China must strive to remain competitive in the international market. Illustration by/ Daniel Glassman
China must strive to remain competitive in the international market. Illustration by/ Daniel Glassman

In discussions about the future of China’s communist regime, there tend to be polarized views. Some strongly believe in the current system, and with good reason. China’s is the second largest economy after the United States, and the fastest growing. This progress, however, has left economists and politicians scratching their heads, especially now as it may be facing a downturn.

There has been a lot of talk over China’s recent economic slowdown. While the country has experienced over 30 years of rapid growth, its growth rate in 2013 will be the country’s slowest in 23 years. Global demand for Chinese goods is decreasing, which  could be detrimental for the export-dependent country.

Supporters of the regime argue that manufacturing industries are continuing to grow at a rapid pace. This may not be enough. China is able to manufacture goods very cheaply, which is why they hold the title of largest exporter in the world. So long as demand declines, however, this will amount to naught.

China’s communist party is facing a serious reality check. Either they will redirect their efforts into industries that will entice future global demand, or they will continue to watch their economy’s growth decline.

Struggling and falling dictatorships around the world have shown us how economic failure can drive societal alienation. In a globalizing world, information becomes increasingly accessible; this makes it difficult to hide government failures.  In a case where the government is able to drive economic success, however, there is a deeper, more pressing issue. As the Chinese population steadily becomes more educated and gains access to information, it will develop values about the role of government, self-expression, and tolerance towards diversity. This shift in social values undermines the legitimacy of authoritarian rule.

After three decades of rapid economic growth, which pulled hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, only an economy with modern ideologies can stay competitive. There seems to be a movement as the government begins to modernize authoritarian rule by tackling political corruption, allowing for more social expression online, and introducing environment protection. These may be the first signals of the democratization of China. For better or worse, there is growing sentiment that democracy is an inevitable part of the country’s future.  

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