The current China-focused issue of Foreign Affairs examines the recently hot topic of China’s “authoritarian adaptation,” and whether it might be approaching its limits. On Thursday, the journal published 32 experts’ views on the proposition that “the current Chinese regime will not survive the next decade without major reform.” Almost a quarter concurred, but some 60% disagreed. Respondents’ confidence in their answers varied widely, and many on all sides complained that the question hinges on unclear definitions and degrees of “reform.”
ANDREW J. NATHAN is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.
Strongly Disagree, Confidence level 10
I assume “major reform” in the question means a fundamental political reform that would get rid of the Leninist one-party system. Lots of other important reforms are being undertaken, but this one is not on the table for the coming decade and I believe the regime will survive without it.
JEFFREY WASSERSTROM is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, where he also holds a courtesy appointment in Law.
Disagree, Confidence level 1
The problem with predictions like this is at least two-fold. First, we have only limited information on what exactly is going on in the halls of power in Beijing, as well as about the extent of opposition. Second, the position of the Chinese regime is likely to be strengthened or weakened by things that happen beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China. Since 1989, the instability of the world and the problems that have beset many countries that have transitioned away from one-party rule or dictatorship, has been a gift that keeps giving for a regime that bases some of its right to rule on the idea that the alternative to it is likely to be chaos and national decline. Major reform is needed, but the Communist Party keeps defying predictions of its demise, so I don’t think it makes sense, even now, despite all the problems it faces, to insist it will only survive if it engages in such reform. Of course, I have limited confidence even in this prediction, due to lack of information about internal affairs and the impossibility of knowing what the international context will be like in the years to come. [Source]