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END OF AN ERA: HOW CHINA’S AUTHORITARIAN REVIVAL IS UNDERMINING ITS RISE
31st July 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
SPEAKER: Professor Carl Minzner, author, End of an Era
China’s reform era is ending. Core factors that characterised its political stability, ideological openness, and rapid economic growth are unravelling. Since the 1990s, Beijing’s leaders have firmly rejected any fundamental reform of their authoritarian one-party political system, even as a decades-long boom has reshaped China’s economy and society.
On the surface their efforts may have been a success, but a closer look at China’s reform era reveals a different truth. The post-1978 era of “reform and opening up” is ending. China is closing down. Uncertainty hangs in the air as a new future slouches towards Beijing to be born.
The Henry Jackson Society is proud to invite you to an event with Professor Carl Minzner, who will reveal the truths of the China’s reform era and how those reforms are ending.
Signed copies of End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival is Undermining its Rise will be on sale after the event. We accept card, cash and contactless methods of payment.
Professor Carl Minzner is the author of End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival is Undermining its Rise. He is also a Professor of Chinese Law and Governance at Fordham School of Law. Carl Minzner is an expert in Chinese law and governance. He has written extensively on these topics in both academic journals and the popular press, including op-eds appearing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Christian Science Monitor. Prior to joining Fordham, he was an Associate Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. In addition, he has served as Senior Counsel for the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, International Affairs Fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, and Yale-China Legal Education Fellow at the Xibei Institute of Politics and Law in Xi’an, China.
On the 31st of July the Henry Jackson Society had the pleasure of hosting Professor Carl Minzner, Professor of Chinese Law and Governance at Fordham School of Law. Professor Minzner’s latest book, End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival is Undermining its Rise, argues that the decades-long reform era of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is ending under its current President Xi.
Professor Minzner began the discussion with a chronological overview of the history of the PRC under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He divided contemporary PRC history into three periods: the Pre-Reform Maoist era from 1949 to 1978, the Post-Reform era from 1978 until the early 2000s, and the 2000s until the present. The Maoist era was marked by economic stagnation, ideological insularity, and political instability. Power was concentrated in Mao, who had the tendency to purge his designated successors and to rule through disruptive street movements and political campaigns rather than regular institutions of governance.
During the reform era, the PRC experienced around three decades of broad-based rapid economic growth—an average 10% GDP growth per year that spilt over to uplift the lives of the rural poor. In contrast to the Maoist period, the state allowed a relatively free import of concepts and practices outside the Middle Kingdom, and the CCP backed out of private lives.
Professor Minzner notes, one must be cautious not to equate the emergence of partially institutionalised political norms, in the PRC under Deng, with political liberalisation. After the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Beijing drew a hard line at individually organised political activities; the rules of the one-party rule in the PRC became somewhat more predictable and organised.
Professor Minzner’s insightful historical analysis brought the audience to his core argument: we are entering a new period when the economic, ideological, and political trends observed in the reform era is ending. Some of these trends can be observed since a decade ago, but they have become particularly sober since 2012.
Professor Minzner showed parallels between Xi and Mao’s rule. Economically, the PRC’s era of rapid economic growth is coming to an end. Ideologically, the PRC is gradually turning inwards again. The party-state began infusing nationalism and Marxist-Leninism with selected lessons from Confucianism, thereby creating a new PRC state ideology. Some PRC nationals had grown patriotic in the process of economic modernisation and looked inwards to fill the cultural void lingering from the Maoist period. Professor Minzner believed that the assertion of narratives of what it means to be Chinese by the state was a response to this bottom-up renewed interests on the part of some of the population of the PRC in their own culture. Professor Minzner also notes that state-controlled narratives backfired in the PRC’s borderland regions: tensions arise in Hong Kong, Xinjiang (East Turkestan), and in the underground Christian communities.
Politically—the element that is of most interests because of its direct effect on the various institutional and constitutional shifts—the CCP is increasingly being identified with Xi Jinping alone. Xi has broken with established political norms within the CCP, for example, the immunity enjoyed by high-level officials during anti-corruption campaigns, the division of responsibilities among several officials at the top-level, and the practice of naming a political successor to the President at the 19th Party Congress last year.
To understand why all these political norms have been unravelling under Xi, Professor Minzner suggested that it is because of the PRC’s failure to build alternative institutions during the reform era. Xi, therefore, learnt his lessons from older methods used in the Maoist period. Professor Minzner further argued that although there is a breakdown in political norms in democratic countries around the world recently, the top-down process that is happening in the PRC is more worrying because of the PRC’s fragile institutional political architecture and history of severe political turbulence.
Professor Minzner ended the evening with a pessimistic prediction. He boded a much more hardline, personalised authoritarian PRC in the short-run; in the long-run, Professor Minzner thought that the unsolved, underlying problems that once plagued the pre-reform era are a recipe for a revival of internal political instability in the PRC.
We were honoured to host the distinguished Professor Minzner.