Again though. Not an either or. Reading about the Taiwan and South Korea (and to a degree, Japan a few decades before them) path to development, is very intriguing. They also played a very long game and didn’t need to resort to the level of totalitarianism and the same form of governance as the CCP regime.China was always playing the long game. Western societies tend to plan out only as far as the next election.
Fair to say they went through periods that were far from democratic. But at the same time, they were strident anti-communists. You see the post war regimes in Taiwan and South Korea needed to deliver common prosperity, while undercutting the communists in the ideological battle for hearts and minds. Given that both of these countries owed their existence to struggle against communist movements. And there was always the threat of communist insurgency. They needed to find a system that removed the appeal of communism of the likes of China.
The Taiwanese high tech industry and Korean auto manufacturing, ship building, steel manufacturing and tech industry are legacies of this.
True, China has always played a long game - or at least aimed to. But I’m not 100% convinced it’s not running out of steam and fraying at the seams as much as the United States of America project is. It’s one explanation as to why Xi and his faction have gone on quiet purges in a massive power grab in recent years. The difference is that in a country with no free press. They are able to keep a lid on the domestic fraying of society.