China's Changing Political Landscape

China's Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy

CHENG LI editor
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 342
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    China's Changing Political Landscape
    Book Description:

    While China's economic rise is being watched closely around the world, the country's changing political landscape is intriguing, as well. Forces unleashed by market reforms are profoundly recasting state-society relations. Will the Middle Kingdom transition rapidly, slowly, or not at all to political democracy? In China's Changing Political Landscape, leading experts examine the prospects for democracy in the world's most populous nation. China's political transformation is unlikely to follow a linear path. Possible scenarios include development of democracy as we understand it; democracy with more clearly Chinese characteristics; mounting regime instability due to political and socioeconomic crises; and a modified authoritarianism, perhaps modeled on other Asian examples such as Singapore. Which road China ultimately takes will depend on the interplay of socioeconomic forces, institutional developments, leadership succession, and demographic trends. Cheng Li and his colleagues break down a number of issues in Chinese domestic politics, including changing leadership dynamics; the rise of business elites; increased demand for the rule of law; and shifting civil-military relations. Although the contributors clash on many issues, they do agree on one thing: the political trajectory of this economic powerhouse will have profound implications, not only for 1.3 billion Chinese people, but also for the world as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-5208-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    John L. Thornton

    Thirty years ago Deng Xiaoping launched his policy of “Reform and Opening.” In time, his decision would transform China economically, socially, legally, ideologically, and politically, no less than Mao’s revolution did in 1949. The changes unleashed by Deng are difficult to overstate; they did nothing less than bring China for the first time fully into the modern world. The result is the nation of today’s headlines: the third largest economy in the world; a land of 200 million Internet users and 500 million cell phones; a significant actor in some of the most pressing international concerns (North Korea, Iran, Africa);...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: Assessing China’s Political Development
    (pp. 1-22)

    One of the world’s most stunning development stories of recent decades is China’s market transition and economic rise. The nation’s rapid and continuing economic growth, the revival of entrepreneurialism, and the ever-growing integration with the world economy all stem from the policy of “reform and opening” adopted in 1978. The magnitude of this development is evident in the miraculous changes in China’s physical landscape, from its coastal cities to its vast interior regions. A great deal has been written about this drastic transformation, not only the remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation, rural-urban migration, and foreign investment, but also the attendant...

  6. Part I. Chinese Discourse about Democracy

    • 2 China’s Political Trajectory: What Are the Chinese Saying?
      (pp. 25-43)

      Scholarly debate about China’s probable political trajectory has focused chiefly on social science theories about the impact of social and economic change on future regimes. The central concern has been to identify the political effects of such trends as the expansion of the middle class, increased personal mobility, diversification of social interests, the apparent increase in corruption, the intensification of environmental problems, the rising rate of land seizures, the growing income gap, the spread of the Internet, the new rights consciousness, and the emergence of registered and unregistered citizen groups. Analysts have asked whether these social and economic changes are...

    • 3 Ideological Change and Incremental Democracy in Reform-Era China
      (pp. 44-58)

      The broad political transformation currently under way in China owes much to dynamic social and economic reform as well as the upheaval in the international environment. Equally important, however, is the change in China’s political ideology, which has wide implications for its future political trajectory. As this chapter shows, the evolution of that ideology is intimately connected with the nature of politics in China, a fact often overlooked by scholars outside the country. Since changes in political ideology are usually the first sign of political reform in China, they can provide some clues to the eventual course of this reform—...

  7. Part II. Institutional Development and Generational Change

    • 4 Institutionalization and the Changing Dynamics of Chinese Leadership Politics
      (pp. 61-79)

      Since the beginning of the Deng Xiaoping era, elite politics in China has undergone deliberate, incremental institutionalization. As institutionalized processes of leadership decisionmaking have taken hold, the dynamics of leadership competition have also been changing, in favor of an increasingly consensus-building collective leadership. Furthermore, institutionalization is revising the criteria and processes used to promote leaders to the top of the political order.

      The leadership changes at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Seventeenth Congress in 2007 and the Seventeenth Central Committee’s First Plenum immediately after will provide an important opportunity to gauge the impact of advancing institutionalization on elite politics in...

    • 5 Institutionalization of Political Succession in China: Progress and Implications
      (pp. 80-97)

      Few leadership transitions in the history of communist politics have been more elaborately predesigned and skillfully executed than the one from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao, which started with Hu’s taking over of the party leadership at the Sixteenth Party Congress in November 2002 and ended with Jiang’s retirement from and Hu’s accession to the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in March 2005. More significant is the apparent, albeit poised, erosion of Jiang’s influence in policymaking since his retirement. Owing to the still largely pyramid-like structure of political power as well as the blurry boundary between formal and...

    • 6 Will China’s “Lost Generation” Find a Path to Democracy?
      (pp. 98-118)
      CHENG LI

      Every generation has its defining characteristics, nurtured during its members’ formative years. The upcoming generation of Chinese leaders, known as the Fifth Generation, is composed mainly of the age cohort born in the 1950s and reared amid the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76).¹ As a result, it lost its opportunity for formal schooling and was referred to as the “lost generation.”² Many became “sent-down youths,” who were forced to move from cities to rural areas and work as farmers. Some, however, made remarkable “comebacks” by entering colleges when the higher-education system reopened after 1977 and were able...

  8. Part III. Economic Actors and Economic Policy

    • 7 Business Interest Groups in Chinese Politics: The Case of the Oil Companies
      (pp. 121-141)

      Throughout the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the oil industry has been a powerful interest group. As a strategic sector of the economy, the industry has had access to the top leadership and made its voice heard in the policymaking process. It has produced successive generations of leaders who used their accomplishments in the oil sector to advance their political careers—especially in the 1950s and 1960s when the discovery of the Daqing oil field and the achievement of self-sufficiency in oil was one of the country’s few success stories. Historically, the most prominent national leaders from...

