Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-546b4f848f-fhndm Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-05T01:26:25.092Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

8 - Cause or Consequence?

Private-Sector Development and Communist Resilience in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2013

Martin K. Dimitrov
Tulane University, Louisiana
Get access


Taking a page from students of Latin America and Eastern Europe, China specialists routinely invoke the concept of “regime transition,” despite the fact that the post-Mao period of PRC history has already lasted longer than the Maoist era that preceded it.

Elizabeth J. Perry (2007)

Students of modernization theory and political development have been anticipating regime change in China for quite some time. In a straight application of modernization theory, for example, in 1996 the Stanford economist Henry Rowen predicted that if China maintained a 5 percent per capita growth in GDP, then by 2015 it would reach a critical level of $7,000–8,000 per capita GDP and become democratic. In 1998 Arthur Waldron predicted impending communist collapse: “Will there still be a People’s Republic of China governed by the Chinese Communist Party in ten years? My bet is ‘no.’” Bruce Gilley contends with equal confidence in China’s Democratic Future, “The laws of social science grind away in China as elsewhere, whether we like it or not.” Following years of double-digit growth, the private sector now accounts for two-thirds of China’s industrial output, a level comparable to that of the United Kingdom on the eve of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms in the 1980s. The accompanying growth in the ranks of Chinese capitalists has fueled popular expectations that they will rise as a class to overthrow the communist regime and demand democracy in the spirit of “no taxation without representation.” Yet the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to monopolize political power, as it has since 1949. Neither communist demise nor democratic transition appears imminent. Meanwhile, major changes have occurred in China’s formal institutions. How can this be explained?

