporation for National and Community Service
    $0.7 billion (0.0%) – Small Business Administration
    $0.6 billion (−14.3%) – General Services Administration
    $19.8 billion (+3.7%) – Other Agencies
    $105 billion – Other

    It’s interesting that US spends more than $1 Trillion on social security and medicare and medicaid. (out of total of $3.55 trillion budget) Some would argue that these spending are a form of investment in the people. I do not know whether that’s true or whether $1 trillion out of $3.55 trillion is perhaps too much. However, I would say that this $1 Trillion dwarves all other types of government investment in the US economy, such as transportation, education, science and energy. Also, defense, security, and diplomacy related spending constitutes around $700 billion in the budget.

  21. Wahaha Says:


    I never said a none elected government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

    The difference is that in China, on the paper government controls the wealth on behalf of people, so even they are corruptive, people still get far more than if the few rich control the wealth like India.

  22. jxie Says:

    Nimrod, a nicely done piece! A couple of hugely discounted cents of mine, which are somewhat disjointed:

    Everything in nature, mankind included, is cyclical. If you did the study in 1997, among the populous nations, the ones in financial trouble (with huge fiscal debts) were Indonesia and Russia. Indonesia was an authoritarian state and Russia would have been considered somewhere between “flawed democracies” and “hybrid regimes.” Then you’d hardly be able to draw the conclusions you are drawing now.

    Personally tend to think no system is inherently good or bad, but rather how well it gets executed, and how much the population feels comfortable with and buys in the system. Most Northern European nations, such as Finland, Norway, Sweden & Denmark, all are in fine fiscal shapes, compared to their Southern brethren. To use an American football analogy, you can argue all day if the West Coast offense or Gun ‘N Fun offense is better. At the end of the day, it’s the quarterback. If you have a great quarterback, you have a game changer. It really doesn’t matter which system you use.

    In 2010, the global game changer is China. For example:

    * China crushes the margin most developed nations enjoy. If not for China, a DVD player probably would still cost $100, which means an African or Latin American consumer would pay more, and the manufacturers in Japan, the patent holders in Germany and the financial firms that help all these work together would earn more. The indirect impact of China’s ascendence is that those less fiscally disciplined developed nations are the first to feel the squeeze. BTW, China is about to crush the margin of auto industry, and builds expressways and high-speed rails at places only a decade ago wouldn’t even dream of having those.

    * Once upon a time, the bond traders in NY and London were the master of the universe. It’s not necessarily most of the non-democratic developing nations with somewhat lower debts are natural savers, but rather their financing costs are often prohibitively high. A major lever is the sovereignty credit ratings. Most of those non-democratic developing nations are considered less creditworthy. Just to show you how disconnected these sovereignty credit ratings are, as of now, China is considered less creditworthy than Spain, Ireland & the UK!!! An important factor in deciding a nation’s credit rating by the Western rating agencies, is the form of the government a nation has. Democracy is considered a naturally stable state of government. China, flushed with money, isn’t about to buy all that BS. It shuns “highly rated” bonds issued by Spain, Ireland, and the UK, or at one point Greece and Italy (now with lower ratings), yet has no problem of investing in non-democratic developing nations.

    BTW, Plato argued vehemently against democracy, so did most of the American founding fathers who were probably strongly influenced by Plato. Plato lived at a time when Athenian democracy was a disaster and that was all he saw. American founding fathers intended to build a republic, not a democracy. The differences between a republic and a democracy are more than merely semantic. For instance, recently President Obama criticized the Supreme Court in the State of Union address – now that’s going down a path of anti-republic…

    Anyway, the point is, the somewhat bastardized form of government started as a republic and increasingly tilted toward “democracy”, in the late 1900s to early 2000s, represented the form of the government the most admired nations chose — unlike in Plato’s time. China, standing in 2010, is gradually changing all of that.

  23. ChinkTalk Says:

    jxie, what you are saying is that it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

  24. Nimrod Says:


    Good point on Indonesia, Russia, and the caution on using cyclical data. It would be better to capture the cyclical range of a country’s debt-to-gdp, then things would average out. On the other hand, I didn’t exactly catch democracies in a moment of weakness, as the data was from before the crisis level debt and GDP drop were piled on in 2009, or things would have been a lot worse.

    You are also right about sovereign credit spreads. There is a democracy discount. There is also an “emerging market” premium. So not just China, but Russia also pay higher interest rate than countries that are a lot more likely to default based solely on non-political factors. That makes a large debt more difficult to hold, so that’s a confounding factor, probably a more significant one.

    With regard to republicanism in US history, things were going well until Andrew Jackson instated a soft coup. They say people keep going back to the Declaration of Independence for inspiration on their rights, and that’s a problem, because you’ll find whatever you are looking for there. I’m not talking about keeping blacks, women, or non-landowners from voting. I’m talking about the procedural mechanics of the system being swept aside, and they were fairly significant changes like having bound electors during a presidential election.

    As Wukailong said, we should be more introspective about this. The US started as a strong confederate with a republic form of government. Through a number of changes, it finally became a centralized state with democracy around the time of World War II, the first continent-sized country to try this form of government. Perhaps the founding republic was set up brilliantly by brilliant men, as is the folklore, but it certainly has little resemblance to what we have now nor is it applicable. The current form is arrived at by a line of political traditions, and may or may not work. It’s all an experiment. The EU is conducting another experiment. China and India are doing the same.

  25. r v Says:


    Very good point about finding whatever one is looking for in the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, people find all kinds of interpretations of the Bible, Koran, Confucius’ writings, the Constitution, etc. Wars and Crusades are fought on the differences of opinions. I think any interpretation of any text should be cautiously viewed in the context of reality.

  26. r v Says:

    One interesting aspect of today’s US political system perhaps gives some indication of the power of the interest groups who back various campaigns: Party defections. In the last few years, several senators and congressmen had switched parties, and not all in the same direction.

    Joe Lieberman went from Democrat to Independent.
    Arlen Specter went from Republican to Democrat. Of course, change of principles in these guys is virtually impossible. They had the poll numbers and the money to contend with. Arlen Specter himself stated that one reason (but really the only reason) for his defection was that his chances of winning a Republican primary in his home state was slim. But translation: His usual backers don’t want to back him in the campaign. So he went to a different group of interest groups, and won the election. (The Democrats had money to help him, and they wanted a bigger majority).

    Principle for sale? Perhaps, if one assume that these politicians had principles to start with. But modern day, it looks more and more that at least the positions of power are for sale, with both political parties (and independent candidates) selling to the highest bidders.

  27. Nimrod Says:

    In the US government, civil servants do the real work (a system copied from imperial China, incidently), but then you get these sponsor-paid career politicians who sit around mainly to perform theater. They don’t write the bills. They don’t read them. The staff, pages, and interns do. They aren’t there to debate issues or represent the people. They are there solely for the purpose of continuing to be there. How to do that? Make sure to get re-elected. How to get re-elected? A lot of pandering, corporate money, and party boot-licking. In this system, two-party elections don’t give better results or accountability. All it does is to make getting increasingly mediocre results expensive. Mediocre because that’s safe for everybody, expensive because people have to outspend each other. Sure, people rotate in and out, but the whole thing is ritual. These people aren’t experts in anything but how to get re-elected, so they are completely interchangeable. I bet the civil servants can get the job done without their help at all.

  28. S. K. Cheung Says:

    I think it would be useful to remember that “Democracy” means more than just the US, and while one needs to look at it, one also needs to look beyond it. Perhaps because many of you live there, there seems to be this tendency to think that US = Democracy, when it is but one iteration thereof.

    Governments certainly run due to the work of civil servants. If I had to make the dichotomous choice of civil servants alone, or elected reps alone, but not both, I would take civil servants happily any day. That’s because, if elected reps ran government by themselves, government would no doubt fall flat on its face. But it needn’t be a dichotomous choice. Civil servants are also chosen and promoted based on their ability to do a job, and on their performance/results. In that way, it is very much a parallel for the meritocratic system some of you prefer. But while civil servants are a vital part of government, one also has to ask to whom they are accountable. Certainly, to themselves and to each other. Unfortunately, it seems that in a meritocratic system, such accountability ends there, for even the highest cheese is still one of them. But in a Democracy, they are also accountable to their bosses, who are installed in those positions by us.

    Governments are certainly like corporations, as some of you have alluded. In fact, in most countries, I suspect government is the largest corporation around. So does it make sense to run government in a fashion somewhat akin to corporations? Certainly. One major difference, of course, is that corporations are judged based on one ability, and that is the ability to make money; whereas governments are also judged on her ability to provide services which cost money. With that said, how are the occupants of the highest echelons of a corporation installed there? Are they chosen by the “workers”, who certainly have a stake in the success of the company, and who, like “civil servants”, are the people that make the corporation hum? Or are they chosen by the shareholders of the company, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of corporate success, but who would also be the ultimate victims of corporate failure? If we are to discuss the concept of China Inc, then who are China Inc’s shareholders?

  29. TonyP4 Says:

    #Nimrod @27.

    Every system has its shortcomings. US has a good system with dual parties (mainly) and is supported by educated voters.

    However, when one party has an idea from the top, every politician within the party follows. It is called politics which limits individual thinking. Plus the politician has to satisfy the voter whose individual interest may not be good for the country. The coming problem is the population growth of minorities. If they’re educated enough to govern the country, it will not be a problem.

    China can eliminate corruption BETTER with a true dual party system as the opposing party has a voice too than a single-party system. When one party is corrupt, it will be replaced by the other party in government. However, CCP is a good system to China with many accomplishments so far. So, I cannot conclude which system is better.

    The old imperial system in China has its share of problems. It was copied even by the invaders, Mongolians and Manchurians. I was surprised that you mentioned US copied the imperial system. Please give us more proofs.

    China Inc. may not be good for investor like me. I do not buy China’s bank stocks as they’re concerned in China government more than its investor. The big difference is China Inc. cannot go bankrupt but a corporation can.

  30. r v Says:


    If a system is corrupt, one can hardly expect that 1 or more of the parties in that system would be immune to the corruption. And that’s the problem with corruption. Once corruption spreads, it spreads in a system, not just in a party. We see this time after time in many self-proclaimed “democracies”.

    In Taiwan, DPP was not immune to corruption, even though it made a platform on fighting corruption of KMT. In Mexico, the current president also talked about fighting corruption and drug trafficking, but there are reports that many high level Mexican officials are still being bribed.

    Every political system has some system of “patronage” and backdoor influencing. Parties that come into the system, simply adopts the old ways. The key is not which party, and what they say, but how the system itself copes with corruptions.

    As far as I can see, the “checks and balances” against corruption in the “democratic systems” are not really working at all. Indeed, many of the “democratic systems” features promote influence peddling, for example, the LONG term campaigns are extremely wasteful and put money influence in the hand of the rich and powerful.

    Do any parties have any real policies in place to fight corruption and influence peddling? I don’t see them. Most political parties have the same regular systems for accepting “lobbying”.

    On that count, I actually see CCP’s historical distrust of the business class as a good thing. CCP does manage state owned businesses, but managing China Inc. is an entirely different interest than managing private businesses. Obviously, there are lots of times when private business interests would run counter to the country. (This, I fear, US politicians do not realize well.)

