Date
21 November 2018
In a society of one-party rule where overwhelming emphasis is placed on economic growth and political reforms are largely avoided, the full-blown development of a market economy mechanism is virtually impossible. Photo: CNSA
In a society of one-party rule where overwhelming emphasis is placed on economic growth and political reforms are largely avoided, the full-blown development of a market economy mechanism is virtually impossible. Photo: CNSA

Why China will never be in the top league in WEF rankings

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published the 2018 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report, in which some 140 economies around the globe are ranked based on their economic and scientific competitiveness, as well as the degree of their press freedom and the viability of their systems.

When it comes to freedom of the press, most “long-time” communist societies are ranked very low. For example, “Red” China is ranked last among the 140 economies, “Red” Vietnam second to last, and “Red” Laos third to last, while North Korea and Cuba aren’t even included in the rankings at all.

As far as the Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 2018 Rankings is concerned, the top 15 economies are mostly western advanced economies, while some regions that are predominantly Chinese such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are also ranked among the top league.

The top 15 are as follows: 1. United States; 2. Singapore; 3. Germany; 4. Switzerland; 5. Japan; 6. Netherlands; 7. Hong Kong SAR; 8. United Kingdom; 9. Sweden; 10. Denmark; 11. Finland; 12. Canada; 13. Taiwan, China; 14. Australia, and 15. South Korea.

Among the five “long-time” communist states, China is ranked the highest in the competitiveness index (28th), far higher than Vietnam (77th) and Laos (112th).

Total GDP output is only one among various criteria for judging whether a country is truly ahead.

Take China as an example. Although it is currently the world’s second largest economy, and the world’s No.1 in terms of trade volume and the size of foreign-exchange reserves, its GDP per capita is actually pretty small compared to other economies.

According to the figures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the average GDP per capita in the world in 2017 stood at slightly over US$10,000.

However, China’s GDP per capita last year was only around US$8,600, far lower than that of Singapore (US$57,000), Hong Kong (US$46,000) and Taiwan (US$24,000). In fact China’s GDP per capita just equaled 43 percent of that of Estonia.

The prevalence of the rule of law and a high degree of freedom are indispensable to the rise of any civilized nation.

Only under a free social system that is governed by the rule of law, and only in the presence of independent citizen media, substantial press freedom and a mature civil society with pressure groups, can a nation have the necessary social momentum to guarantee effective public oversight of the government, sufficient protection of human rights and full respect for the rule of law.

Yet in a society of one-party rule where overwhelming emphasis is placed on economic growth and political reforms are largely avoided, the full-blown development of a market economy mechanism is virtually impossible.

Nor is it possible for civil society to truly come of age and press freedom to be fully honored under such a system.

Again, take the WEF index on global press freedom as an example. “Long-time” communist countries like China, Vietnam, Laos, etc, as well as Russia and four former Soviet republics in Central Asia such as Kazakhstan (i.e. member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO) are all ranked very low.

In contrast, most Eastern European countries, which were once ruled by one-party dictatorship, but which quickly underwent smooth transition to liberal democracy following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, are now ranked a lot higher than China, Russia and the four Central Asian republics when it comes to system advantage, social, economic and press freedom, clean government as well as democracy.

For instance, the former three Soviet Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are ranked 12th, 22nd and 32nd respectively in the WEF 2018 global index on press freedom, while the formerly communist-controlled Czech Republic and Slovakia are ranked 31st and 25th.

Even Mongolia, which has remained economically less powerful 27 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, is ranked higher in the WEF freedom of the press index (58th) than the “long-time” communist states and Russia.

Simply put, a country like China that rejects political reforms and is regressing to Stalinist/Maoist one-man dictatorship, under which the public is only a tool that shows absolute obedience, can never set itself on a course towards a truly advanced society.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 25

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

HKEJ columnist

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