The Party’s Over? Economic Reform and Institutional Decay

  • Gordon White


At the beginning of the reform era, the Communist Party, the central core of the Chinese political system, was itself in crisis. It could look back over two decades of bitter political strife not merely among the central leadership but between individuals and groups at each level of the Party organisation, down to the grassroots. The institution bore the scars of this heritage in terms of continuing personal and factional animosities and a general lack of political self-confidence and identity. Party leaders saw the economic reforms as a way to recoup political credibility both for themselves and for the Party as an institution. However, the difficult process of implementing the new economic strategy and the potential longterm dangers it posed to the fundamentals of state socialism presented the Party with a major challenge which, at the dawn of the reform era, it was ill-prepared to tackle. Alongside the reforms, therefore, there was a parallel attempt to rebuild the Party and reshape it for its new role.


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    Zhao Ziyang, ‘Advance along the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics’, Beijing Review vol. 30: no. 45 (9–15 November 1987), section V.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Douglas Gordon White 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon White
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Development StudiesUniversity of SussexUK

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