What I’ve been reading and watching (crossposted at CT)
Yesterday, I went to see Cry of the Snow Lion, about the Tibetan independence struggle. The film was interesting and well worth seeing, and jogged me to start on a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time on the question: How long can the current Chinese government survive?
It struck me, after watching the film, that the closest parallel is with the last days of the Suharto period in Indonesia. Among the themes suggested to me were
* the gradual decay of Communist ideology, and its replacement by a vague nationalism, bolstered by rapid economic growth
* the rise of faceless nonentities like Hu Jintao to replace monstrous giants like Mao
* the role of the People’s Liberation Army in a range of business ventures
* transmigration programs of Han Chinese into Tibet and other minority areas
Just like Golkar in its latter days, the regime has no real class base, no compelling ideological claim to power, and a rapidly depreciating “mandate of heaven” derived from the revolutionary period.
The 60 million members of the Communist Party are now, for the most part, mere card-carriers. And although the party and army leaders have their fingers in plenty of business pies, they don’t constitute an effective management committee of the ruling class. Rather they are a backward and parasitic component of that class.
All of this, it seems to me, is symptomatic of a regime that appears immovable, but may collapse like a house of cards given the appropriate push, which may come either from an economic crisis or from a succession crisis, if Hu runs into some trouble or other.
Those interested in this topic might like to look at Fabian’s Hammer, which is focused mainly on developments in China. I don’t agree with a lot of the implied background position, but I share the author’s view of the Chinese government.