Is China's Communist Party Doomed?  (Page 2 of 2)

The answer to the question of how a one-party regime can manage its own political transformation to save itself is more interesting and complicated.

Essentially, there are two paths for such regimes: the Soviet route to certain self-destruction, and the Taiwan-Mexican route to self-renewal and transformation.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, top CCP leaders have resolved not to repeat the Soviet tragedy.  Their policy has been, therefore, resisting all forms of political reform.  The result is, unfortunately, an increasingly sclerotic party, captured by special interests, and corrupt and decadent opportunists like Bo.  It may have over 80 million members, but most of them join the party to exploit the pecuniary benefits it provides.  They themselves have become a special interest group disconnected with Chinese society.  If the fall of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) offered any real lessons, they are definitely not the official Chinese narrative that Gorbachev’s political reforms brought down the party.  The sad truth is: the Soviet regime was too sick to be revived by the mid-1980s because it had resisted reforms for two decades during the rule of Brezhnev.  More importantly, the CCP should know that, like the millions of the members of the CPSU, its rank and file are almost certain to defect in times of a regime crisis.  When the CPSU fell, there was not a single instance of loyal party members coming to the defense of the regime.  Such a fate awaits the CCP.

That leaves the CCP with only one viable option: the Taiwan-Mexican path of self-renewal and transformation.  The one-party regimes in Taiwan and Mexico are, without doubt, the most successful ones in transforming themselves into multi-party democracies in the last quarter century.  Although the stories of their transition to democracy are different and complex, we can glean four key insights into their successes.

First, leaders in Taiwan and Mexico confronted a legitimacy crisis in the 1980s and realized that one-party regimes were doomed.  They did not deceive themselves with illusions or lies.

Second, both acted while their regimes were stronger than the opposition and before they were thoroughly discredited, thus giving them the ability to manage a gradual transition.

Third, their leaders centralized power and practiced inner-party dictatorship, not inner-party democracy, in order to overcome the opposition of the conservatives within the regime.  In one-party regimes, inner-party democracy will surely lead to an open split among the ruling elites, thus fatally weakening the a reformist regime’s ability to manage the transition.  Additionally, making the entire political system more democratic, mainly through competitive elections in cities and states, will provide the ruling elites an opportunity to learn a critical skill: seeking support from voters and winning elections.  Such skills cannot be learned through the dubious exercise of inner-party democracy, which is simply another name for elite bargaining and manipulation.

Fourth, a moderate democratic opposition is the best friend and greatest asset a reformist one-party regime has.  Such an opposition is a negotiating partner and can help the regime maintain transitional stability.  It can also offer much better terms protecting the interests of the ruling elites and even helping them avoid jail.

When we look at the rewards reaped by the KMT and the PRI, they included not only favorable terms for exiting power (except for President Salinas, who was forced into exile because of corruption), none of the senior leaders faced criminal prosecution.  Most importantly, both the KMT and PRI managed to recapture the presidency, the seat of political power in both countries, after spending two terms in opposition.

But can the CCP actually learn from the KMT or the PRI?

Its willingness aside, the CCP faces an additional hurdle.  It is still a totalitarian party, not an authoritarian party.  The difference between a totalitarian party and an authoritarian party is that the former is far more deeply and extensively embedded in the state and the economy.  The CCP controls the military, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and the economy to a far greater extent that the KMT or the PRI.  Extricating a totalitarian party from a state is far more difficult.  In fact, such a feat has never been tried successfully.  In the former Soviet Union, it led to regime collapse.  In Eastern Europe, democratic revolutions did not give such regimes a chance to try.

So the task for China’s new rulers is truly daunting.  Their first order of business is actually not to plunge into a Gorbachev-style political perestroika, but the de-totalitarianization of the Chinese state and the transformation of the CCP into another KMT or PRI.  Without taking this intermediate step immediately, the CCP may find that a Soviet-style collapse is its only future.

