How East Asians View Democracy

Dec 4, 2008

Nathan and Chu report on surveys in five new democracies (Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Mongolia), one established one (Japan), and two nondemocracies (China and Hong Kong).

For a PDF of the handout for this talk, please scroll to the end of the document.


JOANNE MYERS: Good afternoon. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I'd like to thank you all for joining us.

I'm delighted to be welcoming two very distinguished professors, as you can tell by reading their CVs, Andy Nathan and one of his co-editors, Yun-han Chu, to present their findings on how East Asians view democracy.

Few books have been written comparing East Asian political systems and democracy, so when I learned that Andy was working on a volume about this subject, I thought this topic would provide an interesting companion lecture to earlier presentations we have held on democracy promotion.

This book is the first to report the results of a large-scale research project entitled the East Asian Barometer, in which eight research teams conducted national surveys in five new democracies (Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Mongolia), one established democracy (Japan), and two nondemocracies (China and Hong Kong) in order to assess the prospects for democratization across the region.

Over the next few decades, the area that will be watched most closely in the global struggle for democracy will be East Asia. As this is a region of remarkable diversity and unparalleled economic growth, it is often viewed as a model by many developing countries in other parts of the world. Although some of its most successful countries are democratic, East Asia is also home to nondemocratic regimes that can claim enviable records of both political stability and economic growth. In fact, some of these regimes have helped to launch a global debate about whether Asian values conducive to growth and stability may, in fact, be incompatible with Western-style liberal democracy.

In How East Asians View Democracy, Andy, Yun-han, and their colleagues Larry Diamond and Doh Chull Shin use their expert knowledge to analyze responses to the seven core questions that were presented to inhabitants of the region. While they found that many forces affect democratic consolidation, skepticism and frustration are the ruling sentiments among today's East Asians.

To learn more, please join me in welcoming our guests, Andy and Yun-han Chu, as they provide the results of this survey, which many of you may find surprising.

Thank you for joining us today.


YUN-HAN CHU: My name is Yun-han Chu. I flew over from Taiwan to come to New York for a few occasions, including this one. This is the first time I have walked into this building, but the scenery is actually quite familiar to me, as I watch many important public events taking place in this building through C-SPAN. So I'm truly glad to be here.

I will speak first. I want to say a few words about the survey itself. Then I will turn to Andy, who will lead you through many of these statistical tables and try to highlight some of the major findings based on our survey. After his presentation, I probably will join him, at the end of the presentation, to add a few footnotes.

I would like to call attention to the last slide of this handout. I'm not going to talk about the numbers themselves, but rather about the survey. Here you can identify all the countries that have been covered by our survey over the last eight years. The book that we are going to talk about is primarily based on our first-wave survey, which was conducted in the years 2001 and 2002 for most of the countries, with one exception. That's Mongolia. The fieldwork in Mongolia was not completed until the early part of 2003.

The East Asia Barometer was widely regarded as the first regional initiative to do a systematic analysis of the citizens' perceptions and evaluation of the political system, how the system performs in various aspects, and also their perceptions about authority, about political reform, and about democracy itself. It also drilled into people's belief systems, what kinds of values they hold and what kinds of evaluative criteria they use when they come to assess the success or failure of their democratically elected government.

The project was launched first in the early part of the year 2000. Initially, as Joanne just mentioned, we covered eight political systems in the region, starting from Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

The focus was placed on the five emerging democracies in the region. Those democracies were established in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There was the belief that they haven't really reached a stage of consolidation, meaning that there still is a certain degree of probability that those countries might suffer democratic backsliding, as the new democracy was still not founded on a very robust foundation. It turned out that one of our survey countries, Thailand, a few years later was hit by a major coup and the Parliament and elections were suspended for more than a year. That tells you that nothing is irreversible in the region.

