Thursday, March 19, 2015

July 17, 2012: The Day America Exited the 9/11 Era…By Entering an Alliance with Al Qaeda

I note with interest that Thomas Friedman, the premier moral imbecile of American journalism, is spitballing the idea of using ISIS to roll back Iran.

Friedman is still an outlier.  The moderate voice in hawkish Middle East policy today, on the other hand, belongs to analysts calling for supporting al Qaeda as the preferred US asset against Iran and, for that matter, ISIS.

This marks a sea change in American Middle East public punditry and a sign that the United States has moved beyond the 9/11 era, in which our national policy and indeed our national identity was largely defined by getting those AQ bad guys who had knocked down the World Trade Center, blown a hole in the Pentagon, and killed over 3000 Americans on a single day in 2001.

Now, the oppose-Iran obsession has resumed center stage, at least for the Beltway-friendly commentariat, and al Qaeda is seen as a suitable and acceptable partner, especially since the current Sunni extremist champion, ISIS, is enduring an ass-kicking at the hands and boots of the Iraq government, Shi’ite militias, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard units.

It is sobering to consider that the United States has done less to un-f*ck-up the Middle East in 14 years than Iran has been able to accomplish in a few months of campaigning in eastern Iraq.  Another sign, if anybody is paying attention, that Iran is the least dysfunctional polity and partial democracy in the Middle East, while Uncle Sam is trapped driving in circles in a clown car fighting for the wheel with Saudi Arabian autocrats and Israeli apartheidists.

No wonder President Obama wants rapprochement with Iran and a quick pivot outta here to the peaceful and prosperous precincts of Asia.  Good luck with that!

As to the odious al Qaeda alliance, the bad news is that it is more than the fever dream of frustrated Beltway analysts.

The de facto US-AQ alliance has been going on in Syria for almost three years.

In fact, I think I can put a date on its formal unveiling: July 17, 2012, the day the US, Europe, Turkey, and the GCC optimistically thought they could wrap up the Syria crisis in a few weeks with a well-timed campaign of terror and insurrection starting in Damascus.

Recently, a Beirut based newspaper, As-Safir, published a report on the July 2012 bombing (not aerial bombing, a C4 boobytrap) that wiped out Bashar al-Assad’s “security cell” a.k.a. his national security team during their daily strategy session in Damascus.

As translated by an outfit called Mideastwire, As-Safir claims the bombing was a decapitation strike as part of an elaborately choreographed scheme by the U.S. to collapse the Syrian government and military and smooth the way for a drive on Damascus by the Free Syrian Army and the elevation of defecting general Manaf Tlass (who possessed limited capacities beyond a firm jaw well suited to Churchillian cigar-clenching but was adored by the French, perhaps because his socialite sister had allegedly been the mistress of a French foreign minister) to the presidency.

Why should we care?  With the cataract of blood and rubble and anguish that has hurtled into the Syrian abyss since then, why should we care that three of Assad’s henchman got blown up in July 2012?

Because a) the aftermath of the attack revealed the essential robustness of the Syrian regime and command structure and apparently convinced President Obama that strategies predicated on quick regime collapse either by covert action or indignant rhetoric were unlikely to remove Assad from his perch; b) Assad’s view of Western/GCC negotiating sincerity was probably tempered by the awareness that they had tried to murder him ; and c) the helter-skelter scheme revealed for the first time the presence of armed extremists under the Al Qaeda banner as US auxiliaries.

I am inclined to believe As-Safir, apparently a lefty, Syria-friendly outfit with a large circulation, because shortly after the bombing I drew the same conclusion, immortalized in my July 28, 2012 piece for Asia Times Online:

[A] funny thing happened last week. The Assad regime didn't collapse, despite an orchestrated, nation-wide assault (coordinated, we can assume, by the crack strategists of the international anti-Assad coalition): a decapitating terrorist bombing in the national security directorate, near-simultaneous armed uprisings in the main regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo, and the seizure of many of Syria's official border crossings with Iraq and Turkey.

