In This Review

Retrofitting Leninism: Participation Without Democracy in China
Retrofitting Leninism: Participation Without Democracy in China
By Dimitar D. Gueorguiev
Oxford University Press, 2021, 256 pp.

Gueorguiev offers perhaps the most thoughtful of a number of recent pathbreaking studies that describe the many ways Chinese citizens participate in politics within the limits set by the authoritarian regime. The government has opened websites for citizen complaints, petitions, tips about corruption, and comments on pending legislation. The authorities decide whether and when to respond with services, investigations into corruption, or revisions to draft legislation. Delegates to local people’s congresses are allowed to submit policy suggestions, which government agencies take more or less seriously depending in part on how many delegates add their signatures. Other modern authoritarian regimes have introduced similar practices, often taking advantage of digital technology. Gueorguiev argues that channels such as these help the regime fine-tune its policies and increase its legitimacy, while defusing dissent and preventing citizens from banding together against the authorities.