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Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies (review)

Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies (review) Reviews 215 2. HelenSiu,"RecyclingRituals,"inUnofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People's Republic,ed.PerryLink(Boulder,CO:WestviewPress1989). AllenCarlson,MaryE.Gallagher,KennethLieberthal,andMelanie Manion,editors.Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies. Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,2010.xii,314pp. isbn978-0-521-15576-2. NoothercountryofChina'simportancehaschangedasrapidlyinthelastthree decadesintermsofthestudyofpolitics.Intheearly1980s,archivesbegantoopen, localnewspapersgainedsomeautonomy,andphysicalaccesstoChinaexpanded. Sincethen,thestudyofChina'spolitics(andsocietygenerally)hasrapidly convergedonthatofthestudyofotherdevelopingcountries.AsKenneth Lieberthalnotesinhisconcludingchaptertothisexcellentnewvolume:"China hasgonefrombeingabasicallyinaccessible,verylowinformationsocietytobeing arelativelyaccessible,highinformationsociety"(p.273). The2006editedvolumeDoing Fieldwork in China(UniversityofHawai`i Press)wasoneofthefirstattemptstodistilllessonsfromthenewmethodological challengesofdoingresearchonChina'spoliticsandsociety.Itsmainconclusion wasthatmanyoftheconstraintsofdoingfieldworkhadnotchangedmuchand wouldlikelyremain.Inthisnewvolume,adistinguishedsetofcontributorsfocus morenarrowlyonthestudyofpolitics.Thesimilaryetstillsurprisingconclusionis thatstudyingChina'spoliticshasactuallybecomemoredifficult. ManyofthechallengespresentedherearenotnewtoChinabutmerelynew toscholarsbecausetheyarenowabletoworkinChina.Localcollaborations (discussedinthechaptershereonsurveyresearchbyMelanieManionandBruce Dickson),ethicalissuesinarepressivestate(discussedbyLilyTsai),the interpretationofstatepropaganda(XiChen),theassuranceofstablemeaningsin surveys,andtheproblemofChina'ssizehaveallloomedlargerastheabilityto conductnewformsofresearchhasexpanded. Otherchallenges,however,arenewtoChina.Theinformationexplosionof thelastdecadehasrenderedthestudyofeventhenarrowesttopicsubjectto informationoverload,asDanielaStockman,AllenCarlson,andHongDuanshow intheirstudiesofmediaandInternetsources.Thisphenomenonisforcing scholarstolearnnewdataanalysistoolstounderstandonlinecontentand networks.Elitepolitics,meanwhile,hastransformedfundamentallyasaresultof © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 216 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 highereducationandincreasedsocialintermixingamongChina'spoliticalelites. Asaresult,simplebiographicalapproachestotheCentralCommittee,suchasthat discussedhereinachapterbyShih,Shan,andLiu,maybelessusefulinpredicting preferencesandalignments,perhapsonereasonwhytheirdiscussionofits applicationsislimitedtothe1970sand1980s. Whatdoesitallmean? Themostobviousimplication,andthemainthemeofthisbook,isthat scholarsincreasinglyhavetobemoreconsciousofthesocialscientificrigorof theirclaims.Theprocessofdatacollectionandliteraturereviewrequiresmore effortandresources.Theneedtojustifyresearchdesigndecisionsismorepressing thaneverbeforegiventheavailabilityofalternativeinterpretations.Most important,thetheoreticalandcomparativeframeworksusedtointerpretthe resultsneedtobemorerobust.Inshort,scholarsofChina'spoliticsareexpectedto behaveprettymuchlikeotherpoliticalscientistsinthedisciplinethesedays. Thereareimplicitdebateshereamongtheauthorsonsuchissuesas quantitativeversusqualitativeapproaches,primaryversussecondarydata,and site-intensiveversusnationallyrepresentativecases.However,thedeeper consensusisthatthebarforwhatconstitutesexcellentresearchusinganyofthese