Points 1 and 2 are covered in the As-Safir article, which apparently draws on tittle-tattle from a French diplomat.  As to the third point, seizure of the border crossings, in July 2012 I wrote (refer to my ATOl article for the links):

Juan Cole of the University of Michigan laid out the big picture strategic thinking behind some of the border seizures on his blog, Informed Comment:

If the FSA can take the third crossing from Iraq, at Walid, they can control truck traffic into Syria from Iraq, starving the regime. The border is long and porous, but big trucks need metalled roads, which are few and go through the checkpoints. Some 70% of goods coming into Syria were coming from Iraq, because Europe cut off trade with the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. The rebels are increasingly in a position to block that trade or direct it to their strongholds.
According to an Iraqi deputy minister of the interior, the units that seized the border were perhaps not the goodwill ambassadors that the Syrian opposition or Dr Cole might have hoped for:

The top official said Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs.

"Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers."

They reportedly also raised the al-Qaeda flag.

The forces participating in the operation at the Turkish border crossings were also an interesting bunch - and certainly not all local Syrian insurgents, as AFP reported:

By Saturday evening, a group of some 150 foreign fighters describing themselves as Islamists had taken control of the post.

These fighters were not at the site on Friday, when rebel fighters captured the post.

Some of the fighters said they belonged to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while others claimed allegiance to the Shura Taliban. They were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket launchers and improvised mines.

The fighters identified themselves as coming from a number of countries: Algeria, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates - and the Russian republic of Chechnya…
Nice to remember that Juan Cole, who embarrassed himself mightily by cheerleading the Libyan debacle, also applied his mad analytic and tactical skillz to the Syrian fiasco.
Anyway, the appearance of armed Islamist extremists as part of a meticulously if not particularly intelligently planned regime change gambit in 2012: that’s what matters today.
Because even after the decapitation & collapse strategy failed, the extremists stayed, presumably as executors of an open-ended “success is not an option” “bleed Syria (and Iran)” strategy funded by Gulf interests, supported by Turkish infrastructure, and condoned by the United States.
And bleed Syria did.

The result is a butcher’s bill of nearly one quarter of a million dead and 3.5 million refugees, over 90% incurred after the domestic insurrection failed in February 2012 and the combined genius of the Western, Arab, and Turkish worlds was turned to engineering regime change via external means.

As the sage said, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan.  So it is reprehensible but not too surprising that the Syrian horror is now described in the ultimate hands-off passive voice fashion as “a tragedy” and not “the knowing murder of hundreds of thousands and the immiserating of millions by the funding, supply, facilitation, and diplomatic support of thousands of paramilitaries by the United States, European states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now Israel (which is now providing medical facilities to wounded AQ fighters at the Syrian border)”.

It is also darkly amusing that the worse IS does, the more pre-emptive squealing one hears from the West about the as yet unmaterialized threat of massive human rights violations against Sunnis by Shi’a forces in areas recovered from IS.

And, to cap it, you get chin-stroking in the press about common cause with AQ and/or ISIS to stop the Iranian menace.

Which reminds me of the final indispensable element in regime-change choreography: credulous, vociferous, enabling media.

According to as-Safir, it was clear at the early July 2012 Friends of Syria conference in Paris that something was afoot:

When a French diplomat stopped two journalists, a French and an Arab, in early July 2012, near a café adjacent to the French foreign ministry, the lights of the Friends of Syria conference had grown dim at the conference center following two exhausting days of debate that provided the impression to the meeting participants that the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now a fait accompli.

…[T]he diplomat revealed what he had in mind and advised the journalists to slow down with their packing because a major event was going to take place in July. The bets to topple Al-Assad in Paris and between the “Friends of Syria” had turned into a mere matter of time

I will be charitable and say, despite these manifest signs (and, for that matter, the fact that an externally choreographed regime change jamboree was under way was apparent even to an outside observer like me), it was not clear to the legion of Western journos covering Syria that they were getting played as part of some PR charade whose primary purpose was to stampede Russian into abandoning Assad and supporting a UNSC resolution condemning him, preferably with an Article 7 stinger approving the use of force, thereby enabling transition to the West/GCC-backed opposition.

At the New York Times, Neil McFarquar (with considerable assistance: “Reporting was contributed by Dalal Mawad and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Rick Gladstone from New York, Ellen Barry from Moscow, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt from Washington, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.”) asked if the death knell was being sounded for Assad’s regime:

The impact of the day’s events reverberated on multiple levels, piercing the psychological advantage that Mr. Assad’s superior military strength has provided in preserving the loyalty of his forces and frightening much of the public into staying home. With the opposition energized and the government demoralized, analysts wondered if other military units and trusted lieutenants would be more inclined to switch sides — and if the government would retaliate with an escalation of violence.