The project involved the participation of a country team. All together, we are talking about 30-some collaborators. They are all most experienced political scientists and social survey researchers from the given locality. After we completed the first-wave survey, we were very fortunate to be able to raise enough funding support to go into a second-wave survey, which was implemented during 2006 and 2007. Actually, one of the laggards in our survey has just completed its fieldwork in the recent past.

If you look at this last slide, you can also identify those newcomers to this regional survey, which include Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. With the addition of those Southeast Asian countries, it really broadened the scope of this regional survey project, in two senses. One, it now covers all the major political systems in the region, except those countries where survey research is simply not feasible, countries like North Korea, Brunei, and Burma. Secondly, it now covers democratic regimes, those kind of hybrid regimes, and also nondemocratic regimes. So it gives you really a big variety in terms of how democratic or how authoritarian those systems can be.

So that enabled us to entertain an important and interesting intellectual agenda. Some of those topics will be briefly covered by the remarks that Andrew Nathan is going to deliver. Andy?

ANDREW NATHAN: Yun-han came from Taiwan. I have terrible jet lag. I came from New Jersey.

This is a survey. I have enjoyed participating in it very much because it is survey research, which allows you to put your hands on real data from individual respondents in Asia. But survey research also has its shortcomings. The data have to be interpreted and they don't always answer all the questions that you might like to ask people. People only answer whatever is on the survey, and sometimes we don't know exactly what they mean. And you have to look at tables. That's what it's all about.

So if you would pick up your tables, I'm going to comment on them, not in the exact order in which they are stapled together, but the first one I want to talk about is on top, "Regime Support and Democratic Support in Asia." As Yun-han said, what I'll be telling you about is the first wave, so we have eight political systems.

The top two rows are the ones I want to draw to your attention, which we label "Regime Support: Do you agree or disagree: Our form of government is the best for us? " which is a way of asking people how much they support the regime in this country, the form of government. What should jump out at you here is that China has the highest level of satisfaction. Ninety-four point four percent of our respondents said that "Our form of government is the best for us, " while the various democracies in the region are performing at a significantly inferior level on that measure. In particular, in Japan, the oldest, established, and stable democracy in Asia, the people don't believe that "our form of government is the best for us. "

Now, one may always ask, with a survey, how reliable the answers are. Are the Chinese telling the truth? I'll save that for the Q&A. But we do think that the Chinese respondents are telling the truth to our surveyors, who are retired middle school teachers. They are not foreigners, they are not government agents, and we are offering confidentiality to the respondents.

The second question, "How satisfied are you with the way democracy works in our country? " might seem to be a strange question to ask, say, in China, but it does make sense to Chinese respondents, because the Chinese government has claimed to be a democratic government—their Chinese-style democracy.

In fact, we find in other questions that we have asked that the Chinese people by and large accept that their government is a kind of democracy. We did not define democracy for people and say, "Freedom House says your country is not democratic. What do you think?" We didn't do that in the survey. You could do that, but we chose not to, on purpose. We wanted to know what the people thought without our defining the term for them.

Here again, with China, 81.7 percent expressed that they are satisfied with the way democracy works in their country, which is the second-highest number. In Japan, again it's the lowest number, 49 percent.

What we come away with from this first table is a kind of paradox that is not expected by most social science theory in the United States or by the theory of democracy promotion that has been prevalent in the American government since Reagan's Westminster speech in whenever it was—1982, I think—that we should promote democracy. We find that a government that is authoritarian by our political science standards, and according to Freedom House is popular and is considered by its own people to be as democratic as they want it to be or to be behaving in a way that's consistent with their own concept of democracy, and the various real democracies in the region are more or less in trouble, from the point of view of public support.

If you would look at Table 1.8, "Support for Democracy," this is a set of questions that we asked in the survey to measure people's attitude toward what we call "the D word," democracy—again, without saying what it is. It's as if you were to ask people, "Do you like Kleenex?" or, "Do you like some brand name?" Here's a brand name—democracy—without saying what it is in our opinion.

