Now Online: 'China and Democracy' Debate With Minxin Pei and Eric Li


As I mentioned two weeks ago, one of the most interesting (to me) sessions at the Aspen Ideas Festival was a debate between Minxin Pei and Eric X. Li about the nature and viability of the Chinese politico-economic system. The title was "Democracy and China," but really the discussion concerned whether, as Minxin Pei has argued in many books, the tensions and contradictions in the Chinese model of authoritarian-capitalism mean that it is nearing the end of its miraculous 30-plus year run; or whether on the contrary, as Eric Li has argued many places, the Chinese system is indeed showing its superiority to any plausible alternative. I was the moderator, and I thought it was an unusually interesting and direct display of the differences in views.

A video of the debate is now up on the Aspen site. You can see it there, or click below. That's Li on the left, Pei in the middle, and me on the right.

Lots more in the hopper about Chinese book names, Romney-Obama strategy and tactics, the Air France crash report, "interesting software," and other topics. But it will have to wait for tomorrow. Seriously, if you are interested in China, economic development, democratic development, the "Asian model," or practically anything else, I think you will find this debate worthwhile.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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