Why Communism Did Not Collapse
Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe
, pp. 205 - 234
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Tsai, Kellee S., “Adaptive Informal Institutions and Endogenous Institutional Change in China,” World Politics 59:1 (October 2006), 116–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Capitalism without Democracy: The Private Sector in Contemporary China (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007).
Perry, Elizabeth J., “Studying Chinese Politics: Farewell to Revolution?” China Journal, no. 57 (January 2007), 6.
Rowen, Henry S., “The Short March,National Interest, no. 45 (1996), 61–70.Google Scholar
Waldron, Arthur, “The End of Communism,” Journal of Democracy 9:1 (January 1998), 41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilley, Bruce, China’s Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), xiii.Google Scholar
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Economic Survey of China 2005 (Paris, 2005).Google Scholar
Posusney, Marsha Pripstein, “Enduring Authoritarianism: Middle East Lessons for Comparative Theory,” Comparative Politics 36:2 (January 2004), 127–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kedourie, Elie, Democracy and Arab Political Culture, 2nd ed. (London: Frank Cass, 1994)Google Scholar
Sadowski, Yahya, “The New Orientalism and the Democracy Debate,Middle East Report, no. 183 (July–August 1993), 14–21, 40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sharabi, Hishan, Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
Pye, Lucian W., with Pye, Mary W., Asian Power and Politics: The Cultural Dimensions of Authority (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
Scalapino, Robert A., The Politics of Development: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
Barr, Michael D., Lee Kuan Yew: The Beliefs behind the Man (Richmond: Curzon, 2000)Google Scholar
Chee-Meow, Seah, ed., Asian Values and Modernization (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1977)
Thompson, Mark R., “The Survival of ‘Asian Values’ and ‘Zivilisationskritik,’” Theory and Society 29:5 (2000), 651–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wen, Zheng, “China Can Never Copy Wholesale the Western Democratic System,” Jingji ribao (Economic Daily), July 18, 1989Google Scholar
Goldman, Merle, Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 330–331.Google Scholar
Jung, Kim Dae, “Is Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asia’s Anti-Democratic Values,” Foreign Affairs 73:6 (November/December 1994), 189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manning, Stephen, “Social and Cultural Prerequisites of Democratization: Generalizing from China,” in Friedman, Edward, ed., The Politics of Democratization: Generalizing East Asian Experiences (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), 232–248Google Scholar
Stepan, Alfred, “The World’s Religious Systems and Democracy: Crafting the ‘Twin Tolerations,’” in Arguing Comparative Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 213–254.Google Scholar
Beblawi, Hazem and Luciano, Giacomo, eds., The Rentier State (London: Croom Helm, 1987).
Bellin, Eva, “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective,” Comparative Politics 36:2 (January 2004), 139–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Michael L., “Does Oil Hinder Democracy?World Politics 53:3 (April 2001), 325–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Benjamin, “Oil Wealth and Regime Survival in the Developing World, 1960–1999,” American Journal of Political Science 48:2 (April 2004), 232–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Przeworski, Adam, Alvarez, Michael E., Cheibub, José Antonio, and Limongi, Fernando, Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950–1990 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chang, Gordon G., The Coming Collapse of China (New York: Random House, 2001)Google Scholar
Pei, Minxin, China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bernstein, Thomas P. and , Xiaobo, Taxation without Representation in Contemporary Rural China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sun, Yan, Corruption and Market in Contemporary China (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004)Google Scholar
Huntington, Samuel P., Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968)Google Scholar
Lipset, Seymour, “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 53:1 (March 1959), 69–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, Mark R., “To Shoot or Not to Shoot: Posttotalitarianism in China and Eastern Europe,” Comparative Politics 34:1 (October 2001), 63–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Mesquita, Bruce Bueno and Downs, George W., “Development and Democracy,” Foreign Affairs 84:5 (2005), 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bellin, Eva, Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
Heydemann, Steven, Authoritarianism in Syria: Institutions and Social Conflict, 1946–1970 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
Hinnebusch, Raymond, “The Viability of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: An Overview and Critique of Theory,” Mafhoum, January 8, 2004, 7.
Bratton, Michael and van de Walle, Nicolas, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective [New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997]CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chehabi, H. E. and Linz, Juan (Sultanistic Regimes [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998])Google Scholar
. . . And Yet They Persist: Explaining Survival and Transition in Neopatrimonial Regimes,” Studies in Comparative International Development 37:3 [2002], 35–63CrossRef
Solinger, Dorothy J., Chinese Business under Socialism: The Politics of Domestic Commerce in Contemporary China, 1949–1980 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).Google Scholar
Goldman, Merle and MacFarquhar, Roderick, eds., The Paradox of China’s Post-Mao Reforms (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)
Gries, Peter Hays and Rosen, Stanley, eds., State and Society in 21st-Century China: Crisis, Contention, and Legitimation (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004)CrossRef
Perry, Elizabeth J. and Selden, Mark, eds., Chinese Society: Change, Conflict, and Resistance, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2003).
