Document Type

Article

Publication Title

China Quarterly

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Over the past two decades, the Chinese domestic security apparatus has expanded dramatically. “Stability maintenance” operations have become a priority for local Chinese authorities. We argue that the birth of these trends dates to the early 1990s, when central Party authorities adopted new governance models that differed dramatically from those that of the 1980s. They increased the bureaucratic rank of public security chiefs within the Party apparatus, expanded the reach of the Party political-legal apparatus into a broader range of governance issues, and altered cadre evaluation standards to increase the sensitivity of local authorities to social protest. We show that the origin of these changes lies in a policy response to the developments of 1989-1991, namely the Tiananmen democracy movement and the collapse of Communist political systems in Eastern Europe. Over the past twenty years, these practices have flowered into an extensive stability maintenance apparatus, where local governance is increasingly oriented around the need to respond to social protest, whether through concession or repression. Chinese authorities now appear to be rethinking these developments, but the direction of reform remains unclear.

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