Today, for the first time in 35 years, the deep cracks are visible. With unpublished candor, the nation’s problems are being acknowledged because the social media won’t tolerate propaganda or the guillotine of censure. The disparities are astounding, made evident by the Gini index’s assessment of wealth distribution. Access to consumer goods, the enrollment of the nomenclature’s children in the best universities, and the flight of private wealh to foreign markets all attest to this. Corruption undermines the fabric of society and the routine of daily life. The opaque banking system favors state-run enterprises and impels other companies to resort to shadow banking. Pollution has reached intolerable levels; in big cities the air is un-breathable, while the public is constantly threatened by contaminated foods or avian flu epidemics. The rise in GDP—and therefore the consensus reached by the new wealth—is no longer capable of stemming protests. Public order is always guaranteed, and the army is stable in its barracks; dissent, however disorganized, is latent and manifests itself on the internet, in the farmers whose land has been seized and in the factories demanding better conditions for their workers.
The novelty is not the rise of these tensions as much as the Partys relative benevolence displayed in response. Corruption is denounced as the primary obstacle, social networks are tacitly tolerated, and salaries are increased by order of the law. This is obviously not a matter of political reform, but of nascent social expectations that are not being shredded at birth. For now, Xi Jin Ping’s administration has adopted a prudent attitude. It values stability as the most precious commodity, but it knows that it cannot impose it and must manage it. The use of investigative journalism is a strong example of this. It was once repressed, but it’s now encouraged in cases that benefit the Party. It serves to expose managers’ personal interests, environmental violations, and illegal practices in the administration of local governments outside of Beijing’s reach. With great caution, the Party is attempting to barter the fossilized stability with a moderate amount of chaos.
Aside from the sincerity of the new administration, the success of this experiment is dependent on two factors. The first is the barrier to innovation: the sanctity of equilibrium and veneration of prudence. The old guard is familiar with disorder, revolts, and questioning of legitimate order. It believed that an iron fist was capable of keeping protests and demands at bay. It images democracy as a distant mirage, never as an instrument or objective. The party is responsible for governing and deciding what is best for the nation. Opening their ears is opportune, but granting every wish means risking the country’s security and nullifying efforts made to this point. The conservatives don’t forget tensions generated by analogous phenomena. A relative liberation was launched in 1956—in the words of Mao, “Let 100 flowers bloom, and 100 schools of thought contend”—which then hurt the non-dissenters, as the criticisms grew unchecked. More recently, the “democracy wall” initiated by Deng in 1978 suffered the same fate. The intent was to condemn enemies of economic reforms, but soon after the setting chosen in Beijing became the occasion to criticize the one-party system, Maoism and the communist party itself. Even that time the experiment was short-lived and became victim to the police. Its conclusion was grave and preceded the most ferocious repression at Tian An Men square 10 years later.
The second obstacle to alleviating the power block is managers’ lack of conflict resolution experience. Compared to western countries, China does not have the same inclination toward mediation of conflicting hypotheses; it prefers to swallow differences rather than face them. It yearns for peace and harmony, even if it must forcefully impose them. Modern business relations are foreign to China and commands constitute the exercise of power, considered, for that matter, a social responsibility rather than a privilege. Debate with the opposition is unknown. The sole party in power has not allowed creation of new political entities, but it has opened its doors to the nascent urban bourgeois. The decisions of capitalist countries appear to be impractical sophistications; social dynamics are left to the managers. Beijing is probably familiar with but likely does not want to apply Keynes’ extraordinary institution of class struggle as motor for development
The “Chinese model” of the last 35 years seems, therefore, needs revision. The titanic mass-production machine needs to add quality to quantity, the needs of the people cannot be ignored, the environment and economy impose their own constraints, and the international situation demands greater involvement. It’s too soon to imagine new or apocalyptic scenarios. Nevertheless it’s possible to glimpse new elements, perhaps preluding to unreleased assets or potential repressions. Paradoxically, the Maoist hypothesis—heroic and tragic at the same time—has been rehabilitated. Not so much in facts (which affirm its predecessors) as in analysis. Despite its defeat, it effectively demonstrated that equilibriums are precarious, that revolutionaries tend to become conservatives, and that a cycle of upheaval is always possible even when it appears improbable. Peace must be preceded by war, order by chaos, and socialism by the working class. Mao Ze Dong tried to adapt Hegelian arguments to a poor country, importing Marxism to an agrarian territory. History is littered with examples of disorder, useful for the conquest of power but not for escaping underdevelopment. In the context of the Great Mother China, German idealism gave way to the dialectic of yin and yang where 2 elements battle forever without a victor, guaranteeing that equilibrium is always unstable while chaos is continually lying in ambush.