    Thus, I believe, the first order of any government in fighting corruption is to rein in the private business interests in their country, and make certain that all domestic business interests serve the overall interest of the country. (That means curbing destructive monopolies, destructive low bid competitions). Obviously, a natural consequence of unregulated free market is the rise of powerful monopolistic private businesses that can literally hold entire nations hostage, (corruption would then be the least of the nation’s worries). On the other side, destructive competitions would leave a nation’s economy vulnerable to external hostile take over.

  31. ChinkTalk Says:

    A lot of things are copied from the Chinese but the Chinese are never given the credit or the credit stolen.

    Look at “Parkour”, the West claimed it to be a French invention, but it is copied from Chinese Kung Fu.

    Popularized by Jackie Chan in his movies.

    Yet if you go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkour, it actually said that Jackie Chan copied it from the French.

  32. miaka9383 Says:

    You do know, if you have references that points otherwise you can edit wikipedia right? if it is that important to you.

  33. r v Says:

    One thing often overlooked in a multi-party system is the adaptability of the Corrupt influences. I will give a typical example:

    1 ruling party is corrupted by lobbyists and corporations, the opposition party claims that the ruling party must be thrown out, and that the opposition party is not corrupted. (assume the claim is true).

    Under prevailing assumptions, one would come to the conclusion that if the voters “threw the bums out”, and put the opposition party in charge, things will be better. However, that is assuming that the corrupting influences are static and unable to adapt.

    In reality, a corrupting influence actor (such as a powerful corporate lobby) would not stand idly by and see itself squeezed out of its influences. Nor would such an actor be simple enough to back only the ruling party. In reality, the influence actor would “hedge” its bets on the opposition party as well, ie. bet on both parties, and extend its influence across multiple parties. (why isolate yourself to influencing only 1 party in a multi-party system?) If the influence actor sees an up and coming small party or political movement, it would likely further hedge its bets. (This is all completely rational under the game theory).

    What happens if a party refuses to be bought? The influence actor would naturally use the “carrot and stick” approach or “split the vote” approach. “Split the vote” involves where the influence actor simply fund another party (perhaps form its own party) that has very similar political appeals to the same voters, in order to split and minimize the influence of a threatening political movement.

    Currently in US, it is common that most of the rich and powerful contribute to both dominant political parties, similarly, most powerful corporate lobbies and Political action committees do the same. “Hedging influence” is a common practice. Thus, no political party in a multi-party system can claim that it is immune to corrupting influences.

    As shown, in a multi-party system, the influence actors are very adaptable in their strategies to further extend their influences in the entire system. The cure to the problem is thus not within individual political parties, but in the fundamentals of the entire system.

  34. Steve Says:

    @ CT #31: What it actually says is “In many films starring Jackie Chan, a lot of parkour and free running like moves can be seen, before the invention of both” which is exactly the opposite of what you wrote. You really ought to read the links you post before you comment on them, and what this has to do with democracy/fiscal irresponsibility is beyond me.

  35. ChinkTalk Says:


    Steve, I don’t have a fancy education like some of you have and I don’t understand a damn thing what Nimrod’s graphs show. So I can’t comment intelligently about democratic indexes and debt ratios. And all I can judge is from what I see in front of me, and what I see in front of me is that the democracy touted by the Western media and politicians is far from the democracy I see and experience everyday.

    To comment on the co-relationship between democracy and fiscal irresponsibilty is also beyond me. But I do know that in British Columiba, Canada, the provincial government managed to come up with over a billion dollars for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics yet fundings for education, health and social programs are all cut to the extend of reaching crisis proportions.

    We have elementary and high schools students with no classrooms, no schools. We have people dying waiting for medical services which can be up to three years. Our homeless are increasing exponentially and they are dying on the steets everyday.

    Those who have jobs are taxed to the hilt, there are so many abuses by employers. People earning minimum or better wages cannot afford a livelihood and employers are making them work extra hours without pay or on shift work like coming in the morning for 2 hours and skip three hours and come back for another 4 hours. And these are all against Labour Standards but no one dares to complain because there are just not that many jobs available.

    We are supposedly able to vote the government out if we don’t like what they do. But every political party and its leader would paint everything rosy before the election and lie through their teeth once elected. Who do you vote for?

    The Federal Liberals and Conservatives have their share of corruption and criminal scandals, same with the provincial Liberals and NDPs. Our democratic politicians will lie to your face to get the votes and once elected will kick you in the ass.

    For me there is a co-relationship between the Western media in their lying and cheating ways and the Western politicians and their lying and cheating ways.

    The Parkour example is the Western media stealing from the Chinese like the Western politicians lying and cheating from the voting populace. We are getting snowed big time and there is nothing we can do about it.

  36. Nimrod Says:

    In the news today, somebody is making my arguments:

    Senate Rejects Proposal to Prevent Bailouts of U.S. States

    Gregg cited California, which is facing a $19.1 billion budget gap for the year starting July 1, as an example of why states shouldn’t be permitted to burden U.S. taxpayers.

    “The people of California, because their government has been totally irresponsible in spending for a large number of years, has created a massive obligation, especially in their pension programs, their public pension programs which they can’t afford to pay,” Gregg said. “And why did they run up those obligations? So the people running for office in California could get elected.”


    Dodd opposed the amendment, saying the federal government should have the flexibility to extend aid to struggling states.

    “In certain circumstances, local governments or state governments have made irresponsible choices,” Dodd said. “But you don’t blame the entire population of that state or locality because some leadership has made a bad choice.”

    Exactly, competition during elections, followed by decentralization of responsibility. It’s how the system is primed to work, and a different outcome couldn’t have been expected!

  37. real name Says:

    i want to make clear dependency democracy=growing debt per gdp isn’t correct
    unfortunately i did not find more complete one for totalitarian state (wave should follow:)

  38. Steve Says:

    @ CT #35: This comment is a good one and applies to the topic of fiscal irresponsibility. The Parkour example was misquoted (it said just the opposite) and didn’t apply to the topic. Wiki didn’t steal anything from the Chinese. They said that Jackie Chan practiced a form of Parkour before the rules were laid out and was a compliment to him and his style. I have no idea why that would upset you.

  39. Nimrod Says:

    S. K. Cheung,

    Is Canada’s situation structurally different? You’d be more knowledgable. I would be happy to know the differences.

    With that said, how are the occupants of the highest echelons of a corporation installed there? Are they chosen by the “workers”, who certainly have a stake in the success of the company, and who, like “civil servants”, are the people that make the corporation hum? Or are they chosen by the shareholders of the company, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of corporate success, but who would also be the ultimate victims of corporate failure? If we are to discuss the concept of China Inc, then who are China Inc’s shareholders?

    I believe the highest echelons are formed by internal promotion following a period of mentoring and demonstrated work. So they are all meritocratic civil servants, not agents. I understand your concern about accountability, and a strict, contractual form of relationship that assumes adversarial and distrusting qualities such as people choosing the leaders ostensibly get you that. But I can’t easily convince you of how a less professional, and more familial relationship between the people and the leaders could have worked in China, except to say that it has. It permeates Chinese family, business, and social life. It requires both sides to willingly participate in it.

  40. Nimrod Says:

    real name,

    So you’ve shown that the max of debt/GDP of China is still no more than the min of debt/GDP of UK or US over hundreds of years. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

  41. Wahaha Says:

    With that said, how are the occupants of the highest echelons of a corporation installed there? Are they chosen by the “workers”, who certainly have a stake in the success of the company, and who, like “civil servants”, are the people that make the corporation hum?

    When a lion is full, he wont chase any food. Human being is human being cuz he wants more foods to save or for other purpose.

    It is naive to expect “civil servants” in government or believe “人之初,性本善” ( as one greedy person can make 100 people greedy; but it will be lucky that if 1 generous person can make a single person 善.) The reason why Maxism failed miserably on economy, is because it forbad greediness. Western democracy will fail too, as it doesnt put any limits on greediness.

  42. ChinkTalk Says:


    Steve, please have a look at this http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8879279

    This is typical of how Parkour is presented. Go to any news clip and you will see that there is never any mention of Chinese input in this. This is stealing.

  43. Josef Says:

    What is the definition of “large” in the original conclusion?
    “there are no large, fiscally sound democratic countries”
    Would Germany count as large?

    I don’t agree to the “straight forward conclusion” that political parties naturally would promise unrealistic benefits, especially in rich countries. Here you can also win votes with conservative “no experiments” arguments. Especially the European political parties are either “left (spending)” or “right (saving)”. And finally: the voting people are not so stupid.

    Also there is no such lobbying as you have in the U.S. But here anyway, a more accurate definition of “corruptness” needs to be made, as to my experience, Chinese people have a very large definition of corruptness. i.e. very soon someone is called “corrupt” where westerners might call it just incorrect. To rv’s comment in 30 and 33,- I guess you refer with the DPP example to Chen Shui Bian’s case: Every action which happened during that time is now reviewed under the aspect of bribery,- I have never seen something like that before. But certainly a president should be active as he is also bound to his promises he made to the people. Anyway, I don’t regard that as a good example and it is going off topic.

    The Greece case is a new situation. It was just too tempting to believe that rich northern European countries would finance the Greece-Euro printing machine. I expect after this escalation the responsibility will get back to “normal”. And finally, you have now hedge funds and financial institutions which are so powerful to challenge even countries. Again, lending money to Greece was not so high risk, as to a certain level you could count on the community. That might also explain the “irresponsible” behavior rather than straight forward assuming you can votes with it.

  44. Wahaha Says:

    Would Germany count as large?

    I don’t agree to the “straight forward conclusion” that political parties naturally would promise unrealistic benefits, especially in rich countries. Here you can also win votes with conservative “no experiments” arguments. Especially the European political parties are either “left (spending)” or “right (saving)”. And finally: the voting people are not so stupid.

    1) German are famous for their self-disciplined behavior.

    2) In Europe, especially northern Europe, people are highly unanimous on almost all important issues. Media has only one voice, hence free opinions. You want to know what if media cant share same opinions ? see what Clinton sex scandal has done to American society.

    3) “finally: the voting people are not so stupid.” where did you get this conclusion ? If you were right, Greece wouldnt have been in such big mess.

    4) “as to a certain level you could count on the community.”
    Do you know the financial situation in New York ? they are firing teachers, closing fire departments, closing hospitals, cutting police patrol, even cutting money for students’ traffic, even mayor Bloomberg has never been submissive to Unions.(you know why he didnt have to? cuz he paid his own campaign.)
    You have no idea of what real world is when there are lot of poor people.

    Now, next time, when a candidate promises getting money for you, ask him WHOSE MONEY HE IS GONNA CUT SO HE HAS MONEY TO GIVE TO YOU, ( dont listen to his forever-right nonsense like “people deserve blah blah…”) CUZ IT MIGHT BE THE MONEY FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION HE IS GONNA CUT.

