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Many argue that Western democratic regimes are superior because the rotation of political parties by voting allows the flexibility required for the government to make policy changes that meet the demands of changing times and thereby better reflect the will of the people. In contrast, China’s one-party system is rigid, and the CCP’s monopoly on power disconnects it from the people.
The simplest exercise in intellectual diligence would show such argument to be preposterous. Since the party established the People’s Republic in 1949, under the leadership of a single political party, changes in China’s government policies and political environment have covered the widest possible spectrum. From the so-called “New Democratic” coalition at the beginning to the dramatic land reforms of the early 1950s, from the Great Leap Forward to the quasi-privatization of farmland in the early 1960s, from the Cultural Revolution to Deng Xiaopin’s market reform and Jiang Zemin’s redefinition of the Party through his “Theory of Three Represents,” China’s domestic politics are almost unrecognizable from one period to another.
In foreign policy, China moved from a close alliance with the Soviet Union in the 1950s to a virtual alliance with the United States in the 1970s and ’80s to contain the former. Today, its pursuit of an independent course in an increasingly multi-polar world is distinctive among the nations of the world. No one could deny that its leaders, from Mao to Deng, from Jiang to Hu and to Xi next year, differ as widely in political outlooks and policy priorities as those who move in and out of power under any other political systems.