"CIVILIZATION HAD CHOSEN, AND IT CHOSE US."

By Alyssa Rosenberg

Bill Keller's piece on the resurgence of Russian and Chinese autocracy got slapped with one of the more unfortunate headlines I've seen in a while, but it's well worth a read. The key takeaway is here:

The Chinese and Russians scorned each other’s neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese “street” felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.

I think the specific ways in which Russia and China have become more similar is less interesting than the simple fact that they've grown more like each other, period. In Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk, about his experience teaching Chinese in the 1980s, his students tell him how much they hated the Russian advisors who came to help develop Chinese Communism in the 1950s because of vast gaps in cultural understanding, not to mention vast differences in the practice of Communism. The fact that both regimes, and the citizens of both countries now have similar aspirations and values, is an important reminder that we don't know very much about how political regimes and political expression evolve in long-lasting, non-monarchial dictatorships.

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