America’s Original Sin
Slavery and the Legacy of White Supremacy
The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony
Trump’s Surprising Grand Strategy
The China Reckoning
How Beijing Defied American Expectations
Autocracy With Chinese Characteristics
Beijing's Behind-the-Scenes Reforms
The End of the Democratic Century
Autocracy's Global Ascendance
Perception and Misperception on the Korean Peninsula
How Unwanted Wars Begin
The Myth of the Liberal Order
From Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom
When China Rules the Web
Technology in Service of the State
The New Arab Order
Power and Violence in Today’s Middle East
Lessons From a Failed State
Has a New Cold War Really Begun?
Why the Term Shouldn't Apply to Today's Great-Power Tensions
The United States’ Perpetual War in Afghanistan
Why Long Wars No Longer Generate a Backlash at Home
Reeducation Returns to China
Will the Repression in Xinjiang Influence Beijing's Social Credit System?
How Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape the Global Order
The Coming Competition Between Digital Authoritarianism and Liberal Democracy
The Remarkable Scale of Turkey's "Global Purge"
How It Became a Threat to the Rule of Law Everywhere
The Pentagon's Transparency Problem
Why Accurate Troop Levels Are So Hard to Find
Stop Obsessing About China
Why Beijing Will Not Imperil U.S. Hegemony
Is Trump a Normal Foreign-Policy President?
What We Know After One Year
How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power
The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Authoritarian Influence
Is Going It Alone the Best Way Forward for Europe?
Why Strategic Autonomy Should Be the Continent’s Goal
Sooner or later this economy will slow,” the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared of China in 1998. He continued: “That’s when China will need a government that is legitimate. . . . When China’s 900 million villagers get phones, and start calling each other, this will inevitably become a more open country.” At the time, just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Friedman’s certainty was broadly shared. China’s economic ascent under authoritarian rule could not last; eventually, and inescapably, further economic development would bring about democratization.
Twenty years after Friedman’s prophecy, China has morphed into the world’s second-largest economy. Growth has slowed, but only because it leveled off when China reached middle-income status (not, as Friedman worried, because of a lack of “real regulatory systems”). Communications technology rapidly spread—today, 600 million Chinese citizens own smartphones and 750 million use the Internet—but the much-anticipated tsunami of political liberalization has not arrived. If anything, under the current regime of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government appears more authoritarian, not less.
Most Western observers have long believed that democracy and capitalism go hand in hand, that economic liberalization both requires and propels political liberalization. China’s apparent defiance of this logic has led to two opposite conclusions. One camp insists that China represents a temporary aberration and that liberalization will come soon. But this is mostly speculation; these analysts have been incorrectly predicting the imminent collapse of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. The other camp sees China’s success as proof that autocracies are just as good as democracies at promoting growth—if not better. As Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad put it in 1992, “authoritarian stability” has enabled prosperity, whereas democracy has brought “chaos and increased misery.” But not all autocracies deliver economic success. In fact, some are utterly disastrous, including China under Mao.
Both of these explanations overlook a crucial reality: since opening its markets in 1978, China has in fact pursued significant political
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