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What China Can Learn From Switzerland In Terms Of The Social, Political, Economic And Environmental Issues

By:   |   Jul 08, 2018   |   Views: 10   |   Comments: 0


China, being a newly developed state has a number of issues that it can learn from their Swiss counterparts. This is because Switzerland's economic, political, social and environmental situations differ significantly from China's. the essay shall examine these lessons under the our subheadings and an overall recommendation will be given at the end of it.

What China can learn from Switzerland's political situation

The Chinese government has com a long way from its darker days in the eighties where the country had been grappling with an oppressive regime. While Switzerland may not be perfect in this area, China could emulate the Swiss government's commitment to fighting corruption. In the world accountability index, Switzerland has been ranked as one of the most accountable countries in the globe. According to recent surveys, government officials ensure that tax payer's money are allocated to the right projects or schemes.  China did not rank very well in this survey thus indicating that the Chinese government still has to tackle numerous cases of corruption within its ranks. By encouraging transparency, then resources will be allocated to those who rightfully deserve them thus propagating economic stability and soundness.

The Chinese political scene has been characterized by the Communist party and its regime for over three decades. This regime is still currently running the government. While that government has been able to achieve much economically, it has not upheld democratic principles. For instance, the party has been accused of tyranny by many Chinese voters. These groups have asserted that Chinese elections are not held fairly and this is definitely interrupting real democracy. Many individuals in China are suffering as the country has been marred by protests against the government. For instance, laborers oppose the communist party's stance on labor relations and worker' rights. The government's representatives have responded to these protests by claiming that China cannot be a replica of western states. However, this is the point where the Chinese government is gravely mistaken; there is a reason why the people within their country are not happy at all with the way the government is running its affairs and why the people of Switzerland seem to be more content with their government. The Chinese government needs to change the way they operate by instituting true democracy.

In Switzerland, true democracy is depicted by the fact that this government is one of the mot stable institutions thought out the world.( Wolf et al, 2007) This is because the system has managed to garner representations from a series of political representatives within the country. These include the following

  • Swiss people's party
  • Christian Democratic people's party
  • Social Democratic party
  • Free Democratic party

The country is careful to ensure that the executive has two representatives from each of these parties except the Swiss people party which only has one representative. While this arrangement has not been perfect, it has gone along way in ensuring that the Swiss government's executive represents the interests of its people. Even when one member has to be ousted, usually, another person coming from a similar linguistic groups and similar party is chosen to represent him/her. This system of government has been in place ever since the year 1959 to date (with some minimal change in 2003).  China should consider such an alternative. They have the option of creating a system that allows true democracy by representing the views of its people. The Chinese system should be altered in such a way that they incorporate people representation in certain arms of the executive. It may not be plausible to ape the entire system but incorporating elements of such a system in the Chinese government would go a long way in instituting economic freedom.

China's major problem lies in the fact that they do not acknowledge the importance of democratic institutions. The communist party is governed by communist ideals. As it has been seen in other parts of the world such as the Soviet Union, communism only serves to destroy the very people that it intends to help/protect. The Chinese government could learn from their Swiss counterparts in that the rights of the common man need to take precedence. While the Chinese government does not impose its rules directly upon it people, there is considerable evidence to show that it does so behind the scenes. The government should look out for the overall good of the citizen rather than maintaining its personal interests.

China's policies have also come into question owing to the way the government has tackled some of their opposing forces. A case in point is the issue of Tibet. Tibet and the Communist party have been in constant clashes from as a far back as the twentieth century. In the mid fifties, Tibet came into serious confrontation with the Chinese government thus necessitating the Tibetan leader's exile. This Tibetan leader has been in constant clashes with the Chinese government advocating for independence of Tibet through peaceful resolutions. The Chinese government's faults on handling this issue came to the fore when some people were forcefully arrested and injured prior to the 2008 Olympics. This matter brings out the fact that the Chinese government still has a long way to go in terms of addressing the problems of its citizenry. China has severely undermined the rights of the Tibetan people by failing to listen to their leader (The Dalai Lama) regardless of the fact that this leader is in fact looking for peaceful resolutions to the problems between the two groups.

In relation to the Tibetan crisis, the Chinese government could borrow a leaf from Switzerland. When Switzerland is faced with any problems that affect a large number of people, then they usually apply the system of direct democracy. Direct democracy is unique to Switzerland owing to the fact that any member of the nation can change state policies if they can demonstrate firm support for the policy from the rest of the population. All one has to do is garner fifty thousand signatures within a period of one hundred days. The issue is then taken to parliament where it is directed to the people. The nation is usually required to vote on the matter on one day and if the issue receives a majority vote, then it is passed into law. Additionally, Swiss citizens have the right to amend any part of the constitution which they feel does not represent their rights if they can garner one hundred thousand signatures in period of eighteen months. This scheme is called the general initiative and allows citizens to question certain laws. Usually, the government itself has a right to field counterproposal s on the same day that the voting is to take place. It should be noted that the counterproposal is not something that is totally opposite a citizen's proposal, instead, it is an attempt to change some of the wording of the amendment.  A national vote is usually conducted and if voters decide for the issue, then it is passed.

