It would be fairly easy for Chinese internet commentators to see the American government’s federal shutdown as a failure of (take your pick) democracy, pluralism, or a general ability to get anything done. Especially in the wake of National Day, it wouldn’t be suprising if netizens took this moment as an excuse to ramp-up their Eric Li-style Chinese-exceptionalism rhetoric. Instead, however, many have viewed the US shutdown as an indicator of the strength of American democracy and civil society (an attitude more optimistic than most Americans).
OffBeatChina collated some of Weibo’s most interesting comments on the subject:
One netizen 怒一代 commented: “The system in the US is indeed superior. Their government can be shut down without causing any chaos in the society.”
Compare to a hypothetical similar scenario in China, the impact of a US federal government shutdown on the lives of its ordinary citizens can be said to be minimum. After all, as one netizen 段郎说事 commented: “The job of the US federal government is to serve, not to dictate.”
If the Chinese government shuts down, as one netizen 喵煮席爱大金链子 imaged, “the Chinese people won’t survive long.” Another netizen 西水东渐 chimed in: “The US government isn’t an omnipotent government. A shutdown won’t cause social unrest and instability. The Chinese government is an omnipotent government. A one-day shutdown would lead to a paralyzed society.”
“The US federal government shuts down. It’s a price of democracy check and balance. It will bring inconvenience to a lot of people, but I believe, between an inefficient government and a government without check and balance, most Americans will choose the former. This is the 18th times when the US federal government was shut down. No major social chaos occurred during the precious 17 times. A mature society can afford to have its government shut down.” Netizen 王冉 commented.
So, while American museums, public parks, and “non-essential” services may be dimming their lights for the next few days, at least the country hasn’t plunged into nihilistic chaos; fantastic. TeaLeafNation also found some some fascinating online reactions to the shutdown:
As one user remarked, “A government that can shut down, no matter how big the impact on everyone’s lives, is a good thing. It shows that power can be checked, and the government can’t spend money however it wants.”
Most users, while critical of the U.S. tendency to borrow from China, did not see the shutdown as a sign that democracy was inherently flawed. One user, @HeYanbin, described the issue as one of tradeoffs:
“It is clear that there is an economic cost for the fairness and equality of a rule-of-law system and constitutionalism. Only then is it a true democracy; the shutdown is just the result of a two-party standoff. Only in this kind of society do you have rule and order, not tyranny. China isn’t like that. The government runs extremely smoothly — no need at all to worry that it might shut down. In this regard, I envy the U.S.”
Others took more direct aim at their own government. As one user noted, “Comrades, no need to worry that the same thing will happen in our country! In any event, delegates in our National People’s Congress [China’s rubber-stamp legislature] cannot cast dissenting votes, haha.” Another wrote, “I wish China’s government would shut down and let corrupt officials have a taste of it.”
Speaking as an American, these are—by far—the most positive reactions I have seen from anyone towards the US government in a long time.
[Image via Flickr]