Tsai, Kellee S., Back-Alley Banking: Private Entrepreneurs in China (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
Tsai, Kellee S., “Capitalists without a Class: Political Diversity among Private Entrepreneurs in China,” Comparative Political Studies 38:9 (November 2005), 1130–1158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yang, Dali L., Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
Nathan, Andrew J., “Authoritarian Resilience: China’s Changing of the Guard,” Journal of Democracy 14:1 (January 2003), 6–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Powell, Walter W. and DiMaggio, Paul. J., eds., The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).
Tsebelis, George, Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).Google Scholar
Bates, Robert H., “Contra Contractarianism: Some Reflections on the New Institutionalism,” Politics and Society 16:2 (September 1988), 387–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berman, Sheri, “Review: Ideas, Norms, and Culture in Political Analysis,” Comparative Politics 33:2 (January 2001), 231–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blyth, Mark M., “Review: ‘Any More Bright Ideas?’: The Ideational Turn of Comparative Political Economy,” Comparative Politics 29:2 (1997), 229–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harrison, Lawrence E. and Huntington, Samuel P., eds., Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (New York: Basic Books, 2000).
North, Douglass C., Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Helmke, Gretchen and Levitsky, Steven, “Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics,” Perspectives on Politics 2:4 (2004), 725–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lauth, Hans-Joachim, “Informal Institutions and Democracy,” Democratization 7:4 (Winter 2000), 21–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pierson, Paul, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zuckoff, Mitchell, Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend (New York: Random House, 2005).Google Scholar
Tam, Waikeung and Yang, Dali, “Food Safety and the Development of Regulatory Institutions in China,” Asian Perspective 29:4 (2005), 5–36.Google Scholar
Mahoney, James, “Path Dependence in Historical Sociology,” Theory and Society 29:4 (August 2000), 507–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lieberman, Robert C., “Ideas, Institutions, and Political Order: Explaining Political Change,” American Political Science Review 96:4 (December 2002), 697–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greif, Avner and Laitin, David, “A Theory of Endogenous Institutional Change,” American Political Science Review 98:4 (November 2004), 633–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Das Kapital (1867)
Young, Susan, Private Business and Economic Reform in China (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1995).Google Scholar
Naughton, Barry, “Institutional Innovation and Privatization from Below,” American Economic Review 84:2 (May 1994), 266–270.Google Scholar
Parris, Kristin, “Local Initiative and National Reform: The Wenzhou Model of Development,China Quarterly, no. 134 (June 1993), 242–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oi, Jean C. and Walder, Andrew G., eds., Property Rights and Economic Reform in China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999)
Whiting, Susan H., Power and Wealth in Rural China: The Political Economy of Institutional Change (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
Oi, Jean C., Rural China Takes Off: Institutional Foundations of Economic Reform (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).Google Scholar
Malik, Rashid, Chinese Entrepreneurs in the Economic Development of China (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997), 15.Google Scholar
“Deng Liqun, Others, Criticize Jiang Zemin for Agreeing to Admit Capitalists into the CPC,” Renmin ribao, July 20, 2001
Dickson, Bruce, Red Capitalists in China: The Party, Private Entrepreneurs, and Prospects for Political Change (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
SAIC, Zhongguo siying jingji nianjian, 2005
Fewsmith, Joseph, “Rethinking the Role of the CCP: Explicating Jiang Zemin’s Party Anniversary Speech,” China Leadership Monitor, no. 1 pt. 2 (Spring 2002), 3, at (accessed August 25, 2012).
“Constitutional Revision Requires Law Adjustment,” China Business Weekly, March 8, 2004.
“Amendments Protect Private Property,” China Business Weekly, January 4, 2004.
Fforde, Adam and de Vylder, Stefan, From Plan to Market: The Economic Transition in Vietnam (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996)Google Scholar
Malesky, Edmund, “Leveled Mountains and Broken Fences: Measuring and Analyzing De Facto Decentralization in Vietnam,” European Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 3:2 (2004), 307–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tria Kerkvliet, Benedict J., The Power of Everyday Politics: How Vietnamese Peasants Transformed National Policy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005)Google Scholar
Scott, James C., Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
Kelliher, Daniel, Peasant Power in China: The Era of Rural Reform, 1979–1989 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992)Google Scholar
Zhou, Kate Xiao, How the Farmers Changed China (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996)Google Scholar
Unger, Jonathan, The Transformation of Rural China (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2002)Google Scholar
Porter, Gareth, Vietnam: The Politics of Bureaucratic Socialism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 123–125.Google Scholar
Van Arkadie, Brian and Mallon, Raymond, Vietnam: A Transition Tiger? (Canberra: Asia Pacific Press at Australian National University, 2003), 107.Google Scholar
Millar, James R., “The Little Deal: Brezhnev’s Contribution to Acquisitive Socialism,” Slavic Review 44:4 (Winter 1985), 694–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Solnick, Steven L., Stealing the State: Control and Collapse in Soviet Institutions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
Kennedy, Scott, The Business of Lobbying in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats