Summary of End of an Era

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Recommendation

For anyone who beholds China’s skyscrapers and high-speed trains, it’s easy to believe that the explosion of economic success could lead to sweeping political change. Many believe the country’s dramatic economic rise has set the stage for an inevitable switch to a more open society. But there’s a major problem with this premise, argues China expert Carl Minzner: Beijing has no interest in relinquishing control. If anything, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has grown more repressive. Minzner paints a bleak picture of modern life in China as he describes rising official corruption and a dwindling tolerance for dissent. He notes that China’s economy has grown sclerotic and unequal and – perhaps more important – that Xi’s repressive regime allows no escape valve for peaceful protest, let alone regime change. As a result, China sees deeply distressing episodes of protesters immolating themselves or threatening suicide in other ways – and, frequently, following through. getAbstract recommends this elegantly written and persuasively argued study as a pessimistic counterview to those who believe that China is on its way to becoming a Western-style democracy. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why China’s democratic dream died,
  • How China’s economic miracle stalled and
  • Why US-Sino relations could grow more strained.
 

About the Author

Carl Minzner is a professor at Fordham Law School and a China expert who has written widely about Chinese law and governance.

 

Summary

The Democratic Dream Dies

Ever since the 1980s, Western pundits have expressed hope that China was on the road to lasting reform: that the nation would shed authoritarian rule and transform into a Western-style democracy governed by the rule of law. In the American imagination, developing nations naturally march down a road to democracy and free-market capitalism. By this logic, China, with its soaring skyscrapers and bullet trains, seems poised to transform into a shiny new beacon of political freedom and economic prosperity. Instead, China has accompanied the rest of the world into what some call a “democratic recession” or “authoritarian resurgence.” The limited political, social and economic reforms China explored during the last two decades of the 20th century have stalled, and the promise of an open society governed by the rule of law has receded. Under the repressive leadership of Xi Jinping, Beijing has doubled down on its determination to crush dissent.  


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