The re-integration of China into the global economy without conflict is the most important, long-term strategic aim of the west. Underpinning it is a theory that China will, through the process of integration, gradually become a more free, more open and more liberal society. Its worrying then, argues Charles Grant in this month’s lead Opinion, that over the last couple of years China has both become more globally integrated, and much more authoritarian.
Grant, who runs the influential Centre for European Reform think tank, visited the country a few months back, and was dismayed to find various ways in which even the limited efforts of the “reformers” of the regime, including the current President and PM, were losing influence to shadowy figures in the communist party hierarchy.
The change has been driven by a mix of factors but in particular by the economic threat flowing from a global recession. Last month this authoritarian turn was seen not so much in the reaction taken by the state after the riots in Xing Xiang, but in the reaction of China’s online population seemed to feel that the state was insufficiently hardline. And, says Grant, you can now see China’s early attempts at limited social and economic reform being threatened in areas as divsere as the economic stimulus, industrial policy or internet censorship.