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Regime Building after Tian’anmen: Fine-tuning Indoctrination, Cooptation, and Repression

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What explains the remarkable performance of China’s One-Party authoritarian regime? In line with the general theme of this book, the present chapter examines the development of the Chinese One-Party Regime from the vantage point of legitimizing narratives (normative legitimacy) and outputs (performance legitimacy), the co-optation of social forces by “opening up [...] career opportunities” and granting “other material and immaterial advantages”, and the repression of dissent. The analysis will mainly focus on the years after 1992. As will be seen, the popular uprising that escalated into the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989 represented a critical juncture for the Chinese regime elites, a crisis that allowed them to depart from previous practices. The measures that the CCP should adopt were subject to an intense struggle within the Chinese leadership that took three years to be resolved. Most of the reforms that make today’s China stable were initiated at that time and through these debated measures.
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Regime Building after Tian’anmen:
Fine-tuning Indoctrination, Cooptation, and Repression
Christian Göbel
University of Vienna, Department of East Asian Studies
Christian.Goebel@univie.ac.at
forthcoming in: Backes, Uwe and Steffen Kailitz: Ideocracies in Comparison, London:
Routledge 2016
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) challenges central paradigms of the political economy
of authoritarian regimes like no other state. Secure property rights, seen as central for the
development of a country, have remained absent until today1. Still, China’s economy has
grown at an average of 10 percent per year between 1978 and 2013. Equally astonishing is
the fact that after 30 years of continued economic growth, China’s authoritarian rulers are not
confronted with what Samuel Huntington has famously termed the “performance dilemma”:
authoritarian regimes often justify dictatorship by citing a need to implement development
policies efficiently and swiftly. However, once a certain level of modernity is achieved, con-
tinued dictatorship is difficult to justify. In other words, a dictatorship has outgrown its use-
fulness.2
The stability of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule is even more remarkable when
one considers that many political scientists warned of the imminent collapse of China’s One-
Party authoritarianism. China seemed to fit the mold of many other authoritarian regimes that
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did not survive the “Third Wave” of democratization. After the death of Mao Zedong in
1976, totalitarian rule was replaced by an authoritarian regime that allowed gradual economic
liberalization, but severely restricted political participation.3 Student protests commenced in
1987, at the same time that semi-democratic elections were introduced at the village level.
These developments were read as indicators of a “bottom-up” democratization of China4. The
early 1990s saw an increase in the number and intensity of protests by China’s rural popula-
tion against over-taxation, which once more lead pundits to proclaim the “coming collapse of
China”5. However, skeptics were proven wrong. China was one of the few self-proclaimed
socialist countries that survived the “extinction” 6 of Leninist regimes when the Soviet Un-
ion collapsed.
What has China done right that others seemingly did wrong? What explains the re-
markable performance of China’s One-Party authoritarian regime? In line with the general
theme of this book, the present chapter examines the development of the Chinese One-Party
Regime from the vantage point of legitimizing narratives (normative legitimacy) and outputs
(performance legitimacy), the co-optation of social forces by “opening up [...] career oppor-
tunities” and granting “other material and immaterial advantages”, and the repression of dis-
sent. The analysis will mainly focus on the years after 1992. As will be seen, the popular up-
rising that escalated into the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” of June 4, 1989 represented a
“critical juncture” for the Chinese regime elites, a crisis that allowed them to depart from
previous practices. The measures that the CCP should adopt were subject to an intense strug-
gle within the Chinese leadership that took three years to be resolved. Most of the reforms
that make today’s China stable were initiated at that time and through these debated
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measures. Still, these developments will be analyzed against their historical context, since
this allows us to identify both the cause and the momentousness of China’s political reforms.
My argument goes as follows: the departure from totalitarian rule after the death of
Mao Zedong manifested itself in the discontinuation of massive interference of the Central
Party and other state institutions in the private lives of the Chinese people. The resulting
power vacuum ensued from the transition to authoritarianism and created exactly those chal-
lenges to the regime that the reforms since 1992 sought to remedy. Totalitarian regimes seek
to control individuals fully, and are characterized by an extremely high degree of repression
and ideological indoctrination. Furthermore, the Mao regime can best be characterized as a
personalized dictatorship. Mao increasingly isolated himself from erstwhile allies, and when
the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, the country descended into near-anarchy. As a result,
the degree of cooptation was low during these years. After Mao died, repression and indoc-
trination ceased to be the pillars upon which China’s One-Party regime rested. Cooptation
and performance legitimacy also remained low. The resulting power vacuum allowed the
forming of social resistance against increasing corruption, rising inequality levels and high
inflation. This beginning social resistance culminated in the Tiananmen Square demonstra-
tions of 1989. Although initiated by students, other population groups, most notably urban
workers, soon joined the demonstrations. On June 4, 1989, the government violently cracked
down on the demonstrations. It cleared the square with tanks, leaving an estimated 3.000
people dead.
After the crackdown, the regime once more stepped up ideological indoctrination, co-
opted important groups into the regime, but also sought to improve its performance legitima-
cy. Sparingly, the regime took preventative repressive measures to build up its formidable
powers and to subvert social unrest. These measures have increased the resilience of the Chi-
nese One-Party-state considerably.
Legitimation, Cooptation, and Repression Under Mao Zedong
1. Building Up the Communist State
After proclaiming the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the CCP con-
tinued its efforts at state building under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. State build-
ing began in the 1930s in those areas of China held by CCP forces ("Soviets") and was sup-
ported by the Soviet Union.7 This phase was characterized by two concomitant efforts: in-
dustrialization and the setting up of a Leninist regime, in which Party and government are
interwoven. Tax income, government bonds and donations enabled the rulers to quadruple
government expenditures from seven million Yuan RMB in 1950 to 29 million Yuan RMB
only seven years later. These funds were predominantly invested into building a foundation
for economic growth in the war-ravaged country. In 1950, 60 percent of government expendi-
tures went into defense and administration, while only 36 percent went into improving the
economic infrastructure and the provision of public services. By 1952, these ratios had been
reversed.8 Between 1951 and 1960, military expenditures remained constant in absolute
terms, and administrative outlays increased only marginally.9 According to Tony Saich,
"[T]he achievements by the mid-1950s were impressive. The country, with the exception of
Taiwan, was unified, the rural revolution completed, inflation tamed, and solid economic
growth achieved.”10
Political liberalization seemed to follow at the heels of improved economic perfor-
mance. In 1956 and 1957, Mao Zedong appealed to CCP members and the general population
to critically evaluate the CCP's performance and make suggestions for improvement. After a
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9 Ibid.
