In This Review

The Cultural Logic of Politics in Mainland China and Taiwan
The Cultural Logic of Politics in Mainland China and Taiwan
By Tianjian Shi
Cambridge University Press, 2014, 280 pp

One of the most vexing questions for scholars of China is whether Chinese political culture inherently supports authoritarian rule. Solid answers to that question have eluded political scientists for decades. This book by the late China scholar Shi represents an audacious and creative attempt to solve the puzzle. Through a sophisticated statistical analysis of survey data collected between 1993 and 2008 in mainland China and Taiwan, Shi reaches several surprising—and undoubtedly provocative—conclusions. He finds that structural change (such as economic development) and institutional transformation (democratization, in the case of Taiwan) have had no impact on cultural attitudes toward authority in the two societies. Because of the influence of traditional culture, Chinese people tend to be more trustful of and less confrontational toward authority. More important, the Chinese cultural conception of democracy differs fundamentally from its Western counterparts. In the West, democracy is defined in procedural terms. But in traditional Chinese culture, democracy is viewed as “guardianship.” If Shi’s argument is correct, the Chinese Communist Party’s rule may endure longer than many expect.