UPDATE: Timely, I just received my weekly e-newsletter from John Mauldin this morning. He includes an essay from Charles Gave and Arthur Kroeber of GaveKal on "The Morality of Chinese Growth." Not only is it a good read, it speaks to China's continue progression towards freedom (with the exception of political freedom) and America's (the West's) perception of those not subscribing to their own political, social, and economic expectations.
"We Americans have a strange utopian tendency to assume that among all possible social bargains there is one perfect bargain out there (probably ours) and that it is our job to judge how well other people are keeping on the path to that bargain, any straying from which necessitates perdition for them and gnashing of teeth for us. But maybe we should just stop worrying about it. China will become what it will become and hopefully whatever it becomes will produce good results both materially and spiritually for most Chinese. As long as our society continues to do the same for us, it does not much matter whether the two societies wind up looking a lot or a little like each other. Chacun son gout!"
Read more here.
As most people who know me know, I'm a fan of China and Asia in general. China is the engine of the new world order - and I don't think that's changing anytime soon. We've all heard the reasons for this - people, resources, leadership, Communism, religion (or lack thereof), strategy... or whatever else it may be. But what I've admired most is China's unwillingness to engage in policies or action that takes the government's focus away from itself. Or to succumb to external pressures regarding their actions. They are precise and purpose driven. And Western counterparts, including the US, rarely question or challenge their actions with anything more than words. To be clear, I'm not saying I support Chinese policy - what I'm saying is, I admire the fact that they can act as they do with very few repercussions.
China's UN voting record supports China's non engagement strategy. They are known for abstaining on politically sensitive issues external to them. And they've only used their veto power 6 times throughout their UN membership (US - 82 vetoes, Russia - 123 vetoes).
China also invests heavily in development projects in Africa - not with the aim of helping the African people, but to sate their continued push for resources to power their engine. They currently import 25% of their oil from Africa.
They have an awful human rights record. While I commend Google's attempt to stop censorship, they underestimated China's willingness or need to modify their stance.
China supports N. Korea, not because they believe in N. Korea, but to keep the Korean peninsula less stable and to keep US at bay.
China's controls their people - they control gatherings, internet access, politics, resources, money, etc.
While they continue to open up their economy, the real question on the success of China will be answered only when they are forced to confront their social/political issue, which is many years away. For now, their economic dominance will march on.
China has no motivation to change. And a mix of their unique political system, their historical relationship with the outside world, and their economic success, ensures that change will not come all that soon.