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period of cautious hesitation, intellectuals bitterly criticized phenomena like corruption and
nepotism among party officials, the dictatorial character of the regime and flawed agricultural
policies.11 Later, other population groups joined the chorus. Mao Zedong, who, along with
prime minister Zhou Enlai and CCP General Secretary Deng Xiaoping, had initially support-
ed a cautious liberalization of the regime, reacted to this criticism by switching sides. Mao
teamed up with Zhu De, the commander of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and PLA
General Peng Dehuai, both staunch opposition of economic liberalization.12 In 1958, the
regime entered its totalitarian phase, which was characterized by massive indoctrination,
massive repression and a low degree of cooptation and performance legitimacy.
2. The Adaptation of Marxism to the Chinese Context
The totalitarian era of the PRC intertwined indoctrination and repression to control
the minds and behaviors of the Chinese populace. The CCP based their legitimization on an
ideological construct that, through constant adaptation to China's realities ("sinisation") mu-
tated into an extreme form of Marxism. Mao’s ideologues justified this "adaptation" by ap-
plying the Marxist principle of dialectic materialism, i.e. that theory should guide practice,
and practice, in turn, should guide the improvement of theory. Simply put, they argued that
Marxism was a fundamental truth that could not be captured in its essence. Existing theories,
even those put forward by Marx himself, were only local adaptations of this fundamental
truth. Leninism and Stalinism should be regarded as Russian Marxism, Mao's thoughts as
Chinese Marxism, and the original paradigms put forward by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
as German Marxism.13 As Mao famously argued in his treatise "On Practice", practice comes
first, theory second.
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This application of dialectic materialism enabled divergence from classical Marxism
by making peasants, regarded by Lenin as a hindering force, and not workers, which were
few in China, the vanguard of the (Chinese) revolution. In a similar vein, interweaving the
development of Marxism with China's particular character gave rise to a pronounced nation-
alism that characterizes the Chinese regime to this day. Furthermore, the tactics of guerrilla
warfare that enabled the CCP to defeat the Nationalist forces gave Maoism a strong militarist
tinge. Putting "practice first" enabled Mao to "develop" Marxism and thereby use his own
theory to justify his policies as "historically correct". It also allowed him to justify the milita-
rization of society by invoking exactly those theories that he, himself, helped formulate. Ten-
ets that the Chinese were like an empty sheet of paper that one could write beautiful poems
on14, and that power originated from "the barrel of a gun"15 illustrate this strategy well.
The centerpiece of Maoism was the power of the masses. In China, totalitarianism
manifested itself in breaking the will of the population in "struggle sessions" held with regu-
lar frequency. In these sessions, individuals had to criticize themselves and others for past
failures, lack of revolutionary fervor, or reactionary thoughts. The individual was molded to
become part of a uniform collective force, theoretically, strong enough to move mountains. A
quote by Mao Zedong serves as a good illustration of this strategy:
But our aim in exposing errors and criticizing shortcomings, like that of a doctor cur-
ing a sickness, is solely to save the patient and not to doctor him to death. A person
with appendicitis is saved when the surgeon removes his appendix. So long as a
person who has made mistakes does not hide his sickness for fear of treatment or per-
sist in his mistakes until he is beyond cure, so long as he honestly and sincerely wish-
es to be cured and to mend his ways, we should welcome him and cure his sickness so
that he can become a good comrade. We can never succeed if we just let ourselves
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go and lash out at him. In treating an ideological or a political malady, one must
never be rough and rash but must adopt the approach of "curing the sickness to save
the patient", which is the only correct and effective method.16
3. Reigning by Terror
This "healing process" entailed physical and psychological suffering, as repression
played a major role in maintaining the CCP's hold on power during the Mao era. This began
with land reform, in which the landed gentry disavowed and their land distributed to the land-
less peasants. This process was very violent, and tens of thousands of landlords were killed.17
In the "Campaign Against Rightists" (1958) that followed Mao's invitation to criticize the
regime more than 300,000 intellectuals were branded as "rightists" and punished,18 among
them Deng Xiaoping, who would become the chief architect of China's regime consolidation
following the Tian'anmen uprising. The "Great Leap Famine" (1959-1961), which signalized
Mao's failure to catapult China into industrial leadership by militarizing industrial and agri-
cultural production, took the lives of millions of people, and estimates range between 17 to
46 million dead.19 As Felix Wemheuer has shown, these deaths were not only the result of
starvation: many people were beaten to death when they tried to flee their villages, on orders
by Party secretaries.20
As a result of this disaster, Mao's standing among the leadership strata became badly
tarnished. As a reaction to the famine, reformers in the CCP leadership reduced the size of
the largest collective farms and supported the formation of a light industrial sector. However,
the tables started to turn with the commencement of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Politi-
cally, the Cultural Revolution represented a coup of Mao Zedong and his supporters against
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the reform-oriented CCP elites unifying around Liu Shaoqi, the vice chairman of the CCP.
Propagating "class warfare" as the engine of China's future development, China soon de-
scended into social turmoil reminiscent of a civil war. Rivaling groups of "Red Guards",
overwhelmingly composed of students pledging allegiance to Mao Zedong, terrorized the
population, destroyed China's cultural heritage, and fought each other. Struggle sessions and
public torture of alleged counter-revolutionaries once more served as potent tools to enforce
conformity and get rid of political opponents. Political and legal institutions that had been
built up in the preceding decade were dismantled or suspended. Intellectuals and experts were
killed, tortured, or imprisoned. Institutionally, Mao ruled through newly established "revolu-
tionary councils" and was backed up by the military, the only state organization that re-
mained intact throughout the Cultural Revolution.21
4. The Atomization of Society
Mao Zedong made another theoretical innovation when he declared that class strug-
gles needed to be permanent. He proclaimed that classes continued to exist in Socialism, and
that the institutionalization of class struggle was necessary to maintain the dominance of the
proletariat. Ceasing to engage in class struggle would enable revisionist elements to re-
establish capitalism. In this way, Mao managed to turn himself into the eye of a political
storm characterized by changing coalitions and, with the exception of the military, frequent
changes in personnel. This shows that Mao did not rule by coopting an increasing number of
individuals into his “winning coalition”, but by pitching people against each other.
5. Economic Performance
With the exception of the early 1950s and the period of time between the end of the
Great Leap Famine and the Cultural Revolution, the performance legitimacy of the regime
was very likely non-existent. The attempt of the Mao regime to kick-start economic devel-
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opment by nationalizing private property, pooling private plots in The People’s Communes
and eliminating private markets failed and cost millions of lives in the process. In the coun-
tryside, millions of people starved to death, as shown above. In urban areas, people were ter-
rorized by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Hence, it is safe to say that the fear
caused by indoctrination and repression rather than performance legitimacy ensured the sur-
vival of the CCP regime.
