My Predictions and Hopes for the NH Primary

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The last presidential debate before the New Hampshire primary had just concluded tonight. To NH voters who tend to decide at the last minute, especially those independent voters the media said would play an important role in the state, the debate was probably helpful to them as they make up their minds as to for whom they will vote on Tuesday next week.

New Hampshire is a politically more moderate state. This is a state where establishment moderate candidates such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kaisch, and Chris Christie might do well in, and must do well in. Frankly, for some of these candidates, this primary race will be critical to whether they can continue to go forward in the race to party nomination. A lot was at stake for these candidates. However, this time around it is not Donald Trump whom they seek to attack and defeat, it is Marco Rubio. This is a battle for the second place, and Marco Rubio is the target. Rubio did well, finished strongly in the third place in Iowa and carried that momentum with him to NH.

As we have seen tonight, Chris Christie came out swinging and ferociously pummeled Marco Rubio, distinguishing himself as an executive who get things done compared to Rubio who is a first-term Senator like Obama who lacks that executive experience. Christie went on the offensive, he had to, otherwise he would have to end his campaign if he does not do well in New Hampshire. The same is true for Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

Here is my predictions and hopes for the Tuesday’s NH Primary:

I expect businessman Donald Trump to do well, likely finishing in the top place given the politically moderate nature of the state. If Trump does well and is in the top spot, it is likely he will continue his campaign for a long time, he will be someone with sustainability.

I hope Marco Rubio to be in the second place in NH. A second place win will keep Rubio’s momentum going, all the way to the Super Tuesday Primaries. A strong third place win wouldn’t be too bad either, but it’s better that he wins the second spot.

I expect Ted Cruz and Chris Christie/Jeb Bush to be in the third-fourth place. But in any event, right now Trump and Rubio and Cruz have more sustainability than other candidates. Others, whoever it is, wins the second or third place will be able to move forward with his campaign. Therefore, it is very likely John Kaisch and/or Christie might drop out after New Hampshire primary if they fail to do well. It’s tricky for Jeb Bush, it will be very embarrassing for him if he doesn’t finish in the top three places. His pride and family name might keep him in the race for a little longer, but should he also fail to capture Nevada and S. Carolina in February, it is safe to say that his luck will be over, he might not be able to continue into March for the Super Tuesday.

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We Are All Liberals

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“…Liberalism (Enlightenment Liberalism)…[is] the grand Western Liberal tradition that professes to affirm ‘value neutrality’ and regards the autonomy of the individual as not only an intrinsic good which democratic government can guarantee but also as a foundational good which trumps all other values.”

“…liberalism (lower case l), is the recent political tradition which values comprehensive government in the modern welfare state…conservative (lower case c) [is] the corresponding tradition of minimalist government…All three (liberals, conservatives and neo-conservatives) participate in the larger Enlightenment Liberal culture…Even conservative politicians like Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are Liberals in the larger, more comprehensive sense; indeed, most modern Americans are Liberals…given our virtually ubiqutous commitment to individual freedom and the sovereignty of personal rights. This is why it is hard for Christians to recognize the tacit tension between their Christian and democratic faiths.”

— reading summary of “The Limits of Liberal Democracy’ (P23, Scott Moore)

A Ted Cruz Presidency: The Divided States of America?

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A Ted Cruz presidency would be troubling because the guy’s record being a lawmaker in the Senate has shown that he hardly works with his colleagues, even his fellow Republicans. In fact he is quite disliked by his Republican colleagues.

This kind of attitude would be ineffective for a President, when you need to learn to work with people to get things done. Obama is pretty bad in this regard, but at least he’s respected by his democratic colleagues. Cruz is hated even by Republicans.

But even if Cruz wins the Republican nomination, it’s unlikely he will be elected President in general election due to his far right tea party credentials. But still, Cruz is less lunatic than Donald Trump. between the two, Cruz trumps Trump.

The Barack Obama presidency is marked by division. Obama has been divisive from the far left, a Ted Cruz presidency would be divisive from the far right. Can we afford another 4 to 8 years of “Divided States of America”?

A Donald Trump Presidency?: Not So Fast

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Regarding Donald Trump, his impressive status in the polls, and his chance of becoming President of the United States.

1. Political Polls have not been accurate in predicting who the eventual nominee would be, let alone the person eventually becoming the President.

2. National polls are kindda meaningless. Presidential nominees are determined by state primaries/caucuses one by one, it is more meaningful to look at state polls than national polls for practical purposes.

