In This Review

China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation
China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation
By David Shambaugh
Woodrow Wilson Center Press and the University of California Press, 2008, 256 pp

During the 1990s, Chinese officials and scholars conducted an extensive postmortem on both Tiananmen and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Shambaugh traces the discussion through Chinese Communist Party journals and policy documents, many of them "internal" (classified). Lessons learned included the need to strengthen the party's internal cohesion, improve its public communications, broaden the regime's social base, and maintain economic growth. The analysts saw subversion by Western governments and nongovernmental organizations as a major challenge but argued that the Soviets' confrontation with the United States caused an overextension of Soviet power and so conflict should be avoided. Shambaugh shows how the Chinese Communist Party applied these lessons and thus improved its ability to control the rate of change in China and stay in power. Its moves toward internal democracy, he argues, are intended to avoid the fate of the Soviet Communist Party.