Since the death of Mao the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has embarked on a series of ambitious political reforms. In his new book, Barrett McCormick develops a theory of Leninist states to explore the prospect for these reforms. He finds that, while significant economic and political gains have been made for the Chinese people, the basic contours of the state remain unchanged; and as events in June 1989 clearly showed, reform has not diminished the state's ability to impose its perogatives on society.
Drawing on Weber's political sociology, McCormick argues that patronage and corruption are integral aspects of Leninist rulership. Reformers have attempted to promote democracy and law and to fight corruption, but when they attempt to implement their programs through traditional hierarchical Leninist institutions, lower-level cadres have been able to utilize patronage networks to blunt the impact of reform and protect their personal agenda. In his case studies of the legal system, the people's congress, and party rectification, McCormick points up these obstacles to progressive change and assesses the extent to which reformers' goals have been realized. He shows that, despite the often radical nature of the reform movements, the principal dimensions of the Leninist system--one party rule, state domination of the economy, a confining ideology--remain largely intact. These findings will be of interest to China specialists as well as students of comparative communism and Leninist states.
Barrett L. McCormick is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University.