Should we anticipate the collapse of the CCP or coming Chinese dominance? Matteo Dian argues that China’s Challenges, a new collection of essays by twelve respected scholars edited by Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein, situates itself between these polar perspectives by exploring the pressing economic, social and political concerns of contemporary China. China’s Challenges gives the reader a sense of the complex issues that the Chinese elite are currently confronting following the rapid economic development of the last thirty years.

This book review has been translated into Mandarin by Marion Blachere (Mandarin LN240, teacher Lijing Shi) as part of the LSE Reviews in Translation project, a collaboration between LSE Language Centre and LSE Review of Books. Please scroll down to read this translation or click here.

China’s Challenges. Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein (eds). University of Pennsylvania Press. 2015.

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China's ChallengesChina is facing a number of daunting and complex challenges. The extraordinary pace of economic development experienced over the last thirty years has fundamentally transformed Chinese society, altering the distribution of wealth, relations between citizens, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the state as well as the Chinese role in Asia and in the rest of the world.

China’s Challenges is edited by Jacques deLisle, Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Avery Goldstein, Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China and author of Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security (2005). They have gathered together twelve of the most respected scholars in the field to reflect on China’s most pressing problems. In so doing, they have produced an informative, nuanced and sophisticated picture of the myriad challenges generated by the high-speed economic development China has experienced over the last three decades.

The twelve chapters constituting China’s Challenges deal with economic, social and political issues, including three chapters dedicated to foreign and security policies. The chapters on domestic concerns, whilst providing a tour d’horizon of different issues such as the necessity of rebalancing of the economy, demographic challenges, the reform of the hukou system and corruption, tend, at least implicitly, to reflect on two general questions: will the fifth generation of leaders be able to manage the magnitude and the complexity of these issues; and will reaching the next stage of reform, including giving a fundamental role to the market and to the rule of law, entail putting into question the present political structure?

China's Challenges imageImage Credit: CCP Members Marking the Convening of the 18th National Congress (Wikipedia Public Domain)

The responses provided by the volume are mixed. Chapters on social issues describe an increasingly critical situation and imply that the Party will encounter growing difficulties in facing contemporary challenges such as inequality, ageing and internal migrations. Jane Duckett and Guohui Wang, for instance, stress how inequality represents a fundamental danger for the CCP since it has created a number of ‘developmental losers’ – such as rural dwellers forced to relocate, middle-aged manual workers and unskilled female labourers – who see their income as well as their social status damaged by capitalist modernisation and economic growth.  This might undermine the legitimacy of the regime. Similarly, Zai Lang and Yong Cai highlight how the marginalisation of significant social groups such as internal immigrants (the floating population) and ‘single bachelors’ can amplify these risks.

The section dedicated to economic policies tends to allow Chinese policymakers more room for manoeuvre, admitting that the future of the Chinese economic system, as with the future of the country’s political system, will be determined by key choices taken by Beijing’s leadership. Yasheng Huang reaffirms his established argument, stating that the post-Tiananmen leadership has reversed the pro-countryside policies that had characterised the early reform era. The process of the return of the state (guojin mintui) during the Jiang and Hu eras has favoured the urban economy –  typically more reliant on the state and less innovative – and has contributed to make inequality worse.  The key challenge for the fifth generation in this respect is the reduction of the role of the state-controlled sector in favour of private enterprise.

In addition, Barry Naughton considers impending policy choices as key to the future of China’s economic and social system. The hypergrowth phase – based on the export-led model, cheap labour and favourable demographic conditions – might come to an abrupt end, as has previously happened to Japan and the Asian Tigers. Chinese policymakers should equip the country for more balanced growth, rooted in consumption and a less intrusive role for the state.

These cited authors, as well as other contributors such as Melanie Manion and Daniela Stock, have the merit to reject both the theory of the coming collapse of the CCP, recently embraced by David Shambaugh amongst others, and triumphalist visions of the Chinese rise proposed by those such as Martin Jacques in his book, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order (2009).

Many of the challenges that the CCP has faced are structural in nature and will require long-term, costly adjustments in terms of economic and social policies as well as in terms of the Party’s capacity to adapt to these new conditions. The majority of the contributors highlight the main obstacle on the way to reform: the nature of the Party itself and the sources of its legitimacy.  The end of hypergrowth will not simply require rebalancing to an economic model based more on consumption than investments and exports. It will also demand the reconstruction of the Party’s legitimacy around the consolidation of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the inclusion of those, such as internal immigrants, who have been cut off from present developments. In order to achieve these results, the Party should accept diminished control over society and the economic system.

China’s Challenges is a really valuable book, not just because amongst the contributors appear several of the most authoritative scholars in the field. Most importantly, it gives the reader a sense of the magnitude and complexity of the task that the Chinese elite is facing.  While China evolves at an astonishing pace, policymakers need to rethink both the economic and political recipes that guided them as well as to convince their own people that, together with economic growth, the Party is able to maintain its legitimacy and solve new and pressing problems such as inequality, ageing and environmental degradation.


