"Chinese civilization has produced a distinctive and enduring pattern of relations between the state and society", which contains the seeds of enduring problems in domestic and foreign policy. Within a general 'conspiracy of make-believe', Chinese central authorities issue 'absolute' orders, with which provincial and local authorities feign compliance, while Chinese society at large continues its tradition of passive and introspective focus on the private domain. China's modern political development has failed to create the cultural building-blocks of pluralist democracy, having retained the absolutist mentality in walks of life (notably science and technology) where independent critical thinking, and tolerance of 'probabilistic' thought, are essential. Moreover, decades of communist denunciation of "just about every feature of Chinese culture as a feudal abomination that should be obliterated" has produced a situation in which it is now "not easy to articulate what exactly are the Chinese qualities that should now be defended". Chinese society is left with an ideological façade by which group-interest is supposed to prevail over private interest, but does not, and an arrogant political elite which disdains the serious tasks of foreign policy planning.
Even as Chinese society is growing more robust, its authoritarian state remains committed to social and political control. Emerging tensions between the two could push forward social and political reform.
Although the current protests in Iraq are unlikely to lead to the country's collapse, Iraqis’ patience with their government’s inadequacies is wearing thin. Should Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki be nervous?