Comments
105
Jacob
April 23, 2013 at 02:07

There is no possible way that the Chinese Communist Party will lose power. The communist party is way too strong. Over 80,000,000 people are in the communist party. My father was born in China, and he tells me all of this. I don’t read it off the Internet, I ask my father.

Stan Lippmann
January 29, 2013 at 11:47

Just an example of how ridiculous all this China-bashing is:  thediplomat.com is accessible here in China.  As for Taiwan, the US is breaking its 1982 to stop arming Taiwan.  And the ins than the Americans.  It's really all over for the dumb down Americans.  That's why Chinese immigrants like it so much, because it's easy to compete with the stupid Americans, especially when you can easieasier to live in America if you are first generation.  You are barely culturally literate so you are blind to the failings of America. The reverse may be true for an American in China.  But there are objective realities which must come into play. China has been around for a long time (40,000 years?).  During this time, the fools have been more weeded out, so the average intelligence is 10 points higher that that of Westerners.  Meanwhile, there is a conscious plot in the west to dumb people down to the level of the Africans, 20 points below normal, to turn the Westerners into slaves.  There is an expanding gap in mathematics.  The Americans are going to drop the standards two full grade levels so that the semi-retarded black kids can graduate from high school.  The Chinese are already starting to produce more scientific publications than the Americans.  It's really all over for the dumb down Americans.  That's why Chinese immigrants like it so much, because it's easy to compete with the stupid Americans, especially when you can easily ignore the cultural problems.  Also, your egos can't admit that you are just picking over the bones of America like vultures, and deeper in your mind you know you can always jump ship and go back to China.  For the first time, most Chinese college students are returning to China, since they can see the writing on the wall.

Stan Lippmann
January 28, 2013 at 22:25

Yeah, but there is a market for China-bashing.  He makes a nice living at it as a college professor.  After moving from Seattle to Beijing 4 months ago, I definitely agree that a one party system is much better than a two party system.  It de-politicizes daily life, so something is being accomplished, like new subway lines, high speed rail, gas lines, power lines, power plants, nuclear plants, solar farms, wind farms, hydropower, better pollution control, functional educational, general contentedness, lack of ethnic problems, lack of race and gender politics, 10% tax rate instead of slavery-like 40% take rate, balanced budget, no $100 trillion dollar unfunded liabilities (yet).

Aaron
November 16, 2012 at 01:57

Sounds pretty fascist to me.
Soviet Russia had central planning, remember, and it went bust. Kind of blows your argument out of the water.
Don't forget American prosperity soared back in the day when liberty was real and the government didn't control every facet of the economy.
In the years before the military-industrial complex took over (pre-1950's) nothing could stop the juggernaut that was the American economy, founded on one unfettered philosophy: free enterprise.
What's required to prosper America is a return to that, not introduce more control, more central planning.
 

Aaron
November 16, 2012 at 01:50

The only difference between China's government and that of the US or other major western powers is that their autocracy is more apparent.
The US is essentially a plutocracy where uber-weathy power brokers sponsor and own all the political players in a race. They care not who wins an election – either way "their man" gets in. The Republican-Democrat facade is the best thing going for American autocracy. Fool the people into believing they have a choice when in reality, both major parties draw upon the same pool of advisors and financiers and on issues of real importance in the big picture they are nearly identical in those policies which are implemented. Foreign policy is nearly identical in both Republican and Democrat administrations. Sure, the rhetoric changes, but the actual decisions and actions made by administrations differ very little from one to the next. Foreign policy, especially military policy barely missed a beat in the Bush to Obama transition, and yet the American people were wholeheartedly fooled into believing they actually were getting change, which is the mechanism by which this puppet-show autocracy sustains a perpetual repression of dissent.
So, if the communist party of China "falls" it will only be to metamorphisize into a more "sustainable model", rule by an inner circle of plutocratic elite by proxy of a ficticious democratic process in in the minds of the masses, which is exactly what the US has had for decades.
 
 

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