The jingoistic, self-protecting band of plutocrats currently running China have been talking a tentative but at least slightly encouraging game lately on the possibilities for some free-enterprise and personal-freedom type reforms to the communist country’s institutions, like perhaps lightening up a bit on all of the Internet censorship and allowing their people more access to the ideas of the outside world, or maybe tackling some of the rampant corruption and cronyism that takes a mega-sized bite out of China’s GDP?

Uh huh.

Communism in any of its myriad evil forms doesn’t just work on its own, you know; it takes a lot of brainwashing and freedom-crushing to keep the dream alive, and the Chinese regime is highly touchy about their image control (hence all of those hacks into the United States’ major media outlets recently). They might be talking about maybe, kinda’, possibly, considering introducing legitimate reforms in public, but to keep their plutocracy intact, they know that cracking down on dissent is is still crucial to maintaining their totalitarian hold — and that’s what they’re talking about in private. Via the NYT:

When China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, visited the country’s south to promote himself before the public as an audacious reformer following in the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping, he had another message to deliver to Communist Party officials behind closed doors. …

“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered,” Mr. Xi said…

“Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone,” the summary quoted Mr. Xi as saying. “In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist.”

In Mr. Xi’s first three months as China’s top leader, he has gyrated between defending the party’s absolute hold on power and vowing a fundamental assault on entrenched interests of the party elite that fuel corruption. How to balance those goals presents a quandary to Mr. Xi, whose agenda could easily be undermined by rival leaders determined to protect their own bailiwicks and on guard against anything that weakens the party’s authority, insiders and analysts say.

Obviously, China has seen plenty of growth in recent years, but real liberalizing economic reforms have largely stalled out as party leaders enter panic-mode about how to salvage their own authority and wealth against the incoming tide of an increasingly global economy — and in the struggle to make China more competitive, no doubt they’ll be erring on the side of caution for some time to come.