Will China go democratic?

Cancan Chu/Getty Images News In To Change China,  his 2002 case study of 16 Western advisers to the Middle Kingdom, acclaimed China historian Jonathan Spence observes that Chinese officials have proved eager and adept at learning technical skills from the West, yet not so receptive to the “ideological package” the advisers brought along with their ...

601861_070515_tiananmen22.jpg
601861_070515_tiananmen22.jpg

Cancan Chu/Getty Images News

In To Change China,  his 2002 case study of 16 Western advisers to the Middle Kingdom, acclaimed China historian Jonathan Spence observes that Chinese officials have proved eager and adept at learning technical skills from the West, yet not so receptive to the "ideological package" the advisers brought along with their expertise.

It was this that the Chinese had refused to tolerate; even at their weakest, they sensed that acceptance of a foreign ideology on foreign terms must be a form of submission. 

Cancan Chu/Getty Images News

In To Change China,  his 2002 case study of 16 Western advisers to the Middle Kingdom, acclaimed China historian Jonathan Spence observes that Chinese officials have proved eager and adept at learning technical skills from the West, yet not so receptive to the “ideological package” the advisers brought along with their expertise.

It was this that the Chinese had refused to tolerate; even at their weakest, they sensed that acceptance of a foreign ideology on foreign terms must be a form of submission. 

Fast-forward to today. China is still officially a communist state, yet it has embraced a unique form of state-directed capitalism that has brought enormous benefits—and upheaval—to hundreds of millions of Chinese. But is China trending democratic as it trends capitalist? What if China embraces Western-style free markets, but without its “ideological package”—political freedom?

Enter James Mann, a veteran journalist and author of several books on China. His latest book, The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression, offers an incendiary critique of U.S. leaders, business people, and scholars in the China field that has lit up the listservs and discussion boards where China hands share their ideas and arguments. Mann believes that “China’s one-party state is likely to persist for a long time,” and urges a rethink the assumptions that underpin U.S. policy. In this special online debate, prominent China scholar David M. Lampton of Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies fires back at Mann, whom he says is being “impatient” and “naive”. For his part, Mann accuses Lampton of repeating “stale formulas” and avoiding tough questions. Who’s right? Check out the debate and let us know what you think.

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