Minxin Pei has written the same article over and over again over the last 15 years.
1) Problem X is due to China’s bad Leninist party-state (i.e. BAD) government structure
2) To solve problem X, China has to move to a perfect *GOOD* government.
3) Without solving problem X, China is doomed.
There are problems with this reflex
1) Something that Minxin Pei never seems to reflect on is that problem X eventually appears to get solved without dismantling the Chinese state. Problem X in the past has been economic growth, the bad banks, rural land-sales. Pei seems to think that the problem with bad food is *unsolvable* within the current Chinese system, but he has said that about all sorts of other problems, that turn out to be solvable.
2) The other thing that is missing is that Pei seems to lack details. All you have to do is to snap your fingers, China becomes democratic, and the problems are solved. There isn’t any thought about the real trade offs and difficulties involved.
3) Everything is black and white. Either the press is free or it isn’t. There isn’t any notion that you have intermediate states between total freedom and total repression, and hence no notion of how much you have to loosen up the system.
4) Finally, what happens if you *can’t* change everything overnight? Pei seems to think if we can’t institute democracy in China tomorrow, we are doomed and we should just give up. Everything we can do that doesn’t involve overthrowing the government and changing everything is a half-measure, which isn’t worth trying.
Personally, I tend to distrust people with magic formulas to solve all the problems of the world. The trouble with people who believe in magic formulas is that they tend to be comparing cars which run on diesel with those that run on magic. When I hear Pei talk, it’s like hearing someone say that the solution to fixing a car is to wait for the magic car to come around the corner, and not to worry about trying to fix things under the current system.
What I think will happen is that the Communist Party will solve the problem with food safety. Food safety is the type of thing that is easy to do within a bureaucracy. But no problem, I’m sure that two years from now, there will be a new problem (water pollution, old age pensions) and Pei will take whatever that problem is, and write another essay which looks exactly the same as the essay he has written for the last 15 years.