approacheshasbeenraised.AsPeterHaysGriesnotesinhischapteron experimentalmethods,"Thelistofchallenges,frankly,ishumbling.Itisnoteasy todothistypeofresearch.Masteringpsychologicalandinternationalrelations theories,experimentalandsurveydesigns,psychometrics,andstatisticalanalysis arejustthebeginning"(p.87). Thisworkhasasecondaryandrelatedtheme,althoughonethatismore evidentintheomission.ItistheimplicitconsensusthatthereisnoneedforChina specialiststoengageinseriousandsustainedstudyofothercountriesinorderto understandChinabetter.TheexceptioninthisvolumeisGries,whoshowshowa comparisonofAmericanandChinesepopulationscanyieldaccurateinsightsinto thenatureofChinesenationalism.However,noothersbroachtheimportanceof cross-countrycomparison. Thequestionofcross-nationalcomparisonhasnothingtodowithquantitativeversusqualitativemethods.Itissimplyaclaimabouttheimportanceof measurementandcausalitygroundedincross-nationalvariations.AsCarlson, Gallagher,andManionnoteintheirintroduction,"Ingeneral,specialistson Chinesepoliticshavenotgonedownthispath"ofseriouscomparativeresearch becauseofwhattheycall"theproblemofmakingrelevantcomparisons"(p.5). Thismaybeunderstandablegiventheotherchallenges.Yetithasitscosts,as theeditorsnote.Whilethemethodsandtheoriesofpoliticalscienceare increasinglyincorporatedintothestudyofChina'spolitics,itsisolationfromthe comparativedisciplinemeansthatitremainsatheory-taker(notatheory-maker) andthattheclaimsmadeaboutitaresubjecttoahighdegreeofskepticismby mostofthediscipline.Ironically,theexpansionofthestudyofChina'spolitics Reviews 217 withinChinaitselfandbyChina-bornscholars,includingmanyoftheauthors here,hasreinforcedthisisolationofChinesepoliticsfromtherestofthefield. Increasingly,Chinaisstudiedinmuchthesamewaythat"Americanists"inU.S. universitiesstudyAmericanpolitics,namelywithoutanycomparativegrounding. Astheeditorsnote,"theChinesecasedoesnothavealargeimpactonthefield" (p. 5). Giventheotherchallenges,thissuggestsaneedforsomestrategyofresearch thatdealswiththetradeoffsofcross-nationalresearch.Theauthorsareprobably dividedonthisissue.However,thefinalwordofthevolumegoestoKenneth Lieberthal,whoissuesabattlecryfortheoldsinologyofareastudies,qualitative research,middle-orlow-leveltheories,andpolicyrelevance.Hisstandis unfortunatebecauseittendstoburythedebateratherthanhighlightit.Indeed, Lieberthal'sownchaptershowsthecostsofsinology'sisolation.Hecitesaclaim that"entrepreneursinChinadonot,aswasthecaseinmodernWesternhistory, seektochallengetheregime"(p.276)tojustifythesingularfocusonChina.Yet thisclaimitselfisacomparativeone,andnotablyonethatisnotwidelyaccepted anylongeramongstudentsofWesterndemocratichistory.Morewidely,scholars ofLatinAmericanpolitics,forinstance,findstrongparallelswithtoday'smiddle classinauthoritarianChinaandthoseofLatinAmericaintheirauthoritarian periods,showingthepotentialoffruitfulcomparisons. OneofthegreatunresolvedchallengesforthestudyofChina'spoliticsisfor sinologiststogetoutofthehutongmoreoften.Giventheemotionalandpersonal investmentittakestobecomeaChinaspecialist,thisremainsadauntingtask. BruceGilley Bruce Gilley is an associate professor of political science in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. XiaomingChen.From the May Fourth Movement to Communist Revolution: Guo Moruo and the Chinese Path to Communism.Albany: State UniversityofNewYorkPress,2007.xi,156pp.Hardcover$60.00, isbn978-0-7914-7137-1. © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press GuoMoruoisoneoftheleadingliteraryfiguresinmodernChina.Heisamajor scholarofChinesearcheology,aforemostexpertonjiagu wen(oraclebonescript) andjin wen(bronzeinscriptions),awell-knownhistorian,atalentedpoet,a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (2) – Mar 1, 2010

