From The Economist (Feb. 13):

If there were a free market in countries, either Hong Kong or Taiwan should be launching a takeover bid for China. Taiwan, which in 1952 had a gross national product per head of $480 (in today's dollars) has since grown by almost 9 percent a year in real terms. Its 19 million people now have a GNP per head of $5,000 a year, more than 20 times that of the 1 billion or so Chinese. The 6 million Hong Kongers are almost 35 times richer than the Chinese. . . . Would it not make sense for Hong Kong's or Taiwan's management methods to be introduced to the bigger, but worse-run, establishment?

. . . {W}ill China allow Hong Kong the freedom it needs to prosper? China has good reasons for trying to pass the test. It does not want Hong Kong, through which it gets a third or more of its foreign-exchange earnings, to be turned into a worthless shell by capital and human flight. China is even more concerned about reclaiming Taiwan -- and the Taiwanese are watching Hong Kong's story unfold. . . .

What happens in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and what China does about it, will not be just peripheral melodramas. Reformist communists everywhere still stubbornly believe it is possible to make a planned economy run more efficiently and yet preserve the one-party monopoly of politics. They are wrong. They cannot avoid that pesky democratic instinct which goes hand in hand with the economic experiments and evolution they want to encourage. China will eventually have to give up the experiments, or itself give in to the self-determination that Hong Kongers and Taiwanese clamor for. Maybe Hong Kong and Taiwan will take over China after all.