Ironically, the former Malaysian premier’s praise for China’s authoritarian regime comes at a time when the communist elite is “reeling” from the political fallout of the Nobel Peace Prize award to democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo.
The prize “stands as a rebuttal to the claim that a ‘Chinese model’ of market authoritarian development is a good formula for the modern world,” writes Zhang Zuhua, a leading dissident and co-author of Charter 08.
Recent developments “have invigorated the pro-democracy movement here,” he writes, while cautioning that “the most profound condition, living under the rule of China’s one-party state, continues to be the sense of insecurity and fear.”
“There are voices within the party who are now going public,” she said, noting that the regime’s reaction “actually reflects a political sense of vulnerability of the leadership.”
As a result of the award, the regime’s hugely expensive “soft power” offensive to burnish its international image is “dead in the water.”
The government has spent huge sums on initiatives to burnish its international reputation, ranging from the 2008 Olympics to a network of Confucius Institutes used “to fund dialogues that explore political alternatives to Western values.”
Observers are also questioning China’s ability to marry the need for bottom-up creativity and innovation with top-down political control.