Asia Program

China after Jiang

In the new Woodrow Wilson Press publication China after Jiang, Gang Lin of the Asia Program and other leading China scholars tackle the trends and transitions in contemporary Chinese politics.

Jul 29, 2003

China after Jiang

Edited by Gang Lin and Xiaobo Hu

The world’s most populous nation has a new leadership. Jiang Zemin’s retirement and Hu Jintao’s coronation as Party general secretary and state president initiated the first power transition in the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that was unprompted by either the death of the top leader or a political crisis. This seemingly smooth transition provides a window into other, even more basic features of the Chinese polity. Informed by documents released around the time Jiang Zemin left office in November 2002 and interviews with Chinese officials, the authors of China after Jiang use the occasion of political elite change to get at more fundamental institutional changes, both those under way well before Jiang stepped down and those still urgently needed if China is to remain stable and prosperous in the 21st century. Underneath their analyses lies an assumption that, while personalities come and go, institutions survive.

As a consequence, ideology, the issue of legitimacy, rule making and breaking, Party governance, the use of state power for economic ends, state-society relations, and decision making in foreign policy loom large in this book. What are the linkages between ideology and institutions? How have shifts in the concept and meaning of property rights influenced China’s development? Will China’s new bosses be able to perpetuate the Party’s monopoly on political power by partially democratizing the Party—in effect, using democratic means to sustain a non-democratic system of governance? In what manner will the politics of elite succession color Chinese decision making in the foreign policy and national security arenas? How does one best understand the nature of contemporary Chinese society? These are important questions that extend far beyond the usual review of China’s leadership transition.

China after Jiang portrays a potentially unstable China in desperate need of strong institutions to bring order and regularity to the country. Whether Hu Jintao and his “fourth-generation” colleagues will succeed in providing those institutions and their concomitant stability is one of the large question marks hovering over China’s future. This volume, by forcing us to think of politics as something more encompassing than mere personalities, offers the student of China a surer understanding of the present. It also makes it possible for us to speak with somewhat greater confidence about the future of what will surely be one of the great powers of the 21st century.

Contributors to China after Jiang include Gang Lin of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Xiaobo Hu of Clemson University, Lowell Dittmer of the University of California at Berkeley, Richard Madsen of University of California at San Diego, and David Bachman of the University of Washington. This volume is a logical and timely follow-up to an earlier collaboration by Xiaobo Hu and Gang Lin, Transition towards Post-Deng China (Singapore University Press, 2001).

To order this publication please visit the Wilson Center Press web page.

Experts & Staff