Withdrawal of the State
1. Uncontrolled Growth and Rising Inequality
In the early 1970s, and more so after the death of Mao Zedong in September 1976, the
parameters of regime stability began to change. The role of the army had been strengthened
after it was ordered to disband the Red Guards in 1967 and 1968, and in 1969, it was an-
nounced that Marshal Lin Biao would succeed Mao Zedong if the latter stepped down or
died. However, factional strife began to tear through the leadership stratum, once again, and
this time coinciding with an external crisis in the form of the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict of
1969. Nonetheless, Mao Zedong prevailed at staying in power, allegedly averting assassina-
tion attempts and foiling a military coup. Several of the alleged plotters, including Lin Biao,
his wife, and his son died in a mysterious plane crash when trying to flee the country in Sep-
tember 1971.
Two months before, a secret visit by the United States’ National Security Advisor,
Henry Kissinger, marked the beginning reconciliation between the U.S. and China, as well as
China’s gradual opening to the world. Despite the ousting of Lin Biao, the leadership contin-
ued to be split into antagonistic camps. Nevertheless, repression against the general popula-
tion subsided, and the import of consumer goods from abroad signaled the waning ideologi-
cal influence of die-hard Maoism. The Communist Party state’s iron grip over society relaxed
even more after Mao Zedong passed away and the ultra-leftists were removed from positions
of authority shortly thereafter. Repression and ideological indoctrination relaxed, and left a
power vacuum that was soon filled by the forces of an unmitigated capitalism. The assump-
tion that guides the chapters in this volume is that of the mix of legitimization, cooptation,
and repression decides the survival of ideocracies, and rests on the implicit premise of a uni-
tary state, or at the very least, a state in which central and local administrations are bound by
the same aims. However, this premise is untenable for the case of China. Since cooptation of
social groups did take place between 1976 and 1989, we might be led to conclude that the
uprising of 1989 can be attributed to a lack of repression or indoctrination. As will be seen,
however, the weakness of the regime did not lie in a lack of cooptation, per se. Local gov-
ernments did coopt relevant groups into their respective realms of power, but while such co-
optation was sanctioned by the central government, the latter quickly lost control over the
process.
The same is true for performance legitimacy. Although China’s economy grew at
double-digit rates, local political-economic elites benefited disproportionately. The increase
of both inflation and corruption testifies to the lack of control of the central government over
the parameters of economic growth, and the Tian’anmen protests were not the last directed
against the unfairness and inequality that accompanied decentralized growth. Hence, the
common misconception that economic growth during the 1980s translated into performance
legitimacy needs to be reevaluated. As a matter of fact, economic development at that time is
characterized by decentralized and uncontrolled growth. Two indicators illustrate this argu-
ment: the economic relevance of state-owned (central) and township and village (local) en-
terprises, and the relationship between growth and inflation.
Figure 1 about here
As Figure 1 shows, the contribution of state-owned enterprises (SOE) to China's GDP
decreased after the mid-1980s, whereas the contribution of collective and private township
and village enterprises (TVE) increased at the same rate. The number of collective enterpris-
es, formally owned by the township government and the villager's committee, multiplied
from less than three million in 1983 to nearly 25 million only a decade later. At the same
time, the work-force increased from 30 million to almost 150 million, which means that TVE
absorbed about one third of the rural workforce. This development was initiated at the local
level and, though tolerated by the central government, lacked central control or even guid-
ance. Figure 2 makes this clear:
Figure 2 about here
Not only was China's economic growth between 1980 and 1993 extremely uneven,
but also accompanied by equally uneven inflation rates. First, the transition from controlled
to market prices and overproduction in China's townships and villages fueled inflation. Chi-
na's central bank reacted by reducing the flow of money and the availability of credit, thereby
reducing the value of investments. Eventually, inflation was brought under control, but only
at the price of a contracting economy. This type of economic liberalization, unfolding bot-
tom-up, and tolerated but not coordinated by the central government, benefitted a relevant
social minority comprised of officials and entrepreneurs. The marriage of power and politics
at the local level coopted important elites into the regime, and thereby insured its survival;
nevertheless, those factors also gave rise to corruption, factionalism, and inequality.22
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The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality on a scale of 0 to 1, increased rapidly
from 0.3 in 1978 to 0.42 in 1994.23 Income inequality increased from the level of the Nether-
lands to that of Kenya within less than two decades. Finally, the withdrawal of the state can
also be observed from the declining percentage of state expenditures in the GDP. In 1978,
government spending still amounted to 40 percent of the GDP. By 1994, the percentage
reached its lowest point of less than 15 percent.24 By 1987, the lack of ideological and politi-
cal vision in the central government, contradicting signs of how much freedom people would
have in the post-Mao era, and unhappiness with the government's performance more general-
ly, gave rise to student protests in many of China's cities, which were answered by a violent
crackdown on June 4, 1989.25
2. The Formation of Exchange Networks
The analysis of cooptation yields a very similar to that derived from the analysis of
performance. Whereas the central government was occupied with power struggles after the
death of Mao Zedong and of his popular prime minister Zhou Enlai in 1976, local govern-
ments entered a period of "economization of politics". In other words, after the newly formed
township governments and villager's committees had taken over the erstwhile communal and
brigade enterprises, many politicians became entrepreneurs. The difference between the two
classes all but vanished in rural China. Additionally, the approval of affordable credit by the
central and provincial governments benefited the formation of relationship-based exchange
networks, encompassing central and local-level politicians, but excluded the overwhelming
majority of the population, as evidenced by the rising Gini coefficient. Rather than the gov-
ernment coopting social groups, entrepreneurial politicians captured the local state. While
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338#[P8
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10'%+#\"%)T--Z#[PACD.#`"0W0&I#[PAP8
25 !""8#d"=,4012.#N20&%8
looking similar on the surface, there is a huge difference between the two. The former
strengthens the power of the state, while the latter weakens it.
3. Ideological Vacuum and Selective Repression
In terms of repression and ideological indoctrination, the years between 1976 and
1989 were also characterized by the withdrawal of the central government. The economic
politician Chen Yun, who had supported Deng Xiaoping in the early stage of economic liber-
alization, coined the famous metaphor of "crossing the river by feeling the stones". Placing
China in the “primary stage of Socialism” legitimized the reforms. This was not in conformi-
ty with Marx's Historical Materialism, which held that countries had to pass several stages
before reaching communism: slaveholder's society was followed by feudalism; feudalism by
capitalism; capitalism by socialism; and socialism by communism. China leapfrogging from
feudalism straight into socialism was not foreseen by this ideology. To remedy the problem
of violating the tenants of Marxism, party ideologues argued that China had to catch up on
what should have been its capitalist phase during socialism. Only after this catch up, which
might take decades, would China leave the primary stage and enter socialism proper.
