What else is new, I know, but it's always important to take a longer-run perspective:
So another way of stating China’s rapid growth recipe would be something like the following:
Have a succession of crazy autocrats, political chaos, and war savagely repress one of history’s most inventive peoples, along with not allowing one of the most successful trading diasporas in history to operate in China proper. Then have things calm down a bit and have somewhat less crazy rulers allow more of the people’s energy and creativity to burst out. Presto, the change from EXTREME NEGATIVE to LESS NEGATIVE is called a “growth rate,” and it will be high. Now accept worship from around the world.
More at the link. I hope to have more to say about the "somewhat less crazy" part of this over the next few days. But Easterly's point is that we should not be emphasizing how well China is doing under an autocratic system, but how poorly they have done. Look at these charts, created from Angus Maddison's data and pilfered from here:
The point is that China's economic performance has been so unbelievably poor over the past few centuries, almost against all odds, that any government just to this side of sado-masochistic could expect to produce short-run economic growth. That doesn't mean they are worthy of praise.