Democracy Postponed: Chinese Learning from the Soviet Collapse
This article analyses the significance of Chinese learning from the Soviet collapse with reference to prospects for direct, semi-competitive elections to the National People’s Congress. It shows that the decay of the system of soviets, which is a euphemism for the emasculation of the powers of popular assemblies and the empty ritual of elections without choice, is widely perceived as a reason for the Soviet collapse. However, there is a lack of clarity about the functions which the system of soviets, or in China people’s congresses, ought to fulfil, with legitimating, legislative, and supervisory functions receiving different emphases, and there is entrenched disagreement about how far China should depart from the traditional Leninist model. Although Gorbachev’s reforms are seen as misconceived, in the longer term there may be little alternative to the introduction of direct, semi-competitive elections if the rhetoric of “socialist democracy” is to have any credibility. (Manuscript received August 19, 2008; accepted for publication November 10, 2008)
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