Chinese democracy resembles Proctor & Gamble more than Pericles of Athens, and Hong Kong is a typical product testing site, or what China calls a Trial Spot.
The PRC uses the world's most advanced sampling techniques, questionnaire designs and statistical controls to run gigantic, semi-monthly, national surveys and the results, available online, are a treasure trove of data. Says author Jeff J. Brown, "My Beijing neighborhood committee and town hall are constantly putting up announcements, inviting groups of people-renters, homeowners, over seventies, women under forty, those with or without medical insurance, retirees-to answer surveys. The CPC is the world's biggest pollster for a reason: China's democratic ‘dictatorship of the people' is highly engaged at the day-to-day, citizen-on-the-street level. I know, because I live in a middle class Chinese community and I question them all the time. I find their government much more responsive and democratic than the dog-and-pony shows back home, and I mean that seriously." Most Chinese agree.
Before any legislative initiative reaches China's Congress, it is first trialled-like double-blind, randomized clinical trials-in villages, towns and cities. Most fail for the same reason that most scientific experiments fail: they don't achieve their stated goals. Critics claim that, since most legislation receives ninety-percent support, China's Congress must be a ‘rubber stamp' but this misunderstanding arises because policy development, instead of being the subject of rhetoric-heavy, fact-lite public debates, is managed like clinical trials. Venture capitalist Robin Daverman describes the process:
China is a giant trial portfolio with millions of trials going on everywhere. Today, innovations in everything from healthcare to poverty reduction, education, energy, trade and transportation are being trialled in different communities. Every one of China's 662 cities is experimenting: Shanghai with free trade zones, Guizhou with poverty reduction, twenty-three cities with education reforms, Northeastern provinces with SOE reform, pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything. Mayors and governors, the Primary Investigators, share their ‘lab results' at the Central Party School and publish them in State-owned media, their ‘scientific journals.'
Beginning in small towns, major policies undergo ‘clinical trials' that generate and analyze test data. If the stats look good, they'll add test sites and do long-term follow-ups. They test and tweak for 10-30 years then ask the 3,000-member People's Congress to review the data and authorize national trials in three major provinces. If those trials are successful, the State Council [China's Brains Trust] polishes the plan and takes it back to Congress for a final vote. It's very transparent and, if your data is better than mine, your bill gets passed and mine doesn't. Congress' votes are nearly unanimous because the legislation is backed by reams of data.
By this stage, it is clear which ideas are better ones. Now CCP enters policy formation stage, which consists of drafting policy and commenting period by the public before finalizing and implementation. This allows China to accomplish a great deal in a short time, because your winning solution will be quickly propagated throughout the country, you'll be a front page hero, invited to high-level meetings in Beijing and promoted. As you can imagine, the competition to solve problems is intense. Local government has a great deal of freedom to try their own things as long as they have the support of the local people. Everything from bare-knuckled liberalism to straight communism has been tried by various villages and small towns.
Since China began conducting Trial Spots thirty years ago, they have developed mature systems to support, manage, evaluate, exploit and follow up on them. Congresspeople visit, inspect and audit major Trials, calculate their budgetary impact and debate their scalability and national impact. It is easy to muster ninety-percent support if the data is sound.
Hong Kong is a classic, fifty-year controlled social experiment, a Trial Spot, and the PRC will not crack down on the protests because that would ruin an experiment before it reaches halfway. If, by 2047, Hong Kong becomes the best city in China with a better living standard than other Chinese cities, Beijing will copy Hong Kong wholesale across China and, if it is found that is the secret of Hong Kong's success, will require all judges to hold foreign citizenships.
Despite the wailing about ‘interference from Beijing' Hong Kong's government has more freedom to try things than any American city, as long as they have the support of the local people. Says Robin Daverman:
So what happened is that you see some cities or provinces that outperform, and others with a boatload of problems. Places with good leadership, like Shanghai, got more power and more autonomy. Places with lousy leadership require more babysitting and, unfortunately, Hong Kong is on the list of places that require more babysitting, because their government is viewed as deeply incompetent.
Beijing's population went from eight million in 1980 to twenty-five million, Shanghai's went from 6 million to twenty-five million in 2015, Shenzhen's went from nothing to twelve million with infrastructure, housing, markets, schools, hospitals, parks- no problem and the people are more civilized, polite, and productive today than in 1980.
But Hong Kong's population went from five million to seven million and all hell broke loose! Yet Hong Kong controls its own territory, its own population, its own businesses, its own laws, and doesn't even pay taxes, not a cent, while Shanghai pays enough taxes to support forty percent of China! That's why Shanghai is the "Lady of the House" and Hong Kong is the "High-Maintenance Girlfriend." After twenty-two years of marriage, she still acts superior, complains about everything, expects you to pay for everything, and keeps talking about her previous boyfriend..."
Approaching the Trial Spot's halfway point, Hong Kong's stats resembles America's and Britain's: her GINI is 0.539 (zero indicates equality), the US is 0.415, and Singapore 0.4579. Hong Kong's top ten percent have median incomes forty-four times the bottom ten percent and her lowest earners work three years and eight months to earn what the richest make in a month. Child poverty is twenty-three percent and home ownership is forty-nine percent while, on the mainland, everyone will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, free health- and old age care by 2021.
If it weren't for multiparty democracy, Hongkongers would all have homes. In 1997, Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa wanted to build 85,000 flats per year but popular opinion-especially in the Legislative Council-made it impossible. "It was the same over the past few years: we tried to increase the land supply, but we could not get it passed because the opposition parties control whether the budget gets approved," says Author Chris Wat Wing-yin. "Society generally believed the policy of supplying 85,000 flats per year made the property market plummet, and therefore the government cancelled the target under the pressure of public opinion, especially the opposition bloc in the Legislative Council, we couldn't continue our push."
Beijing's completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the high-speed rail link (delayed by Hong Kong's corruption and incompetence) are major setbacks for Washington and London in this ongoing battle for influence and explain the current political and media backlash from the US and the UK.
US child poverty is twenty-one percent and home ownership is sixty-two percent. China's child poverty is two percent and home ownership is seventy-eight percent.
By 2021 500,000,000 urban Chinese will have more net worth and disposable income than the average American, their mothers and infants will be less likely to die in childbirth, their children will graduate from high school three years ahead of American kids and live longer, healthier lives and there will be more drug addicts, suicides and executions, more homeless, poor, hungry and imprisoned people in America than in China.