Many of my conservative friends seem to think that if we jump up and down on the table and scream about China's lack of democracy, we would improve the situation. I can't decide if ignorance or petulance dominates in this attitude. China always has been a empire, never a nation state. It holds together a welter of difference ethnicities speaking different languages through a common system of ideograms and a common culture, and always has opposed a centralizing power to centifugal tendencies. It is an inherently unstable system. Communism erased China's traditional culture, the Confucian system that linked the "little emperor" at the head of an extended family to the "big emperor" in Beijing through a set of analogous filial obligations.
In the midst of the greatest social upheaval in modern history, the largest popular migration in all of history, Chinese leaders are painfully aware that a great empire cannot survive merely on the impetus of consumerism. That is why China's leaders are looking to the West for more than methods of business administration. It is impossible to predict, of course, how this will proceed, but potentially it could be one of the most momentous developments of our time.
Those in the United States who want China to fail should be careful what they wish for. Iraq, Iran, or Belarus could sink into the ground without a trace and the world would carry on regardless; an unstable China would make the world security situation unmanageable, not to mention the world economy.
As the history of Chinese Central administrators goes, the current bunch are doing alright. That is in a Chinese historical context. By the context of where I have grown up, in a Canada heavily influenced by America, the current bunch would be voted out. I hope another great reformer, a Deng Xiaopeng of consensual government, will appear, making China the near heaven on earth that, I know because I have seen, it has the potential to be.