3. Not a single state primary/caucus has been held, it is hard to say those who were polled would be actual voters casting votes in primaries and caucuses. It’s therefore hard to say those say they will vote for Trump will go vote, and if they do, they will vote for him.

4. The first three primary states casting votes for Republican nominees in February, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will provide impetus in the process for candidates who win in top spots, although their overall influence in terms of delegate counts are small. We don’t know if Trump will win these three states. Ted Cruz is currently having highest support in polls in the state of Iowa, likely due to evangelical support.

5. March 1 super Tuesday primaries will have largest numbers of states holding primaries, the end results from super Tuesday will provide more indication if Trump has any chance of becoming the Republican nominee, hence potentially President. If Trump is still standing after super Tuesday, he might have a chance of becoming the nominee.

6. Even If Trump becomes nominee for the Republican party, it is doubtful if he can beat Hillary Clinton the likely democratic nominee for President in November 2016.

7. A Donald Trump presidency would be more disastrous than Obama’s. He’s not even a conservative, who in the past even donated to democratic presidential campaigns. The Republican grassroots who vent their anger by supporting Trump is foolish by trusting trump in domestic or foreign policies.

8. The chance of Trump becoming President is slight, at least I hope so. He might have a chance of capturing the Republican nomination, but it is still too early to tell. We need to wait for the results of the first 3 state primaries, and the super Tuesday primaries.

May God bless and have mercy on America, let not Donald Trump the entertainer and joke become President of the United states. Obama has been bad enough, Donald Trump would be even worse as President.

On Syrian Refugees

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I’d like to play devil’s advocate on the Syrian Refugees issues. I am in fact not against accepting refugees, but only wanting to ensure that the process of accepting refugees be fair, transparent and follow the due process. As an immigrant and as someone who deal somewhat indirectly with religious refugees, I am compassionate towards Syrian refugees, regardless of their religious faiths.
 
I’d like to play the devil advocate, because I’d like to challenge those folks who tend to think admitting and resettling refugees in the United States at all cost (many downplayed the security risk and scold those who show concern over security with a dismissive attitude) is the only way to demonstrate one has compassion.
 
Have we failed to consider: 1. that, Arab nations right there in the middle east should also share the responsibility, if not assuming the primary responsibility on the settlement of Syrian refugees, and that this should not be the burden of Western nations entirely; 2. that, “love your neighbor” as a matter of principle applies not to only to Refugees, but all the more should be to your fellow Americans, your neighbors in your immediate communities, whose safety should also be of concern to us as well, and not just a secondary concern to be easily dismissed (To use an analogy, if I show concerns only for people far away who I do not know and yet I neglect my own family members and their well being, what kind of husband and father would I be)?; 3. that many Syrian refugees’ identities and background are difficult to verify, how does the UNHCR verify these information and how does our federal government verify them? 4. that, we must keep our federal government accountable on how the UNHCR refers refugees to them and how they process these refugees for resettlement in the United States, we should not just take the federal government’s claims at face value.
 
This list of things could go on and on. Admitting 10,000-200,000 refugees in short period of time that are displaced is not small matter, and the bureaucracy involved in processing should be kept accountable. We should be compassionate, but not just to foreign refugees, but also towards our neighbors.

How to Stop Trump?

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Over the course of past few summer months, Donald Trump has been rising in the polls, despite his numerous insults targeting his Republican rivals. The bizarre thing is, the more insulting things Trump says the higher he is in the polls, which encourages him to act more aggressively.

While public political attacks during election season are nothing new, but Trump’s current front-runner status (with polls indicating 32% support lately) in the Republican primary is astounding, and any other political candidates who do the same thing would have severely damaged their candidacy.

It is of no doubt that the voters expressed support out of anti-establishment sentiment. The Trump phenomenon is by no means new. Early polls do not predict well who the eventual nominee would be. Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich, were all at some point front runners during the 2012 Republican primary season.[1] To state the obvious, none of them became the nominee for the Republican primary. Mitt Romney did. Therefore, it is safe to say that somebody else, other than Trump, will eventually emerge to become the Republican nominee for President..

What should the other 15 candidates do to stop Trump’s momentum? I believe the candidates are not effective when taking on Trump alone, and Trump loves to return more insults when being attacked. This cycle of theatrical performance by Trump has made his popularity soar even higher.

