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SPP 447

Title: THINKING ABOUT DEMOCRACY: CHINESE LEARNING FROM THE SOVIET COLLAPSE
 
Author: Neil Munro
 
Description: Semi-competitive elections to the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies in March 1989 were intended as a means to defeat Gorbachev's internal enemies and legitimate further reforms, but due to a combination of factors led instead to the Soviet collapse. Encouraged by their government, Chinese Sovietologists investigated the collapse and drew lessons. This article explores their discourse in relation to two questions: what should be the role of representative institutions in China's political system, and how should representatives be chosen? It finds that although there is a consensus linking the Soviet collapse to Gorbachev's democratization project, there are different opinions about whether the system of soviets or councils established under Lenin was also at fault, and about what this means for Chinese political reforms. I conclude that the risks of gradual expansion of electoral competition mean that the CCP would probably not pursue it without some institutional "backstop" to retain power.

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Postal Address:    CSPP Publications, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XQ, UK

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