"But if China's downturn turns into an outright recession, the country could face its first serious threat to the regime." - Joshua Kurlantzick, The New Republic (h/t Weekly Standard Blog)
Truth be told, I think Mr. Kurlantzick gets more than a few things wrong in his piece, but his larger theme - namely that the Chinese Communist Party is entering uncharted and dangerous territory for itself - is dead on.
The situation the regime faces looks very much like the beginning of the end. As the Potemkin cities and economic growth zones on the Pacific coasts slow or shut down, migrant workers are coming back to the hometowns in which they were unable to find work in the first place (Epoch Times). Such movement will not only spread the pain of the economic slowdown, it may also enable the interconnections among laborers that the CCP dreads the most - i.e., folks will soon find out their local cadres weren't the only ones stealing wages and making life difficult. Meanwhile, the regime is finding out that earthquake victims are no longer the propaganda pieces that were so useful in the spring, but rather real people to be ignored or slighted at great risk (CNN and Epoch Times). Put it all together and you get an increasingly restive people (Epoch Times).
How have the cadres responded? They've taken a page right from Brezhnev's playbook - in two provinces, company's need government permission before firing anyone (BBC) - so much for the "free" market doing wonders for the Chinese economy. This is coupled with all the usual antics we've come to expect from the regime - espionage (Agence France Presse via Breitbart, BBC, and the Epoch Times) and deals with America's enemies (BBC).
Another sign of the worry gripping the regime was its flat refusal to even consider sending troops to Afghanistan (London Telegraph). Lest anyone forget, al Qaeda is just one of many terrorist entities that Communist China has aided over the last two decades. However, the cadres usually would be wise enough to appear anti-terrorist. Their decision not to even bother with the charade is a clear sign that they are more interested in aggressive, anti-American behavior abroad to counter increasing problems at home.
Yet there are even signs that the usual "charm offensive" in foreign affairs is falling flat. For example, South Korea made history by granting asylum to a Chinese political refugee yesterday (Central News Agency and NTDTV via Epoch Times) - a clear sign that its more muscular stance on North Korea (Washington Times) is turning into an anti-Communist policy across the board. Meanwhile, the American Food and Drug Administration is setting up shop in Shanghai and Guangzhou to get a better idea of the food poisoning debacle (Epoch Times) - although I wouldn't expect the cadres to be very forthcoming to the visitors.
In two months, America will have a new leader. How he chooses to view the Chinese Communist Party (and Wei Jingshen himself is unsure - Epoch Times) will help determine whether China's final triumph over Communism is peaceful and short or long, bloody, and broadly painful.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really do see the end of the CCP regime on the horizon. However, we still have no idea how many years - or casualties - it will take to get here, and we must do what we can to minimize both.