I believe it will more effective for the other 10 candidates (perhaps Ted Cruz excluded, who forged a good relationship with Trump), to pummel Trump together during the next Republican presidential debate on September 16. It will be a good opportunity for all the candidates to question Trump’s record on conservative principles on a public stage, his history of supporting democratic candidates’ campaigns, his insults targeting women and minorities, his level of understanding on domestic and foreign policy issues, to name a few.

To restore sanity to the Republican primary and to bring to an end to Trump’s ridiculous support in the polls, a political alliance of the other Republican presidential candidates is necessary to counter and challenge Trump on where he stands. And more practically, a weakened Trump in the polls will benefit not only all other candidates, but also helps to shift the focus back to substantive policy issues that need to be addressed.

Eight years of Obama presidency is enough, we do not need Trump to divert the attention from what need to be addressed. This Trump circus must stop, and the 15 Republican candidates can do something about it, together.

[1] For a list of polls for the 2012 primary season for the Republican Party presidential nomination, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_opinion_polling_for_the_Republican_Party_2012_presidential_primaries

Gay Marriage? What’s Next?

After gay marriag ruling, some are talking about it’s time for legalizing polygomy.

Why not? If redinfinition of marriage holds for gay marriage, then, as those supporting polygomy argue, it must also hold for polygomy. Afterall, “love wins” right? Gay marriage is leading to a dangerous slippery slope, eventually anything can be called a “marriage.” And if gay marriage supporters denounce such marriages, those who want to marry multiple people, and to other things will use the same argument gay marriage supporters use, “love wins”? Who are you to judge me?

The Progression of Obama’s ISIS Fiasco

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In June 2014, before ISIS became perennial headline news, I had written that Obama is an indecisive, reckless and incompetent president, especially in the context of his dealing with ISIS. Mr. Obama had at first declared that ISIS was only a “JV Team,” a sort of non-serious terrorist group unworthy of attention. Well, he was wrong. Over the course of many months, Obama did not act at all to treat ISIS as a real threat to contend with, but repeatedly reiterated that there will be no “boots on the ground.”

When ISIS proved that it was no “JV Team” and took over city after city, town after town in Iraq and Syria, killing hundreds and thousands, and enslave many with their brutality, Mr. Obama started to pay some serious attention to ISIS, but only committed to conduct air strikes against ISIS targets with allies, and leave ground battle to the listless Iraqi troops. Military experts have warned again and again that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIS. Mr. Obama ignored these calls.

As time went on, and as ISIS occupied more territories and U.S. air strikes has proved to be of limited effectiveness, Mr. Obama’s war bill to Congress was again very limited, that would prohibit the use of “enduring offensive ground forces” and limit engagement to three years.

And now, as ISIS took over another major city recently, Mr. Obama again declared that “I don’t think we are losing…” Utterly delusional. If we analyze Mr. Obama’s record with ISIS, we can only draw one conclusion that he is incompetent, reckless and indecisive, he is a president who is not capable of defending Americans against foreign threats such as ISIS. Does Mr. Obama want to wait until ISIS launches a major attack on US soil to finally realize that he’s been wrong all along? At the rate it is going, it only seems like such tragedy is becoming more imminent, as we sit around and do nothing against this threat, and hoping it will go away on its own without U.S. military intervention. This is utterly childish and irresponsible. The one-term Senator-turned-President has proved himself to be someone incapable of defending Americans from harm.

George W. Bush’s reckless invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a disaster, and Barack Obama’s reckless complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a failure of equal magnitude. His policy left a vacuum for ISIS to expand its influence, and poses its real threat in the Middle East and beyond. Eight years of Obama presidency proved that lofty campaign words cannot replace decisive and effective policies. Obama’s campaign slogan “Hope and Change” has become such a platitude now. U.S. is not more secure because of Obama’s policy, it is false hope, and there is no positive change in this regard. Obama’s dealing with ISIS is a complete fiasco.

The Other Racial Divide: Were Asian-American businesses targeted in the Baltimore riots?

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Cops’ negligence killed a black man, riot starts, Asian businesses looted and burned. A repeat of 1992 LA riot. Many White people suffering from white guilt defend the rioters said they had no choice; Black rioters felt they are justified to do so, black “civil rights leaders” don’t care; Asian immigrants’ American dream shattered. Who cares about these hardworking Asian immigrants?

