New book opens eyes on democ­racy

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YUE in Beijing zhangyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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 zhangyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ZHANG YUE / CHINA DAILY

The au­thor Zhao Yining spoke at her new book launch on Sept 24 in Beijing.

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