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China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation Paperback – 3 Feb 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (3 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520260074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520260078
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 581,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Sobering but illuminating... Exciting to read." New York Review Of Books 20100930 "Provides one of the best accounts yet of the post-1989 reinvention of the Chinese Communist Party." Huffington Post 20091108 "Fascinating study." -- Anthony Saich Political Science Quarterly 20090422 "A valuable addition to the debate on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the prospect of political change and societal stability in China... A page turner, well researched and informative." Journal Of Asian Stds 20090501

About the Author

David Shambaugh is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the China Policy Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. He has written and edited many books, including Modernizing China's Military: Progress, Problems, and Prospects (UC Press, 2004) and Power Shift: China and Asia's New Dynamics (UC Press, 2005).

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Format: Paperback
You thought it was impossible to know what is going on in the Chinese corridors of power? Think again.

This book breaks new ground with detailed and in-depth research of Chinese-language sources. Unlike many China books, there's no recycling here as David Shambaugh delves into the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). So this is a book not for the casual reader, but for those who are deeply interested in finding out what drives China from the inside.

Conclusions? The Chinese leadership is trying to learn from its own and others' (e.g. the Soviets') mistakes, and create solid long-term policy to enable the CCP to hold onto power and to maintain the stability of the Chinese state. This means that the Party is paradoxically in a process of "atrophy and adaptation" allowing it to become "a new kind of political hybrid" - an "eclectic state" that cherry picks policies out of the failings and successes of other states.

Highly recommended for both amateur and professional sinologists.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Prof. Shambaugh dispels the myth that China has reformed its economy without reforming its politics. In fact, China has had plenty of political reform -- just not of a sort westerners like.

The Chinese Communist Party is not a sitting duck waiting for a peasants' revolt to topple it. Far from convincing the Party that they are on the wrong side of history, the collapse of the USSR has given them an instructive lesson in how to avoid the same fate. This is a book about about the lessons they've learned, and how they're putting them into practice to ensure a red future.

It is not a book about Chinese politics in general, nor even about the government, but more specifically about how the Party, as an organisation, has reinvented itself in the twenty years since the Tiananmen incident. (It was fascinating to read that New Labour was one of its role models!)

It's non-technical and an easy read -- you don't have to be a China scholar to enjoy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Is the CCP fit for survival? 11 May 2008
By J. Michael Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, predictions that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was next became in fashion. While the "pessimists" have made careers predicting chaos, fissiparous dissolution or a military takeover in China, the "optimists" have argued that a democratic spring is just around the corner. In most instances, those prognostications were predicated on a monolithic CPP that is little more than a Chinese version of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

In China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation, David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy program at George Washington University, argues that the CCP has been anything but complacent since the fall of the Soviet Union and that, above all, its principal objective has been to ensure its survival.

Little known to most, the CCP and the various academic centers that fall under its purview have expended a tremendous amount of intellectual capital studying the many variables that, combined, resulted in the collapse of the CPSU and other communist governments around the world. In fact, by looking at systemic causes (economic; political/coercive; social/cultural; international), Chinese analyses of what went wrong for the Soviet Union were far more thorough than Western accounts, which tended to see Mikhail Gorbachev as the principal cause of the CPSU's demise. In China's view, the Soviet apparatus had become far too atrophied, too top-heavy, not flexible enough and too dogmatic, while Gorbachev's intervention came too late, too fast, and in many ways was misguided, as it sought to emulate the Western model. As such, rather than the proximate cause of the Soviet Union's implosion, Gorbachev was its trigger (this partly explains why former leader Zhao Ziyang, whose "humanist" views echoed Gorbachev's, was quickly sidelined following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989).

Beijing's curiosity, Shambaugh shows, went much further than the Soviet Union and included surprisingly detailed comparative assessments of other former communist states, surviving ones -- North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba -- the "Color Revolutions" in the Central Asian republics, noncommunist, single-party states like Singapore and Malaysia, European socialism, and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in China in the 1940s and in Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s. Furthermore, those efforts were far more than abstract intellectual inquiry; rather, they were undertaken "for very specific and practical reasons: to anticipate what generic challenges to the CCP may arise."

