Minxin Pei
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In a book sure to provoke debate, Minxin Pei examines the sustainability of the Chinese Communist Party's reform strategy--pursuing pro-market economic policies under one-party rule. Combining powerful insights with empirical research, China's Trapped Transitio offers a provocative assessment of China's future as a great power.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04198-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    THE ECONOMIC MODERNIZATION DRIVE that China launched at the end of the 1970s ranks as one of the most dramatic episodes of social and economic transformation in history. This process occurred in a unique political and economic context: a simultaneous transition from a state-socialist economic system and a quasi-totalitarian political system. Despite temporary setbacks, brief periods of high political tension, episodes of economic instability, and numerous conservative counterattacks, the two-decade-old, and ongoing, transition has dramatically altered the Chinese economic, social, and political landscapes.

    In measurable terms of economic development and social change, China’s achievement has been unprecedented in speed, scale,...

  5. ONE Why Transitions Get Trapped: A Theoretical Framework
    (pp. 17-44)

    IN PROBING the underlying causes and dynamics that have contributed to the emergence of a partial reform equilibrium that exhibits, metaphorically speaking, the distinct characteristics of a trapped transition, we now turn to three sets of theoretical literature: democratization, economic reform, and the state. By applying the theoretical insights from the literature, we can better understand the logic of trapped transitions and the political and institutional mechanisms through which market and political transitions under autocratic rule lose momentum and direction.

    Most studies of the impact of economic development on political change suggest a robust link between rising levels of economic...

  6. TWO Democratizing China?
    (pp. 45-95)

    PERHAPS THE MOST intriguing question regarding political development in the post-Mao era is why China has not taken significant steps toward democratization despite more than two decades of unprecedented economic modernization. Indeed, during the mid-1980s, with economic reform barely off the ground and encountering strong resistance from conservatives inside the regime, senior CCP leaders appeared more tolerant and permitted more public discussion on sensitive issues such as political reform. In contrast, since the mid-1990s, when economic reform became irreversible and its impact had raised the standard of living several fold, the regime has adopted an even more conservative political stance...

  7. THREE Rent Protection and Dissipation: The Dark Side of Gradualism
    (pp. 96-131)

    AS DISCUSSED in Chapter 1, gradualist economic reform is dictated by its political logic, the essence of which is the political survival of the ruling elites. Constrained by this logic, economic reform cannot infringe upon the ruling elites’ ability to protect and allocate rents in critical economic sectors. This means that reform measures taken to improve the efficiency of these sectors are bound to be partial, compromised, and ultimately ineffective. Another insight from our theoretical discussion on the pitfalls of gradualism is that the rents protected through partial reforms are liable to be appropriated by the agents of the regime...

  8. FOUR Transforming the State: From Developmental to Predatory
    (pp. 132-166)

    IN THE THEORETICAL discussion on decentralized predatory states, I argued that the nature of the Chinese state has undergone a critical transformation during the reform era and, consequently, a decentralized predatory state has emerged. In this chapter, I apply the analytical framework developed in Chapter 1 to explain why such a state has emerged in China during its economic transition.¹ It concludes with a description of the rise of the most extreme form of decentralized predatory state: the local mafia states.

    The underlying causes of the decentralization of state predation can be traced to four institutional factors: the decentralization of...

  9. FIVE China’s Mounting Governance Deficits
    (pp. 167-205)

    THE COMBINATION of lagging political reforms, entrenchment of rent-seeking groups, and decentralization of state predation is a recipe for deteriorating governance. As long as China’s ruling elites refuse to confront these deeply embedded structural and institutional problems, they are unlikely to sustain the momentum of economic development that has played a critical role in maintaining the political monopoly of the Communist Party. In developmental autocracies that eventually degenerated into predatory states (the best example being Suharto’s Indonesia), high rates of growth can mask the weak political foundations of authoritarian regimes. Rising prosperity and inflows of foreign capital, which serve as...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 206-216)

    BY FOCUSING on the critical weaknesses of the Chinese political system in general, and on many of the hidden costs of China’s transition from communism in particular, this book attempts to show the limits of a developmental autocracy. Despite its awe-inspiring economic growth and progress, a set of self-destructive dynamics is weakening China’s most vital political institutions—the state and the ruling party. Lagging behind the country’s rapid economic modernization, China’s closed political system is increasingly becoming an anachronism. At present, it is incapable of facilitating the representation of China’s complex and diverse social interests or mediating the conflict between...

  11. Appendix: Reported Cases of Local Mafia States
    (pp. 219-222)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 223-278)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 279-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-294)