Francesco Sisci, in the English language Asia Times (published out of Hong Kong, according to their web site), writes that These expectations [by those seeing SARS as a vehicle for reform in China] will not necessarily be fulfilled – China can’t do what others want it to do.
I wish Sisci would have provided more detail on this statement, rather than merely highlighting it and then moving on to describing nightmare scenarios for worldwide calamity. In a related article, Sisci believes that the leadership has become preoccupied with stability to the degree that they have failed to undertake the necessary political modifications required to handle such crises as SARS, while also lamenting that too much “internal democracy” has taken root. While I take issue with this (if it were a “democracy”, after all, the electorate would exercise an oversight role that would serve as a check on the balance of power), he does go on to point out that additional external democracy, outside the Communist Party, needs to take place.
However, the source of my contention with both articles is that neither details the obstacles, from someone with a closer perspective than I, that must be overcome for the government to evolve in to a set of robust democractic institutions. I would imagine dropping the adherence to stability, while encouraging the population to become more expressive (rather than shutting down internal debate), would go a long way.