The rise of China's middle class and prospects for democratization
Cichon, Frederick A.
Miller, Alice Lyman
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Since Deng Xiaoping instituted economic reforms under the "reform and open" policy in 1978, the Chinese Communist Party has overseen a gradualist approach to modernizing China's economy. A new Chinese middle class has emerged with China's economic reforms and economic growth. According to Seymour Martin Lipset's modernization theory, there is a strong relationship between socioeconomic development and the emergence of democratic politics accompanying the growth of an educated middle class that will demand democratization as a means to achieve more participation in politics. This thesis assesses the validity of Lipset's argument that socioeconomic development is likely to result in a democratic transition through the growth of a liberal middle class in the case of contemporary China. This assessment will determine how closely China's middle class fits Lipset's model, and whether China's middle class displays characteristics that suggest that Lipset's framework of democratization will hold true in China. Since spreading democracy around the world was reasserted as a long-range U.S. objective in the early 1990s, attention has focused on prospects for democratization in China. This thesis will help illuminate the political implications of China's growing middle class and argue that China's economic modernization does not guarantee democratization. This is important because some people in the West misinterpreted the origins of the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 simply as a democracy movement, rather then as initially intended to address widely perceived bureaucratic corruption and rapidly rising inflation. Protests subsided in the aftermath of Tiananmen, and many Chinese did not react to the CCP's decision to restore economic stability by entrenching its control of the economy to control inflation.
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