But whatever you think it is, "Do you like it? Do you think it's desirable for our country now? How desirable is it on a scale from one to ten, not at all desirable to totally desirable?" We found that democracy is very popular in Asia. People have different ideas about what it is, but they do think it's desirable. Here, the Chinese are not the most committed to it. It's only about three-quarters of the population who think that it is desirable, and there is a significant minority who think it's not desirable right now.

"Is it suitable?" Again, throughout the region, it's pretty high. In every country, the number that thinks it's suitable is lower than the number that thinks it's desirable. So it might be desirable, but it's not quite ready, is the consensus—not a consensus in the sense of a majority of people, but it's a trend in the region.

"Would it be effective in solving the problems of society?" Again you see a falloff, and in some cases that falloff is very, very marked: in China, from 72 to 60; in Hong Kong, from 87 to 39. It would be desirable, but it wouldn't work, the Hong Kong people are saying. This is an attitude throughout the region.

"Would it be preferable to all other kinds of government?" Here again, by and large, one sees another step down.

So the attitudes toward democracy as a brand name are kind of layered in. It has a lot of prestige, but the more you bring it home to the person—It's a great idea, but do you want it? Could it hack it? Is it the best? —then people sort of lose confidence step by step, and their commitment to it as not as deeply rooted.

Then, if you do ask them for a forced choice, "If you had to choose between democracy and economic development," those who would say that democracy is equally or more important are even fewer, and if we gave you the numbers only for those who said it was more important, that would obviously be fewer even than this. So it goes down again.

So that's a prevalent pattern across Asia, this step-down attitude toward the brand name, with the lowest commitment coming when you give them a forced choice between democracy and something else important.

If you try to do a comparison across countries, one way to do that is the mean number of items supported. There are various ways to play with the numbers, but this is a rough, sort of accessible way to do that, for these five measures that we gave—desirable, suitable, effective, preferable, and equally or more important than economics—those five things.

The Thais, on the average, would pick four of those things, if you see the last row, 4.0. The Chinese are at 2.9. The Chinese are more committed to democracy than people in Taiwan, for example, where you do have democracy. But, of course, Taiwan has been suffering from a lot of economic problems. The Chinese have been having an economic boom, so in a sense, they don't feel that trade-off as intensely.

So that's a picture of support with democracy.

Table 1.3: What do people think it is? We asked an open-ended question. It's the only open-ended question in this survey: "What does democracy mean to you?" It's very expensive in survey research to ask an open-ended question, because your interviewer has to write it down and somebody else has to code it into categories. We struggled over the categories. I am not that happy with the categories we came up with. It's not that I have a better set of categories than my colleagues, but I feel like, in the end, this table doesn't tell you what we really found out.

What we really found out, I think—and one of the good things about the book is that each country chapter is written by the country team. So the China chapter is written by Tianjian Shi, who is a Chinese who participated in the fieldwork. So there is a richness in the capability to interpret what the data mean that you really can't get off the surface of the table.

But if you see that for the Chinese, 28.8 percent said that democracy is by and for the people—they didn't say that. They said all kinds of different things, and we coded it back into that category of "by and for the people." That's our language. But basically, a lot of Chinese feel that democracy is when the government takes care of you. It's the classic Confucian "father and mother" government, and the Chinese are by far the highest in the region of those who see democracy in that meaning. Taiwan is the next one down the line, with 17.1 percent.

The Koreans, for example, give more emphasis than anybody else to social equality and justice.

People were allowed to give up to three answers, by the way, so it comes to more than 100.

A lot of Koreans felt that democracy is when the working class—which has been struggling for many, many years and demonstrating and getting shot and thrown in jail—finally, the government cares about the working class and so forth.

So there are various ideas here.

