Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Implications for China of Thailand's anti-democratic movement

Gideon Rachman, blogging at FT, looks at the implications of the success of the PAD movement in Thailand for China:

The middle-class backers of the PAD hate the fact that under universal suffrage, the votes of the rural poor in the north of Thailand are usually decisive. They see this as a formula for corruption and pork-barrel politics. Hence, their desire to roll back democracy.

The implications for China are fascinating. There too the urban middle-class seem to be emerging as a conservative force, suspicious of democracy and the peasant power that it might unleash.*

Peasants are not what they use to be. Equipped with television and mobile phones, rural people have been witness to the power grab that unfolded in Bangkok courtrooms, government buildings, and airport terminals over the course of the past six months, deposing a democratically elected government.

Therefore, I find it difficult to imagine that today's urban revolt** stands a chance of succeeding for very long.

Whether constitutional democracy will return when leaders supported by the rural countryside eventually triumph, however, is by no means certain. In twentieth century China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, when peasant-backed movements brought down the old elites, their leaders were not kind to the middle classes.

If the Thai middle class allows democracy to fail, it may not return.

*H-tip Sullivan

** It appears to me that what has happened in Bangkok is in essence an elite revolt, but one that has been widely supported by the middle class.


  1. It's funny, Fukuyama has had to backtrack a great deal on his "end of history" statement a while ago, and always because self-interest seems to have the power to overturn a liberal democracy. A bloody purge of my social class has never been a concern of mine, and I guess I should really be thankful for that.

  2. During the Tinnamen Square uprising one of the Chinese student leaders was asked in a TV interview if he thought the Chinese peasant should have democracy.He replied,"No".


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