A political system is a combination of the formal and informal structures which manifest the state’s dominion over its geographical sphere of influence as well as its citizens. The political system of a state can change as the country adjusts to the realities it faces or as it tries to balance the needs of various competing interests within its borders.
Russia and China are two nations which have made significant changes in their political systems over the past two decades. In the Communist era, Russia was a totalitarian authoritarian state with the communist political party wielding all the power in the country.
This changed with the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia today is a practicing democracy multi party state and the population has partial freedom of access to information and people are allowed to engage in opposition activity (Dmitry 3). China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which has been in power for over 60 years.
The party has a monopoly on power and the state intolerant to any one who questions the rights of the party to rule. Lawrence and Michael note that the CCP dominates state and society in China with the party exercising control over the military, political institutes, public institutions, the media and the judiciary (2).
Ideology plays a critical role in China’s political system and the CCP uses ideology to justify its permanent monopoly on power. The ideology of the party is articulated as “the party must uphold and improve the basic economic system, with public ownership playing a dominant role” (7).
This underlines the Leninist roots that the party has. This paper will argue that China’s political system is more successful than Russia’s based on an analysis of the social and economic outcomes of the two countries in the past two decades.
Russian political system
The social sectors of Russia have experienced some significant changes from 1991 to 2011. The education system of the country has witnessed growth and the state provides elementary education and the education for all its citizens and the country boasts of a very high literacy level with 99% of the population being able to read and write (CIA). The portion of the population which has attained higher education is high and growing even higher due to the investments made into education by the population.
Russia has experienced a significant increase in the portion of the population who has access to specialized and higher education (Roshchina 23). Population census carried out in 1989 indicated that only 45.2% of the population had special skills as a result of higher education and diplomas.
By 2002, 57.9% of Russians had professional education. However, the government’s contribution to the educational sphere is not impressive with education expenditure making up only 3.9% GDP of the country and advances in the educational sector have been fueled by initiatives by the community.
The health care sector of country has suffered considerably from 1991 due to reduction in government funding. In the Soviet Union era, health care was provided to all citizens and the government invested heavily in this sector. Following the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s health care system has become privatized and not every citizen has access to the services.
From 1991, Russia has been moving from its soviet styled centrally planned economy to a more capitalistic and market-based economy which has enabled the country to compete favorably on a global level. Owing to the collapse of the Soviet Union, privatization began to take place in the industry and agricultural sector and this rapid privatization led to increased private ownership.
For most of the years in the 1990s, Russia experienced hyperinflation and industrial collapse due to the economic liberalization which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union (Volkoy and Julia) Hyper-inflation had an adverse effect on the Russian public since it devalued their savings and therefore left many destitute (Mendelson and Gerber 4).
The government was also forced to reduce its social services due to the inflation which led to increased mortality rates and a decline in provision of health care (Galbraith and Ludmila 90).
However, the country managed to recover from this as the currency stabilized and poverty levels. Starting from 1998, Russia experienced financial recovery and the country has continued on this path with manageable inflation rates, decreasing levels of poverty and increased employment opportunities for Russians.
The level of people living below the poverty line currently stands at 13.1% which is a significant decrease from the 30% level recorded in the 1990s. Russia has a GDP of %1.791 trillion with the GDP per capita being $16,700. Between 2010 and 2011, the country’s GDP experienced a growth rate of 4.3% (CIA).
The poverty levels in Russia have reduced significantly in the past 20 years and analysis reveal that the purchasing power of Russians has increased by 45% since 1991 (Parfitt). However, there has been a phenomenal increase in the income disparity between the rich and the poor. This disparity is attributed to the turbulent post-Soviet period where the social elites acquired shares of once publicly held institutes for meager amounts of money.
Dmitry defines Russia as a “highly managed democracy” where all the institutes of a democracy exist but they do not have any real power (4). Even so, Russians have been enjoying increasing liberties due to the democratic system. From the 1990s, Russia has practiced a parliamentary democracy and more significantly, a liberalized press which has led to more freedom of speech for the citizens as the independent commercial press operates without government censor (Hahn and Igor 1350).
The system lacks an overarching ideology to justify its rule and it is not intolerant of those who question its right to rule and nor does it engage in terrorizing political opponents.
Chinese Political System
Significant changes have been observed in the social sectors of China in the past 20 years. China’s reforms led to a large increase in living standards throughout the country and food deprivation virtually disappeared (Zhu). The health outcomes of the population where also increased as health care services became available to more people in the 1990s.
The Chinese government has made substantial investments in the education of its population. These investments have paid off with the illiteracy levels reducing and the number of college educated Chinese increasing (Xiaohui and Hu 1).
The literacy rate in china was 92% in 2011 and the enrolment rate for higher education has grown from 1 million to 5.5 between 1997 and 2007. This increase in education provision is credited to the government which has invested massively in the education of the population.
