Rule of law, democracy, and human rights
The preceding chapters have focused on rule of law in China: its evolution, competing conceptions of it, institutional obstacles to its realization, and its role in economic development. Yet many who invoke rule of law (particularly in the West) do so not in the name of providing the necessary predictability required in a market economy but rather in relation to two of the other hallmarks of modernity discussed in the Introduction: democracy and human rights. 1 In this chapter, therefore, I discuss the relationship between rule of law, democracy, and human rights.
After a brief summary of various conceptions of democracy and the main arguments for and against implementing democracy in China at this time, I turn to the debate surrounding the relationship between democracy and economic development. Though the empirical evidence is mixed on the general issue of their relationship, there is ample evidence that authoritarian regimes may achieve sustained economic growth, and that economic development and rule of law need not lead to liberal democracy, at least for a long time. I argue that, for a variety of reasons, the short-term prospects for democracy in China are not promising. In the long run, however, China is likely to become democratic, though probably not a liberal democracy. Rather, the more likely outcome will be a nonliberal soft authoritarian or communitarian form of democracy. Rule of law may serve as an intermediate step along that route.
Early theorists such as Lipset argued that economic development would lead to political development. 2 Indeed, some liberals think that China is becoming like us, that it is moving toward genuine multiparty democracy and greater protection of individual rights. 3 Most are more dubious, although they firmly believe China should be becoming more like us.