Political Thought and China’s Transformation: Ideas Shaping by He Li (auth.)

By He Li (auth.)

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By He Li (auth.)

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7 When Deng Xiaoping enunciated his four cardinal principles, the liberals began to diverge from him. Deng maintained that Mao had focused too much on politics and that China instead needed to concentrate on economic development. In contrast, the liberals argue that the fundamental problem is the political system, namely, the totalitarian regime. After 1989, the liberal camp suffered a major setback. The proponents of liberal democracy and liberal wings within the system were suppressed. Some were arrested and imprisoned, others were sent into exile; almost all were silenced.

They became evermore convinced that political reform was truly indispensable to any successful economic reform. As a result, the question of constitutional democracy occupied more and more of their attention. It was against this background that the call for constitutional democracy, with all of its standard features such as general elections, multiparty competition, safeguards of human rights, and checks and balances of power between legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, went out. To them, multiparty democracy is not only the only way out for China but also the only way to save and regenerate the CCP.

15 Debate in the 1980s There was a brief but vehement debate over neo-authoritarianism which took place in Beijing and Shanghai in late 1988 and early 1989. The purpose of the debate was to seek alternative systems of development to Chinese totalitarianism in the post-Mao period. Wang Huning and Xiao Gongqin examined the economic success stories of the “four mini-dragons” (also known as four Asian Tiger), to assist Zhao Ziyang, then general secretary of the CCP, in the promotion of his reform agendas.

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