The idea that a poorly organized, lightly armed opposition force could somehow get so close to the seat of power raised questions about the viability of a once unassailable police state. 

In its final form, the title of the piece is “Syrian Rebels Land Deadly Blow to Assad’s Inner Circle”.  I suspect the original, more optimistic drift of the piece is embodied in the URL:

Despite the telephoned and optimistically spun blandishments of President Obama, Putin didn’t bite (I expect he was still feeling the “Libya no-fly-zone burn”), and the anti-Assad coalition had, in addition to botching the putsch, failed to strip the Assad regime of Russian support.  In fact, the Russian Federation doubled down on its support of Assad instead.  Which, I imagine, feeds the “Bad Vlad” resentment that permeates Western capitals and editorial offices…

…exacerbated, certainly, by Putin’s sabotaging of another brilliant Western scheme, this time in Ukraine…

…which, come to think of it, explains my extremely jaundiced opinion of the reportorial and analytic capacities of the pro-Kyiv journos, who exhibit a similar paired obliviousness to incompetent, catastrophic, and morally bankrupt Western strategic gambits with credulous retailing of anti-Russian novelties as their outlets and colleagues previously displayed in the matter of Syria.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Twilight of the CCP…AND Shambaughism?

I’ve resisted weighing in on l’affaire Shambaugh—David Shambaugh’s blunt WSJ op-ed declaring that “the endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun” thanks to Xi Jinping’s predilection for tight control instead of political reform as a response to China’s looming troubles—because there’s really no useful response to his thesis except “Interesting prediction of the future…but predicting the future of China accurately is notoriously difficult.”

However, there is one point I think is worth raising, is How does U.S. government PRC policy reflect, contradict, or address Shambaugh’s views?

David Shambaugh, after all, is the most heavily credentialed China-watcher in the biz.  If he says the CCP is headed for collapse, how does that affect the agendas and policies of the Asian affairs cohort at the White House, NSC, State Department, etc.?  How can it not?

Haven’t seen any discussion of that yet, either on Twitter or scratching around at the paywalls of the beleaguered US media stockades.

Which, to me, means that David Shambaugh has, in one sense, already won.

My thesis in 2010 was that Shambaugh was dealing rather imperfectly with the consequences of the failure of his preferred model for dealing with the PRC—engagement—by blaming the PRC for not living up to a rather crappy model.

Specifically, the model of engagement underpinned by “responsible stakeholderism”: the idea that the US was the paragon and guardian of a liberal international order and the road forward for the PRC would be to integrate itself into that order by means of suitable domestic and international liberalization, and by not pulling dick moves on human rights, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, etc. 

By October 2010, after a series of dick moves--the acrimony of Copenhagen, the grinding, sordid yet ultimately successful effort to extract the PRC’s vote in favor of Iran sanctions at the UNSC, and the first Senkaku/rare earths flare up--it was clear that the PRC was not going to play Robin to America’s Batman.

Shambaugh abandoned his previous tentative optimism and characterized the 2010 CCP regime—figureheaded by the pasty-passive Hu Jintao, not today’s menacing Xi Jinping pandadragon, mind you-- as “truculent, narrow-minded, hypernationalist”.

This was good enough for the Western China commentariat, which attributed the hiccups in the global order to PRC transgressions and transgressiveness.  The US, by this telling, was passive and reactive in dealing with PRC aggression, system-gaming, and selfish behavior.

And I think this is still good enough for most people.  There is no discussion of US PRC policy or how Shambaugh’s views might affect it.  It’s almost as if we don’t have an active US PRC policy.  It’s almost as if the US, to unleash the social science buzzbomb, has “no agency” and is merely reacting to whatever crap the CCP panda flings out of its cage at the global order.

But, of course, not good enough for me.  My feeling was that all great powers and wannabe great powers are “truculent, narrow-minded, hypernationalist”, including the United States.

Especially the United States, which by 2010 had blotted its own “responsible stakeholder” copybook with the Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis.  My jaundiced opinion hasn’t improved with President Obama’s Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti, and IS contributions.

