Today’s class will be dedicated to open discussion on McGregor’s The Party. Questions below will guide our discussion and may be amended or supplemented based on your interests:
How are the leading party figures profiled by McGregor similar to – and different from – leading political figures in the United States or other political context with which you are familiar?
Why is there confusion on the part of visitors as to whether there are Communists in China today? In what sense is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still Marxist? In what sense has it transformed its approach?
The article notes that Nixon sought to “expunge the use of the term ‘communist’ when talking about the Chinese.” Meanwhile, Chinese leaders have made subtle but noticeable effort to downplay their socialist credentials, for example by introducing Xi Jinping as China’s “president” or by swapping the English name of the People’s University of China for Renmin University of China. Why might this be the case for either – or both – side?
What meaning(s) does “democracy” have in China today? What does the CCP mean when it declares itself “democratic”?
The political scientist Archie Brown notes that within different political cultures, citizens have a different assumed relationship to power. In some places, they feel they have a right – or even an obligation – to advocate for group or community interests to help shape public policy. In other places, they feel that they should defer to leaders to make good choices on their behalf. Which approach better describes China’s political culture? What evidence can you draw upon to support your view? How does such a distinction relate to the discussion of “democracy,” above?
Why has the party retained elements of the secrecy of the pre-1949 period? What might be the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?
How would you characterize the party’s relationship to the law, the Constitution of the People’s Republic, and the idea of “rule by law”?
McGregor asks, “If the Party, locked in its ossified Leninist ways, is secretive, corrupt, hostile to the rule of law and vindictive in pursuit of its enemies, it begs the question: how on earth did it manage to preside over one of the greatest spurts of economic growth and wealth creation in recorded history?” How does he go about answering this question? Do you find his response convincing? Why or why not?
What are the most important challenges that lie ahead for the party? Do you think the party is likely to adapt to meet these challenges? Why or why not?