Based on the lessons learned, the CCP has embarked on a reactive and proactive strategy of "dynamic stability" to perpetuate its power, and unlike claims to the contrary, has demonstrated an impressive capacity for adaptation and far more flexibility and open-mindedness than it has been credited for. It has also shown that, rather than a monolithic, atrophied entity, the CCP has gradually shifted its policies in line with the economic development of the country and its effect on the demands of the population. Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents" and Hu Jintao's "Scientific Development" and "Sociality Harmonious Society" paradigms show a progression in thought and greater attention -- especially under Hu and Wen Jiabao, who, unlike the "coastal" Jiang, worked in the interior provinces -- to the needs of the masses.

To meet the increasingly complex challenges of a developing China, the CCP has also professionalized itself, sought, with some success, to fight corruption, and streamlined its ranks.

Consequently, the 16th Party Congress in 2002 experienced its highest turnover of party members ever and resulted in the most educated CPP in the party's history. Guided by the "Decision of the CPC Central Committee on Enhancing the Party's Ruling Capacity" (2004), the party also implemented a series of unprecedented reforms at the ideological and organizational levels, introduced mechanisms, or "Opinions," to evaluate party cadres, and imposed mid-career training.

Despite all this, the challenges to the CCP are rife. As China transforms, the top-to-bottom penetration of society under a Leninist system has become more difficult to achieve. Social and professional organizations that operate outside the CPP have proliferated, and as communist ideology loses its appeal with the masses and the private sector becomes increasingly independent, party committees have lost their strength as the sole source of legitimacy and purveyance. Rather than crack down or turn back the clock as we would expect of a monolithic authoritarian system, however, the CCP has chosen to experiment with consultative models (the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress) and tentatively introduced democracy within the party. It has also increasingly turned Marxist ideology, which the population sees with growing cynicism, into a more nationalistic discourse, and let reality guide ideology rather than the other way around.

There are, however, certain areas where CPP thought has remained inflexible. Its fear of China becoming a "bourgeois vassal state" and paranoid view of the US continues to inform its policies on mass media and non-governmental organizations, which it sees as Trojan Horses meant to topple it -- a view that was reinforced by its assessment of the "Color Revolutions." The CCP has also retained its zero-sum relationship with civil society and zero tolerance for organized opposition outside the party. As the challenges brought about by China's industrialization and rapid development will only increase, the failure to allow more diversity in the political sphere -- in other words to democratize outside the party -- may very well be the seeds of the CPP's demise, and the 60 to 100 years it says are needed before democracy can be fully implemented may just be too long a wait for a population whose demands, expectations and awareness will continue to grow.

But as Shambaugh demonstrates in this rich and extremely helpful guide to how the CCP has viewed itself and the world since the spring of 1989, we should not underestimate its capacity to see the challenges ahead and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the perpetuation of its rule. While the author's views of the CCP's successes -- especially when it comes to ethnic minorities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs -- may be overoptimistic, his book nevertheless makes predictions of the CCP's inexorable collapse less plausible.

(Originally published in the Taipei Times on May 11, 2008, page 14.)
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A razor-sharp analysis of the survivability of China's Communist Party 8 Feb. 2009
By Hubert Shea - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Professor Shambaugh goes on great length to researching survivability of an authoritarian regime that has prospered for years in the Asia Pacific region.

For the previous two decades, a group of leading political specialists including Roderick MacFarquhar (Harvard University), Richard Baum and Susan Shirk (University of California), and Gordon G. Chang have predicted the fall or protracted stagnation of the China's communist party (CCP). To them, the CCP is a fragile political institution and it is just a matter of time before the party is overthrown. In this book, Professor Shambaugh maintains that during and since the 1990s, the CCP has already instituted a series of massive and incremental reforms (P.181) to remould and strengthen its ideology, propaganda apparatus, governing capability, party apparatus and discipline, cadre competence and training, and leadership succession so that it can consolidate and sustain its rule in China (P.103). Unlike the demise of other communist regimes in Eastern Europe and Russia, the CCP can continue to survive because it has been very proactive to undertaking postmortem assessment of these cathartic events (P.41) and paying much attention to the study of other political parties in non-communist countries (P.92) such as People's Action Party's (PAP) in Singapore, Liberal Demoncratic Party (LDP) in Japan, and social democratic parties in UK and the European continent in order to appreciate what reforms it should institute in shoring up its legitimacy and ruling capacity.

