The National People’s Congress occurs this week and Peter Chovanec in Forbes has laid out the situation well. China is on edge as has become habit over the last ten years. Some of us long term people have noted that the nervous times are becoming more and more common. An article on Taiwan’s development economically and socially notes certain growing forces that would cause the need for increasing tension
“economic development creates socioeconomic conditions
which are conducive to the coming of, or the sustaining of, democracy: these
conditions are 1. the expansion of autonomous entrepreneurial middle classes; 2. the
industrialization and the movement of labor into manufacturing furthering the
differentiation and organization of the urban sector; 3. improvements in literacy,
education and communication; 4 mass media expansion and 5. the emergence of an autonomous “civil society.”
A developing middle class with growing economic and social maturity leads to pressure for political change. In another article, the author lays out the choices for a country where economic and social development are quickly occurring. He uses Taiwan’s transition as an example. He notes that the party in power can: [my comments in ( )]
1. refuse to acknowledge the changes occurring and hope they will somehow survive. (China is not doing this)
2. resort to repression and regress to a police state to maintain authority. (yes, some of this)
3. provoke a foreign conflict and attempt to restore legitimacy. (ever wonder why they keep stoking hatred of Japan?)
4. establish some semblance of a democratic legitimacy for their regime. (the village elections have been a mess so that path not well)
5. accept modernization with all its political consequences and try to adapt. (The party is committed to grow the economy and face the result)
China has not yet been forced to thoroughly choose one path over the other and likely will continue to use all 5 as much as it can. The party has, further, studied all of the above articles and is not taking any chances on an uncontrolled change.
I have a lot of respect for the party. They have found a way forward again and again. They have created a lot of freedom in the process that I have seen personally since 1991. They know, however, that full on democracy would mean uneducated peasants could command the future or be manipulated to bad ends. No educated person wants that. Russian style democracy would be a step backward for China and the world. Some very wise reform should occur, and it would be better if it it came later when the whole population was quite a bit more socially capable.
Just the same, political pressure for change will continue to grow as liberal ideas grow year by year. Chinese politics will have to be more and more on edge while pushing off the date for any political reform until the peasant class is smaller and more educated.
We in the West should not be pushing for any early reform in China. Chinese peasants are not socially ready for the change. The party is right to hold on and find various ways to grow the economy to legitimize their power till a better time for change emerges.
So China will be politically sensitive for many years to come. Let’s respect the party that has gotten them this far. Let’s hope they will find a way under this pressure as well.