  45. Wukailong Says:

    @Josef: There’s been discussions on what constitutes corruption before. I think Transparency International is the best we have at the moment. They produce annual data on perceived corruption, country by country:


    Note that this is an index of perception. I’ve heard criticism of it before but I think we need some sort of quantitative index here, otherwise corruption just becomes whatever every poster chooses to make of it. I once read an opinion that every country is equally corrupt, which is obviously absurd.

    @All: As for differences between the US and other democracies, I apply it on a case-per-case basis:

    * I never knew about filibusters and one-year campaigns until I read about these things occurring in the US. They’re not specific for democracy us such.
    * Lobbying works differently from country to country.
    * As Josef pointed out, in many European countries you can actually get votes for being fiscally restrained.
    * There are a number of different electoral systems: some are proportional, usually leading to a larger group of parties, whereas others are like the US where you basically only have two parties. There are also a range in between the two.

  46. Wahaha Says:

    I once saw on TV that a governer said ” I was not elected to raise taxes.” and he was applauded for 1 min.

    Now that, is a politician hollow talk, cuz what it implys is that “I am sorry, I dont have money to help you”.

    Most Americans dislike lawyers, and most politicians are lawyers, get pictures ?

    Dont listen to lawyers’ promiseS, it is like tissues he just used in restroom, ASK HIM WHERE HE WILL GET THE MONEY.

  47. Nimrod Says:

    Hi Josef,

    If we take a metropolitan area to be 10 million people, and if we have more than a handful of these areas and surrounding cultural regions, then we get a rough idea about what is “large”. I consider Germany to be on the “large” side of things, but ultimately not so large. Germany is the equivalent of one, at most two, provinces in China. All of EU, now that is “large”.

    I don’t agree to the “straight forward conclusion” that political parties naturally would promise unrealistic benefits, especially in rich countries. Here you can also win votes with conservative “no experiments” arguments. Especially the European political parties are either “left (spending)” or “right (saving)”. And finally: the voting people are not so stupid.

    Some things are “sticky”. Once you vote them in, you practically can’t vote them out. “No experiment” at most says don’t add to benefits. And here’s the thing. I also don’t think the relationship is so straightforward as if you have elections, you have fiscal irresponsibility. There are other constraints. But an electoral system may remove one of these many constraints. That’s all I’m saying. And if it’s so, then all other constraints being equal, we should see some statistical effects of this one fewer constraint in aggregate. Won’t be true for every case, but on average we may see it.

    Also I think people are very smart about their own affairs. They get less and less smart (and care less and less of the consequences) about affairs farther removed from their own situation. That’s why I supposed that a difference may exist between large and small communities. Your last comment about Greece relying on the EU is actually a manifestation of this, isn’t it? Essentially, German voters have been all along voting for EU/ECB policies that subsidized Greek consumption. I bet they didn’t know the extent to which this was going on since it was too far removed from their personal affairs.

  48. Wukailong Says:

    Some more comments on the differences between the US and Europe:

    * There isn’t the same general contempt for lawyers in the Europe than you have in the US. They simple don’t have as much power or influence. The US is the legalist country par excellence, and while other Western countries tend to take issues to court more often than, for example, than the Japanese, it’s still not close to the US extent.

    * Lawyers are more prone to become politicians in some countries, but I’m not sure this holds in general. A quick look at the careers of Swedish politicians showed a large amount of economists and engineers, but very few jurists. Then again lawyer isn’t a very common career there.

    * Americans are more afraid than others of taxes. Saying that you’re not going to raise taxes work there but not necessarily in other countries.

    * The idea that government is evil is profoundly American and you don’t really find it anywhere else. In other Western countries, people are afraid of the government poking at civil liberties, but they don’t generally suspect the government administration as such.

    * European membership in trade unions is generally higher than in the US and people do not view them as negatively as in the US.

    As for media in Northern Europe, from my experience it might be unanimous in questions that divide America, but debate is quite lively in other ways (about whether to raise or lower taxes, for example 😉 ).

  49. Wukailong Says:

    @Nimrod: How about designating countries with 100 million inhabitants or more as “large”? That would work out with your stats as well.

  50. S. K. Cheung Says:

    “Corruption” – there’s a word for which I think most would agree carries a negative connotation. And I imagine corruption in government is something that most people would rather not see, and that’s certainly true among the views offered around here of late. But as WKL suggests, corruption seems difficult to quantify. So beyond anecdotes and conjecture, if we are to evaluate systems of governance, how are we to use “corruption”, or preferably the lack thereof, as a metric? Unless and until such a metric for corruption is identified, each person will see what they want to see…not that there’s anything wrong with that. So in that spirit, I’d offer up the anecdotal observation that there seems to be no shortage of corruption in the CCP. I’d also offer up the observation that, if it’s easy to corrupt 2, 3, or other multiples of parties, would it necessarily be easier or harder to corrupt one.

    To Wahaha:
    I like that Chinese phrase. The benevolence of humanity is a nice concept. But I’m not suggesting that “civil servants” are greedy, or corrupt, or evil. I was simply suggesting that, whatever they are, they need to be held accountable. I actually think you would agree with that. Where I think we disagree is to whom they should be accountable. And I think we’re each quite clear on where the other stands on that.

    To Nimrod:
    parliamentary systems is not my field, but I’ll try to give a summation from the vantage point of a lay user thereof, particularly in its differentiation from (my understanding of) the US system. And I’ll restrict comments to the federal level:
    1. We have 5 parties that run in federal elections, + independents. 4 parties run a full slate (ie a candidate in every riding in the country). Currently, in our Parliament, 4 federal parties are represented + 2 independents. Of those 5 federal parties, 1 only represents Quebec. One is right of center, one is center, and one is left. Plus we have the Green Party, which would probably be considered left on the conventional political spectrum. By definition, our country is not “with us or against us”; we have shades of gray that are more distinct than simply moderate Republican or hawkish Democrat. Our government is also reflective of our people in that there may be more accommodation for social entitlements (like health care) and more restriction on philosophical entitlements (like guns).
    2. we don’t have a Congressional Budget Office that churns out numbers on how much things will cost. But we do have an Auditor-General who goes back to see how much things actually did cost. The last time the Auditor General dropped the hammer, it ultimately cost 2 prime ministers their jobs, and the ruling federal party at the time has lost 2 federal elections since. THe auditor general can’t prevent corruption, but there are consequences that might serve as a cautionary tale when it finds some.
    3. we don’t have filibusters. Government can expedite “reading” of a bill to the point of a vote if she wants to.
    4. on the one hand, if the people give the government a majority mandate, that provides substantial clout as befits such confidence from the voters.
    5. on the other hand, we can have minority government as we do currently (we don’t really do coalitions like the Brits and many European countries), in which the government has to tread lightly and seek compromise.
    6. our elections take about 2-3 months.

    So Canadians have more variety of political philosophies that they can support, which span a broader range of the political spectrum. Obviously, politicians have to “perform” during their mandate, but they don’t have to campaign actively for large parts of it. We don’t let a vocal minority paralyze our process, but when voters are significantly out of unison, we have a mechanism that forces the government to compromise. And we have an anti-corruption mechanism that is obviously imperfect, but at least has some real teeth. Does our system in any way guarantee more fiscal responsibility? No. But it offers a different approach, much like the Europeans have their own approaches.

    I actually agree with you that the results of China’s system in the last 30 years speak for themselves. Where I think we disagree is that i don’t see anything structurally or mechanistically in that system that ensures similar results in the next 30 years. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect political system. What I’d like to see is people having the system of their choice. As you say, “I can’t easily convince you of how a less professional, and more familial relationship between the people and the leaders could have worked in China, except to say that it has. It permeates Chinese family, business, and social life. It requires both sides to willingly participate in it.” It’s that respective willingness that interests me.

  51. Chan Says:

    Great effort Nimrod.

    Hello everyone. Long tme no see!

    At the invitation of DeWang (Huaren), I came to check out jxie’s comment above.

    I am glad to see knowledgeable people such as jxie contributing in FM. I agree with the gist of what he said.

    However something in his comment caught my attention. And I feel the urge to chime in to leave a quick comment, specifically regarding his comment : “… no system is inherently good or bad, but rather how well it gets executed”

    While I agree with the view, I thought it might be worth elaborating in case it leads some to the wrong conclusions.

    No-one should confuse good and bad with suitability. I am of the view that no system is inherently bad, but some systems are inherently NOT suitable for some countries. In particular, democracies are generally speaking NOT suitable for poor developing countries with an uneducated population.

    The reasons are as specified in my earlier article on democracy :


    ( Just passing by. Catch you all again some other time )

  52. r v Says:


    You are correct that one shouldn’t believe in a lawyer’s promises. As a lawyer, I can tell you that ethical lawyers can’t give any promises of results to the clients. Unfortunately, too many unethical lawyers become politicians.

    I have a saying: “A good lawyer ARGUE and DISPUTE laws without guarantees. A bad lawyer PREACH and SELL politics as miracle substitute.”

  53. ChinkTalk Says:

    Chan, I am only a very minor lurker on this blog but I enjoy your contributions and you have my vote and support to lead a more active role on this blog.

  54. r v Says:

    The Multi-party system’s anti-corruption mechanisms are obviously ineffective and waste of time, without doubt. Changing of candidates without change of the backstage influence actors is about as effective as putting a layer of paint over moldy bread.

    A one-party system may also be susceptible to corruption, undoubtedly. However, it is much CLEARER in a one-party system who are the influence actors. The one-party in power is also the one wielding all the influence. There is no politician who wields influence for the benefit of some hidden much more powerful organizations. Corruption for the ruling party is self-defeating and meaningless. The party steals from its own influence of the people in corruption, and in each corruption, the party gives away power to other organizations. (There is an analogy: The Saudi King can build a multi-billion dollar palace, and it would not be corrupt, because he is using his own money. If the Saudi King wishes to waste his own money today, he will have less money tomorrow. Similarly, if the CCP gives high power to an idiot, the CCP will have less power to wield.)

    The point is well argued in some recent Western Law school articles, that in a single party political system (such as CCP or Saudi Arabia), Corruption is inherently self-defeating or meaningless over the long run. And in effect, over the long term, the corrupt politicians in a single party system will simply lose power and influence, because they are “owned” by someone else, prone to blackmail.

  55. r v Says:

    Relating to my earlier comments about debt ownership by foreign investors and high speculation in the Western market: 2 news items broke out in the last day or two.

    (1) US regulators decided to experimentally put in place “speed bumps” in the stock markets. Last week, the Dow inexplicably dropped nearly 1000 point, only to recover by about 700 point, all within the matter of a few minutes. Regulators could not identify what caused this sudden blip that nearly spooked the market. The new “speed bumps” are designed to halt stock trading if the market dropped more than say 10% within a span of 5 minutes.

    However, it should be noted that this may be the historical first time that US has decided to implement such a “speed bump”. Other nations, including China, and several EU countries already have such “speed bumps” in place.

    (2) Germany, in a surprising move, announced that it will BAN certain types of speculative trade, such as some bonds in its bond market, to reduce fluctuations and panic in the market. Investors were generally not pleased with this announcement. Asian markets were down after the news.

