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"It is easy to look at China and Russia today and believe they are simply getting stronger and stronger. But one should not overlook their fragility"

Very intersting. This was one of Natan Sharansky's themes in his book "The Case for Democracy". His experience of course was with the old Soviet Union, but his point was that dictatorships in general look strong but are in fact fragile. Intersting to see Kagan make the same point.

The PRC in particular sufferes the crisis of legitimacy that Kagan talks about. It's governed by a communist party that has abandoned communism. They rule because they can. They play off of nationalism, but in the end this may not be enough.

The funny thing about these dictatorships is that when the end comes it's an all-of-a-sudden thing, prompted by the type of event you can't really predict.

Look at Romania. One day it appeared stable, the next there's fighting in the streets and Ceausescu and his wife are on the run in a stolen army helicopter, then came the news they'd been captured and shot.

The end of the communist goverernment in China may be similar, but right now it's North Korea that worries me the most.

Living in Taiwan does tend to focus the mind on China, though I think you're right about North Korea. Nonetheless, if the North Korean and Chinese governments are still kicking 20 or 30 years from now, I suspect it will be the Chinese gov't that is the bigger problem.

From Taiwan's viewpoint, China's inroads in the Third World are particularly worrisome, because most of Taiwan's diplomatic allies are there to be found. This troubles people here because according to the Montevideo Convention, one of the characteristics of a state is that it has a "capacity to enter into relations with the other states."

While the Montevideo Convention also says, "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states," it is not lost on anyone that as the number of Taiwan's allies approaches zero, its "capacity of entering into relations with other states" becomes open to question.

BTW, with regards to Russia, I don't think Kagan mentions that although it may be riding high now, the oil prices that allow it to do so cannot be expected to stay high forever. Pressure on those prices will come over the long term, as people adjust their behavior to reduce their energy consumption, and companies invest in energy alternatives.

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