For my last research journal I want to discuss what I learned from the process of researching/writing this paper. I found the research journals that we were required to do each week to be very helpful. Doing little amounts of research each week helped me not only stay on top of the paper, but it also helped me understand the topic a lot more then I think I would if I were to start the paper two weeks before it was do. One thing that I learned while doing research for one paper for a whole semester is that it is really important to take good notes on the articles and books that I read. While writing and revising my paper I found that I had to reread many of my sources because my notes did not provide me with enough information.
Prior to starting this paper I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of how to conduct research, but this paper helped me improve my research skills. I found that there were a lot of books at the library pertaining to my topics about Ghana and Kenya the challenge was finding what sources I thought were the best, most accurate depiction that I was looking for. I felt like I was rereading a lot of the same information over and over again just from different sources. Of course this helped me better understand the information, but it also helped me develop a better sense of what type of information/articles were worth reading.
While writing this paper I found that no mater how good you feel you information is at describing your logic and thought process it can always be better! I found that my political history to be specifically challenging because I felt like I had to condense so much history into one short section. This helped me really pick out what information was important to my argument. I also learned how to better organize my paper. I found the articles that your provided us really helpful in understanding the structure and organization. Overall, writing this paper was a valuable learning experience that will help me writing future papers.
This week my main focus has been working on strengthening my theory section. It was a lot easier to tie all of my arguments together after reading Horowitz and developing a better understanding of ethnicity and how it plays into democratization. I am going to frame my theory section around ethnicity and how ethnicity affects electoral institutions and the media. This will make my paper easier to follow and make it better organized. The rest of my week will just be strengthening up my case studies and figuring out how to best conclude my paper. I know I want to discuss each of the most recent elections in each country and relate all of my arguments back to the outcomes of each. I think that I want to have a separate section outside of each case study so that I can better compare and contrast each election.
Due to the built up distrust that China feels towards the west I think the best sorts of strategies that the US can use to promote democracy in China is a cooperative one that establishes a feeling of mutual benefit and does not work to undermine the culture and values that the Chinese already have. The traditional ways that the US has promoted democracy, for example economic sanctions and confrontation, have proved to be less beneficial than originally thought. Because China is the largest US creditor they can be seen as having an advantage against the US. They can more easily ignore sanctions because they have the “power of the purse” so to speak.
Baogang argues that the best way to go about promoting democracy in China is to go in with the mindset to improve governance and not the mindset of changing regimes. Instead of scrutinizing and challenging the improvements that China has already made, I think it would be most beneficial for the US to help more with the grassroot efforts that are already happening within rural China. If the democratic values are taught directly to the citizens then genuine democracy will be more easily obtained. Government will be less likely to resist democratic promotion if they have noticeable evidence from their citizens that US’s aid is actually helping.
To a certain extent being able to participate in elections allows Chinese citizens to represent themselves and act independently of the government. It gives them the idea of universal suffrage and instills in them the idea of what it is like to actively participate in their government. In the case of land laws and land distribution, being able to vote in village elections provides citizens with tangible outcomes (102).
But I can also see elections being undemocratic because citizens have little choice of candidates when voting and if the CPP feels that their power is being threatened they step in. Because the CPP greatly fears loosing power and multiparty elections are nonexistent. Campaigning can also be challenging for candidates, for example the Miao Liangxiang case (96). It is difficult for citizens to become candidates because the process is highly controlled by the CPP (82). Elections act as a way for the government to recruit new non-members into the Party. Furthermore, once the elections are held and a candidate is elected there is not a clear line of where their duties end and where the CPP duties start (83). If the CPP was overstepping their boundaries it would be hard for elected officials to make positive changes in their communities. This could potentially make citizens feel like their elected officials are not doing their job and they would be less likely to vote in future elections. Rural Chinese voters seem to be learning good democratic practices, but to the extent that they are able to practice them is challenging.
When talking about ethnic politics I think that it is especially important to focus on the period following decolonization. In its first constitution following independence Kenya had explicit minority rights in place. It was the idea that incorporating minority rights into the constitution would help fix the conflicts that were a consequence of colonialism. But the constitution was seen as unworkable and was amended multiple times. In my paper I will discuss how this played into the future ethnic politics of the country, more specifically in the founding elections of 1992 and the following years. Unlike Kenya, Ghana did not experience a constitution that blatantly laid out minority rights, but this does not mean that they were not ethnically divided. Ghana handled ethnic division much differently than Kenya by creating institutions that supported cooperation between ethnic groups. In my paper I will further discuss the importance that this had on consolidating democracy in Ghana.
