Academic journal article Military Review

China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

Academic journal article Military Review

China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

Article excerpt

Joseph Fewsmith, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2001, 320 pages, $26.95.

Joseph Fewsmith, a historian who began his scholarly career by investigating the attempts of Shanghai commercial and political elites to create a civil society between 1890 and 1930, eschews predicting apocalyptic change. Instead, he shows readers how social and economic changes since 1989 have affected political and intellectual scenes. Because of his broad knowledge of Chinese history, Fewsmith is not stampeded to radical conclusions. This book is a continuation of his investigation of the socio-political relationships among China's elites since the 1890s.

China Since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition is organized in three parts: the unsuccessful post-1989 attack on Deng Xiaoping's reform program; the simultaneous changing definition of reform and rebirth of popular nationalism; and the interactions of elite power struggles with popular nationalism. Fewsmith concludes with an assessment of China's changing relationship with the world.

Fewsmith feels that the key to understanding the shape of contemporary Chinese politics and society lies in the contemporary intellectual critique of the enlightenment tradition, the foundation of liberal intellectual thought since the May Fourth Movement of 1919. He uses this appraisal to explain the rise of popular and elite nationalism as well as Chinese neoconservatism since 1989. He also examines elite politics and the ways factional alliances have changed in this same period to show how Chinese political conduct has changed. When both of these analytic streams join, the reader gets a coherent assessment of the socio political forces that drive contemporary Chinese politics.

Fewsmith's analysis shows that those who expected rapid economic and political reform in the 1980s and 1990s were bound to be disappointed, just like those who expected rapid political change in the aftermath of the Tiananmen incident were disappointed. He explains that the reasons for these disappointments lie it the nature of Chinese politics, with its deep-rooted tradition of factional elite competition and strife, a divided intellectual community, and volatile popular sentiments. …

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

Oops!

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.