Pundits predicting the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party have been proven wrong decade after decade.
IN response to this report CAAN will focus on where it appears China, the CCP, poses a threat to Australian society is whether the CCP can continue to provide economic benefits for the Chinese … with its growth having slowed in China, and having the fastest ageing society in the World …
IS this why Xi Jinping has been encouraging the migration of
his people and investment across the World especially in the United States, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere? Whereby they now continue to grow their families across the Globe …
WITH 1.4 Billion Chinese … despite having an ageing population … such a huge number impacts the World with the rapid consumption of resources, pollution and their contribution to climate change through increased Co2 emissions, a consequence of urbanisation (high thermal mass from high density living in high-rise built of concrete, bricks, steel and glass)
OTHER societies … as a consequence of the Silent Invasion of China (through immigration and foreign investment) have cut their birth rate unable to attain a home or obtain secure work in their own country … such is the negative impact of China’s high growth, the competition from their ‘hot money‘ and sadly Government policies in Australia, for example, that are favourable to Chinese investment and immigration to the detriment of Australians! …
China’s Communist Party is at a fatal age for one-party regimes. How much longer can it survive?
Updated Sun 5 January 2020
Pundits predicting the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party have been proven wrong decade after decade.
- The CCP has figured out ways to mitigate the risk of coups and revolutions
- But China is facing slowing economic growth and an ageing society
- Experts say the party could gradually open up politically, on its own terms
The CCP — which recently celebrated its 70th birthday — is one of the longest running single-party regimes in modern history.
But one-party governments have rarely survived longer than 70 years: the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ruled for 74 years before the bloc collapsed in 1991, and Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party retained power for 71 years until its defeat in the 2000 elections.
Analysts say while there’s no time limit on authoritarian governments, the CCP’s one-party rule may not be sustainable in the long run despite its past resilience and distinctiveness from other regimes.
But to look at when and how China could eventually undergo political reform, it’s important to first understand how the CCP has kept its grip on power for so long.
How did the CCP manage to survive this long?
Rory Truex, assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, told the ABC the CCP was unique in terms of how it has mitigated the two major threats to authoritarian regimes — coups and revolutions.
To prevent the former, Mr Truex said the party had a system to ensure the transfer of power from one leader to the next happened “relatively peacefully”.
Following Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping wrote presidential term limits into China’s constitution, recognising the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality.
However, a controversial constitutional amendment passed in March 2018 removed the 10-year limit, spread over two five-year terms, so that President Xi Jinping could rule indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the regime has safeguarded itself from a revolution by “governing reasonably well to keep the population happy, so they have no desire to revolt”, and through controlling information and repression, Mr Truex said.
*Michael Albertus, co-author of Authoritarianism and the Elite Origins of Democracy, said the CCP staked its legitimacy on national development and had delivered on that promise in an incredible manner, lifting half a billion people out of poverty in recent decades.
This year is also earmarked to be “a year of decisive victory for the elimination of poverty”, Mr Xi said in his New Year’s speech, as the CCP’s self-imposed 2020 deadline looms.
“We will finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and realise the first centenary goal,” he said on state TV.
Over the last 40 years, China has transformed from being one of the world’s poorest nations to the second-biggest economy on earth, thanks to its economic reform and opening up policies.
At the same time Beijing has used its power to censor and eliminate what it sees as threats to its legitimacy.
Mr Truex noted the Communist Party was arguably “the most sophisticated regime” in terms of repression and controlling and distorting information with the use of the internet, technology, censorship and propaganda.
“The takeaway is that this is a smart authoritarian regime, and they’ve figured out the threat to their power and managed to mitigate those threats,” Mr Truex said.
“But there is some evidence that some of this might be changing under Xi Jinping, and some of the things that actually made the Communist Party strong might be eroding under his rule.”
Mr Albertus said the CCP was also strong in part because it had “vanquished its chief foe”, the Kuomintang (KMT) — also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party.
The KMT ruled China for more than two decades, before its defeat at the hands of the communists at the end of the civil war in 1949.