China is faced with the problem of tackling the Tibetan question. They could institute such a mechanism for this particular only the Tibetan conflict (since it might be difficult trying to create direct democracy within the country for all matters). They could apply similar rules and give the Chinese public the right to vote for or against granting Tibet independence.

What China can learn from Switzerland's economic situation

Income inequalities are still a very serious issue in China even after its successful years between 2002 to 2007. The reason why these inequalities arose was that unlike the Swiss government, the Chinese governed has a direct approach to controlling the country's economy. This could be the reason why China is facing some challenges here and there. For instance before the economic boom, the Chinese government had created certain programs that made citizens dependant on the former. Consequently, when the government abruptly changed their stance,  unemployment rates began soaring and income inequalities plummeted. China can adopt the Swiss government's approach to economic governance. (Economy watch, 2008) The Swiss government rarely makes abrupt policy changes that would destabilize the entire macro-economic system. This is because they realize that doing this may cause short term benefits but bring about greater problems in the long run. (SSE, 2007)

As it is currently, the Chinese economy is still widely driven by certain controllers of capital. When one wants to export commodities from China, they usually have to take advantage of a network of friends or family that are located in other parts of the world (especially within the Asian continent) so as to succeed in foreign market. Usually, these networks are created by individuals who have links to the government; they are the controllers of capital and they ensure that capital remains within their confines. Such an approach to doing business is quite detrimental to the country. Even non governmental organizations formed to check on the government's mechanisms for controlling trade are state owned. One is therefore left to wonder how any entity can hope to create free flowing economic policies when it is owned by the same entity that it is supposed to check. Some economists have asserted that in China, it is exceedingly difficult to separate the state and the economy as the two are one and the same thing. Such an approach of doing business can be effective when policies created are for the good of the country. But in the long term, this system leaves too much power in the hands of certain well connected individuals who are bound to abuse it.

China could learn from their Swiss counterparts who operate under a free market economy. Issues such as economic networks are uncommon among the Swiss people regardless of the fact that Switzerland engages in a lot of international trade. It should be noted here, that when a corporation is to be set up in another part of the world, then that entrepreneur must operate under the prevailing economic conditions rather than depending on personal connections. This has encouraged equitability in resource distribution and this is on of the reasons why the Swiss economy is very stable.

What China can learn from Switzerland's social situation

(Economy watch, 2008)

it can be seen above, Switzerland's population growth rate was 0.4 % between the years 2005 and 2006. Its growth rate diminished between 2006 and 2007. However, the drop was not too marginal as the country has managed to keep a lid on constant changes in population compositions. However, in China, the same issue has not occurred. China introduced a measure that would reduce population growth rates ad thus introduced the one-child-policy. While this created short term benefits of controlling rising populations, the country's youth population has drastically diminished. This is one of the reasons why the dramatic years of China's economy have disappeared. (Brooks and Tao, 2007) China can learn from their counterpart in Switzerland by controlling their population in such a manner that their economy will not be affected by it.

In terms of China's social system, there are a number of pointers that China could borrow from Switzerland. For instance, they ought to relax government control in religion.  Time and time again, the Chinese government has been accused by international media and local critics of its excessive religious control. The reason behind this is that China perceives religion as a threat to their socialist system. So in response to this, China instituted a mechanism that registers religions. As if this is not enough, the government has instituted policies that governs  the way those religions are run so that they can reinforce their definition of social stability. The Chinese government believes that they ought to look for ways in which they can work together with religions so that they can institute patriotism within those systems. To demonstrate the Chinese government's instance on this issue, one only has to visit religious seminaries where young leaders are expected to be educated politically and socially as dictated by the government. (John, 2006)

However, the Chinese government could be dragging down their citizens by pursuing such a method, this is because in order to respect the freedom of their citizens, any government needs to realize the fact that politics and religion are separate entities as is the case in Switzerland. Political institutions in Switzerland hardly interfere in the running of religious affairs unless those acts are contravening the rights of other citizens. The Chinese government seems to be operating in fear of religious leaders claiming that these leaders can destabilize the government or even overthrow it. The following quote illustrates just how serious this problem is;

"€¦since the 1980's some pernicious organizations have sprung up in certain areas of China which engage in illegal and even criminal activities under the signboard of religion. Some of the heads of these pseudo-religions distort religious doctrines, create heresies, deceive the masses, refuse to obey the State's laws and decrees, and incite people to overthrow the government "

(Chinese governed White paper , 1997)

The latter assertions only serve to create an atmosphere of tension between the Chinese people and their governors. A much safer approach would be the Swiss methodology. This country ensures that their respective citizens can follow and religious denomination that they wish. Even in state owned institutions, the same practice is followed. In Switzerland, children are taught religious subjects; however, those who come from different religions do not have to attend those classers. Additionally, the country recognizes the fact that atheists do exist and those who come from such backgrounds are not required to attend class. This example illustrates just how much the Swiss government is committed to religious freedom. Additionally, the Swiss constitution is the overriding determinant of religious practices. No single individual (including government officials) are allowed to oppress another person's right to freedom of religion. In this country, no one is above the law. However, in China, it seems as though the constitution seems like a side show when the government has decided to take a stance on a certain religious issue. China should follow Swiss' example by making all government officials and representatives accountable through the constitution. (ICRF, 2002)

