One amusing aspect of the long New York Times newspaper project about the rise of China is the way it credits term limits. From the introductory essay by the Times Asia editor, Phil Pan, a former Crimson colleague of mine:
Analysts sometimes say that China embraced economic reform while resisting political reform. But in reality, the party made changes after Mao's death that fell short of free elections or independent courts yet were nevertheless significant.
The party introduced term limits and mandatory retirement ages, for example, making it easier to flush out incompetent officials. And it revamped the internal report cards it used to evaluate local leaders for promotions and bonuses, focusing them almost exclusively on concrete economic targets.
These seemingly minor adjustments had an outsize impact, injecting a dose of accountability — and competition — into the political system, said Yuen Yuen Ang, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. "China created a unique hybrid," she said, "an autocracy with democratic characteristics."
It's amusing because the New York Times editorial page has long opposed term limits. As a Times staff editorial put it as recently as 2017: "We have never been fond of term limits of any sort."
Maybe the Times view of term limits is like the Lech Walesa-era joke about the American conservative view of labor unions — they love them, as long as they're in other countries.