In the Old School ChiCom days, it would've been much easier to turn against those who came before: the slogan might've been "Denounce Deng Hsiao-peng and his Insufficiently Committed Clique of Capitalist/Communist Roaders, who didn't trust the masses enough to let them mobilize for liberty!" Instead, they are too insecure to denounce those who grandfathered the regime and, in that sense, give them legitimacy.
I argued heatedly against the US' policy of business-as-usual and most-favored-nation toward China after Tienanmen in '89. I don't regret that at all, and I assign a special place in my own personal hell for those responsible (next-door neighbors to Nixon and Dick Cheney's reserved spot), but I have to admit that China has progressed since then. Not that I think it impossible for the party to call down the armed forces upon its own people once again, if the threat to their rule be deemed sufficiently serious, nor that they have learned to deal honestly with their citizens.
The exception that proves something--not a rule, but the more nuanced reality which prevails with regard to Chinese civilization today--is seen from the mass candlelight gathering in Hong Kong, some 200,000 strong by report. China has kept its promises to allow Hong Kong what we consider "freedom"--of press, religion, assembly, etc. While Hong Kong's government is hardly parliamentarian, and it's clearly under Beijing's thumb, there has never been a crackdown there (such as Tienanmen was). Economic liberty prevails for most Chinese, in the sense of being able to move about the country and to work where one chooses, and this may be the most important one for most Chinese.
There is a strong recognition of reality among the Chinese leaders, and it is one that we owe respect toward. They are not lunatics or self-destructive; yes, their reality is self-serving, but so is our own perception of reality.