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To Govern China
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Book description

How, practically speaking, is the Chinese polity - as immense and fissured as it has now become - actually being governed today? Some analysts highlight signs of 'progress' in the direction of more liberal, open, and responsive rule. Others dwell instead on the many remaining 'obstacles' to a hoped-for democratic transition. Drawing together cutting-edge research from an international panel of experts, this volume argues that both those approaches rest upon too starkly drawn distinctions between democratic and non-democratic 'regime types', and concentrate too narrowly on institutions as opposed to practices. The prevailing analytical focus on adaptive and resilient authoritarianism - a neo-institutionalist concept - fails to capture what are often cross-cutting currents in ongoing processes of political change. Illuminating a vibrant repertoire of power practices employed in governing China today, these authors advance instead a more fluid, open-ended conceptual approach that privileges nimbleness, mutability, and receptivity to institutional and procedural invention and evolution.


'How is China ruled? This inspired book takes us beyond simple answers (growth, repression, nationalism) deep into the governing techniques, logics, and ideas of the central state and local officials.'

Ben Read - University of California

'Western assessments of Chinese politics continue to be trapped in assertions of 'authoritarian resilience' or 'democratic transition'. Both amount to an implicit or explicit belief that liberal democracy ultimately ought to prevail. In this book some of the world’s leading specialists of Chinese politics break with this trend. China’s political system is presented as open and evolving, flexibly drawing on a repertoire of governance technologies that are woven together in constantly shifting and adaptive patterns. To Govern China is a major contribution to scholarship on contemporary Chinese politics with a vitally important message that should be heeded not only by scholars, but also by policy makers and journalists.'

Frank N. Pieke - Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands

'To Govern China opens up many new and fruitful avenues of analysis of Chinese political life at all levels. The essays richly and graphically describe a grayly bureaucratic state that trades in emotional appeals and entertains dream-like re-mappings of China’s future, relies on secretive engines of power at the top to steer its titanic bulk while keeping open channels to its citizens in a wired, Internet age, turns a knowing 'blind eye' to behaviors not in the Party playbook while grasping the same local realities through incessant bargaining, 'repackages' social reality when old categories like 'urban' and 'rural' lose their saliency and the idea of a newly ascendant 'middle class' gains, divides and rules those at the bottom of society while 'haunting' its own officials with demands for incessant 'innovations' that rarely last the political season. This is a thought provoking and important examination of Chinese politics as it actually exists and is currently imagined.'

David Strand - Dickinson College, Pennsylvania

'This volume argues it is high time to move beyond transitology and authoritarian resilience in the study of Chinese politics. It offers a thoughtful critique of the focus on institutions and proposes a more dynamic, fluid, and 'braided' conceptualization of political change.'

Lisa Hoffman - University of Washington, Tacoma

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