Although there are various forms of democracy I do not think “democracy with Chinese characteristics” is compatible with the actual practices and principles of democracy. The Chinese ruling party, CPP, is not held accountable to their actions and still hold a strong monopoly on power within the state. Citizens may have say in local elections, and that is arguably a good step in the right direction, but they still do not have a significant voice in issues that they are supposed to be represented in. Furthermore, the CCP does not see the need for multiple parties within the government, but rather, they believe that everything should work ‘under the leadership of the CCP.’ (36) It is hard to challenge the ruling party because they suppress forms of opposition and dissent, for example Liu Xiaobo when he spoke about the need to address the CCP’s monopoly on power (46).
I do not see the five benchmarks for the future that the White Paper on Democracy puts forth as helping create a more democratic state. The first benchmark is “Maintaing the unity and leadership of the CCP”, but if the CCP continues to hold the reputation it does now of suppressing dissent then I fail to see how in the future it will become more democratic. Corruption is also still wide spread within the CPP. The government recently has prosecuted corrupt officials, but like Brown points out there is little punishment for members of the CPP. China may claim to have ‘intra-Party democracy’, but enough pluralism does not exist within the state to support that claim.
I am currently working on the revisions of my paper. As I have talked about in previous posts, my biggest challenge is the formatting of my paper. I have worked out my theory and political history section. I added a couple more sources in my political history section as well as making the history more relevant to my argument. I found adding more sources and unpacking the history a little bit more added a lot to my paper. I found a great source on the making of the constitution in Kenya that gave me a much deeper understanding of the history. The only thing I still want to add to my history section is a short discussion about ethnicity in each country. I am still trying to come up with a way to fit this in to what I have written so far.
My next step is figuring out the best way to organize my case studies. I want them to be organized the same way so that the reader can easily follow my argument. I have not run into any other challenges, and plan on continuing to revise my rough draft throughout the coming weeks.
I begin my paper with an abstract of what I will be discussing. From there I go into a theory section that further explains my specific case studies and how they will help answer my question of why democratization has been more successful in Ghana than in Kenya. After this section I am unsure of where I want to go next. My main argument is dealing with electoral institutions, civil society and ethnicity, and the media and how they influence the consolidation of democracy. I think it would make sense to talk about why these three variables are important in democracy in a separate section, so that when I get to discussing them in my case studies the background knowledge will already be established. Would this be necessary? Or should I assume that my audience knows why each of these is important in a democracy? From there, I would go into the political history of Ghana and Kenya, and then the case studies would follow.
Lynch points to many different political events and social conditions that he believes were precursors to the Arab uprisings. Lynch makes clear that regional politics and how Arab states interact with one another are very complex. Events such as the Arab Cold War, the second Palestinian Intifada, the Iraq War, the Egyptian Kefaya movement, and the various different riots that have ensued have all helped in forming the recent uprisings. The Arab public sphere is also very mobilized and empowered which Lynch argues makes a key impact in regional politics. Lynch also talks about how the Arab world has a deep connection to one another and shares a common identity (12). They share some of the same problems and can rally around their similarities and look to one’s success as an example. Lynch also points to the Arab media and social media as being very influential in the uprisings, however, he does not believe that it explains it at a deeper level.
These conditions resemble the “Color Revolutions” in the sense that they too share a common past and were also dealing with a lot of the same problems. Like eastern Europe, an uprising or protest that is influential in one state has a great effect on other states that are have the same grievances. For example, the Kefaya movement in had significant influence in the communication tactics, organizations methods, and organizational forms for other Arab protest movements (57).
Although I do not completely agree that protests are truly “modular”, I do find many of Beissinger’s points convincing. When societies are interconnected and share characteristics it becomes easier to learn from examples. You can look to the success of states that were once like your own and see what is possible. Even when states are not geographically close they can in a sense unite under shared history. Beissinger points to the example of Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan and their communist past.
But I think protests can differ and become less modular once you throw other factors into play, like a countries level of education or how dependent they are on a single resource. When looking at two opposing states that have different levels of development, I find it hard to believe that the same strategies of protest will work. Every state will have a different starting point with how democratic they are, therefore, all the same rules will not apply. Some states may have stronger institutions that are more likely to suppress the protest. Also, I think protests are based off of individual and unique complaints, and that being the case, no one protest is going to play out the same way. Although protests can draw inspiration from one another like Bessinger argues,”each was based on local initiative and local sources of dissatisfaction, and each played itself out somewhat differently.” (262)