If there were strong anti-Communist leadership in Washington, DC, I could say with confidence that the Chinese Communist Party was in its final days. As it is, we're at the beginning of the end, but that end could take years, and many lives along with it.
To understand my frustration, all one need do is examine the recent news and events which the CCP must face.
Economic growth - the "bread" of the Communists' bread-and-circuses routine - is now expected to drop below population growth for the final quarter of 2008 (Agence France Presse via Yahoo). Annual growth for next year will be lucky to keep up with the population. If that happens, it would be the first time in nearly twenty years, and force hundreds of millions of Chinese to face the reality that the CCP repression is not the price of a white-hot economy, but rather the economy was strong despite the repression (said repression has hardly slowed down - AFP via Yahoo).
We're already starting to see the results of this. In Hunan, teachers are demanding pay raises - which, irrespective of the economic situation, are mandated by Communist law. The cadres, of course, have no intention of following their own laws (Epoch Times), and at least one party figure blithely told the teachers he could "crush a few of them to death."
The teachers are miles behind taxi drivers, who have conducted wildcat strikes across the country (Washington Post). However, it should be noted that all of these are illegal under CCP rule, because the only labor union the CCP allows is the union the CCP controls. The cadres have used that for years stifle genuine independent labor unions - and break strikes.
Of course, to hear the regime tell it, there is nothing getting in the way of the "peaceful rise." After all, foreign leaders are still coming to Beijing for investments (AFP via Yahoo); the Korean colony continues to be as brazen - and successful - as ever (One Free Korea); the plan to muscle down the price of iron seems to be working (Business-Standard); and the regime is moving forward on at least one major project - a nuclear reactor (Bloomberg).
Yet even here, the weakness comes through. After years of promising to be model global citizens, the CCP responded to its first adverse decision from the World Trade Organization by refusing to honor it (AFP via Yahoo). COSCO - the CCP-owned firm best known from getting its meat-hooks into California's shipping ports - is hemorrhaging money (Bloomberg).
Worst of all, there is more attention in the democratic world to the plight of dissidents under the CCP's thumb (Washington Post). Even the regime's friends in the democratic world are taking hits (Epoch Times).
About the only place that hasn't changed much is Washington, DC, where the powers that be are still talking "engagement" and advising President-elect Obama to continue the appeasement policies of the last twenty year (Richard Holloran - Washington Times - takes down this nonsense in a slow-developing column that's still worth the read).
On one level, the disconnect is maddening. As nearly every other indicator of the Zeitgeist shows a regime on its last legs, the powers that be in the most powerful democracy on the planet still treat the CCP as if its wave-of-the-future veneer is firmly in place. Never mind that the Olympics actually turned out to be a surprise bust. Never mind that the melamine scandal has permanently damaged the Made-in-China brand. Never mind the economic downturn and its already visible effects.
That said, we should remember that we've been here before - in 1977. The Soviet Union was just as weak, and suffered with just as many problems; only no one outside Eastern Europe new until Solidarity was formed in Poland in 1980. The Charter 300 dissidents today echo the Charter 77 dissidents of Czechoslovakia. Yet despite all of this, incoming President Jimmy Carter announced to the world that America was over its "inordinate fear of Communism."
While I doubt Barack Obama will use those exact words, odds are good he, too, will dismiss "inordinate fear" of the CCP - giving the regime more time to support anti-American terrorists, imprison and kill dissidents, build up its military (and Russia's economic dependence on same), swallow up Taiwan, and otherwise prepare for its goal: replacing America as the lead power in the world.
The Soviets took similar advantage of Carter; the voters replaced him with Reagan, and the rest was history. What Obama himself will do - let alone American voters - is anyone's guess. What we do know is that the cadres will have some time to limp along, time that we could better spend helping the Chinese people take their country back.