Repression as a means to uphold CCP rule was used sparingly and intermittently be-
tween 1976 and 1989. For example, the authorities at first tolerated calls for democracy post-
ed on a "democracy wall" in 1978, only to later shut down the wall and imprison intellectuals
who had championed democracy in 1979. Additionally, before the rulers decided in 1989 to
violently suppress the student protests, they had looked on for two years. During this time,
the leadership was divided over the economic direction China should take. Leaders bridged
the divide, but only allied once a broad coalition of students, intellectuals, workers, and other
social groups gathered at Tian'anmen Square to demand political reforms. At this point in
time, China was similar to the modernizing dictatorships of Latin America, where a strength-
ened civil society questioned the legitimacy of a weak central state.26 The Chinese authori-
ties at first reacted by quelling the protests.
Consolidation
1. Social Security and Economic Transformation
After the subduing of protests occurred, a phase of consolidation set in. Institutional
reforms, a reemphasis on ideological indoctrination, and the fine-tuning of repression ad-
dressed the lack of central control in China. In terms of the categories at the heart of this vol-
ume, cooptation also increased, most notably in the form of allowing entrepreneurs to be-
come CCP members.
Inflation control and government revenue once again become key indicators for the
increase in performance legitimacy. Whereas uneven growth and inflation correlated between
1980 and 1994, growth stabilized from 1995 on. Inflation was reduced from almost 25 per-
cent to two percent between 1994 and 1997. At the height of the Asian Crisis in 1997, China
even registered deflation. Since then, the rate of inflation stabilized and surpassed five per-
cent only in 2008 and 2011. At the same time, government expenditures, as a percentage of
GDP, increased from less than 15 percent in 1997 to over 20 percent in 2010. Major tax re-
form from 1993 to 1994 helped increase the central government's share in tax revenue, previ-
ously 13 percent to nearly 55 percent in the years between 1993 and 1995.27 This illustrates
that the central government took more active control of monetary and fiscal policy, and that it
used this control to rein in inflation and enhance government capacity to distribute public
goods. In other words, China’s state capacity has improved, and the authorities employed this
capacity to enhance performance legitimacy.
The first indicator of enhanced state capacity is that the increase of revenue did, in-
deed, translate into the provision of previously unavailable public services. For example, the
26 !""#H(&10&I1-&.#J20)6#K%7".#338#EE8
27 *=&#'%+'(+%10-&#-&#T%,0,#-X#N20&%#!1%10,10'%+#\"%)T--Z.#[PAC8
financial burden of China's farmers drastically reduced after 199928, and the social security
systems extended to encompass this disadvantaged population group. Although compensation
levels for farmers remain below those of urbanites, and although the transfer of social securi-
ty contributions between city and countryside is still next to impossible, integrating China's
farmers into pensions, unemployment, health, and maternity insurance, as well as social wel-
fare, marks a significant achievement (see figure 3).29
Figure 3 about here
Since the beginning of the 21st century, coverage rates of China's social security in-
surance increased significantly, indicating that Chinese authorities addressed the problem of
(chronic) illness, the main reason for poverty in China. Nearly 98% of the population is now
covered by health insurance, and by 2020 coverage is expected to extend to every Chinese.30
Pension, unemployment, and worker’s accident insurance gradually extended. The
Social Security Law, which passed in 2011, decrees benefits for migrant workers and allows
for their integration into the social security systems. Transferring benefits still remains a
problem, as does the fact that benefit-size depends on the size of the individual contribution,
which tends to be low for blue-collar migrants. Social welfare spread to the rural areas as
well. In 2009, 50 million people with a rural household registration received social welfare
payments. This stands in stark contrast to 2005, when 20 million rural inhabitants received
only temporary help31 that on average yielded substantially, lower benefits. Needless to say,
China's social security system is very basic and is far from providing the level of benefits of
its European counterparts. Furthermore, China’s social security system is still plagued by
28 !""#N2)0,10%&#SkT"+.#J2"#;-+010',#-X#<()%+#<"X-)4#0&#N20&%9#!1%1"#;-+0'5#%&6#U0++%I"#;)"60'%4"&1#0&#12"#
V%)+5#[PPP,.#:T0&I6-&#[PAP8
29 !""#N2%Z#]=%&#N2%&#"1#%+8.#!-'0%+#;-+0'5#0&#N20&%9#/"7"+-34"&1#%&6#K"++#Q#T"0&I.#`)0,1-+#[PP>8
30 Figure 3 shows only the urban insured population. According to official statistics, the coverage rate of the
Rural Cooperative Medical System stood at 98.5% in 2012.
31 !""#N20&%#!1%10,10'%+#\"%)T--Z.#[PAC8
implementation problems and injustice. Nevertheless, in the span of a decade, China's popu-
lation, especially its rural subset, is now much better insured against life risks.
The second indicator for China’s enhanced state capacity is China's state-guided de-
velopment to a knowledge economy. As China is losing its comparative advantage, with re-
spect to the production of labor-intensive goods, the population suffers consequential job
losses and an underdeveloped domestic market. The CCP seeks to counter this trend by in-
creasing the capacity of China's innovation, development, and product market enterprises for
local and global demand. This is expressed not only by the drive towards "indigenous innova-
tion", which the CCP began promoting since the early 2000s, but also, more specifically, by
the increase in research and development (R&D) funding. Expenditures for R&D have in-
creased from 0.6 percent of GDP to 1.7 percent in 2009, with a significant part directly or
indirectly borne by the government.32
The third indicator of enhanced state capacity is how the government dealt with the
consequences of the world financial crisis. The Chinese economy depends to a high degree
on exports and the inflow of foreign direct investments, so the contraction of the global econ-
omy had very negative consequences for the Chinese labor market. 2008 saw mass layoffs
that targeted migrant workers, fueling concerns about potentially widespread demonstrations
in Guangdong Province and elsewhere in China. The Chinese government was able to miti-
gate the negative impact of the world’s economic contraction by injecting fresh money into
its economy, loosening credit restrictions on public and private interests, and releasing a
"stimulus package" of public investments adding up to 300 Billion Euros.33 Funds already
earmarked for reconstruction efforts in those areas affected by the Wenchuan earthquake that
32 !""8#N20&%#!'0"&'"#%&6#J"'2&-+-I5#R&60'%1-),#<","%)'2#:,,-'0%10-&.#!'0"&'"#%&6#J"'2&-+-I5#!1%10,10',#
-X#N20&%#@ABB>G[PAPD.#`"0W0&I#[PAA8
33 !""#M0I%&I#M0(.#R43%'1#-X#12"#S+-T%+#d0&%&'0%+#N)0,0,#-&#N20&%9#V430)0'%+#V706"&'"#%&6#;-+0'5#R43+0'%Q
10-&,8#0&9#N20&%#q#K-)+6#V'-&-45.#A?#@[PPBD#F.#338#AG[C8
same year were also counted into the package, which explains the official figure of 400 bil-
lion Euros.
