A respected Chinese political philosopher calls for the Communist Party to take the lead in moving China along the path to democracy before it is too late.
With Xi Jinping potentially set as president for life, China’s move toward political democracy may appear stalled. But Jiwei Ci argues that four decades of reform have created a mentality in the Chinese people that is just waiting for the political system to catch up, resulting in a disjunction between popular expectations and political realities. The inherent tensions in a largely democratic society without a democratic political system will trigger an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy, forcing the Communist Party to act or die.
Two crises loom for the government. First is the waning of the Communist Party’s revolutionary legacy, which the party itself sees as a grave threat. Second is the fragility of the next leadership transition. No amount of economic success will compensate for the party’s legitimacy deficit when the time comes. The only effective response, Ci argues, will be an orderly transition to democracy. To that end, the Chinese government needs to start priming its citizens for democracy, preparing them for new civil rights and civic responsibilities. Embracing this pragmatic role offers the Communist Party a chance to survive. Its leaders therefore have good reason to initiate democratic change.
Sure to challenge the Communist Party and stir debate, Democracy in China brings an original and important voice to an issue with far-reaching consequences for China and the world.
Ci offers shrewd insights into the contradictions in the party’s ideology, the mentality of China’s middle class, and the various ways the party sustains its legitimacy.
An elaborate but cogent argument about how the CCP will only overcome its illegitimacy, along with other tears in the national fabric, by choosing to usher in political democracy.
A remarkably consistent, multifaceted, and evenhanded analysis of China’s socioeconomic, cultural, and political changes affecting its democratic future with a good combination of rigorous reasoning and brilliant speculation…It will surely stimulate our further deliberation and reflection on this important subject and enrich our understanding of China’s democratic development and its significance to the world.
A strong argument to let China democratize for its own reasons and at its own chosen pace…Offers a new angle to observe China’s way to democratization and assures us all that China’s democratization will reflect its own characteristics.
[A] tour de force on democracy and political order…A fantastically engaging read…[An] impressive book…Ci’s intellectual contributions are of great value to our understandings of China’s political development.
Ci furnishes a punctilious demolition of the notion that Chinese citizens neither need nor desire democracy…Just as he is even-handed in his political criticisms of both East and West, he appears equally fluent in each tradition of political philosophy, on which he draws freely and eclectically to guide his reflections.
Jiwei Ci’s account of the prospects of Chinese democracy is stimulating, deeply researched, and humanely argued. A passionate argument in favor of a more democratic China, it engages seriously with the question of what a Chinese, rather than abstract, democracy might look like, making original and nuanced arguments about how a party-state might genuinely pluralize. His reflections on Hong Kong are particularly thoughtful in light of the current turmoil. A powerful contribution to one of the most acute debates in geopolitics today.
A complex, fascinating book that will have a major impact not only for readers interested in China, but also for anyone working on authoritarian transitions and democratic theory. I find Ci’s prudential rather than normative argument on the need for democracy in China persuasive, if one thinks in terms of the Chinese Communist Party moving in a more democratic direction.
Jiwei Ci’s ambitious book is intended as a practical political argument, addressed as a citizen of China to the incumbent leadership of its governing Communist Party. It is a work of intense seriousness, real intellectual scruple, and, under current circumstances, great political courage.
- 432 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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