China's Coming Transformation

Courtesy Reuters


Social forces unleashed by China's economic reform over the last 20 years are now driving inexorably toward a fundamental transformation of Chinese politics. Since the suppression of the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, China's leaders have struggled to maintain the political status quo, even while pursuing rapid economic reform. The result today is a nonadaptive, brittle state that is unable to cope with an increasingly organized, complex, and robust society. Further efforts to resist political change will only squander the benefits of social and economic dynamism, perpetuate the government's costly battle to contain the populace, drive politics toward increasingly tense domestic confrontation, and ultimately threaten the system with collapse.

Many of today's senior Chinese officials recognize this dilemma but have powerful personal motivations to resist change. The next generation of Chinese leaders, however -- set to take office in 2002-3 -- is both more supportive of reform and

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