    While I think reducing speculative trade in the bond market is a good thing, I think BANNING these trades AFTER the speculators are already in, is bit like locking up the chicken coop AFTER the fox has already broken in. Rather pointless. You may not let the speculators trade, but they can still speculate in other ways. Banks can be bought and sold, and their holdings of the bond will be transferred.

    Overall, I can see that the Western governments, are increasingly resorting to methods that they long humbugged to control their rather out of control free markets. Some may even call this moving toward “socialism”?! “Speed bumps” to stop trading? BANNING bond trading? (which is also for the admitted purpose of manipulating and stabilizing the Euro as a currency) Aren’t these just a little too outside of the rules, and done too often now to be exceptions?

  56. Josef Says:

    rv, 3 comments on your entry 54:

    If in Germany the government changes from Conservatives to Social Democrats, the backstage influence actors are completely different. For the first party you have industry and economy based institutions, in the second case you have unions and idealistic groups.

    Your Saudi King example lacks the fact, that it is not his money he wastes. Previous East European Communistic governments did build their palaces indeed for their own with the resources of the people, but we can call that Corruption. It is not the single CCP member, but the whole party.

    One could look at Taiwan again, and the time of KMT one party rule, and compare it with today, again KMT ruling within a democracy. I would call today’s situation less corrupt than the past.

  57. real name Says:

    ad 54
    i have absolutely opposite opinion
    one party (CPP) is something different than corrupted people inside want to have own personal profit (they do not corrupt for party), for such system is easier fight against protesting people than avoid roots of corruption
    to really lower corruption means make all possible things predefined, public and verifiable (here take big part also state-independent media), that is that clearer you’re calling for
    multi party system has to be one kind of concurrence – have a look how china changed after made market more free and influence of state-owned enterprises lowered, maybe you will say every private enterprise wants own profit only and customers can’t have profit from it? it is more effective soviet’s one company will massively produce one kind of goods?

  58. real name Says:

    ad 40
    as i wrote i’m trying to say there is no correlation between this parameter grow and democracy level
    you can also have a look at switzerland example, or present tightening of 3% deficit rule in euro zone
    or norway with it’s (for present china large) debt but with offsets and possibilities to clean it in short term – they do not do it
    one i know did it was ceaucesku – that undemocratic ceaucestu who also caused it

  59. Wukailong Says:

    @SKC (#50): While corruption is difficult to quantify, I believe we have to choose the stats that are available. The numbers from Transparency International are probably the best ones at the moment. Corruption as a concept is of no use if it’s just subjectively defined.

  60. Wahaha Says:

    I like that Chinese phrase. The benevolence of humanity is a nice concept. But I’m not suggesting that “civil servants” are greedy, or corrupt, or evil. I was simply suggesting that, whatever they are, they need to be held accountable. I actually think you would agree with that. Where I think we disagree is to whom they should be accountable. And I think we’re each quite clear on where the other stands on that.

    Of course I agree they who corrupt should be held accountable, but I also believe that people, yes, people, should also be hold accountable for their wrongdoing and irresponsible behavior, like the people in Greece. It is ridiculous to think people are always right, that is bullsh!t. Actually, people are rarely right for the big-scale issues and long-run issues.

    2nd, about corruption, why do we have to fight corruption ? to allocate more wealth to the people. So it is pointless and foolish to alter the situation into another situation under which people get even less. That, is my point.

    Like the earthquake in Haiti and YuShu of China, in Haiti, the rescue effort couldnt be carried out effectively cuz of airport. and in YuShu, in such a remote area, the government can afford building an airport, where did the money come from ? Think of the current oil-leaking crisis in Mexico gulf, it needs billions of dollars, where will the government get the money to help those people who lost their jobs cuz of the crisis ?

    To me, it is obvious that under the system in China, people get far more money (though maybe not directly) than under the deomcratic system. That doesnt mean we should tolerate the corruption, but it is stupid to say “let people control the money”, that is as naive and stupid as a person can be, as it actually means “let the few rich control the money”.

    Of course, you will have less corruption under democratic system, they dont have to be corruptive, or there are legal ways to get hefty payments from the rich. Think of that, how many politicians are consultants of big companys ? is it corruption ? do you think they will vote against the interests of the companys ? hell no!!!.

  61. r v Says:


    The Saudi Arabian government is an Islamic absolute monarchy in form. By definition, every part of Saudi Arabian treasury is owned by the sovereign King of Saudi Arabia. That means, it’s all his money. I do not imply that CCP or any other 1 party system can claim the same ownership for the national treasury. I was merely drawing an analogy that the 1 party is the sole owner of political power in a 1 party system.

    As for Taiwan, some would argue that corruption is still rampant. Let’s face it, “black gold” driven underground simply becomes legalized political lobbying. Mafias can turn to legitimate businesses, extortion become campaign contributions.

  62. Raj Says:

    However, it is much CLEARER in a one-party system who are the influence actors.

    r v, with respect that’s complete nonsense. In China no one knows who really pulls the strings. Yes, the President and Prime Minister technically hold the power, but there are so many factions in the CCP that they cannot do as they like all the time. No one can be sure who they have to make concessions to, who is holding the effective veto, who will only back a decision if they get something in return, etc. The one party systems are by far the least transparent of all.

    If you have secret sources, maybe things are clear to you. But to mere mortals trying to work out who is deciding policy, promotions and other important decisions in the Chinese political system at any one time is like trying to find a pepper corn in a lake of mud.

    Let’s look at, for example, the leadership contest in the UK for the Conservative Party that selected its current leader, now Prime Minister – David Cameron. Nothing is perfect, but anyone who does a bit of research can easily find out who chose him as leader. He survived a number of rounds of voting by Conservative MPs and then beat his opponent, David Davis, in a straight vote of the Conservative Party membership. The result was certainly not decided in advance.

    Can anyone tell me the step-by-step voting results that led to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao being made President and Prime Minister respectively? To be clear, I’m talking about the actual decision-making process, not any public relations rubber-stamping.

  63. r v Says:


    With respect, I don’t think it really matters much which individual in CCP is “pulling the strings”. It’s the 1 party. It has the power, it gets all the blame or praise. It’s not like anyone in the West or East would excuse the rest of the CCP, or make distinctions between factions.

    “Transparency” has often been attributed to “anti-corruption”. Frankly, that’s a leap of faith. “A bit of research” in UK?? Give me a break. That’s like finding mud in a lake of mud and saying “that looks like a pepper corn”. To use your analogy. The result in UK was limited in possibilities.

    The factions in the CCP might offer more choices. And I think I repeat myself again, but you are probably going to repeat yourself again. Just because you don’t see or understand the decision-making process in the CCP, don’t assume there isn’t one, or it’s mere “rubber-stamping”.

  64. ChinkTalk Says:

    I am still trying to figure out who murdered Princess Diana……………….

  65. Hong Konger Says:



    Wonder no more….MI 6 did.

    According to the owner of Harrods, Mohammed Al Fayed, “It is my firm belief that Britain’s racist establishment found [the Diana/Dodi] relationship utterly unacceptable, and so conspired with the intelligence services to have them killed. My repeated appeals for a full public inquiry in Britain into the Paris tragedy have been rejected out of hand by the prime minister, Tony Blair and the home secretary, Jack Straw but I shall never abandon my fight for disclosure of the full facts.”


    There are those who cannot accept that an Egyptian from a modest background should have become the owner of Harrods, a shop they considered a part of their heritage. Others reckon me beyond the pale because of my part in revealing corruption in the highest places. For a few, I suspect, it is simply a matter of racism; though they would never dream of saying so in public, they despise foreigners – especially those with crinkly hair and dark skins. Behind the scenes, the extreme right-wing in Britain still wields enormous influence particularly in the press and the corridors of unelected power. In my experience these people are ruthless in their determination and will stop at nothing to achieve their ends.

  66. tinus Says:

    Hi everybody,

    I am new here, and somewhat of a simplistic thinker. So forgive me for the following:

    “Does democracy *cause* fiscal irresponsibility?”

    Answer: NO

    Proof: non-democratic countries have shown to be fiscal irresponsible as well.

    First, economy is not an exact science, so what is fiscally responsible cannot always be deduced beforehand. Next there is human fallability: we simply lack the brain matter so see where things are going. Also, there is the eternal struggle between self interest and the common good, short term and long term.

    New question:

    What dynamics within a democratic society or an authoritarian one lead to almost certain fiscally irresponsible behaviour?

    Have a nice day!

  67. Raj Says:

    r v (63)

    You said yourself that it was CLEARER (your emphasis not mine) who the “influence actors” were in a one-party system. Now you’re saying that it doesn’t matter who’s pulling the strings? Come on, if you’re going to do a U-turn at least admit you were wrong the first time.

    Factions would be criticised if there was transparency and people knew what they were demanding. But because it’s all behind closed doors, no one knows who does what!

    ChinkTalk (64)

    It’s not funny to joke about that.

    Hong Konger (65)

    The word of a crazy old man who changed his own name to make himself sound more important is worthless. Please don’t derail this thread any further with off-topic rubbish.

  68. ChinkTalk Says:

    Raj (67)

    I am not Joking

  69. ChinkTalk Says:

    And I mean I am not joking

  70. ChinkTalk Says:

    Why was Princess Diana murdered????????


    Now that is a joke!!!!!!!!

  71. Steve Says:

    @ CT: Nimrod put a lot of time and research into this excellent post and discussion. You’re spamming it. If you continue to do so, your comments will be put into moderation.

    @ HKer: Please, no conspiracy theories. There are plenty of other websites and blogs for that. Let’s try to keep this about China, at least peripherally.

  72. r v Says:


    “You said yourself that it was CLEARER (your emphasis not mine) who the “influence actors” were in a one-party system. Now you’re saying that it doesn’t matter who’s pulling the strings? Come on, if you’re going to do a U-turn at least admit you were wrong the first time.”

    I think you are nitpicking on the “individual” who, as I said. Who cares which “individual” has more influence than other individuals within the SAME party? Who care which “faction” within a UK political party has more influence than others?! I also said “The one-party in power is also the one wielding all the influence.” Obviously, I was not talking about different individuals within the party. Do you have something more to comment on the TOTALITY of my comments, or do you just want to comment piecemeal on my comments?

    “Factions would be criticised if there was transparency and people knew what they were demanding. But because it’s all behind closed doors, no one knows who does what!”

    Interesting, do the UK parties factions provide total disclosure on how they pick/elect who was going to be the leader, or should we just call that also “rubber stamping”? Which political party in the world does not have “behind closed doors” party politicking? “Transparency”?!

  73. Steve Says:

    As I was looking at the “Democracy Index” map, it occurred to me that the countries with the greatest degree of democracy were also the countries that had the greatest number of immigrants and potential immigrants. In other words, they were what one might consider the most desirable places to live on the planet if that metric is based on immigration patterns over the past 100 years. Just an observation…

  74. ChinkTalk Says:

    @ Steve 73

    Was Hong Kong a democracy under British rule?

    I recently met a retired policeman from Hong Kong and he was telling me about this British police superintendent or some high level police administrator who was responsible for some of the most blatent corruption practices in Hong Kong before the formation of the ICAC.