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Reviews 215 2. HelenSiu,"RecyclingRituals,"inUnofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People's Republic,ed.PerryLink(Boulder,CO:WestviewPress1989). AllenCarlson,MaryE.Gallagher,KennethLieberthal,andMelanie Manion,editors.Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies. Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,2010.xii,314pp. isbn978-0-521-15576-2. NoothercountryofChina'simportancehaschangedasrapidlyinthelastthree decadesintermsofthestudyofpolitics.Intheearly1980s,archivesbegantoopen, localnewspapersgainedsomeautonomy,andphysicalaccesstoChinaexpanded. Sincethen,thestudyofChina'spolitics(andsocietygenerally)hasrapidly convergedonthatofthestudyofotherdevelopingcountries.AsKenneth Lieberthalnotesinhisconcludingchaptertothisexcellentnewvolume:"China hasgonefrombeingabasicallyinaccessible,verylowinformationsocietytobeing arelativelyaccessible,highinformationsociety"(p.273). The2006editedvolumeDoing Fieldwork in China(UniversityofHawai`i Press)wasoneofthefirstattemptstodistilllessonsfromthenewmethodological challengesofdoingresearchonChina'spoliticsandsociety.Itsmainconclusion wasthatmanyoftheconstraintsofdoingfieldworkhadnotchangedmuchand wouldlikelyremain.Inthisnewvolume,adistinguishedsetofcontributorsfocus morenarrowlyonthestudyofpolitics.Thesimilaryetstillsurprisingconclusionis thatstudyingChina'spoliticshasactuallybecomemoredifficult. ManyofthechallengespresentedherearenotnewtoChinabutmerelynew toscholarsbecausetheyarenowabletoworkinChina.Localcollaborations (discussedinthechaptershereonsurveyresearchbyMelanieManionandBruce Dickson),ethicalissuesinarepressivestate(discussedbyLilyTsai),the interpretationofstatepropaganda(XiChen),theassuranceofstablemeaningsin surveys,andtheproblemofChina'ssizehaveallloomedlargerastheabilityto conductnewformsofresearchhasexpanded. Otherchallenges,however,arenewtoChina.Theinformationexplosionof thelastdecadehasrenderedthestudyofeventhenarrowesttopicsubjectto informationoverload,asDanielaStockman,AllenCarlson,andHongDuanshow intheirstudiesofmediaandInternetsources.Thisphenomenonisforcing scholarstolearnnewdataanalysistoolstounderstandonlinecontentand networks.Elitepolitics,meanwhile,hastransformedfundamentallyasaresultof © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 216 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 highereducationandincreasedsocialintermixingamongChina'spoliticalelites. Asaresult,simplebiographicalapproachestotheCentralCommittee,suchasthat discussedhereinachapterbyShih,Shan,andLiu,maybelessusefulinpredicting preferencesandalignments,perhapsonereasonwhytheirdiscussionofits applicationsislimitedtothe1970sand1980s. Whatdoesitallmean? Themostobviousimplication,andthemainthemeofthisbook,isthat scholarsincreasinglyhavetobemoreconsciousofthesocialscientificrigorof theirclaims.Theprocessofdatacollectionandliteraturereviewrequiresmore effortandresources.Theneedtojustifyresearchdesigndecisionsismorepressing thaneverbeforegiventheavailabilityofalternativeinterpretations.Most important,thetheoreticalandcomparativeframeworksusedtointerpretthe resultsneedtobemorerobust.Inshort,scholarsofChina'spoliticsareexpectedto behaveprettymuchlikeotherpoliticalscientistsinthedisciplinethesedays. Thereareimplicitdebateshereamongtheauthorsonsuchissuesas quantitativeversusqualitativeapproaches,primaryversussecondarydata,and site-intensiveversusnationallyrepresentativecases.However,thedeeper consensusisthatthebarforwhatconstitutesexcellentresearchusinganyofthese approacheshasbeenraised.AsPeterHaysGriesnotesinhischapteron experimentalmethods,"Thelistofchallenges,frankly,ishumbling.Itisnoteasy