In This Review

China After Deng Xiaoping: The Power Struggle in Beijing Since Tiananmen
China After Deng Xiaoping: The Power Struggle in Beijing Since Tiananmen
By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
John Wiley, 1995, 497 pp.

This is a well-informed and provocative book by a Hong Kong--based Chinese journalist and Sinologist about possible developments in China after Deng's demise. There is a very detailed, convincing, and nuanced account of the factional struggle in the Chinese Communist Party and the role of various new interest groups that have emerged during the unprecedented economic reform. The main thesis is that dynastic politics such as those practiced by Mao and Deng are now bankrupt, and that the socioeconomic costs of reform will soon become prohibitive unless steps are taken to modernize the political system.

The author's challenging conclusion is that the Chinese Communist Party can evolve toward a post-1990 East European socialist party that permits real elections and other elements of pluralistic politics while still holding on to power. In the trajectory for political modernization he holds out, central authorities will be forced to work out a more equitable form of power-sharing with the regions, there will be more and more noncommunist elements in the legislature, cabinet ministers will have to appear regularly before the legislature to explain policy, nonparty organizations such as labor unions and pressure groups will gradually achieve legitimacy, and tolerance for the nonviolent expression of dissident opinion will increase. The author argues that recent developments in Romania and Hungary, where by 1994 transformed communist parties were again holding power, may have reassured the Chinese communists.