14. December 2005 · Comments Off on Chinese Demand Perestroika · Categories: General Nonsense, World

This from William J. Dobson at TNR:

There is no question that the growing size and scope of public unrest is a matter of grave concern for Beijing’s leadership. But what must be more alarming than the number of protests is something more fundamental: the erosion of the political formula that is supposed to keep the current regime in power. The Chinese Communist Party believed that, with the ushering in of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms more than two decades ago, it had struck a grand political bargain with the people: that as long as Beijing kept the country’s economic engine humming the public would accept both the lack of political freedom and the state’s abandonment of the socialist principles upon which it was founded. Income was supposed to replace ideology.

But the country’s economic growth, which remains among the world’s fastest, is not keeping a lid on dissent. Indeed, just about the only thing rising faster than the country’s economy is the people’s anger at the government. Since 2000, the country has held steady with 9 percent economic growth. During the same time, protests have grown by more than 20 percent a year. For Beijing’s leaders, what is worse than the rising number of protests is not knowing how to stem the tide.


China’s leaders have probably long since realized a growing economy isn’t enough. Indeed, the country’s experiments in cowboy capitalism have led to many of the abuses that are now fanning the flames of protest. No one doubts that Beijing’s technocrats know what it takes to engineer impressive GDP growth. It’s less clear that they can condition millions of party officials to stop preying on their local populace and to start providing the type of governance that will give the party a good name outside of Beijing.

China’s leaders have been good students of the recent experiences of the former Soviet bloc. yet they have failed to pay heed to one virtually incontrovertible historical fact: economic liberalization virtually always portends political liberalization. Revolt is fomented in the middle and upper, not the lower classes.

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