    That Brtish official was later charged and convicted. But the Queen pardoned him for his outstanding service for the colony. And when he left Hong Kong, he literally gave the finger to the Chinese people.

    Why don’t you look at if the large influx of immigrants are from former colonies because I believe that the British pilfer its colonies thus all the locals want to leave.

    From what I could see, the most desired period to move out of Hong Kong was during the British rule, but countries like Canada did not allow easy entrance till around the 1980’s. When the flood gate opened, it became a fad for the Hong Kong Chinese to come to Canada. But since then over 200,000 went back to Hong Kong and China. And now we don’t get a lot of immigrants from Hong Kong nor China. The largest number of immigrants to Canada today are from India. Matter of fact, the Canadian immigration office for processing Chinese applications is located in Mumbai, India. The is such a decline in Chinese applications that Canada has closed its offices in China and process via India because of the large volume from India.

    So if you are using immigration as a metric for democracy, how do you explain the influx of people trying to escape India.

    Afterall, India is the biggest democracy in the world.

  75. S. K. Cheung Says:

    To CT:
    no, HK was not a democracy under British rule. It was a colony.

    It’s interesting that you bring up HK police corruption and the ICAC. One of the 5 allegedly most corrupt cops in HK prior to the late 1970’s recently died in Canada. He was charged, I believe, but had never been brought to trial because he had fled, and brought his ill-gotten gains to Canada.

    While you can certainly view emigration from HK as a phenomenon occurring DURING British rule, it is equally true that it occurred BEFORE the 1997 handover. But if you asked those emigrating to other lands whether they were escaping British rule, or escaping from the prospects of being under future CCP rule, I think you’d get an interesting answer. Speaking for my family, it was most definitely the latter.

    It’s also true that many went back to HK to work after getting their Canadian citizenship. In fact, the joke between my buddies and me was that, if one wanted to get hitched, just walk down the street in HK with your Canadian citizenship card around your neck.

    In looking at the “democracy map”, it seems the most democratic places are the US and Canada, western Europe, Australia, and Scandinavia. Those places do seem like popular destinations for emigration, with the possible exception of Scandinavia. In that instance, my guess is that it’s not that people don’t like democracy, but maybe they’re not so fond of winter. Likewise, people leaving India probably aren’t so much escaping democracy as they are to be in search of a better livelihood.

  76. ChinkTalk Says:

    Steve, this might interest you:

    “””BEIJING – Chinese government officials and academics have started planning the country’s first draft immigration law to better manage the increasing number of immigrants.”””


  77. HKer Says:

    # 65


    Lighten up! And mind your manners, dude.
    # 71


    Apologies. I was responding to Chink Talk in Jess.

  78. Wukailong Says:

    @CT (#74): What you’re saying doesn’t contradict Steve’s observation. Obviously he didn’t mean that democracies as such attract immigrants, but rather that the countries with the highest democracy indices get the most immigrants. That’s quite a difference. India is a democracy, but due to the corruption and poverty it isn’t very attractive for immigrants. This isn’t exactly rocket science.

    On the other hand, the link in #75 was interesting. Obviously China, as it gets more developed and creates more job opportunities that are interesting for foreigners, is going to get more immigration. Still, considering that it granted permanent residence to 311 (!) persons last year, it still has some way to go.

    I like the low-key description in the article when it says that “Beijing lifted restrictions on foreigners’ accommodation in 2003, allowing them to choose dwelling places freely and even to lodge in Chinese homes.” Yeah, even in Chinese homes, wow! I remember the situation back in the year 2000 when you had to pay higher rental costs than you do now if you were a foreigner. Of course, officially, this was all for your safety or even a way to show what great hosts the Chinese were, but in reality, the police would make periodic round-ups and throw any non-Chinese inhabitants out of the “Chinese areas,” and the prices didn’t match the standard of the accommodation. I’m glad these days are gone.

    Alright, I’m being OT. Sorry for that.

  79. Wukailong Says:

    Sorry, the article said that 311 were granted permanent residence in Beijing and not the whole of China. My mistake.

  80. ChinkTalk Says:

    @S.K.Cheung 75

    “”” But if you asked those emigrating to other lands whether they were escaping British rule, or escaping from the prospects of being under future CCP rule, I think you’d get an interesting answer. Speaking for my family, it was most definitely the latter.

    SKC, how come you or your family didn’t go to Great Britain?

    Afterall, Hong Kong was a British colony and I would imagine that all of the Hong Kong people with British passports would be able to emigrate to Great Britain like the people from India.

  81. Nimrod Says:

    People emigrate to get a better quality of life, however they individually define it. For poor people it will be to get a job to survive, any job. For professionals it will be to get a well-paying or enriching job for personal development. For rich people it will be to enjoy a good atmosphere for living. So it’s not surprising that economically strong countries get immigrants, “laid back” countries get immigrants, and the countries both economically strong and “laid back” get the most immigrants. Democracy per se doesn’t have much to do with it, but some degree of personal liberty, private property protection, and socio-political power may be important to people from the middle class up.

  82. ChinkTalk Says:

    @81 Nimrod

    I agree with everything you have said.

    It is interesting to note that the old timers (lo wa kiew) came to Canada with the expectation of returning to China once they have earned enough money. For most of them, they died in destitution. New Westminster had one of BCs oldest Chinatowns and selected cemetaries still have the bones of these old timers waiting to be shipped back to China.

    BTW, for the last decade, a growing number of immigrants from Germany, Britain and whites from South Africa have been coming to Canada.

  83. S. K. Cheung Says:

    To CT #80:
    good question. I’d have to ask my parents to be sure. The first reason that comes to mind is that we had family and friends already in Canada, whereas we didn’t know anyone in Britain (and to this day I don’t know anyone who lives in Britain). Also, they were fond of the Canadian education system as compared to the British one, and they were quite familiar with the British one having gone through school in HK themselves.

    To Nimrod #81:
    what you say is true. At best, if those economically strong and “laid back” countries happened to be “democratic”, it would be as association and hardly proof of causality. That said, one wonders whether there are economically strong and “laid back” countries abound that are “not democratic” yet are havens for immigration.

  84. Rhan Says:

    “That said, one wonders whether there are economically strong and “laid back” countries abound that are “not democratic” yet are havens for immigration.”

    Hong Kong? They keep on coming back and keep on criticizing.

  85. S. K. Cheung Says:

    To Rhan,
    I don’t understand your point. HK is not a country. I’m not sure if HK has a large influx of immigrants…but at this point you’d be talking about immigrants to China who choose to live in HK, since HK is a part of China.

  86. Rhan Says:

    Hi SKC,
    I don’t know what HK is, they attend Olympic and many other event under the name of HK. It is a city with so many ethnic from different part of the world. If HK will to allow immigration or loosen the migration law, I think many would apply to become a citizen. My point is, if HK though not a democratic society has the potential to become an havens of immigration, I think the rest of China would have the same possibility in the near future. Of course the rule of law needs improvement.

    Ten years back I attended a course given by a professor from Taiwan, he predicted there will be a shift of migration to the East in future like what happen to America in the past, I doubt his claim by looking at the number of population from each region, however, I would not tell it is not likely to happen.

    Singapore is another good case for reference. I doubt those who get in (mainly from China and India) and out (Singaporean) care much about democracy.

  87. jxie Says:

    You can search for net migration rate by country. You will find the leaders are Macau, a handful of Caribbean countries and oil-rich Middle East countries. The surprising leaders are Afghanistan and Liberia — the shorter version of the story seems to be war refuge repatriation. For the countries/areas in question, Singapore > Canada, Hong Kong > US.

    For the duration while East Asian immigration to mainland US and Canada were legally blocked, a large number of Japanese immigrated to Brazil. The peak of the Japanese immigration to Brazil, which was also the peak of eastward migration before the World War 2 from East Asia to continental America, happened at a time when Brazil was ruled by a military junta and then a dictator.

  88. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Rhan,
    I’m not sure I’d use Olympic teams as the metric for what constitutes a country. After all, Chinese Taipei also marches as its own team, and we all know how far that “country” designation goes. Like I said earlier, I don’t know if those who want to emigrate to HK apply to HK directly, or if they apply to China with the intent of relocating to HK after being first accepted into China. But if people do apply to HK directly, then I agree that they aren’t doing so on the basis of “democracy”. However, one does need to consider where people are coming from, and whether HK, though not democratic, is still an upgrade from where they came.

    Singapore is certainly not very democratic. Based on what JXie says, she still enjoys a net influx of people that is greater than what Canada sees. I must say that is surprising. But those people are also not choosing Singapore owing to her democratic bonafides (unless they were again coming from a place that had even less), so democracy as a determinant of immigration must only go so far. Likewise, if China is to see a spike in immigration in the future, it would also likely not be on the basis of democracy, unless something substantial changes in the interim.

  89. Wukailong Says:

    @jxie: Is this the statistics you’re referring to?


    I agree the results are quite surprising. I wonder how they were calculated, though. I recently compared the number of people of foreign origin who got permanent residence in the US vs. Sweden, and to my surprise the Swedish numbers were higher, but apparently the EU has been letting in a lot of immigrants recently.

    @All: I think that apart from an electoral process, you also have to look at how countries are organized with regards to the rule of law. Hong Kong and Singapore might not be democracies, but they’re quite different from China and I’m not sure only small, incremental changes will get China to the same position. Governance in China is still carried out extra-constitutionally. The city states, by comparison, do everything according to their constitutions and Singapore is actually a multi-party democracy according to the letter of the law, it’s just that the ruling party has much more money and legal people on their side to keep their position. If China wants to emulate the Singaporean model it would still have to change a lot (including, for example, an independent organization that monitors corruption in the government). Some of these changes would have to be big steps rather than just muddling through incrementally.

  90. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL,
    thanks for that link. Statistics can certainly become what you want them to be. “net migration” by definition groups people coming and going as one entity. However, it cannot distinguish whether people “come” into a country for one reason but “leave” that same country for entirely different reasons. Also, a “rate” that’s defined by how many people are in a country to begin with seems fairly meaningless as a metric for immigration/emigration when you’re trying to understand the reasons underlying each. The reasons why a country may be heavily populated (or not) may have little relationship to what makes it desirable to come to, or desirable to leave. However, measuring net change in population relative to the incumbent population does seem relevant to unemployment and size of labour force, which seemed to be the focus of that graph/study.

  91. ChinkTalk Says:


    You mentioned about the Japanese moving to Brazil. One thing I notice in recent years is that there is a surprising number of Japanese in Canada on working holidays. And a lot of them are doing menial jobs like working in restaurants. And full time. Not much of a holiday.

  92. Wahaha Says:

    As I was looking at the “Democracy Index” map, it occurred to me that the countries with the greatest degree of democracy were also the countries that had the greatest number of immigrants and potential immigrants. In other words, they were what one might consider the most desirable places to live on the planet if that metric is based on immigration patterns over the past 100 years. Just an observation

    Divide them into two catogory :

    one with high degree of democracy + decent life.

    one with high degree of democracy + poor life.

