China’s Futures

shambaughIn a new review, JCA editor Kevin Hewison looks at David Shambaugh’s latest book, China’s Future, published by Polity Press (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1269512).

Written in an engaging manner by one of the foremost scholars of China’s contemporary politics, the book is useful not least as a compendium of contemporary information about China’s politics, society and economy.

Shambaugh argues that China has reached a key turning
point in its modern history. Identifying China’s current political location as “hard authoritarianism,” the author suggests that there are four likely paths away from this: neo-totalitarianism, renewed hard authoritarianism, soft authoritarianism and semi-democracy. The choices made are important. The author believes that “if the regime stays on its current course … economic development will stagnate and even stall, exacerbating already acute social problems, and producing the protracted political decline of the ruling Chinese Communist Party” (p. 3).

The reviewer argues that the main problem with the book is the author’s “theoretical position that has deep roots in modernisation theory.” He says that “Shambaugh’s uncritical use of it in this work suggests that few of the criticisms [of modernisation theory] have been adequately considered.” He adds that “[s]ticking with a modernisation perspective that links economic development and democratisation [in China] …  seems an anachronism.”

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