todothistypeofresearch.Masteringpsychologicalandinternationalrelations theories,experimentalandsurveydesigns,psychometrics,andstatisticalanalysis arejustthebeginning"(p.87). Thisworkhasasecondaryandrelatedtheme,althoughonethatismore evidentintheomission.ItistheimplicitconsensusthatthereisnoneedforChina specialiststoengageinseriousandsustainedstudyofothercountriesinorderto understandChinabetter.TheexceptioninthisvolumeisGries,whoshowshowa comparisonofAmericanandChinesepopulationscanyieldaccurateinsightsinto thenatureofChinesenationalism.However,noothersbroachtheimportanceof cross-countrycomparison. Thequestionofcross-nationalcomparisonhasnothingtodowithquantitativeversusqualitativemethods.Itissimplyaclaimabouttheimportanceof measurementandcausalitygroundedincross-nationalvariations.AsCarlson, Gallagher,andManionnoteintheirintroduction,"Ingeneral,specialistson Chinesepoliticshavenotgonedownthispath"ofseriouscomparativeresearch becauseofwhattheycall"theproblemofmakingrelevantcomparisons"(p.5). Thismaybeunderstandablegiventheotherchallenges.Yetithasitscosts,as theeditorsnote.Whilethemethodsandtheoriesofpoliticalscienceare increasinglyincorporatedintothestudyofChina'spolitics,itsisolationfromthe comparativedisciplinemeansthatitremainsatheory-taker(notatheory-maker) andthattheclaimsmadeaboutitaresubjecttoahighdegreeofskepticismby mostofthediscipline.Ironically,theexpansionofthestudyofChina'spolitics Reviews 217 withinChinaitselfandbyChina-bornscholars,includingmanyoftheauthors here,hasreinforcedthisisolationofChinesepoliticsfromtherestofthefield. Increasingly,Chinaisstudiedinmuchthesamewaythat"Americanists"inU.S. universitiesstudyAmericanpolitics,namelywithoutanycomparativegrounding. Astheeditorsnote,"theChinesecasedoesnothavealargeimpactonthefield" (p. 5). Giventheotherchallenges,thissuggestsaneedforsomestrategyofresearch thatdealswiththetradeoffsofcross-nationalresearch.Theauthorsareprobably dividedonthisissue.However,thefinalwordofthevolumegoestoKenneth Lieberthal,whoissuesabattlecryfortheoldsinologyofareastudies,qualitative research,middle-orlow-leveltheories,andpolicyrelevance.Hisstandis unfortunatebecauseittendstoburythedebateratherthanhighlightit.Indeed, Lieberthal'sownchaptershowsthecostsofsinology'sisolation.Hecitesaclaim that"entrepreneursinChinadonot,aswasthecaseinmodernWesternhistory, seektochallengetheregime"(p.276)tojustifythesingularfocusonChina.Yet thisclaimitselfisacomparativeone,andnotablyonethatisnotwidelyaccepted anylongeramongstudentsofWesterndemocratichistory.Morewidely,scholars ofLatinAmericanpolitics,forinstance,findstrongparallelswithtoday'smiddle classinauthoritarianChinaandthoseofLatinAmericaintheirauthoritarian periods,showingthepotentialoffruitfulcomparisons. OneofthegreatunresolvedchallengesforthestudyofChina'spoliticsisfor sinologiststogetoutofthehutongmoreoften.Giventheemotionalandpersonal investmentittakestobecomeaChinaspecialist,thisremainsadauntingtask. BruceGilley Bruce Gilley is an associate professor of political science in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. XiaomingChen.From the May Fourth Movement to Communist Revolution: Guo Moruo and the Chinese Path to Communism.Albany: State UniversityofNewYorkPress,2007.xi,156pp.Hardcover$60.00, isbn978-0-7914-7137-1. © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press GuoMoruoisoneoftheleadingliteraryfiguresinmodernChina.Heisamajor scholarofChinesearcheology,aforemostexpertonjiagu wen(oraclebonescript) andjin wen(bronzeinscriptions),awell-knownhistorian,atalentedpoet,a

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China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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