The Washington Times discusses how the Chinese communists look at the fall of communism in Eastern Europe:
First, in analyzing those events, Beijing realized those communist regimes were seen as incompetent, uncouth and irresponsive. The governments were disrespected, mocked and seen as farcical. Worst of all, those authoritarian regimes had become irrelevant to the country’s economic, social, intellectual and community ruling class. If authoritarian governments wanted to remain in power, the events from 1989-91 convinced Beijing that it needed to renegotiate fundamentally the bargain between the government and its economic and social powers. The decision was made to make the CCP the center of Chinese economic, social and community life - and irrevocably tie the future of China’s upper echelons to the exclusive rule of the party. This was the rise of modern China’s authoritarian capitalism. The fact that China’s state-controlled sector lies at the heart of its modern political economy was a lesson learned from revolutions in Moscow, Prague, Budapest and Berlin, in addition to the countrywide protests throughout China in 1989.
Second, while Western commentators were celebrating the triumph of the individual human spirit and democracy, the CCP came to the more sobering conclusion that authoritarian regimes are at their most vulnerable when they are at their most lenient. After all, a diverse and independent civil society can only thrive when citizens no longer fear their government. This explains Beijing’s alarm over and intolerance for non-state-sanctioned groups such as unions, Christians and the Falun Gong members exploding in size and number throughout Chinese society. It also is why private blogging sites, which have the potential to give spontaneous life to virtual communities of discontentment, are treated with suspicion. Finally, it explains why China has become more severe on its dissidents since 1989 despite the country’s economic development.
The first point is rather obvious. Stalin had a mission and built lots of factories, roads and dams. But after his death his successors not only ditched his brutal means but also his idealism and sense of direction. 30 years later there were still largely the same factories with the same machines building the same cars and other products. It looked like the main mission of the party had become to protect the privileges of its members.
I doubt about the second point. Both in Tunisia and Egypt there were/are very old leaders who seem to have lost their touch.