In 2009-2010, I saw a rather cynical effort by the United States and the State Department under Hillary Clinton to make up for lost geopolitical ground at the PRC’s expense, particularly in the Copenhagen Climate Conference fiasco of late 2009 (where the US negotiating position keyed on driving a wedge between the PRC and the developing world) and the cynical Clinton-Maehara tag team attack on the PRC maritime border vulnerabilities at ASEAN (apparently neither of these worthies was pleased that President Obama planned not to reaffirm coverage of the Senkakus in the US-Japan security treaty).

Perhaps in the future we’ll view events less through the lens of Shambaugh “PRC is a bad actor” truthiness and more through “what actually happened” factiness, but the China Matters perspective is still waaaaaaaaaaaay in the minority.

For me, the most telling example of the “aggressive PRC bad guy/reactive US good guy” narrative is the South China Sea.

The SCS brouhaha dates back to Hillary Clinton’s declaration that the US had a national interest in “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” at the ASEAN foreign ministers’ conference in Hanoi in 2010.  I will spare my impatient readers a recap of how in my opinion the United States took a virtually intractable but low-level problem of conflicting claims over dozens of uninhabited rocks and atolls that should have been addressed with interminable bilateral can-kicking, and irresponsibly but successfully spun it into the geopolitical gold of a polarizing regional crisis that made the case for the US pivot to Asia.

But I will use the current spate of PRC island-building in the SCS to illustrate my point.

Unquestionably, the PRC is cabbage-wrapping, salami-slicing, and indeed salami-stuffing the area within the Nine-Dash-Line into China-dominated oblivion.

What I would term “Shambaughism” provides one explanation: the “truculent, narrow-minded, hypernationalist” PRC, unwilling to get with the peaceful global program, is giving full play to its aggressive inclinations by annexing most of the South China Sea.  

“Shambaughism” implies that the US is a passive observer of these unprovoked offenses, and also indicates a response in keeping with the US role as guarantor of Asian regional security and protector of the rules-based international order: the US has to react by upgrading deterrence through an expensive naval build-up, strengthened alliances with the Philippines and Vietnam, and by encouraging Japan and India to take an active interest in balking PRC activities in the region.

I will, in this context, admit that I feel that the feckless US policy in Ukraine—where it helped light the fuse of civil war but then had no effective answer when RF units and RF-supplied eastern Ukrainian forces handed Kyiv its own ass—encouraged the PRC to believe, probably correctly, that in the SCS as in Ukraine, the local power’s determination to advance its core interests in its “near beyond” would trump US willingness to escalate mischief to discommode an adversary thousands of miles away.

“China Matters fact-ism”, on the other hand, looks at the US as possessing “agency”, having since 2010 committed itself to a cynical policy of encouraging heightened tensions in the SCS with the idea that the PRC’s put-upon neighbors would be driven into the US security and economic camp.

And, for the recent, expensive spate of island-building, I find explanation in US encouragement of the Philippines in pursuing its arbitration suit before UNCLOS seeking to invalidate the Nine-Dash-Line, instead of engaging in interminable jaw-jaw with the PRC over island claims and, in particular, development of the precious Reed Bank hydrocarbon project that is very important to the Philippine government’s economic fortunes.

The PRC’s fast-tracked island-building program is, in my opinion, a high-profile “price-tag” operation, telling the US, the Philippines, and Vietnam that the arbitration outcome (which will quite possibly be unfavorable to the PRC, especially since the PRC has declined to mount a defense) will mean exactly Zero.

In fact, less than zero for the Philippines, since the PRC will be less inclined to compromise on South China Sea issues since the Philippines’ action moved the issue from bi-lateral debate to an international issue—one where the PRC has, through its preemptive island-building operation, demonstrated it is willing to live with the consequences of an unfavorable legal status and a “frozen conflict”.

“Shambaughism” in my opinion dictates escalation.  And I think we’ll get it.  

And of course, the more “Shambaughism” is entrenched—now with the “Not only is the PRC is bad international actor, the CCP is going to collapse soon” enhancement—the more escalation we’ll get.

“China Matters fact-ism” implies that the Philippines will wake up the day after the UNCLOS arbitration award thinking, “Nothing has changed except the PRC has totally entrenched itself in the SCS.  Remind me what I won here?  Time for some discreet rapprochement.”  I think we’ll get that, too.

But in the long term, I think we’ll see less Shambaughism.

Because…so I guess I should offer my views on The Future of the CCP after all.

It’s actually pretty simple.

In my opinion, the world is run by jerks in suits.  When regime change occurs, the new nation is still run by jerks in suits.  The PRC will be no exception.

