But this is a faux proposition. There is an old Chinese saying: “The people are like water, the ruler is a ship on that water. Water can carry the ship; water can overturn the ship.” Today, nation-states have replaced empires and kingdoms. In this analogy, water is still the people. The ship, however, is no longer just an emperor and his dynasty, but the larger and far more sophisticated political system that constitutes the modern nation-state.
China’s one-party rule is enshrined in its constitution, just as America’s electoral democracy is in its. The Chinese people’s overwhelming and sustained support for the Communist Party’s leadership, as consistently reflected in independent public opinion surveys, is within the context of the nation’s one-party political constitution, and therefore can only be interpreted as support for this fundamental system of government.
Americans’ support for either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party ebbs and flows, but it is not necessarily linked to popular support for its fundamental system of electoral democracy. At the moment, both nations’ peoples support their respective political constitutions.
Some say that in the hypothetical situation in which the CCP lost popular support, it should step down from power, and only when this is ensured could the support of the people the party currently carries be rendered legitimate. Such an argument, if pushed to its logical conclusion, would mean that if, in a hypothetical situation, the current electoral regime in America lost the people’s support, the US must do away with elections, cancel the Bill of Rights, and install an authoritarian or some other system of governance.
This, of course, is absurd. Rulers may be succeeded or rotated peacefully within established systems of governance. Political systems themselves cannot be changed on a dime. With few exceptions, political systems change quickly only through revolutions. In America’s short history, it took two violent wars on its soil to establish and consolidate its current governing system.