Modern China's Original Sin
Tiananmen Square's Legacy of Repression
The Tiananmen Papers
China: Erratic State, Frustrated Society
Long Time Coming
The Prospects for Democracy in China
The Life of the Party
The Post-Democratic Future Begins in China
Democratize or Die
Why China's Communists Face Reform or Revolution
How China Is Ruled
Why It's Getting Harder for Beijing to Govern
Chinese Dissidence From Tiananmen to Today
How the People's Grievances Have Grown
The Geography of Chinese Power
How Far Can Beijing Reach on Land and at Sea?
The Game Changer
Coping With China's Foreign Policy Revolution
How China Sees America
The Sum of Beijing’s Fears
Beijing's Brand Ambassador
A Conversation With Cui Tiankai
The Inevitable Superpower
Why China’s Dominance Is a Sure Thing
The Middling Kingdom
The Hype and the Reality of China’s Rise
The Risky Strategy Behind China's Construction Economy
Austerity With Chinese Characteristics
Why China's Belt-Tightening Has More To Do With Confucius Than Keynes
Where Have All the Workers Gone?
China's Labor Shortage and the End of the Panda Boom
After the Plenum
Why China Must Reshape the State
The Great Leap Backward?
China's leaders have held out the promise of some form of democracy to the people of China for nearly a century. After China's last dynasty, the Qing, collapsed in 1911, Sun Yat-sen suggested a three-year period of temporary military rule, followed by a six-year phase of "political tutelage," to guide the country's transition into a full constitutional republic. In 1940, Mao Zedong offered followers something he called "new democracy," in which leadership by the Communist Party would ensure the "democratic dictatorship" of the revolutionary groups over class enemies. And Deng Xiaoping, leading the country out of the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution, declared that democracy was a "major condition for emancipating the mind."
When they used the term "democracy," Sun, Mao, and Deng each had something quite different in mind. Sun's definition -- which envisioned a constitutional government with universal suffrage, free elections, and separation of powers -- came closest to a definition recognizable in the West. Through their deeds, Mao and Deng showed that despite their words, such concepts held little importance for them. Still, the three agreed that democracy was not an end in itself but rather a mechanism for achieving China's real purpose of becoming a country that could no longer be bullied by outside powers.
Democracy ultimately foundered under all three leaders. When Sun died, in 1925, warlordism and disunity still engulfed many parts of China. In his time, Mao showed less interest in democracy than in class struggle, mass movements, continuous revolution, and keeping his opponents off balance. And Deng demonstrated on a number of occasions -- most dramatically in suppressing the Tiananmen protests of 1989 -- that he would not let popular democratic movements overtake party rule or upset his plan for national development.
Today, of course, China is not a democracy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a monopoly on political power, and the country lacks freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and other fundamental attributes of a pluralistic liberal system. Many inside and outside China remain skeptical
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