Hence the lack of my accustomed level of verbiage on this humble blog.
Not to worry, that will no doubt change soon.
Till then, I can recommend this interesting essay by John Lee (via) on the potential (or lack thereof) for democratic change in China in the wake of its economic reforms over the last few decades.
To be sure, we have no choice but to continue to engage with China in the hope that continued economic reforms and rising prosperity there will eventually lead to political reform. But we should reject the blind and deterministic logic that a rising China will inevitably become a democratic one. Even if we believe that authoritarian China is on the wrong side of history, so far it is doing a good job of defying it.
Why this might be so is helpfully explained by several passages in the piece, such as this one (I have removed the footnotes, which are available in the original essay):
That the middle classes—from the private and public sectors alike—have little appetite for democratic reform is easily explained: they have much to gain from the current political status quo and potentially much to lose should it change.
Eva Bellin observes that state-led development breeds a dependence on the state in capital and labour, and tends to exacerbate inequality. Within one generation, China has gone from being the most equal to the least equal society in Asia. Its Gini coefficient (a measurement of income inequality) is now 0.47, up from 0.16 in the 1970s. There are between fifty million and two hundred million middle-class people (depending on what definition you use), but around one billion people who have missed out on the benefits of economic liberalisation. Much of China’s progress actually occurred from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Going by the World Bank’s definition of poverty, 80% of people emerging from it in China did so up to the mid-1980s. Since then, of China’s one billion poor, about four hundred million have seen their disposable incomes stagnate or decline.
I was reminded of something that Francis Sedgemore, referring to comments by Slavoj Žižek, recently pointed out:
capitalism doesn’t always bring democracy. Anyone who thinks otherwise is blind to both history and the reality of the world around them today.