Decades into reform, this is finally where the Communist Party rubber hits the capitalist road and a restless public connected by social networks. The nemesis undoing its capacity to stem volatility and maintain stability through traditional hierarchical control is the democratization of information.
HONG KONG -- Despite its media portrayals as a spiritual and cultural wasteland, China is home to more than 200 million people who are either "Buddhists, Taoists or worshippers of legendary figures such as the Dragon King and God of Fortune." China also has 36,000 mosques, 45,000 imams and over 21 million Muslims. By 2030, it will have a Muslim population larger than Saudi Arabia's today and a Christian population larger than any other country in the world. The world's largest publisher of Bibles, Amity Printing Company, is located in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
The prevailing mood among China-watchers in 2014 was one of anxiety and skepticism. The year began in the shadow of Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Seas. Economic concerns quickly took over: by February the property market seemed on the verge of an epic collapse thanks to the previous year's sharp monetary tightening. At midyear the worry was that an endless anti-corruption campaign had caused government sclerosis, making it impossible to get anything done. And by October, as the Communist Party held its law-focused Fourth Plenum, many bemoaned both the lack of evident progress on the economic reforms outlined at the prior year's Third Plenum and the Party's unwillingness to let its power be constrained by Western-style rule of law.
If you look at Chinese politics over the last 30 plus years solely from the perspective of multi-party competition, general elections and the separation of the powers, you could well conclude that nothing has changed. However, from a governance perspective, you will discover that Chinese political life has undergone tremendous changes during that time. There is a clear direction here: from unity to diversity, from centralization to decentralization of power, from the rule of man to the rule of law, from being closed to being open, and from regulatory government to service-oriented government.