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I hear this often, but it kinda implies they prospered because they had this obnoxious rules, i fail to see if this is actually true. Wouldn't they still be better without this tyranical bullshit?

I don't mean to imply that modern-day China exists because the state is organized the way that it is, only that it does exist this way and that leaves little incentive for Chinese citizens (within the current climate) to upset the apple cart.

They would, but that requires a fight against a party apparatus of 1+ million people, that controls the police, secret services and the army. And that in 1989 did what it did in Tiananmen and wouldn't be afraid to do it again, I'm pretty sure.

So success would be far from guaranteed.

If I'd be Chinese I'd probably do the same trade they did.

After prosperity, keeping the lid on as hard as it is now is much, much harder. And if changes don't come easily and naturally, I guess you can emigrate.

So then maybe they aren't so "happy" to make the trade, but afraid for their status and lives if they don't obey?

Happy, probably not. Content? Most likely.

And what makes most people happy is having a rich personal life, rather than achieving their political goals, I've found.

Bread and circuses stave off revolution.

From a viewpoint of a person that was able to move from the poor dirty village to the city, get a well-paid job at the factory and get a mortgage for an apartment in a 40-floor building, the government is doing everything right. Also this person has probably to work all over the clock to repay the mortgage so he has not much time to think about politics.

Imagine there were no strict rules.

There would now be political rallies, protests, different factions of people wanting different things, etc.

That distracts from economic progress.

It's fairly clear to me that in many cases freedom of speech and similar rights leads to less stability and less economic growth.

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