Thereby strengthening its reliance on domestic product, China’s economy continued
to grow in spite of the economic crisis experienced elsewhere in the world. Six years after
these measures were introduced, the lingering "hard landing" predicted by many experts has
not occurred; however, it remains uncertain if these investments are sustainable. A combina-
tion of skyrocketing local government debt between 2009 and 2013 and the very real possi-
bility of real estate bubbles, all consequences of the quick release of cheap money, are chal-
lenges faced by the present leadership. Although the hard landing might yet occur, it is a mat-
ter of fact that the Chinese government faced the challenges of the World Financial Crisis
head-on, averted the most immediate dangers, and has thus far successfully managed to avert
a financial meltdown.
2. From A Worker's Party to a Mass –Based Party
If cooptation in an authoritarian regime is defined as the integration of a person or a
group of persons in a clientelist distribution network to include elements of coproduction,
then we once more find significant differences to the phases discussed so far. Coproduction
means that citizens are directly integrated into the production of public services. In this way,
participation takes the place of paternalism, thereby relieving some burden from the govern-
ment. Such "empowerment" can help produce legitimacy because the government does not
regulate each aspect of life in a hierarchical fashion.
In the early 1980s and again at the end of the1990s, government aim focused towards
reactivating, or even creating, local communities that vanished in the course of moderniza-
tion. In China's villages, the administration of everyday issues is now delegated to semi-
democratically elected villager's committees, whose bandwidth of power lacks the ability to
pass laws, because villages are not a recognized part of China's formal administrative struc-
ture. Village elections are conducted with a high degree of variation and competiveness. The
large number of existing studies on village elections suggests that higher-level authorities
regularly intervene in the selection of candidates, the calculation of election results, as well as
procedures to recall village leadership. Nevertheless, the implementation of elections has
been steadily extended to cover all of China. Problems in their quality notwithstanding, elec-
tions have become an important instrument of rural interest groups for claiming their legal
rights against corrupt or low-quality village leaders.34 In this way, China's peasants are partly
integrated into the regime and instrumental for control against corruption at China's grass-
roots.35
In urban neighborhoods, measures have also been taken to help relieve the burden of
local governments. For example, tasks like handling social welfare applications, offering lei-
sure activities for elderly citizens and the social integration of unemployed people have been
transferred to the neighborhood level. As these examples show, such reforms are aimed at
managing and controlling China's less fortunate social strata. Urbanites belonging to the up-
per and middle classes know little about their own neighborhood committees, because they
seldom come in contact with each other. Their interests are represented by more powerful
organizations with a higher degree of autonomy such as homeowners' committees or func-
tional interest associations.36 The instrumental implementation of social forces to arrive at
the government's aims can also be observed with respect to non-governmental organizations.
As Figure 4 illustrates, the number of registered social and non-profit organizations doubled
between 2001 and 2008.
Figure 4 about here
34 !""#]"70&#^8#*l`)0"&b#M0%&W0%&I#M0.#<0I21X(+#<",0,1%&'"#0&#<()%+#N20&%.#N%4T)06I"#[PPF8
35 !""#<0'2%)6#`%(4b#:+"_"0#!2"7'2"&Z-.#J2"#m!1%1"#-X#12"#!1%1"o8#0&9#$")+"#S-+64%&b#<-6")0'Z#$%'d%)Q
e(2%)#@"6,8D.#J2"#;%)%6-_#-X#N20&%l,#;-,1#Q#$%-#<"X-)4,.#N%4T)06I"#ABBB.#338#CCCGCFP8
36 !""#J2-4%,#H"T")")b#N2)0,10%&#SkT"+.#J2"#;-+010',#-X#N-44(&015#`(0+60&I#0&#a)T%&#N20&%.#:T0&I6-&#
[PAA.#'2%31")#?8
At present, there exists roughly 500,000 registered social and non-profit organiza-
tions. Of relevance in Figure 4 is not only the increase in the number of such organizations,
but also the uniformity of this increase throughout the years illustrated. This consistency is
rooted in the high degree of control that the Ministry of Civil Affairs exerts on the composi-
tion and growth of social organizations by means of very strict registration rules. The majori-
ty of these organizations are devoted to overwhelmingly apolitical issues like social services
and environmental protection. Governments at all administrative levels often support such
organizations and sometimes even coopt them into the maze of mass organizations affiliated
with the CCP.37 In contrast, organizations promoting issues that are considered political
might find it next to impossible to register with the government and are frequently subject to
harassment by public security interests.
Legal institutions also serve to incorporate the population into the regime, but calling
this “cooptation” would mean stretching the concept. As figure X shows, the number of ad-
ministrative law cases increased steeply during the time span under discussion. Whereas such
cases numbered less than 10,000 in 1989, more than 100,000 people filed lawsuits against
administrative procedures in 2008.38 This increase illustrates that a higher number of people
is willing to engage in conflicts with the state through legal channels established by that state.
This presupposes a certain amount of trust in these institutions and the party-state itself. Simi-
larly, the gradual encroachment of the government apparatus into economy and society can
also be interpreted as cooptation. By means of making economic transactions and the provi-
sion of social services subject to rules and regulations imposed by the government, these fac-
tors become increasingly dependent on the administration and the government.
37 !""#J2-4%,#H"T")").#N20&%9#N)"%10&I#N070+#!-'0"15#!1)('1()",#J-3#Q#/-=&#Y#0&9#`)(&-#^-T")1b#`"%1"#
]-2+")#Q#]-'2#@"6,8D.#N2%&I0&I#R4%I",#-X#N070+#!-'0"159#d)-4#;)-1",1#1-#S-7")&%&'".#:T0&I6-&#[PP>.#338#
>?GAPc8
38 !""#N20&%#!1%10,10'%+#\"%)T--Z#[PAC8
In contrast, the relationship between the regime and entrepreneurs represents a classi-
cal example of cooptation. While private entrepreneurship had been forbidden under Mao,
the CCP in 2003 officially recognized entrepreneurs as a "productive force". Not only did the
CCP extend its claim to social representation to the bourgeoisie it had so bitterly fought, but
it also enabled entrepreneurs to become CCP members.39 The close relationship between
money and power has thus been legitimized ideologically. Changes in the membership struc-
ture (which characterizes rejuvenation), increasing education levels and higher incomes, il-
lustrate well that the CCP now aims at coopting social elites, presumably with the purpose of
improving governance and making these groups follow the party line.