Matteo Dian  is a Research Fellow at the School of Political Sciences,  University of Bologna and an Academic Visitor at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He is author of The Evolution of the US-Japan Alliance: The Eagle and the Chrysanthemum (Elsevier, 2014) and co-editor of The Chinese Challenge to the Western Order (FBK Press, 2014).

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


书评:《中国的挑战 》 Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2015.

Review translated by Marion Blachere (Mandarin LN240, teacher Lijing Shi).

中国正在面临艰巨和复杂的挑战。过去三十年经历的巨大经济发展的步伐根本地改变了中国的社会 – 改变了财富的分配,公民关系,中国共产党和国家, 以及中国在亚洲与世界上的地位。

中国的挑战》是 Jacques deLisle和 Avery Goldstein编选的。前者是 宾夕法尼亚大学东亚研究中心的主任, 后者是当代中国研究中心的主任与 《接受挑战: 中国的强大战略与国际安全(2005) 》的 作者。 为了仔细考虑中国的紧迫问题,他们聚集了该研究领域的12位最受 尊敬的学者。 从而能够翔实,细致,精密地描绘中国近三十年来的飞速经济发展中经历的的数不清的挑战。

中国的挑战》的12章着墨于经济,社会和政治事宜,其中包括三章关注外交和安全政策。有关国内问题的章节,在提供不同问题 ( 例如经济再平衡的必须性,人口结构挑战, 户籍制度的改革和贪污腐败) 的简要回顾的同时,含蓄地指向两个问题的考虑:第五代的领袖能否解决这些问题的重要性和复杂性;及先前的政治结构会否为实现下一轮的改革,包括发挥市场和法治根本的作用, 这就意味着对现在的政治体制提出了质疑。

Image Credit: CCP Members Marking the Convening of the 18th National Congress (Wikipedia Public Domain)

本书所提供的回答不一。 关于社会问题的章节描写了一种越来越严重的情形并暗示中 国共产党会争对更加突出的困难,例如社会不平等,老龄化和国内移民。又如,Jane Duckett 和 Guohui Wang 强调为什么社会不平等代表中国共产党最根本的危险。 因为社会不平等已导致了 “发展的失败者” ,比如被迫迁移的农村居民 ,中年体力劳动者和低技能的女性劳工。 他们都认为自己的收入和社会地位为被资本主义现代化和经济发展所破坏。这有可能会逐渐削弱政体的合法性。 Zai Lang 和 Yong Cai 也提出了社会群体边缘化的问题,例如内部移民(流动人口) 与 “光棍” 都会增加这些风险。

而专门讨论经济政策的章节倾向于给中国决策者更多调整空间,承认中国经济体制和国家政治体制的未来会由中央领导层的主要选择来决定。Yasheng Huang 重申他一贯的论点,宣称天安门事件之后的领导层反转了对乡村有利的政策。江及胡年代中的“国进民退”对城市经济更有利;而一般城市经济更依赖国家,也缺乏创新,且让社会越来越不平等。第五代领导人在这方面的主要挑战是要减少国有企业的作用,并扶持私营企业。

另外, Barry Naughton 论证中国经济和社会的体制成功的关键在于即将到来的政策选择。中国经济的超速发展期 –  基于以出口为主的模式, 廉价劳动力和 有利的地理资源  – 可能濒临结束, 正如此前发生在日本及“亚洲老虎” 上的那样。中国决策者应让国家准备好去迎接更平衡的发展;这种发展根植于消费的增长和更少的政府干预。

上述作者和跟别的撰稿者(例如 Melanie Manion 和 Daniela Stock)的观点有一定价值。他们既否定了 David Shambaugh 等人对中国共产党面临崩溃的看法,也否定了Martin Jacques 在其书中( When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order ) 对中国崛起的高度乐观的看法。

中国共产党应对的很多挑战实际上是结构性的,从经济和社会政治以及中国共产党适应这些新环境的能力来看,是需要长期,高成本的经济社会政策调整。大部分的撰稿人提出政党本来的性质与它的合法性来源就是改革的主要障碍。随着经济超速发展阶段的结束, 需要回归到一种基于消费而非基于投资和出口的经济模式。也需要政党来通过法规再重建它的合法性,比如,反腐及考虑那些没有从改革中得到红利的弱势群体(如,农民工)。为了实现这些目标,政党应该减少它对社会和经济体制的掌控。

《中国的挑战》这本书非常好,不仅因为撰稿者是该领域中的最有权威的学者,而且使读者们了解中国精英所面对的任务的重要性和复杂性。随着中国的快速发展, 政策制定者必须反思其经济及政治的政策。以这些政策为指导并通过经济发展来说服人们:中国共产党有其存在的合法性,并解决新的和紧迫的问题 (例如, 社会不平等,老龄化和环境退化)。

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