Switzerland's respect for other person can be seen by the fact that the government has created a number of organizations that facilitate meditation of such issues in cases where oppression of people's rights occur. These projects include

  • Federal Service for Combating racism
  • Local consultation centers
  • Centre for tolerance in Bern
  • Semitism tolerance projects
  • etc

The Swiss government recognizes the fact that society will always have divisions. One of the most prevalent cases is racism, which the government has tackled through the latter mentioned programs. The Federal Service for Combating racism was set up by the Swiss government to deal with anti Semitism within society. This organization is found in all the twenty six states/cantons of Switzerland. Consequently, it is now possible for victims of racial prejudice to get help from these government institutions. The latter program was instituted in the year 2002. It began performing its function by creating local centers that would make it easier for victims of religious or racial prejudice to report their cases and seek counseling. In order to demonstrate the government's commitment to the issue of eradicating religious or racial discrimination, the government allocated fifteen million Swiss Francs to be used in those local centers during the year 2002.

The Chinese government can also learn from such an experience by creating systems that enhance racial or religious accountability. However, since the problem of religious freedom is more pressing than any other form of discrimination (Ze, 2008) then the Chinese government can look for ways of instituting such a program.  They could first start by changing their constitution to create room for tackling religious discrimination. They should then make the constitution supreme over other interest groups. A neutral party could be appointed to look into these cases of discrimination and if government officials are found guilty of the same, they should be ousted from their respective positions. This neutral coordinating body could inform the populace about the availability of such mechanisms. It could also assure and ensure that those who are courageous enough to report religious discrimination are protected from persecution. Religious freedom has been a major problem in the Chinese economy but through a Swiss- like model, China can be well on its way to instituting greater respect for human rights.

What China can learn from Switzerland's environmental situation

Environmental controls in Switzerland are some of the most efficient in the world. This is because the government has demonstrated their commitment to fighting environmental degradation. The Chinese poplutaion harbors some of the highest numbers of consumers in the world. This also means that such individuals are bound to affect their environment to a greater extent than their counterparts in Switzerland. The Chinese government has tried instating mechanisms that curb excessive environmental degradation but it appears as though these mechanisms are not in line with the prevailing situation on the ground. (Jung, 2007)

In terms of wood consumption, China has been accused of felling a large number of trees in Brazil in order to feed the needs of its paper industries. The government has not done anything to curb this problem. Additionally, industrial emissions from this country are also at soaring levels owing to the fact that it is major export hub. Some of the most common household commodities in the world are made in China. So far, the Chinese government has introduced only minimal measures that could assist in controlling the levels of these emissions.

China could learn from the Swiss environmental laws because the latter government has carbon limits for various emitting sources. Also, industries that require scarce raw material, must demonstrate environmental accountability by depicting public good will. (Ortalano and Ma, 2000)

In terms of energy use, China has a huge demand for gas used to drive their automobiles. Most of these automobiles have little or no room for filtering carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Also, Chinese consumers have not considered some of the fuel saving methodologies that they could use to curb excess green house gases in the atmosphere. The Swiss government has been very keen on this and their approach could serve as lesson to the Chinese government in the future. In Switzerland many automobiles have installed carbon filtering devices and thus emit minimal carbon into the atmosphere.


Switzerland is politically, economical, socially and environmentally stable. It has also been recognized as a first world state for a much longer period than China. Consequently, the latter have a lot that they could learn from the former. The main political lesson that they can learn from Swiss is by instituting greater democracy. The communist party may seem effective externally, but it is greatly hurting it people. Socially, China can learn from Switzerland by curbing religious discrimination. This can be done by creating laws that hold the government accountable. Economically, China can learn from Switzerland by separating politics from the economy as is the case today in China. Lastly, the Chinese government ought to be more vigilant about its environmental polices like their counterparts in Switzerland. (Ortalano and Ma, 2000)


Brooks and Tao (2007); China's Labor Market Performance and Challenges, IMF working paper 03/210, International Monetary Fund

John B.  (2006); Understanding China: A Guide to China's Economy, History and Political Structure, Prentice Hall

Jung W.  (2007); Environmental impact of industrialization in East Asia; Springer Publishers

Loren, C. et al (2008); Growth and Structural Transformation in China, Cambridge University Press

Ortalano, L and Ma, X (2000): Environmental Regulation in China: institutions, enforcement and compliance;  Rowman & Littlefield

(SSE, 2007): China stock market; Retrieved from www.sse.com.cn/ssereport,

Wolf, L. et al (2007); Handbook of Swiss Politics, Neue Zürcher Zeitung Publishing

ICRF (2002): Religious freedom in Switzerland, retrieved from http://www.state.gov/ accessed on 24th September

Ze, H. (2008): The reality of China's democratic claims, The Guardian, 13th July 2008

Economy watch (2008): The economy of Switzerland, retrieved from http://wwww.economywatch.com/

accessed on 24th September

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