Recently, The Economist published an excellent 4-part essay exploring China’s future. The first part, titled “What China Wants” looked at some of the major drivers of China’s economic and diplomatic policies.
“China,” the author says, “is a nation that wants some things very much:”
“At home its people want continued growth, its leaders the stability that growth can buy. On the international stage people and Communist Party want a new deference and the influence that befits their nation’s stature. Thus China wants the current dispensation to stay the same—it wants the conditions that have helped it grow to endure—but at the same time it wants it turned into something else.”
“Finessing this need for things to change yet stay the same would be a tricky task in any circumstances. It is made harder by the fact that China’s Leninist leadership is already managing a huge contradiction between change and stasis at home as it tries to keep its grip on a society which has transformed itself socially almost as fast as it has grown economically. And it is made more dangerous by the fact that China is steeped in a belligerent form of nationalism and ruled over by men who respond to every perceived threat and slight with disproportionate self-assertion.”
The main issue, of course, is how China can/will manage this contradictory desire of seeking change while trying to maintain the status quo.
The other sections of the essay are:
The Long Fall
Expanding the Bounds
Leviathan and its Hooks
Can China get what it wants? Only time will tell.
I am not teaching a course on China this fall; if I were, this entire essay would be required reading.