Wang Den, a leader of the 1989 Tainanmen Square uprising and author of 17 books opined on the future of China’s leadership. The next era of leaders, set to take over in 2012 will usher in a new generation of leaders, derisively called “Princelings.” This generation feels a sense of entitlement, grew up under harsh regimes, and has hardened them. Criticism from the West will be less tolerated, and at home, the crackdown on Artist Ai Weiwei is a tell on what’s to come, says Wang. The arrest “was not a careless mistake on the part of junior officials. On the contrary, it was ordered at the highest levels of power, and it suggests a dark era in China’s political climate has begun.” The crackdown on calls for democracy may backfire, as the people do not have a positive view on Princelings as is, possibly creating an opening for members of Tuuanpi, or the Communist Youth League and their populist thinking.
It would be dangerous to assume that a potential regime change in the wake of an economic fallout automatically would mean more economic freedom is forthcoming. Many are yearning for a return to a “more equal society” as the benefits of economic growth has been relatively confined to the connected, creating a jaded view of capitalism. Likewise, there is a growing sense of disgust at what is viewed as materialism. A trend towards increased nationalism, populism, and a return to a harsh communism is very real – akin to the Tea Party in the United States. Even if there is a backlash and uprising, more political freedom does not necessarily mean more economic freedom. One could equate the growing support for more populist communism as akin to the Tea Party movement in the US. It’s certainly a trend to be watched and has geopolitical implications, could generate increased tension for the western governments, as well as the foreign companies that are investing in China. It could also eventually lead to regime change within China, but what regime is the question.
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