September 30, 2008AsiaauthoritarianChinaCommunistsForeign Affairspolitics

But doesn’t repression work in China?

And what that means for the Communist Party’s hold on power

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Reviewing Sushan Shirk’s Fragile Superpower, TCA Srinivasa-raghavan mentions the familiar argument about the lack of political safety valves in China. (linkthanks Chandrasekaran Balakrishnan)

…the Chinese leadership no longer has to fear the foreign devil who speaks English; it has to fear the average Chinaman who does so. (Shirk) also shows how there is no shortage in the variety of unrests in China: you name a type of discontent, and it is there. But unlike India, China has not had the sense to develop political outlets for the head of steam that is building up. The only way it knows of dealing with mass discontent is repression. [Business Standard]

That may be so, but it is by no means clear that repression won’t work in China. Mao Zedong’s depradations apart, even the Tiananmen Square massacre does not register in the public mind.

The problem may lie in the eyes of the beholder. Repression, for American and Indian commentators, is either repugnant or counter-productive or both. Despite speaking English, the Chinese mind may not think likewise. If so, assessments of China’s fragility may be overstated.



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