The New Yorker published this excerpt from the only known American member of the Chinese Communist Party, Sidney Rittenberg:

If you had a second party alternative in China now, I think it would be an anti-foreign party. What else could you see as a platform to challenge the Communist Party, but to oppose the foreigners who are “buying up Chinese resources”?… There has to be a period of generally unfolding democracy. Not bang, all at once. And I think that will happen. I think it’s happening much too slowly.

With all due respect to Mr Rittenberg, I don’t think so.  What are foreigners buying up exactly?  There’s a ton more foreigners living in China today than 20 years ago, but they’re still a fraction of a percent of the total population.  China has made tons of acquisitions over the past several decades.  I’m really not sure what he means by foreigners buying up resources.

On the other hand, Newsweek recently offered a two-party scenario here, in which one party faction supports full focus on the rich coastal regions (trickle-west economics) while the other faction favors even development from east to west.  China’s west is extremely rural and poor, so there is legitimate debate within the Communist Party about which method is most useful for bringing people out of poverty.  I could see a “coasties” party versus a “hinterlander” one.  Given the fact that the vast majority of China lives on the east coast, however, it would be hard for the hinterlanders to have a national impact.

A Green Party would be extremely successful nationwide, and especially popular with the younger generation who grew up with the whole Beijing Green Olympics thing plastered on every billboard.  An party representing farmers concerns (farmers are over 40% of the population) would obviously be a big hit as well.  Or something representing the millions of poor service workers (waitresses, security guards, etc) who live in China’s cities.

One party that already (kind of) exists in China, and could become relevant is the Kuomintang (KMT), based in Taiwan.  Once the hated rivals of the Communist Party, portrayals of the the KMT have been much more sympathetic in recent years.  The current KMT administration in the ROC is very keen on building better ties with the Communist Party, and the communists have been veeery slowwwwly reciprocating.  It’s a hell of a long shot, but I don’t think it’s beyond belief that the KMT could reemerge as a progressive party contrasting the Communist Party’s conservatism.   Both parties have a long history in China and millions of members.

China has conservatives and liberals just like any other country.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t expect the two camps to form political groups within the next 10 to 20 years.