Skip to main content
×
Home

The End of the CCP's Resilient Authoritarianism? A Tripartite Assessment of Shifting Power in China*

  • Cheng Li (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This essay challenges the widely held view of the CCP's purported “resilient authoritarianism,” which asserts that China's one-party political system is able to enhance the state capacity to govern effectively through institutional adaptations and policy adjustments. An analysis of the recent and still unfolding Bo Xilai crisis reveals the flaws in China's political system, including nepotism and patron–client ties in the selection of leaders, rampant corruption, the growing oligarchic power of state-owned enterprises, elites' contempt for the law and the potential failure to broker deals between competing factions in the Party leadership. The essay argues that the CCP's “authoritarian resilience” is a stagnant system, both conceptually and empirically, because it resists much-needed democratic changes in the country. The problems of the resilient authoritarianism thesis is traceable to the monolithic conceptualizing of China – the failure to appreciate seemingly paradoxical transformative trends in the country, which this essay characterizes as three paralleled developments, namely, 1) weak leaders, strong factions; 2) weak government, strong interest groups; and 3) weak Party, strong country. One should not confuse China's national resilience (in terms of the emerging middle class, new interest group politics, and dynamic society) with the CCP's capacity and legitimacy to rule the country. The essay concludes that if the CCP intends to regain the public's confidence and avoid a bottom-up revolution, it must abandon the notion of “authoritarian resilience” and embrace a systematic democratic transition with bold steps towards intra-Party elections, judicial independence and a gradual opening of the mainstream media.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

