Imagine that you are the leader of the largest country in the world. What is your biggest day-to-day problem? Your own underlings.
How can you be sure that they do what you want? How can you guarantee that they don’t flagrantly disobey your directives, or worse, rob you blind?
In China’s authoritarian system, this is trickier than it looks. Political power at each level of the bureaucratic hierarchy is centralized in the hands of a small group of Communist Party officials. If they want to choke off information to Beijing and cover up their own corruption or incompetence they have the tools to do so.
[The full version of this op-ed appeared May 29 on the New York Times website and in the May 30 print version of the International Herald Tribune]