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Society & Culture

The Message for China from Tahrir Square

Feb 15, 2011
  • Minxin Pei

    Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government , Claremont McKenna College

Growth and prosperity help the CCP maintain its legitimacy. But the regime knows that performance-based legitimacy is unreliable, at best. The same frustrations that drove Egyptians into the streets could be unleashed in China when its economy inevitably hits a speed bump. That said, it is likely that the CCP will conclude that Mr Mubarak’s regime should have practiced even harsher repression, and nipped the revolt in the bud. Chinese leaders probably also blame western influence and conspiracy, as they did when the color revolutions toppled unpopular regimes in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan a few years ago. It is far from clear, however, that these are right lessons for Beijing to draw. Starting long-delayed democratic reforms from a position of relative political strength could actually be in the CCP’s self-interest. Authoritarian regimes that initiate political opening could fare better than those that do not.

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