Thursday, January 26, 2006

China as an Emerging Superpower

Lately I've noticed that some of the more lefty of the American left have taken a certain relish in noting that "China is coming", the US is in decline, China will be the new world superpower, etc. Perhaps this is a long sought after vindication of the communism that they secretly idealize, or perhaps its just plain old garden variety anti Americanism.

The irony of course is that China's rise is 100% correlated to its newfound economic freedoms, its adoption of private property rights, its abandonment of communism as an economic system. It retains communism as a political system - how odd! - which leaves it with a free economy but a totalitarian government. Further ironies about liberal pleasure in China's rise could be found in the Chinese' grotesque abuse of the environment, human rights violations, and incredibly low wages. Like many liberal positions, taking pride in China's rise against a predicted US fall is largely nonsensical.

China's rise is not at all ensured, however. Nor is its continued adherence to a totalitarian government. As more and more people in China do well for themselves, and as the spread of the internet information age inevitably erodes the chinese "firewall", it is possible that we could see a popular resistance with some real clout forthcoming.

China's latest plan to quell unrest is not terribly surprising, but does seem to hint at a growing problem:

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is preparing to "strike hard" against rising public unrest, a senior police official said according to state media on Thursday, highlighting the government's fears for stability even as the economy booms.


As Chinese citezens gain some measure of wealth and intellectual freedom, will they continue to tolerate such heavy handed crackdowns? Or will they start asking hard questions about liberty, about where relatives have gone and what has happened to them, about the legacy of Mao?

I suspect that the whole communist apparatus could come crumbling down like it did in the USSR, pretty much overnight.

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