New book opens eyes on democracy
Some Chinese people believe American democracy is in a crisis, while others see it as ideal and worth studying.
That is one of the findings in a new book by Zhao Yining, a 55-year-old chief correspondent at 21 Century Financial Report in China. Zhang spent two months in the US in 2013, studying the American political system. She interviewed more than 50 American politicians, business leaders and academics from Washington to Virginia, to Minnesota and Kansas.
The findings of her book may surprise many Chinese readers.
“The American form of democracy does not benefit all of its people as many of us imagined,” she said. “In the eyes of many Americans, the American bipartisan system is becoming increasingly unfunctioning.”
The conversations she had with more than 50 Americans, including Pete Wilson, former governor of California, and Joan Wagnon, chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party, capture their thoughts about the American two-party system and how it has been influencing Americans’ lives. The conversations were detailed in her new book, Understanding the American Two Parties, by Renmin University Press (August 2014).
“My motivation for writing the book and all the talking is that I feel the urge for Chinese people to understand the American bipartisan system in a more close and comprehensive way,” she said.
Many of those interviewed, such as Wagnon, who used to be in charge of fund-raising for the Kansas Democratic Party, mentioned that money always plays a vital role in elections.
The book echoed what Francis Fukuyama, a renowned professor of American politics, has put in his new book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, that neither democracy nor markets can develop properly without a competent state.
The American form of democracy is not new reading territory for Chinese people in recent years. More and more Chinese academics and freelancers for magazines started to visit the US and stay for a year or so for research. Many of them returned to China and started their own publications.
“I have been devoting my research on American politics for decades as an academic, and I thought I understood the American two parties fairly well, Wang Shaoguang, a professor at the Department of Government and Public Administration, wrote in the book’s preface. “But this book enlightened my understanding on this area with juicy, first-hand information that you cannot find in other academic publication. Chinese people hear about the American bipartisan system all the time, reckoning that this is the best form of democracy. For many Chinese readers, such conceptions will probably be changed after reading the book.”
Zhao has been working as a journalist since the early 1980s, starting as a reporter in the Xinhua News Agency. Her work ranges from political reporting to culture and economic reporting. She has been focusing her attention on American economic and political topics since 2004.
Li Yongqiang, chief of Renmin University Press, said writing about the US political system is a pioneering effort by a Chinese writer. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
The author Zhao Yining spoke at her new book launch on Sept 24 in Beijing.