Gorbachev on change in China


Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (C) sits beside his daughter Irina Virganskaya (R) while awaiting the start of a gala, a celebration of his 80th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on March 30, 2011.


Adrian Dennis

Mikhail Gorbachev has a few regrets.

He also has some advice to give.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, the 80-year-old former leader of the Soviet Union said he made a couple bad decisions in the leadup to his political demise 20 years ago.

Those mistakes, namely staying with the Communist Party too long instead of starting a new party, precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of hard economic times for millions of Russians.

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What does all this have to do with Asia?

Well, Jonathan Steele asked Gorbachev near the end of his interview if he thinks he should have gone a different route — the Chinese route, specifically — and started with economic reforms instead of political ones.

Gorbachev said no way, though he added that he thought reform was inevitable in China, and what's more, it's likely just around the corner:

In the Soviet Union nothing would have happened if we had done that. The people were cut out, totally isolated from decision-making. Our country was at a different stage of development from China and for us to solve problems we had to involve people.

Do you think the Chinese will be able to avoid the same hard choices at some point in time? There will be a moment when they will have to decide on political change and they are already nearing that point.