China’s reform era is ending. Core factors that characterized it—political stability, ideological openness, and rapid economic growth—are unraveling. In End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise (Oxford University Press), Carl Minzner outlines the looming risks of instability that the nation faces.
Since the early 1990s, Beijing’s leaders have faced an existential threat—a fundamental political reform of China’s one-party system— and worked to fend it off. They have instituted piecemeal and partial reforms that helped fuel explosive economic growth but kept the political system intact. On the surface, their efforts have been a success. The past three decades have seen political turmoil topple former Communist East bloc regimes, internal unrest overtake Mideast nations, and populist movements rise to challenge established Western democracies. China, in contrast, has appeared a relative haven of stability and growth.
But as Carl Minzner shows, a closer look at China’s reform era reveals a different truth. Over the past three decades, a frozen political system has fueled both the rise of entrenched interests within the Communist Party itself and the systematic underdevelopment of institutions of governance among state and society at large. Economic cleavages have widened. Social unrest has worsened. Ideological polarization has deepened. Under President Xi Jinping, the party has accelerated the campaign against would-be reformers, which has the potential to ossify the system even more. End of an Era explains how China arrived at a dangerous crossroads and outlines the potential outcomes that could result.