In This Review

Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China: Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era
Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China: Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era
By Merle Goldman
Harvard University Press, 1994, 426 pp

This is an account of the group of Chinese intellectuals around Hu Yaobang until January 1987 the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who sought to limit the party's power by democratizing the ideology and establishing democratic institutions as an alternative to one-party rule. The thinking of the group was influenced in part by the developments in China, most notably the Cultural Revolution, the rise of Solidarity and the slow erosion of communist rule in Poland, and exposure of the group to Western ideas and institutions.

Although the purge and subsequent death of Hu and the suppression of students at Tiananmen Square in 1989 dealt severe setbacks to Chinas fledgling democracy movement, the author concludes that the seeds for democratic changes have been sown. These include a change in the way intellectuals view their relations with the state; the beginning of competitive elections and secret ballots at the local level; a steady strengthening of the National People's Congress, a potential alternative to the party; and the beginning of a semi-independent press and autonomous organizations.