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.
Xi Jinping and his associates at the top levels of the Chinese government have been on the move. They have been pushing a society-wide anti-corruption campaign, targeting in particular some high-ranking rivals, and in recent weeks have been unusually aggressive with their neighbors Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, unusually harsh in their anti-U.S. rhetoric, and unusually repressive of dissident voices inside China. They have moved to re-shape the internal workings of the government to concentrate more power in personal authority at the top and less in written rules or in government bureaucracies. They have floated the idea of a new Chinese "strongman," clearly intending to suggest that Xi Jinping might be one. Mao Zedong is the best model for all of this, but Xi Jinping is no Mao, and how things will actually end up is anyone's guess.
It would be politically incorrect in the United States to proclaim that the domestic order kept by the Chinese Communist Party would serve U.S. interests. It would also be ideologically unacceptable in China to announce that the current international order sustained by American primacy should be welcomed. Paradoxically, the stark reality is that the two orders have been reinforcing each other now for the past 42 years, since Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. Today, it is in China's best interest to see a vibrant U.S. economy stimulated by technological innovations, and a benign, careful use of U.S. power in the global system. In turn, an orderly yet changing China, under a strong, reform-minded leadership, will make greater contributions to the global order in favor of the United States.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of China's crackdown in Tiananmen Square, world leaders have the opportunity to distinguish themselves from leaders of the past who, for the sake of economic progress or in the name of "national security," have turned a blind eye to atrocities committed by Chinese leaders against their own citizenry.