“Han Han and the “Suzhi” Argument”

Anyone still thinking about Han Han’s three essays should swing by ChinaGeeks, where Custer gets into the claim that Chinese people are somehow unsuited to democracy. Taiwan should provide as vivid of a counter as you need to that argument, but for some reason some people (Chinese, no less!) still make the claim. As Custer says:

Hindsight, of course, is 20-20, but I don’t think that many people in the 1700s would have been particularly optimistic about the nascent American democracy if they shared Han Han’s belief that its quality would be impacted by the suzhi of its people — a people that were literate but poorly educated, preposterously religious, and dedicated to the belief that owning slaves was totally cool. Certainly, this picture of Americans at the turn of the 19th century makes the complaints most often levied against Chinese people’s suzhi — they spit in public, they can’t queue properly, they only care about watching TV — seem benign in comparison.

The history of other countries could likely provide counter-examples, but that’s not the point. I am not arguing that China could easily implement a democracy, rather my point is just that the argument that China couldn’t implement democracy because its people still spit on the sidewalk or leave their high beams on at night is total horseshit.

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