Does China invalidate Lipset thesis?


Does economic development eventually lead to democratic reform, as Seymour Martin Lipset (left) and other political scientists proposed in the decades after World War II? The New York Times asks. Yasheng Huang, a professor of global economics at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, was not optimistic.

“Before the current leadership,” he said, “China has had generations of leaders who were not democrats, but trending toward the liberal direction.” That has stopped with Xi Jinping, China’s paramount leader since 2012.

“This is one of the big problems with an authoritarian system because the leadership selection is a very unpredictable process,” said Huang. “Nobody knew the characteristics of this current leader before he was selected. He had a lot of room to maneuver and he decided to move backward.” Private-sector confidence in China is declining, and people are taking money out of the country, he told a recent Athens Democracy Forum.

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