This superbly researched book will take its place alongside Harry Harding's China's Second Revolution as the definitive study of the politics of the economic reform process in China since 1978. In addition to shedding much light on economic reform in China, Shirk provides one of the most detailed and illuminating descriptions and analyses of the Chinese communist political process. She also has a good deal to say about why the reform process succeeded in Deng's China and failed in Gorbachev's Russia.
The cornerstone of Deng's strategy was to build support for economic reform through revenue-sharing contracts between the central government and provincial governments, an approach that gave provincial officials a vested interest in promoting and sustaining the reform drive. This created a pro-reform political counterweight to the central bureaucracy and achieved market reform while preserving China's communist institutions.
In a concluding chapter, the author thoughtfully discusses both the merits and the failures of China's gradualist reform strategy and concludes that China may yet succeed in privatizing the inefficient state factories.