Does globalization equal liberalization? In China, perhaps

China's transition in political leadership shows a nation divided between reform and retrenching. Can it continue authoritarianism in a globalized economy?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

On of the most interesting storylines in the rise of China as a global economic and political superpower is how the traditionally insular country will deal with operating in an increasingly globalized world.

As legislators in most developed nations know, it's hard to pass policy in the 21st century without considering what's happening beyond your borders. Just ask northern Europe, which suddenly found itself on the hook for southern Europe's fiscal carelessness. Or perhaps the U.S., which ended a half-century of industrial might with the sobering fact that many of its most popular products aren't assembled domestically. Ditto Japan, among the most idiosyncratic of economic powers.

China's power comes in numbers; that has always been the case. Its authoritarian style of governing certainly helps that image persist. But can China stay on top without letting go just a bit?

That's what's between the lines in a report this morning in the New York Times, detailing the rocky leadership transition currently underway that pits conservative and liberal parties against each other:

One political theorist said Mr. Xi [Jingping, the next Communist Party chief], with the backing of Jiang Zemin, the former party chief, had overseen a team researching the Singapore model of governing that allows more liberal economic policies and political voices under one-party rule. Wu Si, the editor of a journal backed by liberal party elders, said that he has heard encouraging reports that “practical work on political system reform” could emerge after the transition.

Mr. Xi also recently issued an indirect warning about corrupt practices that have soiled the party’s image, telling officials studying at the Central Party School in Beijing that “time should not be spent on networking and buying dinners.”

For every nation, an election is a struggle over the future of the country; this is no different in China. But its growing economic might, coupled with its history of tight-fisted governance, makes the decision all the more critical.

In the last decade, China became more controlling over its economy and its citizens' civil liberties. Can it continue to do so and succeed in a globalized economy?

Photo: Xi Jinping (Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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