THE THIRD REVOLUTION: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State.

PositionBook review

THE THIRD REVOLUTION: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy

Published by: Oxford University Press, New York, 2018, 360pp, 20 [pounds sterling].

In this work Elizabeth Economy sets out to describe the third revolution, as she calls it, that has affected China since Xi Jinping took office as head of the Chinese Communist Party and president of China in 2012-13. The first two revolutions, Economy tells us, were the revolution led by Mao Zedong between 1949 and his death in 1976, and the revolution spearheaded by his successor Deng Xiaoping from 1978 onwards, when China turned from vitiating class struggle to energising economic reform.

In the course of her book, Economy, one of a new generation of talented American China-watchers, takes us through the story of China's recent development, and asks what it all means for the United States. It is a familiar enough story for anyone keeping an eye on Chinese affairs. First and foremost, as Economy tells it, is President Xi's sweeping campaign against corruption, which seems to be popular with ordinary Chinese, she argues, even while enhancing their sense that corruption in the Chinese system is deep and endemic. The campaign has developed in tandem with the propagation of President Xi's values. "These amount to patriotism, the China Dream of a great future, and a set of socialist precepts that run counter to Western liberal ideas. These values have, in turn, been matched by an ever-contracting space for advocates for liberal reform in China (their voices now silenced, leaving only a few bedraggled neo-Marxist students to protest against Party policy).

Economy points out that this trend away from openness has been exacerbated by the tightening grip of what she calls Xi's Internet Vision, with increased Party control over the Chinese internet, now largely sealed off from the flow of foreign ideas, including in the sciences. This has gone hand-in-hand with a social credit system that monitors--and if necessary penalises --individual citizens, potentially to a very high degree. Economy believes that this system is surprisingly well tolerated, perhaps because it is an online version of the dang'an or dossier system of government files on individuals, long a feature of Chinese (and earlier, Soviet) communism. She does not say this, but one consequence of the social controls that this system symbolises may be the mass incarceration of recalcitrant populations, of the kind that...

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