  93. jxie Says:

    @WKL, got it from a different site for a different year and with a somewhat different ranking. Most of the nations are still the same. UAE, Kuwait, the handful of Caribbean island nations, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong on top of the list all have less confiscatory tax policies than the likes of Canada and the US, which is likely a major reason why they are more attractive to the would-be immigrants.

    Each has his own priorities. I very much doubt democracy by itself is high on the average immigrant’s list, and probably was a non-factor to the early generations of immigrants. When many people were having an emotional hard-on seeing people going to voting booths in Afghanistan and Iraq, the likes of Amy Chua would probably think of the numerical minorities whose liberty, properties and sometimes lives might be in danger. If not for the stronger China today who would likely really show its displeasure if the 1998 Jakarta Riot is to happen again, as a Chinese, would you rather live in Suharto’s Indonesia or a democratic Indonesia, “flawed” and all?

    @CT, there are very few Japanese immigrating to Brazil today — it was decades ago. Now the migration between Japan and Brazil is pretty much one-way: from Brazil to Japan. Despite Brazil being a democracy and racially tolerated (quite a bit more so than the US IMHO) is relatively scarcely populated, as late as 2008 of which the latest stats are available, Brazil has a slight negative net migration rate.

  94. Wukailong Says:

    @Jxie: I see. I was just wondering about the Arabic and Caribbean countries, and where all their immigration comes from. Obviously there’s a lot of internal migration in the Middle East that is hardly accounted for in mainstream media.

    Thanks for mentioning Amy Chua. I’d heard the name but never read her books. As for Iraq and Afghanistan, I never believed democracy could be introduced like that to countries divided along ethnical lines or even based on tribal structures (and without a tradition of the rule of law). Iraq is also a sad example of how ethnic problems were aggravated by the arbitrary borders decided on back in the early 20th century. It might not be as bad as Yugoslavia but very close.

    I agree with Nimrod about the quality of life as the main defining factor for immigrants. When you’re in the middle class and above, personal liberties become more important. Personally, since I live in China and not my country of origin, I have to admit that while democracy is on my balance sheet, it’s one of the few minus points compared to a larger amount of plus points.

  95. ChinkTalk Says:

    @93 jxie

    I have been to neither Japan nor Brazil, but from the pictures of all the beautiful women of Brazil and the beautifull beaches, the fun spirits of the people, I would rather emigrate to Brazil than Japan, democracy?….whatever

  96. TonyP4 Says:

    Brazil may not be that picture perfect. I watched a movie about the slum over there. I believe it is City of Gods.

  97. jxie Says:

    The word “slum” in Portuguese is “favela”. Actually the closest English word for “favela” is probably “ghetto” since both can be used as adjective in casual conversations. The backdrop of the movie City of God is Rio in late 60s to early 80s. It’s about gang violence in favelas. You can see many favelas in major Brazilian cities. As a gringo, normally it’s advised not to go into a favela, especially if you speak little Portuguese, and are not accompanies by somebody who knows the way around. It’s about as risky as inner city slums in the US. To me personally, it’s not that bad. Some of the greatest people I have met were in American inner city slums and Brazilian favelas. So long as you use common sense, learn to blend in and keep a low profile, you will be fine — and plus you may run into the next Ronaldinho…

    Brazil is booming now. Its boom can be credited to China’s rising that has driven up the prices of all commodities. Its currency against USD has more than doubled from early 00s. Once it was a cheap place to go and now everything is expensive. Brazil is also getting more assertive diplomatically, and sometimes doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the US as far as the worldview go (despite being a large “democracy” in the world).

    Before this gets totally OT. If you like the beautiful beaches and girls in Brazil, you may also like the song “The Girl from Ipanema.”

  98. ChinkTalk Says:

    Ah, yes, the girl from ipanema……

    the first time i heard that song was from sergio mendes’ brazil 66.

    mendes was not a flashy performer, but the group’s music was “encanto”….

    thanks for the memory….jxie

  99. pug_ster Says:


    I was in Sao Paulo about 9 years ago on business and I remember seeing those favelas on the way from the airport to downtown. I don’t think alot of people speak English there as I went to a restaurant a few blocks off from the downtown dist and the menus are not in English either. I dunno, I suppose that Sao Paulo and Rio are probably very different now.

  100. jxie Says:

    @Pug_ster, they are still the same. Favelas are still there and English-only can’t get you too far. You can see new buildings being erected and new highways being built, much faster than you see in the US or Canada, but nowhere near as diabolically fast as in China though.

  101. Steve Says:

    @ CT #74: Sorry to take so long to reply, I’ve been out for a few days.

    No, Hong Kong wasn’t a democracy under British rule. It was also an island and not a country, and is completely irrelevant to this discussion. In today’s world, it’s a part of China and statistically included in China’s numbers when looking at immigration by nationality.

    Your comment has nothing to do with what I wrote. I simply looked at the map Nimrod provided and noticed that the lightest colored countries were considered the most desirable countries to emigrate to. You might also notice that India isn’t one of the lightest colored countries, so I have no idea why you even mentioned them. But since you did, you might be interested in reading this white paper concerning migration out of both India and China in the coming years.

    Since we’re talking democracy vs. other styles of government, would it be better to look at per capita income throughout the world? This chart displays gross national income per capita by country. You can draw your own conclusions from it. Here are the top 50:

    Rank Countries Amount
    # 1 Luxembourg: $37,499.20 per person
    # 2 Switzerland: $36,987.60 per person
    # 3 Japan: $35,474.10 per person
    # 4 Norway: $35,053.30 per person
    # 5 United States: $33,070.30 per person
    # 6 Denmark: $30,191.50 per person
    # 7 Iceland: $27,473.80 per person
    # 8 Sweden: $25,105.50 per person
    # 9 U K: $24,486.70 per person
    # 10 Austria: $23,824.10 per person
    # 11 Netherlands: $23,770.30 per person
    # 12 Belgium: $23,639.50 per person
    # 13 Finland: $23,549.70 per person
    # 14 Germany: $23,534.80 per person
    # 15 France: $22,751.30 per person
    # 16 Ireland: $21,846.50 per person
    # 17 Brunei: $20,823.10 per person
    # 18 Canada: $20,789.50 per person
    # 19 Singapore: $20,066.00 per person
    # 20 Italy: $19,276.10 per person
    # 21 Australia: $19,213.50 per person
    # 22 UAE: $19,198.30 per person
    # 23 Israel: $17,046.40 per person
    # 24 Kuwait: $15,992.20 per person
    # 25 French Polynesia:$15,023.50 per person
    # 26 Bahamas: $15,019.20 per person
    # 27 New Caledonia:$14,793.00 per person
    # 28 Spain: $14,575.70 per person
    # 29 New Zealand: $12,639.40 per person
    # 30 Cyprus: $12,013.60 per person
    # 31 Greece: $11,342.30 per person
    # 32 Puerto Rico: $10,752.20 per person
    # 33 Bahrain: $10,527.10 per person
    # 34 Portugal: $10,316.10 per person
    # 35 Slovenia: $9,670.48 per person
    # 36 Barbados: $9,373.50 per person
    # 37 Malta: $9,125.77 per person
    # 38 Antigua & Barbuda:$9,121.25 per person
    # 39 Saint Kitts & Nevis:$7,669.53 per person
    # 40 Trinidad & Tobago: $7,263.99 per person
    # 41 Saudi Arabia: $6,851.39 per person
    # 42 Seychelles: $6,628.55 per person
    # 43 Argentina: $6,575.95 per person
    # 44 Palau: $6,512.14 per person
    # 45 Uruguay: $5,617.49 per person
    # 46 Czech Republic: $5,303.18 per person
    # 47 Mexico: $5,178.76 per person
    # 48 Oman: $4,961.89 per person
    # 49 Hungary: $4,912.72 per person
    # 50 Lebanon: $4,596.19 per person

    Since you seem to be more interested in these two countries:
    # 108 China: $865.03 per person
    # 128 India: $441.56 per person

    There are two types of immigration, one where the immigrant has plans to stay permanently and become a citizen, and another where a migrant plans to work but eventually go back to his/her native country either because they have no desire to become a citizen, or that citizenship is denied them. You can’t lump them together. Also, using statistics as a percentage of the population is misleading for obvious reasons. There are many migrants to oil producing countries in the Mideast who will never become citizens. There are also countries with small populations where an influx of immigration will produce a high rate but not a high total number. This chart is a pretty good indicator of global immigrations patterns over the last 50 years.

    Today, far more people emigrate from China than immigrate to it.

  102. TonyP4 Says:

    @Steve #101.

    There are many countries do not welcome immigrants like Japan. There are many countries where English is not the official language like Brazil. There are many countries in the list where the climate is too fierce like Arabia.

    I immigrated from Hong Kong to the US. It was ideal for me as I went to college here. Staying in US may not improve my life a lot at least I do not have a second wife, haha. The second choice was Canada and I was accepted for immigration. Britain and Australia were the third choices. I already had a British passport, but it is not the same when it was issued in Britain.

    The countries prefer immigrants with special skills, wealth, or cheap labor that the local do not want to do.

    There are a lot of refugees from China to move to Hong Kong in the 60s during Mao’s era when millions died of starvation. When Hong Kong is getting rich (HK at one time was richer than the British ruler), there are a lot of cheap laborers, music talents…from other Asian countries.

    During the 250 or so years ago when the west semi colonized China and stole its resources, poor Chinese immigrated to South East Asia. Where these hard-working Chinese go, the cities are prosperous until the local want to get rid of them shortsightedly and they have to hide their identities. Some migrated to US to build the railroad linking Chicago to Californis (similar for Canada). Now, we have sea turtles returning to China for better job offers esp. during this recession.

  103. Rhan Says:

    Hi Tony,
    “During the 250 or so years ago when the west semi colonized China and stole its resources, poor Chinese immigrated to South East Asia.”

    I doubt the migration to SEA have much to do with the West semi colonized (if I read you correctly).

    From what I know, the major migration happened during:
    1 Zhenghe voyage, we call the Chinese in Melaka Peranakan or Baba
    2 Retreat of the Ming people when Qing marched in, and the continuous resist. Main country the Chinese went is Siam, Burma and Philippines.
    3 Taiping Revolution and yes, starvation start.
    4 Between 1900 to 1940, perhaps this period we can blame the West, or the Communist, or the Nationalist, or ourselves, the Chinese.
    5 Japanese invade

  104. r v Says:

    “Sea Turtles”. That’s a great point.

    I was in HK in October of 1997, right after the hand over. HK was almost like a ghost town in some part. Obviously, the market got spooked, and it was “sell HK” season. But as I said before, the market is not rational.

    After the hand over, HK’s real estate boomed, ex-pats increased. For example, I visited Stanley, on the outskirt of HK, in 1997. It was a fishing village with virtually no access to the tourists. I had to pay a taxi to take me there for a quick stroll by the beach. In 2006, I visited Stanley again. It was a booming expat locale, with villas, shops, and restaurant. They hold their own annual dragon boat races there with many expat teams.

    People wanted to escape HK for fear of the “Communists”. Yes, well, People often bet on the wrong horses too in HK. But one thing about true HK people, (and perhaps all real Chinese), we know how to take risky bets, even if sometimes we bet on the wrong horse.

