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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

This content is available to you

Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

This content is available to you

Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

This content is available to you

Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

This content is available to you

Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

The shift to the modern world took its initial form in Europe where a unique constellation of economic, social, cultural and political processes ushered into being the world of natural science, industry, states, nations and mass societies. The form of life was very dynamic, and it encouraged both domestic intensification and global expansion. When European traders reached China their demands slowly undermined the long-established, agrarian-based, bureaucratic feudal system centred upon the emperor. The collapse of the system was slow. European powers were crucial players, with their insistent demands for free trade and familiar recourse to violence to secure their goals. The Chinese elite’s eventual choice of a form of modernity was signalled by the 1911 Revolution. However, the revolution was beset by problems: there were internal divisions, a continuing foreign presence and, finally, civil war and outright foreign military invasion. The Chinese elite’s embrace of modernity only found effective form in the 1949 Revolution, the establishment of a party-state system and the creation of New China. It is the nature of the shift to the modern world that informs the logic of politics in China, and the argument presented in this book will contextualize contemporary Chinese politics in this fashion, granting that the present is the out-turn of events in the past and turning to spell out institutional forms (the party-state), political-cultural understandings (the national past, collective memory and the realms of everyday life) and patterns of policy action (ideas-in-practice). In this way the book will unpack the logic of politics in China.
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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a mix of external pressures from foreign traders and empire builders coupled to domestic structural change, including economic and social change along with an insurrectionary opposition, brought down the governing Qing regime. This ushered in a lengthy period of turmoil within China. The newly formed Republic of China was not a success, and those people with ideals, seeking progressive change, were sorely disappointed. Warlord violence followed, and it was not until the late 1920s that a semblance of order was secured in the period of the Nanjing Decade. That period too was suffused with the violence of civil war and, a little later, outright inter-state war with Imperial Japan, an exchange later subsumed within the Second World War. As matters unfolded the end of the international wars ushered in a period of renewed civil war, finally resolved only in 1949 with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. This route to the modern world has shaped contemporary China, and in various ways these events have fed into collective memories, in turn, shaping, in part, the ways in which the elite and mass conceive their futures.
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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

The period 1937–49 wreaked havoc on China. For some eight years the country was swept by continuous warfare involving numerous combatants: the Japanese, the Kuomintang, the Communist Party, assorted warlords, local regional wartime states and Americans forces. In 1949 the formal declaration of the People’s Republic of China marked the Chinese Communist Party elite’s embrace of this inherited chaos; it was the starting point for their work in rebuilding China. The events of the civil war, the military victory of the armies of the CCP in 1949 and the subsequent difficult pacification of the country established the overall shape of contemporary China, that is, New China. The domestic establishment of a state-socialist system combined both successes and failures: the creation of an effective state machine, the expulsion of foreigners and the achievement of a measure of social order and economic recovery plus the costs of inaugurating these programmes, the latter exemplified by the events of the Great Leap Forward. Then, in a wider international context, the reactions of the elite of the USA to the so-called loss of China were negative and helped usher in the business of cold war in East Asia. This general political environment plus the Korean War along with subsequent tensions around Taiwan and wars in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, reinforced the perceptions amongst the Beijing elite that they had, perforce, to fight for their revolution against domestic opponents and foreign enemies.
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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

The final phase of Maoist-style state-socialism saw the fall of the ‘Gang of Four’ and the rapid ascent to power of Deng Xiaoping, who was a long-time elite player in the Chinese Communist Party and was styled a pragmatist. Deng inaugurated a reform programme. It had a number of elements including agricultural reforms, urban reforms and diplomatic reforms that opened China to the wider global system. Crucially, the state-directed planned economy was reformed, and aspects of a competitive, market-oriented system were progressively introduced. Special Economic Zones were established in coastal sites. These reforms enjoyed rapid success and gathered pace down the years. There were also expectations of political reforms, but these were abandoned after the 1989 Tiananmen Square debacle. But Deng’s reforms opened the way for rapid development, producing a mix of sought for rapid economic and social change along with an associated spread of familiar problems such as uncoordinated development, corruption and pollution. In total these reforms can be read as the Beijing elite embracing a variant of the East Asian developmental state model of development, state-directed growth for national development, and it is a model that became entrenched and followed by subsequent leaders. These reforms lifted millions from poverty, made China an emergent great power and cost the country in terms of environmental pollution, widespread corruption and the persistence after a number of domestic protests of a restricted political sphere.
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Sabrina C.Y. Luk and Peter W. Preston

The economic and social reforms of recent decades have propelled China to the front rank of states; the domestic economic record is without parallel, and the achievements of the period were celebrated internationally at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, change is never straightforward, and success has been accompanied by some failures: headlong economic growth has been accompanied by sweeping social changes and ordinary people have had to adapt to ever changing circumstances; it has been attended by environmental problems (widespread and severe pollution); it has been attended by extensive corruption in the machineries of the party-state (and thereafter more widely through the economy and society); and headlong growth has been attended by growing inequality. The party-state leadership has declared that it will address some of these problems. The government of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabau acknowledged the problems of rural China, and more recently President Xi Jinping’s government has stressed combating corruption. These are headline moves, but reform has been unfolding for many years, and this chapter turns to the record of accumulated success in reform and to the contemporary agendas of policy makers inside China.