In the shadow of the 25 year anniversary of the Tiananmen square crackdown, the recent Hong Kong protests have generated interest in how China will respond. Could China ever adopt a democratic government?
Andrew J. Nathan, Larry Diamond, and Marc F. Plattner. Will China Democratize? Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. 311pp. $29.96.
Juntao Wang, describing what he calls a “gray transformation,” agrees with several other optimistic authors, including Harry Harding and Cheng Li, that democracy will [most likely?] evolve non-violently. Competition among divergent social interests and political factions will produce incremental progress toward strengthening civil society, place checks and balances among governmental agencies, and expand accountability as the standard of legitimacy. These authors all believe that changes that have already taken place are moving China toward a significant transition away from being a totalitarian state.
Other essayists are less optimistic. Andrew Nathan calls China’s system “resilient authoritarianism.” This view emphasizes the ruling party’s ability to carry out an orderly leadership succession, the increasingly meritocratic nature of political advancement within the CCP, and the creation of institutional safety valves for venting social discontent. A network of bureaucrats and entrepreneurs creates a bulkhead that contains changes unfavorable to the party.
Contributors such as Arthur Waldron, Gongxin Xiao, Bruce Gilley, and Minxin Pei offer complimentary views. Collectively they argue that, over time, internal power struggles, corruption, and burdensome authoritarianism will lead to inevitable but not predictable events and that a crisis will open the way to democracy.