September 2, 2012


The Coming Collapse: Authoritarians in China and Russia Face an Endgame (Jackson Diehl, September/October 2012, World Affairs)

There is a broad consensus that China's growth is likely to slow, but when and at what pace is uncertain and there is no saying whether this slowdown will be smooth or not. Any sudden slowdown could unmask inefficiencies and contingent liabilities in banks, enterprises and different levels of government--heretofore hidden under the veil of rapid growth--and could precipitate a fiscal and financial crisis. The implications for social stability would be hard to predict in such a scenario.

Similarly, in late May a group of experts convened by Aleksei Kudrin, a mainstay of the Putin government for more than a decade until his resignation last year, issued a report declaring that "research shows that the crisis" in the Russian economy and political system "has become irreversible, regardless of the scenarios of its further development. Maintaining political stability, let alone a return to the pre-crisis status quo, is no longer possible." In a press conference, Kudrin said there was a fifty-percent chance that Russia was headed for a recession that would produce a political breakdown and a change of government.

Despite such auguries, the Obama administration continues to pursue a policy toward both Russia and China that assumes that the existing power structures will continue indefinitely. Its primary aim is to "engage" the top leaders on a transactional basis--a strategy that, for Obama, has become a quasi-ideology in foreign policy. Thus did he welcome Xi to Washington in February with talks that focused on economic issues and geopolitical cooperation--and ignored the incipient domestic political turmoil in China that had prompted a senior police official from the city of Chongqing to seek asylum in a US consulate days earlier, in a development that would soon become a full-blown leadership crisis.

After Putin's controversial election as president in March, Obama, overlooking the growing street protests in Moscow, invited him to an early meeting at Camp David (which Putin later cancelled) and dispatched National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon to Putin's dacha outside Moscow to deliver what a Russian official described as "a multi-page detailed document, whose main message is that Obama is ready to cooperate with Putin."

While critiquing these advances, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign also appeared unprepared for the possibility of upheaval in Russia or China. 

It is equally horrifying for Left and Right that the End of History is real, for the Left because their self-hatred turns out to have been misplaced and for Right because there's no one left to hate.  
Posted by at September 2, 2012 7:42 AM

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