They said they are against racism, and racism in America seems to be defined as only between black and white, and other voices are simply only inconvenient nuisance unworthy of attention and easily dismissed. Where are the black “civil rights leaders,” why are you so silent on the plight of other racial groups who suffered unjustly at the hands of your own people; where are those sympathetic defenders of the black rioters, suddenly so quiet.

It is not justice we see, it is hypocrisy we see.

See below on Dennis Halpin’s article in Weekly Standard on Asian-American business targeted during the Baltimore riot.

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May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN

When guests at a North Korea Freedom Week dinner in Northern Virginia learned the Korean-American pastor at our table led a Maryland church, they immediately asked about the situation in Baltimore. It was May 1, and National Guard troops had been deployed to the city three days earlier to help quell the unrest sparked by the death of a man in police custody. The pastor let out a deep sigh before responding. A few members of his congregation had lost everything. After working diligently for years building small businesses in a new country, they watched their efforts literally go up in flames as looters trashed their shops and carted off their merchandise.

A store burns during riots in Baltimore, April 28, 2015.

A store burns during riots in Baltimore, April 28, 2015.

The crisis reminded many in America’s growing community of two million Korean immigrants and their descend-ants of another city’s devastation two decades earlier. Baltimore’s riots began two days before the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, in which Koreatown, the heart of the Korean diaspora in America, was subjected to pogrom-like attacks by irate mobs. Though Asian Americans had nothing to do with either Rodney King’s or Freddie Gray’s injuries, they appear to have been the targets of some of the animosity unleashed by rioters.

Baltimore has brought back these painful memories and raised a less-examined racial divide than the obvious one between black and white America. Not only in Los Angeles and Baltimore, but in Ferguson and other cities caught up in racially charged confrontations, Asian-American shopkeepers, including Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Arab Americans as well as Koreans, appear to have been the victims of racial profiling. These recent immigrants came to the United States largely after the Civil War and the Jim Crow system of segregation and thus have no connection to the charges of continued institutional racism that some blame for the disturbances. Yet the New York Times reported April 27 that gang members in Baltimore had specifically “stood in front of stores that they knew were black-owned businesses to protect them from looting and vandalism,” pointing the rioters instead “toward Chinese- and Arab-owned stores.”

The Korea Times reported April 30, quoting the Korean-American Grocers Association International and the Korean Society of Maryland, that at least 40 Korean-owned businesses in Baltimore were damaged in the riots. One Korean-American-owned business, Fireside North lounge and liquor store, was set on fire, with its owner and the owner of another business, Uptown Liquor, reportedly sustaining injuries. The Associated Press stated that a total of 200 small businesses, many owned by Asian-Americans, were shut down as a result of damage caused by rioters.

Baltimore’s WBAL News reported the same day that “42 Korean grocers, delis, and carry-outs” had been “destroyed or damaged during the unrest,” with the total number still being tallied. The television station also noted that the Korean consulate and the Korean-American wife of Maryland governor Larry Hogan subsequently held meetings with some business owners to discuss reconstruction.

WBAL added that masked intruders not only looted Freddie’s Liquor but beat up store owner Young Park. John Bang, the owner of Hopkins Beauty Supply, said he applied lessons he learned from the L.A. riots: He barricaded himself “with an arsenal of weapons.” He told WBAL, “I have registered firearms, a shotgun, AR-15, pistols.” Bang said that if rock-carrying looters tried to enter his business, “I would say ‘I’m armed! Don’t come in!’ And if they don’t believe me and became more aggressive, I would give them a warning shot.”

CNN carried a report on May 7 of a young Korean-American man viewing with shock a video of an older Korean woman sobbing in the ruins of her 30-year-old wig and beauty shop on Pratt Street that had been destroyed by looters. Her son, Matthew Chung, wrote on Facebook, “My parents came to this country with no money and worked hard to set up a little business that’s been in the same neighborhood in Baltimore City for over 25 years. But just in one night everything they have worked for is now all gone.”

Resentment of the commercial success of these immigrant communities, though this success is based on the age-old American dream of achievement through hard work and family values, seems to have been a factor in the attacks. National Public Radio reported from the Sandtown neighborhood of west Baltimore April 30 that “many Asian-owned businesses were targeted for destruction.” Yvonne Gordon, a witness to the looting, told NPR that the store where she works “was spared because it is owned by black people. .  .  . But she says that the Korean-owned shops on the block didn’t get that protection.” A young African-American man stated that the vandalism was “payback” and added, “I don’t feel like it was the most reasonable thing to do, but it’s definitely justified,” noting that the few businesses in the neighborhood that do exist are mostly Asian-run.

