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Maintaining Stability and Deepening Reform: A Choice Confronting China Today

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  • Cheng Xiaonong
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    Two of the difficult problems China faces in the final years of this century are those of maintaining stability and deepening reform. There is a compatibility between these two political goalsâunless reform is deepened, it will be difficult for China to enjoy long-term stability. But there is also a contradiction between themâit would not be possible to deepen reform without touching on certain vested interests, and yet, once you touch certain vested interests, you are likely to create some measure of instability. In fact, it may even be said that in China today, the masses and the elite are more attentive to political and economic stability than they have been in the past, and the argument that "China simply cannot be chaotic" [the title of a popular bookâEd.] has struck a rather deep chord with the Chinese people. All of China's Asian neighbors and the major Western countries hope that stability will be maintained in China, and that turmoil in China can be avoided. Nevertheless, for us to be able to understand how stability can be obtained, we first have to comprehend how stability has been maintained in China since the inception of reform, but this particular problem is one that is not often discussed within academic circles, whether domestically or in international scholarship. In this essay, I would like to approach the issue from the analysis of just such a problem, and employ a concept suggested by Western scholars of the Soviet Unionânamely, the concept of a "social contract"âto explain the mechanism for the realization of stability within the context of China's reform, and to explain the systematic and economic conditions of such a mechanism. If we bring the analysis of the center-locality relationship into this mechanism, it will help us understand the mechanical reasons that account for the lack of balance and coordination in the center-locality relationship, and understand why the center's pursuit of stability could lead to conflicts of interest between the center and the localities. This essay's analysis involves many levelsâpolitics, the economy, the society, the center, the localities, the masses, and so onâas well as the interaction and relationship among them all. It should be noted that the author intends to place the focus of this essay on the "diagnosis" of the problem, and not necessarily on the "prescription."

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    Article provided by M.E. Sharpe, Inc. in its journal Chinese Economy.

    Volume (Year): 28 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 4 (July)
    Pages: 88-125

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    Handle: RePEc:mes:chinec:v:28:y:1995:i:4:p:88-125
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