    • 8 China’s Left Tilt: Pendulum Swing or Midcourse Correction?
      (pp. 142-158)

      Back in December 2002, only one month after being selected China’s new leader, Hu Jintao led the entire Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the Hebei village of Xibaipo. Xibaipo was a place with some resonance, having been the Communist Party’s headquarters in the very last phase of China’s civil war and the site of a well-known speech delivered by Mao Zedong in March 1949 as the party was on the brink of victory and preparing to move into Beijing to assume power. Mao had enjoined the party leadership to maintain its tradition of...

  9. Part IV. Agents of Change:: Media, Law, and Civil Society

    • 9 Political Implications of China’s Information Revolution: The Media, the Minders, and Their Message
      (pp. 161-184)

      Media liberalization is widely, though not universally, regarded as a precursor of political liberalization in authoritarian states.¹ In post-Mao China, expectations of a more pluralistic, open media environment were raised in the early 1980s, only to be dashed in the repressive aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Since then, not even the rampant commercialism and creeping tabloidization of China’s newspapers, magazines, television, and radio have effectively broken the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) grip on media content. Political censorship remains tight: reporters who probe sensitive issues are harassed and their editors reprimanded—or worse. In its year-end Press Freedom Index for...

    • 10 Legalization without Democratization in China under Hu Jintao
      (pp. 185-211)

      Throughout the reform era, China’s leaders have expected law and the legal system to play unprecedented and important roles. The resulting gains have been impressive: laws and legal institutions have contributed greatly to the diffusion of international norms, construction of a market-oriented economy, and amelioration of problematic features of authoritarian rule. In some areas, demand and supply are growing, or threatening to grow, beyond the leadership’s expectations and preferences. These trends have broadened and deepened since the Deng era and are likely to continue despite some friction between the emphasis on law (particularly law with pro-market, international norm-conforming content) and...

    • 11 Staying in Power: What Does the Chinese Communist Party Have to Do?
      (pp. 212-226)

      After some years of relative quiescence, the question of China’s possible democratization has once again been raised, both by those in China who hope that progress toward democracy can be speeded up and by observers abroad who believe that democratization is likely to occur quickly and by critics who are frustrated that it has not.¹ Observers note that China’s economy is developing rapidly, the middle class is growing ever larger, society is pluralizing, and globalization is bringing external forces to bear on China in unprecedented ways. To this list, one should add generational turnover, which certainly brings new attitudes to...

  10. Part V. Forces for and against Democracy in China

    • 12 Fighting Corruption: A Difficult Challenge for Chinese Leaders
      (pp. 229-250)

      Of all the potential risks for instability that dot China’s changing political landscape, none may be more lethal than corruption by government officials. The abuse of power for personal gain, the classic definition of corruption, today permeates nearly all layers and departments of the government.¹ Anticorruption investigations have ensnared officials of all ranks, from members of the powerful Politburo of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to senior generals and commanders of the armed forces, provincial party secretaries and governors, top executives in financial institutions and state-owned enterprises, county magistrates, and village chiefs. In September 2006, the CCP dismissed Chen...

    • 13 The Political Implications of China’s Social Future: Complacency, Scorn, and the Forlorn
      (pp. 251-266)

      A pair of poignant themes emerges from John Pomfret’s anecdote: the hauteur of China’s “haves” toward the poor and the old, and the anger and powerlessness of its “have-nots” in their hardscrabble existence. Not surprisingly, today’s China is a society in which a concern for social justice leaps from the lips of more than 90 percent of the people, including some of the country’s top politicians, according to one account. To address these concerns, the regime is striving to produce some elements of the rule of law.¹

      While protests and labor disputes abound, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seems to...

    • 14 Straining against the Yoke? Civil-Military Relations in China after the Seventeenth Party Congress
      (pp. 267-280)

      As China enters the homestretch for the Seventeenth Party Congress, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is firmly under the civilian control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership. Yet there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the military is straining against the yoke of this arrangement. The cause of this tension is not the stereotypical complaints of the South American or Southeast Asian junta (inept civilian policymaking, perceived loss of national prestige or purity, or inadequate resources devoted to defense), but the growing quality and range of Chinese military forces. With their expanded patrolling activities and greater...

  11. Part VI. External Models and China’s Future

    • 15 Learning from Abroad to Reinvent Itself: External Influences on Internal CCP Reforms
      (pp. 283-301)

      As in all spheres of its development, China has looked abroad for ideas about political reform. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has assiduously studied the causes of collapse of other communist and authoritarian party-states in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union—but has also carefully observed social democratic states in Europe, as well as those communist party-states that have survived (Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam). These internal analyses of foreign regimes shed considerable light on the thinking behind CCP reforms of recent years.¹

      As Andrew Nathan correctly observes in chapter 2, “ideas matter”...

    • 16 Taiwan and China’s Democratic Future: Can the Tail Wag the Dog?
      (pp. 302-322)

      In many ways, Taiwan’s democratic experience has important implications for China’s political future. Taiwan is the only democracy ever installed and practiced in a Chinese society, and its unique mode of transition illustrates a viable strategy for a peaceful and gradual departure from one-party authoritarianism on the basis of successful economic modernization. Taiwan has demonstration value not only for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but also for the mainland population, many of whom see a strong similarity between the political fortunes of the Kuomintang (the Chinese Nationalist Party, or KMT) and the CCP. Ordinary citizens, Chinese intellectuals,...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 323-330)
  13. Index
    (pp. 331-342)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 343-345)