Chinese Democracy after Tiananmen

Chinese Democracy after Tiananmen

Chinese Democracy after Tiananmen

Chinese Democracy after Tiananmen


Is China moving toward a liberal democracy? How does Western engagement with China contribute

to this enormous cultural shift? While still one of the most memorable and inflammatory moments in late 20th-century political history, the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square seems to have accomplished little toward promoting political reform in contemporary China. However, the past decade has witnessed a tremendous shift in the way Chinese society and the Chinese economy are organized, and few would dispute that the country is experiencing a dramatic transition. Yijiang Ding assesses this extraordinary change in terms of changes in the formal conception of "democracy," and illustrates how this central reconstruction has drastically altered the former unity of state and society under the Leninist model. Drawing on new Chinese scholarship and political theory, Ding presents a sweeping and multidimensional picture of modern China at the political crossroads.


There has been much discussion by Western scholars of the issue of democracy in China from cultural, historical, ideological, and institutional perspectives. Focused sinological analysis of the Chinese concept of democracy has also been conducted by a few Western scholars. However, the emphasis of the Western scholarship has generally been placed on the cultural differences between China and the West, and on the particular cultural background and traditional values that have shaped the Chinese understanding of democracy and conditioned the unique Chinese approach to the issue. The dynamics of contemporary Chinese debates on democracy have not been given sufficiently comprehensive treatment. A somewhat static approach to the Chinese concept of democracy may also have distracted Western scholars from a thorough inquiry into the interrelationship between the concept of democracy and recent changes in social organization and political culture.

This book, on the other hand, attempts to describe and analyze a significant qualitative change in the intellectual conception of democracy in relation to the socioeconomic and cultural changes in contemporary China. While democracy is still very much a social as well as political construct, the concept now turns on a self-conscious dualism that distinguishes between state and society.

The traditional unity of state and society as foundation of the Leninist democracy has been challenged in both theory and practice by the reality of a multidimensional process of intellectual, socio-organizational, and cultural change. The concept of democracy now relates to the explicitly recognized contraction of the state and the expansion of autonomous social and economic life as indicated, for example, in the increasing reform focus on “small government and big society.” The developing but unofficial theory of civil society is focusing attention on the organization of society into autonomous and horizontal social groupings. Actual organizational change has become manifest in the complex evolution of mass associations and the development of village self-government.

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