In an interview with The Guardian, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discusses what he sees as the inevitability of political reform in China, as well as the fall of the USSR and his views on his successors.
As the hour-long interview neared its end, I asked the former Soviet president about change in China, the world’s largest Communist state. Gorbachev takes the long view of history but is sure reform there is inevitable. Any suggestion that he should have followed China by starting with economic rather than political reform is wrong, he says.
“In the Soviet Union nothing would have happened if we had done that. The people were cut out, totally isolated from decision-making. Our country was at a different stage of development from China and for us to solve problems we had to involve people.”
“Do you think the Chinese will be able to avoid the same hard choices at some point in time? There will be a moment when they will have to decide on political change and they are already nearing that point.”
Comparisons with China also arise in an interview in Der Spiegel, with reference to the suppression of independence movements in Tbilisi and Vilnius:
SPIEGEL: Your leadership vacillated between harshness and indecision.
Gorbachev: It was said that Chinese harshness was unacceptable, while not shooting was a sign of weakness. Both are nonsense. You have to seek dialogue until the end.
SPIEGEL: Why didn’t you use the Chinese approach with your perestroika: tough communist leadership but capitalist economic reforms?
Gorbachev: Each country is different. China is a good example, but reforms have to be advanced in different ways.