Chapter 8 (P.161-181) covers an easy-to-understand but comprehensive assessment of the survivability of the CCP. The balance sheet contains 70 economic, political, social, cultural, coercive, and international variables that help readers to appreciate why and how the CCP can remain a nationwide organization of considerable authority and power.

This book is highly recommended to readers who intends to understand the complexities of politics in China.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Preimer on Chinese Transformational Politics 3 Mar. 2009
By Jack Kennedy Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Shambaugh has provider the reader an excellent book to grasp the ongoing transformational economic and political changes inside the People's Republic of China. I enjoyed reading it along with others as I prepare to visit Asia this summer for the first time.

One of the more interesting parts of the book is the detailed descriptions provides as to how the Chinese "Think Tanks" viewed the changes in the Soviet Union and Europe in the late 1980's and 1990's. It is even more interesting to seek to understand how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to incorporate change into the party.

The reaosn I wanted to read this book (and I do recommend it to those interested in contemporary Chinese politics) is to better understand the United States relationship with the Chinese government. While the balance of trade between the United States and China favors the latter; and, the debt instruments be issued by the US Treasury are being purchased rapidly by the Chinese interests, it is time every thinking American serioulsy ponder the American-Chinese relationship as never before.

I am taken aback by the Chinese drive into science and technology in the 21st Century, I am concerned that America will soon find itself behind the Chinese in a human space program with the next footprints on the moon being Chinese. A recent MIT study recommended cooperation instead of competition between US and China space interests. This book provides a little more context to think about our national relationships.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Nothing New 30 Dec. 2009
By Skadden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Shambaugh sets out to answer whether or not the Chinese Communist Party can survive? While the simple answer is yes, he is cautious about predicting what this future party or state will look like. In his own estimation, the major challenge for the CCP is in becoming "more of a transformational than a transactional party...[it must realize] how to remain relevant to society as a ruling party but also how to inspire and lead the nation in new directions" (169). In order to do this, Shambaugh suggests that the CCP might strengthen the National People's Congress or even the role of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress to add a greater voice for other parties within the government. He dismisses current suggestions that China is at a tipping point or stagnating, but never provides sufficient reasoning as to why he disagrees. His ultimate assessment is that, political reforms, like economic reforms, will occur incrementally.

The only thing David Shambaugh likes more than the word ossified, is ambivalence. Through the course of his work he is careful of rocking the boat when it comes to current conventions about China. He tells the reader that the answer to the party survival question: "is neither yes nor no but both" (177). This has the effect of causing the reader to feel cheated. When so many other China scholars like Minxin Pei or Roderick MacFarquhar are willing to make bold predictions, David Shambaugh is surprisingly quiet. Where he does make bold statements, they are often academic jabs, such as when he asserts that, "the China field in the United States seems to know more and more about less and less" (23). Shambaugh falls within the existing analysis of the CCP, rather than offering anything new. He agrees with Andrew Nathan, Alice Miller and Jing Huang, that the CCP is undergoing a "reinstitutionalization" (whatever that means) but takes eight chapters to get to that point. Still Shambaugh provides the reader with fascinating CCP memos and documents that require relatively little analysis. In the end his own cautiousness might serve him well. Predicting the future of a country of 1.3 billion is a near impossible task, and perhaps no author should be required to do so.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent - 14 July 2010
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
June 4, 1989 is a memorable day in Communist history. That day the CCP ended the months'-long protest in Tiananmen Square, and Polish voters ousted the Communist part in Poland. Rather than those two events signaling the end of the CCP, they presented an opportunity to instead demonstrate its ability to learn and adapt. Current additional major problems include globalization's widening the awareness of Chinese citizens, unemployment, inequality, and widespread corruption. In response, the regime has been boosting education and rebuilding its social safety net to insure the CCP remains in power.

Author Shambaugh sources include CCP journals and policy documents, some even classified. Other important conclusions drawn from their study of Soviet failures was to avoid becoming drawn into military conflict with the U.S. (too expensive), and that the Soviets' leadership had become too top-heavy and dogmatic, and that Gorbachev's intervention was too little, too late, and in some areas, also misguided. (This helps explain why Zhao Ziyang was sidelined after Tiananmen - his 'humanist' views were seen as too close to Gorbachev's. Recruiting entrepreneurs and business leaders into the party, as well as shifting focus to western areas also grew out of these studies.
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