Even since China’s Communist Party revealed that it would scrap term limits on the presidency -- meaning the post’s current occupant, Xi Jinping, can now serve for life -- there has been much hand-wringing over what one-man rule could mean for the Chinese economy. Autocracies, we’re told, never end well, leaving economists and the business community concernedthat the reforms the economy requires to return to solid footing, already slow in coming, may never be implemented. There’s cause for worry. While authoritarian regimes can show brief flashes of brilliance (remember Sputnik), they’ve proven again and again incapable of sustaining the creativity and innovation necessary for long-term economic success. Ideologically, we tend to believe that economic progress and democracy go hand in hand, and with good reason. Of the world’s 10 largest economies, only one, China, isn’t democratic. Yet history in Asia is more complicated than that. The uncomfortable truth is that most of the region...

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