Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security

Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security

Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security

Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security


This work explores the strategies of reform in China and their implications for its domestic and foreign policies. It challenges the misconceptions that China is eagerly embracing capitalism, or that no political reforms are taking place.


Remaking the Chinese state

Bruce J. Dickson and Chien-min Chao

The impact of more than two decades of reform in China has become a familiar story, so familiar in fact that it is easy to lose sight of how spectacular and sweeping the changes have been. Almost all of the characteristic policies, institutions, and practices of the Maoist era have been abandoned. The central planning system is being replaced by the use of the market to set prices and allocate most goods and services. The political campaigns and policies of class struggle used to divide society and allow the state's unchallenged hegemony over society, but no longer. State ownership in agriculture and industry has rapidly faded: the communes gave way to private farming, and the expanding private sector has gradually outstripped the state-owned enterprises in total production, rates of growth, and job creation. Policies of self-reliance have been replaced by the enthusiastic pursuit of foreign trade and investment. The registration system which bound people to residences in cities and the countryside has broken down, allowing large numbers of migrant workers to seek higher paying jobs elsewhere in the country. The frozen wages, work points, and rationing of food and other consumer goods are relics of the past. Today, most Chinese enjoy higher standards of living, including rising incomes, greater housing space, access to travel and sources of information, better education, and the availability of a growing diversity of consumer goods, most available through the market with little state interference. On almost any dimension, China today is a more vibrant, dynamic, and colorful place than it was at the end of the Maoist era.

The reforms in China had a variety of motivations, centered on the common theme of creating a more modern country with higher standards of living. State leaders and members of society alike had grown weary of the political campaigns that characterized the Maoist approach to policy implementation. The convulsive swings of policy, from "leftist" upheavals to periods of recovery, seemed arbitrary, even capricious, by the late Maoist era. Many of the leaders prominent in the post-Mao period had been victimized by one or more of Mao's ideological campaigns, beginning with the anti-rightist movement of 1957 and ending with the Cultural Revolution decade (1966-76). They experienced for themselves how Mao's emphasis on political propriety prevented economic development and damaged relations between state and society. While Mao and other party leaders led China into the disastrous policies of the Great Leap

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.