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Partyone-Party Rule or Multi-Party Competition?:

  • Date Submitted: 03/27/2013 04:38 PM
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PArtyOne-Party Rule or Multi-Party Competition?:
Chinese Attitudes toward Party System Alternatives
by Robert Harmel (Texas A&M University) and Alexander C. Tan (University of Canterbury)1
This article tests multi-factor explanations for variance among Chinese citizens’ attitudes
toward two related but separable party system concepts: the appropriateness of the current oneparty system for China today, and the more abstract notion that multiple parties lead to chaos.
Using data from The China Survey, conducted with a nationwide sample in 2008, the authors find
that feelings of satisfaction with life and with the government contribute more to the explanation
of support for China’s current one-party system, while more general attitudes concerning
competition relate more strongly to judgments directed at the abstraction of multi-partyism. The
data also reveal that while a bare majority accept the argument that multiple parties necessarily
bring chaos, the vast majority support the one-party regime for China, suggesting that even if
Chinese citizens were to adopt more pro-democratic attitudes, rejection of the current one-party
rule would not necessarily follow. Keywords: party system, China

Recent literature on the current status of the Communist Party in China – whether
scholarly or in mass media – generally agrees on one important fact: the party has been in

Presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada,
September 3-6, 2009

“decline” or “decay,” both ideologically and organizationally, since at least the onset of market
reforms in the late 1970s/early 1980s (e.g., see Shambaugh 2008: 3; Young 1998: 112 -130; Chen
1999: 210-212). In response, the Chinese leadership has taken steps to strengthen the party and
its position once...


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