The Next Revolution in China

The Next Revolution in China
China's President Xi Jinping, left, and Mozambique's President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Here’s Gordon Chang on what he calls China’s coming revolution:

As much as Comrade Jinping may fancy himself as this century’s version of the Great Helmsman, he will not start “large-scale political violence manipulated and launched from the top down,” the description of the Cultural Revolution by Liang Jing, a former official who has left China for a life of exile. Yet as Liang notes, turmoil in his former homeland in the future is not out of the question.

On the contrary, China looks like it is entering another period of extreme political instability. The Cultural Revolution, marked by the killings of high-level officials, has been followed by an era of relative calm brought about by Deng Xiaoping, who grabbed power from Mao’s designated successor, the hapless Hua Guofeng. Among other things, the canny Deng lowered the cost of losing political struggles, thereby reducing the incentive for cadres to fight to the end and tear the Communist Party apart.

Xi, however, has been raising the cost with an unprecedented campaign, which he has styled an attack on corruption. China’s ruler has in fact been jailing the venal, but only those who were his political enemies. The miscreants who are family and those who are supporters remain free. In short, Xi launched a purge.

The purge continues to this day, a sure sign that Xi still has not consolidated power.

Chang adds that while there’s no threat of Xi launching a new Cultural Revolution, the threat of chaos is no less real “because the elite looks like it is fracturing on its own and will be unable to deal with, among other things, systemic economic problems.”

That last bit should sound all-too-familiar, but that’s not where I want to go with this post. Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ are well-informed already about the United States’ addiction to debt and cheap money, and our coming reckoning with a multi-tens-of-trillions-of-dollars in unfunded entitlement spending. So it’s not like we’re the country without sin who may cast the first stone at Beijing.


Our problems do tend to get sorted out at the ballot box, so we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

China has no such democratic tradition — and under single party rule, lacks the socio-political foundation upon which to build such a tradition. So, yes, Chang isn’t being all that outrageous when he says Xi may have unleashed forces he cannot control.

During China’s (first?) Cultural Revolution, the country was an economic nonentity — impoverished and closed off from world trade. Today, China’s boasts the world’s second-largest economy, sports a middle class larger than the entire population of the United States, and is more thoroughly engaged in world trade than at any other time in that nation’s 5,000-year history. Today’s China is also the world’s manufactory of first resort for consumer goods, and Chinese investments in infrastructure and resources provide cash and food for millions in Africa.

What happens to the global economy if China descends into political chaos — or worse, another round of civil wars?

We just don’t know, and I really don’t want to find out. Nothing like Chang’s prediction has ever happened to a country with an economy as large and as important as China’s.

Chang concludes with this:

Today, if there is any revolution in China, it is not one promoted by the new Mao, Xi Jinping. It is the one started by the Chinese people, who on their own are remaking society, outside the realm of the orthodoxy of the Communist Party and its feuding leaders.

In the long run, a genuinely democratic revolution might be the best thing for the people of China. For the rest of us, the short-to-medium run might look an awful lot like the 1930s and ’40s.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member