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Departures Podcast with Jean-Pierre Cabestan


Earlier this month marked the 31st anniversary of Tiannanmen Square, while during this same period, the same Chinese Communist Party solidified its grip on Hong Kong with the passage of a new national security law that would subject Hong Kongers to extradition and Chinese legal jurisdiction.

These events are just examples of the extreme lengths Beijing will go to demonstrate its commitment to avoiding a collapse similar to that of the Soviet Union, argues Jean-Pierre Cabestan during his interview on Departures with Robert Amsterdam.

Cabestan is the author of the book “China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship,” and discusses with Amsterdam his theory that although the one-party authoritarian state has a long life line left, eventually as prosperity grows the pressures will increase for more representative forms of government that may ultimately become unsustainable for the regime. But this is unlikely to happen for decades, says Cabestan, as we are observing a highly adaptive regime absorb crisis, pivot, and change strategies in whatever form or function may support their goal of stability and growth at the expense of liberties and democracy.

The great secret of the Chinese Communist Party is that they work very hard to keep the party attractive and able to recruit new members in order to remain viable and legitimate, says Cabestan. There are many Chinese who already believe that China already is a democracy, they feel that they have a government “for the people” if not “by the people.”

The party is very aware that the country needs to open up, Cabestan says, they know they need to introduce more competition and fairness to the marketplace to sustain growth. They’re aware of many reforms they need to undertake, such as decollectivization and promotion of private entrepreneurs, modernization of its civil service and judiciary – but they need to do all this without losing control of all those levers of power.

That indeed is going to be a great challenge in the long term.