The KMT subsequently fled to Taiwan, where it was the sole ruling party until 2000, when it was defeated by the Democratic Progressive Party after a period of transition towards democracy.
“To be sure, [the CCP] has had real moments of weakness,”he said, citing the Tiananmen Square massacre as an example.
“But it has evolved to develop a coherent and hierarchical organisation, and many CCP members have a stake in its persistence and predictability.”
What causes a one-party regime to crumble?
In 2013, Larry Diamond, a renowned democracy scholar at Stanford University, wrote that China was approaching an age that has often proved fatal to other single-party regimes.
He called it the “70-year itch” — a phenomenon China was facing “after a period of authoritarian success rather than failure”.
And there are many reasons why the regime continues to survive while others have collapsed.
The contrast between China today and the Soviet Union before its collapse couldn’t be more stark.
By the time Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the economy was already in decline, and his aim was to revive it with two major reforms: perestroika and glasnost (economic reform and political opening).
Sarah Percy, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Queensland, wrote recently that the economic reforms invited public criticism — but “the problem with allowing some criticism is that it becomes impossible to control”.
“Once people were allowed to speak out in some areas, they inevitably began to do so in others, challenging the state’s control over political issues as well as economic ones,” she wrote.
Glasnost opened up a Pandora’s box of free speech, with decreased media censorship allowing criticism of government officials.
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Maria Repnikova, a political scientist at Georgia State University, told the ABC the collapse of the Soviet Union turned it into an “anti-model” for the Chinese regime.
“[It’s] something that the party-state in part blames on Gorbachev’s shock therapy reform that yielded a dramatic and uncontrollable political opening,” she told the ABC.
“That’s something that the [People’s Republic of China] wants to avoid at all costs through a combination of responsiveness and pervasive control.”
Ms Repnikova, author of the book Media Politics in China, says Beijing has been obsessed with grasping and guiding public opinion, managing crises with large-scale exposés in both traditional and social media.
How is the CCP different from other one-party regimes?
Experts also attribute the longevity of the CCP’s rule to its ability to learn and adapt.
Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, noted the party was flexible in that it wasn’t “too strung up on ideology”.
For example, when the CCP was at its lowest ebb during the Cultural Revolution in the mid-70s, party leaders “regenerated themselves” by focusing on the economy, he said.
Professor Brown said their idea of socialism with “Chinese characteristics” was also “absolutely core” because it meant it was unlike any other system.
While North Korea’s one-party rule is also quite distinctive, with the Kim family dynasty functioning almost like a monarchy, its notoriously closed-off political system has severely limited any opportunities for economic growth.
“I’ve always thought that North Korea today resembles in some sense China under Mao,” Mr Truex said.
“You might call it totalitarian, where the party itself has complete control over peoples’ lives and [is] in complete control over the flow of information.”
Graeme Smith from the Australian National University said the CCP realised very early on — even before it came to power in 1949 — that having regular purges to purify the Party’s ranks was not going to work as a long-term strategy.
He said in Cambodia, purges contributed to the toppling of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.
A Wilson Centre paper examining the CCP’s relationship with the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s said Deng Xiaoping criticised Pol Pot for the party’s “excessive radicalism”, adding that its “leftist” tendencies — in particular the purges — had “compromised its ability to repel the Vietnamese military attacks”.
While the CCP had also purged a large number of party members in the past, it later turned its sights on a party rectification strategy.
“If you’re found to be ideologically suspect or have engaged in activities the party doesn’t approve of, then efforts will be made to [make] you right,” Dr Smith explained.
“[It’s] the idea that all cadres are basically good and they could be reformed by thought work.”
But Dr Smith added that Mr Xi’s signature anti-corruption campaign on so-called “tigers and flies” — a slang phrase referring to high-ranking officials and local civil servants — had made him many enemies since he became President.
He said this would include some powerful people who may in the future come after him.
Will Beijing become the exception to the rule?
Mr Diamond from Stanford University told the ABC that while there was no “iron law” dictating that one-party regimes must collapse after 70 or 80 years, he also didn’t believe Communist one-party rule was sustainable in the long run.