But when you compare our two kind of anchor countries of China and Japan, the Chinese are more positioned to accept when their government, which describes itself as a socialist regime that knows how to take care of the people, says it's a democracy. That kind of is congruent with Chinese people's concept of democracy, which the government has helped to shape, of course. It's not just there. It has been shaped by the regime. In Japan, you would say people are kind of divided and unsure about what they think democracy is, by comparison with others in the region. A lot of them think it's freedom and liberty. A lot of them think it's social equality and justice. A lot of them just think it's a good thing—18.1 percent, general positive, something good. A lot of them don't know—35.5 percent.

We have been asked how come so many people in Japan answer a lot of questions "Don't know." Our Japanese team, experienced survey researchers in Japan, says they often find this in Japan. Japanese people are kind of shy about answering attitude questions. They are not used to taking a stand and saying, "I think this," and "I think that." If you ask them a behavioral question or what their education is, they will answer the facts, but they are shy about attitudes.

In China, we have a lot of "Don't know" answers. We have done some tests on that. Usually the "Don't know" answers are actually the people with a lower educational level, who probably really don't know.

So it's a difference in the inner meaning of a response category.

If you look at Table 1.13, "Commitment to Rule of Law," you think you have a democracy, but now we are not going to use the D word and we're going to ask you about some values that you hold or principles in which you believe—whether the leader should follow procedure, for example. In China, 47.3 percent, fewer than half, the majority is saying, "Well, he doesn't have to follow procedure. The leader is the leader. Let him produce results, whatever it takes." The Hong Kong people and the Taiwan people and the Korea people are much more legalistic: "The leader should follow procedure." In Japan, it's only a little bit above 50 percent.

For "Judges should decide cases independently," China is the lowest, at 30.9 percent, in the region. In the other countries, that attitude is more strongly established, particularly in Japan and Korea, both above 60 percent. These are countries where people hold to what we are classifying here as rule-of-law values that are more deeply established, and not so much in China.

There's an error here. "Reject experts decide everything" doesn't belong in that table. It should be deleted. "Legislature should check executive," and so forth.

What we find is that if you move off of the brand name of democracy and you ask some questions about the values that we or Freedom House or the Columbia University political science department or, I presume, the Carnegie Council would define for democracy, then we find it's shakier in the region and very, very different from country to country, and even different from value to value.

If you look at the table called "Democratic Values in East Asia," it gives another set of questions about basic values, political values, where again we have refrained from using the D word and we are asking about other things.

The first one we ask about is, "Do you agree or disagree: People with little or no education should have as much say in politics as highly educated people?" In square brackets we have put in the term "political equality," which means that we designed this question in order to ask people's attitude toward what we were abstractly conceptualizing as the value of political equality. We are coding an "Agree" answer as pro-democratic.

This was not always the view in Asia. If you had conducted a survey in the 19th or 18th century in Asia and tabbed up the answers on your abacus, I believe you would not have found such high percentages of people throughout the region believing in political equality. They would have believed in the opposite. In fact, in Thailand, only 15 percent of the people are willing to say so. Apparently they don't believe in it. Our Thai team can interpret that for you better than I can. But we know that Thailand is very deeply in a struggle right now between the elite and the peasants over their political role.

But this value is quite widely established throughout the region. Even in the Confucian societies, quote/unquote—Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and China—this value is highly established.

If you look down at the last row, if people have too many different ways of thinking, society will be chaotic, which is a test of sort of the Asian-values idea that there should be consensus, and whether people agree with political pluralism or not—to give the democratic answer, you should disagree with this. Lo and behold, this attitude is very weakly established throughout the region. Even in Japan, it's fewer than a majority. There is a strong belief in political harmony, as Hu Jintao likes to say it. Even in Taiwan, which is a strong democracy with a lot of political competition, people have a distaste for the pluralism that's occurring there, apparently.

So we have gone through eight separate questions which are designed to measure four values. Some of the values are measured in two questions. We find quite a wide spread of attitudes. But if you have a bottom line on this table, it would be to say that democratic values as a whole are not that deeply rooted in these Asian political systems.