3. Selective Repression
When analyzing the role of repression for maintaining regime stability, an important
distinction must be made between exerting and building up capacities for repression. The
former has not significantly increased after 1989 and has mainly been exerted selectively,
meaning that obedience to the regime is not based in the first instance on the fear of repres-
sion. China's repression apparatus, in contrast, has increased both in power and sophistica-
tion.
The fact that the Chinese government chiefly relies on infrastructural power and per-
formance legitimacy for maintaining regime stability does of course not imply that repression
has ceased to play a role. The effective containment of mass protests in Tibet (2008), Xin-
jiang (2009), and Inner Mongolia (2011) illustrates that the Chinese government continues to
regard selective repression as a legitimate means for upholding stability. The imprisonment
of human rights lawyers, critical intellectuals, provocative artists and political opponents in
the run-up to important political events like the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the leadership
39 !""#^-2&#K8#M"=0,b#r("#M01%0.#!-'0%+#N2%&I"#%&6#;-+010'%+#<"X-)4#0&#N20&%9#$""10&I#12"#N2%++"&I"#-X#
!(''",,8#0&9#J2"#N20&%#s(%)1")+5.#cC#@[PPCD#A?F.#338#B[FGBc[8
change 2012 constitute further examples. Although regime stability is not based on repres-
sion, its capacity to repress grows and becomes more sophisticated.
The regime's increase in capacities for repression is mirrored in four developments.
The first is the steady increase of government expenditures for public security. Whereas local
governments allocated only around two percent of their budgets to public security, this per-
centage had increased to 6.4 percent by 2009. It should be noted, however, that the variation
underlying these expenditures at the province level is substantial. In 2009, Gansu province
allocated only 4.62 percent of budgetary expenditures to public security, but the correspond-
ing figure for Guangdong province was more than twice this large.40
A second development is the decentralization of public security. An important docu-
ment passed by the CCP's Central Committee in 2003 decreed, among others, that the quality
and quantity of grassroots security organizations should be raised. This resulted in an in-
crease of dispatch stations from 37.978 in 1990 to 52.000 in 2004, and of armed police from
680.000 in 1978 to 1.43 million in 2004.41 Hence, one part of the increase in expenditures is
allocated to improving the security infrastructure, for example, outlays for personnel, con-
struction and renovation. Another part of these funds is allocated into the modernization of
the public security apparatus. This informs the third and fourth trend.
The third trend is the centralization of information relevant to maintaining public se-
curity, which complements the decentralization of the security organs. Concrete figures are
unfortunately not available. However, government documents and reports suggest that the
central government is building up a database to which local security organs will contribute
information, with access rights that can be flexibly adjusted. Improving the "management of
society" is part of the 12th Five-Year Plan, one aim being the improvement of statistical
analysis of security-relevant big data to enable the identification of risks and the prevention
40 *=&#'%+'(+%10-&#-&#T%,0,#-X#N20&%#,1%10,10'%+#\"%)T--Z.#[PAC8
41 !""#f2-&II(-#d%_("2(0.#f2-&II(-#X%+t#&0%&W0%&#@N20&%#M%=#\"%)T--ZD.#`"0W0&I#AB>PG[PPE8
of "catastrophes" - the latter category including mass protests.42 In a speech depicting visions
regarding the “management of society”, Hu Jintao revealed that the government was in the
process of establishing a database containing personal and employment information of every
Chinese citizen.43 Such data and improved channels of communication between security or-
gans are to systematically improve the regime’s rapid response capabilities.
The fourth trend is the creation of data with the help of digital surveillance instru-
ments. In a report on the Chinese government’s “Golden Shield”, the “adoption of advanced
information and communication technology to strengthen central police control, responsive-
ness, and crime combating capacity”44, Greg Walton showed that the government not only
employs digital communication technologies for controlling and censoring the Internet. In
fact, Walton’s research suggests that the plan was to create a veritable panoptic: Beijing’s
Golden Shield surveillance network is intended to be able to ‘see’, to ‘hear’, and to ‘think’.”45
Just as filtering technologies help improve control of the Internet, speech signal processing
can automatically detect pre-defined content in telephone calls and even match words and
phrases to persons. CCTV cameras help control traffic, but can also used to prevent crime,
detect mass gatherings, and recognize faces and unusual behavior. China already hosts the
largest network of CCTV cameras worldwide, and the seamless integration of such cameras
will enable the authorities to follow people’s movements in real time.
By no means are these technologies applied everywhere and at the same time. The
public security infrastructure is subject to great variation, because the need for and ability to
finance high-tech surveillance depends on the local context. In wealthy regions, where social
42 !""#!1%1"#N-(&'0+#-X#12"#;"-3+"l#,#<"3(T+0'#-X#N20&%.#S(-#W0%#L2-&I#'2%&I#e0#Z"_("#2"#W0,2(#X%L2%&#I(0Q
2(%#I%&I5%-#@[PPFG[P[PD#@*(1+0&"#-&#N20&%l,#$"60(4Q#%&6#M-&IQJ")4#;)-I)%4#X-)#!'0"&'"#%&6#J"'2Q
&-+-I5#/"7"+-34"&1#@[PPFG[P[PDp#O%10-&%+#/"7"#+-34"&1#%&6#<"X-)4#N-440,,0-&.#f2-&I2(%#)"&40&#
I-&I2"I(-#I(-40&#W0&IW0#2"#,2"2(0#X%L2%&#60#,20")I"#=(#&0%&#I(02(%#I%&I5%-#@[PAAG[PAED#@A[12#X07"Q
5"%)#I(06"+0&",#X-)#12"#&%10-&%+#"'-&-40'#%&6#,-'0%+#6"7"+-34"&1#-X#12"#;"-3+"l,#<"3(T+0'#-X#N20&%#
@[PAAG[PAED.#`"0W0&I#[PAP8
43 !""#H(#^0&1%-8#0&9#<"&40&#<0T%-.#[P8#d"T)(%)#[PAA.#38#A8
44 S)"I#K%+1-&.#N20&%l,#S-+6"&#!20"+69#N-)3-)%10-&,#%&6#12"#/"7"+-34"&1#-X#!()7"0++%&'"#J"'2&-+-I5#0&#
12"#;"-3+"l,#<"3(T+0'#-X#N20&%.#$-&1)"%+#[PPA.#38#F8
45 RT068.#38#AE8
mobility and the influx of migrant labor have contributed to the camouflage of social rela-
tions, the deployment of high-tech surveillance technology is more likely than in poor re-
gions, where “traditional” neighborhoods have remained at least partially intact. Here, social
technologies like mutual-control, the deployment of voluntary informants and self-discipline
can substitute high-tech solutions.46 Because of the danger of ethnic tensions, minority re-
gions represent a third group. Although below average revenue, they tend to invest a signifi-
cantly larger part of their expenditures into public security than non-minority counterparts at
a similar development level.
