For someone who regrettably drank the Kool Aid of the steady deepening of democracy during the long ascendency of the Soviet Union, I can’t so easily dismiss the autocratic and undemocratic trends in China. Some of China’s economic acheivements – the reduction in poverty and economic modernization – are impressive for sure, but they don’t ease my concern about the amassing of power and decision making in fewer and fewer (party) hands and the longer term consequences of that trend.

The much maligned Gorbachev, I believe, was right decades ago when he said: more socialiism, more democracy and more democracy, more socialism! Autocratic socialism, in his experience and understanding, was a contradiction of terms that eventually leads to contradictions in every sphere of life. Chinese Party leader Xi Jinping doesn’t share this point of view. For him, the overaching task of the party is to tighten controls and elevate the party’s role to the final and unchallenged arbiter across Chinese society.

Which leaves unanswered whether such a posture will work in the long run and is such a society socialist.