    Sometimes, we cover our bets. Li Ka Shing, the wealthiest person in HK, covered his bets. He bet on HK after the take over, and he bet on Vancouver Canada, where many HKers went to. It is, however, silly to argue if any bets are better than others.

  105. TonyP4 Says:

    This is the time when China was pretty much bankrupt after paying for the unequal treaties for the eight nations. When it was bankrupt, its citizens suffered. Qing was being overthrown and started a lot of internal wars. When folks did not have food, they had to leave the mother land. In those days, no one wanted to move to a foreign land when the basics in life were met.

    Zheng Ho was not the time when Chinese migrated to SEA as China was the richest nation in the world. I was not too surprised some Zheng Ho may traveled around the world. They did not plan to stay or colonize local natives. Some stayed due to their ships had been ruined. So, a small no. may stay but not migrated there intentionally.

    WW2 was not the time for immigration as SEA suffered too.

    Taipan was the time within the semi colonization.

    SEA is the closest to migrate for Cantonese and Fu Chow folks (coastal areas). When you compare the farm land per capita, you can tell some villages cannot provide enough food for the village and more young men in the village migrate.

    SEA is a good place for Chinese. Most natives are lazy due to easy to make a living for abundant of farm land and fish resources. Vietnam is so fertile that it has multiple harvests.

    My coconut theory. The native sleeps under a coconut tree. When the coconut drops to wake them up, they open it for food and water. After many generations, the easy life makes them lazy and stupid. It can apply to US too.

  106. TonyP4 Says:

    Chinese are practical. My migration to US must be due to escaping from communists. HK folks saw the suffering in the 60s in China. Migrating before the takeover is the right decision for most who could afford. Li’s sons were all Canadian citizens (at least have green cards).

    They bet on the old Expo place or World Trade site in Vancouver and converted it for HKers to migrate. It could be the best bet from his son.It was one of the biggest estate deal in Canada. A lot of Canadians objected. Vancouver real estate value was doubled by HKers in a short time. I do not object if some one pays me double the market price of my house.

    Li is a living legend. He looks like Buffett except he was deeply in love with his late life.

    Some high-ranked policemen had to migrate otherwise they could be caught by the anti-corruption agency long before the takeover. Today some corrupted politicians in China are doing same. When they make 5,000 a year, they can afford to buy million dollar mansion with cash.

  107. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony,
    what you describe is exactly what my parents saw. BTW, we don’t have “green cards” in Canada. We have landed immigrants/permanent residents.

    Canada definitely took in some crooked cops from HK. Not sure about China itself.

  108. Rhan Says:

    Hi Tony,
    Chinese is practical and native is lazy? I think this is exactly what the Westerner and Japanese said years ago, Westerner (Japanese) is practical, Chinese is uncivilized and lazy, otherwise how you explain a few thousand solders could make the entire Chinese (Qing Government) look like a dumb? You migrate to a country that could take your remarks as joke, or merely a personal opinion, while the Chinese from SEA have to be extremely sensitive and cautious on what we say. The sheer arrogance of some Chinese is part of the reason why overseas Chinese suffer the massacre and riot.

    Civilization progresses at its own timing and path. This is my contention toward the call for democracy to country like China. I hope Chinese don’t apply a different standard when referring to a weaker civilization or culture.

    There is some Chinese (Baba) that had been living in Malacca from Zhenghe period, it may not be a “major” migration but I am not sure how true is the history of Hang Li Po. China was the riches is like what we see now, enrich the politburo/elite but the peasants continue to live poor. I believe most of the migration was during WW2 period, as no one would believe the British and other colonies are that futile when facing the Japanese. Chinese talk about eight years’ war of resistance while SEA is much later. Fact is that most of the SEA Chinese you meet today is either the third or fourth generation.

  109. TonyP4 Says:

    #Hi S.K., At one time, all HK policemen were crooked except a few that I could not remember. It is the system. The policeman collected bribes and they had their system to distribute the brides almost all the way to the top. After HK set up an anti-corruption unit (thanks to the Brits), they had to escape or face the consequences and most went to Canada. Vancouver provides mild climate and beautiful settings. I do not really want to blame individuals but the system or our Chinese custom.

    #Hi Rhan. All folks are practical but Chinese while suffering or seeing what other suffering likely want to escape communism. We have our nationalism. But let’s face the fact. HK is pretty much founded by refugees from China. While I was a child, it had 3 million citizens. When I left for college to US, it had almost 4 million. Very substantial growth from any angle.

    Qing had prosperous time for at least for the first 3 emperors. The Coconut theory worked again. Japanese took advantage of the civil war in China. The Chinese navy almost sank the Japanese battleship. The bomb went in but it had no gun powder due to the corruption and the money was used to build the summer palace which was burned down. How ironic!

    SEA are lazy due to the better environment as I explained in my Coconut theory. If their lives were tough and the land were less fertile, there would not be too many Chinese migrated over there. The problem is they control the economy over there but not the government. The jealousy from the natives is natural. Without the Chinese, they will not be that prosperous and they lead a simpler life that is a good thing.

    The Chinese cadet or higher rank said something about the local Chinese in Indonesia helping the mother land. It started a riot. Indonesians were very shortsighted. They looted, killed, and raped. They committed crimes. The Chinese in SEA provide more benefits to their adopted countries than they take back. Well, Indonesia is not as educated as US and Canada. That’s why they’re still lacking behind even with a lot of natural resources.

    I saw a mini series on overseas Chinese. they suffer most when they migrated to developing countries like Cuba and India. Why they chose these countries is beyond me.

  110. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi r.v. Yes, there was a ghost town by that period. Some factory regions were ghost towns with factories closing down and no jobs for factory workers. People can adept. Most HKers closed their factories and moved them to South China and became managers/owners. Then, we have social problems. Most owners/managers have second wives in S.China (unless they’;re gay, old, impotent or having very high moral standard) and many children born by their relationship (partly due to Chinese men do not like to use condoms). HK government at one time refused them to move to HK as it would screw up the HK education system…

    Stanley is on the southern part of HK island and not a commercial area. It is good for tourists and quieter (relatively speaking).

    Most HKers are practical. While they’re still making good money in HK, most have residency in Canada and their families living in Canada. They travel between the two cities and they’re known as ‘astronauts’. S.K. can describe it better.

    There are many books about Li Ka Shing. I read one and his life is fascinating. He is successful in life, not just making money. HK wealthy folks get most of the money because of China and most give back a lot to China.

  111. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Tony, LOL, I haven’t heard “astronauts” in quite some time. Astronaut in Chinese is literally translated as “space person” with 3 words. “space” translates into 2 words, which literally is closer to “outer space”. The word in this case for “outer” is also used to refer to “wife”. The word for “space” also can refer to “empty” or “void”. So an “astronaut” was/is a married person with a wife-void, living in HK while the wife and kids are in Canada or the US. Ostensibly, the reason for this arrangement is because they could make more money in HK to support the family overseas than if they were working in Canada or the US. As for whether these guys had any other arrangements on the side, that’s of course open to speculation.

    I had quite a few classmates in school whose fathers were astronauts. On a practical day-to-day level, they were basically raised by single parents. I can’t imagine it to be much fun for the wives/moms either. But it might be a generational thing where such arrangements were more acceptable or tolerable. I don’t know anyone in my generation now who still does that sort of thing, and I wouldn’t expect too many women of my generation to put up with it.

  112. Steve Says:

    I’ve seen a lot of Chinese Americans down here in San Diego where the husband has lived apart from the wife for an extended period of time, either to work in China or another part of the USA. If anything, it was the wife that didn’t want to relocate with the children rather than the husband suggesting it. All these couples are of the immigrant generation. As SKC suggested, I believe their children would be less willing to live this way.

    I told my wife a long time ago that if I have to work somewhere else, we all go.

  113. real name Says:

    do not forget also another Chinese management tradition comes with this:
    such young girls in man’s paid-by-company flat he does not need to hide even in front of visitors

  114. TonyP4 Says:

    Besides jobs, Canada and US are better to live than China and most foreign lands: better schools/colleges, fresher air, less chance for food poison/lead poison./water poison, less crime (if you know how to avoid like driving the least expensive car and dressing like a janitor like me…)… We live in paradise in US/Canada, but we do not really know until we compare.

    During the 60s, when some argued how great was China, I asked why there were so many migrated via escaping to US/Canada and no one migrated to China. Time finally changes for the better for China and I can’t wait to see the accomplishments in next 30 years.

    Steve, from another post. Being a zero generation in US, I can use ‘I’ to refer to my Chinese face or a citizen in my adopted country (America). I belong to both and neither. We’re referred as the bamboo, blocked in both sides, haha.

  115. HKer Says:


    “We’re referred as the bamboo, blocked in both sides, haha.”

    Ah, finally I understand what the phrase means!

    “There is some Chinese (Baba) that had been living in Malacca from Zhenghe period, it may not be a “major” migration”
    Speaking of the Chinese diaspora, I got this in my email last week. I wonder if anyone know more on the subject?


    The Truth Revealed (with evidence)!

    In June 1998, the government of Malaysia had hired a team of experts from all over the world to be gathered here in Malaysia for a research project to compliment the history studies that we undertook in our secondary school.

    The objective of the research is simply:

    1. To find proof and evidence that show the Malays were the origins of Malaysia and they were the first race and religion that landed their feet in Malaysia.

    2. To further strengthen their claims, first they need to find the graveyard of the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu and others.. to show the existence of their pioneers.

    3. The Batu Bersurat in Terengganu, reveals that the islamic religion has landed in Malaysia for more than a hundred years ago which further strengthen their claims!

    BEWARE & OPEN YOUR EYES!!! Go and ask your brother, sister, niece, nephew etc. Since the year 1999 (if I’m not mistaken) or year 2000, do they study about HANG TUAH anymore?

    Why is that popular subject GONE? Missing in action? or evidence reveals something else that caused the government to stop the syllabus and HIDE the TRUTH?

    Here are the Evidences of the findings by the team of scientists, archaeologist, historian and other technical staff from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Yemen & Russia.
    The evidence are:
    1) They finally found the graveyard of Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat and others, their skeletons had been analyzed and samples of DNA taken with the results showing: Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu and mates were NOT MALAY!!! They were CHINESE origins (Islamic) from China!!! Why were they here in Malacca? If you go back in history, you would know that they were on a mission to protect the UNGRATEFUL MALAY Sultanate from the frequent attacks by the Kingdom of SIAM (Thailand).

    So Hang Tuah was not a Malay hero! They were the protectors of the useless and ungrateful Parameswara (who was from INDONESIA) who landed in Malacca and claimed that the land belonged to him!
    Hang Tuah and friends were all from China, they were being assigned to the Malacca Sultanate because Parameswara requested the Ming Dynasty Emperor for protection! Hence, the rich historical heritage of the Babas & Nyonyas were being closely linked to the Seven Voyages to the Western Ocean by Admiral Zheng He who incidentally was a Chinese Muslim himself!

    That’s why the Hang Tuah series of history is MISSING from the Malaysian SEJARAH today!