4. Culture and Indoctrination
As Anne-Mary Brady illustrates, the year 1989 represented a turning point also with regard to
China’s propaganda system. She points out that according to conservative elites, the neglect
of “thought work” in the early 1980s benefited the spread of democratic ideas that China’s
students used to justify their protests.47 Brady quotes Deng Xiaoping with the following
statement made at a session of the Politbureau’s Standing Committee shortly after the 1989
crackdown: “[O]ur gravest failure has been in [political] education. We did not provide
enough education to young people, including students. For many of those who participated in
the demonstrations and hunger strikes it will take years, not just a couple of months, of edu-
cation to change their thinking.”48 In the years following 1989, the government for this rea-
son further limited the freedom of expression and focused propaganda work on producing
convincing narratives explaining China’s development at present and in the future.
At first, this effort translated into the modification of Marxist ideas discussed above,
the aim being the ideological justification of fusing Socialism with market liberalization.49 In
a similar vein, the propaganda authorities reacted to the fact that the rapid spread of the Inter-
46 !""#H"T")")#b#SkT"+.#;-+010',8
47 !""#:&&"Q$%)0"#`)%65.#$%)Z"10&I#/0'1%1-),2039#;)-3%I%&6%#%&6#J2-(I21#K-)Z#0&#N-&1"43-)%)5#N20&%.#
M%&2%4#[PP>.#38#cA8
48 RT068.#38#cE8
49 !""#0T068.#338#c>8
net endangered their monopoly of explaining the logic behind social, economic and political
developments. Media organizations were instructed to not cover sensitive issues as long as
they were not discussed on the Internet. However, if suppressing negative news was not
deemed possible, then official media were to proactively report on them according to the
specifications by the propaganda department.50
Official narratives should not be static, but be tailored to the experiences and prefer-
ences of certain social groups. For example, Heike Holbig illustrates that the regime shifted
its claim to legitimacy from propagating abstract mentalities to the more populist formulation
of performance benchmarks in the form of short-term and medium-term development goals.51
If these goals are attained, then the central government can claim responsibility. If not, then
lower-level administration can be blamed for not properly implementing the central govern-
ment’s orders. However, propaganda work does not only entail gaining support through the
production of convincing narratives. Another, more general aim is to convey norms and val-
ues that benefit regime stability. Examples are concepts and topics deemed sensitive in au-
thoritarian regimes such as freedom, democracy and human rights. In contrast to other au-
thoritarian regimes, such terms are generally not banned in China. Rather, the Chinese propa-
ganda authorities imbue these terms with their own definitions based on allegedly “collec-
tive” values, which are juxtaposed to the “Western” or “individualist” values underlying the
contested concepts. More precisely, they highlight the existence of an indigenous develop-
ment model that puts the group before the individual and that is rooted in the country’s
“5.000 year old history”.52
In contrast to other authoritarian regimes, terms like democracy, freedom and partici-
pation are not taboo in China’s public discourse. Yet the meaning of these terms does not
50 !""#O8O8.#0&9#O"0#T(#1-&I#_(&.#@[PPCD#A>.#338#cGFp#O8O8.#R&9#O"0#T(#1-&I#_(&.#@[PPCD#A[.#338#cGB8
51!""#H"0Z"#H-+T0I.#R6"-+-I0'%+#<"X-)4#%&6#;-+010'%+#M"I0104%'5#0&#N20&%9#N2%++"&I",#0&#12"#;-,1#Q#^0%&I#V)%8#
0&9#J2-4%,#H"T")")b#S(&1")#!'2(T")1#@"6,8D.#R&,101(10-&%+#N2%&I"#%&6#;-+010'%+#N-&10&(015#0&#N-&1"43-Q
)%)5#N20&%.#M-&6-&#[PP>.#338#ACGCc8
52 !""#!1%1"#N-(&'0+#R&X-)4%10-&#*XX0'".#`(0+60&I#-X#;-+010'%+#/"4-')%'5#0&#N20&%.#`"0W0&I#[PPE8
correspond to their original liberal democratic conceptions. For example, in China “democra-
cy” is not interpreted as a value in itself, but specifies a participatory mechanism that can be
used to arrive at non-democratic goals as well.53 Hence, it is no coincidence that concepts,
which seemingly are diametrically opposed to China’s authoritarian rule, often surface in the
Chinese discourse. By imbuing normative concepts with an alternative meaning more com-
patible with the values underlying One-Party rule, the negative impact of these terms is miti-
gated when they are used as discursive weapons to fight the authoritarian character of the
regime. For example, if a discussion between supporters and opponents of the regime is
based on different conceptions of democracy, then it becomes difficult to discuss how demo-
cratic China is. Such a discussion might rather turn into a debate on cultural imperialism, for
example if anyone can be said to “own” a normative concept, and if the Chinese conception
of democracy should have the same validity as the “Western”, liberal-democratic one. If the
“Western” counterpart in such a discussion denies this, then it becomes easy to accuse him or
her of a lack of tolerance and, by extension, of not being a true democrat.54
In July 2008, China’s propaganda work was further strengthened. CCP General Secre-
tary Hu Jintao stressed the necessity of not only improving propaganda narratives, but also
persuading the populace to adopt CCP-sanctioned values.55 It is no coincidence that the “re-
form of China’s cultural system” had been put at the centre of the sixth plenum of CCP’s
17th Central Committee in October 2011, which served as a roadmap for the 18th Central
Committee under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping.56 In his 2008 speech, Hu
stressed that the Chinese population was developing an increasing need for varied and high-
53 !""#\(#]"30&Ib#\%&#^0%&.#$0&#L2(#,20#I"#2%-#6-&I#_09#\(#]"30&I#X%&I#1%&#+(#@/"4-')%'5#0,#%#I--6#120&I9#
/0,'(,,0&I#=012#\(#]"30&I#D.#`"0W0&I#[PPF8
54 !""#X-)#"_%43+"#\(#]"30&I.#<%&I#40&L2(#L%-X(#f2-&II(-#@J-#"&)0'2#N20&%#T5#6"4-')%'58#/0,'(,,0&I#
=012#\(#]"30&ID.#`"0#W0&I#[PP>.#38#EF8
55 !""8#H(#^0&#1%-.#0&9#<"&40&#<0T%-.#[C#@[PP>D#^%&(%).#38#A8
56 !""#f2-&II-&I#f2-&I5%&I#I(%&5(#,2"&2(%#="&2(%#10L20#I%0I"#1(06-&I#,2"2(0L2(50#="&2(%#6%X%L2%&#
6%X%&)-&I#)(-I%&#L2-&I6%#="&10#6"#W("60&I#@/"'0,0-&#-X#12"#NN;#N"&1)%+#N-44011""#-&#,-4"#043-)1%&1#
e(",10-&,#'-&'")&0&I#6""3"&0&I#12"#)"X-)4#-X#12"#'(+1()%+#,5,1"4#%&6#3)-4-10&I#12"#I)"%1#6"7"+-34"&1#
%&6#I)"%1#X+-()0,20&I#-X#,-'0%+0,1#'(+1()"D.#`"0W0&I.#[PAA8
quality information, and that it was the CCP’s task to react to these needs. The media and
culture sector should provide attractive cultural goods; at the same time, public opinion was
to be guided by education and propaganda. In other words, the government should attempt to
regulate demand and supply in a way conducive to CCP rule.57 In concrete terms, the gov-
ernment decreed that the Chinese “culture industries’” contribution to GDP should increase
from 2.75 percent in 2011 to five percent in 2016.58
Empirical findings suggest that such measures can indeed stabilize the regime. A
number of different opinion surveys, among which the well-known World Values Survey,
show that more than 70 percent of China’s population trust China’s central government. John
James Kennedy furthermore provides evidence that the education system and the media are
indeed responsible for the formation of this attitude.59 Applying the McGuire exposure-
acceptance model to the World Values Survey, he shows that level of education and media
consumption correlates with support of the CCP. However, his findings also suggest the limi-
tations of propaganda and education in their impact on regime support: once people’s educa-
tion reaches high school and above, regime support tends to decrease.
