In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the globalisation of liberal democracy may “mark the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the final form of human government.” He’s been qualifying this claim ever since.

A prime example is his recent essay for Foreign Affairs: ‘The future of history: Can liberal democracy survive the decline of the middle class?’ Quoting the sociologist Barrington Moore – “no bourgeoisie, no democracy” – Fukuyama asks:

  • “What if the further development of technology and globalization undermines the middle class and makes it impossible for more than a minority of citizens in an advanced society to achieve middle-class status?”

Optimists might point out that while the middle class may be shrinking in the West, it is surely expanding in the East – especially China – thus creating new opportunities for democracy. However, according to Atlantic Cities, the time-honoured path from a growing economy (and growing cities) to a growing middle class has been blocked in China:

  • “The reason is that the majority of the urban population is prevented from fully participating in the booming urban economy because of a Mao-era rule that draws a harsh line between those from urban areas and those from rural ones. Established in 1958, hukou establishes a two-tiered population structure… Urban citizens are given access to social services and welfare programs, including public education and affordable housing. Rural residents are not.”

Unbelievably, the hukou status of children is determined not by their place of birth, but by their parentage. Thus while North Korean communism is distinguished by its hereditary leadership, Chinese communism is distinguished by a hereditary underclass.