David Shambaugh, the academic and think tanker, posted a piece in the Wall Street Journal titled "The Coming Chinese Crackup." I didn't find his argument that "China’s system and society ... [is now] closer to a breaking point" persuasive in the least. Just for reference, Shambaugh got his BA in 1977, which means he was probably born in 1955, making him a "Middle Boomer" who will turn 60 this year. Here are his five points:
- "China’s economic elites have one foot out the door" -- not new, and not entirely true
- "greatly intensified the political repression" -- has waxed and waned for 30 years now
- "propaganda has lost its power" -- actually they're savvier on this front than ever before
- "corruption riddles party-state, military, Chinese society" -- has for "5000 years"
- "economy is stuck in a series of systemic traps" -- they're well aware of the issues
The truth is guys like Shambaugh can't stand the idea that an authoritarian, one-party state can be successful and long-lived. The Chinese are practical above all else, and survivors. His idea of political reform is anchored in liberal western ideals, not Chinese reality. What he should be concentrating on instead is how the West will become more Chinese: the rise of crony capitalism, regulatory capture, Washington-Wall St. client patron relationships, sham elections ("re-districting"), the rise of the surveillance state, etc.
The Chinese aren't going to become more like us, we're going to become more like them.