Now, we don't have the same questions asked in Europe or the United States, unfortunately. I hope that somebody will pick up that opportunity. But, presumably, we would get significantly higher levels of pro-democratic attitudes on these questions in those places.

I'm almost done. I want to hand back to Yun-han.

The next table to look at is "Difference in Perceived Performance of Current and Past Regimes." This is a boiling-down of a lot of questions that we asked. In each country we established a previous regime.

Now, as Yun-han said, the survey was designed primarily around the new democracies in the region—Thailand, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. We threw in China, Japan, and Hong Kong as kind of extras, even though today I'm talking about them more.

In each country, we said, "You used to have the previous regime" —the military regime in Korea, the KMT regime in Taiwan— "and now you have this regime. Can you tell me how things have changed with respect to the performance of the government, how this government compares to the previous government?" Then we asked eight or nine questions, and we combined them into two sets.

Democratic performance: "Does the new government give you more than the past government of (a) freedom of speech; (b) freedom of association" —you can see in the notes— "equal treatment; popular influence; and independent judiciary?"

Then we asked, "How about corruption, law and order, economic development, economic equality?"

What we see under democratic performance is that people throughout the region basically see that there is an improvement, except in Hong Kong. We think that the respondents are pretty realistic, by and large.

In the policy performance—this is a little bit disturbing—a lot of people see that the new system is worse, that the old authoritarian system was doing better in fighting corruption, providing economic development and equity and stuff like that.

We have another table in the book—these performance measures have a significant impact on the public support for the regime. One of the conclusions of our book is that if these governments don't get their act together and start performing, they will not win the hearts of the people, which is kind of common sense, but it hasn't been the emphasis of democracy-promotion policies by either American government agencies, foundations, or European democracy-promotion efforts. They have emphasized so much elections and civil societies and parties and not enough the ability of these governments to deliver honest justice and anticorruption.

The last table I want to draw your attention to—more as a tease, really—is "Traditional Values in East Asia." Joanne mentioned the question of Asia's value challenge to the West, the Asian values debate. The Asian values debate came up in the 1990s, really, after the end of the Cold War, when the United States was, like, "the end of history" and, "Okay, the game is over, and everybody has to have Western values. There's nothing except democratic capitalism. So turn in your guns at the door. We're all going to do democratic capitalism."

At that time, some of the Asian governments, particularly Singapore and China, said, "Wait a minute. This is Asia. We have our own values." Then there was quite a bit of debate about this. The debate kind of petered out for a while.

But now that we have the financial crisis, Kishore Mahbubani is back in the Financial Times saying, "I told you so. The Asian model is better."

So we actually asked Asian publics about these Asian values. I don't have time to run through it, but, for example, when you ask people to agree or disagree, "For the sake of the family, the individual should put his personal interests second," there is very wide agreement throughout the region, even in places like Hong Kong. In fact, Hong Kong has the highest level of agreement. This is the epitome of capitalism, but they believe that.

But as you go down the line, it isn't always the case. For example, in the middle of the table, "Even if parents' demands are unreasonable, children should still do what they ask," which used to be an Asian value, is not very popular in the region anymore. I always tell my students that I used to think this was wrong, but now I think it's correct. But it's not popular in the region.

So values do change. If you go into multivariate analysis and try to find out who believes—if you add this up and say a person who agrees with all of this stuff is totally traditional, which is a construct of ours—they may watch TV or use a cellphone, but if they get a score of nine on this thing, we count them as traditional, down to a score of zero, they are very modern—it's a way of assessing that. Then you ask, "Who are the traditionalists?" It's the older people, the more rural people, the less educated people, in every society.

But then there are differences from country to country in the impact of those demographic variables on attitudes. So there is a big picture that modernization changes attitudes in a less traditional direction, as well as a cross-national picture that it doesn't do so the same way in every country, with the same impact.

