Post-Mao China: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism?

Post-Mao China: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism?

Post-Mao China: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism?

Post-Mao China: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism?

Synopsis

Guo challenges the predominant view that post-Mao China has moved away from communist totalitarianism and that totalitarianism is an outdated paradigm for China studies. He seeks to reconstruct a plausible macro-model in conceptual and comparative terms for defining "regime identity" and assessing the nature of regime change. Guo then applies the model to the study of regime change in post-Mao China and reevaluates post-Mao changes across the five major empirical aspects of regime change (political, ideological, economic, legal, and social) and the most critical dimensions of each.

Excerpt

More than two decades of Chinese reforms have brought about a considerable change in many aspects of post-Mao China. However, our theoretical picture of post-Mao China and our interpretation of the nature of the post-Mao changes have been complicated and confused by contrasting situations that are coexistent in China: ideological and political campaigns are still vigorously employed while more emphasis is placed on economic development. The party still maintains its monopoly of power and its organizational control is still pervasive while the party-state control over people's daily lives and economic activities is relaxed, with more use of state terror and coercion rather than unrestricted mass terror as under Mao and with more rational control rather than arbitrary control as under Mao. The party control over information and media is still tight while some civil publications are allowed within nonpolitical areas. The legal system is still subjugated to the party rule while a certain measure of civil law practice is allowed and ordinary people begin to turn to the legal system to resolve business and civil disputes more often than before. Political persecutions and arrests of dissidents are severe while greater individual freedom is evident. The party still adheres to its ideological commitment while its influence on the general population is weakening. And party control over private morality is less effective than it was under Mao while communist morality is still a whip over the Chinese society and individuals.

To many people, both scholars and non-academic analysts, post-Mao China represents a contradiction which suggests the need to assess the changes in the last two decades and evaluate whether or not the post-Mao regime can still be accurately described as totalitarian. Are there any qualitative differences between the Mao regime and the post-Mao regime? Is the post-Mao regime totalitarian, or authoritarian, or something else? Has the regime changed so fundamentally that "totalitarianism" has become an outdated paradigm for China?

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