Before the 1990s, the Chinese government offered job guarantees, pensions, housing, and healthcare for its urban population and poverty among this group was absent. However, restructuring in the 1990s which was aimed at making the economy more market based led to layoffs and lack of social security guarantees for many workers which increased poverty levels (Park and Wang 396).
The Chinese system is characterized by centralized planning agencies and the single legal party. The monumental economic growths that the country has witnessed in the past 2 decades have made China to be recognized as the most important developing country. Up to the late 1970s, china adopted a closed door policy and trade with the rest of the world was minimal. However, the leaders of the CCP observed that the prosperity of the country could only be achieved if economic reforms were adopted and an open door policy followed.
The acceleration of economic reforms in the People’s Republic of China during the 1990s resulted in economic liberalization which occurred in an orderly manner due to the rigid central management by the CCP. This market-oriented economy has been followed from 1991 up to 2011 and it has led to great economic development for the country (Zhu).
The socialist market economy adopted by China through the 1990s and 2000s has led to rapid advances in China’s economy as agricultural productively grew and coastal cities were opened to foreign investment. The entry by China to the WTO increased foreign investments in the country as more companies shifted their production to China.
China’s entry into the WTO enhanced the country’s attractiveness as a manufacturing base since companies were assured that they would operate under international laws and standards which China was now bound by (Ruisheng 215). As of 2011, China had a GDP of $6.989 trillion while the GDP per capita stood at $8,400.
Studies indicate that urban-rural inequality in China declined substantially due to the exposure to international trade which encouraged income distributions as investments were made in rural areas (Galbraith and Ludmila 88).
In an attempt to fight the rural poverty which had been inherent in China before the 1990s, the government has established large-scale poverty investment programs that direct resources to poor regions in the country. Due to this efforts, official Chinese poverty statistics reveal that poverty levels have experienced a dramatic reduction from 30% in the late 1980s to 3% in 2000 (Park and Wang 397).
The Chinese political system is structured around communism which by definition is a system in which “the right to private or family property is abolished by law, mutual consent, or vow” (Woolsey 1). While it is still a one party state, there have been some reforms in the system in the past 20 years and the party has a lot of support from the country’s citizens (Lei).
Even so, the Chinese Communist Party wishes to maintain control over its population and an independent press are yet to be realized in China. The state maintains strong control of the information that the citizens have access to and any anti-state sentiments cannot be expressed by a citizen without government reprisal. Open dissent against the Chinese political system is met with harsh measures by the state but even so, some political changes have occurred within the local level.
The Chinese political system has fostered widespread corruption since the party enforces its own investigations when its members are accused of wrongdoing and the judicial authorities are unable to investigate party officials without the party’s consent. Due to this power wielded by the party and its officials, bribes for permits and the embezzlement of state funds is rampant.
Both Russia and China have been able to achieve significant socio-economic advances in the past two decades. Economic liberalization in the 1990s led to an overall economic well being for both Russia and China. The two countries were able to exploit their market power to advance their respective economies with great success.
While the GDP per capita for both China and Russia have increased over the past twenty years of economic changes, China has experienced the more significant increase with GDP per capita increasing by approximately 4 times.
As it currently stands, China has been able to achieve high rates of economic growth in spite of, or even arguably because of the absence of democracy. However, the admirable growth by the Chinese economy may not be sustainable if tensions continue to build among discontent citizens and bring about the destabilization of the political system.
In Russia, the public lacks the ability to change the system which leads to a build up of anti-government sentiments among the population. Dmitry warns that this attitude may result in future reprisal against the leadership by the population therefore bringing down the entire system of highly managed democracy (5).
Even so, income inequality rose in both Russia and China from the 1990s as economic liberalization occurred. While both china and Russia have been experiencing income inequalities in the past 20years as the two nations shifted to market based economies, the situation is worse in Russia due to lack of a government control.
Due to their varied political system, the public’s reactions to this income disparities has been different with the poor in China expressing discontent in a mild manner because of fear of repression while those in Russia have use the democratic avenues to try and resolve the issues.
Due to the huge state control still enjoyed by the Chinese government, capital can be diverted to areas of social interest such as health, education, and welfare. China has aggressively protected its health care and education sectors even as the country has adopted a more market based economy (Xiaohui and Hu 1). This is in contrast to Russia where these sectors have suffered major losses of position due to the economic transition since the fall of the Soviet Union.
This paper set out to argue that China’s political system is more successful than Russia’s system. The paper has notes that both Russia and China experience rising inequalities which are the result of transitioning from a communist to a capitalist economic system.
The significant government control in China has given it an advantage since capital has been diverted to areas of social interest such as education and health care. The paper has also noted that China continues to suffer from poor human right conditions. While Russia has made significant advances in its political sphere with Russians today living under a multi-party system with many political liberties, the country’s political system is still rivaled by the one-party system in China.
In overall, the paper has demonstrated that China’s political system has yielded more benefits for its citizens that the Russian system has done for its people. It can therefore be declared that China’s political system is more successful than Russia’s.
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