WHETHER IT likes it or not, China has now become the world's leading defender of hard-line socialism, with North Korea and Vietnam, who espouse communism and depend heavily on the Soviet Union for economic and military aid, close behind. Inevitably, China and the like-minded governments in Asia will attempt to further close ranks against the international tide of political reform.
With its ups and downs the Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping has steadily pursued reforms and liberalization in many aspects of Chinese society since the death of Mao Tse-tung. The revisionist efforts have paid off in rich dividends in the economic sphere, but politics were largely left out of the sweeping reform.
The dilemma now facing China is more or less common to all the socialist nations, subject to the massive change now under way in the political and ideological climate of the world. Few would refute that socialism is the god that failed. Socialism is nothing but an ailing giant about to collapse unless a shot in the arm can reform and bolster it to compete fairly with Western liberal democracy.
By and large, the viability of the Chinese leadership will be tested on the basis of how flexibly and effectively it can appease the growing disillusionment with socialism without resorting to strong-arm measures and adapt itself to the new political order evolving throughout the world.
It will be a tough undertaking calling for an intricate balance and well-rounded harmony of greater political freedom and market-oriented economy. But, it has to be done for the good of its own people and for the peace and stability of Asia as well as that of the world.