Growth of Freedoms in China, The

Working Paper

Published By

Shorenstein APARC, page(s): 36

May 2001

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My argument in this paper is that the people of the People's Republic of China have acquired greater freedoms over the past twenty years, and that if China 's impressive rate of economic development continues,so will their liberties. In the fall of 1996, the journal The National Interest published an article of mine on the prospect for the growth of political and personal freedoms in China. This article contained a prediction that the organization Freedom House would rate China at least "Partly Free" by 2015, and offered evidence in support of that proposition. In the nearly five years since then, events have taken place, both favorable and unfavorable,that bear on my thesis.They are addressed in this text.There is also an analytical change: based on a recalculation, this article projects that China's GDP per capita will reach $7,500 by 2020 in 1998 international dollars. This leads to a revised forecast that Freedom House will rate China at least Partly Free by no later than 2020, rather than 2015 as proposed earlier. (It might appear that the date for China crossing the democracy threshold is slipping one year per year, but that results from the correction and not from a real change in China.) Of course,precision is not possible on such a topic,but the naming of a specific year has a logic and is useful for stimulating debate on a subject of the utmost importance. I do not argue that the path from here to there will be smooth politically,e ither domestically or internationally, but rather that the "end position " (that is, around 2020) will likely see a significant increase in political pluralism and personal liberties in China.

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