September 14, 2011

HEY, LOOK, ANOTHER BLACK SWAN:

China's Imminent Collapse (John Quiggin, September 13, 2011, National Interest)

[A]s the example of the Arab Spring has shown, authoritarian governments may be much more fragile than they appear. The system of self-selecting oligarchy that has emerged in China since the death of Mao has been a source of stability, but it offers no good way of resolving fundamental disagreements about policy directions.

The spectacular economic growth of the past two decades has made the resolution of policy disagreements relatively easy. Simply put, there has been enough surplus to satisfy all important interests and still allow rapidly rising incomes for the mass of the population, or at least those in urban areas who might pose a threat to political stability.

Again, the example of the Arab Spring suggests that a slowdown in economic growth can bring about a sudden break in what seemed like an established political order. In democracies, economic shocks typically result in electoral defeat for the incumbent government, which at least provides the public with someone to blame, and a test of the hypothesis that the crisis was the result of mismanagement.

In a closed oligarchy like that of China, there is no such mechanism. The system could break down from within, as factional disagreements within the central committee spill out into the broader party and the public at large. Alternatively, large-scale public protests, combined with disagreements over the extent to which repression is desirable and feasible, could bring about a rapid breakdown.


Posted by at September 14, 2011 7:02 AM
  

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