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Isabel Hilton

About the author
Isabel Hilton is the editor of chinadialogue.net, and was editor of openDemocracy from March 2005-July 2007. She is a journalist, broadcaster, writer and commentator.

If the world’s surface is also a measure of the world’s peoples, then the People’s Republic of China is the most significant “vast swathe” to have achieved democracy by 2050. How did this come about? In the dark years of 2008 to 2012, when progress towards openness and pluralism in China seemed to have stalled, it seemed highly unlikely.  But the economic crisis, the resource crunch, food price inflation and the bursting of the real estate bubble that had underpinned much of the Chinese economy created an opening for progressive voices in the Party to argue for a Hungarian style transition. It was a high risk venture: they were opposed by an extremely powerful security sector and by die hard elements of the Party. They were supported, however, by an enthusiastic people who recognized that increasing repression was a sign of weakness at the top, not strength. The Party split that followed allowed the successor parties peacefully to compete in the elections of 2015 and the adoption of a new, federal constitution.

Shanghai World Expo 2010 Demotix/Alec Ash. All rigths reserved.

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