The country has opened up economically, but not politically.
The following is the latest in a series of blog posts accompanying newly-released Bradley Lectures Podcast episodes. The subject of this post is “Democracy with Chinese characteristics,” an episode examining Arthur Waldron’s 2000 Bradley Lecture, “China after communism.”
When Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, recently tweeted in support of protestors in Hong Kong, the backlash was swift and forceful. Morey quickly deleted the tweet and apologized to the Chinese government. Meanwhile, a cohort of professional basketball players demonstrated their obeisance to the Chinese Communist Party by repudiating Morey’s call to “fight for freedom” as Chinese police cracked down on anti-government demonstrators. “We apologize. We love China,” said former NBA MVP James Harden. “They show us the most important love … we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as an organization.”
The damage was done – the Rockets have lost millions for offending the autocrats in Beijing – and the message has been received: American businesses are free to dip into the honeypot of the Chinese economy, on the simple condition that they bring no attention to the Communist Party’s totalitarianism, human rights abuses, and vicious opposition to freedom movements.
Which brings us to the paradox at the heart of China’s political economy. China today is a curious combination of economic liberalism (to an extent), together with a system of government and social organization that is anything but liberal.
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