By Fareed Zakaria
The historical case as to why China should be moving toward greater democracy is clear. Scholars have argued that there is a “zone of transition” for authoritarian countries when this happens — between $5,000 to $10,000 per capita GDP (in purchasing power terms). China is at the top of the range, around $10,000. Given China’s level of economic, social and educational development, it is highly unusual that China, among Asian nations, has seen almost no movement toward political reform.
Minxin Pei argues that perhaps what explains the Chinese anomaly is that the ruling elites have been united, confident and ferocious in their determination to maintain a one-party system. In Taiwan, after Chiang Ching-kuo’s death, the elites split, as they did in South Korea, Indonesia and, of course, the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. That split, between a reformist wing and a hard-line wing, has not happened in China.