Sunday, June 04, 2006

China needs more than capitalism

We have long hoped that China's economic loosening and growth would lead to freedom and democracy. But China is still ruled by Communists. They hold complete control; there is no move toward elections at all. Minxin Pei has researched and written a book - China's Trapped Transition: The LImits of Developmental Autocracy. China has stalled in a "trapped transition," he says. I haven't read the book, but am relying on a review in the Weekly Standard by Ellen Bork. I think nonsubscribers can read this.
Pei, a political scientist who directs the China program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, does not dispute the significance of China's dramatic post-Mao development, including rapid economic growth, greater access to information and personal mobility, the decline in the state role of the economy, and its integration into the global economy. But he points out that the causal link often assumed between economic development and the achievement of democracy, or political liberalization, has failed to operate in China. ... ... Pei devotes the rest of China's Trapped Transition to arguing that the lack of political reform can be explained by examining the choices leaders of China's quasi-totalitarian state have made, and why. China has stalled in a "trapped transition," Pei argues, because its Communist leaders insist on maintaining power and taking a gradual approach to market reforms. This is not part of a strategy for political liberalization; instead, China's leaders have been at pains to shore up their monopoly on power. The dividends of economic reform are used to "strengthen their repressive capacity and co-opt potential opposition groups, especially counterelites." Seeing even limited erosion of their political power causes them to "intensify their efforts to maximize current income while maintaining a high level of repression to deter challengers."

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