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Lord Patten feels that economic progress will bring about a demand for democracy from the Chinese people on BBC HardTalk

June 26, 2007

I saw a most absorbing interview last evening on BBC’s HardTalk. The interviewer Stephen Sackur talked to Lord Chris Patten, the man who was at the helm in Hong Kong when it was handed over to the Chinese. The former Conservative MP was the last British Governor of Hong Kong and later the European Commissioner for foreign relations. Ten years have now passed after Hong Kong was handed over to China.

Chris Patten said that social and economic changes (which are taking place rapidly in China) are bound to lead to a demand for political change. And thats the Chinese dilemma because they will have to manage this change well, and it is in the interest of the world that they make it happen smoothly. He would not comment as to whether it would or not as he said it was difficult to know what was happening behind a closed political system…but it would happen. He also regretted that Hong Kong has become ‘less democratic’ inspite of Chinese promises. This (Patten felt) was not good for China as a “a more understanding Chinese leadership would regard Hong Kong as one of several good examples of somewhere you could start to relax on democracy just to see how you could make the Chinese system itself more accountable”. In fact, Hong Kong could well become the “history of the mainland.”

Ofcourse, the Chinese political leadership is nervous as any political leadership would be about impending change. But they have started to “take their foot off the brake” nevertheless. The Beijing Olympics for example. And the political leadership in China is perfectly aware that economic progress has already created problems: the environment, the growing social inequity, and corruption in the party…so they have to bring in accountability, they have to bring in a political reform programme.

India luckily will never face this dilemma. One day China will have to take a few steps backward…

The question is: How exactly will the Chinese make the change? Well, if they “manage” it and not get “overwhelmed” by it, its good for the world.

Click here to watch the interview.

(Photo credits: bbc)

Related Reading: India’s border dispute with China
Cities of China
The Chinese people
Food in China
China travelogue

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