You’re never as good as you look when you’re winning and you’re never as bad as you look when you’re losing.
“Imagine if Putin had been able to develop a track record like the Chinese Communists over the past 20 years.”
Why are you comparing these two, without first getting the real numbers for capital flight from China, or how foreign companies came in and build all those now aging factories for China (they didn’t do it themselves) in order to take advantage of China’s no longer cheap labor? The fact is neither of these two countries can advance much beyond where they are now, without Democracy, the Rule of Law, and Free Markets to create wealth. In both of these countries the wealthiest people set up fall back positions in foreign countries and move their wealth and families if not themselves to these safer places (planned escape routes and spookers filled with cash, travel documents, and valuables are common practice). The number of wealthy Russians, Chinese, and the Politicians with foreign bank accounts approaches 100%.
Russia and China are different countries with different forms of corruption. Russia’s failure is in fact mostly due to corruption. It’s the details that matter: Russia’s corruption pretty much crushed capital formation, while China’s merely weakened it. China had/has vast numbers of people willing to work hard for nearly nothing, while Russia has a population that used to think of itself as middle class.
Russia never experienced a complete and total defeat as nations like Japan and Germany. Hence they never had a complete and total reset imposed on them when “Communism fell.” They’ve been half Communism, half capitalism and all cronyism and that makes for lawlessness. When the leader of your country is former KGB and still adheres to that philosophy, you have little hope of a good long term outcome.