What exactly is democracy

What exactly is democracy? Many opinions regard the democratic systems in United States as a model of ‘real democracy’. In this reading, the author emphasized ‘real democracy’ is a democracy in which people are the masters of the society, and they are in charge to make decisions. However, the current U.S. system fail to achieve ‘real democracy’. For example, U.S. adopts a ‘winner take all’ electoral system, the political party system adopts a two-party system, and the legislative-administrative relationship adopts a presidential system. All these aspects show a relatively non-democratic institutional arrangement.

After I read the article, I realize why people called U.S. president Donald Trump as ‘the madman in the White House’. In fact, his power of decision making is given by the U.S. system. If we trace back to the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, the Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has overtaken Donald Trump by nearly three million popular votes, but Donald Trump won the electoral votes, leading his team to victory. Although he didn’t get the support of the majority, he still became the president. This shows that even if U.S. has so called ‘competitive elections’, it doesn’t equal to the realization of democracy.

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In my opinion, since the presidency of Donald Trump began in 2017, he emphasized ‘America first’ vision to govern U.S., and he took advantage of his power to achieve individual goals. Some examples can explain how the political system in U.S. creates inequality. For example, as the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, Donald Trump announced last year that U.S. would quit the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ signed by 195 nations. He criticized the energy restriction of factories was unfair to U.S. and would undermine the economy, but he didn’t do a public consultation before he made the decision. On the other hand, the immigration policies proposed by him also controversial, he imposed a ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries by signing executive order, which aroused criticism around the world. As executive orders do not need Congressional approval, this shows that the U.S. president can make use of his power to do the things he wants without consultation and public’s approval. I think these examples reflect the imperfection of democratic system in U.S. However, its global leadership position helps U.S. to become a model of democracy.

How to improve democracy in capitalism? Four ways were suggested by the author. First, make use of a lottery system to replace elections, thereby increase the participation of the public. This allows every citizen to have equal rights of political participation. Second, strengthening consultations among citizens in order to increase the depth of political participation. People will have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different policies through discussion, thereby more likely to accept the final decision and reach consensus.

Third, utilizing the internet technology. Internet technology allows countless people to participate in the discussions across space and time barriers. Government can make use of internet technology not only for voting, but also increase transparency by letting more people to understand the policy. Fourth, extending democracy to a wider range, especially in economic areas. If the disparities in economic income are severe, it will create inequalities in the opportunities of citizens to participate in politics, in turn affects the realization of political democracy.

In my opinion, these ways can also be adopted to improve the political development in Hong Kong. As a journalist, I always encounter problems created by the democratic system in Hong Kong. Different interest groups, including pan-democratic lawmakers from the legco, politicians and students’ union from the universities often criticized the system and held protests in order to strive for democracy. Incidents such as four opposition lawmakers were disqualified for modifying oaths during the oath-taking ceremony in 2016, the pro-independence political party ‘Hong Kong National Party’ was banned by the government, and the government’s decision of rejecting the Financial Times’ Asia news editor Victor Mallet’s work visa renewal without explanation, raising concerns about the setback of democratic development in Hong Kong. Last month, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission from the U.S. Congress published an annual report, criticizing the ‘high degree of autonomy’ and freedom of expression are steady eroding in Hong Kong based on the above political events happened recently, moving Hong Kong like other cities in China. ³

This article helps me to rethink about what is ‘real democracy’ and what types of democracy is striving by the interest groups in Hong Kong. In our class, we have discussed about the large scale Occupy Central movement which carried out 79 days in the fall of 2014, protesters were striving for ‘real universal suffrage’ according to the international standards. However, as Hong Kong has the widest wealth gap in Asia, inequalities in the distribution of resources lead to inequality in participation, which in turn leads to inequality in representation. Therefore, people live below the poverty line will have less opportunity to receive higher education or participate in politics. Not all people have the same rights to be elected. In other words, even though the movement was successful in allowing Hong Kong citizens to elect chief executive by universal suffrage, it doesn’t equal to the realization of democracy.

To improve the democracy system, I suggest the Hong Kong government adopt the internet technology for voting to make decisions. Since the innovation technology in Hong Kong is advanced, I think this is the easiest way to let every citizen to have a say. However, this could also harmful to the interest of vested interest groups. For example, if Hong Kong citizens against high property price through ‘one person one vote’, the property developer giants may suffer loss of profit, or even harmful to the competitiveness of Hong Kong. As Hong Kong is a capitalist economy, it may face difficulties when the government adopt measure like this. At this moment, I think there is no absolute democracy in the world. Maybe ‘real democracy’ is still a fantasy at this stage.


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