Moscow Times op-ed by a biz strategist consultant (via WPR's Media Roundup).
Great rundown here that encapsulates a lot of Russian history:
Eminent Western speakers put forward seemingly logical ideas on modernization and what Russia needs to do to modernize at the Global Policy Forum, which was held in Yaroslavl on Thursday and Friday. But most of them were not Russia experts as such and were thus naively overoptimistic on the country’s willingness and ability to implement change.
Applying Western logic to Russia is a risky business since things here are often the opposite of how things happen in the West. Will this modernization effort be any different from numerous others in Russia’s history?
The problem has always been implementation. Russia has been modernizing on and off since Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg in 1703. Periodically aware of the huge developmental gap with the West, it has never caught up.
As Russian history has shown, Western-style reforms invariably get blown off course by exogenous or endogenous shocks that necessitate short-term crisis management. After that, a conservative reaction sets in because of the fear of losing power after reform attempts fail and are discredited by the people.
Most Russian reform efforts are reactive and short-term, rather than proactive and structural. The result is a country that for centuries has been scraping along the bottom and failing to fulfill its colossal potential.
The government’s strong modernization campaign is concentrating on high technology, and yet it has not even plucked the low-
hanging fruit that would do so much to improve the country’s low productivity, such as radically cutting the number of bureaucrats and amount of red tape.
The Kremlin also has a poor understanding of science, technology and innovation, hence its piecemeal policies on modernization. “Innovation by decree” is one of the least effective models for modernization.
Now try remembering that when it comes to China's much vaunted state capitalism. The author ends the piece by noting that China's authoritarianism is much more flexible, but the point remains the same: you cannot innovate by decree and if you let real innovation happen, you cannot control it by decree either--and still reap its economic rewards.