November 9, 2002
THE GIANT WHO NEVER WAKES:Will the Party Lose China? The central challenge for the Chinese Communist Party's new leadership is how to remain relevant to a rapidly changing society. (DAVID SHAMBAUGH, November 7, 2002, NY Times)
Widespread alienation and cynicism exist at all levels of society about politics and the party. At the same time, weakened tools of coercion and the growth of a market economy have led to high levels of social instability, growing dissent and challenges to party doctrine. Rampant corruption has laid bare the insufficiency of the legal system, the lack of political checks on power and inadequate commercial transparency. Many of the party's current problems are the result of broad processes associated with socioeconomic modernization and greater social stratification. Significant parts of society have been left behind as others have benefited from market reforms. Rural incomes have been stagnant for a decade, forcing about 100 million people to roam the country looking for work in cities. Meanwhile, restructuring of the state industrial sector has created a level of unemployment unprecedented since the Communist Party came to power in 1949. [...]
The central challenge for the party's new leadership is how to remain relevant to a rapidly changing society. The loss of party control in China is an incremental process, a gradual decay instead of the sudden implosion that occurred in the former Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. If the Communist Party's rule is frontally challenged, as in 1989 during the Tiananmen crisis, it can probably maintain power through armed force--although even that is no longer entirely certain. But if the party is to remain in power without having to resort to force, it must develop means of governance that share power with the people and civic organizations.
A remarkable public opinion poll released this week by a research center affiliated with the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that 91 percent of respondents said the justice system was unfair while 80 percent said they wanted to elect their officials directly. A majority said the party Congress should focus on improving social welfare and job creation and should adopt new political reforms.
We have yet to hear any coherent explanation of how you keep a state this size together, administer it effectively, create a legal system, teach the Western values that must undergird a liberal democracy, deal with the coming shortage of women, etc., etc., etc. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 9, 2002 9:06 PM