During my time in university I took courses on the rise of European civilization, the first civilization to achieve global domination. Back then, most historians we had to read on this topic we Jewish - Wallerstein, Landes, Frank, etc. Still, the book which made a biggest impression on me was ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age — the central thesis is that Occidental economic dominance was a temporary break from Oriental economic domination, which results in a continuous negative trade-balance between Europe/America and Asia. Now, ten years later it seems we are experiencing the reshifting towards an Asian dominated economy.
I have been in Asia several times, especially in China, and I was awe-struck by the sheer size and magnitude of their history, their present and their future. What Edmund Connelly wrote about Japan actually can be applied to the whole of East-Asia. All Asian economic tigers have the same features — authoritarain political leadership, strong cultural-ethnic awareness and a state-sponsored centralized economy. Even countries which appear to be democratic like Japan and Korea are actually run by a technocratic elite of one dominating party. These countries are staunchly monocultural in composition and outlook. Although China has a lot minorities (56 ethnic groups), they constitute less than 10% of the total population. They never appear on television, except for the yearly Spring Festival television show in their traditional clothes like some kind of exotic bird species.
What the rise of East-Asia teaches us is that democracy and free markets are not necessary ingredients for a properous economy. Compare the economic demise of the Soviet Union after a popular revolt in 1991 and the economic rise of China after smashing a call for more democracy in 1989. The East-Asian countries also did not receive any development aid to speak of, unlike Africa. The most striking feature is the total absence of political division. The nation is seen as sacred and individed. Most East-Asians dislike dissenters, which are seen as people who make their country look bad to the outside world (and subsequently make them lose face) and agents of the West.
In my opinion democracy is a weakness, not a strength. Democracy makes the political parties sensitive to financial pressure (because no political movement can sustain without it) and therefore foreign influence. Democracy also gives a big loudspeaker to partisan minorities, in other words: it is a necessary condition for the culture of critique against the dominating values and culture. Democracy also divides the nation into interest groups, which generally creates a lot of division but does not solve anything — everybody has been given a voice, but nobody is satisfied. Democracy is the road to national dissolution. Democracy is not the way to recover a divided nation.
Back to Asia. America has never been thought of as a role model in Asia. Pat Buchanan has recently broached this topic: “We demand that the Chinese be more open and tolerant of opposition and dissent. But when they look at the gridlock of American democracy, the pettiness of our politics and the failure of our policies, while they are on the move at home and all over the world, why should they want to be more like us?” Even in 1978 when Chinese’s communist leader Deng Xiaoping came to capitalist America to negotiate economic cooperation for his country wrecked by years of cultural revolution, there were jokes about American democracy [video, from 3:14]. Even the main reason for demise of America, open borders and mass-immigration, was greeted with a sinister joke from Deng’s side, shown in this video (from 4.37).