Journalist and author James Mann recently testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, where he presented his view that political change in China is not inevitable and the U.S. should stop treating it as such:
In our dealing with China, the problem of the wrong paradigm comes from the opposite direction. It’s not that we have failed to anticipate change. Rather, it’s that we assume change is coming to China – that is, change in China’s political system. Looking at the country’s startling economic growth and the remarkable economic changes that have taken place in China, Americans, particularly in our political and business elites, regularly talk as though China is inevitably destined for political change as well. Yet, in my view, while China will certainly be a richer and more powerful country 25 years from now, it could still be an autocracy of one form or another. Its leadership (the Communist Party, or whatever it may call itself in the future) may not be willing to tolerate organized political opposition any more than it does today. This is a prospect that our current paradigm of an inevitably changing China cannot seem to envision…
I should emphasize here that when I am talking about political change in China, I am speaking about the fundamental realities of the current system, in which there is no organized political opposition, in which the press remains under censorship, and in which there are no elections beyond the limited and problematic elections at the township level. There are those who argue China’s political system is already changing, but when they say that they are focusing on far lesser changes, ones that do not affect the one-party state and its monopoly on political power. The argument that the Chinese system is changing seeks to divert attention to smaller realities and away from the large ones.
This paradigm of a China that is destined for political change has deep roots in American policy over the past 35 years. It took hold because it has served certain specific interests in Washington and within American society. [Full text, via The View from Taiwan blog]
– Mann’s full testimony, as well as testimony from other experts at the Hearing on the U.S.-China Relationship: Economics and Security in Perspective is available on the USCC website.