Did the Berlin Wall's Fall Save China?

The end of communism in Germany could have secured it in China

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The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 heralded the end of communism in Europe, but Foreign Policy's Jefferey N. Wasserstrom argues it may have cemented the Communist Party's place in China. With China's ruling party celebrating its 60th anniversary today, questions over how it survived are timely. Did the party survive in Beijing not despite the fall of the Berlin Wall but because of it?

One reason the CCP had endured was that, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1991 implosion of the Soviet Union, its demise had seemed so inevitable.

China, unlike the Eastern European states, had early warning that its regime was about to fall; the entire world seemed to know it. That sense of urgency made Chinese leaders avid students of the Soviet Union's downfall. The CCP charged official think tanks with discovering the keys to maintaining a monopoly on power, while avoiding the fate of erstwhile counterparts in Budapest, Bucharest, Prague, and Moscow.

It should be no surprise, then, that CCP leaders took steps to counter each of these lessons throughout the 1990s. [...] Perhaps most importantly, China made itself less susceptible to the "Polish disease," a term for the cross-class mobilization associated with the Solidarity movement, coined originally in East Germany and eventually made popular in Beijing policy circles.

Wasserstrom concludes, "One reason the Berlin Wall fell was because it once seemed so likely to endure. And one reason China's Communist Party has endured is that it once seemed so certain to fail."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.