British newspaper the Daily Mail said shop owner Rajneesh Nagpal, 39, called the police 50 times during the riots, “but nobody came to help him.” He added: “This is not protest. They’re destroying their own community. I don’t see any national guard. Nobody cares about us.” Subsequent media reports, quoting police sources, indicate that Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a “stand-down” order to police on April 27, the date of Freddie Gray’s funeral, thus enabling looters to attack Nagpal’s business as well as others in the city. Governor Hogan eventually, at the mayor’s belated request, activated 5,000 National Guard troops to assist in imposing a curfew and restoring order.

African immigrant Kibrom Ghebremeskel, 38, who came to the United States from war-torn Eritrea, boarded up his delicatessen before the “swarm” of youths arrived; he managed to keep the mob at bay. He told the Daily Mail that he thought he was free in America of daily unrest and violence—but now feels even less safe in Baltimore. “In Eritrea people die because of the political situation, here people die for no reason at all,” he said. “How can the U.S. let this happen?” Korean-American immigrant Sung Kang, 49, left his job at Johns Hopkins last year to open his own business, a tavern, which was looted. “This shop is everything I have,” he said. “This is America. I wanted to follow my dream and wanted to make something for myself.”

The new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, has announced a Justice Department probe of Baltimore police over possible violations of civil rights. She should also order a federal investigation of whether the assaults on ethnic Asian business owners in Baltimore involved racially motivated hate crimes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits federal prosecution of anyone who “willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person’s race, color, religion or national origin.” Reports from the New York Times and other media suggest that business owners in Baltimore were targeted based on their ethnicity. The constitutional rights of Asian minorities in a majority African-American city, with an African-American mayor and African-American police chief, demand equal protection under the law.

Dennis P. Halpin, a former U.S. consul in Busan, Korea, is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and a consultant to the Poblete Analysis Group (PAG).

The Coming Chinese Crackup

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By David Shambaugh
March 6, 2015 11:26 a.m. ET
For original post on WSJ, click here

The Coming Chinese Crackup
The endgame of communist rule in China has begun, and Xi Jinping’s ruthless measures are only bringing the country closer to a breaking point

On Thursday, the National People’s Congress convened in Beijing in what has become a familiar annual ritual. Some 3,000 “elected” delegates from all over the country—ranging from colorfully clad ethnic minorities to urbane billionaires—will meet for a week to discuss the state of the nation and to engage in the pretense of political participation.

Some see this impressive gathering as a sign of the strength of the Chinese political system—but it masks serious weaknesses. Chinese politics has always had a theatrical veneer, with staged events like the congress intended to project the power and stability of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. Officials and citizens alike know that they are supposed to conform to these rituals, participating cheerfully and parroting back official slogans. This behavior is known in Chinese as biaotai, “declaring where one stands,” but it is little more than an act of symbolic compliance.

Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping, is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule. He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society—and bringing it closer to a breaking point.

Predicting the demise of authoritarian regimes is a risky business. Few Western experts forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union before it occurred in 1991; the CIA missed it entirely. The downfall of Eastern Europe’s communist states two years earlier was similarly scorned as the wishful thinking of anticommunists—until it happened. The post-Soviet “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan from 2003 to 2005, as well as the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, all burst forth unanticipated.

China-watchers have been on high alert for telltale signs of regime decay and decline ever since the regime’s near-death experience in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Since then, several seasoned Sinologists have risked their professional reputations by asserting that the collapse of CCP rule was inevitable. Others were more cautious—myself included. But times change in China, and so must our analyses.

The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun, I believe, and it has progressed further than many think. We don’t know what the pathway from now until the end will look like, of course. It will probably be highly unstable and unsettled. But until the system begins to unravel in some obvious way, those inside of it will play along—thus contributing to the facade of stability.

Communist rule in China is unlikely to end quietly. A single event is unlikely to trigger a peaceful implosion of the regime. Its demise is likely to be protracted, messy and violent. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Mr. Xi will be deposed in a power struggle or coup d’état. With his aggressive anticorruption campaign—a focus of this week’s National People’s Congress—he is overplaying a weak hand and deeply aggravating key party, state, military and commercial constituencies.