Summary and Evaluation
The consolidation of the Chinese One-Party regime is expressed in a changing rela-
tionship between legitimation, cooptation and repression as strategies for maintaining CCP
rule. Whereas the totalitarian Mao regime based its rule mainly on the combination of repres-
sion and indoctrination, Mao’s successors made far less use of these instruments. The fact
that the power vacuum that emerged after the death of Mao was not filled with higher per-
formance legitimacy or an increase in cooptation benefited the emergence of social resistance
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against the regime. To this, the regime authorities reacted by concurrently strengthening all
four pillars. Mainly broadening and deepening social security and enhancing economic per-
formance enhanced the performance of the regime.
At the same time, the regime strengthened the propaganda apparatus, so as to create
an ideological foundation for the extension of China’s market liberalization and to increase
popular support for the CCP. The strategy of coopting a growing number of social groups
into the regime was executed at the same time. However, this kind of cooptation was rather
marked by the stimulation of co-production than by integrating powerful elites into relation-
ship-based exchange networks. Although these initiatives seem to have met with broad popu-
lar approval, the central government did not relinquish the use of repression--in fact, it steadi-
ly expanded its surveillance capacities and its public security apparatus.
Regarding the broader implication of these findings, the results from the present anal-
ysis diverge significantly from the theoretical expectations formulated in the introduction to
this book. The first hypothesis, i.e. that “as long as citizens and elites in ideocracies believe in
the ideological promises they are willing to accept deprivations”, cannot be tested, because
ideological indoctrination has nearly always coexisted either with repression or good eco-
nomic performance. An independent effect of ideology can thus not be observed, but it
should be pointed out that deprivations did meet with complaints both in the 1950s and from
the 1970s onward. Second, the related hypothesis that the non-fulfillment of great ideological
promises would lead to an increase in cooptation can also not be confirmed for the Chinese
case, as regime crises were mainly met by repression.
Third, deficits in legitimation and cooptation during the Mao era did indeed correlate
with a high degree of repression. However, it remains unclear if this indeed signifies a causal
relationship. The Mao regime made ample use of systematic repression even when the legit-
imacy of the regime seemed to be high. Additionally, not all population groups were simulta-
neously targeted by repression--first came landlords, and then intellectuals, and finally every-
one suspected to be a “counter-revolutionary”.
Fourth, the hypothesis that a reduction of hard and open repression correlates with
enhanced efforts at coopting strategically important elites can be confirmed only partially and
if cooptation is understood very broadly. Recall that from the early 1970s on, the regime was
characterized by a power vacuum that lasted several years and was at first filled by an alli-
ance of entrepreneurs and local cadres. Attempts by the central government at coopting rele-
vant actors only followed much, i.e. two decades, later.
Finally, the hypothesis that a decrease in the belief in the regime’s legitimizing narra-
tive can be compensated by “loyalty on the basis of cooptation and output legitimacy” fits the
Chinese case much better than the other theoretical tenets.
A final remark pertains to the viability of the conceptual framework underlying the
present monograph. The fact that the postulated compensation mechanisms have only very
limited explanatory power for the Chinese case can likely be explained by weaknesses in the
concept and not, as could also be argued, by China being a deviant case. As the analysis has
shown, the framework’s chief weakness lies in the notion of “cooptation”. First, cooptation is
a fuzzy concept that needs to be carefully defined and operationalized to avoid conceptual
stretching. For example, do pro-poor policies qualify as performance legitimacy, even if
powerful social groups, as cooptation, or neither, oppose them? In the case of increased and
balanced public outlays, can a whole society be co-opted? Without a proper delineation, the
term is of very limited usefulness. A second weakness pertains to the underlying premise of
authoritarian regimes being unitary constructs. As this analysis has demonstrated, a notion of
cooptation that cannot account for different efforts at the central and local levels, and for co-
optation as a form of state capture, might lead to the wrong conclusions.
What is instead needed, but not provided by any of the three concepts that underlie
the analyses in the present volume is a measure of the central government’s ability to main-
tain control both over society and lower-level politicians and bureaucrats. A helpful category
that should perhaps replace “cooptation” is “infrastructural power”, defined as “the capacity
of the state to penetrate civil society, and to implement logistically political decisions
throughout the realm”.60 This entails variables such as a government’s capacity to extract
and reallocate taxes and to ascertain that its local agents in all parts of a country follow its
orders. The trinity of repression, normative legitimation and infrastructural power has served
well to make sense of the political development of authoritarian regimes, and in addition al-
lows drawing parallels and making comparisons to similar processes in democratic regimes.61
Future research must resolve these conceptual tensions.
60 Mann, Michael. ‘The autonomous power of the state. Its origins, mechanisms and results’, Archives,
Europ ́eennes de Sociologie 25(2), 1984: 185213.
61 Göbel, Christian. Authoritarian Consolidation, European Political Science 10, 2011, S. 176-90
FIGURES
Figure 1: Contribution to GDP by ownership form, 1978-1994
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, various years
Figure 2: GDP Growth and inflation, 1980-2013
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, various years
Figure 3: Contributors to social insurance systems, 1989-2012 (million persons)
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, various years
Figure 4: number of registered social and non-profit organizations, 2001-2012
Source: China Statistical Yearbook, various years
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