Many have studied whether China will democratize in the near future, but few have asked what would happen to China if China were to democratize. This paper sets out to explore this question in light of lessons from new democracies. Four lessons are drawn from new democracies. First is the importance of balancing state capacity and social power. Second is that the role of political elites can sometimes be more decisive than structural factors. Third is that culture might matter more than institutions. Fourth is the need to avoid the pitfall of economic populism. Reviewing China’s conditions through the lens of these lessons, this paper argues that factors such as state capacity, socio-economic conditions and a culture of pragmatism favor democratic consolidation in China, but the lure of “strongman” populist-authoritarianism, the tradition of uncompromising political elites and fundamentalist nationalism could sabotage a transition to democracy.
Journal of Chinese Political Science – Springer Journals
Published: May 5, 2017
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