UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Authoritarian resilience in China : an examination of elite politics in the post-reform era Tang, Teresa


With a membership of more than 73 million, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the largest and possibly the most influential political party in the world. Since decades ago, Western academics have sought to understand the functions of the Party in an effort to predict the potential for democracy in China. Many had forecasted that with the growth of the Chinese middle class and the economy, democracy was surely the next step in China’s transformation. To date, such forecasts have been proven wrong. The continued existence of China’s one-party regime prompts the question of what makes such an authoritarian system so resilient? This thesis seeks to answer the question by employing an eclectic approach that examines both state-society relations and elite politics. It posits that authoritarian resilience in China is the result of the CCP’s ability to suppress grassroots mobilization as well as its ability to prevent a split among the party elites. By examining the leadership succession process, factionalism, and central leadership demographics—the argument is made that power-sharing and collective decision-making have now become the norms of elite politics in China. Such attributes pose an impediment for an elite-driven democratization process.

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