As traditional values go down, democratic values do increase. That's a trend in the region. So we can say that democracy has a lot of trouble and is fragile at the level of public support, and yet we can also say that a long-term trend—but how long it will take, for probably quite a long time—is toward the rise of democratic values. But then on the third hand, if you will, we can say that even as democratic values increase, many of the regimes in the region are adept at positioning themselves as the ones who instantiate precisely those values, even if Freedom House says that they don't.

Now I go back to Yun-han.

YUN-HAN CHU: I would just like to call your attention to two more slides, if you haven't had enough by now.

First of all, if you turn to the fourth-last, titled "Satisfaction with the Way Democracy Works," this table essentially tells you what kind of change has taken place between our first-wave survey and our second-wave survey, with roughly five years in between. In most countries, the first wave was conducted in 2001 and the second in 2006.

I think the gist of this table entails two things, primarily. Number one, the level of satisfaction in many countries has not been very impressive. Close to half or sometimes less than half of the population are satisfied with the way democracy works in their given countries. Secondly, in quite a few countries we witness a growing discontent—in the case of Mongolia, in the case of the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea—which means that in four of the five young democracies you see a downward trend line, although two points in time don't really give you a line. Nevertheless, that's the data we have at this point. The most dramatic change is taking place in a country like the Philippines. It dropped from 52 percent to only 37 percent.

In other cases, like Taiwan and Japan, even though we witness some upward movement, the absolute level of satisfaction remains not very encouraging, hovering around 50 percent or below 50 percent.

Lastly, I want to call your attention to the second-to-the-last slide. That's a question dealing with the effectiveness of democracy in solving the problems that society is facing right now. Again, you witness some dramatic declines in people's confidence in democratic efficacy, in particular in Thailand. In 2001, immediately after Thaksin got elected, during the honeymoon, a very high percentage of people believed that democracy could solve the problems, but then five years later, it's almost a 24-point drop. Korea also suffered a very marked drop.

In a nutshell, democracy—I don't think it's in danger in most places of Asia. But on the other hand, it has still a long way to go before it can really win over the hearts of these people.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you, Andy and Yun-han. If anyone could make statistics come alive, it was you, Andy.

I would like to open the floor to questions.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: There have been over 100 days of candlelight demonstrations of people demonstrating they're upset with the government in South Korea. I wonder if there is any way you take that into account. There is a strong pro-democracy movement in South Korea, particularly with regard to the Internet and a lot of online media, a lot of people participating. People say it has been like a cultural revolution in some ways.

So I think it's the opposite, in some ways, of what the statistics show. People are not happy with the government, but they do want democracy.

Is there any way your findings can provide some insight into that?

YUN-HAN CHU: I think nowadays we are witnessing a growing polarization in many parts of East Asia. The organized opposition, maybe they lost the majority in the previous election, but nevertheless they wouldn't simply acquiesce over the changes that a new government wanted to introduce. So they stage protests, sometimes in a very violent manner.

This happens in the Philippines occasionally. This is happening in Bangkok right now. At the moment we are speaking, the organized opposition does occupy the office of the prime minister. This has been the case for more than three months.

So I think in this age of the Internet, where, on the one hand, the mobilizing capacity has been enormously increased through this modern technology, the Internet, and at the same time, a lot of those blogs and Websites—there is no gatekeeper, in terms of what kinds of messages can be circulated. It tends to, I would say, dramatize the differences. It tends to polarize, even further, citizens. So it is a worsening trend there.

On the one hand, you can say this is intrinsically democratic. People have the freedom to air their differences, dissenting views. They have the freedom of association, freedom of assembly. They can stage demonstrations and protests. But at the same time, the political conflict cannot be resolved in a very definitive way. Not even the outcome of elections can settle those disputes and conflicts that oftentimes lead to gridlock and paralysis. If that happens very frequently, I think it would in the long run have some corrosive effects on people's confidence in democracy itself.

QUESTION: Do you feel that economic prosperity, or the lack thereof, trumps the average person's view of democracy or the success of democracy? What is the correlation that you found in your studies?

