My take on what might happen next
Cogent analysis, none of which I disagree with. Might quibble about the probabilities you assign to hardening DZC and rapidly abandoning it, but not a serious objection.
Would be keen to see your thoughts on the longer-term implications, though.
I’ve said for years that the Party has been quietly laying in place the means to enforce its rule purely by force if they ever were to lose the “performance-based legitimacy” that rapid economic growth and advances in the standard of living granted them. Once Xinjiang really tipped over the edge and the central authorities felt compelled to back local officials’ descent into insanity to save face, they decided to use the province as a test case for the Toolkit for Technological Totalitarianism (TM) that they’d put together.
In 1980-89 and again after 1993 the CCP was mostly a fairly soft authoritarianism, to which the vast majority of the populace was just never subject. It’s becoming clear that going forward the Party (or at least Xi) is willing to change that if it’s necessary to maintaining its monopoly in power.
The main problem there, though, is that once they use it there’s no path back to the soft-ish authoritarianism of yesterday; they can never rule any other way than brute force and totalitarian control over every citizen, and the consequences for growth and standard of living are grave. Absent a literal coup and total course correction in the next few years, there is no longer a path to continued rapid advancement in standards of living. The Party-State is unable to make the necessary reforms to spur consumption and reduce reliance on investment and exports, let alone to allow private capital back off the hook and let it lay some golden eggs, and the stability, basic legalism, and faith required to facilitate business and personal endeavor all lay in tatters on the floor after the last three years.
The great unknown is whether technological means will make the CCP’s vision of totalitarian control possible, against the will of a majority of the citizenry making up the vast majority of economic activity.
The future, now, is basically down to the question of which is more powerful: the Party’s toolkit for social control on an unprecedented scale, or the expectations, aspirations, and willpower of the people.
Not a question to which I have a confident answer. Any thoughts?