Party ideologists in the PRC, and their apologists, argue that something like "Western-style" or"American-style" democracy cannot and should not happen in China because of the lack of historical and social and cultural grounding. That sort of democracy is simply alien to Chinese experience. Odd, then, how, when asked, a majority of Chinese say that they like "American-Style" democracy. That, at least, is the result of a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
Interestingly, many PRC citizens have rather negative views about the current US-China relationship - but, to my mind, that makes the finding about democracy all the more pertinent: respondents are able to separate the particular issues of American policy and politics from their more general understanding, and desire, for democracy.
Here are some findings:
Unsurprisingly, the more urban and educated and youthful, the more positive about democracy, which could suggest that the demand for democracy will grow with time.
I guess these folks did not get the memo that "American-style" democracy is not really culturally appropriate....
More seriously, these sorts of findings point to the transformation of "Chinese culture" over time. The idea of "democracy" has been around for a long time in Chinese society and politics. It is a promise made by the Communist Party and, thus, a standard that people use to assess their concrete realities. And, apparently, enough Chinese people are sufficiently dissatisfied with actually existing "democracy with Chinese characteristics" that they are open to other democratic possibilities. Culture, or some ossified definition of "culture," is not an obstacle to the absorbtion of "foreign" ideas. "Democracy," and even forms of that concept that are more common in "Western" cultural contexts, are not really "foreign" to China. The logic of everyday political life, the experience of highly centralized authoritarian power and extensive corruption, lead people quite naturally to see electoral competition as a potentially positive countervailing force.
"Democracy," in other words, can translate into Chinese culture with all of its connotations, including its "American" or "Western" meanings.