China Briefing: The Contradictions of Change

In This Review

China Briefing: The Contradictions of Change

Edited by William A. Joseph
M. E. Sharpe, 1997
336 pp. $58.95
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For sound analyses of recent developments in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan by recognized specialists, this biennial review has always ranked highly. One of the jewels in this volume is an essay by Minxin Pei at Princeton. He defines the central dilemma of the Chinese political system as, on one hand, a "governability crisis" caused by the declining capacity of the Chinese Communist Party and other existing institutions to govern China, and on the other hand, evidence of institutional renewal that raises hopes for an evolutionary process of change. The crisis of governability includes a public security apparatus that is a "disaster area" of official corruption, a rapid rise in crime, increasing banditry and armed robbery, and underinvestment in rural infrastructure. The signs of institutional renewal include the growing autonomy of the National People's Congress, the emergence of the People's Congress and local government bodies as potential counterweights to the power of the Communist Party, the beginnings of the rule of law, and the emergence of self-government, with relatively free elections in large areas of rural China. The author concludes that China may yet make a gradual transition to a "soft-authoritarian system based on a market economy."