This author has long believed China is on the path to disintegration and notes that Tocqueville's book on the French revolution has become something of a must-read for China's communist rulers:
The article to which I linked above indicates that Tocqueville's minor masterpiece is now the rage in China and that senior figures in the Communist Party there are recommending that party functionaries read it.
Take this piece of information and ruminate on it, and consider it in light of the recent scandals -- which threatened to reach into the Politburo itself. If Tocqueville's book is being read, it is because at least some of the men who rule China are wondering whether their country is near a tipping point -- in which a seemingly minor event (the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, for example) sets off a conflagration.
Twenty-three years ago, at the time of Tiananmen Square, China very nearly came apart. Some Chinese, who know a lot more than I do about the state of affairs in their country, evidently think that it may do so again, and the very fact that are contemplating such a nightmare suggests that it may be on the horizon. If and when such a regime stops delivering the goods -- even if only for a short time -- there will be a fury unleashed.
We keep debating what path China will take: Collapse? Counter-revolution? Status quo? Democracy? Prosperity? War?
I don't know why we have to choose a single path for a continent-sized country:
With a state both cruel and failing economically, governing a continent-sized population with a history of fragmentation, I don't know why we need to guess which course the government of China will follow. The continent of China is big enough that it could follow all the possible paths.
I know that China has defied predictions of doom by keeping their economy growing, which is their basis of legitimacy, but can they keep it going at this pace? Have they? Or are the statistics suspect because Peking wants to buy time to repair growth rates?
If China's rulers cannot sustain growth and their claim to power, why not all of the above as China's future?
UPDATE: And to forestall disintegration in the face of economic problems, would China's rulers provoke a war to rally their people? Peking's rulers wouldn't be the first this decade to battle economic problems by rattling sabers over off-shore islands:
With growth slowing, inflation soaring, and crime on the rise, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is bearing the brunt of the people's ire. Re-elected in a landslide in October 2011 without the need for a runoff, Kirchner saw her approval rating bottom out at a meager 30 percent last November. In October, 200,000 people marched through Buenos Aires protesting economic failings and systemic corruption, while in November the trades union -- traditional allies of her faction, the Peronist Front for Victory -- organized a 24-hour general strike and instituted road blocks across the city.
It is hardly surprising, then, that against this backdrop of economic and social tumult and strife that Kirchner would seek to bring up the Falkland Islands. Having once fought with Britain over that rocky archipelago of fishermen and sheep farmers in 1982, Argentina's issues of sovereignty and self-determination have come to the fore again in a series of public confrontations with London.
Kirchner is willing to rattle sabers to save her administration. How much more would China do to save their state from fracturing?