The Chinese have a proverb, waiying, neiruan—hard on the outside, soft on the inside. Mr. Xi is a genuinely tough ruler. He exudes conviction and personal confidence. But this hard personality belies a party and political system that is extremely fragile on the inside.

Consider five telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability and the party’s systemic weaknesses.

First, China’s economic elites have one foot out the door, and they are ready to flee en masse if the system really begins to crumble. In 2014, Shanghai’s Hurun Research Institute, which studies China’s wealthy, found that 64% of the “high net worth individuals” whom it polled—393 millionaires and billionaires—were either emigrating or planning to do so. Rich Chinese are sending their children to study abroad in record numbers (in itself, an indictment of the quality of the Chinese higher-education system).

Just this week, the Journal reported, federal agents searched several Southern California locations that U.S. authorities allege are linked to “multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses that enabled thousands of Chinese women to travel here and return home with infants born as U.S. citizens.” Wealthy Chinese are also buying property abroad at record levels and prices, and they are parking their financial assets overseas, often in well-shielded tax havens and shell companies.

Meanwhile, Beijing is trying to extradite back to China a large number of alleged financial fugitives living abroad. When a country’s elites—many of them party members—flee in such large numbers, it is a telling sign of lack of confidence in the regime and the country’s future.

Second, since taking office in 2012, Mr. Xi has greatly intensified the political repression that has blanketed China since 2009. The targets include the press, social media, film, arts and literature, religious groups, the Internet, intellectuals, Tibetans and Uighurs, dissidents, lawyers, NGOs, university students and textbooks. The Central Committee sent a draconian order known as Document No. 9 down through the party hierarchy in 2013, ordering all units to ferret out any seeming endorsement of the West’s “universal values”—including constitutional democracy, civil society, a free press and neoliberal economics.

A more secure and confident government would not institute such a severe crackdown. It is a symptom of the party leadership’s deep anxiety and insecurity.
A protester is pushed to the ground by a paramilitary policeman March 5, 2014, in Beijing before the opening of the National People’s Congress nearby. ENLARGE
A protester is pushed to the ground by a paramilitary policeman March 5, 2014, in Beijing before the opening of the National People’s Congress nearby. Photo: Associated Press

Third, even many regime loyalists are just going through the motions. It is hard to miss the theater of false pretense that has permeated the Chinese body politic for the past few years. Last summer, I was one of a handful of foreigners (and the only American) who attended a conference about the “China Dream,” Mr. Xi’s signature concept, at a party-affiliated think tank in Beijing. We sat through two days of mind-numbing, nonstop presentations by two dozen party scholars—but their faces were frozen, their body language was wooden, and their boredom was palpable. They feigned compliance with the party and their leader’s latest mantra. But it was evident that the propaganda had lost its power, and the emperor had no clothes.

In December, I was back in Beijing for a conference at the Central Party School, the party’s highest institution of doctrinal instruction, and once again, the country’s top officials and foreign policy experts recited their stock slogans verbatim. During lunch one day, I went to the campus bookstore—always an important stop so that I can update myself on what China’s leading cadres are being taught. Tomes on the store’s shelves ranged from Lenin’s “Selected Works” to Condoleezza Rice’s memoirs, and a table at the entrance was piled high with copies of a pamphlet by Mr. Xi on his campaign to promote the “mass line”—that is, the party’s connection to the masses. “How is this selling?” I asked the clerk. “Oh, it’s not,” she replied. “We give it away.” The size of the stack suggested it was hardly a hot item.

Fourth, the corruption that riddles the party-state and the military also pervades Chinese society as a whole. Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign is more sustained and severe than any previous one, but no campaign can eliminate the problem. It is stubbornly rooted in the single-party system, patron-client networks, an economy utterly lacking in transparency, a state-controlled media and the absence of the rule of law.

Moreover, Mr. Xi’s campaign is turning out to be at least as much a selective purge as an antigraft campaign. Many of its targets to date have been political clients and allies of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. Now 88, Mr. Jiang is still the godfather figure of Chinese politics. Going after Mr. Jiang’s patronage network while he is still alive is highly risky for Mr. Xi, particularly since Mr. Xi doesn’t seem to have brought along his own coterie of loyal clients to promote into positions of power. Another problem: Mr. Xi, a child of China’s first-generation revolutionary elites, is one of the party’s “princelings,” and his political ties largely extend to other princelings. This silver-spoon generation is widely reviled in Chinese society at large.

