From Reform to Revolution: The Demise of Communism in China and the Soviet Union

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Overview

The demise of communism in the former Soviet Union and the massive political and economic changes in China are the stunning transformations of our century. Two central questions are emerging: Why did different communist systems experience different patterns of transition? Why did partial reforms in the Soviet Union and China turn into revolutions? This unique analytical and empirical study shows that patterns of regime transition in communist states depend on the countries' preexisting social structures and political and economic institutions. Minxin Pei identifies the rapid mobilization of previously excluded social groups during the reform phase as the most powerful explanation for the revolutionary outcome of initially limited political and economic reforms in the Soviet Union and China. Pei uses comparative data to analyze the different routes of transition to democracy and a market economy in the Soviet Union, China, and, to a lesser extent, other former communist states in Eastern Europe and Asia. The theory is empirically tested in four case studies of changes in China and the Soviet Union - two on the development of the private sector in each country and two on the liberalization of the mass media. The author concludes with provocative statements about regime transition from communism. He rejects the idealistic notion that democratization can, by itself, remove the structural obstacles to economic transformation, and he sees high economic and political costs as unavoidable in transition from communism along either the Soviet or the Chinese path. In comparing Soviet and Chinese transition costs, however, he implicitly endorses the evolutionary changes taking place in China and expresses strong doubt about the revolutionary changes that have occurred in the former Soviet Union.
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Editorial Reviews

American Journal of Chinese Studies
Breathtaking...Pei is original in exploring and explaining the conventional wisdom that China's Communist regime survived reform and the Soviet Union's did not because one undertook economic reform first and the other political reform first. What is breathtaking is...the author's range and detail, comprehending not only his native China, but the vast literature on the former USSR and its more than a dozen 'republics.'
— James A. Robinson
China Journal
An outstanding scholarly work with a powerful argument, reams of relevant data, and a crisp, succinct presentation. It is among the very best of its genre.
— Barrett McCormick
Journal of Asian Studies
From Reform to Revolution makes an important contribution...and is likely to endure as a landmark study in the field.
Pacific Review
This is an immensely exciting, sustained analytical effort ...this book is quite likely to become a classic in its field.
Reviewing Sociology
Pei's approach to sociopolitical change is rational-analytical. Rational social actors follow their interests, societies are seen as being governed by explicable laws within a systematic general comparative theory; any significant event has its (though ex post) explanation. Frequent references to past and present masters of social and political theory reveal the scholarly tradition and pedagogical skill of the author. Moreover, the reader cannot but admire the clarity of the narrative; concepts are always clearly defined, questions explicitly formulated, the style is balanced and accurate. The reader is invited to share a feel of rich factual complexity as well as a chess-like lawful quality in the flow of events.
— Ludek Rychetnik
Russian Review
The first comprehensive effort to compare the recent political experiences of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People's Republic of China by tracing their overlapping and diverging paths of regime change...Very tightly argued and erudite.
— Philippe C. Schmitter
Booknews
An analytical and empirical study which shows that patterns of regime transition in communist states depend on the countries' preexisting social structures and political and economic institutions. Pei (politics, Princeton U.) identifies the rapid mobilization of previously excluded social groups during the reform phase as the most powerful explanation for the revolutionary outcome of initially limited political and economic reforms in the Soviet Union and China. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Philippe C. Schmitter
The first comprehensive effort to compare the recent political experiences of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People's Republic of China by tracing their overlapping and diverging paths of regime change...Very tightly argued and erudite. -- Philippe C. Schmitter
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674325630
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Minxin Pei is Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government and Roberts Fellow, and the director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Regime Transition in Communist States

Explaining the Tocqueville Paradox

China's Capitalist Revolution

The Private Sector under Perestroika

The Self-Liberalization of China's Mass Media

The Liberal Takeover of the Soviet Mass Media under Glasnost

Conclusion

Abbreviations

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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