Time/Date: 6.00pm, Thursday 4 November 2010
Venue: Lecture Theatre 102, Napier Building, The University of Adelaide
Can one powerful elite maintain its monopoly of political power on a long term basis by relying on economic growth, social security and the absorption of the intelligentsia?
Professor Joseph Cheng, City University of Hong Kong, proudly presented by the Confucius Institute and the Centre for Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide will discuss this topic as he delivers the Sylvia Chan Memorial Public Lecture entitled Wither China’s Democracy? – Political Development in the Hu Jintao Era.
Professor Joseph Cheng is an internationally renowned expert on Chinese politics. He is both the Chair Professor of Political Science and Contemporary China Research Project Coordinator at City University of Hong Kong. He is published widely on the political development in China and Hong Kong, Chinese foreign policy and local government in southern China.
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Sylvia Chan was a lecturer, senior lecturer and research fellow at the University of Adelaide. She was one of four founding members of teaching staff at the University’s Centre for Asian Studies and will be remembered for her major contributions to the centre’s development and intellectual life from its establishment in 1975 until her retirement in 1999 and beyond.
Wither China’s Democracy? – Political Development in the Hu Jintao Era.
The pursuit of democracy in the foreseeable future will still be a severe challenge. It is difficult to anticipate top-down political reforms initiated by the governing political elite or a pro-democracy movement launched by the people at the grassroots level. Impressive economic growth has raised the living standards of the vast majority of the people; more important still, they remain optimistic regarding the prospects of future improvements in their quality of life. Basically the status quo today is acceptable, and people are reluctant to risk it to fight for political reforms.
The basic strategy of the Chinese leadership to maintain the Party’s monopoly of political power includes promoting economic growth, building a social security net for the underprivileged groups, and absorbing the elites of various sectors into the vested-interest strata. Chinese leaders are eager to pursue good governance if the measures concerned do not adversely affect the leadership of the Party.
The major changes in the social structure brought about by rapid economic growth, and the sharpening of social contradictions and conflicts of interests caused by the imbalances in development have generated an accumulation of grievances, reflected by the increasing numbers and expanding scale of mass incidents in the country.
Many types of consultative mechanisms will continue to develop. Even a Leninist party has to establish its mass organizations; in the Yanan period the Party already promoted the Maoist “mass line.” At this stage, consultative mechanisms will have their new packaging.
The ultimate question is: can one power elite maintain its monopoly of political power on a long-term basis by relying on economic growth, social security and the absorption of the intelligentsia? This is not “serving the people,” but rather using services in exchange for the people’s fundamental political rights. History shows that people are intelligent in making their political choices.