As China gets more prosperous, it is becoming less stable. Senior Beijing officials now face the dilemma of all reforming authoritarians: economic success endangers their continued control. As Harvard's Samuel Huntington has noted, sustained modernization is the enemy of one-party systems. Revolutions occur under many conditions, but especially when political institutions do not keep up with the social forces unleashed by economic change. And as history shows us, nothing irritates a rising social class like inflexible political institutions. The most interesting trend about protests in recent years is not that they are becoming more frequent, getting much larger, or growing more violent. The most interesting trend is that we are now seeing middle-class Chinese, the beneficiaries of the last quarter century of progress, taking to the streets.Lots more at the link. I think Chang may be a bit optimistic in predicting the collapse of Chinese Communism by the end of the decade, but his analysis seems fairly level-headed.
Unfortunately, positive change will not come as fast as it should, in part because we have created a set of perverse incentives. The Chinese engage in bad behavior. We reward them. So they continue their irresponsible conduct. We reward them still more. In these circumstances, why would they ever change?
So is our policy toward China succeeding? Not yet. Will it succeed? Yes, in the long term. But there may be no long term.