Restructuring the party-state polity : China’s political structural reform in the 1980s

Yiu-chung WONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Contrary to the widely-held belief that the term "political structural reform" was introduced in the early 1980s, in fact, the term was coined by the Chinese leadership only in the mid-1980s. Before then, the senior Chinese party-state leaders used various terms to denote the reform process in the partystate decision-making machinery and apparatus, such as superstructural reform, party-state leadership reform, and perfecting the socialist political system. Moreover, China's political structural reform in the 1980s embraced five dimensions, namely democratizing the party-state apparatus and process; arranging for a smooth leadership succession; streamlining and rationalizing the party-state bureaucracy; strengthening the National People's Congress; and liberalizing intellectual life. The sociopolitical consequences of the reform were tremendous, with the People's Republic of China (PRC) being transformed from a country of totalistic communist-party control into an authoritarian state with an embyronic civil society. Despite the sweeping reform, the "four cardinal principles" enunciated by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 served as an structural constraint on political structural reform.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-167
Number of pages35
JournalAsian Perspective
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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