YUN-HAN CHU: First of all, I would like to draw your attention to an article that I, along with a few other colleagues, published in the Journal of Democracy, the July issue, in which we are able to analyze that question in a very systematic way. We employed not just Asian Barometer survey data, but also data from other regions—Latino barometer, African barometer, and Arab barometer. Let me just give you a very short answer.

East Asia turns out to be an outlier as compared to other regions, in the sense that economic performance matters more than in the other cases. So people do value economic performance, especially in countries where people in the past experienced miraculous economic growth, which means that the old regime did deliver strong growth. They have a very high historical benchmark when they come to assess the success or failure of the new regime.

Having said that, we also found that other criteria in terms of the performance of the new regime also matter, in terms of quality of democracy, whether the new system does a good job in protecting people's basic rights, protecting freedom, whether it prompts government to become more responsive to people's demands, and also whether people can really hold the government accountable. People who felt that the new system had been able to deliver on those good-governance criteria tended to be more supportive of the democratic regime.

We think it's a rather healthy sign, because we don't believe that Asian countries will be able to repeat the early success in terms of economic growth. They have reached a certain stage of their development. Also the forces of globalization in many ways have hampered the capacity of elected governments to take care of job security and stability of their citizens. If governments can at least improve the quality of governance on many scores, they can still help to build up more extensive support for democracy itself and try to narrow the gap between the promised democracy and the reality of democracy.

So economic performance does matter, but it's not the only factor shaping people's views toward a democratic system in East Asia.

QUESTION: Did the survey find differences, if you can evaluate that, between urban populations in these countries and rural populations in these countries?

ANDREW NATHAN: Yes, there are marked differences in almost every attitude. For example, the rural populations have more traditional social values and are less committed to democracy and so forth.

YUN-HAN CHU: And also more deferential to authority. They are less critical.

ANDREW NATHAN: They tend to support the regime, no matter which regime it is, because they are more deferential.

YUN-HAN CHU: Urban populations tend to be least satisfied and become more critical of the system as a whole.

QUESTION: I have two questions. One, from the survey, it's indicative that people weren't really sure what democracy was necessarily about in their countries. Did you ask them what they perceived their previous regime to be? In which countries, what were they defining as their previous regime?

Secondly, Hong Kong and Taiwan are so diametrically opposed, in some categories, with China. How does that bode as they try to bring those countries a little closer together?

ANDREW NATHAN: Let me answer the first question. We didn't ask them to put a word on the previous regime, but we did ask them to rate the previous regime, the current regime, and what they expected five years from now on a scale of one to ten, from complete dictatorship to complete democracy.

We got quite a range of answers in each country. In each country there were some people who put the previous regime, which was not democratic, in our opinion, in the democratic category and put the current regime in the category of a dictatorship. But these were small numbers. Most of the numbers were those who in each country—except for Hong Kong—saw the current regime as more democratic than the previous regime.

Do we have these numbers in here?

I'm going to let Yun-han answer the—in this case, we gave them two terms, "dictatorship" and "democracy," and forced them to choose. We haven't handed this one out. We have a table in our PowerPoint that shows the complexity of some of the views.

YUN-HAN CHU: Roughly speaking, most people in those countries that we label "emerging democracies" do recognize visible progress, moving toward democracy, although they don't necessarily see the change as a quantum leap. Oftentimes, they will place the old regime at around four or five, half democratic and half authoritarian, and the current system around six or seven or eight, which means that their assessment about the magnitude of change is actually less dramatic as compared to the Freedom House score. Freedom House probably would have given Thailand 20 years ago a six or five, and then, at least before the military coup, a score of one or at least two. It also means they believe there is ample room for improvement. They are still far away from full democracy.

The same thing happened in Japan. The Japanese nowadays still give seven or eight on that ten-point scale, which means they still think there is still room for improvement, that they are still kind of laggards in this family of advanced democracies.

