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The People's Republic of uncertainty

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing on Jan. 16.

The world's eyes are on the American elections, with its colorful cast of characters and dynamics that too often resemble a reality television show. But financial market turbulence and geopolitical tremors remind us that more fundamental questions surround the future of governance and reform in China.

     The U.S., with its strong institutions, vibrant civil society, and separation of powers, can weather a circus-like presidential primary campaign. China's authoritarian brittleness and developmental challenges mean it has less room to maneuver, risking a perfect storm that could produce significant internal and external upheaval, if not slow drift into the middle-income trap.

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