Finally, China’s economy—for all the Western views of it as an unstoppable juggernaut—is stuck in a series of systemic traps from which there is no easy exit. In November 2013, Mr. Xi presided over the party’s Third Plenum, which unveiled a huge package of proposed economic reforms, but so far, they are sputtering on the launchpad. Yes, consumer spending has been rising, red tape has been reduced, and some fiscal reforms have been introduced, but overall, Mr. Xi’s ambitious goals have been stillborn. The reform package challenges powerful, deeply entrenched interest groups—such as state-owned enterprises and local party cadres—and they are plainly blocking its implementation.

These five increasingly evident cracks in the regime’s control can be fixed only through political reform. Until and unless China relaxes its draconian political controls, it will never become an innovative society and a “knowledge economy”—a main goal of the Third Plenum reforms. The political system has become the primary impediment to China’s needed social and economic reforms. If Mr. Xi and party leaders don’t relax their grip, they may be summoning precisely the fate they hope to avoid.

In the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the upper reaches of China’s leadership have been obsessed with the fall of its fellow communist giant. Hundreds of Chinese postmortem analyses have dissected the causes of the Soviet disintegration.

Mr. Xi’s real “China Dream” has been to avoid the Soviet nightmare. Just a few months into his tenure, he gave a telling internal speech ruing the Soviet Union’s demise and bemoaning Mr. Gorbachev’s betrayals, arguing that Moscow had lacked a “real man” to stand up to its reformist last leader. Mr. Xi’s wave of repression today is meant to be the opposite of Mr. Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost. Instead of opening up, Mr. Xi is doubling down on controls over dissenters, the economy and even rivals within the party.

But reaction and repression aren’t Mr. Xi’s only option. His predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, drew very different lessons from the Soviet collapse. From 2000 to 2008, they instituted policies intended to open up the system with carefully limited political reforms.

They strengthened local party committees and experimented with voting for multicandidate party secretaries. They recruited more businesspeople and intellectuals into the party. They expanded party consultation with nonparty groups and made the Politburo’s proceedings more transparent. They improved feedback mechanisms within the party, implemented more meritocratic criteria for evaluation and promotion, and created a system of mandatory midcareer training for all 45 million state and party cadres. They enforced retirement requirements and rotated officials and military officers between job assignments every couple of years.

In effect, for a while Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu sought to manage change, not to resist it. But Mr. Xi wants none of this. Since 2009 (when even the heretofore open-minded Mr. Hu changed course and started to clamp down), an increasingly anxious regime has rolled back every single one of these political reforms (with the exception of the cadre-training system). These reforms were masterminded by Mr. Jiang’s political acolyte and former vice president, Zeng Qinghong, who retired in 2008 and is now under suspicion in Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign—another symbol of Mr. Xi’s hostility to the measures that might ease the ills of a crumbling system.

Some experts think that Mr. Xi’s harsh tactics may actually presage a more open and reformist direction later in his term. I don’t buy it. This leader and regime see politics in zero-sum terms: Relaxing control, in their view, is a sure step toward the demise of the system and their own downfall. They also take the conspiratorial view that the U.S. is actively working to subvert Communist Party rule. None of this suggests that sweeping reforms are just around the corner.

We cannot predict when Chinese communism will collapse, but it is hard not to conclude that we are witnessing its final phase. The CCP is the world’s second-longest ruling regime (behind only North Korea), and no party can rule forever.

Looking ahead, China-watchers should keep their eyes on the regime’s instruments of control and on those assigned to use those instruments. Large numbers of citizens and party members alike are already voting with their feet and leaving the country or displaying their insincerity by pretending to comply with party dictates.

We should watch for the day when the regime’s propaganda agents and its internal security apparatus start becoming lax in enforcing the party’s writ—or when they begin to identify with dissidents, like the East German Stasi agent in the film “The Lives of Others” who came to sympathize with the targets of his spying. When human empathy starts to win out over ossified authority, the endgame of Chinese communism will really have begun.

Dr. Shambaugh is a professor of international affairs and the director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His books include “China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation” and, most recently, “China Goes Global: The Partial Power.”

Corrections & Amplifications:
A photo shows a protester in Beijing being pushed to the ground by a Chinese paramilitary policeman before the opening of the National People’s Congress in March 2014. An earlier version of this article contained a photo caption that incorrectly said the incident was this month. (March 9, 2015)