Westerners tend to divide the political world into "good" democracies and "bad" authoritarian regimes. But the Chinese political model does not fit neatly in either category. Over the past three decades, China has developed a genuinely new approach to governance, rooted in its long history and at odds with the "Western" idea that electoral democracy is the only legitimate form of government. This political model can best be described as "political meritocracy" although there remains a large gap between the theory and the practice and a large democratic deficit. How do the ideals of political meritocracy set the standard for evaluating political progress (and regress) in China? How can China avoid the disadvantages of political meritocracy? How can political meritocracy best be combined with democracy? And what can the West learn from the Chinese approach to governance?
On Tuesday, September 15, CASBS hosted its first quarterly symposium of the academic year – “Democracy, Meritocracy, or Both? The Case of China” – as part of its Evidence of Change series. Nicolas Berggruen, co-author of Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (2012) and chairman of the Berggruen Institute; and Daniel A. Bell, Berggruen Research Affiliate at CASBS in 2015-16, author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (2015), and director of the newly-launched Philosophy and Culture Center at the Berggruen Institute, discussed one of the most important political developments of the twenty-first century. CASBS Director Margaret Levi moderated a Q&A session after the speaker presentations.
CASBS, it should be noted, is the home of six Berggruen Fellows in 2015-16, and hosted the Philosophy and Culture Center’s first gathering, as reported recently in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and other media outlets.