The author thanks Chris Bramall, Eve Cary, Jordan Lee and John Langdon for suggesting ways in which to clarify the article.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Baum Richard. 2007. “The Limits of Authoritarian Resilience.” Paper presented in the conference held in the Centre for International Studies and Research, Sciences Po, Paris, 17 January 2007. See also http://www.ceri-sciences-po.org/archive/jan07/art_rb.pdf.
Bell Daniel. 2012. “Why China won't collapse.” The Christian Science Monitor, posted online 11 July 2012 http://m.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0711/Why-China-won-t-collapse.
Bremmer Ian. 2010. The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations? New York: Portfolio.
Brødsgaard Kjeld Erik and Yongnian Zheng. 2006. “Introduction: Whither the Chinese Communist Party?” In Brødsgaard Kjeld Erikand Yongnian Zheng (eds.), The Chinese Communist Party in Reform. New York: Routledge.
Brown Kerry. 2009. Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China. New York: Anthem Press.
Chang Gordon. 2001. The Coming Collapse of China. New York: Random House.
Chang Gordon. 2011. “The Coming Collapse of China: 2012 Edition.” Foreign Policy, posted on 29 December 2011. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/12/29/the_coming_collapse_of_china_2012_edition.
Chen Zhiwu. 2012. “Zhongguo daole fei minzhu buke de shihou” (It is the time when China must make a transition to democracy). Duowei News, posted on 2 January 2012. http://china.dwnews.com/news/2012-01-02/58470187.html.
Dickson Bruce. 2003. Red Capitalists in China: The Party, Private Entrepreneurs, and Prospects for Political Change. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dickson Bruce. 2005. “Populist Authoritarianism: The Future of the Chinese Communist Party,” Occasional Papers. Carnegie Endorsement for International Peace.
Dickson Bruce. 2008. Wealth into Power: The Communist Party's Embrace of China's Private Sector. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dimitrov Martin. 2008. “The Resilient Authoritarians.” Current History 107 (705), 2429.
Dahl Robert. 1961. Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Fewsmith Joseph. 2006. “Inner-Party democracy: development and limitations.” China Leadership Monitor 31, 111.
Gallagher Mary. 2009. “Power tool or dull blade? Resilient autocracy and the selectorate theory.” Unpublished paper, available at http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/johanson/papers/gallagher_hanson07.pdf.
He Pin. 2012. Keyi queding de Zhongguo weilai (China's Future Can Be Determined). New York: Mirror Books, 2012.
He Weifang. 2012. In the Name of Justice: Striving for the Rule of Law in China. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution Press.
Hu Angang. 2009. Mao Zedong yu wenge (Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution). Hong Kong: Strong Wind Press.
Hu Angang. 2011. China in 2020: A New Type of Superpower. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Hu Xiao. 2009. “Yi gaige yifu jingji weiji” (Accelerate reforms to respond to the economic crisis). Zhongguo jingji shibao, 3 March.
Huang Yasheng. 2008. Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kuhn Robert Lawrence. 2010. How China's Leaders Think. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Li Cheng. 2001. China's Leaders: The New Generation. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Li Cheng. 2005. “The new bipartisanship within the Chinese Communist Party,” Orbis 49 (3), 387400.
Li Cheng (ed.). 2008. China's Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy, Washington DC: The Brookings Institution Press.
Li Cheng (ed.). 2010. China's Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press.
Li Cheng. 2012a. “The battle for China's top nine leadership posts.” The Washington Quarterly 35 (1), 131145.
Li Cheng. 2012b. “Power shift in China, Part I.” Yale Global online magazine, posted on 16 April 2012, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/power-shift-china-part-i.
Li Cheng and Cary Eve. 2011. “The last year of Hu's leadership: Hu's to blame?China Brief 11 (23). 20 December.
Li Cheng and Lee Jordan. 2009. “China's legal system.” China Review 48, 13.
Li Chunling. 2010. “Characterizing China's middle classes: heterogeneous composition and multiple identities.” In Li Cheng, (ed.) China's Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 135156.
Link Perry. 2012. “America's outdated view of China.” The Washington Post, 10 May.
Xiaobo. 2000. Cadres and Corruption: The Organizational Involution of the Chinese Communist Party. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
MacFarquhar Roderick and Schoenhals Michael. 2008. Mao's Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
McGregor Richard. 2010. The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers. New York: Harper.
McGregor Richard. 2011. “Five myths about the Chinese Communist Party.” Foreign Policy, January/February.
Miller Alice. 2008a. “China's new Party leadership.” China Leadership Monitor 23.
Miller Alice. 2008b. “Institutionalization and the changing dynamics of Chinese leadership politics.” In Li Cheng (ed.), China's Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy, Washington DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 6179.
Miller Alice. 2009. “Leadership sustains public unity amid stress.” China Leadership Monitor 29.
Nathan Andrew J. 2003. “Authoritarian resilience,” Journal of Democracy 14 (1), 617.
Nathan Andrew. 2006. “Debate #1: is Communist Party rule sustainable in China?” Reframing China Policy: The Carnegie Debates, Washington, DC, posted on 5 October 2006, http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/cds_nathan.pdf.
Peerenboom Randall. 2002. China's Long March toward the Rule of Law. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pei Minxin. 2008. China's Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Pei Minxin. 2012. “The myth of Chinese meritocracy.” Project Syndicate, 15 May, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-myth-of-chinese-meritocracy.
Qian Liqun. 2012. “Lao hongweibing dangzheng de danyou” (“Worries about the rule of the old Red Guards”). Wenzhai, 19 February.
Shambaugh David. 2008. China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Shirk Susan L. 2007. China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise. New York: Oxford University Press.
Teiwes Frederick C. and Sun Warren. 1998. China's Road to Disaster: Mao, Central Politicians, and Provincial Leaders in the Unfolding of the Great Leap Forward 1955–1959. New York. M.E. Sharpe.
Tsai Kellee. 2007. Capitalism without Democracy: The Private Sector in Contemporary China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Vela Justin. 2009. “The secret of the CCP's success.” Asia Times Online, posted on 3 October 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KJ03Ad01.html.
Vogel Ezra F. 2011. Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wang Changjiang. 2009. “Zhuoli tuijin dang zhizheng de gaige chuangxin” (Promoting reforms and innovation in the Party). Jiefang ribao, 28 September.
White Lynn, Zhou Kate, and Rigger Shelley. 2013 forthcoming. Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? Local and National Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
Wishik Anton. 2012. “The Bo Xilai crisis: a curse or a blessing for China? An interview with Cheng Li,” posted on 18 April 2012, http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=236.
Yang Dali L. 2004. Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Yao Yang. 2010. “The end of the Beijing consensus: can China's model of authoritarian growth survive?Foreign Affairs, 2 February.
Yu Keping. 2009a. Democracy Is a Good Thing: Essays on Politics, Society and Culture in Contemporary China. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution Press.
Yu Keping. 2009b. “Xuyao liqing youguan minzhu de ji ge guanxi” (The necessity to clarify several conceptual factors concerning democracy). Beijing ribao, 16 March. Also at http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/49150/49152/8965735.html.
Zhang Ming. 2012. “Zhongguo xiang he chuqu?” (Whither China?). Ershiyi shiji, 3 March.
Zhang Yi. 2008. “Dangdai Zhongguo zhongchan jieceng de zhengzhi taidu” (“Political attitudes of the middle stratum in contemporary China”). Zhongguo shehui kexue 2, 117131.
Zhao Suisheng (ed.). 2006. Debating Political Reform in China: Rule of Law vs. Democratization. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Zi Zhongyun (ed.). 2011. Qimeng yu Zhongguo shehui zhuanxing (The Enlightenment and Transformation of Chinese Society). Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 77
Total number of PDF views: 644 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1263 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.