China Politics 20 Years Later

Joseph Fewsmith

in Socialism Vanquished, Socialism Challenged

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199895977
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199980116 | DOI:
China Politics 20 Years Later

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China did not democratize in the late 1980s, as East Europe did, because the reform dynamics were very different in China than they were in East Europe. East Europeans had been discussing reform in various guises since the 1950s and they were in dialogue with Western Europe, whose notions about democracy and human rights influenced those in East Europe. China began reform only after it emerged from the Cultural Revolution and after Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978. China's self-imposed task in the 1970s was to embark on economic reform and promote political stability. Even reformers saw these tasks as a matter of reforming and strengthening the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), not challenging that system. After all, the CCP had come to power through a broad-base revolution that continued to bequeath legitimacy on the political system. The student movement of 1989 pretested many abuses of power and injustices but did not have sufficient mass base or organization to present a serious challenge to the system, though it did provoke a major split in the leadership. What is surprising is how rapidly the Chinese political leadership was able to restore a degree of unity and to embark on the pattern of economic growth that we see today. Political legitimacy has been bolstered by appeals to nationalism, though corruption, inequality, and other problems continue to plague the system.

Keywords: reform; democratization; nationalism; legitimacy; student movement; human rights

Chapter.  7221 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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