David Shambaugh: “The Endgame of Communist Rule Has Begun”

At The Wall Street Journal, noted China scholar David Shambaugh writes that “the endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun, I believe, and it has progressed further than many think.” He points to “five telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability”: an apparent lack of confidence among the country’s wealthy; intensified political repression, betraying insecurity among the leadership itself; a sense that “even many regime loyalists are just going through the motions”; corruption too pervasive and deep-rooted for Xi’s ongoing crackdown to fully address; and an economy “stuck in a series of systemic traps from which there is no easy exit.”

Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the itself. China’s strongman leader, , is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and will shore up the party’s rule. He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr. , Mr. Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society—and bringing it closer to a breaking point.

[…] Communist rule in China is unlikely to end quietly. A single event is unlikely to trigger a peaceful implosion of the regime. Its demise is likely to be protracted, messy and violent. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Mr. Xi will be deposed in a power struggle or coup d’état. With his aggressive anticorruption campaign—a focus of this week’s National People’s Congress—he is overplaying a weak hand and deeply aggravating key party, state, military and commercial constituencies. [Source]

Fear of Soviet-style collapse has been cited as a key driver of China’s current campaign against “Western values.” Doom-laden prophecies for China’s current regime are hardly unusual, but given the source, this one stands out: reactions on Twitter have ranged from “blimey” and “huh” to “strewth” and “wow”.