I think Xi Jinping came to office in an atmosphere of crisis.  Economy slowing; straightforward Keynsianism of throwing money into the banking system yielding decreasing returns, inflationary pressures, higher debt burden; unsustainable revenue model for local governments; SOE & local government indebtedness; growing disconnect between government economic objectives and priorities of the business sector; corruption; increasingly vocal and networked dissatisfaction; chafing at PRC pretensions at the margins (Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong); demographic issues; corruption; clear need to wean economy and employment from the easy but no longer valid export/infrastructure growth model to something more complicated; a general desire by the US, Japan, and much of the world to circumscribe the PRC’s freedom of action and its international opportunities. 

Plenty of opportunities for the wheels to come off.  

Undoubtedly the CCP takes the USSR as the negative example, but I don’t think they worry so much about how Gorbachev made a meal out of party/economic/political reform and f*cked over the entire Soviet Union.  I think it looks at the procession of CPSU hacks from Brezhnev on who let matters coast and decline for decades until the problem landed in Gorby’s lap.

So Xi, in my opinion, is reviving the CCP as step one.  Not turning it into a democratic paradise of fresh ideas—they’re still communists ferchissakes—but clearing out the deadwood, crushing the opposition, eliminating dangerous factions and alternative power centers, and putting the healthy fear of corruption prosecutions in the minds of the remainder.  The objective is to make the CCP a loyal, responsive instrument that won’t break down or turn against the Center when things get rough.

And I expect things to get rough.  Oligarchs with their own ideas on how to run things and hooked on their financial and political privileges but are sucking up too much bank credit for the wrong economic sectors will have to be persuaded, conciliated, deterred, reined-in, or removed.  Local governments have to be restructured into genuine tax-farming organizations instead of financing their operations through bank loans and real estate shenanigans.  Employees and owners will take it in the neck if the CCP is to be serious about forcing a restructuring of the economy.

Nobody is going to be very happy.

So in addition to getting the flabby CCP ready for battle, Xi is cracking down on dissent, tightening control of the media, and upgrading the Great Firewall.   My personal opinion is that Tibet/Xinjiang policies are now pre-emptively harsh (on top of being reflexively brutal) so that the Party can keep a lid on the western part of the country in case Taiwan or Hong Kong blows up.  And, of course, it helps to present the picture of a nation under threat from external forces which, to be frank, is not just a useful political fantasy for the CCP.  

The key question will be whether Xi Jinping can sell the internal/external threat narrative, and the idea that the PRC is effectively addressing those threats.  I’d say yes on selling the narrative; as for whether Xi and the CCP are doing a reasonable job, it depends on how effective his remedies seem to perform and how equitably the pain is spread around.

The CCP will try to soften the thousands if not millions of blows by gingerly goosing the economy when things get too bad (right now I see the PRC desperately but not quite successfully fighting against the urge to go all-in on quantitative easing), and by delivering a few nice things: maybe an improved judicial process, most likely an environmental quality push that advances some of Xi’s economic restructuring/personnel and power management objectives while delivering some popular stuff like cleaner air and water to the PRC’s citizens. 

I should say I have my doubts that “Under the Dome”—the anti-pollution super-TED talk that conquered PRC social media—is symptom of a populist uprising against the CCP’s pollution-abetting ways.  I expect Xi expects and may have planned in advance to to channel that enthusiasm—and public resentment against local officials who operate, fund, and protect polluting industries that Xi wants to get rid of—in the service of his agenda.

All in all, PRC economic and social restructuring is a long process, and I think Xi’s still at step 1: cleaning up the party (and military).  When he’s secured the Party, then he’ll try to go after selected SOE and local government targets.  The rest of the job will probably still be unfinished when Xi packs it in, presumably in 2022 or so.

But his objective, I believe, will be to leave a party/state/economic structure that cannot easily be screwed up even by a Chinese Gorbachev.  If the CCP regime collapses, I believe the regime will degrade relatively gracefully—and the longer Xi is in power and can effectively advance his agenda, the more graceful that decline will be.

In particular, I believe a failure of governance at the Center will be answered by the devolution of actual power to the coastal provinces: Guangdong, Shanghai etc.  Without a strong Center to restrain them and by shedding the incubus of the poorer provinces, provincial heavyweights will pursue their own paths to political power and economic advantage—that may or may not involve appeasing the urban well-to-do with political liberalization or even the hollowing-out or sidelining of the CCP, locally and eventually at the national level.

