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China's Risky Reforms

Why Beijing Has Reason to Worry

Members of the new Politburo Standing Committee wave to the press in Beijing, November 2012. Carlos Barria / Courtesy Reuters

Almost three months after the Third Plenum of China’s 18th Party Congress, the world is still trying to divine the country’s political future. The plenum communiqué, a road map for planned reforms over the next few years, raised as many questions as it answered. Chief among them: How will China’s economy, its political system, and its society interact in the wake of new reforms -- in harmony or with increasing friction?

As many commentators have pointed out, one major outcome of the meeting was the Chinese Communist Party’s decision to make market mechanisms “decisive” in the economy. The primary aim of such reforms, of course, is to prolong party rule. Since crushing the citizen and student movements of the 1980s -- culminating in the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square -- the CCP has depended on economic growth to ensure stability. To guarantee the party’s continued staying

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