China and Democracy Post Mao
The Potential Power of China’s New Middle Class
By: Ryan Smith
Abstract: This paper examines China during the reform era after Mao. It tries to understand how a country, which has been engaging in economic liberal reforms since 1978, has been able to resist any major political reforms. The answer to this question lies with the newly created middle class in China. The reforms initiated by the CCP have resulted in impressive rates of economic growth which in turn have given rise to a middle class. The fact that the CCP was the reason and facilitator of this growth has resulted in a middle class who has seen no reason to upset the balance and demand reform. This has resulted in a paradoxical relationship for the CCP in regards to capitalism. Capitalism, the ideological enemy of Communism, has proven to be the necessary tool for the CCP to be seen as legitimate. The CCP is still in power because it is seen as economically legitimate in the eyes of their middle class.
A: Theoretical framework for the question
B: Performance legitimacy
II. Brief Leadership history of China in 20th Century
A: Chairman Mao
B: Deng Xiaoping
III. A Secondary force for democracy
A: Cultural perspective
B: Coordination goods
B: The internet
V. Social Unrest
A: Tiananmen Square
B: Hong Kong
C: The role of corruption
VI. Economic Boom and the rise of the Middle class
B: Economic boom since 1978
C: The Chinese stock market
D: Private property
E: Red capitalists
F: Middle class composition and implications
A: Where this leaves China
On September 9th 1976 Chairman Mao Zedong, the pioneer of Communism in China, passed away and after a power struggle that took a couple of years, Deng Xiaoping rose to take his place (CIA 2007). With Mao’s passing, China shed the backward and stifling economic policies of a Stalinist state and catapulted itself down the road of modernization at a ferocious pace. Under the leadership of Deng, China underwent one of the most dynamic economic transformations the world has ever seen.
Almost 30 years have passed since Mao died, and China has now become one of the most dominant economies today. It is currently the fourth largest economy in the world and is growing at the fastest rate of any major economy (CIA 2007). Deng’s reforms addressed China’s economic backwardness but did little to address China’s repressive political system. To this day the CCP, or China’s Communist Party, is still very firmly in power. There is no questioning the CCP’s authority by the people of China.
This situation of economic reform but political authoritarianism has puzzled political theorists and analysts for the last 30 years. How has the CCP been able to walk this line for so long? Historically, with almost no exceptions, once major free market reforms are undertaken political liberalization and reforms follow. The former USSR is the classic example of this belief. The answers to this intriguing question vary greatly. Many would say that just enough time hasn’t passed. People under this train of thought would believe that political reform in China is merely a waiting game. Other theorists point to the Confucian culture that dominates China as an explanation for the lack of reform. Another answer is the CCP’s skillful compromises and use of tight political control to maintain power in the country. I am going to examine all of these possible explanations. But, in the end none of these answers adequately explain why China hasn’t reformed politically. The answer lies in China’s newly created middle class. The CCP initiated the reforms that resulted in the middle class’s creation. The CCP’s continued...
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