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The Dictator's Dilemma: The Chinese Communist Party's Strategy for Survival

Bruce J. Dickson



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Oxford University Press
30 July 2018
History; Asian history; 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000; Political science & theory
Many observers predicted the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, and again following the serial collapse of communist regimes behind the Iron Curtain. Their prediction, however, never proved true. Despite minor setbacks, China has experienced explosive economic growth and relative political stability ever since 1989. In The Dictator's Dilemma, eminent China scholar Bruce Dickson provides a comprehensive explanation for regime's continued survival and prosperity. Dickson contends that the popular media narrative of the party's impending implosion ignores some basic facts. The regime's policies may generate resentment and protest, but the CCP still enjoys a surprisingly high level of popular support. Nor is the party is not cut off from the people it governs. It consults with a wide range of specialists, stakeholders, and members of the general public in a selective yet extensive manner. Further, it tolerates and even encourages a growing and diverse civil society, even while restricting access to it. Today, the majority of Chinese people see the regime as increasingly democratic even though it does not allow political competition and its leaders are not accountable to the electorate. In short, while the Chinese people may prefer change, they prefer that it occurs within the existing political framework. In reaching this conclusion, Dickson draws upon original public opinion surveys, interviews, and published materials to explain why there is so much popular support for the regime. This basic stability is a familiar story to China specialists, but not to those whose knowledge of contemporary China is limited to the popular media. The Dictator's Dilemma, an engaging synthesis of how the CCP rules and its future prospects, will enlighten both audiences, and will be essential for anyone interested in understanding China's increasing importance in world politics.
By:   Bruce J. Dickson
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 22mm
Weight:   526g
ISBN:   9780190692193
ISBN 10:   0190692197
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   30 July 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Bruce J. Dickson is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Chair of the Political Science Department, and Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

Reviews for The Dictator's Dilemma: The Chinese Communist Party's Strategy for Survival

Dickson's refreshing book reminds us not to look too far ahead but to pay attention to the current realities in China, where rising incomes and an adaptive Chinese Communist Party are providing good enough governance to keep the show alive. He is neither optimist nor pessimist but something better: a realist. The Dictator's Dilemma should be widely read. * Bruce Gilley, Associate Professor of Political Science, Portland State University and author of The Nature of Asian Politics * No topic is more hotly debated in the China field than the subject of democratization: Will China finally embark on a process of democratization-or be pushed into one? Dickson looks at the way the Chinese government generates support and suppresses dissent, the way it has evolved in response to societal change, and the attitudes of Chinese citizens to come to the level-headed conclusion that democratization, though possible, is unlikely. He also provides the sober warning that governmental breakdown does not always lead to democracy. The Dictator's Dilemma should be read by all interested in democratization. * Joseph Fewsmith, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University and author of The Logic and Limits of Political Reform in China * The Dictator's Dilemma is that rare example of impeccable scholarship and highly readable prose. Bruce Dickson draws on remarkable nationwide surveys conducted in China before and after the leadership transition in 2012 to unpack sources of support and prospects of survival of the Chinese one-party state. In so doing, Dickson challenges many assumptions that have become conventional wisdom. * Melanie Manion, Professor of Political Science, Duke University and author of Information for Autocrats * A clear-headed, very useful guide to what the world can hope, fear, and expect as China's system faces an unprecedented set of challenges. * James Fallows, author of China Airborne *

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