    Note: Remember Princess Hang Li Poh? – All surname ‘HANG’

    Second Evidence:
    The researchers hired by the government found the oldest tombstones (graveyard) in Kelantan in year 2000. Surprisingly, the tombstones were at least 900 years old! Older than the so-called Batu Bersurat. And the interesting thing was that they all belonged to the CHINESE!
    Being landed first in Malacca doesn’t mean Malay is the first in Malaysia because during that time, the road was too long or undeveloped for them to reach or see the other side of the coast where the Chinese had landed much earlier. If you want the hard evidence of what the truth of the Research reveals, please write to The Federal Association of Archaeology & Research of Michigan, USA.

    This is a good reason to remind the Bumiputras NOT to ask the Chinese or Indians to go back to their Motherlands because the evidence had shown that Malays were NOT the original people of Malaysia! The Truth Revealed (with evidence) and anthropologists have yet to ascertain if there was indeed a Malay race!

  116. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi HKer, each section of the bamboo is blocked from each side, same as us blocking by the American and Chinese cultures. I got promoted from FOB (fresh off boat) to bamboo. My children are ABC and I’m finding a term for their children. They could be banana, which is yellow in the outside but white in the inside.

    It seems civilization could be started in Africa. Chinese civilization could be started quite early too around the Yellow River – I expected from Yangtze as it is more fertile. I believe we had so many wars and the population moved outside the China proper to the SW and S of China, and then to SEA.

    From the same genes of Eskimos and Red Indians (which got the name when Columbus thought they came to India) most likely arrived from China when the Bearing Strait (?) was frozen at one time. Or, just some drunk Chinese lose his way and became drunk Indians, haha.

    A Chinese expert in ancient Chinese language could read some words in South American stuffs unearthed. It could prove the Columbia culture is Chinese culture. The expert said he was not interested in language outside China to avoid the controversy. It was from Time magazine a while ago.

    Zheng Ho could travel around the world based on the his ship size/ship construction/fleet organization/marine technology comparing to Columbus. I bet there will be many ship wrecks eventually will surface. It has no influence (good or bad) to natives as Chinese through out history do not colonize another nation as Europe did as long as the natives sent tributes and acknowledged they’re #1.

    What do you think the Hong Kongese discovering the Ark? I do not follow the latest news.

  117. HKer Says:

    “What do you think the Hong Kongese discovering the Ark? I do not follow the latest news.”

    Ha ha…more religious fairy tale to make money.


    I am sure you know one of the most congested religious festivals in HK is 觀音借富 every year around March.

    How the heck could anybody believe in a lot of these myths, legends, royal decrees and imperial propaganda? It’s hilarious how so many get, oh, so worked up over other people’s Conspiracy theories vs the ruling elites’ Official reports vs everybody’s politics and nationalism? Funny how some perfectly rational human beings getting all neurotic engaging in perfectly normal Human FAITH-ism is simply unbelieveable – from religion to creationism, to evolutionary theories to Americanism, atheism, Westernism, Asianism, Capitalism, Communism etc…And then there’s Spiritualism vs Spirituality. Man, all I gotta say is , in agreement with Shaking-Willy who once wrote, “Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave, When First We Learned to Decieve.”





  118. TonyP4 Says:

    If they did a con job, they did it quite convincingly as many news media showed it with pictures. I saved a link in my blog. http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/2010/05/noahs-ark.html

    I’m not religious but I’m respectful when our guided tours dropped us to one of the many temples in China – after a week in China, you get tired of the temples same as the churches in Europe. I went to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong. Enjoyed the day trip, the scenery and the food, which is cheap, fried, tasty but not healthy. I’ve better Buddha banquet before.

    Even today, Taiwanese worship Monkey King which is a mythical character in the novel To the West.

  119. HKer Says:

    “Even today, Taiwanese worship Monkey King which is a mythical character in the novel To the West.”

    Well TonyP4, “faith,” by definition is believing in what can’t be possibly proved (with the hope that the “promises” given within the creed could be had by pursuing certain set rituals and methods subscribed.)

    I argue with my friends of faith all the time – Thankfully we don’t do so to convert each other – As iron sharpens iron, we do so to sharpen our own beliefs. It’s the same reason I frequent this blog.

    Noahs Ark Found Again By Chinese Evangelists in Turkey – So who found the real thing?


  120. Steve Says:

    Gee Tony, I never met a Taiwanese who worshiped the Monkey King, though I’m not saying they don’t exist. Where did you hear that? The biggest deity there was Matsu who had temples everywhere, with Guangung a close second. I never saw a Monkey King temple.

  121. Rhan Says:

    The claim that Hang Tuah is a Chinese has been circulated around the cyber world for a number of years, honestly I don’t know how truth is this as in the first place, I always suspect that what were recorded in our Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) is mostly myth. To me, whether Hang Tuah is Chinese or Javanese doesn’t change the fact that peninsular Malaysia is part of the Malay Archipelago. The issue is our racial policy makes everything become very amusing. The native (Malay) claim that the Chinese are pendatang (immigrant) and the Chinese rebuke that most Malay came from Indonesia as well, hence no difference with the Chinese which I personally think is true. The Peranakan that had been living here for 500 years is legally not a Bumiputra (native) while a Malay Muslim that arrived here not too long ago is deemed as Bumiputra. And the recent political spat become more and more ridiculous when a NGO supported by the fifth Prime Minister Mahathir asserted that the wealth of nation should be distributed base on race ratio. I think we became more socialist and communist as compare against the genuine socialist and communist, and of course not less corrupted.

    I remember that you are quite familiar with Sarawak and should know that the recent by-election in Sibu were won by the opposition which is a breakthrough after many years, perhaps there is a feeling of disgust toward racial politicking and the voter is looking for changes. The second reason is that the government ban the use of the word “Allah” infuriate the Catholic. We sincerely hope we can have a two-party system though it may not be the best option because the racial and religion thing must come to an end. It is developing into foolishness and absurdity.

    Monkey King is very common among the Overseas Chinese, and I thought it should be the same in Taiwan and Hong Kong. We call it 齐天大圣 or 大圣爷。

    I love your coconut theory but I am more wary when people howl “soak the kris (dagger) with Chinese blood” Google for it if you want to know more.

  122. HongKonger Says:

    Thank you Rhan for your excellent reply.
    Yes, indeed, the said claim did come to me by email from New Zealand. There is this in the article: “If you want the hard evidence of what the truth of the Research reveals, please write to The Federal Association of Archaeology & Research of Michigan, USA.” I wonder if there is an article from people who perhaps took the trouble to confirm with the said US association?
    I read that Anthropologists do support the notion that the Proto-Malays originated from what is today Yunnan, China. By around 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Chinese and Indians established as many as 30 trading posts, according to Chinese sources. Religion wise, in the early centuries of the first millennium, the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the use of the Sanskrit writing system. Some historians suggested they were descendants of Austronesian-speakers who migrated from the Philippines and originally came from Taiwan. Malay culture reached its golden age during Srivijayan times and they practiced Buddhism, Hinduism, and their native Animism before converting to Islam in the 15th century. These are the direct ancestors of today’s Malays. It was through the influence of Indian Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Hui people from China, that Islam became increasingly common during the 15th century.

    Fact is, Allah, an Arabic word, predates Islam and is used by Arabic-speaking Christians in places such as Egypt and Syria, yet the authority confiscated 10,000 copies of Malay-language Christian Bibles containing the word Allah.

    Rhan, I have no use for religious fanaticism. I do believe in helping the less fortunate though. An email I received this morning from an American friend of mine in some remote area of SEA wrote the following:

    “there are unfortunately “trophy hunters” who come around when they sniff mission activity in exotic locales. They tend to throw heaps of money and take lots of photos and in general make a huge mess of things. The longterm western missionary here is extremely mindful of the Western lust for power and prestige even in doing good. ….
    [Have] seen a lot of train wrecks over the years. There have been other westerners who asked … to take them there so they could meet the church leaders there, etc… No. is the answer…don’t want them to become a hot spot on the missionary circuit. The less interference the better.”

  123. Rhan Says:

    Frankly, you knowledge of Malaysia amaze me. The crusade and battle to convert the native to become Muslim and Christian is still going on. And I hope “God” does perform his duty to lift them out of poverty, or at least provide them with supply of water and electricity.

  124. HKer Says:


    Here’s an email from my good friend, a Singaporean born in West Malaysia:

    My view of the Malay identity is closer to Peninsula Malays than those from Borneo. I met a woman from Singapore who’d be easily identified as a Malay but who has insisted she isn’t because her ancestors are from Indonesia and the UMNO version of Malay identity to her is far too narrow for her to be identified as such. She was a very eye-opening walking sample of what the Malay ethno-cultural identity means to Malayo-Austronesians from different parts of the Malay archipelago which goes as far north as Luzon in the Philippines.

    Even in Peninsula Malaysia, Malays from Tregganu consider themselves to be the true blue Semenanjung Melayu because those from Pahang, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Selangor and Perak were from Indonesia; the best part is those from Kedah and Kelatan are from Siam so they’re also not true blue Semenanjung Melayu. The Hang Tua and other Sejarah Melayu folk heros came out of folk tales of the Malacca Sultanate which the UMNO ruling aristocracy conveniently took to define their version of the Malay identity after WW2 but with the demise of UMNO ruling appeal, their version of Malay identification would undergo redefination which I hope would be more inclusive and would serve a far wider mass base other than the old feudal aristocratic sultan families and clans and their appointed Tuns, Dato Seris, Datos and Tan Sris who would include other races like MCA’s Tun Tan Siew Sin and MIC’s Dato Seri Samivellu.

  125. jxie Says:

    In a somewhat related note, a Chinese credit rating company, Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., just issued sovereign ratings for 50 countries using its own standards. See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-12/chinese-company-issues-sovereign-ratings-in-challenge-to-west-daily-says.html

    The report in China can be seen here: http://www.dagongcredit.com/dagongweb/zx/show.php?id=1493&table=web_zxzx.

    It has some interesting differences compared to the ratings given by the Western rating agencies. For example (comparing to S&P and only local-currency & long-term):

    * (Country, Dagong, S&P) China, AA+, A+; the US, AA, AAA; the UK, AA-, AAA; France, AA-, AAA; Spain, A, AA
    * S&P rates Poland better than Russia; Dagong rates Russia slightly better than Poland
    * S&P rates all PIGS countries except Greece better than Russia; Dagong rates PIGS as, well pigs (lower than Russia).

    Overall Dagong rates developing countries and/or “non-democratic” countries better, and developed “democratic” countries worse.

  126. HKer Says:

    “And I hope “God” does perform his duty to lift them out of poverty, or at least provide them with supply of water and electricity ”


    I don’t believe in personal saviors. I respect peaceful religions (despise fanaticism) but I don’t practice any. Having said that I’ve often wished there was a deity in charge of our universe, though, particularly in helping our suffocating earth.

    “this Mark Lynas’ 6 degrees book might be one of the most expertly written non-fiction books I’ve ever read. The only blemish I can find is that he runs out of synonyms for “scorched” a couple of times, but apart from that, the text is flawless ”


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