Home / Robert Farley / It could come now. Or seventeen years from now. Or possibly two weeks ago.

It could come now. Or seventeen years from now. Or possibly two weeks ago.


Nick Kristof thinks that communism in China ended on the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre. It’s just taken the Chinese fifteen years to notice.

So when will political change come to China? I don’t have a clue, but it could come any time. While it might come in the form of a military coup, or dissolution into civil war or chaos, the most likely outcome is a combination of demands from below (perhaps related to labor unrest) and concessions from the top, in roughly the same way that democracy infiltrated South Korea and Taiwan.

The “I don’t have a clue” is the important part in this paragraph.

Let’s talk about proximate causes, or even triggering events. Lexington and the American Revolution. The summoning of the Estates and the French Revolution. Lenin’s sealed train and the Russian Revolution. Popular demonstrations and the fall of Eastern European communism. In all of these cases, one thing follows another, almost such that we could call the two things “related”, without delving into complicated accounts of causation.

On the other hand, when something happens, say, a massacre in Tiananmen Square, and the people who committed the massacre are still in power fifteen years later, following the basic policies they had established at the time, it is a bold thing to suggest that the massacre has led to their fall. Indeed, noting the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European communist regimes, one might argue that brutal oppression has really worked out for them.

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