Communiqué: Governance and Politics of China

May 6, 2011
Communiqué: Governance and Politics of China
Anthony Saich discusses the third edition of Governance and Politics of China with the Virtual Book Tour

By Kate Hoagland – Communiqué: Spring 2011, Volume 8

China’s accelerated economic growth and elevated global profile – as demonstrated by lavish spectacles like the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo 2010 – support predictions that the country is here to stay as a major world power. In the recently published third edition of Governance and Politics of China, Ash Center Director and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs Anthony Saich offers an assessment of contemporary politics of the People’s Republic of China. He explores how China has become an emerging power, analyzing particular policy choices and aspects of the country’s history and structures of state socialism that have hindered or facilitated its reform program.

The book explores questions of governance in post-Mao China, addressing the relationships between different levels of government and demystifying the power structure between central and local governments including cities and provinces. Saich contends that many in the West hold a common misconception that central government is able to seamlessly dictate policy to outside provinces; in fact, most local governments operate independently and often implement policies that run counter to the central government’s agenda.

The book also delves into specific policy areas that have proven challenging to China’s government in the modern era. Despite China’s rapid economic growth as the world’s third largest economy, moves toward a market-based economy and the global recession have aggravated tensions between communist and capitalist identities. In addition to economic policy, the country is grappling with new social policies. The book looks at the country’s work on health care reform and new plans to move away from a debatably inegalitarian welfare and benefits system to one that is more citizen-based. Environmental policies are also addressed, including the global impact of China’s energy demand and the environmental sustainability of the country’s business model.

“Will China’s political system as it is currently structured be durable over the next 10 to 20 years? Eventually, I think this vibrant growing economy will become more open and pluralistic in response to social pressures and massive urbanization, but the question is what form will it take,” said Saich.

“Delving deep beneath the institutional façade of China’s formal political structures and processes, Anthony Saich describes how China is actually governed on the ground,” said Richard Baum, University of California. “Combining scholarly analysis with personal insights he has produced a lively, readable study of China’s profound – and profoundly painful – transition from Mao to Market. Its title alone suggests that this is a textbook of a different stripe.”