FT: Chinese Power and the Olympic Curse


There is an excellent new article by Jamil Anderlini on FT.com about the outlook for China’s Communist Party, one highlight of which is the noting of the so-called “Olympic curse”:

It is surely just a cute coincidence of history that no authoritarian regime except Mexico’s has lasted more than a decade after hosting a modern Olympic games – think Berlin in 1936, Moscow in 1980, Sarajevo in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. Five years from now the Chinese Communist party, which saw the 2008 Beijing games as its “coming out party” on the world stage, may not only have defied this Olympic curse but also surpassed the life cycle of the Soviet Union and helped debunk democratisation theory.

But even the party’s most ardent defenders concede that China’s leaders cannot rule indefinitely without addressing the demands for political inclusion from a growing middle class that cares more about clean air, clean water, clean government and safe food than GDP growth rates.

After three decades of stellar economic expansion, China’s growth model is starting to run out of steam and if it were to face an abrupt slowdown the party would lose its most convincing source of legitimacy. If the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, were to seize the initiative and launch meaningful political reforms then China might follow the example of Taiwan and South Korea in the late 1980s and 1990s and orchestrate a peaceful transition to a more pluralistic and democratic system.

This, of course, is the Big Question about China these days, and Chen Shu, a professor of CCP history and a supporter of the government, has an interesting quote, in which he tries to be dismissive of anyone who thinks the Party won’t be around for a long time:

“Those theories about a China crisis or China collapse are all completely western,” he says, in a tone that makes clear ­“western” is pejorative. “The more pressure placed on Chinese culture and the Communist party, the more united and cohesive they become and the more capable they are of producing miracles.”

Miracle, indeed…

Read more:


Carlos Alvarenga

Founder and CEO at KatalystNet and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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