Emperor Xi’s Dilemma

China has increasingly sought to project the success of its markets-and-mandarins development model. But, as China’s economy slows this year, President Xi Jinping is likely to discover that there really is a link between a society’s openness and the sustainability of its economic success.

LONDON – I once spoke with a Chinese academic whose parents had fled China during the 1930s, appalled by the greed and corruption rampant in the country before the communist revolution. They returned after 1949, leaving comfortable jobs in California universities to help build a new China.

The academic’s father suffered during the anti-rightist campaigns of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, and died a broken man after a prison sentence. But her mother always remained faithful to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). She regarded her husband’s travails as a personal price paid for a greater good.

In her last years, however, the academic’s mother grew increasingly depressed by the rising tide of corruption. When she died, it was with the sense that she and her husband had offered a lifetime of sacrifice in vain. The poisonous immorality of the 1930s had returned.

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