Comparing democracy to authoritarianism, it is necessary to note that since the inception of the concept of democracy it is associated with the state and, therefore, coercion, is seen in a rule of the majority over the minority, and often it is a well-organized form of government of a privileged minority that is more or less controlled by the people. Blondel (1972) demonstrated that real democracy is far from democratic values: freedom, equality, etc., because the power is always concentrated in someone’s hands; and it makes democracy somehow similar to authoritarianism (p. 137).
Using examples of two countries like China and South Africa, we see that both countries have different political systems.
The political system of modern China is determined differently. Some experts call it non-institutionalized authoritarianism, others – the bureaucratic authoritarian political system, and the third group of experts considers it a post-totalitarian, but its designation as a Communist still retain. Martin (2010) noted that “in addition, China has long struggled to find an efficient and effective means to coordinate governance between the central and local governments—a problem that remains unresolved to the satisfaction of top political figures” (p. 16).
It is recognized that China has a classical one-party system dominated by a monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party. The core of the political system, its leading and guiding force acts as the Communist Party of China. This is one of the few modern systems, which officially adheres to the socialist (communist) ideology. According to Martin (2010), this relatively young political system has proved very effective and adaptive structure from the perspective of historical time. Indeed, it meets all the requirements to qualify as such: has a high resistance; is endowed with regulatory power; uses the support of the population and, therefore, is legitimate; is highly adaptable; is very effective; has high symbolizing capacity and high demonstration effect.
Nowadays Chinese government combines a liberal economic policy and authoritarian policy, while the country’s foreign policy seeks to avoid confrontation with major powers. Gilley (2006) stated that “among clear predictions of China’s political future, we can discern four broad types: no major changes, an evolution towards right-wing neo-authoritarianism, a descent into chaos, and a transition to democracy.” China seeks to assert its regional leadership, occupying a central position in Asian regional subsystem of international relations. Moreover, due to studies of Western analysts and economists, China managed to develop a strategy to solve economic problems, including active, but non-confrontational development of relations with the outside world in the future.
Observing the political system in Africa, in general, it is possible to note that, traditionally, the main institution of the African government was a monarchy – a system that provides a strict distinction between the ruler and his subjects. Neocosmos et al (2002) demonstrated that “in a discussion of liberation and democracy in Southern Africa in the current globalised phase of capitalism, we need to start from one point: namely that the history of liberation and democratization in Southern Africa cannot be a history of anything but a history of social and political transformation” (p. 6).
The power of authority spread directly from individual to individual, without going through the specialized agencies among African communities who do not know any hierarchical political structures. Democracy is a constant and well-established institution of government for modern western civilization. As it was previously mentioned, in theory, democracy involves erasing the differences between the ruler and his subjects, but, in practice, the attributes of power are in the hands of a small group of experts – lawyers, judges, police and others. Neocosmos et al (2002) noted that, thinking about the democratic political system in South Africa, it is necessary to emphasize on the fact that western democracy and the African system of government is, therefore, political systems, which have very little in common among themselves (p. 84). Serfontein and Du Toit (2010) added that “politically the country is in a process of transition”. If we add to this the fact that the boundaries of modern African states do not coincide with the traditional and tribal division, and because of this lack of awareness of the territorial integrity and national unity, it becomes apparent how little resemblance between what is called democracy here, in South Africa, and Western democracy.
Thus, we have discussed democratic and authoritarian political systems, and have used two countries like China and South Africa for the demonstration of their implementation in practice. In conclusion, study of types of political systems provides insight not only in developing of various states, but also helps to find the key to the behavior of each person in different political situations.
Blondel, J. (1972). Comparing Political Systems. Praeger.
Gilley, B. (2006). Elite-led Democratization in China: Prospects, Perils, and Policy Implications. International Journal, Vol. 61 (2).
Martin, M. (2010, April 14). Understanding China’s Political System. Congressional Research Service.
Nelson, D. (1995). After Authoritarianism: Democracy or Disorder? Praeger.
Neocosmos, M. et al. (2002). Political Cultures in Democratic South Africa. Nordic African Institute.
Serfontein, S. and Du Toit, L. (2010). Organization Development in South Africa: an Exciting Challenge for the Behavioral Scientist. Organization Development Journal. Vol. 28 (4).