MER – Turkey adopts the Chinese model

Turkey adopts the Chinese modelEver since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided to crush the Tiananmen Square protest 25 years ago, the term andldquoChinese modelandrdquo came to be seen as political hegemony legitimized by economic performance. What has been happening in Turkey since the crackdown on the Gezi protest movement looks increasingly like the Chinese model, where an authoritarian crackdown on liberties is tolerated by the people because of economic development.

The recent arrest of journalists brings a new dimension to how far the government is willing to go in terms of suppression of media freedom The ban on reporting about the corruption investigation in the parliamentary committee fits into the same pattern. How far will the Justice and Development Party (AKP) go in terms of its crackdown? The answer to this question depends on how long the Turkish people will tolerate the crackdown — and this depends on how long the Turkish economy will continue to perform reasonably well despite such bad governance.

The lesson of Tiananmen for the CCP was clear: There was a need to speed up economic reforms in order to keep the people quiet. In other words, the masses would not go out onto the streets if they had better economic conditions.

The Chinese model, or the Beijing consensus, as it came to be known, was to provide economic development and expect political legitimacy in return. This is why in the wake of 1989, the CCP gave new momentum to Chinaand#39s capitalist opening that the late architect of Chinaand#39s developmental model, communist leader Deng Xiaoping, had already begun in the 1970s.

The result is well known: The Chinese economy has been growing at a yearly average of 10 percent for the last 25 years, and in return, people give their andquotreluctant supportandquot to the regime. This Chinese model defies the logic that economic development would lead to democracy.

To the contrary, in what has become the dream model for all autocrats, China proves that economic development leads to political stability.This is the Chinese model the AKP wants to emulate.

ErdoIan knows all too well that his ability to govern by autocratic means depends on economic development and prosperity. As a result, economic development in Turkey is now producing political stability in an autocratic form Just as in the case of China, people who are making money, receiving adequate government services and witnessing upward financial mobility are happy to turn a blind eye to authoritarianism, corruption and environmental degradation.

In a tragic sense, the Chinese model has become the AKPand#39s own path to supremacy and hegemony.On the surface this comparison may seem unfair Turkey is surely in much better shape than China, in terms of its democratic credentials.

One can argue that there are free elections in Turkey and that this puts Turkey in another category. Yet how free can elections really be when the media is not free? How free can elections be when there are major restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly?At the end of the day, the Chinese model refers to political economy.

It is based on a simple equation: Provide growth and receive consent from the people. The AKPand#39s so-called andquotNew Turkeyandquot is no longer a model for the compatibility of democracy, Islam and good governance.

In fact, now Westerners look at Turkey and wonder why such an autocratic leader is able to win election after elections. The answer that is becoming consensus has two dimensions.

First, itand#39s about the absence of a better alternative. The second and more important one is about the economic performance and the economic services that the government is able to provide to large segments of the Turkish population.

What ErdoIan does not understand is that by cracking down on liberties and media freedom he is also hurting Turkeyand#39s economic performance. The absence of rule of law is already being cited as one reason why Turkey is no longer perceived as a safe place for foreign direct investment.

Corruption, in that sense, is becoming a huge problem not only for governance but for the ability of Turkey to maintain its Chinese model based on economic performance.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman