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What America Can Learn From China: In Politics, Competence Matters

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Daily Ticker
What America Can Learn From China: In Politics, Competence Matters

China’s Communist Party just completed its so-called “third plenum,” where party leaders laid out a series of reforms aimed at addressing medium- to long-term issues in the world’s second-largest economy.

In America, meanwhile, 29 members of Congress will meet this week as the latest, greatest 'super-committee' picks up the can that was kicked down the road last month. If the committee isn’t able to come up with a budget deal by Dec. 13, the world’s largest economy could suffer another government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires Jan. 15, followed by another potential debt ceiling crisis a month later.

In other words, China continues to plan years ahead while America is too consumed with partisan battles to successfully deal with issues of immediate importance, much less address long-term issues.

“Given the political situation in the U.S. is such that the focus is on just staying in office, that certainly detracts from more urgent issues that this country needs to talk about and do, frankly,” says Ann Lee, adjunct professor at NYU and author of What the U.S. Can Learn from China. "The U.S. now is too focused on short-term reelection [issues] so as soon as politicians get into office, the very next day they're thinking about fundraising."

Of course, Chinese officials don’t have to worry about reelection – such is the benefit of one-party rule. But Lee says China’s system has more going for it than just the absence of serious political opposition.

“Even if they introduce elections…they require people to prove they’ve done something before they can get higher office,” Lee says of China’s political system. “It’s almost like our corporate system where you don’t get the CEO through elections. You basically have to prove yourself through your entire career that you’re capable for that top position.”

In other words, China’s political system is more of a meritocracy than America’s where “political rhetoric” often carries the day (and the election). Lee says America becoming more like China in this regard “would be a welcome change to help the U.S. put more competent people in office and align incentives more for what general society needs.”

I would vote for that. What about you?

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com