Pragmatikeren & Kejseren: Policyprocessen 1978-1989 og 2012-2023

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Sune Wittrup Guldbæk Nielsen
4. semester, Historie, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
With China emerging as, not only an economic superpower but also a highly influential political one, more so than ever an understanding of China’s political and economic system seems necessary. Western research, however, seems to have maintained an implicit bias in the domain of historical and political research – the implicit assumption of the moral and utilitarian superiority of Western-style liberal democracy and capitalism. China, at least for now, seems to have challenged the preconceived notion, that “authoritarian” one-party states can’t maintain political stability, and that economic growth, especially amongst the middle class, begets political liberalization and democratization. To understand not only the process as it exists right now, one must however also analyze its changing structure throughout history. The “opening up” period, under Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s represents the beginning of the China that is today – the superpower of the modern global economy.
We conclude that an understanding of China and its economic and political system in general, must begin at the specific – the bureaucratic policy structure. Through an analysis of this changing process during the Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping administrations, we can, through several case studies, see an emerging pattern of increased top-down control within the policy process in comparison to the Deng administration – so called “Top-level Design”, which on the surface seems in diametrical opposition to the “crossing the river by feeling the stones” that has characterized China since the Deng era. While Deng, through a process of economic decentralization and liberalization, sought to move China away from the ideological straight jacked, that characterized it during the Mao era. The era of Xi can instead be characterized by political recentralization in both the policy process and civil life in general, as well as a shift in focus from economic growth for the sake of it to so-called “holistic development”.
We also conclude that this process both at the top of the hierarchy and further down, is driven by both structural systems and individual personalities. There is no bureaucracy without Deng and Xi, and there is no Deng and Xi without the Chinese bureaucracy. Thus, an emerging narrative appears – The political and economic system of contemporary China, understood through the lens of the policy process, exists within a dialectic encompassing both the structural and the individual element. This involves both leadership figures at the top of the CCP, as well as individual policy entrepreneurs further down the bureaucratic structure.
Simultaneously we conclude that the success of these reforms both in the policy process and within the political economy, in general, is not in spite of but because of the CCP and the system encompassing it. An attempt to discredit the validity and success of the Chinese system by appealing to the (perceived) “universality and superiority of liberal democracy”, will only further alienate China from the West, and lead to future incorrect hypotheses regarding China and its future.

Udgivelsesdato31 maj 2023
Antal sider58
ID: 532417764