Another explanation is fear of contemplating the unknown. CCP rule may not last, but the alternative — state failure and civil chaos — could be far worse than the “status quo.” However, the record of democratic transitions since 1974 suggests that regime change in China is unlikely to be calamitous. The decisive factor will be whether it is initiated and managed by the ruling elites, as in Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil and Spain.
Managed transitions produce more stable democracies. Should this occur in China, the CCP could transform itself into a major political party competing with others for power, as formerly autocratic parties have done in Mexico and Taiwan.
Even a disorderly regime transition, however traumatic and chaotic in the short term, could yield a system that, on balance, is an improvement over a stagnant, repressive and corrupt autocracy. Indonesia’s new democracy may be imperfect, but has thrived despite its initial poor prospects.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the remarkable history of the democratic transitions of the past 38 years, it is that when elites and the public reject authoritarian rule, they do their best to make the new system work. Should such a transition occur in China, there is no reason to think that the process and the outcome will be fundamentally different.
Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US.
Copyright: Project Syndicate