Economic Transition and Political Legitimacy in Post-Mao China

Ideology and Reform

By Feng Chen

Subjects: Chinese Studies
Paperback : 9780791426586, 246 pages, September 1995
Hardcover : 9780791426579, 246 pages, September 1995

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Table of contents


List of Tables


Chapter 1. Introduction

The Role of Ideas/Ideology

Ideology versus Economic Development: The Goal Conflict

Alternative Explanations

Analytical Framework

The Fundamental Principles versus Instrumental Principles

The Fundamental-Instrumental Discrepancy and the Legitimacy Crisis

The Organization of This Book

Chapter 2. The Ownership System before the Reform: Its Rationale

The Dominance of Public Ownership: Its Rationale

The Ownership System in Pre-Reform China

Chapter 3. Theoretical Adjustments: The "Practice Criterion" and the "Criterion of Productive Forces"

Remodeling Mao Zedong Thought: Hua Guofeng's Failure

The Debate on the Criterion for Truth

The Practice Criterion and the Guiding Role of Marxism

The Practice Criterion versus the Political Criterion

The Primacy of Practice: Significance and Limitations

Revolution versus Production

The Criterion of Productive Forces

The Revival of Historical Materialism

The Criterion of Productive Forces and the Preliminary Stage of Socialism

The Criterion of Productive Forces and Capitalistic Practices

The Criterion of Productive Forces: Its Significance and Implications

Chapter 4. Agricultural Decollectivization

The Agricultural Ownership System: Performance and Problems

The Emergence of the Contract System and Ideological Controversy

Redefining the Contract System: Expedient Measures versus Alternatiave Organization

The Legitimization of the Individual Household Contract

The Long-Term Contract: Its Implications

The IHC and the Land System: The Search for New Alternatives

Predicament and Limitations: An Uncertain Future

Chapter 5. Reforming State Ownership

Problems of China's State Ownership before the Reform

State Ownership as an Issue of Management

State Ownership as an Issue of State-Enterprise Financial Relationships

State Ownership as an Issue of Separation of Ownership and Control

State Ownership: The Property Rights Problem

The Shareholding System

Chapter 6. Justifying the Private Economy

The Urban Individual Economy: An Initial Step toward Privatization

The Private Economy as a Supplement to Socialist Economy

The Private Economy as an Agent of Modernization

The Private Economy as an Alternative Economic Instituttion

Reconciling the Socialist System and a Private Economy: A Problem Unsettled

Chapter 7. The Distribution Issue in the Economic Reform

Egalitarianism: Theory and Practice

Rehabilitation of "To Each According to His Work"

The New Dimensions of Distributional Inequality in Rural Areas

The "Rich First" versus Common Prosperity

The Emergence of Urban Distributional Inequality

Justifying a Market-Driven Distribution of Income

The Conflict between Ideology and Practice: What are Its Solutions?

Chapter 8. Conclusion

Marxism and Underdeveloped Socialism

The Irreconcilability of the Fundamental-Instrumental Discrepancy under Communist Systems

The Fundamental-Instrumental Discrepancy and Ideological Transformation




Traces the role of ideas in Chinese economic reform from 1978 to the present, exploring the conversion of China's policymakers to capitalist economic thinking.


Tracing the role of ideas in Chinese economic reform from 1978 to the present, this book explores the conversion of China's policymakers to capitalist economic thinking. Chen argues that the reform process has created a gap between the legitimacy of the leadership, which remains rooted in Marxist-Leninist ideology, and the practice of reform, which has abandoned such ideological constraints. Through a systematic survey of party documents and resolutions, official publications, leaders' speeches, academic journals, and newspapers, Chen shows how Chinese policymakers reconceptualized the ownership system and adjusted related policies. Focusing on a number of economic policy issue areas such as state economy, rural reform, privatization, and income distribution, he analyzes in depth the implications of this gap for the current Chinese leadership and the future of China's political development.

Feng Chen is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Upsala College.


"This book discusses an important topic—how economic reforms have undermined the Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy—that many scholars have mentioned in passing but which no one, to my knowledge, has examined as systematically as this author. The contradiction between necessary reform and maintaining the party's legitimacy is one of the most important aspects—possibly the single most important aspect—of contemporary Chinese politics. " — Barrett L. McCormick, Marquette University

"The first serious study on the role of ideology in China's economic reform, it adds something important to the emerging literature on the Chinese reform period. " — Zhiyuan Cui, MIT

"This book is well written and persuasively argued. It makes an important contribution to the field and is likely to be adopted in a number of undergraduate courses on Chinese politics. " — Joseph Fewsmith, Boston University