Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 18, Issue 3

Robert Harmel and Alexander C. Tan, "One-party rule or multiparty competition? Chinese attitudes to party system alternatives" Party Politics, 18 (May, 2012), 337-347. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
Recent literature on the current status of the Communist Party in China - whether scholarly or in mass media - generally agrees on one important fact: the party has faced serious challenges, both ideologically and organizationally, since at least the onset of market reforms in the late 1970s/early 1980s (e.g. see Chen, 1999: 210-12; Dickson, 2003: 45-9, 54-5; Rosen, 2009: 365; Shambaugh, 2008: 3, 174; Young, 1998: 112-30). In response, the Chinese leadership has taken steps to strengthen the party and its position once again, involving 'party-building', 'rectification' and 'improving style' (Young, 1998: 111; see also Dickson, 2003: 55 ff.; Nathan, 2003: 13-14; Shambaugh 2008: 168-9, 174). In addition to attempting to regain lost legitimacy by developing a new party vision for the new China - whether 'Three Represents' or 'Socialist Harmonious Society' or something else - the party's leaders have not lost focus on what Shambaugh calls 'the core themes that all Chinese rulers since the Self-Strengtheners of the 1870s have advocated: attaining wealth and power (fu-qiang); enhancing nationalism and international dignity; and preserving unity and preventing chaos' (2008: 168-9).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Bivariate correlation between dependent and independent variables
Table 2. OLS regression results for 'one party is best for China'
Table 3. OLS regression results for 'multiple parties bring chaos'

Last Paragraph:
Finally, what do these analyses have to say regarding prospects for democratization in China? The most truthful answer may be 'not much', given the apparent ability of Chinese citizens to separate attitudes towards democracy from attitudes towards the one-party system. Analysing 2006 Asiabarometer data for China, Tang et al. (2009) found that agreement/disagreement with the statement 'No opposition party should be allowed to compete for power' produced 'consistently low factor loadings' on all four of their factors tapping democratic attitudes: democratic procedure, democratic affection, authoritarian leadership and civic culture. Regardless of Chinese citizens' attitudes towards or conceptions of democracy, attitudes towards the one-party system apparently have little to do with them.

Last updated August 2012