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Comment Re:Every country has a different threshold (Score 4, Interesting) 325

In response to your first point: the assumption that democratic societies do better in the long run than totalitarian societies is now being directly challenged by China's ascension. Past totalitarian societies tended to be autarkic and limited market freedom, and as such were very inefficient economically. China has taken a different route and as Naomi Klein (The Shock Syndrome) says, China is now the world's most successful capitalistic society. I live in Beijing half of every year and travel throughout China. When you see 60 and 70 year-old ladies with pickaxes cheerfully working on building roads, you begin to understand the strength that China has at their command. If you can unite the people and motivate them towards fulfilling common goals you have a strong hand. There is a pioneer spirit in China that has long been lacking in most Western societies. But make no mistake, the Chinese are not docile: there were 78,000 protests in the country last year. The government is sitting on a societal nuclear reactor: they need to allow just enough freedom that people remain motivated, without allowing enough for people to feel emboldened to demand more than can be provided. There is a very conscientious direction using "carrot and stick" control rods to keep the reaction moderated without going critical... To compare China with the Middle East economically is way off base. IMO the ME produces nothing except oil because it can do so and remain viable, but China produces just about everything. According to Kevin Philips (in so many words), empires have historically tended to become fragile and crumble when the states controlling them turn from manufacturing and production of tangible goods to service and finance. By those lights, China is just in ascendancy. But wait: like Japan in the 80's I believe that the China's seeming strength masks critical structural problems. First, China is 100 years too late. Continued social stability in China is going to depend on people feeling that the government, for all its corruption and repression, is worth supporting because life is getting better for them. China's current growth is completely unsustainable in the long run with the current level of resource use. The Chinese leaders are between a rock and a hard place (aren't we all) choosing between quick gains using unsustainable means, and some sacrifice now and investment in R&D. So far they have pretty consistently chosen the former. Also, the demographics are not in their favor with the "success" of the one-child policy. Then there is the critical problem of corruption. Most people in the West see the CCP as a monolithic entity, without realizing that it maintains control through a complex tree of provincial governments and petty bureaucracies, many of which operate under the assumption that "the mountains are high and the emperor is far away", and are totally corrupt. The Party has stated that eliminating corruption is essential to its long-term survival. No easy task. Economically, too, there are storm clouds gathering. Already global capital is moving to Vietnam and other places where labor is even cheaper than in China; and the RMB is rising, making exports more expensive. Factories are closing everywhere and the government is talking about supporting the stock market. Make no mistake, China is presently strong and will remain strong for a long time to come, but the "good times" may well be coming to an end

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