SINGAPORE -- This is a rare window of opportunity for China. If Xi had not launched the anti-corruption campaign now, it would have been impossible to do so in 10 years time. By then the vested interest groups would have become too powerful. If the economic oligarchy becomes a political one, China will become the Russia of yesterday.
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.
When Xi assumed office, people once hoped he would usher in democracy, but what actually happened was much stronger suppression of speech and greater thought control. He seems, so to speak, like a captain of a ship in distress who is hardening his resolve to deny his passengers the liberty to act on their own. In the end it is only the Chinese people who can decide which way China will go. But it is certain that the conclusion of this battle of Xi's will have an enormous effect on those of us outside China.
China is still faced with many daunting challenges ranging from corruption to regional income gaps and environmental degradation. But China is indeed better than at anytime in its modern history. The country is now the world's largest laboratory for economic, social and political experimentation. There is every reason to believe that China, which has a continuously adaptive political system, will reach its objective of becoming the world's largest economy in a decade's time -- with all the implications for China itself and for the rest of the world at large.