In This Review

Red Capitalists in China: The Party, Private Entrepreneurs, and Prospects for Political Change
Red Capitalists in China: The Party, Private Entrepreneurs, and Prospects for Political Change
By Bruce J. Dickson
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 198 pp

In seeking enlightenment about where China may be heading with its peculiar combination of a Leninist political system and a market economy, Dickson examines in some detail the attitudes and behaviors of the rapidly emerging class of Chinese private entrepreneurs. Even before Jiang Zemin's 2001 declaration that private entrepreneurs should be allowed to join the party, businessmen already sought the advantages of membership. Based on responses to carefully designed questionnaires, Dickson finds that in response to the party's demonstration of remarkable adaptability, business leaders easily took on the role of "red capitalists." The result is a form of corporatist bonding between the state and civil society, which Dickson believes will give China a high degree of political stability. He throws a bit of cold water, however, on the hopes of those who expect such a business-based civil society to bring democracy to China in the near future. What he does foresee is a steady improvement in the lives of a growing middle class. But if democracy is to come, there will have to be a crisis that splits the party elite.