...the command side won that debate handily.
Yes they did. But how have they accomplished all that they have in the interceding years? Some of it through real, sustained economic development, but a lot of it through graft, corruption, environmental destruction. They've thrown money at every problem, and greased every wheel that needed greasing along the way.
They've had a building spree that has left entire cities unoccupied (literally). People have invested a lot of money in these unoccupied buildings, and construction companies are now a dying breed in China. Lots of people are going to lose their ass a lot more than what the Shanghai market can do to them.
We've been seeing discontent with the environmental degradation in recent years. Reports abound that people won't let their children play outside in many ares due to the risk of illness. There's hell to pay in terms of human health for the way they've handled air quality issues.
The Internet occasionally leaks into mainstream China, and it often ends with someone going to jail for a long time for saying something pretty benign about the government. It doesn't take much to be labeled a subversive enemy of the state there.
I read one account of Xi trying to resurrect the personality cult of Mao among the peasants. That strikes me as desperation.
And these are all things that make the US media, so one can imagine how bad things are below the surface. So, with all these underlying fundamental problems, why have the people tolerated it? I believe it's because the only thing people really care about is the ability to feed their family. So long as their paycheck this year is bigger than last year, then all the other problems look small and manageable. However, when unemployment rises (and it will) for the first time since Tienanmen, people aren't going to stand for getting fucked six ways to Sunday any longer.
The people are richer and more educated than they ever have been, and this will express itself eventually. The rulers of China aren't dealing with all farmers anymore (although there are certainly still a lot of them). It is much harder to pull the wool over the middle class's eyes than the peasant class.
Add all this to the hyper media environment we now live in, and I think it's a real tinderbox over there. Just wait until there's a large protest to try to force the government to bend on some issue (like for example when their new policy of investing pensions in the market blows up), and it gets met with the government mowing down a bunch of people with tanks. They won't be able to spin it nearly so well this time. I hope for a peaceful transition, but I fear for a bloodbath.