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Chinese Politics From Mao to Deng

Chinese Politics From Mao to Deng
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Edited book , Index , Notes
$15.95 (11.96)
The essays in this volume concern themselves with the transition from the legacy of Mao to the era of Deng, including the impact of Tianamen Square, May, 1989. This volume thoroughly assesses the various forces at work in Chinese politics today and projects their impact on the future of the PRC.

The chapters in this volume, which probe the Chinese leadership’s efforts at political reform in the past decade, help to understand the cycle of reform and repression that have characterized the past ten years, most recently the bloody events of 1989. The authors explore the effect of such factors as intra-party conflict over the pace and extent of political reform, the growing strength and diversification of social and economic interests, and the impact of expanding market reforms and growing international contacts on this process. These factors have generated a complex dynamic of change in which reform from above is propelled by demands for further reform from below. Faced with a choice between accommodating those demands or repressing them, the leadership has tended to waver, but invariably when confronted with mass political action has chosen to crack down.

The fact that the only successful reforms have come from above underlines the importance of understanding the reform objectives of the Deng Xiaoping leadership. These not only shaped the reform agenda for the past decade, they also formed the basis of student demands in 1989. They remain even now the formal basis for continuing reform initiatives.

Both the evidence from these studies, and the events of 1989 leave major uncertainties about where the current political transition is headed. Some current political commentators see China’s political system as morally bankrupt and on the brink of disintegration. Others see a possible reversion to Stalinism and the politics of terror in the offing. While it is certainly too early to assess the consequences of the recent crackdown and ensuing leadership changes, the chapters in this volume offer useful guidance.

It seems clear that the broad leadership consensus on the importance of reform will preclude another eruption of Maoist radicalism. But the concern posed by the Chinese leadership itself, how to ensure political stability and popular support, is a real one.

One dimension of the challenge is in the sphere of values. In an era of materialism, the most attractive value system is likely to be grounded in old-fashioned nationalism. Whether this will serve adequately to mobilize support and sustain public order through this era of transition remains an open question.

The second dimension of the challenge is institutional. Can a more truly participatory set of institutions be developed in China? Here the prognosis is bleak. The current political liberalization and the slow growth of economic and social pluralism contain the seeds for later growth of a more participatory system. But China is poor and faces enormous difficulties in its drive to modernize. In a country with an historic tradition of strong, authoritarian rule, and a political culture that reflects that tradition, the prospects for an early transition from authoritarianism are not bright. On the other hand, China is not likely in the long run to be exempt from global trends that favor marketization and political liberalization.


ILPYONG J. KIM is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, Storrs and is a past president of the New England Conference of the Association for Asian Studies. He is an active contributor in Asian Studies for the American Political Science Association and is the author of several books including The Politics of Chinese Communism: Kiansi Under the Soviets, Communist Politics in North Korea, and Development and Cultural Change: Cross-Cultural Perspectives.

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