ANDREW NATHAN: There's a long list of questions that—each country is scored by a consultant. They hire a consultant to do a bunch of countries. That person has to answer these questions. There are maybe 40 or 60 questions. They are very specifically looking for whether there is free and fair competition that leads to the election of the people who wield real power in a situation of civil liberties. This is basically it with Freedom House.

So they are very clear on what they mean, and the scores are based completely on that.

But when you ask Asian publics, in Japan or Thailand or something, whether the thing is democratic or not, they have a less clear and probably broader concept, as I was saying before about the Chinese. Is the government good? Do the people in government care about the people, and stuff like that? This is not what Freedom House scores.

It doesn't mean that Freedom House is wrong and it doesn't mean that these Asian publics are wrong. The Freedom House score is a useful anchor for us, so that we are not just whipped around by the winds of changing opinion in Asia, but we have some kind of written objective standard that is kind of professional, what is called in political science "the minimal concept of democracy": Is the government basically elected? Then we know how to measure, in a sense—not literally so, but how to see a gap between that fixed point, where we know what it is, over to what publics are telling us.

There was a second question.

YUN-HAN CHU: I think you mentioned that there are some big contrasts between what we found in mainland China and what we found in Taiwan and Hong Kong. First of all, I think we have to be careful when it comes to comparing the three territories. Hong Kong is a city, so the more appropriate reference point for Hong Kong would be Shanghai rather than China as a whole. If you are talking about China as a whole, you are talking about more than 75 percent of the population still living in the countryside.

Taiwan is somewhere in between. If you try to identify an area in mainland China which is geographically or demographically, socioeconomically speaking more comparable, you would say maybe the Yangtze River Delta, which is more comparable to Taiwan, in terms of the level of industrialization, in terms of the level of urbanization, and so on and so forth.

Actually, we are not able to produce the breakdown within China, but we have a sample size big enough so that we could do a lot of this subnational analysis. We compared coastal China versus inland China, urban China versus rural China. Then we do recognize a very interesting pattern. On many of traditional values and also liberal democratic values, Hong Kong is always far ahead of the remaining parts of so-called Greater China, with Taiwan not too far behind, then urban China not too far behind Taiwan—at least very close to where Taiwan stood in, say, the mid-1980s or early 1980s. We also have data from previous surveys. Rural China always is the laggard in terms of value change.

So it does show that the three localities, in terms of their average score, really differ from each other by a wide margin. But on the other hand, it does suggest that gradually rural China, in terms of how people view things, what kinds of values they acquire, will be getting closer to the mindset of the Taiwanese in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Steadily, people in rural China are moving in the same direction, although probably not at a very fast pace.

But the pattern is still, I think, kind of encouraging, with Hong Kong demonstrating what urban China might look like 20 years from now.

QUESTION: To pick up the thread you mentioned on Freedom House, there is a powerhouse of an economy in Vietnam. Their economy is growing—and Cambodia and, I assume, Laos. Based on the data you got from Freedom House, is that why they are not mentioned?

ANDREW NATHAN: No. Vietnam is in our second wave. On, "Whatever its faults may be, our form of government is still the best for us," he does have for Vietnam a very high number, 83.8 percent agreeing with that. But because the Vietnam data just came in and the data set is not finished, we haven't given you more.

In the first wave, we just didn't have a research team from Vietnam to participate in the project. We think they should be included. We think that the patterns that we are going to see will be similar to those of China. But the data always surprise you. So when we find out that they are not quite the same as China, we'll have to try to interpret why that is.

Do you want to say more about Vietnam?

YUN-HAN CHU: We haven't done too much analysis yet on our Vietnamese data. But the overall impression is quite straightforward. The Vietnamese, by and large, are quite satisfied with the state of affairs, basically, so they give a very high mark to the government and also the performance of the political system on many scores.

JOANNE MYERS: I'd like to thank you both for assembling the data and interpreting it for us.

I would like to thank you all for joining us.

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