“On the other hand, Communist Party rulers are keenly looking forward to the Chinese Communist Party becoming the most powerful political force in the world in 2049, when the regime would turn 100, and I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
“While the political effects of modernisation have been slowed and delayed by multiple factors, including the regime’s intense management of information and Orwellian levels of repression and surveillance, the regime faces the same long-run contradiction that other autocracies have.”
Mr Diamond says people’s values change when they have more income and a higher level of education, and eventually “they want more autonomy, more dignity, more freedom and more control over their own lives”.
“A lot of people are leaving, or have left, because they can’t get this freedom and autonomy in China — certainly not now under the tightening grip of Communist Party control,” he said.
“It’s true that some people are returning for the Thousand Talents Program or related opportunities … it’s also true that there has been a recent surge in nationalism among the young.
“Still, if I were the CCP, I would be concerned about the [longer-running] trends, and the basic contradictions in the system.“
*Anne-Marie Brady, a professor in Chinese politics at the University of Canterbury, says the big question is whether the CCP can continue to provide economic benefits for the Chinese population.
*“Growth has [slowed] in China and they have the fastest ageing society in the world,” she said.
*“Chinese banks have bad debts, the actual unemployment figures are censored, [and] inflation is very high.”
*Mr Diamond believes China’s “demographic implosion” — fuelled by China’s now-abolished one-child policy — will be hard to reverse without significant immigration.
“But how can China do that on a large enough scale?” he said.
“I think its efforts to encourage higher population growth will fail because there are still serious quality of life problems in China.
“The rapid ageing of the population is going to challenge every aspect of the ‘China dream’.”
What will China’s political system look like in the future?
Mr Diamond sees the CCP facing “corruption up and down the system” but says there is a “fundamental contradiction” in trying to solve it.
“There is no way to control corruption except through a rule of law (not rule by law), and that requires separating the Communist Party from the state and the judiciary,” he said.
“But if the CCP no longer reigns supreme over the state and the judiciary it risks losing control.
“This is a dilemma that the CCP cannot resolve except by moving toward democracy.”
While no-one knows for sure whether China will ever become a democracy, complete with universal suffrage, the CCP certainly hasn’t shied away from using the word.
During a tour in Shanghai in November, Mr Xi said China’s democracy was a type of “whole-process” democracy.
Mr Truex said the Communist Party frequently used the language of democracy — except it’s not democracy as the West knows it.
“If you use Chinese citizen surveys, for example, the majority will say they live in a democratic system, even though most people would label China as authoritarian,” he said.
“So the word ‘democracy’ is sort of corrupted in some sense in China.”
He added that while Western countries tended to equate democracy with elections, China was trying to increase citizen participation in politics in a number of different ways.
For example, he said many local governments have so-called “mayor’s mailboxes” where people can lodge a complaint online, and the public is also allowed to give feedback when a law is passed.
“There’s a lot of other processes in place where basically citizens are allowed to voice their grievances or voice their perspectives on policies,” he said.
“[But] it’s unclear whether the government actually takes these into account … or whether they’re window dressing.”
But Mr Albertus said the CCP could go down a similar path to the KMT in Taiwan, which opened up political contestation gradually on its own terms.
After the KMT’s flight to Taiwan in 1949, it was the sole ruling party before shifting to democracy in 1996, when the island held its first direct presidential election.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected for the first time in 2000.
“If [the CCP’s] legacy of delivering economic growth continues, it could stand a real chance of competing and winning under democracy as well,” Mr Albertus said
However, he said it would have to have some impetus to make this move, and it was most likely to come from a rising political threat it cannot necessarily control.
“Anticipating a major challenge to its rule in five or 10 years could push it to try to transition to democracy on its own terms,” he said.
“That could come, as in many other countries, from a rising middle class that starts to demand representation and greater freedoms separate from economic security.
“But at this point, the CCP is likely — and correctly — estimating that threat to be far enough into the future that it does not need to reform today.”