A degree of caution might be wise. It is rarely a great idea to try and put your trust in unelected leaders even when they are following policies that sound at first quite promising. Just ask the people of Venezuela or those highly embarrassed folk on the left who lauded that country as a socialist paradise and ignored the problems of lack of democracy and over controlled economies. Just because a state voices a commitment to equality does not mean every person who wants to see a more equal world is obliged to support that state whatever it does. Freedom also matters. As does community and environment. Without freedom states that claim to be socialist usually end up very badly indeed. As 'Uncle' Joe Stalin should have taught us.
So it is great that the Chinese communist party has placed environmental issues at the heart of their latest 5 year plan. But that plan needs the buy in of some very powerful local bureaucrats for it to be effective and they are outside the control of the local citizens who depend on their decision making. The city dwellers who are breathing horrible smog pumped out by millions of petrol guzzling cars and thousands of dirty coal powered local factories get a daily lesson in the need to sort out environmental issues when they send their children off to school wearing face masks. But local party officials aren't obliged to listen to their concerns. They may very well decide to meet the targets for building alternative energy plants and then proceed to carry on buying power from party members running local coal mines or accept bribes to turn a blind eye to pollution produced by local factories run by their friends and allies.
State management and guidance of a market economy has proved a phenomenally successful model taking China from third world status to become the most powerful manufacturing nation in the world. A fact that our UK extreme 'free' market enthusiasts conveniently forget as they tell us how important it is that we remove all controls and then totally fail to plausibly explain the crash that happened to unregulated financial markets in 2008. But state management by an unelected government has a nasty tendency to ossify and to fail to renew itself. China is best viewed not as being run by communists with a burning desire to serve the poor. It is best viewed as a country that is being run by a self perpetuating elite. It is as if the Freemasons had taken over the UK. A gentlemen's club that decides who to admit and relies on a network of regular favours is not my idea of the idea model of government.
That elite may be making some very good decisions at the moment. But the potential for more unpleasant decisions remains very real. Just look at way the leaders are ramping up territorial claims in the South China Sea or their refusal to bring North Korea under control. The ability of those corrupt old boy networks to undermine reform programmes should also not be under-estimated. China may have some very good environmental policies at the moment and may be using the state very effectively to improve its economy but it is not remotely a free country or a democracy and the problems associated with that are very real.
Given that Donald Trump just got himself elected by manipulating democracy, appealing to the lowest common denominator and telling outright lies it is probably not the ideal time at the moment to be arguing for the importance and the value of democracy. I happen to believe that anyone who gives up on it or under-estimates its value is making a huge mistake. Democracy may have given us Donald Trump but it also means that the American people can also kick him out very easily. The same cannot be said for the Chinese Premier.
For Donald and his like to get kicked out it will not be enough for people of goodwill to simply demonstrate against his victory. We have to understand the forces that elected him and decide which of them to challenge and refute and how. We have to understand how a disconnect developed between those of us who like to think that we stand up for ordinary working people and why a significant minority of those people don't think much of the track record of the conventional left.
For this to happen we need a dispassionate analysis of Trump's policies. Some of what he is proposing to do could work in his own terms for some period of time. Protection of a domestic economic market usually works to the benefit of the people within that one country at first. Then the rest of the world retaliates and you discover your factories are even less able to compete on a global market that has moved on without you. Similarly creating low tax havens can also work for a short period of time. It is entirely possible that exiled millionaires will move their cash and their income back to the states to take advantage of tax breaks. That is highly likely to create a stock market boom, an explosion of top end property values, and leave banks flush with cash. Not something which will do a lot to help the poor!
It is highly unlikely that Trump will be willing to make those banks invest that cash in the real economy but you never know. What he is saying that he wants to do is to launch a major programme of investment in infrastructure. He has never said where he intends to get the money from but it is just possible that he intends to organise a substantial exercise in counter cyclical investment to boost the economy. If so then that wouldn't be so very different to Roosevelt's New Deal which rescued the US economy from 25% unemployment rates in the 1930s. So that element of his programme deserves a degree of cautious support not knee jerk criticism. We need to get beyond emotion and attack selected policies instead of every single one.
A good example of where to attack is his unfortunate statement that the US education system as flush with cash. There is only one way to interpret this phrase in his Presidential address. He intends to cut government spending on schools at the same time as he cuts back on health care and welfare. No doubt he will accompany this attack on working people with a lot of rhetoric. But with massive tax cuts for the richest and huge cuts in services used most heavily by the poor and the middle classes there is a very high chance that he is about to become one of the most disappointing Presidents in history for that significant minority of the white working class who voted for him or failed to vote against him. I expect him to confound critics and do well for around 18 months and then to crash and burn very badly and go down as one of the great Presidential cock ups of all time.
The good thing about democracy is that if I am wrong then he will be swept back into power by a grateful nation and if I am right then the American people will be able to get rid of him and his Republican supporters pretty quickly. America may not be pursuing such good policies as China just at the moment but never under-estimate the advantages of being able to kick out arrogant over blown incompetents at an election. On both sides of the Atlantic we are going to need to make some very effective use of that ballot box over the next couple of years!