Politics and the Market in Twenty-First-Century China: Strategies of Authoritarian Management of State–Society Relations

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Abstract

The four volumes reviewed in this article examine the common theme of the sustainability of China's authoritarian regime as it faces tremendous centripetal forces of market expansion, increased administrative complexity, and social differentiation brought about by the post-Mao Zedong reforms. I argue that the shared focus of several authors on the Chinese Communist party's exercise of individual-level controls – either through internal disciplinary and reward mechanisms or through the strategic co-optation of private interests and civil society groups – provides valuable insights into the organisational basis of authority and exchange emanating from the party-state. At the same time, this perspective manifests inherent biases in accurately assessing the authoritarian government's adaptive capacities under changing circumstances. Further research is needed on local structures where state power encounters social resistance, producing as yet un-institutionalised processes of insecure compromise.

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Dickson, B. J. (2008) Wealth into Power: The Communist Party's Embrace of China's Private Sector. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tsai, L. L. (2007) Accountability without Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Perry, E. and Goldman, M. (eds) (2007) Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

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