But my prediction is that in the near, medium, and long term, China will be run by jerks in suits…just like the rest of the world.

It is also a process that has little to do with the central shibboleth of Shambaughism: the need for political as well as economic reform to rescue the PRC from its looming national cul de sac.  Or as he put it in his op-ed:

Until and unless China relaxes its draconian political controls, it will never become an innovative society and a “knowledge economy”—a main goal of the Third Plenum reforms. The political system has become the primary impediment to China’s needed social and economic reforms.

But using political reform as a diagnosis of China’s ills, and its panacea, isn’t quite a logical and evidentiary slam dunk, in my opinion.  Letting 100 flowers bloom may not be the only or even the most practical way of handling the big challenges and risks that China is facing.

On the occasion of the National People’s Congress (cue “rubber stamp” sneering) in Beijing, the state news agency Xinhua ran a commentary that, I think, sums up the Xi Jinping view of political reform. 

Once one gets over the reflexive What do them Commoonists know ‘bout Democrosee?? atavism, the perspective is worth considering, as is the question: When we look at the whole oligarch/1%/globalized/managed democracy/hyperdebt megillah, are the PRC & US actually diverging…or converging?  And in twenty years, when China is whatever the heck it is, will “Shambaughism” survive only as a dusty curiosity in the museum of IR ideas that didn’t quite cut it?

(China Daily, amusingly, ran an abridged version of the commentary that omitted the rip on Indian democracy that infuriated the Indian media, as well as mercifully leaving out the reference to the unnamed but clearly identifiable Democratic Republic of Congo):

A discussion on how historical events may have developed differently will not rewrite history. It does, however, offer an opportunity to consider–and better understand–the present, and how to forge a better future. 

The ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) provides a suitable backdrop to reflect upon the country's 61-year-old fundamental political system, and to examine how this unique model of governance has transformed the ancient middle kingdom into the world's second largest economy.

Had the world's most populous nation been governed by a bipartisan system, what would have happened? 

Hindsight shows us that the Western political system, which is not inherently problematic and was designed to encourage "freedom," would have been incompatible to a country where efficiency has driven remarkable economic growth and social development.

Seemingly endless political bickering, inherent in the Western model, would have led to political dysfunction, which in turn would have brought catastrophic repercussions on a nation four times as big as the United States.

Political lobbying would dilute the unique strength and success of socialist China's "concentrating resources to do big things."

Should China have adopted a system that facilitated lobbying among interest groups, policies on domestic infrastructure to bills that had worldwide implication would be caught in a self perpetuating cycle of limitless debates. 

China is the world's leading emitter of C02, however, had financial oligarchies been allowed to run the nation like a profit-seeking conglomerate, a carbon emission deal–such as the climate accord reached between Beijing and Washington during the 2014 APEC meeting–would have been out of the question.

Even in comparison with the Republicans in the United States, filibusters in Chinese Congress would have made any health care or poverty reduction bill extremely difficult to pass.

Further, China's feat of becoming the first developing country to halve its population living in poverty would have never been accomplished. 

Half of the 1.3-billion population may have been recipients of foreign aid, making it a huge burden on the world. 

At best, China would have been another India, the world's biggest democracy by Western standards, where around 20% of the world's poorest live and whose democracy focuses on how power is divided.
In 2014, India registered a per capital gross domestic product (GDP) equal to a mere quarter of China's GDP. 

Or, China could have become certain African democratic country that has struggled with civil wars, military junta, coup d'etats and the "curse of resources" for decades following the end of Western colonial rule in the 1960s.

Should China's mainstream political parties have been fiscally irresponsible and pursued interventionist policies globally, like in the United States, the People's Liberation Army would have received an inflated military budget–at the expense of development projects. 

This situation would have fed nationalist sentiment, and wars would be imminent. This would have only been good news for opportunists and arms dealers, who would have rushed to cash in on the unrest.

A system that allows plurality is fertile ground for election rigging, vote buying and the silencing of minorities. In a country as ethnically and geographically diverse as China, the fires of opposition would have been stoked and the nation divided.

That is why in his article "Why Socialism?," Albert Einstein said that in a capitalist society: "Legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists. So the representatives of the people do not [...] protect the interests of the underprivileged."