Minxin Pei:China's Governance Crisis

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  Foreign Affairs.New York :Sep/Oct 302.Vol.81,Iss.5;pg.96

  Subjects:Political power,Political parties,Reforms,Budget deficits,Corruption in government,Fiscal policy


  China is facing a hidden crisis of governance.The future of China,and theWest's interests there,depends critically on how Beijing's new leaders deal withthis somber reality.China's "dot communism ,"characterized by the marriage ofa Leninist party to bureaucratic capitalism with a globalist gloss,has merelydisguised ,rather than eliminated these contradictions.The previously hiddencosts of the transition have begun to surface.Further change implies not simplya deepening of market liberalization but also the implementation of political reformsthat could endanger the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP )monopoly on power.Thecentral cause of the declining effectiveness of the Chinese state is a dysfunctionalfiscal system that has severely undercut the government's ability to fund publicservices while creating ample opportunities for corruption.If the new leadershipaddresses the institutional sources of poor governance,the CCP may be able tomanage its problems without risking political upheaval.

  Predicting the outcome of China's upcoming leadership succession has becomea popular parlor game in certain Washington circles.The curiosity aroused by thetransition is understandable,given the huge stakes involved for the world's largestcountry.If all goes well ,the Chinese Communist Party(CCP )is scheduled toselect a new and younger leadership at its Sixteenth Party Congress this fall.Theincumbent CCP general secretary ,76-year-old Jiang Zemin,may step down and bereplaced by China's Vice President Hu Jintao,who is 59.The all-powerful PolitburoStanding Committee will see most of its members retire,as will the important CentralCommittee.In addition,Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji is to step down in March,andLi Peng ,the leader of the National People's Congress (the country's legislature),may be heading for the exit as well.

  In a country ruled largely by man ,not law,succession creates rare opportunitiesfor political intrigue and policy change.Thus,speculation is rife about the composition,internal rivalries,and policy implications of a post-Jiang leadership.The backgroundsof those expected to ascend to the top unfortunately reveal little.By and large,the majority of new faces are technocrats.Some have stellar resumes but thin records;other front-runners boast solid experience as provincial party bosses but carrylittle national clout.

  In any case ,conjectures about the immediate policy impact of the pendingleadership change are an exercise in futility ,because Jiang will likely wieldconsiderable influence even after his semiretirement.A truly dominant new leadermay not emerge in Beijing for another three to five years.And regardless of thedrama that the succession process might provide ,a single-minded focus on powerplays in Beijing misses the real story:China is facing a hidden crisis of governance.This fact ought to preoccupy those who believe that much more is at stake in Beijingthan a game of musical chairs.

  The idea of an impending governance crisis in Beijing may sound unduly alarmist.To the outside world,China is a picture of dynamism and promise.Its potentialmarket size ,consistently high growth rates ,and recent accession to the WorldTrade Organization have made the Middle Kingdom a top destination of foreign directinvestment($46billion in 301),and multinational corporations salivate atthe thought of its future growth.But beneath this giddy image of progress and prosperitylies a different reality——one that is concealed by the glitzy skylines of Shanghai,Beijing ,and other coastal cities.The future of China,and the West's intereststhere ,depends critically on how Beijing's new leaders deal with this somber reality.

  dot communism and its discontents

  China's current crisis results from fundamental contradictions in the reformsthat it has pursued over the past two decades ——a period that has seen the amazingtransformation of the communist regime from one that was infatuated with class struggleto one obsessed by growth rates.This "dot communism,"characterized by the marriageof a Leninist party to bureaucratic capitalism with a globalist gloss ,has merelydisguised ,rather than eliminated ,these contradictions.But they are growingever harder to ignore.The previously hidden costs of transition have begun to surface:Further change implies not simply a deepening of market liberalization but alsothe implementation of political reforms that could endanger the CCP's monopoly onpower.

  These emerging contradictions are embedded in the very nature of the Chineseregime.For example ,the government's market-oriented economic policies ,pursuedin a context of autocratic and predatory politics ,make the CCP look like a self-serving,capitalistic ruling elite ,and not a "proletarian party"championing the interestsof working people.The party's professed determination to maintain political supremacyalso runs counter to its declared goals of developing a "socialist market economy"and "ruling the country according to law,(点击此处阅读下一页)

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